Tips for Writing Better Email Subject Lines

Increasing open rates of your emails is a goal of nearly every email marketer, right? And what’s the biggest key to getting more people to open your email? The subject line! So what makes a successful subject line? Here are a few quick hints that might help.

Note: Don’t forget to test! Try sending the same email with a different subject line and see if you get a better (or worse) open rate. Each audience is different, so it’s important to test to know what works for your readers. (more…)

Do You Know Your Website Analytics Lingo?

Written by Erin Trowbridge, Marketing Director

I recently did a website statistics analysis for a client of ours and as I was writing the summary, I found myself using lingo, jargon, geek-speak…whatever you want to call it. I realized that I might have some explaining to do. So, I put together a quick “Lingo List” for your website analytics, to help more of our clients sort through and understand the information they see in Google Analytics.

Visit = one sitting at a computer/device, viewing your site (you may see this also referred to as a Session)

Unique Visitor = one person who may have multiple visits to your site

Bounce = When a visitor gets to your site, doesn’t click on anything else, then leaves. (more…)

Introducing….Me!

grahmn-bwHello! My name is Graham Barnes, the newest addition to the team here at JB Systems. I have over 13 years of experience in creative media, including content development, writing, design and branding. I am extremely excited to apply these passions to JB Systems in my role as Project Manager, and look forward to working with all our clients, both existing and new. First item of business, update the blog. So here goes…

Undoubtedly my friends and family will have a lot of questions for me about my new position in the upcoming days. Two such questions will certainly dominate discussion, the first being “what do you do?” In a nutshell, if you’re a client of JB Systems, I’ll be your rock star; the one who ensures our promises are delivered. You’re probably bursting with ideas and we’d love to hear all of them. From design to content, I’ll ensure your project stays on track with the right people at JB Systems as we bring it to life. Have a question about altering your design? I’m your man. Thinking about changing some text? Look no further. I’ll see to it that all your questions are answered in a thorough and efficient (more…)

10 Things You Should Know About Web Browsers

What is a browser?

A web browser is software on your computer, smartphone, or tablet that allows you to access the Internet. Examples would be:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Opera

A web browser is specific to YOUR computer only, and each can be configured differently and track your history differently than your neighbor’s computer or browser. Because of web browsers, websites can appear and function differently.

At JB Systems, we utilize browsers more than the average Joe, for obvious reasons. But because of that, we have come across a number of tips that might help casual Internet users understand their browsers and use them more effectively. Below is our list of 10 Things You Should Know About Web Browsers.

  1. Just because your computer comes with a browser installed, that doesn’t mean you have to use it. There are numerous browsers available (we recommend Firefox, Safari, or Chrome), and most of them adhere to the same set of standards that make websites looks awesome. One exception is Internet Explorer, which likes to follow its own set of rules, which is also why it’s more difficult to support.
  2. On a related note, you can disable Internet Explorer (IE) in “Add or Remove Windows components”. But, you might have to deal with your computer continuously asking you to re-install it.
  3. Always check for updates and then do them. Firefox and Safari update automatically, but Internet Explorer updates with the operating system, or has an option to update automatically if you want. For this reason, IE still has many versions out there that website developers have to support in order for sites to look good across the board. Believe it or not, some companies still use IE6, which is no longer supported and is nearly 15 years old. Yikes!
  4. On another related note, Microsoft will be discontinuing support for WindowsXP in 2014, meaning support for IE7 and IE8 will also likely be going away.
  5. Try not to use Internet Explorer. For more on that, see here.
  6. When in doubt, clear your cache. My what?! Your cache is like a repository of images and other content that your browser keeps stored so that sites you visit repeatedly load faster. However, if you or your developer is updating your site, those updates might not show up until you clear your cache. Some browsers do this automatically (not Internet Explorer), but only about every 30 days or so. For more on that, see here.
  7. Browsers do not always support the same features. Most browsers support many of the newest web technologies and features. However – and you’re probably picking up on a theme here – Internet Explorer is notorious for not keeping up. A website can look drastically different between browsers (especially IE)  because each browser renders sites differently.
  8. Hackers like old browsers. The longer a piece of software (including web browsers) is out there, the more time hackers have to find security holes. For example, in early versions of Internet Explorer, hackers programmed sites to eject the computer’s disc drive or start the Calculator program. Whoa.
  9. Browsers have extensions, plug-ins, or add-ons allowing you to customize your browser. Plug-ins are additional software that work with your browser to provide additional functionality when browsing the web. They can drastically change your web browsing experience for the better. Some of the most common are QuickTime, Adobe Flash, Java or any anti-virus software plug-in.
  10. Browsers can now be in sync (no, not the ’90s boy-band). The newest versions of most browsers allow you to log in to the browser, which stores your personalized settings in the cloud, making them accessible from anywhere. So, if you’re on your desktop computer and you have bookmarks or passwords saved, it’s a pain to use your laptop because those bookmarks and passwords don’t come along with you, right? Well, now they do. Refer to #3, then log in!

BONUS: The 11th Thing You Should Know About Browsers

Most browsers have an Incognito or InPrivate mode. If you’re surfing not-so-tasty websites or…uh….I mean, shopping for a gift for your significant other, you can do it without others knowing where you’ve been or what you’ve been shopping for.

BONUS: Browser Mantra

This is my browser.
There are many others like it, but this one is mine.
Without me, my browser is nothing.
Without my browser, I am nothing.

 

Moving Toward Mobile – JB Systems Presents at EC Chamber Social Media & Marketing Conference

Written by: Erin Trowbridge, Marketing Director

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting at the Eau Claire Chamber’s Social Media & Marketing Conference at Florian Gardens, which JB Systems is also sponsoring, so I wanted to give our blog readers a sneak peek at what’s in store!

We have a lot of clients lately asking about how they can keep up with the mobile world, in relation to their websites. There are a few different routes to go that we discuss with our clients, including:

  • A mobile app – This is a native software application that you download to your phone that performs functions or offers content to users. Many times, mobile apps have very specific functions (browse homes for sale, refill a prescription, check nearby gas prices, etc.). This type of mobile interaction is usually much different than the customer’s main website, so it requires a different set of information and requirements from the client. It also goes through a process to be approved and sold on an app store like iTunes, for example.
  • A mobile website – This is a website that is independent of your main website. Mobile websites are usually hosted under a subdomain or different domain altogether (i.e. m.facebook.com or jbsystemsllc.mobi). Mobile websites are a great alternative if you want the flexibility of the web but want to offer users different content than what they would see on your full site. Many times, you’ll see something like ‘View our Full Site’ on a mobile site. The goal is to offer users quick, relevant information for mobile users, instead of inundating them with the full breadth of your full site content.
  • A responsive website – This is the same as your website – only different. (What?!) Responsive design is a newer trend in web design that rearranges the elements of your layout to fit a wide variety of screen sizes, instead of just shrinking them, thus eliminating the need to pinch-and-zoom all the time. The result of responsive design is easier access to all/most of the content on your site, one set of web files to manage and maintain, better SEO, and lower cost in most cases.

I’ll be discussing these topics and other mobile trends, tools, and tactics in my presentation, as well as pros and cons of implementing these strategies. Look for a follow up blog post with more info from the presentation!

Debunking the Open Source vs. Custom CMS Myth

By Gerald Bauer – Owner/Founder

I have to say – this is one of the most interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced in my 12 years
of doing this. As of late, a debate (or sales tactic) has arisen from the community of
web developers using open source solutions such as WordPress and Drupal (amongst others)
promoting their approach as superior or in the best interest of a client than a custom built website.
While their spin has some merit (albeit an emphasis on ‘some’) – we (along with many other
professional web development firms) couldn’t disagree more adamantly.

The re-occuring pitch we’ve been told (or have read about online) is that ‘using an open source
solution is in the customer’s best interest if in an event their web developer leaves. Maintaining the site or finding someone to support your website will be much easier’.

Since the code-base behind WordPress is standardized (and used by millions) finding someone to
take care of it (again, only in the case of your web developer leaving) should be fairly straight
forward. Right?

Well, it’s not quite that easy. First of all – most websites written using WordPress (just to pick on that) use a combination of the WordPress blogging platform itself and various user-installed plugins. For example, perhaps your website needs a photo gallery. In this case, various WordPress plugins are available to accommodate such a request. The developer simply searches for a plugin that works, selects one that’s ‘good enough’and hits “Install”. Within moments – a photo gallery is available for use on the site. Plugins exist for everything – from photo galleries to video blogs, from eCommerce plugins to MP3 music player plugins. The problem that arises – is that these plugins ALL have to be supported, all have to be manually upgraded, and more often times than not – really don’t do a GREAT job at accomplishing what a client is looking for. In a lot of cases, clients involved in these type of projects often request a plugin to be “customized” to suit their needs.

The use of these plugins (and the fact that WordPress is so commonly used, again – by millions) leads
me to my second and more disconcerting point – of security. The WordPress platform and its host of
plugins are exploited by the hacking community, almost daily.

Another example directly related to JB Systems’ involvement pertains to a Wisconsin-based organization called CESA. For over three years, and using two separate developers / firms, they failed in launching a website responsible for promoting their 3-5 annual events (large scale, 300+ attendees type of events). This ‘platform’ was supposed to allow them easy access to edit all of their content, prepare events and all marketing materials for each event, allow registrations to be taken online, allow speakers to upload their presentations, and various other tasks. It was never finished. The site, as it stands in this condition, can be found here: http://www.edevents.org/  It only does about 70% of what they needed it to do, and these events represent a large facet of their organization’s budget.

We have just been hired to rebuild the entire platform. The previous developers proposed using ‘open source’ tools such as WordPress and a now commercial (but previously was open source) product called RegOnline (www.regonline.com). In short, the project never achieved what the clients wanted and the work required to customize WordPress to handle what they needed it to do and to integrate WordPress and this stand-alone product, was a misguided strategy and cost them 3 years and a substantial amount of money. We’ve quoted a solution for them that was not necessarily the most cost-effective (as their previous solution was) but we are guaranteeing a finished, working product within a 6 month window – all custom build and designed to their specifications. They can’t wait to get started.

Lastly, I’d like to throw in some 3rd party links to various sources reaffirming our standpoint at JB Systems. A brief summary is included with each one:

1) SitePoint – most notable resource, providing continuing education to web developers across the world:

http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?679794-3-Reasons-You-Should-NOT-Use-Wordpress

2) WordPress – their own website includes various posts pertaining to the topic at hand:

http://wordpress.org/support/topic/why-is-wordpress-still-the-most-frustrating-software-to-use

3) A great article here by another web development company affirms our standpoint nicely:

http://www.webbedfeetuk.com/news-article-web-design.php?article=49

Although I’ve provided a great deal of information defending our position, I’d like to note we are not so-called ‘haters’ of WordPress and open source solutions. In fact, we use WordPress for our own blog (to do EXACTLY what WordPress was designed to do – BLOG). Using WordPress has often (in the past) been a great solution for small companies and organizations to host a website and in some cases have it serve as their primary website. From time to time, we at JB Systems run into clients with very small budgets and recommend WordPress as an option. But lately – we’re seeing WordPress solutions being sold for as much (if not more) than a custom tailored site. Due to the various reasons outlined above, and in the 3 external links I provided, there are ample reasons why large corporations and successful companies have NOT adopted this platform as their own. It is my own personal opinion that certain developers have adopted this strategy in order to maximize their profitability as very little custom development is needed to set up a WordPress site (in business lingo –  we don’t need to hire skilled developers or programmers to do what we do).

I would like to note that simply because our solution is not open-source, it doesn’t mean you can never work with another firm to work on it. We code our projects to a very high (and very human readable) standard – using open source (yup, I said it) technologies such as PHP and MySQL. These are the very two technologies that power BOTH WordPress and Joomla. We have partnered with our local universities and technical colleges (I sit on their programming advisory council in fact) and can attest that our projects could easily be maintained by anyone with an intermediate skill of programming in PHP (or by another PHP-based web development firm, of which there are hundreds). There are indeed some development firms whose products are “locked down” and if a client chooses to go elsewhere, they don’t get to take their website with them. That is simply not the case with JB Systems.

If all web developers used an open-source platform, how would companies innovate to create better, more engaging, or unique experiences for people visiting their site?

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