AVSHost

Android and Web Development

AVSHost - Android and Web Development

The role of automation in business

Tim Ferris once said:

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?”

-Tim

Simplify the equation

Simplify the equation by eliminating unneccessary steps.

Ferris, The Four Hour Workweek

This is wise advice. The importance of automation in business is huge. Using computer programs to reduce work puts your company in a place where you will dominate your competition (Shameless plug: contact us for more information on how we can automate your processes. We’ll save you money and give you a competitive edge!)

However, automation is but one portion of a strategy to put your business on top. Like a finely carved statue, you must first cut away that which is inefficient or unneeded. Oftentimes, inefficient processes are simply a crutch. They may have been necessary at one time, but as your business and clients changed, they just became something that “we’ve always done.”

In order to eliminate wasteful procedures, make it a habit to regularly question your operations. Mentally think through a few key questions and re-evaluate accordingly:

  1. Is this process doing anything that is achieved by something else? – This includes things like having a customer fill out a customer info sheet that is later entered into the computer. Skip the paper step and enter it directly. Then when the customer comes in the next time, you’ll see the info has already been entered. It will save you both time and frustration.
  2. Can I eliminate the task without causing harm? – What is the worst that could happen? If you eliminate a task and it only causes a little issues, ask yourself if those issues are worth the cost of continuing the task. Oftentimes, the more streamlined process will make you and the customer happier.
  3. Does the current process cause frustration? – This seems obvious, but so often we accept the status quo. There is a chance that you require an employee or yourself to go through a process again and again that just frustrates everyone. Maybe it is time you find a better way to do it, eliminate it entirely, or automate it.
  4. Do others like me do this too? – If your competition has eliminated the process, think about why they did. Maybe this gives you an edge, but maybe they are more efficient and they have the edge. Evaluate your options and determine the best course of action.

In the end, you know your business better than anyone. Make sure eliminating a task makes sense, but also don’t be afraid to do it. If you are afraid to make the jump, talk it over with your employees and maybe start with the elimination on an experimental basis. But by all means, simplify, simplify, simplify when possible!

Generating random passwords

If you find yourself in the need to generate a random password on occasion, please check out this site: http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/

It is a great tool if you are setting up an account for a user that may or may not change their password at a later date. (While it is always a good idea to change your password once you are given one, the reality is that some users may not actually do it).

Another great way to create a password is to just write a phrase that is unique to the user. For example “Bob likes cats!”. This is easy to remember and unique enough that the ability to brute force crack the password should be next to impossible.

Resizing animated GIFs

Warning: Flashing gifs are annoying and will scare your customers away. However, some applications of animated pictures “can” be useful. Use sparingly!

There are many sites offering free animated gifs (pictures). They often come in one size and are notoriously difficult for the end user to resize.

If you find yourself with a gif file that is unusually large, resize it for free with this very easy to use online tool:

http://toolson.net/GifResizer/Create

Git source control for single web developers

Do you like to put code together on your own? Are you a single developer? If so, you may wonder why you need version control (and all the headaches associated with it).

I used to be in the same boat as you. Now that I work on websites at Advanced Venture Solutions on a team with others, I find version control indispensable.  However, I also realize just how useful and simple Git would have been all those times I pieced together projects by myself.

Git keeps a copy of the changes to your code, so you can see your code at any point in time. Git is designed to be as useful for an individual as it is for a team. In fact, Git is even easier to use as an individual.  So don’t delay, start your version control today and reap the benefits of Git version control for web developers.

For space considerations, I will assume you use Windows (I use both depending on needs in real life).

Step 1: Install a LAMP stack

Go to Apache Friends and install XAMPP for Windows. Make a note of your web directory (usually an htdocs folder).

Step 2: Create a website locally

Create a folder in the htdocs directory and place some html, php, or whatever else in it.

Step 3: Install Git

Download and install the latest version of Git for Windows. This is by far, your easiest option. Follow the installer options. Make sure to have it add Git to your system path variable so you can access Git from the command line.

Step 4: Open Git Console

This is self explanatory. The Git Console was just installed in the previous step.

Step 5: Navigate to web folder and create repository

Once you are in the folder where you want to create a Git repository, type:

git init
git add .
git commit -m 'Initial commit'

You now have a source code repository!

Step 6: Make additional changes to your files and commit

From now on, you can save a version any time. Just type:

git add *
git commit -m 'Whatever your message is about these changes'

This is a brief overview and will certainly get you started. After you’ve done this for a while, you’ll find you wish to browse old code, revert, see changes, etc. All these are very possible through very easy commands. Just check out the git cheat sheet for more information.

Solving the 100 prisoners problem

This is an excellent way to get your brain engine working today! Comment your thoughts about this riddle or post your solution.

Light bulb100 people are being held prisoner in a jail. They are told that in one hour, they will all be taken to separate windowless, soundproof cells. One at a time, and in a random order, they will be taken from their cells, interrogated, and then sent back to their cells.

All interrogations will take place in the same room, which contains one light bulb and the switch that operates it. The prisoners do not know whether the light will be initially on or off, but the inmates are free to toggle the switch as often as they want, whenever they are in the interrogation room, and the prison guards will not toggle the switch at all.

No prisoner can see the light from his cell. Only one prisoner is interrogated at a time, each prisoner can be interrogated multiple times, and they have no way of communicating besides the light switch. The length and amount of time between interrogations is random, so no help there.

At any time, any prisoner under interrogation may state, “Everyone has been interrogated at least once.” If this statement is true, everyone will be released. If it is false, all of the prisoners will be executed.

The prisoners have one hour to work out their strategy before they’re isolated for good. How do they get released?

Do you think you know the answer? Comment below and help us solve the 100 prisoners problem!

3 Steps to building a small business email list

Getting your small business email listIt is never too early to start building a small business email list. Let me repeat, you have a small business or non-profit organization, it is never too early to start working on your email list.

Believe it or not, people like to get good deals. They like to receive emails relevant to their interests. So, if you do not provide this service, someone else will. More than likely, this will be your competition.

So here are the three easy steps to get your small business email list:

  1. Get a free MailChimp account - You will be able to send up to 12,000 emails a month for free. As well as be able to see exactly how many people click on links, open accounts, etc. You will also be able to customize a standard template (read: fancy email) with even a novice level of computer skills. Don’t worry, if your list grows beyond this level, Mail Chimp makes it easy to send additional emails for a very low fee. Sign up by going here.
  2. Start collecting subscribers - Be it through a link on your website (Mailchimp provides the code for this, but if you are using WordPress, you can install one of the numerous plugins for Mailchimp found in their marketplace. You can also manually add email addresses. Tip: If you have a brick and mortar business, create a signup list in store where you enter the addresses manually.
  3. Send your first email - Mailchimp calls these “campaigns.” Create your first campaign when logged in. Select a pre-designed template, and type your message. Remember to keep it brief and include pictures! Also, be sure to link back to your website to further increase user engagement.

Generic HTML5 Template

HTML5 LogoHTML5 is coming. I know you think you can hold off, but the reality is that it will be here before you know it. Here is the basic generic syntax for an HTML5 page.


<!doctype html>
<html>
<head>
<title>Example document</title>
</head>
<body>
<p>Example paragraph</p>
</body>
</html>


Notice that the doctype is much simpler than it used to be (who really remembered the whole line and who just copied and pasted anyway?)

Three simple tips for connecting with customers online

Connect with customers onlineThe beauty of a computerized world is that many things can be automated. Fortunately for you, this makes communicating with customers simpler than ever!

Here are three quick tips that will help get your organization off on the right foot…

Create a blog

A blog (Web log) gives you the opportunity to post fresh content on a regular basis. Why is this important?

For starters, it gives a reason for customers to revisit your website. If you place ads for your own services on the page, it keeps them aware of your product offerings while giving you additional credibility.

Another HUGE reason to create fresh content for your organization’s website is that it will up your search engine scores. If you expect customers to find your site, its important that search engines also find your site. Google recently announced that fresh content is important.

Be found on Social Media

Everyone talks about social media, but we are mentioning it anyway. For small businesses, with limited time, try to start by focusing on one (i.e. Google+). You can branch out once you get the hang of it. Be sure to post often to keep your business fresh in people’s minds.

If on Facebook or Google+, create a page for your business. You can tie this in so that customers and friends can “like” or “+1″ your page.

Create an Email list

This takes minutes to complete so you have no excuse. Go to MailChimp.com, sign up for an account, get a widget for your website, and place it on your website. You can start collecting names immediately. The next step is to actually send out emails. But for now, just start collecting names, we’ll save the email setup for another post soon!

 

 

Best free productivity apps for Android

Based on recent surveys, if you are reading this, you more than likely have a smart phone. One of those recent studies showed that Android encompasses 52% of the current market share of smart phones.

Given the high probability that you own an Android device, I would like to introduce you to a few great free Android applications that will make you more productive at work or at home. Continue reading

Selecting a domain name

One of the major steps in getting your website up and running is selecting your domain name. Not only will this be the address that people will find when they search Google, but it will also be printed on business cards, posted in forums, and possibly written (digital or paper form) other places where it would be expensive to change it.

Not every site needs to worry about their domain name. Furthermore, not every site needs to worry about all these factors. These are just some of the common things you need to think about before you choose a web address for your business, blog, or personal site.

Is it memorable?

Everyone loves Woot.com. They have a reputation for offering great products and great prices. However, there may be another very important factor in their success. If they had chosen a name like OneDealFor24Hours.com, it may have lost it’s “roll off the tongue factor.”

Your domain does not have to have a literal meaning, but it should be something easy to memorize and repeat to friends.

Is it short enough?

This domain will be typed in address bars, printed on business cards, and maybe even posted on a billboard. Can it actually fit on that T-Shirt you want to create? If not, you better find a way to make it smaller.

Can it be misspelled?

There can be common spelling mistakes, but there can also be ambiguity mistakes. For example, 3amigos and threeamigos both contain the word “three.” But, they are different domains. Consider purchasing all such domains and using a 301 redirect on your server to redirect them all to your main domain.

Do I need a .com, .net, .org, or other extension?

The domain market is a crowed space. Your ideal .com domain may be taken. Can you do a .net domain instead? Or, maybe you want to show off your non-profit website with a .org domain.

Hint: People will donate more if you have a .org extension. Its less commercial.

Consider other extensions as well. How about an interesting use of the extension like bit.ly or about.us.

Bonus: Was it previously used by a similar company or website?

If you can find an expired domain of a company  that already has backlinks, here is a tip for you. Recreate much of the structure of that site on yours, or use 301 redirects to similar pages on your site. Archive.org will be your friend on this. Also do a Google search to see what pages link to your site using “link:example.com”.

Common pages to duplicate are “contact us,” “about us,” etc. Use a 301 redirect with a regular expression to redirect a group pages to your other pages if needed.

Conclusion

Using these tips, you can have success in your new website. Pick a good domain name and begin expanding your business online today!

Web development solutions for small business - 3507 71st St E, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076 - (612) 562-6337