You Have These Tools At Your Fingertips

Published on Aug 26, 2014   //  Did You Know, Discussion, Web Development

Your BlueFur web hosting account comes with a great little tool called Softaculous. Softaculous makes it extremely easy for you to deploy hundreds of different applications from WordPress on down to ClipBucket. Now I bet you’re thinking, “What on Earth would I use all of these different tools for?” Today we’re going to explore just that!

Wiki

If you’re familiar with Wikipedia, then you have at least a rough idea of what a wiki is. Basically a wiki is a central repository for user-generated information on any topic. Public wikis include Wikipedia, Wikiquote, WikiTravel, and CookBookWiki. So what if you had your own wiki where you could document something you’re passionate about? Or perhaps something that you and a group of friends are doing, like a group vacation?

Softaculous has four different wiki software available including MediaWiki (which powers Wikipedia), DokuWiki (focused on document creation), PmWiki (focused on project management), and WikkaWiki. With just a few clicks and less than a minute to install, your own wiki could be up and running in no time!

Business

Business software? Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of great tools available from lots of different companies all over the web to help you run your business. The downside? You have, quite literally, no control over them. You can input your data, you can often get your data back out, but you don’t have control over the web address, you typically have to pay for it on a per user basis, and that free trial runs out pretty quick if you’re not prepared to dive in right away.

Softaculous gives you easy access to 10 different business packages. Software like Vtiger CRM and SugarCRM which allow you to manage inventory, cultivate your customer and vendor relations, and so on. Or OrangeHRM, which gives you free software to manage your staff and their time. Not to mention two different invoicing, accounting, and corporate information management software.

The best part of all the software just mentioned is that they are all free. You need to put time into getting them set up the way you want, as you would with any piece of software that you get to customize at your whim. But there is no upfront cost. And for businesses that want to purchase support for the occasional time they need assistance, most offer paid support as well.

We would love to hear about your experience with Softaculous, and which software you used Softaculous to install!

Everyday Solutions – Website Analytics

Published on Feb 27, 2014   //  Business Topics, Did You Know, Marketing Tips, Social Media, Web Development

Welcome to BlueFur’s blog series: Everyday Solutions! This series focuses on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

If your website’s goal is to help you earn money or attention of some kind, it is imperative to know how many people are visiting your site. And not only how many people are visiting your site but how many are returning visitors, where they are coming from, how they are getting to your website, and so on.

That’s what analytics solutions do for you; they give you information about your visitors that, with a bit of time and analysis, you can act on. Any analytics solution will also help you figure out what promotional methods are working, and which aren’t, ensuring you don’t waste time and money on whatever isn’t working.

So how do you set up an analytics solution? Chances are your host offers something basic like AWstats or Logaholic. These are great for getting started with some basic stats like number of hits (web pages viewed), unique visitors, time of day, and so on. They cannot, however, give you insight about how visitors are interacting with your site.

The behemoth in this space is certainly Google Analytics. Google acquired a well-known solution called Urchin back in April 2005, which eventually became Google Analytics. It is very powerful and has a decent learning curve for the more advanced reports, but generally it’s easy to use and integrate into your site thanks to CMS plugins.

That’s great, but Google Analytics can also slow down your site. Since it has to load code from Google’s servers, Analytics is often the culprit of slower load times. You also lose a bit of a control over your data, and even if you can export it it’s not likely to be useful in other solutions.

Mixpanel is a hosted solution that, while fairly new, has been very well received so far. They have a free tier for sites up to 25,000 data points/events, and the costs quickly go up from there. If you’re aiming to be the next Airbnb or OpenTable though, it might be worth the cost.

Clicky is another hosted solution that focuses on two features: real-time statistics and heatmaps. Real-time is self-explanatory. Heatmaps refers to tracking how your customers interact with your site on a page-by-page basis, giving you insight into where your users click, how often, where their mouse (and likely their eyes) focus, and so on. It’s also much easier to drill down into a single user’s actions, giving you deeper insight if you know how to use it. There is a free tier available as well.

heatmap_example

Example heatmap from Open Web Analytics.

Alternatively you can host your own analytics solution. For a long time Mint was the best alternative to Google Analytics. It has a one-time cost of $30 but you can see the money is well used to develop features and an interface that is very easy to use.

Piwik is a free, open source solution that gives you a lot of the power of Google Analytics and is very popular. The dashboard is entirely customizable, one instance can give you access to the stats for all the sites you’re tracking, and it gives you the vast majority of the stats you’ll need. It isn’t as helpful for e-commerce, but more than good enough for most sites.

Lastly, Open Web Analytics is in many ways a self-hosted, Google Analytics clone. It also features heatmaps, mouse tracking, and even some caching capabilities. If you adore Google Analytics but want to maintain full control over your data, and get access to some of the premium features without all the hassle, OWA is worth a look.

Suffice to say that many options are available, whether you want to offload the tracking to a third-party or maintain control over it. Happy testing and picking!

Everyday Solutions – Social Media Feather

Published on Jan 30, 2014   //  Did You Know, Marketing Tips, Social Media, WordPress

Welcome to BlueFur’s blog series: Everyday Solutions! This series focuses on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

Whether you’re designing your first website, or redesigning your existing website, you have likely come to the realization that you need to make sure you take advantage of the exposure that social networks can give you, and want to make it extremely easy for your visitors to tweet, Like, +1, upvote, or share your content. You also understand that it’s important to make sure your visitors know where to find your brand on social networks. So what do you do?

Social Media Feather is a plugin that integrates with any WordPress theme to make it super easy for customers to follow your brand, while also giving them the tools to share your content with their networks. Some of the key features include:

  • Support for all the most popular social networks in Canada
  • Multiple skins available so that it feels like a natural part of your website
  • Support for high resolution displays, like Apple’s Retina technology
  • Full control over which social networks are enabled

With a quick copy and paste of a shortcode, you have enabled social sharing on your website. And you can easily show which social networks you’re on with a widget containing the logos of each, with links directly to your profile.

It doesn’t get much easier than that, especially if you’re using a WordPress theme that doesn’t include any social media features. There are other, similar plugins available, but we find Social Media Feather the easiest to use for website owners that need both the sharing and profile awareness pieces of this puzzle.

Everyday Solutions – Disqus

Published on Nov 20, 2013   //  Business Topics, Did You Know, Discussion, Marketing Tips, Social Media, WordPress

Welcome to BlueFur’s new blog series: Everyday Solutions! This monthly series will focus on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

Whether you have a personal or corporate blog, there are two things that really matter: engagement and spam.

One is something you want to increase (engagement), and the other is something no one wants (spam). While many content management systems (CMS) come with a built-in comments feature, or built-in spam reduction capabilities, no CMS includes the measures to achieve the right balance of high engagement with low (or no) spam.

The solution to this problem is actually authenticated comments. Your visitors still have the opportunity to use pseudonyms, which many people value, but those hoping to boost their own profile get a very easy way to authenticate themselves and use their real names.

What is this magical tool that can help solve your conundrum? None other than Disqus.

Disqus solves the issues above by doing a few things:

  • Allowing your visitors to register for their own Disqus account, which is also usable on thousands of popular sites like Bloomberg, the London Free Press, and MobileSyrup.
  • Allow your visitors to comment using their Facebook, Google+, or Twitter account which makes it much easier for them to engage, instead of registering for an account only for your website.
  • Disqus lets users choose a pseudonym, allowing them to comment while also protecting their identity, thus increasing engagement.
  • To cut down on spam, you can require visitors to log in to an account of some kind, whether it’s a Disqus, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter account. This means spambots have no way to access your website’s default commenting system, almost entirely eliminating spam as a potential issue.

We won’t talk about them here, but Disqus also gives you ways to monetize your content, promote your content, and automatically adapts its discussion system for mobile devices. You want your visitors to easily interact with your site no matter where they are, don’t you?

One great thing about Disqus is that they offer a slew of integration options, including native plugins for popular content management systems and platforms like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. Disqus can also update the comments in real-time, allowing discussions to flow fluidly, which can increase the amount of time people spend on your website.

There are other, similar solutions to Disqus, which we’ll take a look at another time. For now, just know that the default commenting systems can easily be replaced with something far more dynamic that can solve some real issues your for blog!

Did You Know: No Need For a Passport?

Published on Jan 22, 2008   //  Did You Know

You may have heard about the recent news wherein the Province of British Columbia will be the first in Canada to offer “enhanced” driver’s licences. From the outside, these new driver’s licences will look just like their current counterparts with the notable exception of a Canadian flag in the top-left corner. However, inside the card will be an embedded wireless chip (RFID) that contains a specific identification number which can then be cross-referenced with a national database containing your name, address, birthdate, and so on.

The idea is that the enhanced driver’s licence (EDL) can replace the need for a passport when crossing the border (via land) into the United States. As you know, the easiest form of identification that you can use when driving to Seattle, for example, is your Canadian passport, but you might not always have that on your person. By contrast, you probably carry your driver’s licence with you everywhere you go. As such, it is much easier to take a spontaneous trip to the States. Have to meet up with a business contact on short notice? No problem, because you don’t need to go home to grab your passport and/or birth certificate.

Naturally, there are all sorts of privacy concerns that go into such technology, because someone with an RFID tag reader can illegally pick up your information without your knowledge. This is because the tags are completely wireless; as you approach the border, you simply wave your EDL in front of a reader and the border guard immediately has access to your information.

The pilot program will consist of about 500 volunteers and if successful, the EDL will be offered for an additional fee to the rest of BC. This program will cost taxpayers about $4 million. What do you think? Is this a good idea?

Did You Know: American Income, Canadian Income Tax

Published on Jan 15, 2008   //  Did You Know

By and large, people work for a single company and get a paycheque every couple of weeks in the local currency. If you’re a Canadian citizen doing the usual 9-to-5 thing in a Canadian office, there’s a good chance that you get paid in Canadian dollars. This makes income tax season a little easier, because you don’t have to worry about any sort of currency exchange. By contrast, if you’re a freelance writer or web designer, for example, there’s a good chance that you’ll have at least a couple of customers who will pay you in funds other than the Canadian dollar. American clients are very common.

The same can be said about anyone with a monetized blog. When you sign up for networks like Adsense, ReviewMe, and Kontera, they typically send their payments out in American dollars, either via cheque or to your Paypal account. What are you supposed to do with this income? Obviously, it needs to reported, but you can’t simply plunk these numbers into your income tax forms on a 1-to-1 basis. The Canadian dollar and the American dollar are close to par, but what if you receive Euros, British Pounds, or Hong Kong Dollars? What then?

Thankfully, the Bank of Canada releases information every year on the average exchange rate over the course of the year and it’s usually pretty safe to stick with this average rate, assuming that you have been receiving payment throughout the year. Historical information based on monthly and annual average rates can be found on this page. For the 2007 tax year, I recommend that you go with the 2007 average exchange rates (PDF format).

Looking at that form, the Canadian-US exchange for 2007 averaged at 1.07478127, or about 7.4%. This is the same number that major financial institutions use when they issue T5 forms (if any of your investments were in a currency other than the Canadian dollar). So, if you earned US$1000 on your blog, you should report C$1074.78 on your income tax.

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