What Is the Best CMS for My Business?

What is the best CMS for your business? There are a lot of options out there, and if you’re not familiar with content management systems already, it’s enough to make your head spin. 

We asked our lead developer which CMS he thinks is best, particularly for small to medium-sized businesses and small to medium-sized websites. Here’s what he said. 

The Best CMS for Your Business

The best CMS out there, free or paid, is WordPress. There’s a reason why it’s so popular and why millions of websites are powered by WordPress. The popularity of WordPress is not just indicative of its quality, but it also feeds into and supports its continued quality and innovation. Below are some of the reasons why WordPress continues to stand out as the best CMS in 2019. 

It’s Open-Source 

laptop with html editor openWordPress is one of the largest open-source projects in the world, and it’s still growing. There are many different developers involved, bringing different strengths and experiences to offer some of the best, most up-to-date and advanced plugins out there. People are regularly contributing to new plugins and updates and there is always something new. 

Being open-source means WordPress is the best-developed CMS out there today. No other CMS is even close—Joomla came close for a while, but the market favored WordPress, giving it the competitive advantage to continue to excel. 

The CMS’s continued popularity combined with its open-source nature means that it naturally draws the best of the best. If a developer wants to gain recognition for the extension they create, they’re going to go to WordPress first, and if it’s successful, it’s likely that the extension will stay there.  

It’s a CMS That Is Easy to Use

Of all the content management systems out there, WordPress is the easiest CMS for developers and non-developers alike. Everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses can use (and do use) WordPress for their content management needs. 

You don’t need to know CSS, HTML, PHP, or any kind of advanced computing language to update content in WordPress. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to work with a WordPress site. Features and plugins like WPBakery Page Builder make it easy to make great-looking layouts and designs. WordPress’ ease of use makes it a great choice for those who might not be as familiar with the technical side of things. 

It’s a Very Customizable CMS

settings feature of wordpressWordPress is very easy to customize. You can develop advanced features that you wouldn’t be able to develop with a CMS like Joomla or Drupal. In part, the ease of customization arises from WPBakery Page Builder.  

WPBakery Page Builder is better than any other page builder out there. You can develop any kind of layout quickly and easily with WPBakery Page Builder and its very intuitive. It’s a great enhancement to WordPress and greatly enhances its content management capability.

Since WordPress has such a wide array of plugins available, if something is not working exactly the way you want it to, you can be sure that there is another plugin available that will. 

The flexibility afforded by WordPress is also useful in terms of thinking about the future of your website. You can easily add or change features and the layout of your website, so it’s easy for your website to evolve with your business. 

If you go with a CMS like Joomla to develop a custom feature, a developer will have to spend much more time on it, meaning it will likely be more expensive. So WordPress can also save time and money for everyone involved with the website. 

Wide Range of Integrations

Another factor making WordPress the best CMS: it has a wide range of integrations available. From social media and email platforms to G Suite, you can expect WordPress to be able to integrate with just about any platform or tool you need.   

Best Front-End Design

You’ll have access to all the best graphic design features through WordPress, and WPBakery Page Builder makes it easy to work with advanced features (parallax effects, complex sliders, carousels, video or map embedding, accordions, tabs, countdowns, info circles, custom banners, anything you can think of). 

WP Bakery Pagebuilder is kind of like Wix but better. You can easily get everything done with it, and there are several widgets you can use for upgrades. The WPBakery Page Builder plugin itself is not free, but there are 4.3+ million active installations of it, which indicates how good it is—people are willing to invest in it. 

With WordPress you can easily, at a lower cost, develop a very advanced, modern-looking layout with special features, graphics, or animations. You don’t get that from many open-source content management systems. 

If you are searching for the best CMS that will give you a great looking site, go with WordPress. You can develop the best website for your client with WordPress. You can’t do it as well with a CMS like Joomla or Drupal. 

Built-in Blog Capability

block letters with "blog" spelled outWordPress was developed for blogging. It was only until later that it became used for the other purposes it’s used for today. So, WordPress has all the features associated with a blog; tags, featured images, search function, excerpts, categories, sliders or masonry grids, archive features, anything you’d need for a blog you can easily have. 

There are also plugins that can enable enhanced blog-type features, like the ability to have the latest or featured blog posts in a carousel, slider, or masonry grid. It makes it easy to have interactive content on your website. 

It’s An SEO-Friendly CMS

As a CMS, WordPress has the widest variety of resources available, including the best plugins for SEO, which have a range of functions from 404 monitoring to suggestions for content optimization when you are adding new content to the website. WordPress’ overall ease of use makes it easier to optimize your website in the ways that you need to for SEO. 

WordPress also has SEO-friendly templates. These are templates that make it easy for you to include relevant keywords, have optimized images, feature well-organized code, have quick loading time, and more. 

Security

Internet security will forever be an evolving, ever-present issue. There is never not going to be a security risk when you are working with the Internet. That being said, WordPress’ popularity ironically ensures that it will remain reasonably secure. It’s impossible to predict every possible security threat, so the best way to defend against security threats then becomes a combination of knowledge and experience.

Since so many websites use WordPress, its a target for hackers. WordPress has been around for a while, since 2003. Over time, it’s had the opportunity to experience and fix any kind of issue you could think of. Additionally, since it is so widely used, it’s not a large problem for the company to properly invest in the necessary security measures. 

The most important thing to keep up with when it comes to security and WordPress are updates. If you don’t update regularly, you can have security issues. Just make sure the company or developer you work with is thorough, updates WordPress regularly, and uses secure plugins, and you should be just fine.   

Is WordPress the Right CMS for My Business?

WordPress is an excellent CMS for small to medium-sized businesses. If you’re only looking to present your content in the best way possible and ensure that it looks good, WordPress can be a good option for a large business. 

However, if you need a portal or eCommerce functionality, you may want to look into other options. Our developer recommends Magento as the best CMS for eCommerce needs. If you need something custom app developed that is not content-related, it may be best to develop that as a custom PHP application. 

In these cases, it’s possible to use both WordPress and another CMS for the functionality that suits you best. 

ADVYON develops, hosts, secures, backups, recovers, and fixes WordPress sites. We can also fix or recover sites that have been hacked or damaged in most cases. 

Do you have more questions about the best CMS for your business? Feel free to contact us today with any questions you might have. We’re happy to help!

How to Break Into the IT Industry: A No-Nonsense Template

woman standing in front of server with laptop

A question frequently asked is, “How can I break into the IT industry?” Variations include,  “can I break into the IT industry without a degree”, or “how can I get into the IT field without experience?”  

Contrary to popular belief, it is not education that breaks you into the IT industry. Or rather, it is not just education, nor is education the most important factor, but it can be the tipping factor in a case where two people possess the same skills. 

Education

Let’s take an unfiltered view of the true nature of higher education institutions in the IT industry.  In today’s world, our education is having a hard time keeping up with the rate of change within the field. 

Most colleges are teaching students on outdated equipment and software. Some are still stuck on hardware or operating systems not even supported by the makers of the hardware and software because the teaching materials for teachers and students are not created as fast as the changes and updates.

More often than not, we see college applicants learning the bare minimum basics of IT and preparing students on how to set up equipment with “best practices” laid out by the software creators.  Rarely do the curriculums include troubleshooting common problems and issues. Rarer still are the teachings of how variables such as limited budgets, mixed equipment, differences in opinions, etc. can affect your day to day work.  

Where education does help are the certification courses you go through to gain your degree.  Always take the certification tests associated with your course load. Most college graduates I meet do not follow through on the opportunity of taking the certifications right after their classes. 

man inspecting wired connectionsCompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, and other industry-related certifications are highly coveted. Local colleges will typically pair up with a technical firm close by and train you to work for them. They require a certain skill set to fill particular jobs.  If your goal is to work in a public company or a government facility, they will require a certain level of degree with certifications. However, be prepared once you get the job to go through extensive training to align you with the job you are assigned. 

In the private sector, it is not uncommon for someone with experience, certifications and no degree to get a job over the “higher qualified” person with a degree and no certifications or experience. Ideally, you should have a degree, certifications, and experience.  People who have all three command top dollar as someone who possesses all three is very rare.

Soft Skills in the Real World

As a hiring manager, there are several key things I look for in a prospective employee. Features that set people apart are ability, aptitude, attitude, what you can do, an understanding of why you do it, and above all, demonstrated passion

An ideal candidate will typically look like the following;  Be highly motivated, trustworthy, well-spoken, creative, and have a passion for technology.  They would have a good understanding of the basics and be able to demonstrate creativity and curiosity when troubleshooting problems.  Fast learning and good memory are always helpful along with the ability to follow processes, best practices, and great note-taking.  

Notice something not mentioned above: a degree.  You see, the thing which sets people apart is not their degree—degrees are becoming increasingly more common, and simply having basic knowledge does not automatically qualify you. Daily we encounter new problems never seen before, but with solid fundamentals, a good troubleshooting process, and a little creativity, you can fix pretty much anything.   

Demonstrated Passion and What You Can Do

stack of books next to a computerWhat is demonstrated passion? What does a passion for technology look like? Lots of people we meet say technology is their passion, or they love computers, etc.  So, how do you, lover of computers and technology, differentiate a hobby from a passion?

Are you always fixing other people’s stuff? Do you tinker in your own free time? Have you volunteered for organizations to maintain their IT just for fun? Do you enjoy the extra time you take to do these things and actively seek them out? Employment is not the only way to gain experience. If you have passion, you find a way. You’ll volunteer to help people. You’ll do it in your free time. You’ll take classes on the side. If you do these things, you might have the bug and a career in technology is for you!  If these things sound like too much work, you may have a hobby.  

Often I will hear people saying they don’t have experience in the IT industry. If you’re looking to get into a technical position, you better have some experience—if you’re passionate about something, you find a way to do it, even if it’s not your job. If you want to break into the technology field, you have to show how you demonstrate your passion.  However, no matter how much education, experience, or training you’ve had in the past, what you are doing now matters.  

It is likely you have much more experience than you realize.  I always recommend people contact a professional resume writer who asks you questions and pushes to give you the best resume to showcase what you can do and are doing, not just what you have learned.  Also, a good resume writer will add keywords for your field you may not be aware of. For example, if you want to work for the government agency or a government contractor, it is likely a computer program will look at your resume first and search for keywords or terms which match their desired job qualifications.

Understanding the ‘Why’ in IT 

Why do you want to work in IT?  Are you mesmerized by the code? Are you in love with the intricate design of the motherboard you see?  Do you wax lyrical on the technicalities and complexities you’ve recently come to understand? There is a truth most technical people do not understand.  IT serves one purpose… to connect people to something or someone.

Whatever intrigues you about technology, never forget the human element and impact of your work and how it affects the end user.  Why does fixing the printer matter? Who benefits from the routing setup on your new Cisco device? Go the distance when answering technical questions on how your work affects the end user. Keep in mind ALL IT jobs are service-based jobs designed to have purpose to others. Hiring managers will get a feeling of “They really get it!” when you answer their questions fully and include the end user result.

The Full Monty

Companies are looking for intelligent people with competence, aptitude, a positive attitude, the ability to speak without sounding like a robot, passion, compassion, and a genuine desire to help.  Show what you can do, demonstrate your passion for your new career, show how your passion connects people and matters to others. If you can demonstrate the principles here, you will make a believer of your next hiring manager and enjoy a great new career in the IT industry!

New GMail Phishing Attack, Very tricky, What to look for to spot it

An insidious new Gmail phishing attack is tricking even the most careful of users

Jacob Siegal
BGR News 

A new phishing technique is fooling internet users into giving hackers access to their Gmail accounts. According to WordPress security plugin creator Wordfence, the way that the attack works is that hackers send emails to the contacts of compromised accounts containing a seemingly innocuous attachment. When the user clicks the attachment, a new tab opens in the browser that looks nearly identical to the Google sign-in page. If the user inputs their log-in information, it goes straight to the attacker.

On Hacker News, a commenter describes an incident that occurred at his school last year in which several employees and students were tricked into handing over their account information to attackers after receiving compromised emails and opening the attachments, thus perpetuating the cycle:

“It’s the most sophisticated attack I’ve seen. The attackers log in to your account immediately once they get the credentials, and they use one of your actual attachments, along with one of your actual subject lines, and send it to people in your contact list.

For example, they went into one student’s account, pulled an attachment with an athletic team practice schedule, generated the screenshot, and then paired that with a subject line that was tangentially related, and emailed it to the other members of the athletic team.”

While the idea of having your Gmail account serve as a host for the chain of hacks to continue is frightening enough, the hackers will also have the ability to download and read through all of your private emails, as well as gain access to other information connected to your Google account (or whichever service is hacked).

Here’s what you need to look out for in your address bar to avoid this attack:

gmail-phishing-attack
gmail-phishing-attack

As you can see, not only is the beginning of the string odd, but there is a script hidden behind a long wall of whitespace. You won’t be able to see the script in your address bar without tapping on it and scrolling to the right, but there are several other signs to watch out for that are even more obvious.

For example, here’s what my address bar looks like when I navigate to Gmail in Chrome:

secure-gmail-address-bar
secure-gmail-address-bar

See the green text and the “Secure” label in front of the address? That indicates that I’ve reached a safe, secure website, as opposed to the black text up above. Not every site is going to be certifiably secure like that, but if you are visiting a Google log-in page specifically and don’t see it, alarms should go off in your head. Google might fix this eventually, but for now, just pay attention and look for green text.

Furthermore, if you don’t have two-factor authentication on your Google account (or any other account which contains sensitive information), treat this as a wake up call and set it up immediately.

Windows 8 Security: What’s New

Windows 8 is a major OS overhaul, but some of the most important additions might be the ones you can’t see. Here’s a look at Windows 8’s new security tools and features.

By Eric GeierPCWorld    May 17, 2012 9:00 pm

start_screen-11361732When Windows 8 comes out later this year, the new Start screen and Metro-style apps will likely be the first changes you’ll notice, but those aren’t the only things that are new. Microsoft is also making some serious security enhancements to help keep your system safer and to improve Windows’ ability to combat viruses and malware. It just may be the biggest improvement to Windows security yet.

Antivirus Comes Preinstalled

For the first time in the history of Windows, you’ll enjoy protection from viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, rootkits, and other malware from the very first day you turn on your Windows PC–without spending a cent. Windows 8 comes with an updated version of Windows Defender that includes traditional antivirus functions in addition to the spyware protection and other security features that it has offered since Windows Vista. Windows Defender now provides similar protection–and a similar look and feel–to that of the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program, which Microsoft has offered to users as an optional download since 2009.

windows_defender-11361745The updated Windows Defender resembles Microsoft Security Essentials.

Since Windows Defender will provide at least basic virus and malware protection, purchasing yearly antivirus subscriptions (such as from McAfee or Norton) or downloading a free antivirus package (like AVG or Avast) is optional, whereas before it was pretty much required if you wanted to stay virus-free. Of course, you may disable Windows Defender and use another antivirus utility that promises better protection and more features, but at least everyone will have basic protection by default.

Better Download Screening

When Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9, it updated the browser’s SmartScreen Filter to help detect and block unknown and potentially malicious programs that you download; the function complements IE’s website filtering, which works to block phishing and malicious sites. Starting with Windows 8, the program-monitoring portion of the SmartScreen Filter is built into Windows itself, and it will work whether you’re using IE, Firefox, Chrome, or any other browser.

In Windows 8, the first time you run a program that you downloaded from the Internet, the SmartScreen Filter checks it against a list of known safe applications, and alerts you if it’s unknown and therefore has the potential to be malware. If the alert does pop up, you could then further investigate the program (and the source where you downloaded it) before running it.

smartscreen_alert-11361729SmartScreen produces an alert if you run an unknown program.

Since Microsoft is adding the SmartScreen feature, the company is removing the previous Security Warning alerts that appeared when you first opened a downloaded program (the old alert would show the verification status of the program publisher and warn you about running programs downloaded from the Internet).

This is a welcome change, as it cuts down on the number of alerts you have to click through–with Windows 8, you’ll see an alert only when something’s amiss.

Faster, More Secure Startup

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft will begin to promote a new type of boot method, UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which improves upon and replaces the archaic BIOS boot system that most PCs have been using for decades. I won’t get into the technical details here, but UEFI offers better security, faster startup times, and a number of other benefits.

Thanks to this new boot method (and other system enhancements), your PC will start up more quickly–in as little as 8 seconds, from the time you press the power button to when Windows fully loads to the desktop. But you’re sure to appreciate the less noticeable improvements too. The Secure Boot feature of UEFI will prevent advanced malware (such as bootkits and rootkits) from causing damage, and it will stop other boot loader attacks (such as malware that loads unauthorized operating systems) as well.

Though Windows 8 will work on PCs with the old BIOS boot system, Microsoft will require new PCs that carry the Windows 8 Certification to use the UEFI boot system with the Secure Boot feature enabled by default. This Secure Boot requirement is causing some concern within the PC industry and among power users, as it could complicate the process of using Linux distributions or dual-booting multiple operating systems. However, Microsoft has promised to keep boot control in users’ hands, and the company requires system makers participating in Windows 8 Certification to offer a way for users to disable the Secure Boot feature on PCs (but not on tablets).

Two New Password Types

Windows 8 introduces two new password types that you can use when logging in to your Windows account: a four-digit PIN and a “picture password.”

For the picture password, you choose a photo or image and draw three gestures (a combination of circles, straight lines, or taps/clicks) in different places to create your “password.”

Windows 8 Security: What's New

Even if you decide to use these new password types, you still must set up a regular password. A PIN offers a faster way to log in, and a picture password gives you a more creative and fun way to do so. Sometimes you’ll have to enter the regular password, such as when you need administrative approval for changing system settings as a standard user, but you can log in to your account using the PIN, the picture, or your regular password.

Other Noteworthy Defense Measures

The enhanced Windows Defender, SmartScreen, boot system, and password protection are the most noticeable security improvements in Windows 8. But the new OS has even more system enhancements that you won’t see at all. A few core Windows components (such as the Windows kernel, ASLR, and heap) have been updated to help reduce common attacks and exploits even further.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.

Apple’s Hiring Letter

The first words you read when Apple hires you

apple_new_hire

 

Starting a new job always creates a mix of emotions. Excitement, trepidation, nervousness. Landing a job at Apple is only going to enhance any and all emotions due to the reputation and high standards the company exudes.

So how does Apple greet new hires? The words above are apparently what awaits every new employee at the company. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty inspiring, if daunting piece.

As the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have shown, working for Apple does mean developing new devices that you’d be happy to tell anyone you had a hand in creating. The same is true of some of the software and services the company develops to support that hardware. At the same time, the sentence, “That you’d sacrifice a weekend for.” suggests you’ll be spending a long time at your desk and the company expects you to give up your free time when required to achieve that “never compromise” next product launch. But obviously you’ll do it more than willingly because it’s Apple, right?

With companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all fighting for employees from the same talent pool, there’s no doubt the perks and experience of working for any of them is going to be way above average. After all, they really want you to stay if you’re good at your job and will happily provide mutliple restaurants, laundry service, stores, etc. on site to make your life (at work) easier.

But there’s always that question of work/life balance. It doesn’t matter how awesome your job is, spending time away from your desk and with your family and friends is important and likely enhances your performance at work. So take those inspirational words above on board, but also don’t forget to apply them to your life away from work, too.

Inside Apple’s secret plan to kill the cash register

Apple has already built technology into iPhones and iPads to make retail stores work like the Apple store — without cash registers

By Mike Elgan

Computerworld – If you’ve ever been to a store, you know the drill: Browse the merchandise, pick something, carry it to the checkout counter, maybe wait in line, pay, then walk out with your purchases and a receipt.
Whether it’s a clothing store, a grocery store or a coffee shop, you’re likely to find a big counter with a cash register on it, and a person operating that cash register on the other side. You go to them; they don’t come to you. Why?

An American saloon owner named James Ritty invented the cash register in 1879. Since then, all cash registers have shared the characteristics of bigness, heaviness and bulkiness — and have required the old walk-up-to-the-counter behavior in order to buy things.

One notable exception is your local Apple Store. There are no cash registers. If you want to buy something, you flag down some kid wearing a brightly colored T-shirt and hand over your credit card. The kid scans the item’s bar code with a specially outfitted iPhone or iPad, swipes your credit card and emails you the receipt. The transaction can happen anywhere in the store.

And it has a point. Cash registers are obsolete and unnecessary.Apple, apparently, thinks the whole process for buying things in retail stores is dumb. The big counter you have to walk up to? The giant machine for registering the transaction? The paper receipt? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

So why would Apple’s hotly anticipated iWalletsystem require a cash register?

It won’t, if one analyst has it right. More on that below.

The new world of contactless payments
When people talk about the future of digital wallets — electronic smartphone-based replacements for credit cards, debit cards and cash — you’re likely to hear the initials NFC in the same breath. NFC, for “near-field communication,” is a set of technologies that makes it possible to pay for purchases using smartphones, among other things.

The idea is that all smartphones will contain special NFC chips that enable you to use your phone as a credit card. To make a transaction, you pass your phone over or near a special gadget that’s hooked up to a cash register as an equivalent to swiping a credit card.

Many Android devices and other phones already have NFC chips. A few retail stores use NFC equipment. (As I write this, I’m sitting in a shop that’s part of the Peet’s Coffee & Tea chain. There’s an NFC device near the register at the checkout counter, and there’s a little sign specifying Google Wallet-based payments.)

Everybody’s been waiting for the other 900-lb. handset gorilla — Apple — to shipiPhones with NFC chips in them to kick-start the contactless-payment revolution.

How Apple will kill the cash register
The point-of-sale industry (made up of companies that make and sell cash registers and the software and networked systems that support them) is in crisis. Apple’s iPad is growing as an alternative to big, heavy cash registers and their hard-to-learn systems and interfaces.

Small retail businesses are opening their doors without ever buying a cash register. Instead, they’re using iPads that use Square technology, or something similar, to handle the main functions of cash registers — at a fraction of the cost.

Yet iPad-based point-of-sale systems don’t involve digital wallets. The payment medium is still an old-and-busted credit card.

Apple’s iWallet digital wallet will eliminate the need for both the cash register and the credit card. Why? Because it will use Bluetooth, rather than NFC,according to Pablo Saez Gil, a retail industry analyst with ResearchFarm.

Apple’s solution is already deployed
I told you back in March what I thought the new iPad’s best feature was:Bluetooth 4.0.

Apple, which is notorious for being slow to market with brand-new technologies, was conspicuously early when it came to Bluetooth 4.0. At the time they shipped, the iPhone 4S and the iPad were the only major phone andtablet models to support Bluetooth 4.0.

Why so aggressive with Bluetooth 4.0, Apple?

Gil’s answer: Bluetooth 4.0 is Apple’s answer to the digital wallet and an alternative to NFC.

For starters, Bluetooth can go into ultra-low-energy mode, passively making connections and transferring the information necessary to conduct a financial transaction. And it can make those connections at much greater distances than NFC can — up to 160 feet — eliminating the need for a customer to go to a checkout counter to use an NFC reader.

Everyone has been waiting for Apple to announce the beginnings of a digital wallet system, followed by years of development, rollout and evolutionary acceptance.

But the Bluetooth 4.0 theory means that Apple could announce iWallet software — an app, backed by a new service from Apple — and the program would come into being overnight.

No doubt payment would happen through iTunes accounts as detailed in Apple’s iWallet patent, and Apple would receive a micropayment with every transaction.

Apple has built Bluetooth 4.0 into every computer, tablet and phone it has shipped since the middle of 2011, representing millions of users. The world does not have to wait for a gradual NFC rollout. The underlying wireless technology has already been deployed at scale.

Note that Apple has not announced a Bluetooth 4.0 digital wallet system. But after considering Gil’s analysis, I believe that the introduction of such a system would explain why Apple rolled out Bluetooth 4.0 so aggressively. It would also be in line with Apple’s obvious contempt for cash registers, and it would greatly enhance Apple’s effort to take over retail point-of-sale systems with the iPad.

Bluetooth 4.0 would enable retail stores to roll out instant iWallet point-of-sale systems that use iPads or Apple desktops or laptops. These systems would eliminate the need for iPhone owners to go to a checkout counter or use a credit card.

Stores using cash registers and Google Wallet could also cheaply and easily offer Bluetooth 4.0 iWallet solutions as well. That would give iPhone users the retail equivalent of the airlines’ “business class” status; unlike users of credit cards or Google Wallet, they wouldn’t have to wait in line or even go anywhere near a checkout counter to pay for their purchases.

In restaurants, credit card transactions would continue to require servers to make two trips between the table and the cash register — one to carry the card to the register for approval, and the other to punch in the tip and file the signed credit card slip.

For its part, Google Wallet would require just one trip — for the waiter to bring an NFC device to the table.

But Apple iWallet users wouldn’t need the server at all: They’d just pay on the phone and go.

If Bluetooth 4.0 makes it possible for Apple to simplify restaurant and retail payments to that extent, users would have an incentive to switch to iPhones, restaurateurs and store owners would be inclined to switch to iPads, and financial services companies, including credit card companies, would be willing to play ball with Apple.

It would also give Google an incentive to embrace Bluetooth 4.0 payments as well.

Apple would be crazy not do to it.

If a Bluetooth 4.0-based Apple iWallet is a success, it could be the beginning of the end for the venerable cash register.

Fix Your Website: 5 Things to Change Now

birth-irestaurant-pan_10283After thousands of tests, we’ve identified a few of the most effective ways to improve your website’s landing page.

 

Now you face a lofty goal: to increase results by 50%. You could increase your total budget by $5,000 per month. Or you could try making some tweaks to your landing page to see whether you can increase your conversion rate by just two percentage points. (Translation: You just need to get an additional two out of every 100 people to take the desired action on your site.)The math can be staggering. Let’s say you spent $10,000 a month on your online advertising efforts to drive users to your website to complete an action–fill out a form, purchase a product, etc. And let’s assume your conversion rate–that’s the percent of visitors that actually complete the action–is 4%.

Which would you rather try?

The landing page tweaks sound relatively simple, but you do of course need to know what to test or change. At Wpromote, we’ve conducted thousands of tests for hundreds of clients. Here are the factors we’ve found do the best job at improving the conversion rate of even the best pages.

1. The ‘Submit’ Button

This is one of my favorites. In short, avoid buttons that ask too much.

We recently completed a test of four submit buttons: “Free Consultation,” “Submit,” “Next,” and “Get Started.” The results are at right: The low-commitment-feel of “Next” and “Submit” were clear winners (with “Next” taking the cake).

The big loser? Our original button, “Free Consultation.” Oops–lesson learned.

2. Headline on the Page

This one may seem obvious, but it’s still essential.

Often, companies don’t understand what truly motivates their potential customers. In general, winning headlines are short, snappy and tell the story along with a value proposition.

You also want to make sure that users’ eyes are drawn to the page headline as the first thing they see. To make sure you’re getting readers’ attention, ask your friends to check out the page and tell you what they see first–and if it’s not the headline, redesign the page until it is.

Here are the results of one experiment we did with different headlines on a page:

Or take another example: If you’re a running shoe retailer, “Free Shipping on All Products” doesn’t tell your story; that belongs in your “Selling Points.” (More on those in a minute.) Rather, a headline like “Huge Selection of Discounted Running Shoes” will do a much better job of letting users know that they are in the right place.

In general, avoid the trap of being too creative. Marketing taglines that make snazzy brand advertising rarely have a place in a successful landing page.

3. Limit the Navigation

One possibly surprising rule of thumb: We found after hundreds of tests that the less navigation is on your landing page, the better your page performs.

Now of course, you want to make sure that there is enough content and information to educate users–they need to be comfortable submitting the desired form. But if you give a user too many options and too many things to read, you’ll end up with distracted, confused users who end up hitting the dreaded “back” button.

Nonetheless, simply removing the entire top-level navigation on a lead-capture page almost always serves to improve conversion rate. Similarly, be sure to have the most important content within the main part of the page.

4. Keep Your ‘Selling Points’ Short

The sad truth here is that people hate to read. When you’re trying to explain key selling points, avoid paragraphs and focus on bullet points–even if they seem bland to your inner writer.

Have four to six bullets, all short and digestible, and try to avoid wrapping lines. Oh, and: Always avoid the throwaway “And much more …” bullet. (I am doing my best to rid the Web of that worthless construct.)

5. Rethink Your ‘Hero Image’

This is the image that is above the fold, generally alongside or integrated with your headline and “selling points.” First, make sure you have one; the image is a very useful way to break up text and forms, offering a little bit of “eye relief.”

Now refine it: Be sure to avoid complicated images and images that are overly product-specific–unless they are easy to understand, such as fashion or design products.

You may need to do some testing to get the image exactly right, but here’s one rule that transcends industry: People sell. At our own website, displaying a picture or video of happy Wpromote clients nearly always beats an image of a Google ad or a screen shot of search results.

Put these five tips into practice and you should see a world of improvement. Meanwhile, if you’ve found other changes that bring in a huge payoff, be sure to share them below!

Microsoft Saying Goodbye to Aero in Windows 8

Microsoft is unsurprisingly saying goodby to the “Aero” user interface with Windows 8, calling it “dated and cheesy.” Aero has been a mainstay since the debut of Windows Vista back in 2006, requiring a bit more GPU horsepower from machines than those running 2001’s Windows XP, both of which are still currently being used worldwide.

“Aero was designed to help people focus less on the window chrome itself, and more on the content within the window. It draws the eye away from the title bar and window frames, and towards what is valuable and what an app is about,” writes Jensen Harris, the director of program management for Windows 8’s user experience team,in a very lengthy blog.

“And of course, the Start menu changed again, most notably by making it possible to press the Windows key (introduced in Windows 95) and then just start typing to search from anywhere in Windows. Of course, as with every change along the way, some people expressed reservations about the changes,” he adds.

But for Windows 8, the team ripped out the “glass and reflections” look and went with a “clean and crisp” presentation after sifting through “hundreds” of different UI designs. The team wanted to bring visual harmony to Windows while still preserving much of the familiar feel of the Windows 7 desktop, and not sacrificing the compatibility of existing apps.

“In the end, we decided to bring the desktop closer to the Metro aesthetic, while preserving the compatibility afforded by not changing the size of window chrome, controls, or system UI,” Harris writes. “We have moved beyond Aero Glass — flattening surfaces, removing reflections, and scaling back distracting gradients.”

Microsoft released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview back in April, and plans to unleash the Windows 8 Release Preview in the first week of June. Neither public build offers the complete new UI although users will see “visual hints” in the latter release. Microsoft’s was nowhere this secretive with the UI for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

“The Windows 8 user experience is forward-looking, yet respectful of the past,” he writes. “It reimagines what a PC is capable of, the scenarios for which it is optimized, and how you interact with it. It enables tablets and laptops that are incredibly light and thin, with excellent battery life, which you can use with touch and keyboard and mouse in any combination you prefer. It is also the most capable, lean, and usable OS ever to power desktop PCs and gaming rigs.”

“The new Windows 8 user experience is no less than a bet on the future of computing, and stakes a claim to Windows’ role in that future,” he adds.

To read the entire blog, head here.