Smart Phone; friend or foe

smartphones

There’s no arguing that those highly powerful, multi-functional electronic gadgets known as smart phones have revolutionized the world we live in. Packed with an array of features including internet browsing, 24 hour access to emails, phoning facilities, apps and high pixel cameras, what more could a person want from a phone? But we ask whether there are any drawbacks to these seemingly flawless devices which many of us cannot live without?

As realistic as high speed video conferencing is, it’s debatable whether technology can ever replace human interaction and whereas previously, leaving work in the evening and switching off the computer meant “switching off”, now it is simply a transition from a computer to one’s smartphone. I’m sure we can all relate to that feeling when we can never get 100% of someone’s full attention, as we come second to their phone.  Furthermore phones undoubtedly have an impact on family time, meal times, sleeping patterns, concentration whilst driving, hobbies and interests and often forces others by default into the same mode just to keep up.

Perhaps it’s time we all implemented some boundaries and “away time” to prevent us becoming absorbed and to help us just live in the moment a bit more.

By mdinfotech

Websites with a “wow” factor!

mditweb

Building a website could potentially be the single most important thing a company does. With peoples’ lives now glued in the digital world, there’s no better way to reach existing and potential customers than the web.  So we explore just what features differentiate a “good” website from a “great” one:

1. Empty Space

Simplicity really is a golden rule and should not be underestimated. Getting the balance right between conveying the key information and facts whilst at the same time keeping pages uncluttered is often one of the hardest things to do. Leaving more white space can be very effective in doing just this.

2. Making a connection with the end user

Whilst there’s no denying that a website that looks great draws people in initially, the primary purpose of a website is not to be a work of art but to connect the user to the information they want to find. Easy navigation round the site and well labelled menus are essential to help the user locate what they are looking for.

3. Site Testing

It may seem obvious but nothing is more frustrating than broken links or grammatical errors. The average web user spends only a matter of seconds on a site before moving onto the next one, so make sure the first impression is the right one.

4. Fast Loading

If you do incorporate media on your site, be it images or videos, make sure they don’t slow down your site. If a person has to wait more than 3 seconds for something to load, its likely they’ll just go elsewhere.

5. Sensible Colour Schemes

Using neutral colour schemes is the way to go as you should not restrict your readership with your choice of fonts and colours. Websites which are easy on the eye are more likely to be popular than those which result in glare or eye strain.

A website does become part of your brand identity, so treat it with importance and get it right. Once its built, get feedback from users as this will give you an objective idea of whether your website is doing you justice and more importantly if it has the “wow” factor!

By mdinfotech

Coding to be introduced into School Curriculum

coding

20 years ago, owning a computer was a novel concept. Then came the digital age; the Internet followed by smart phones, phone apps and tablets etc. In order to keep up with this fast paced world, the government has decided to launch a new initiative to introduce computer programming into the curriculum. From September 2014, children in British schools will learn computer coding. The aim behind this scheme is to give children in the UK skills which are said to be vital for the modern economy. The new revised curriculum will replace basic word processing with coding and algorithms. At age 7 children will be taught Computer aided design and aged 11, 3D and mathematical modelling techniques.

So just why are teachers and parents so opposed to the idea? The computing age has often left the average parent or teacher less technologically advanced than their child or student counterpart. This has led them to object on the grounds they feel they lack the knowledge and experience to teach advanced computer coding. As a parent, it is only natural that they would want to help their child with their school work and many believe programming is just beyond their mental capacity.

Do we need to bridge the technology generation gap or should we just let children evolve? If parents just embraced the new changes to the curriculum, their children may even be able to teach them a thing or two. Would this be such a bad thing?

By mdinfotech

Marketing Strategies vs Ethics

fb checkin

 

Marketing techniques adopted by businesses vary significantly from one company to the next and until now there is no single best practice. It really is a case of testing out several, till you reach success. However with new and inventive strategies being explored, we take a look at what role ethics plays in key business decisions.

Facebook are trialling a new pilot scheme which involves customers receiving free Wi-Fi at hotels, shops and other businesses in return for checking-in at the business from their Facebook account. This arrangement is advertised as being mutually beneficial because:

  • Businesses receive information from Facebook about the people who check in such as age, gender and location and can analyse this data to understand their customers’ preferences.
  • Facebook increases its customer base as all these businesses must set up a Facebook page to use the service and may also create Facebook ads in the process.
  •  Public consumers get free Wi-Fi which they may otherwise have to pay for

We ask whether it is ethically right to use a customer’s dependence on the Internet as a way to extract key information about them. One may argue that the customer is well aware of what they are signing up for, however with identity theft becoming more of a prevalent issue, is it wise to encourage people to state their whereabouts on a public domain for all to see? In the Financial world, the FSA plays a role in overseeing the way financial practices are carried out. Perhaps it’s time to introduce a similar body in the Technology sector too.

By mdinfotech

SEO: Tricks and Tips

seo

Having a web presence is all well and good but potential clients need to be able to find your website. Here at MD Info Tech we offer Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as part of all our website packages, ensuring your website gets the visibility and recognition it deserves.

Our approach involves implementing a combination of strategies together in order to both increase your webpage’s rankings but also enhance the overall user experience.

Below, we list some of the techniques we adopt:

•    Creating a unique title for each page on the site with an associated title tag.

•    Including description meta tags, consisting of a few lines which convey to search engines what your page is about.

•    Choosing URLs wisely for all pages on the site, such that they are memorable and easy to find.

•    Making navigation user-friendly so visitors can readily find the content they need.

•    Using suitable anchor text to give users a clearer idea about the pages search results are linking to.

•    Giving images appropriate file names and “alt” attributes allowing them to be picked up in image searches.

•    Using heading tags to highlight important text on the page to users.

•    Placing restrictions on your robots.txt file to only pick up relevant content on your site.

•    Checking any mobile versions of the website are indexed by Google so that they can be found on a mobile device.

•    Promoting your website through the use of an eNewsletter, social networking e.g. FB, Twitter and / or a blog.

•    Signing up for Google Analytics and Website Optimiser to display information about your site’s conversion rates and popularity with visitors.

We believe a thorough and comprehensive approach to SEO differentiates our service from other digital agencies and are always happy to customise our methods to suit the individual client’s needs where possible.

By mdinfotech

Are robots replacing humans and is it all good?

robot

With the latest advancements in modern technology, the power of computerised devices has become so great, that many jobs previously performed by humans are now carried out by robotic devices, often in a fraction of the time and at a reduced cost.

Technology has had a dramatic transformation on the types of jobs available, and we look at a few examples below:

1.       Many supermarkets now offer a self-service checkout so customers can scan and pay for their own items without the need of a cashier.

2.       Online banking has dominated the market and cheques can now be deposited using a smart phone app by taking a photo of both sides of the cheque and sending it back to the bank via the app.

3.       Passport and immigration control officers at airports eg. Heathrow are being replaced with iris scanners.

4.       In most libraries, machines are now available for borrowing and returning books allowing them to be open more hours a day with less staff.

So are there any downfalls? Well, machines and robots are only capable of doing what they’ve been programmed to do. They have no brain or common sense, and require endless amounts of testing, even after which there is no guarantee they are free from error.

Added to this there is the ethical question of how comfortable we feel replacing humans with robots in everyday situations. For instance, most people will agree that computerised filing systems and storage are a huge advantage over the paper based systems but how many of us would feel comfortable with a robot performing a medical operation on us or lorries being automated to drive themselves on the roads without the need of a driver? In an environment where room for error is little, would we really trust a robot to replace a human? Furthermore can human interaction ever be replaced entirely and what impact will this have on future generations to come?

By mdinfotech

Parental web monitoring; are you doing your bit?

Internet safety

In a recent blog, the pros and cons of modern technology were explored.  One such example is the Internet which provides us with an array of resources at our fingertips. But how can we ensure we safeguard our children against inappropriate and malicious content on the web? As parents, we inevitably have some responsibility but of course we can’t monitor them all the time and that’s where schools must come in and do their bit too.  Here we look at what measures can be taken to keep our children “web safe”?

1. Parental Control Software (PCS) eg. Norton Online Family or Windows Live Family Safety can be installed on any machine and manually configured by you to block content which you deem  unsuitable for viewing. It can also restrict a child’s access to chatrooms and social networks where cyber bullying is becoming an increasing cause for concern.

2. Child-friendly search engines eg. Yahoo! Kids or AOL Kids limit exposure to unsavoury content by using intricate filters on the search results produced.

3. Search engine filters eg. ‘Safe Search’ available on Google and Yahoo can further filter results by blocking sites which do not meet a set of pre-defined criteria. This also helps minimise the possibility of downloading viruses.

4. Spending quality family time can reduce the need for your child to succumb to going online to alleviate boredom.

5. Internet safety flash cards present scenarios of different types of emails children might come across, so they can learn to identify which emails are genuine and which are not.

Parents must ensure they teach their child how to use the web safely and make them aware of the risks and dangers out there. Rules and boundaries are a necessity particularly in the early years of a child’s life. Sitting down with your child and making a set of rules together on what constitutes web safety can often make it easier to enforce the rules as the child feels more involved in the process.

Furthermore with the invention of Smart Phones and 3G devices, the Internet is so readily available now that its more important than ever before for schools to do their part. Often parents make the mistake of putting it off till the child is older, but it is inherent for children to want to copy their elder siblings out of curiosity. Thus if we do our bit and make them self-aware, the consequences are less likely to be severe.

By mdinfotech

Ergonomics in the workplace

ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science related to the ‘fit’ between people and their work. It has increasingly become an issue of concern for employers who have a responsibility for the wellbeing of their staff. The best approach is to take into account the individual capabilities and limitations of staff to ensure tasks, equipment and the environment suit the worker’s needs.

There are three main areas which are common to ergonomic studies including:

1. Job related Factors e.g. the job being done, equipment being used, the physical and social environment

2. Physical aspects of the worker e.g. body size and shape, fitness and strength, posture, senses, stresses and strains on muscles, joints and nerves

3. Psychological aspects of the worker e.g. mental abilities, personality, knowledge and experience.
To combat some of the potential issues including accidents, injury and ill health and also improve overall performance and productivity in the workplace, some of the following measures can be implemented:

  • Providing height adjustable chairs
  • Removing obstacles from under desks
  • Arranging items on shelves in good reach
  • Changing shift work patterns
  • Variation of duties to reduce physical and mental fatigue
  • Making sure wires are carefully stowed away

This list is not exhaustive and often talking to employees first hand is the best way to ascertain which if any changes should be made. It need not be expensive at all, but a few small changes might be just what’s need to make the work environment safer for all.

By mdinfotech

What makes a good CMS?

mditcms

A Content Management System (CMS) essentially allows the end user to make alterations to images and content across their website after construction, without needing to know how to code. But what makes a good CMS? Whilst there are open source CMSs in the market already e.g. Joomla and Drupal, web developers are increasingly building their own to better meet the needs of their clients. If you are investing in a website with an integrated CMS, here are some of the things you should consider:

1. The CMS should be readily accessible to someone with little or no technical knowledge.

2. Navigation around the CMS should be user friendly.

3. A version control is a handy feature, allowing the user to roll back to previous versions of content in the event content is deleted by accident.

4. Content should be easily transferrable from a word processor e.g. Microsoft Word directly into the CMS.

5. A media manager allows the user to retain images that have already been uploaded once to the CMS, in case the images need to be used again.

6. A search functionality allows the user to search for content already on the CMS, so they can edit it at a later date.

7. Different roles and permissions should be able to be set for users, controlling what they can view and edit.

8. The CMS should be viewable on all the main browsers e.g. IE, Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox etc.

It should be noted that the CMS requirement for one user might not be the same as another, depending on their background technical knowledge as well as the functionality of their website. However investing time to find the right CMS can save the end user both time and money, and it is arguable that a good CMS is just as important as the actual website itself!

By mdinfotech

Facebook for Businesses: Hints and Tips

facebook-business1

Setting up a Facebook page is a relatively straightforward and affordable (free!) way to promote your business, but which are the best techniques to adopt in order for it to be successful? It’s important to define your primary motivations for having a social networking presence and also think about the demographic you want to attract. It’s not just what you post that’s important, but when you post, the frequency with which you post and how you post that will help grow your audience. Getting this balance right is something very few companies manage to do but those that do have reaped the rewards.

Here we present our top 10 tips on how to stand out from the rest:

1. Post at least 1-2 times a week to keep people interested.

2. Interact with likeminded people, by posting in groups or on pages related to your sector or field.

3. Add a link to your Facebook page in your email signature so that people are aware you have a Facebook presence.

4. Ask questions or hold competitions to get people to engage with you on your page.

5. Check your Facebook page regularly and reply to users’ comments.

6. Make sure your Facebook page mirrors the theme and colours of your website and any other affiliated online sites you may have eg. Twitter

7.  Keep posts concise and relevant to ensure the key messages are conveyed. Equally important is keeping your posts professional as you’re representing your organisation.

8. Use photos and videos as people tend to be more drawn to these in their news feed.   

9. Use analytics on your Facebook page to assess which posts were most successful and use this knowledge to plan future strategies.

10. Invite people to like your page and share posts on your own page to extend your reach even further.

Take heed though as many people make the mistake of attracting an abundance of people to their page, only to see no real benefit to their business. But those that succeed do so because they attract the right type of people to their page. Its important to fall into the second category by remembering that social networking is not a popularity contest but a way to help potential customers find you.

By mdinfotech