Sunday, December 5, 2010

Things You Should Know About A Website’s Fold

posted by Patrick Burt - A Blog for Web People

In this week’s series about Web Usability, we will be dealing with folds and what you need to know about them. Knowing about your fold can help you with ad click-throughs, general design and web usability. It gives you the needed knowledge so that you can appropriately place elements on your website. Let’s start off with the basics.

When dealing with websites, what is a fold?

A fold is the section of your website that is viewed before a user has to use the scrollbar. The term comes from the newspaper industry where important front page content was literally placed above the fold so it can be viewable in newsstands when the newspaper is folded.

Why are folds so important?

Users are lazy, users are skimmers and users sometimes feel inconvenienced if they have to scroll to reach their destination. Because of this, they might have missed out on something like an ad display or internal marketing campaign just because it was placed too low on your website, below the fold. That’s why it’s important to take your website’s fold into consideration when designing and advertising on your website.

In Jakob Nielsen‘s and Hoa Loranger’s book about Web Usability, they detail that when the users they tested landed on a page with more then a screenful of content, less then half actually scrolled to view the rest of the page. That’s a significant number, that’s enough for you to sit down and think about solutions if you think this is a problem with your website.

Where is a website’s fold?

In a previous article detailing how wide and tall you should design your websites, I stated that to fit vertically into the majority of your users’ browser window, having a total height of less then 500 pixels is a safe bet. That means, your website’s fold is located in the first 500 pixels of your website. You’re nearly guaranteed that when a user arrives to your website, the first 500 pixels are being viewed. This takes into account the place taken up by browser items and operating system items. This is also based on the the fact that your user’s smallest screen resolution is 1024×768.

What should be above the fold?

This all depends on the objectives of your website. There are items that should ALWAYS be above the fold, simply because these are features users are accustomed to and they apply to every website. The more accessible you make them, the more users you are likely to please, and the more likely they are to keep reading your website. The items I recommend are:

  • Navigation (most of it anyway)
  • Contact Page
  • About Page
  • Search Form
  • Logo or Identifier

These are incredibly important. For example, there is no reason you should design a 800 pixel tall website with a navigation uniquely at the bottom of the page. Especially if 50% of users will never see it. Consider these issues if you’re designing a website.

Here are some examples of great items to have above the fold:

  • Ads (Affiliate, Adsense, etc.) – If you’re looking to make some profit
  • Navigation that improve stickiness – In my case, this involves a link to Recent Posts or Related Posts, the least important navigation items such as Archives are located at the bottom of my navigation
  • RSS Feeds - Easier for users to find out how to subscribe
  • Social Bookmarking – Users might feel more inclined to share your article if the button is easy to find
  • Product/Company Intro – Put this information up front, people crave it.
  • Internal Marketing/Specials – If you want to convert visitors into customers, keep your advertising above the fold.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Google Cooks Up a New Recipe for Local Search

Posted by Linc Wonham, Website Magazine...

The engineers at Google have recently been throwing a lot of new ingredients into local search, working to improve both user experience and merchant visibility. This week’s announcement of a new local recommendation engine called Hotpot is the latest culmination of those efforts.

Hotpot is an extension of Google Places, the local search database of more than 50 million locations in which merchants can claim their businesses, provide their addresses and other information, and engage with customers. Hotpot adds two important new features into the mix: user ratings and recommendations from friends.

The ratings are done on a five-star system, and a user can share a business’ ratings to get further recommendations from friends. One example of this would be if a user is visiting a town for the first time and has an online friend that has also visited that town or is a local resident. That friend’s recommendations for restaurants and hotels will provide an added, trusted element to the ratings the user discovered during the original search.

Google’s new feature is not exactly new in that it essentially provides the same service as Yelp and other local-recommendations services, but it confirms Google’s growing interest in local search – not to mention some poorly named new features lately. The mere fact that Google Places provides Hotpot with a database of 50 million businesses out of the gates means that it may very well catch on – and local businesses that aren’t already in that database should change that right away.

Call of Duty Smashes Five-Day Sales Records

By: Nick Bilton, New York Times, BITS Blog..

The latest first-person shooter video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, continues to break records worldwide after going on sale late last week.

According to Activision, its publisher, just five days after its release the game has generated more than $650 million in worldwide sales, beating out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which smashed previous sale records when it was released last year.

Just to compare, “The Dark Knight,” the top-grossing movie as measured five days after release, pulled in $200 million.

Eric Hirshberg, chief executive of Activision, said in a phone interview that the game was “the biggest five-day launch in entertainment history across any media,” including theater, movies and gaming.

“I think this speaks volumes for the appetite that people have for great immersive gaming experiences,” Mr. Hirshberg said. “Treyarch, the game’s creators, really upped the ante on the quality of the story and the characters, and it really plays like a blockbuster movie where you’re the central actor.”

In a press release, Activision said Black Ops has also surpassed online gaming records. Since the game’s introduction on Nov. 9, more than 5.9 million multiplayer hours were logged on the Microsoft Xbox platform where gamers can battle each other in the virtual worlds. The release also noted that more than 2.6 million people had played the game in the last five days.

Mr. Hirshberg said people had purchased relatively equal numbers of the game for different gaming platforms, including the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation PS3, desktop PCs and the Nintendo Wii. “It seems to be across the board people are immersed in the game, irrelevant of gaming systems,” he said.

The company said it had also seen heightened interest in the 3-D version of the game, although relatively few people have 3-D televisions.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Web Design Tucson - A Fresh Approach Media

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Website Maintenance.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Single-Minded: How Facebook Could Beat Google to Win the Net

ANALYSIS — In 1993, The New Yorker ran a famous cartoon with two dogs near a computer, with one mutt telling the other “On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog.”

Oh, how times have changed.

In the Facebook internet, everyone knows exactly what breed of dog you are.

That was Facebook’s real trick — convincing the world to identify themselves online. They pulled that off by giving net users a place to share photos and pithy updates, when the real purpose of Facebook, it turns out, is to layer identity over the fabric of the web.

Google slayed Microsoft and Yahoo in the battle for search supremacy but it has been slowly losing momentum in what may turn out to be the real war — the one for the display ad revenues — to an unlikely foe: the dorm-room-born Facebook. For years, Google’s natural enemies seemed to be Microsoft and Yahoo. But as the search giant trounced those giants in the search space battle, it’s been slowly losing momentum in what may turn out to be the real war — the one for the display ad revenues — to an unlikely foe: the dorm-room-born Facebook.

We’ve seen a public pissing fight this week over who owns social network contact information, but that’s just the start.

Next Monday, Facebook is reportedly getting into Google’s e-mail face, mounting a challenge to Gmail, Google’s most successful social product. Users will reportedly get or e-mail addresses. But more importantly, Facebook already has ranking scores for every one of your relationships with contacts on Facebook and will use that to prioritize your inbox, according to the tech rumors.

That’s an important side battle, but it’s not where this war will be lost or won. That’s not where the money is.

Facebook, which began its life as a small private club for Ivy Leaguers, now has its sights set on what might be the net’s biggest pot of gold yet: a way of placing ads anywhere on the net with a granularity Google can only dream of — in no small part because Google promised its users never to go down that path.

And that’s why Google, the web’s most successful advertising company, sees Facebook, not Microsoft’s Bing, as its biggest rival.

Some tech pundits foresee a Facebook future where friend recommendations replace search, or Facebook gets enough data from what users like to make a more relevant search engine. That’s unlikely, for a number of reasons, including that Facebook profiles aren’t that detailed and that Google is already building social into search (look here if you are logged into a Google account to see a glimpse of what’s going on).

Instead, follow the money Facebook is making now. Depending on how much you have filled out your Facebook profile, you might have noticed that Facebook ads are sometimes eerily too good, as if Eminen’s music label actually knows what kind of music you like.

If you’ve had that sneaking feeling, then you know exactly why Google is trying to play social catch-up with Facebook, and how Facebook could single-handedly save the online publishing industry.

What gnaws at Google is not so much that Facebook users spend a lot of time on its competitor’s site. And it’s not even that Facebook gets so many page views that it now serves up an astounding 23% of the U.S.’s online display ads, according to a recent survey by comScore. That’s more than twice as many as Yahoo server and ten times as many as Google, though Facebook’s rates remain low.

Instead, the search giant is scared by two things it sees as possibly undermining its stature as the web’s top tech company.

One, there’s so much interaction and information being shared inside Facebook that it has become a decent-sized replica of the Web inside the Web. And Google can’t crawl and analyze much of what happens in there. That’s a problem when your goal is to organize the world’s information. Google is blind to this because much of what happens on Facebook remains in Facebook. (Ironically, this is due to users’ privacy settings, which Facebook has relentlessly tried to chip away at over the last four years.)

The problem is that Google built a wall between user search data and advertising — and the mammoth financial success of AdWords proved that the separation was fine at the time.Two, Facebook knows who you are and has the right to use that information because you explicitly gave it to them. Google has different kinds of data that reveal a lot about who you are and what you are interested in — some of it very private. But very little of that data is information you explicitly told the company to share, and they’ve assiduously promised not to use your search history and e-mail data to profile of you.

For years, that’s not been a problem for Google. They made the majority of their $7.29 billion in revenue in the third quarter from little text ads that show up next to and above search results.

Those adds are all keyed off the words you type into that little box. There’s no targeting involved. It doesn’t matter to Google’s AdWords system who you are, what you’ve searched for before, or what you do in other Google services (the only real targeting available in AdWords now is by location).

Google then expanded this program in 2003 to run ads on other people’s sites, its AdSense product, which now includes text and display ads. For years, those ads were also purely contextual, based mostly off the words on the site running the ads. So if you ran a blog about your life as a dentist, your readers would see ads for dental floss and teeth-whitening products.

But then, in search of a new revenue stream, Google bought DoubleClick in 2007 for more than $3.1 billion.

DoubleClick is one of the net’s display ad giants and has been serving banners ads on sites across the net since the early 1990s, using each ad serving spot as a way to track what you are reading to make inferences about your interests and build a pseudonymous profile of you tied to a cookie in your browser.

But despite having a large number of sites running the ads (including, AdSense/Doubleclick ads still account for only 30 percent of Google’s revenues. And, surprisingly, the targeting isn’t very good. You can go here to see what Google thinks it can deduce about you just from your browsing.

The problem is that Google built a wall between user search data and advertising — and the mammoth financial success of AdWords proved that the separation was fine at the time. A search query was likely to show intent, and it really didn’t matter to advertisers selling something who the searcher was.

To make display ads better, Google kicked a hole in that wall in 2009 when it started including the videos you watch on YouTube as a way to target display ads ads at you.

Google isn’t talking about how well those ads perform compared to its purely contextual ones. But according to a Wall Street Journal story from this summer, Google is “soul-searching” over ways to turn what you do while logged into Google into data that can be used for targeting ads. That’s agonizing for Google since it’s always promised that it would keep that usage data separate from its ads.

But Facebook has never made that promise, and its users don’t seem turned off by the targeted ads.

They know they gave up the targeting data by typing it into their profile box, by becoming a fan of a company on Facebook or clicking a “Like” button. And now Facebook is training users to stay logged-in to Facebook all the time, for the convenience of logging in to sites or “liking” a story.

Why does that matter?

It matters because now you are your Facebook identity all over the net, telling every site that plays in the Facebook ecosystem exactly which dog you are, that you like playing fetch and what other dogs you run in a pack with.

Which means, it’s a virtual certainty that Facebook-targeted ads are going to start showing up in your hometown’s newspaper, your favorite online music site and hundreds of other sites you visit. And unlike the targeted third-party ad systems run by Microsoft, Google and others, there’s no need to track you around the net to try to infer from your reading and video viewing habits how old you are, where you went to college or what you are into.

As the underdog in this fight, Google’s best weapon will be openness — tying to turn users against the walls of Facebook, while Facebook will try to be just open enough to keep users and partners from revolting.Facebook knows all of that already because you told them. Facebook touts the story of a wedding photographer in Michigan who’s expanded his business tremendously simply by targeting ads at locals who mark themselves as “engaged.” Gabriel Weinberg, the one-man show behind the search engine DuckDuckGo, went so far as to create an ad targeted just at his wife.

Now, Facebook advertisers don’t actually know anything about you — at least not until you click on an ad, visit their site and handover your e-mail address. Instead, they use a simple panel in Facebook that lets them choose what categories to target, including age, location, education and gender. They can further target ads based on the things you have liked or added to your profile. Facebook runs the ads on a company’s behalf but never turns over a list of who fits the targeting criteria to the advertisers.

As a private company, Facebook doesn’t have to share public numbers, but a spokesman told that advertisers are getting comfortable with Facebook, and it has thousands of advertisers. Revenues are estimated at $1.3 billion a year and rising, while investors and secondary markets are valuing the company at more than $40 billion on Sharespost, a private stock market.

That despite the fact that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has never loved ads. He kept them off his site as long as he could, and even the ones that run now are relatively small, given how big and loud ads have gotten on the Web outside of Facebook. Some marketers complain that the Facebook ads just aren’t visible enough on the site, so they concentrate their efforts on getting people to “fan” their pages, in hopes the news that you like “Starbucks” makes it into the news feeds of your friends.

Facebook says it’s not working on any third-party ad system, and right now, it doesn’t need to. It’s flush with cash from investors, who’ve poured hundreds of millions into the company, without Zuckerberg losing control. It can bide its time, making Facebook even more central to the internet, building more relationships with top advertisers and convincing more sites to turn over their login systems to Facebook.

But it’s a near inevitability Facebook takes the same, logical step Google took and starts putting ads on third-party sites, targeting Facebook users reading the Washington Post, The Daily Beast, or your hometown newspaper.

Those ads could be splashy and dominant – the way advertisers like them these days, without distracting from the Facebook experience. They can also be very targeted, without Facebook having to hand over the info about that reader to the website.

It has the potential to be the opposite of Google’s Adwords/Adsense division, with huge profits coming from outside the Facebook walls. Facebook could then grab a giant and dominating slice of an evergrowing online display ad market, while simultaneously making display ads actually targeted.

Facebook even makes the case that its ad system is less creepy than third-party systems that track you, mostly without you realizing it, around the web. While they do see what you are doing around the web when you are logged into your Facebook account and there is a “Like” button on that site, the company says it does not mine that information and deletes it after three months. No other third-party ad network comes close to forgetting so soon.

Facebook’s advantage is that they probably don’t need to do this sort of tracking, given all the profile data, friend connections and likes that you’ve fed into their system. If advertisers and users get comfortable enough with ads based off that data, then there’s no reason that a site such as the New York Times wouldn’t want to turn over at least some of their ad sales to Facebook. Having spent years getting advertisers used to targeting the Facebook generation, Facebook would be able to charge very high rates to advertisers.

That’s because it would not only be able to do very granular ad targeting, but it could do so on a site with the reputation of the New York Times.

Online papers love the idea of targeted ads, because contextual ads just don’t work for news. What ad are you going to put up next to a story about a flood in India? An ad for Indian rugs? What about next to a story about a plane crash? Or even a story about a run-of-the-mill mayoral election?

One hope to fix that giant problem facing the media industry is to know who your readers are.

And that means building identity into the internet.

Facebook’s the only company to have done so, and that’s why Google is fighting to catch up to “social.”

There may not be room for more than one online identity company on the net, but Google has assembled a high-powered team of coders and thinkers, including Slide’s Max Levchin, the open social evangelist Chris Messina and Live Journal’s Brad Fitzpatrick Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr, to take on the Facebook crew.

As the underdog in this fight, Google’s best weapon will be openness — tying to turn users against the walls of Facebook, while Facebook will try to be just open enough to keep users and partners from revolting. The best case scenario? Google figures out how to turn identity into an open protocol like e-mail — something you can host and control anywhere that lets you stitch together whatever services you like.

And if that effort fails, Facebook’s relatively benign child-king will be in control of what you can and can’t do with your identity on the internet.

And Mark Zuckerberg will have built a company worth more than $100 billion — and maybe worth more than Google.

Update: The post originally named Brad Fitzpatrick as part of the Google’s team focused on social apps, but he’s working on Android. Joseph Smarr, formerly of Plaxo and part of the Open ID movement, is working on social, however.

Photo: escapedtowisconsin

Call of Duty 7: Black Ops

Last years Modern Warfare 2 broke sales records and has sold over 20 million copies to date. Janco Partners' Mike Hickey believes that Black Ops could match sales of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 by selling over 18 million copies this holiday.

Black Ops could generate over $800 million on just the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC platforms alone. For comparison, Modern Warfare 2 sold 4.7 million copies on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in one day and generated over $1 billion by January 2010. With only just a few days left before the games release, it remains to be seen whether Black Ops will top the blockbuster launch of Modern Warfare 2.

Here are some great lesser-known features of Call of Duty. The list below applies to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Multiplayer Online Split-Screen Support
Let’s get started with what I believe is the most unknown, yet confirmed, aspect to Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer -- the online split-screen support we’ve re-introduced to the franchise! This applies to both the Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3.

The Facts:

■You can connect a 2nd controller and bring a Guest online.
■Guests can rank up, earn unlocks, etc -- all Guest progress goes away once signed out.
■(Xbox 360 only) You can bring a 2nd, Gold Xbox LIVE account online!
■(Xbox 360 only) Both players with full online accounts can rank-up while playing split-screen, as if on two separate consoles.

Custom Games Editor
Allow me to introduce the Black Ops Custom Games editor! Private Matches have never been this customizable. Players will have the ability to structure their games at all new levels of granularity. From variables as simple as Time Limit and Score Limit, or as deep as which weapons, Perks, and gear is available. You want a Pistols Only match? Make one! No longer do custom game modes rely on the "honor system".

Furthermore, any Custom Game you create and configure can be placed in your File Share, for friends and the community-at-large to browse, download, and enjoy. You just might create the most addictive new game mode of all time from the comfort of your own living room!

In-Game Friends List
We’ve integrated a built-in Friends List into the in-game User Interface. You’ll be able to browse Recent Players, Friends, navigate their File Shares, Recent Games, Combat Records -- all within this in-game menu system designed to streamline the social process within the game. Sending game invites and joining Friends’ games has never been simpler than in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Regional Matchmaking & Party Privacy
Call of Duty: Black Ops will support regional matchmaking filters on a global scale. So, no matter where you’re at in the world, you will have the ability to specify whether you want to match with players from other geographical regions, or only those local to you. This will make communication and lag a much less intrusive variable on your gameplay experience.

Additionally, given Black Ops will support joining games in progress via an even simpler built-in in-game Friends List interface, we’ll allow a Party leader to lock down his lobby to Invite Only, Friends Only, or even Close it altogether if he wants to be in complete control over who enters and exits the Party Lobby.

Emblems Do NOT Reset with Prestige
This one is pretty cut-and-dry -- a frequently asked question is, "Will my kickass emblem I spent hours perfecting be lost when I prestige??" The answer is, "NO!" -- Emblems are one of the only aspects of Black Ops MP that do not get a full reset upon entering Prestige. Things that will reset when you Prestige are: XP, COD Points, Challenge progressions, Loadouts, etc.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why entrepreneurs should take a salary

Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco, Financial Post · Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010

Experts say entrepreneurs with new ventures are often hesitant to pay themselves, believing it isn’t in the best interest of their company.

“There are a couple of reasons entrepreneurs need to think about at least registering a salary for themselves on their month-to-month expenses,” says Michael Mauws, Professor, Business Policy & Strategy at Athabasca University Faculty of Business. “Some entrepreneurs, particularly in the early days of a startup, don’t want to take a salary because they’re worried how their employees are going to perceive it. They want to send the signal they’re sacrificing for their company so everyone else should as well. In the long run, it’s not a way to get good people in your organization. They’re likely to think that if you can’t afford to pay yourself, how stable is their pay cheque?”

However, it is in the best interest of the company that an entrepreneur pay themselves a salary — even if they’re sinking every penny of that salary back into the business, Prof. Mauws says. “One reason is that you’re trying to assess the profitability of the venture and if you go to sell it, people want a realistic idea of its expenses and revenues. If you are an owner-operator, actively involved in the business, then your salary is a legitimate cost that needs to show up in the financial statements. Or if at some point you want to put someone else in the management suite but not sell the company, you want a realistic idea if there’s going to be any money left over at the end of the day. If you’re living off fictitious profits because you’re not claiming a salary, you’re going to have a rude awakening when you try putting someone in that role.”

Claiming a reasonable salary that is reflective of the cost of having the managerial talent you represent for your company simply makes a lot of sense. “What you don’t want to do is in your salary also be taking out any of your rewards for ownership — the equivalent of dividends. It should reflect the cost of replacing the entrepreneur in the management capacity,” says Prof. Mauws.

The reality, however, is that many startups are starving for cash and the entrepreneur is willing to make deep financial sacrifices to get his or her venture off the ground. In some cases, these sacrifices are not a choice but a necessity. “This is particularly so if they haven’t yet received angel financing or venture capital into the company and they’re in the early boot-strapping days when they’re begging friends and family for money. They feel guilty if they’re taking money out of the business,” Prof. Mauws says. “They can still claim their salary but each month, they can make a shareholder’s loan to the company or purchase more shares, and put as much cash back in as they need. It is a legitimate concern not to want to starve the business for cash by paying yourself a salary in the short run when you expect a positive cash flow down the road. So I wouldn’t want to say every entrepreneur should literally pay themselves a salary but I do think it is useful for entrepreneurs to reflect a salary in their financial statements and talk to their accountant about the best way to get that money back into the company if that’s what’s needed.”