Why does my business need a mobile app

Whether you have seen a mobile app for another business or you have read about them I hope to help with reasons why a mobile app would be good for your business, club or school.

What can an app do for my business?

  •  An app helps build brand loyalty, all business owners desire brand loyalty. With a mobile app your business can stay in direct contact with your clients or members. You can stay engaged with customers and keep them informed about your business activities, events and special offers, or in the case of schools inform parents of events, school closures or information regarding their child.
  •  A mobile app allows you to present information, services and products to your customers through a medium that people use and have with them constantly, this provides your business with an excellent affordable tool to inform and market to your customer base at any time.
  • A mobile app provides you with a ready revenue stream allowing your business to reach an audience that you normally wouldn’t reach through other means of marketing (97% of messages are read), people are always searching for the easiest and fastest way to get the information, products and services they want.
  • Customers always have their phone with them, no matter what they are doing people are always fiddling with their phones or tapping away on a tablet, this means that people can search, buy, browse or share at any time of the day or night regardless of where they are or what they are doing, with an app your business will always be available to them.
  • An app will keep you ahead of the competition, whilst your competitors may not have an app at this time, you could, here at Activ we have made developing and launching an app more affordable allowing you to reap the benefits with a sensible ROI, allowing you to engage with customers, build brand loyalty and be on the cutting edge of technology.

Why wait, your customers are using mobile devices everyday browsing for products, services, booking appointments, purchasing goods and much much more, how many people these days book a hotel or visit a restaurant without first reading the reviews, looking at on-line maps to see where it is, what the parking is like or what’s on the menu?. For the price of a couple of adverts you could have the latest technology advertising only your business.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At Activ Web Design (Yorkshire) we have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more information please visit http://www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/activ-apps.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: dave.rowland@activwebdesign.com
Website: www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/activ-apps.html
Twitter: @activmobileapps

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old Chinese proverb).

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Low Cost Ways To Promote Your Business

Starting a business on a shoestring? or just looking for ways to stretch a small business marketing budget?

Here are some low-cost, high-impact ideas to promote your business.

Most important
Plan your attack, define who your prospects are, and then determine the best way to reach them, be as specific as possible, is the decision maker the CEO of the company or a working mom? will you find them on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest or Facebook?.

What about networking at local business meetings? will they be searching for your type of product on Google or eBay?  do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to make the purchase, write your answers down and most importantly read them before you start any new marketing campaign.

YOU MUST – Have a website, if you don’t have one get one plain and simple.

Set your business up in the free listings and local directories, be sure to include your website link  (you do have one don’t you?) and business description.

Then
Create a business profile page on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. make sure your business profile includes a good description of what you do, why you are different, and why customers should come to you, make sure you have the right keywords and a link to your website.

Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant adverts for what you sell.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationary, get them as soon as possible, your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously.

Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create.

Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients, call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business, visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.

Talk to all the suppliers who you buy products or services from, give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or services, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.

Attend meetings of professional groups,and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, 4 Networking, BNI, or civic associations, have your business cards ready and don’t forget to ask other people about their business, not only will they appreciate your interest, they will remember you because of it.

You may need to pay for membership in those groups but if they attract your target customers it is worth it, many of these groups have a website where members can promote their business, make sure your name and website link get added as soon as possible. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.

If possible become actively involved in some of these groups, this will add to your credibility and give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. however, opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business.

Whilst you don’t want to become involved in many groups that require a lot of your time, you are after all running a business, you can and should make a real contribution to them by offering useful ideas and helping the groups success when possible.

Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicise it, send out press releases to local newspapers, local radio stations and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell, be sure to post the press releases on your website or blog too, being sure to include links to your website in the release.

To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (not the radio stations 🙂 ) with your press release, editors of printed publications are often in need of photos to fill space and break up the gray look of the page.

Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field.Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites and blogs in your field that accept submissions from experts, be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article.

If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free which helps drive traffic to your site.

Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity.

Ask for work or leads, contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.

Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are, let them know you are available to handle their work overloads, but don’t try to steal their customers you will only get away with it once and it will do your reputation no good at all.

If you are confident enough, offer to be a speaker at industry conferences or local business groups they often need speakers for meetings, you will benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity.

If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to any groups or individuals who might be interested.

Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites, this is highly effective when it comes to SEO and your website.

Find out what local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business, most offer free counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small businesses.

Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell, be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out, follow up periodically with mailings (email or post).

If you use a car or van for your business have your business name, contact and website information professionally painted on the sides or back of the vehicle that way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business, if you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs or stickers.

Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” these are calls to people who you would like to do business with, briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem, but don’t forget when you make these calls that they are also trying to run a business.

Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.

Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services, during these consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas.

Learn to ask for referrals ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances, when you do get them follow them up.

Use other people to sell your product or service in addition to selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, re sellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales, be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.

Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services to you, arrange to exchange leads.

Have sales letters, flyers and other information printed and ready to go.

Trial Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. some offer a voucher or code worth £50 to £75 in free advertising to start, however, know how they work before you start and plan very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequently until you are comfortable using PPC ads and make sure you monitor the return on your investment.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

How Good Is Your Software Team

Just how well does your software team rate? Answer the following questions it won’t take a minute honest.

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Do you do daily builds?
  3. Do you use bug tracking?
  4. Do you fix bugs before adding more code?
  5. Do you have an up to date project plan?
  6. Do you have a specification?
  7. Do your developers have a quiet environment?
  8. Do you have testers?
  9. Do you do UAT testing?
  10. Do new developers have to write code at their interview?

Didn’t take long did it now let’s look them in turn.

1. Source control is a must have, not only does it keep your precious source code safe but developers don’t usually know what the last developer did, how good he was, whether the code he checked in actually builds. A good source control versions your code, keeps a history and allows roll backs to an earlier version.

2. Unless you perform regular builds on your code you never know what state it is in till you come to work on it. The process can be automated not only to build the whole codebase on a regular basis but to create single step checkout and builds (overnight if required) the more steps you need to get to the point of building the code the more prone to errors. Daily builds on the whole code base will highlight errors such as a developer checking back in the code but forgetting to checking new classes or libraries, the code will obviously build on his machine but won’t for anyone else checking out the code (even worse if he locks his machine and goes on holiday).

3. Without an organised listing of bugs you are going to ship not only low quality code but probably re ship the code with reported bugs unfixed, you can’t keep all of the bugs in your head. As a minimum your bug tracker must keep:-

  • Steps to recreate the bug
  • Expected behaviour (without the bug)
  • Who spotted the bug
  • Who is to or has fixed the bug
  • Current status of the bug

4. If you are not fixing the bugs before adding more code you are simply compounding the problem, not only will it make bug fixing harder (you can’t even attempt to debug till the current code compiles) but you could well be introducing new bugs to the existing ones.

5. The code is important to the business, it is important for them to know when the code is going to be ready, developers are notorious for saying “however long it takes” unfortunately that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cut any ice with the business,  they have to plan in advance for  when they expect to get ownership back of the code and the only way to do this is to plan ahead and keep the plan up to date, from the developers point this means that there is a good chance that you won’t suffer from “feature creep” and end up working on the code for the next ten years.

6. If there is one thing about spec’s it usually that everyone agrees you should have one but no one provides one.  As a result, when teams consisting solely of developers  approach the problem they go straight for a solution and dive straight in to coding resulting in much higher costs to fix any design or code issues. Software which wasn’t built using a specification quite often results in a badly designed product which doesn’t meet requirements and timelines spiral out of control.
7. We all know the developers work best when they can get into “the zone” where they can fully concentrate on their work, the trouble is that it is hard enough to get into “the zone” as it is without constant distractions, phone calls and the ever present “can you do this for me it won’t take you long” interruptions.

8. If your team doesn’t include at least 1 tester (ideally to every 3 developers) you are probably at best using a highly skilled developer to do a lower skilled job and at worst delivering buggy code to the business, saving money on not having testers is a false economy and can dramatically cut delivery times.

9. You simply have to have UAT testing, how many times are users given a new system and told to get on with it, more often than not they have had no input as to how the system works, scarily end users won’t even be asked what is wrong with the old system. UAT is an invaluable must have step in the process; no code should be delivered without first going through UAT.

10. Is there any other professional you would employ without first checking their work or at the very least have them highly recommended by someone you totally trust.You are placing a lot of trustthese people not to bring your business down, not to destroy the trust you earned for your business with your clients, every new developer should be asked to show competence to the level that the position requires.

 

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

What is cloud computing and what can it do for me

The term cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet. Cloud computing is a general term for anything which involves delivered hosted services over the internet.

In broad terms a cloud service has three characteristics which differentiate it from traditional hosting, these are;

  1. It is provided on demand (by the minute or hour in some cases)
  2. It is scalable (a user can have as little or as much as they want)
  3. the service is fully managed by the vendor (you typically only require a computer and internet access)

Cloud computing promises to speed application deployment and lower costs, whilst increasing business agility. It has transformed the way we design, build and deliver applications to the users. Have you used a search engine today?, have you accessed web mail if so you are already using cloud services.

There are public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds but don’t let the jargon put you off, everyone agrees that cloud computing is the key to the future of I.T but lots of these people are unsure of what it is. Many companies are jumping on the bandwagon to offer “cloud services” so it is worth understanding such terms as SaaS (software as a service) or PaaS (platform as a service) or IaaS (infrastructure as a service) to name a few if you need to evaluate a suppliers claims.

Cloud computing has some real benefits but also has risks such as loss of services if your provider has downtime or worse still goes out of business also regulatory concerns over data security so choose your vendor carefully.

I recently setup a really simple system for a plumber who lives down the street; he already had an iPhone, an Apple Mac and an iPad although in his words he wasn’t really sure what to do with them. During our conversation he mentioned that his wife mans the phone at home and jots down all of his incoming appointments then rings him at regular intervals to give him the new list, if the call is urgent she tries to call him straight away, within 10 minutes we had connected his Apple Mac, iPhone and iPad calendar applications up to iCloud (he was familiar with the calendar app anyway), now when his wife enters the call details into a time slot on the calendar app on the Mac the appointment appears on his iPhone and iPad almost instantly and any Urgent appointments are highlighted in red, he now knows exactly when and where he should be, what the problem is before he gets there, the address and customer name and contact details and it cost him nothing as he already had the technology simple, but had this come up a year or two ago it would have been a little more difficult and a lot more expensive to achieve, it’s certainly not the best solution to his problem but it works for him and cost him nothing.

The reason for the anecdote above is to show that the “Cloud” isn’t frightening or intimidating, it’s not the answer to everything but in certain cases it does exactly what it says on the tin.

To conclude, here are a few more terms you may want to research if you want to know more, it is a fascinating subject.

Utility Computing
SaaS
– Software as a service
PaaS – Platform as a service
IaaS – Infrastructure as a service
RIA – Rich internet application
Multi-tenancy
Public, Private, Hybrid Clouds
Virtualisation

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

 

Tips on improving your copywriting skills

Now is the time to start taking advantage of all the existing and emerging social media platforms currently available to you. Whether you are a business looking after your own social media campaigns, or a consultant working on behalf of a client, it important to get it right and this is where learning even the basics of copywriting skills will pay dividends.

Social media has been around for some time, initially these were great platforms to help build brand awareness and gain user interaction in fact they still are, however, in some instances they can be used to help drive traffic and improve conversion rates as well as playing a huge part in a business’s rankings with the many search engines.

Now is the time to start taking social media more seriously, whether it’s getting the basics right, or in understanding social media strategies, the following copywriting tips are worth remembering when using any media platform:

Spelling and Content

There is nothing worse than visiting a site that contains spelling mistakes or content that doesn’t read well, from a business perspective this will at best this makes the company look unprofessional and careless and at worst it can put a stop to any user interaction, rendering the whole process pointless.

Don’t beat about the bush

Whether you are writing a full page or trying to tweet a message in 140 characters or less, it is important that the message is to the point, any followers will simply lose interest if the message is “wordy” and not to the point, this doesn’t mean avoid having a personality it just means be clear and concise in what you are trying to convey.

Don’t lose the connection

Keep a clear connection between your brand image and social media personality it is an all too common mistake for many brands using social media, for example, a company may have the perception of being vibrant, new and exciting, but their social media activity may not reflect this, so write in a way that will enhance your brand image, whatever that may be.

Be creative!

It is important to focus on getting the user to click on a link, or to look at something you have shared, one way to do this is to be a little more creative with your posts or tweets, so instead of tweeting, “Here are some copywriting tips”, you could create more interest for example by saying, “For tips on improving your copywriting skills, follow this link”.

Make time!

It is all too easy to forget about updating social media content, especially if you are busy, however, every little helps, one way is to set yourself reminders to send out a tweet or update your status at various intervals during the day even if you can’t find time to post a full article.

Set aside some time to actually engage in online conversations with others, the more “active” you are the better this will be for your company’s exposure.

Most of all – Enjoy it!

The whole point of social media is to engage with others this is why it is important to enjoy the experience and not go for the hard sell which will put people off.

Potential customers or clients would rather take time to talk and engage with a company that is actively seeking their interaction rather than abruptly trying to push their products or services onto them.

Above all have fun! this will show in the way you write and the way other people perceive you or your business don’t see it as a chore but rather an integral and important part of online marketing.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

How to Gather Better Requirements for Custom Software Development

Deciding the business requirements when going bespoke can be quite difficult this is because software and business systems can become very complex and as a result there are lots of places where miscommunication and assumptions can occur.

So why is “going bespoke” any different, there are many other industries where a contracted individual creates something for a customer, building construction for instance; for example when you buy a home from a builder.

Usually the builder has various show homes that you can visit and look around, usually they have examples of all of the different options that you could purchase for your new home, and in any case people are generally familiar with houses, they know what to expect and they know what not to expect, so in reality when you purchase a home from a builder there are relatively few choices that you make and the choices that you do make as a customer are things that you are very familiar with.

In software development this would be similar to purchasing a software product that is already built and then modifying it. It’s a fairly low risk undertaking and you usually get the chance to try out a version of the actual software you are going to purchase.

However, custom software development is a whole different “kettle of fish”, It is much more like designing your own house.

When designing your own house there isn’t an example you can go visit, whilst a builder could point out certain features of other similar buildings that you could see, often you are left only with a set of plans or drawings of what the final structure will look like.

It can be hard for the customer to visualize what the finished structure is going to look like, ok you can look at the plans and see that a bedroom is going to be 10′ x 15′ but it is a little more difficult to really get a sense for what that room is going to feel like when you walk in or how the furniture will fit, how quiet it will be etc.

The same is true for bespoke software development. It can be quite difficult for non-technical customers to really be able to visualize the finished system and how it is going to work, and because they can’t really see the completed system in their mind, it can be very difficult for them to explain to the developer how it is supposed to work.

So what should you do? Here are some best practices that can be followed when developing a requirements document for bespoke software applications.

Draw a “model” on paper whenever you can, create examples of how you want your software to work give examples of major functional features so that you and your staff can “walk through” different screens and functions, get a better feel for how things might look and work.

Map out prototypes that walk through complex functionality and “use cases”

Create mock ups of key screens that show as much functionality as possible use something like Visio tm (Microsoft) or Pencil (http://pencil.evolus.vn/en-US/Home.aspx) which is a free open source tool but there are many more

Create annotated visual functional requirements documents. I have written a few functional requirements documents over the years and have found that if your requirements document is entirely text that describes every piece of the system, people will generally just nod their head and say yes to everything.

The truth is that no matter how eloquently you write and how painstakingly you describe your requirements, people by their very nature prefer things to be visual, they need to see it to really understand how it is going to work, where possible you should always add a diagram or flowchart.

Remember you are striving to improve the transfer of knowledge between yourself and the developer. The more the developer knows about your business the better they will understand the problems, the better they will be at describing the solution.

Bespoke software development can be quite challenging, however, with a little work you can make the knowledge transfer between you and developer much more efficient.

Alternatively, leave it to the professionals, get them to do the hard work whilst leaving you to “sanity-check” and simply approve the final requirements.

At CodeSpinner we have over 25 years experience of producing specifications and requirements.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk