5 Must-Not-Dos For User Retention with Your App

There is a definitive difference between having users download your app and then having those users actually use your app. Surveys suggest that 80-90% of users will remove an app from their device after only one go-round with it, and most of us will recollect one or more instances where this has been true for us too.

With this drop rate understood, it’s clearly more important than ever for app developers to make sure their first impression with a user is a powerful one. Here at 4GoodHosting, our expertise is what’s made us a top Canadian web hosting provider, and we admire those who’ve made also made smart design and UX choices for their digital products.

Here are 5 things every developer must NOT do in the interest of retaking users past the original download of the app:

Pre-Registration:

The appeal of having a user to register with your app before they use it is well understood. You’ll be able to gather information about them and use that info to personalize their experience or to ramp up your marketing efforts with specific focuses. However, when you come to understand that over 50% users will abandon an app if they have to register before exploring its features it’s quickly something that you’ll decide against. A tip – consider delaying the registration process until they either want to access a specific part of your app that is reserved for registered customers only, or they’re aiming to open your app for the second time.

In addition, anyone who chooses to integrate social media into the login process should always allow users the option of registering without integrating their social media profiles. Constant sharing of their activities with their social networks is undesirable for many users.

Long input forms:

Mobile devices feature small displays. There will typically be only enough room for 2-4 input fields before the user will need to scroll down. Keep in mind as well that typing on a mobile touch screen can be difficult when the user is walking or in another form of motion, and some people have to little-to-zero tolerance for any errors or strange auto-corrects.

Making it so that your user to-be has to enter information into input field after input field will make him or her think negatively of the user experience. Instead, only require the simple, straightforward information from them: name, email, age, gender, or location. If you need to collect more information, splitting the input form into two or three screens is a good idea. This will give you more space per screen, meaning the user will have no need to zoom in, and it will almost eliminate the need for the user to scroll down the page.

Load time:

No one likes waiting, especially in the digital world. The longer the load time, the more negative the user experience. You avoid this scenario by testing, and doing so thoroughly and extensively. If you’re an Android developer, for example, you’ll test on all different device types, from top-of-the-line phones to mid-level, budget ones. Put the app’s performance to the test on Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich, and KitKat before publishing.

Apple developers have an easier go of it than their Android counterparts because all apps are required to support iOS 7, but iOS developers will be best served to still test their apps on older iPhone/iPad models to determine that there are no issues. Also, keep your app’s file size as small as possible, and consciously restrict the amount of processes your app runs in the background.

Not surprisingly, app crashes, app freezes, and slow launch time are consistently listed as three of the top reasons why users uninstall an app.

Overly Design Heavy:

The popular taste with app design trends over the past year is for simple, cleanly designed apps. Look no further than the design aesthetic of iOS 7! Simply put, simplifying the design and layout of your app is always preferable. If you aren’t sure where to start, try stripping your app of everything but the bare essentials. Cut back on the number of tabs and screens. Understand that excess fields and pages only add a perception of complexity to the user experience.

Try to determine whether or not your user really needs this feature to interact with the app? And if you’re still not sure if you app is simple enough then you can do a quick test. Are all the basic, necessary functions in your app performable with only a thumb? Yes? Excellent. No? Need to revisit.

The Facebook app for Android is a great example here. Every important action can be performed right from the first screen (the newsfeed). All buttons are at the top of the screen. Left swipe for one menu, right swipe for the other. All basic actions can be performed from one screen, with the option of expanding the number of actionable items via side-swipe menus.

No Need for Over Tapping:

Let’s say a user wants to undertake an action within your app. How many taps of the finger does he or she have to make to complete the action? Each swipe, tap, or pinch is an integral part of the user experience. As a rule, the user should be able to discern every tap as making some measure of progress for them towards their goal. The ideal is, of course, to have them get as much as possible with as little in put as possible.

Non-gaming developers need to really take heed of this one. Perhaps you have a music streaming app and this particular user wants to enjoy a playlist of songs by their favourite artist. How many times does a user have to tap the screen before they have access to that artist? And further – does your app take them right to their artist’s page? Or does it redirect them to a search results page where further taps on their artist’s name are required? Once they arrive, is a play button conveniently located at the top of the screen?

Let’s imagine further that they visit your app for a second time, looking for the same artist. Is that previous search already saved for them as a unique user, or must they begin the search process again? The fact that speed and mobile go hand in hand must be respected and catered to when it comes to app design.

Always be aware of the value in looking at even the smallest details when it comes to the design of an app, looking to how that may be connected to whole of user experience. The choices you make can be pivotal in retaining app users and seeing to it your app is received well by the downloading public.

 

A Selection of Recommended Webmaster Development Tools

souris connecte usb mot webThe last 3+ years or so has seen some very useful web development application tools being introduced to streamline the process of both creating and further developing websites. Here at 4GoodHosting we are always keen to offer more to our clients as part of being a quality Canadian web hosting provider, and we know that more than a few of you are the webmaster behind your website. In this week’s blog we are going to offer our recommendations on some of them that have really made the grade in our opinion and have much promise in allowing you to develop and expand upon your website.

Developer Tools

Notepad ++ – Choosing Notepad to write or edit your code is still a viable option, but there’s the potential to increase your productivity and efficiency with Notepad++. Among the more notable improvements with ++, it has syntax highlighting and syntax folding features that simplify the process of weeding out bugs, and a well designed tabbed interface allows you to work on multiple documents.

In addition, Notepad++ boasts an auto-completion feature that makes writing code that much faster (relative to using Notepad). Notepad++ is available as both a full install and as a portable app.

FileZilla – FileZilla is regarded as one of the best free FTP, SFTP, and FTPS clients around. Aside from being available for multiple platforms (Mac OSX, Linux, & Windows), it is relatively easy to navigate and use. It’s optimized for allowing webmasters to manually backup the files on their sites’ FTP servers and while FileZilla is only available as a full installer, it’s still really a top notch tool and worth the space if you’re especially active.

Database Browser – This free tool lets you easily connect to databases, as well as modify data on your DBs and export or import data plus run SQL scripts any time you like. Notable supported database servers include MS Sql Server, ODBC, Oracle, MySql, BDE, SQLite, Firebird, and Interbase, among others. Like Notepad++, the program is available as both a portable app and full Windows installer.

XAMPP – XAMPP gets high marks for the fact it is an extremely important tool for testing and debugging your site. It is more specifically a distribution tool that packages Apache, MariaDB (as compared to the more dated MySQL), PHP, and Perl to let webmasters locally host their own sites in advance of their going live. As a result, you can stress-test and debug your sites. XAMPP is available as a full installer and portable app.

Google Chrome – A quick mention here, as it truly is the best browser to use if you’re a web developer. In particular, it provides you with a handy feature that aids in letting you make temporary on-the-fly changes to your site for testing and debugging purposes.

Graphics And Photo Manipulation Tools

Share X – Very useful for taking enhanced screenshots and screen prints, and what distinguishes Share X from other similar tools is that you can automatically share your screenshots to the popular media sharing site Imgur, which of course is very useful if you’re an instructional aide or consultant in web development. In addition to screenshots, ShareX also features screen recording .gif and .mp4 formats for you take advantage of.

GIMP – No getting around the fact that Photoshop is especially pricey. GIMP is a nice free alternative if you’d rather not pay for Photoshop Elements or a Photoshop CC subscription. It’s Photoshop’s equal in terms of features, and is quite easy to get the hang of in a short period of time. GIMP is available as both a portable app and a full installer.

Krita – Similar to GIMP, Krita is yet another free alternative for Photoshop. In comparison to GIMP however, it’s primarily designed for artists. Webmasters who want to create graphics or artwork for their sites will likely find it preferable to GIMP.

Video Capture And Editing

Audacity – The consensus seems to be that Audacity is the best free audio recording software available. It’s great for recording and editing your audio files is impressively easy too. It’s currently usable on Mac OS X, Windows, as well as Linux and is available as a portable app or as an executable.

Camstudio – Camstudio is a webcam and screen recording tool that’s decidedly more affordable than others currently on the market. Those of you who are also creating video content (reviews, commentaries, video tutorials) for your site will certainly find it very useful for recording your screen.

OBS – A free live streaming software that is also applicable for video recording. It differs from Camstudio in that webmasters can use OBS for webinars on nearly any live streaming platform – Youtube, Twitch, Dacast etc. – and it’s a great for allowing webmasters to leverage the extent of their interaction with a target audience.

Communications & General Productivity

Slack – Slack is quickly becoming one of the more popular group and collaboration communication tools around. It’s got much more in the way of features and custom user options as compared to Skype. Have a look and see for yourself, we imagine you’ll find it preferable.

Pidgin – Managing multiple freelancers who are contributing to your site? You’ll find Pidgin is ideal for easily communicating with them. You can manage almost all of your IM accounts under one client, and you’ll never have to worry about opening multiple chat windows to talk to your freelancers or clients.

6 Considerations for Businesses Acquiring Web Hosting for the First Time

"Canadian Web Hosting Provider"With the fact that the majority of customers are acquired through web searches these days, it’s an absolute necessity for any business to have a sound web presence. In contrast, during the early days of the Internet here was no telling how important and indispensable that presence would become. While the design, usability, and content of a company’s website are all important for success in digital marketing, business owners also need to look long and hard as to where they will choose to host their websites. When it comes to hosting, you really do need to understand that one size does not fit all.

Here at 4GoodHosting, part of what has made us a reputable Canadian web hosting provider is the fact we’re very accountable to our customers in as far as their individual web hosting needs.Going with a web host that’s not an ideal fit for your business can result in a loss in revenue, detrimental effects on your SEO rankings, as well as the possibility of security and malware attacks. And it’s not just you the business that’s put at risk – your customers can be put in vulnerable positions as well, in particular with those same software and malware attacks.

There’s no getting around the fact that the Web is an ever more competitive and dangerous space. As a result, businesses need to be very judicious in choosing web hosting. With that understood, we’re happy to offer you 6 tips here that can help businesses make the most solid choice for their web hosting.

Understand the Entirety of Your Hosting Needs

This may seem overly rudimentary, but business owners in the market for web hosting must first know what makes up the entirety of their online marketing needs. You’ll find that more than a few low-cost web hosting companies cut their operating costs by limiting the technologies they make available to you as a customer.

Before you commit to one, make sure you ask yourself a series of questions

  • Do I need special software, such as a CMS?
  • What are my current traffic needs (how many visitors do I have to my website in a specific time frame
  • Do I need Windows applications?, a Linux one?, an SSD one?

Asking these questions will help you to identify your needs and choose the web hosting company that will work best for you.

An Excellent Uptime Record is a Big Plus

If you’re aiming to take your business onto the world stage and being a global company, a big part of that is being ‘open’ for visitors 24/7 and 365 days a year for prospective customers who could be anywhere around the globe. The internet does not sleep, and your website needs to be accessible at all times. Any hosting provider you’re considering should do everything in their power to ensure maximum uptime.

It’s fairly common these days for web hosting companies to boast a 99.9% uptime. However, the reality is often that that’s not entirely accurate. A good suggestion is to seek out independent reviews of their reliability in order to better help you make your decision.

Good Support Goes a Long Way

Web hosting is like any technical service really. There’s likely to be times when you’ve got get technical support to resolve an issue you have. Accordingly, you’ll be best served by choosing a web host that has a good reputation for both technical support and customer service. Again, many web-hosting services will insist that they offer 24/7 service when in reality their support may be much less thorough or extensive than promised.

For example, should your website become inexplicably inoperative at 3 am on a weekend morning, you will of course want to get in touch with someone who can remedy the situation. In addition, for most of us talking to a real person is vastly preferable. And a speedy resolution is always of the utmost importance when your site is designated for e-commerce as downtime means you are potentially missing out on sales. If customer support can’t be reached until Monday at 8 30 am their time, you may well find yourself boiling over with frustration.

Don’t Choose the Best Price by Default

Letting the cost of web hosting services play too large a part in your decision making process is highly inadvisable. Yes, overhead and operating costs always need to be controlled, but again – with the incredible importance of digital marketing – you really don’t want to skimp on spending for quality, reliable web hosting services. As is true of so many things – with web hosting, you get what you pay for.

If we may suggest, rather than thinking about what you can afford, consider what you cannot afford. Frequent downtimes will definitely be on that list, and we imagine security breaches will be as well. Inexpensive web hosting will almost certainly be shared web hosting. Such an arrangement will work fine if your business does not see any large quantity of visitors to your site everyday.

However, if your website is attracting a large amount of traffic then you may want to look into VPS hosting in Canada. Sure, it will cost more than other hosting services, but it will ensure you have the reliability and server space you need to accommodate surges in visitors and let your site run optimally if it’s particularly dynamic with multimedia and so on. In addition to this, you’re more likely to enjoy superior technical support as well.

Ability to Scale

Your business will grow – or at least we can certainly hope that it will, as that will naturally be your aim. As such, your website should be be able to handle the increased traffic that will come with such growth. You will want – maybe we can even say need – a web hosting company that can grow with your business and adapt along with you as you see more and more traffic incoming to your site as the months pass.

Further, having to switch web hosting providers in response to that growth is going to present its own set of challenges / problems. Instead, ask yourself now if any prospective provider has the means and / or resources to offer you different hosting arrangements as you may (or will – let’s think positively) need them in the future. For example, if you start off with just a WordPress blog on a shared hosting plan, can you graduate to a dedicated hosting arrangement for more processing power, disk storage, and improved security features? Further, are you able to upgrade your service, and if so, how easy is the process? A quality web hosting provider aims to accommodate business clients as their businesses grow and experience greater exposure and thus success within their digital marketing efforts.

Consistent and Reliable Site Backups – So Important

As much as we might wish it wasn’t the case, servers are technical machines and as such there will be system failures. They will go down, and websites will crash. Of course, we work hard to prevent the frequency of that and in fairness it does happen extremely rarely given the efforts of responsible web hosting providers like us and many others.

So no matter what caused the failure, you as the customers will more primarily be interested in knowing your data has been protected and how quickly you can be up and running just as before. You should always ask potential web hosts for their backup policy. Also, find out how regular these backups are, how easy they are to perform and whether it can be performed by the site administrators.

The peace of mind in knowing your website is in the best of hands is really quite enjoyable for any business owner, and again especially so with the fact that so much of your business growth is dependent on the success of your digital marketing campaigns. Your website is a massive part of that campaign of course, so don’t even think of leaving it in a potentially precarious position.

Understanding the New ‘Perimeter’ Against Cyber Attacks

Hacker in hood with laptop initiating cyber attack. View from the back.

If you yourself haven’t been the victim of a cyber attack, you very likely know someone else who has, and in fact the numbers suggest that upwards of 90% of organizations experienced at least SOME level of an IT security breach in the past year. Further, it’s believed that one in 6 organizations have had significant security breaches during the same period.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve established ourselves as a top Canadian web hosting provider but we’re always keen to explore industry trends – positive and negative – that impact what matters to our customers. And our array of customers covers pretty much any type of interest one could have in operating on the World Wide Web.

Cyberattacks have pretty much become a part of every day life. While not to suggest that these types of incidents are ‘inevitable’, there is only so much any one individual or IT team can do to guard against them. Yes, there are standard PROACTIVE web security protocols to follow, but we will not look at those here given the fact that they are quite commonly understood amongst those of you who have that as part of your job detail and responsibility within the organization.

Rather, let’s take a look at being REACTIVE in response to a cyber attack here, and in particular with tips on how to disinfect a data centre and beef it up against further transgressions.

Anti-Virus and Firewalls – Insufficient

It would seem that the overwhelming trend with cloud data security revolves around the utilization of firewalls, believing them to be a sufficiently effective perimeter. Oftentimes, however, exceptions are made to allow cloud applications to run and in thus doing so the door is opened for intrusions to occur.

So much for firewalls securing the enterprise.

Similarly, anti-virus software can no longer keep pace with the immense volume of daily viruses and their variants that are being created in cyberspace nearly everyday. A reputable cybersecurity firm recently announced the discovery of a new Permanent Denial-of-Service (PDos) botnet named BrickerBot, which serves to render the victim’s hardware entirely useless.

A PDoS attack – or ‘phlashing’ as it’s also referred to – can damage a system so extensively that full replacement or reinstallation of hardware is required, and unfortunately these attacks are becoming more prevalent.It is true that there are plenty of useful tools out there such as Malware bytes that should be used to detect and cleanse the data centre of any detected or suspected infections.

Making Use of Whitelisting And Intrusion Detection

Whitelisting is a good way to strengthen your defensive lines and isolate rogue programs that have successfully infiltrated your data center. Also known as application control, whitelisting involves a short list of the applications and processes that have been authorized to run. This strategy limits use by means of a “deny-by-default” approach so that only approved files or applications are able to be installed. Dynamic application whitelisting strengthens security defenses and helps with preventing malicious software and other unapproved programs from running.

Modern networking tools should also be integrated as part of your security arsenal, and if they are configured correctly they can highlight abnormal patterns that may be a cause for concern. As an example, intrusion detection can be set up to be triggered when any host uploads a significant load of data several times over the course of a day. The idea is to eliminate abnormal user behaviour and help with containing existing threats.

Security Analytics

What’s the best way to augment current security practices? Experts in this are increasingly advocating real-time analytics used in tandem with specific methodologies that focus on likely attack vectors. This approach revolves around seeing the web as a hostile environment filled with predators. In the same way behavioural analytics are used in protecting against cyber terrorists, we need to take an in-depth look at patterns to better detect internal security threats.

However, perhaps the most important thing to realize is that technology alone will never solve the problem. Perfect email filters and the transgressors will move to using mobile networks. Improve those filters and they’ll jump to social media accounts. The solution must address the source and initial entry concepts, with training and education implemented so that people in the position to respond and ‘nip it in the bud’ can be explicitly aware of these attacks just as they first begin.

End-user Internet security awareness training is the answer, but we are only in the formative stages of making it accessible for users across all the different types. Much of it is all about teaching users not to do inadvisable things like clicking on suspect URLs in emails, or opening attachments that let in the bad hats.

Putting all staff through requisite training may be expensive and time consuming / productivity draining, but we may be at the point soon where it’s no longer an option to NOT have these types of educational programs. The new reality is that what we previously referred to as ‘the perimeter’ no longer really exists, or if it does it’s by in large ineffective in preventing the entirety of cyber attacks. The ‘perimeter’ is now every single individual on their own, and accordingly the risks are even greater with the weakest link in the chain essentials being the entirety of your system defences.

6 Recommended PHP Rating Scripts for Feedback & Interaction on your Website

Web Development on Laptop Screen. Online Working Concept.

A good many of you who web designers out there may in fact be correct in your assumptions regarding what your defined audience wants, but there’s likely an equally large percentage of you who have made design, layout, and content choices with your site that have missed the mark. You might have hunches, and more than a few folks will have opinions for you. But how do you really take the pulse of how intelligently your site is laid out for and experienced by visitors.

Here at 4GoodHosting, our expertise is naturally with quality web hosting in Canada, but our enthusiasm for trends in Internet marketing leads us to discover a number of topics that would likely interest our customers. This week, we’re inclined to discuss these 6 good PHP scripts for Canadian websites that are very practical for letting your site visitors leave you with quantifiable feedback on specific elements or components of your site, via ratings.

Here are 6 that we’ve come to be familiar with, and in order of the ones we think most highly of.

  1. Thumbs Up

The ThumbsUp rating script gets high marks for its modern, stylish design and how it makes it easy to implement an engaging ratings system for any of your websites. The ThumbsUp script works with a MySQL database, and incorporates an easy-to-understand configuration file, plus includes six custom templates. It looks sharp, and performs well too. The admin area offers plenty of control and customization options along with several selectable features. Users report finding it very easy to customize scripts to suit website styles and needs.

  1. Rating System

The Rating System script provides a very plain way for allowing visitors to engage with your content by leaving a rating score. Choose one of the 3 different user interface styles, and the proceed to documentation which explains how to implement and configure the script to suit the specifics of your website. Another big plus is that it allows visitors to leave feedback on your content, products, and media releases, and more.

  1. Skinnable Rating System

The Skinnable Rating System is not only a modern, comprehensive rating script that’s easily implemented, but it also boasts an advanced administration panel that provides an impressive level of control over your ratings system, statistics and the appearance of the system itself within the website. In addition, there’s also a handful of snappy features that also come included and add to the scripts’ overall high-quality finish.

It’s a strong fit for all modern browsers and mobile devices, and last but not least it can be integrated with any of your online content fairly simply for even the least experience webmaster.

  1. Poll

We like Poll for the fact it’s a useful little script than can be used to set up opinion polls on your website without much know-how or effort on behalf of the webmaster. Like Skinnable Rating System, it comes with a nice advanced admin panel where you’re able to manage your opinion polls via an intuitive user-interface that even a newbie could work their way around quite easily. Poll also comes fully documented, and is bundled with 3 poll styles to choose from, so it would bet #1 on the list if convenience and ease of use were the only criteria.

  1. Advanced Rating System

Advanced Rating System is the way to go for those of you who want comprehensive data from your ratings. It is a modern rating system that you can easily implement onto your website, and it lets visitors leave feedback and engage with your content on-the-fly – which of course means they’re more likely to do so! You’ve got your choice of a variety of bundled rating icons and colours that match the style of your website perfectly, and by making use of modern technologies including AJAX, IP protection, cross-domain embedding, and MySQL database it’s a champ for storing ratings data. The consensus it that it is a hugely customizable and attractive rating system that’s ideal for nearly any type of website.

  1. Minty AJAX Ratings

Those in the business seem to agree that ‘Minty’ AJAX Ratings script delivers a ‘cool’ solution for anyone wanting to set up a basic rating system for their website. It scores well for its smooth implementation steps, optional MySQL database use, easy customizable nature using simple CSS code, and AJAX instant-refresh. The Minty AJAX Ratings script is a great way to engage with your visitors with content that is more likely to promote that interaction. You can also retrieve feedback to see how your content, products or media releases are performing.

As mentioned above, the appeal of having visitors rate your site and / or individual parts of it is in the fact that it’s quantifiable input on how inviting the pages or site as a whole are for different types of users visiting it. There’s definitely a lot to be said for implementing one of these PHP scripts.

Go Local With Your Web Host Provider – Here’s Why

Web Hosting written on a wooden cube in a office desk

Here at 4GoodHosting, we take pride in being a premier Canadian web hosting provider that serves customers from Victoria all the way to St. John’s. But we’d like to take a moment to explain why we’re an even better choice for those of you who are also residents of the Lower Mainland and Greater Vancouver. Read on.

The Internet has been of tremendous benefit for nearly everyone on the planet and for pretty much every conceivable objective out there, and accordingly greater and greater numbers of web hosting providers have popped up to meet demand as people realize the value in taking whatever it is they have – be it a business, blog, personal venture, or anything else – onto the web. In the early years of the web, there was not much in the way of any connection to providers outside of your immediate locale

Of course, that’s no longer the case. Your web hosting provider can be located on the other side of the planet if you’re pleased with their rates, service, and the reliability of the web hosting. You may well find that a provider that’s nowhere near where you’re located is offering some very attractive features or offers like more storage, lower price points and other additions. Without a doubt, more than a few web hosting customers in our B.C. backyard have taken their hosting business elsewhere, and that’s honestly as it should have been.

However, more recent developments in the big picture of the world of Internet marketing has made it that there are advantages to having a local web hosting provider. Let’s discuss them.

Impact on Google Ranking

When a website is first created, it will assume an Internet Protocol, or IP address, that is assigned to it. It references the location, geographically, where the website was created, it’s ‘original location’. However, If you are a B.C. company that has acquired your hosting from an American provider, for example, your website’s IP address will be an American based on wherever it is they’re located.

This influences the way Google views your website, as despite the fact you are a BC user, you have an overseas IP address location. The relevance of this is that your webpage isn’t considered as a local one, which influences your SEO and overall google ranking within BC – and your local prospective clientele in particular.

Time Zone Considerations

One of the most tangible benefits of having your website hosted locally in BC is that you and your host will share the same time zone. Should any issues arise, you will be much more likely to be able to get someone on the phone. BC residents that use overseas or cross-continent hosting may find themselves in a situation where support technicians are unavailable , which of course can be a huge disadvantage if a problem occurs with your website and can be very problematic if your site is serving e-commerce aims.

In addition to that consideration, your own website will also be configured to the time zone of your hosting provider. When your site is aligned with a differing time zone, it can be confusing when looking at the analytical side of your website.

Further, an overseas time zone can also result in the website being completely unavailable during the day. How’s that? Well, hosting providers will do routine updates and maintenance overnight from time to time, to avoid clashing with high traffic times of the day for their recipients. Although this isn’t likely to be a major risk, it still is something to consider – particularly if your customer base is global in nature – and a reason to consider going with local hosting.

Variances in Loading Time

Webpage visitors tend to be impatient. That’s common knowledge, and you’re probably somewhat intolerant of slow-to-load pages yourself. All webpages feed off the information that it located within their host. When a visitor wants to view your site, and information request is sent. If that information is housed with an overseas host, it will delay the time it takes for someone back here in BC to gain the information. They may find themselves thinking ‘what the heck, these guys are local and they can’t open a webpage for me within __ seconds? See ya.’

This extra time it takes to load information could be crucial, and lead to potential customers moving on from your site due to slow loading times. Surely most of you will agree that the possibility of losing customers and damaging your reputation isn’t worth the risk.

The Local Trends Factor

Many hosting providers will offer web design or web marketing consulting services. If you choose to take advantage of them, the individuals you’ll be in consultation with will have their thumbs on the pulse of web design trends that are prominent in your area, and that can extend – albeit to a lesser extent – to what’s ‘hot’ locally with regards to Internet Marketing approaches. Take a look, for example, at business websites located in Toronto versus those in Vancouver. There are subtle differences, and they generally surround the different aesthetic preferences of the general public in a certain location.

Unpredictability of Exchange Rates

Not surprisingly, it will be more affordable rates that will woo B.C. website owners away from local providers most of the time. Keep in mind, however, that you are paying the outlined rate to your overseas host, and that will likely depend on the current exchange rate for your Canadian currency. Exchange rates are known to vary, and sometimes wildly so.

Should any change occur, your payment will be automatically recalculated and you won’t necessarily be appraised of the change. Further, it won’t be convenient to discuss it with them unless you’re okay with email exchanges or expensive long distance phone charges. Local hosting providers offer the benefit of working with the same currency you do, which means that you will not be taken by surprise should that exchange rate fluctuate

Ensure your website is always prepared for success, and trust a local web hosting service in Vancouver if this is where you call home as well. We’re but one of the good ones around here, but we do have rock-solid reliable hosting at competitive prices and our service is equally impressive. Let’s keep it local!

9 Best Communication and Commerce-Based Apps for Small Businesses

Colorful application icon concept and the shopping cartAs a small business these days, you need to be strongly fortified and streamlined with your digital marketing and business management fronts, perhaps more so than with any other aspect of your operations. As a reputable Canadian web hosting provider, here at 4GoodHosting we try to keep tabs on industry developments that will be of interest to our customers who are small business owners.

The construction of an information technology infrastructure can be decidedly complex – and expensive – for businesses that are either new or still in their formative stages. Common detriments include limited resources, expertise, and time constraints when it comes to the way they find they are limited with how much they’re are able to accomplish. And it’s not only a case of accomplishing, it’s also about doing so in a timely manner to take full advantage of opportunities for the business

Software companies have been receptive to this challenge, building web-based tools that are either specifically designed for small businesses, or ones that can be configured to be more ideally suited to the more-exploratory operating challenges for those of you who are still fairly wet behind the ears when it comes to running a business (and particularly ones where the business relies heavily on the digital marketing front).

No where are these challenges more readily apparent – for most at least – than they are within the realms of communication and commerce online. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Effectively communicating with prospective customers, and then facilitating their purchases or any type of commercial transaction in a speedy, reliable, and secure manner are 2 of the more pressing needs for any business.

So, without further adieu, we’ve compiled a list of 9 super communication and commerce-based apps for small businesses that we feel really make the grade and then some when it comes usability, functionality, and readily-apparent value for you.

  1. Asana Collaboration

Efficiently working together to accomplish tasks is a primary need for any business. Asana makes for a more natural and cohesive, collaborative teamwork process. Asana’s free version supports up to 15 team members, which is perfect for even smaller businesses that don’t need more advanced features. Built on HTML5, it features rich design functionality and easy, attractive task management.

  1. Citrix Grasshopper

Up until recently, Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions were a fit for big companies exclusively. But with tools such as Citrix Grasshopper, you’ll be able to quickly and easily set up your VoIP tool and gain access to basic phone systems features such as call routing, faxing, and voicemail. Admittedly, it doesn’t have more advanced features such as call recording, a unified communications application, and dial-in conferencing at the lowest price levels, but you’ll still be able to count on higher call quality and call centre features that you likely won’t find with your local telecom provider.

  1. ClickMeeting Video Conferencing

It’s quite common to have staff members who work remotely, and then of course there’s times you will meet with prospective clients, service providers – and whoever else – via the web. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use video conferencing tool, then ClickMeeting is pretty much your best bet. It offers a free 30-day trial, low-price plan options, and cool collaboration tools such as shared desktops, whiteboarding tools, and in-app private chat. It doesn’t offer access to operator-assisted meetings, but that’s about the only criticism we have of it.

  1. MailChimp Email Marketing

This one you’ve likely heard of, and for good reason! MailChimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing automator, and the value of quality email marketing campaigns these days needs to explanation. MailChimp offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and you’ve got a wide array of email templates that start the design process off quickly and help you send out emails at a rapid clip. You’ll enjoy the email analytics too, as they let you determine whether or not your messages are not drumming up interest in your business.

  1. Campaigner Email Marketing

Some of you may need a bit more flexibility than MailChimp allows, and we recommend checking out Campaigner. It has many of the same benefits, but allows you a much larger scope and reach with your campaigns. For example, a small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database could send an unlimited amount of messages for about $29.95 per month. That’s not cheap in comparison, but we’re talking about a tool that has everything you’ll need to run robust and easily-automated email campaigns. Add the fact you can test the tool for 30 days for free and it makes our list.

  1. Shopify E-Commerce

Without a doubt, Shopify is the king of all e-commerce platforms. But it’s very much a generic fit that’s great for most but not ideal for some. Still, you should be considering this online shopping cart for your web-based storefront whether you’re a company of 1 or 1,000. Why? It requires very little technological expertise to set up, you can try it for free for 30 days, and it provides an abundance of free templates and tools that will make it especially easy to be wise overseer of your online business.

  1. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is – in our opinion – one of the best social media analytics tools available for companies of nearly any size or orientation. For small businesses in particular, however, you’ll love that Sprout Social offers a free 30-day trial, multiple price tiers, and a tidy, intelligent design that makes it quite simple and intuitive to sort and discover data.

  1. Hootsuite

We’re fans of these guys first and foremost because they make an undeniably great social media marketing platform, but also because they’re from the same neck of the woods as us. If you’re more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try Hootsuite. This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (as opposed to bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.

  1. Zoho Survey

Some businesses will be more inclined to need to know the ‘temperature’ of the market as it regards their products or services. If you need to gauge how well your product is doing with consumers – or if you more simply just want to know what people think of your newest ad campaign – then survey management software is something you’ll likely want to consider. Zoho Survey is optimal for small businesses. It boasts one of the simplest user interfaces to manage, offers superb reporting, and is available for a very reasonable monthly rate. You also have the option of using the free version, which is plenty well equipped to get you the most basic information, but you’ll be lacking some of the more advanced features such as email notifications and multi-language support.

It’s always a long and complex chain when you’re in business and working to position yourself most ideally in the digital world. We’re happy to help with the best prices on web hosting in Canada, and we’re also happy to help with tips and suggestions regarding the best tools out there for managing your small business online. All the best and much success to you.

Siri, Cortana, or the Guy at Google Now: Who’s the Best Assistant?

smiling businesswoman communicating with helpline operator

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a premier Canadian web hosting provider, and as such you can be certain we love anything related to the mobile communications world. You’d be hard pressed to find any newer-model smartphone and computer on the market today that doesn’t have a smart assistant preloaded and waiting on your every inquiry, Apple has Siri, Windows has Cortana, and then there’s the lesser known but equally useful Google Now.

So how do they stack up against one another in our opinion? To the more casual observer or passive participant it may seem like Siri, Cortana, and the nameless Google Now assistant are all pretty much the same — and, to a great extent, they are. But they also have several tangible differences and in each case they’ve got at least one quirk, flaw or strength between them.

So which one would be best for you? Of course, you’re not going to make a purchasing decision for your next smartphone based exclusively on the type of assistant it comes with, but it may be a prominent consideration.

It’s not an easy question to answer, with the fact they’re so similar making it hard to compare them without digging deep into their capabilities.

Let’s give it a try.

Siri

Siri has been one of the flagship features of iOS since the 2011 launch of iOS 5. It’s somewhat humble beginnings were with the basics, like weather forecasts and messaging, but it’s expanded in leaps and bounds since, and most notably it now supports third-party integration with MacOS Sierra and iOS 10.

Indeed, Siri’s jokes and witty comebacks continue to be a hit, but the virtual assistant is becoming more and more capable as the years go by. These days you can ask it to call people, send messages, schedule meetings, play games, launch apps and games, answer questions, set reminders, and still provide those weather forecasts.

Siri’s also very capable with understanding contextual queries, and with the MacOS Sierra and iOS 10 versions it relies a lot less on web results in choosing the response. Siri can also integrate with third-party apps and understand follow-up queries. This was a significant departure for Apple, which has always maintained tight creative control over which 3rd-party companies are granted access to its native functions. As a result, we feel it’s a bit premature to judge how well this stacks up to Cortana or Google Now.

Siri has no troubles contextually searching for files in MacOS, although we think it’s fair to say she doesn’t seem to have the learning capabilities that Cortana does. Especially when it comes to personalized responses.

Another detractor for Siri is in the way it’s reliant on voice input. Cortana and Google Now both work very well with text input, while Siri requires voice input. It is possible to edit your dictation after it’s been received, but that’s not going to appeal to any user. This is especially annoying with the MacOS version of the assistant, with the fact there are any number of reasons or scenarios where a user might not be able to talk to his or her Mac, like in a crowded workplace for instance, or while in bed with your partner asleep next to you.

Cortana

On Windows Phone, users can have Cortana make calls, send messages, set reminders, take notes, recognize music, find great restaurants, check your calendar, among many more functions. The Windows 10 version of Cortana offers a few more features, namely the ability to search files by context, and wit the Windows 10 Creators Update you have even more functionality, including the ability to lock, restart, or shut down your computer. Add the fact all of this is done using natural language and that’s fairly impressive.

Another appealing feature with Cortana is that Microsoft’s virtual assistant is analyzing your interactions at nearly every step to learn more about your preferences. This info is stored in something premier Canadian web hosting provider and the information includes the places you like to go, people your interactions suggest you care about, the times of the day that are your ‘quiet times’, and things you might be interested in based on your viewings, among other things. And if you’d like to overrule Cortana, you can edit them any time you like.

There’s more. Cortana is also capable of reading your emails, tracking your location, taking note of your browser history, checking your contact list, keeping tabs on your calendar, and then putting all this data together to suggest info / choices in the future, if of course you allow it to. Cortana has also been formatted to recognize context, so most of the time it will be able to understand follow-up requests, and you can even phrase inquiries or requests in different ways and Cortana is able to take the contextual clues and respond accordingly, again most of the time. You can also type your questions or requests if you’d rather not speak out loud.

Cortana is not limited Microsoft’s apps, either, as it can access third-party content as well. The assistant can also add something to your Hulu queue, or check out a friend’s Facebook feed. More and more third-party connectivity is being added all the time.

Google Now

Google Now is different from Cortana and Siri in a number of ways, but most particularly in that it’s designed with less personality – and more functionality – in mind. Yes, it is an integral part of Android, bit Google Now can also be used via an iOS app, or accessed via the Google Chrome browser on any mobile internet device.

The best way for you to conceptualize the functionality of Google Now is to think of it as an extension of Google’s existing search capabilities, as compared to it being more simply a full-on smart assistant. Google Now does much of what the other two virtual assistants do, and does it just as well the majority of the time and with similar speediness. Like Cortana and Siri, you can ask Google Now for directions to the closest Pho restaurant, or what kind of weather you can expect over the next 10 days.

With your approval, Google’s software will utilize your search history and customize its responses based on what it’s gleaned from your preceding queries. For example, if you ask Google Now to inform you about what’s in the news, it will provide news articles it believes would interest you, based on what you’ve previously read on Google.

Further, the platform’s additional third-party support means that – like Cortana and Siri – you can add new features to Google Now that aren’t a native component of its platform.

Google’s integration with its search engine is a BIG plus, and it makes Google Now one of the most useful virtual assistants out of the box. Unless you’ve yet to use Google as a search engine (highly unlikely), it will already have a mound of data and footprints for your movements on the web. It will also pick up on your habits if you’re using it on a smartphone, and will try to serve you a specific card in advance of your next request. You can even tell Google Now whether it’s actually serving you relevant cards, and if not the software will improve in short order.

Google Now on Android operates much like Cortana, given it’s tightly integrated with the operating system’s search functionality. As you go about your browsing, Google Now will pull up relevant information. If you’re reading about a new music album, for instance, it might suggest a card with a list of dates for that band’s tour, or recorded music from bands of the same genre.

The Decision

Despite the fact Siri finally made it to MacOS, Cortana has to be regarded as the most fully-featured assistant currently available. Apple has decided to finally open up Siri to third parties, and that will make a big difference, but the growth hasn’t happened yet, and it remains to be seen if it can even match what Cortana and Google Now are currently offering.

In truth, Apple remains at a disadvantage due to its own business model. Both Microsoft and Google own services that a vast array of web users already utilize. Combining this with a virtual assistant makes it more convenient to the person using it, because it will very quickly display its ability to anticipate what you might be looking for, with at least some effectiveness (and always improving in this regard)

All this said, the best smart assistant is the one you have ready at this very moment. Our recommendation is that you try their respective apps on your smartphone, your desktop, and perhaps even some of your smart home devices before deciding on the one you want to be getting to know you, so very well.

5 Ways to Promote Greater WordPress Website Speeds

Finger Pointing at Internet WebsitesIf you live in the heart of a major metropolitan city, having a sports car that can do zero to 60 in less than 3 seconds would is great – but it’s certainly far from being a necessity (or even practical for that matter) because of the fact that you’ll almost never be able to actually put that performance capability to use. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re city dwellers and some of the best Canadian web hosting providers around, but we certainly don’t drive Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, or anything of the sort.

What we do have for you though is genuine speed for your WordPress-built website, and that IS a necessity these days. Users’ expectations have expanded these days, and they expected a website to

  1. Load quickly, and
  2. Be responsive when scrolling through pages or enjoying multimedia content

If a website doesn’t respond with sufficient speed, these users will move on. It’s that simple. It may not be ‘fair’ but that’s the way that it is. You may be left wondering about ways to increase your website speed, and you should do that for a pair of reasons. Not only does a lagging website risk losing visitors (and in some cases prospective customers) but more importantly…

Google has stated unequivocally that the speed of a website will reflect that site’s rankings in SERPs (search engine results pages)

Now that is a big deal, and no matter whether your website is e-commerce, personal, or whatever it may be.

Right then, here’s 5 nearly-guaranteed ways to improve the speed of your website.

  1. Choose a Reliable and Reputable Web Hosting Provider

Your proven web hosting provider in Canada must have solid and reliable hardware, and most particularly their servers. Researching your prospective host in line will almost certainly lead to at least one customer review that talks about their servers.

But while we have the same powerful dedicated servers that nearly any good Canadian web hosting provider will have, but we also boast our ‘fast fiber’ network designed to deliver optimal operation time and high throughput and packet per second capability.

Long story short, you should be demanding, and when you ask questions about the response speed of a web hosting service you should expect a more detailed and qualified answer than ‘oh yes, we’re plenty fast.” There should be numbers in that response.

  1. Enable Caching

Caching is the technical term for storing data in a temporary storage area. The relevance of that given our topic this week is that having this storage spot and directing data there improve’s a site’s vroom-vroom capabilities. That’s because much of the content has an opportunity to be ready-made for delivery on demand and does not have to gathered and then prepared for delivery / display to the user. It also reduces the load of various systems resources being piled on your server.

Typically, good web hosts will offer their customers caching plugins that can be implemented and activated via your control panel. You can usually also do this through you WordPress CP if you are hosted with WordPress hosting.

  1. Utilize a Content Delivery Network

This step comes very highly recommended, as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a surefire way to speed up your website. A CDN is a worldwide network of servers that facilitate you duplicating and storing your site’s static elements and files. Examples of these would be cascading style sheets, Javascript, images, video files etc. These elements are then delivered to whoever asks for them via a server that is closer to their physical location. The time content takes to reach their browsers is, of course, drastically reduced. And not surprisingly that makes for satisfied folks.

  1. Ensure your Images are Optimized in Full

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that users now expect higher quality images to be features on websites. Image quality – and to a greater extent image size – both factor into the new challenges place on the speed of the website in delivering them to the expecting visitor without anything more than a slight delay.

The majority of images can be resized or cropped to fit with graphic-editing tools or plugins, and most of the time the web user will not notice any reduction in quality.

This is a step that’s not particularly technical, and we think it’s one you can probably take on by yourself! So here goes:

  • Use JPEG format whenever possible, or PNG if not
  • Avoid using BMP and TIFF formats
  • Crop your image to eliminate unnecessary elements and reduce size
  • Resize your images and use logic in making your decisions. Example – a web page only 750 pixels wide is going to have a devil of a time accommodating a 2000 pixels wide image. Resize it!
  1. Go Ahead and ‘Minify’ your HTML, JavaScript, and CSS

CSS and JavaScript have never been as integral to websites like they are today. You wouldn’t dare consider doing away with these files, but you certainly should try to reduce the size of them if you want more pep out of the site.

The term that they use for this move is ‘minify’, and what that means is basically getting rid of comments, extra spaces, extra line breaks, and so on and so forth. ‘Frivolous infrastructure’ is the term we like, and it also includes block delimiters in the code in order to make that code lighter and and really dialling back on the amount of data that needs to be transferred.

There are a selection of plugins specifically designed for WordPress websites to make this ‘minifying’ as easy as possible. Good ones include WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify, both of which automatically reformat your code to make it much leaner. Manual resizing is a possibility too, and quite easy when you use Closure Compiler. Many CDNs and caching tools offer built-in minify support.

More in Store

Of course, we’ve just scratched the surface of website optimization for greater speed. These 5 steps are pretty much failsafe in bringing your actual noticeable results though. If you’d like to dig deeper, here are 3 popular performance analysis sites that feature online tools that can run a series of tests on your site to identify performance issues and then instruct you on how to remedy them if you’re lagging in any particular area. They’re user-friendly and intuitive and the results and scoring can be displayed in a choice of manners.

Have a look

The Cloud Stack: SaaS, PaaS, & IaaS

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a reputable web hosting service provider in Canada and we like to think we’ve got our thumbs sufficiently on the pulse of what’s new in the digital marketing world too. The ‘stack’ we’re going to talk about today is all about computing and the new way in which cloud computing, in particular, has revolutionized the way people access and utilize resources made available through the internet. We always have tips for improving your online marketing presence, but this blog post is really more about some of the more notable developments in cloud computing as they pertain to business.

The Cloud is a broad collection of services, and these days there’s plenty of options in regards to the way you can optimize them for the benefit of your company and organization. The stack is the broad range of services built on top of one another – thus the stack. Each one owes much of its stability and practicality to the one underneath it, as we’ll highlight shortly.

Unparalleled Network Access

Services make the grade as ‘Cloud’ worthy when they feature:

  • On-demand self service – any time and anywhere you want it, sign up and receive service without delay
  • Broad and uninhibited network access across varied devices (desktop, laptop, AND mobile)
  • Extensive resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity – able to flex upwards and downwards in relation to demand surges and sags
  • Measured service that is billed accordingly, and with transparency

The Stack Itself

Alright, picture a pyramid divided into 3 sections. The pointed top is SaaS (software as a service). The middle section is Paas (platform as a service) and the base is IaaS (infrastructure as a service).

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  • SaaS applications are intended for delivery to end users, and that delivery occurs immediately via the web (analogy – think passengers)
  • PaaS encompasses all of the tools and services that make coding and deploying those services occur smoothly, reliably, and relatively understandably (analogy – think vehicles)
  • IaaS is the groundwork – the hardware and software powering it all along. This can be servers, storage, networks, operating systems (analogy – think roadways)

SaaS is software that’s deployed over the internet. To put it in more understandable terms for consumers, it’s embodied in the new phenomena where you don’t need to go and buy a physical hard copy of a software suite complete with install disc and take it home to then install on your computer. Rather, you sign up, pay your initial monthly fee, and nearly instantaneously you’ve got access to it.

SaaS offerings will feature:

  • Web access to commercial software
  • Software managed from a central location, with no responsibility put on the consumer
  • Software delivered with a ‘one customize-to-fit for all’ model
  • APIs that allow integration between different varieties of software

Keep in mind however that not ALL softwares are well suited to be made available in a SaaS model. One that are suited will be (among other characteristics):

  • Ones where the fundamental technology is well established and unlikely to change
  • Ones where there is plenty of interplay between the organization and the worldwide consumer base
  • Applications that have a growing need for web or mobile access, and where that is projected to increase even further
  • Software that is primarily intended for a short term need
  • Software where demand has been seen to spike significantly at times

PaaS is any computer platform that allows the quick and easy creation of web applications without the complexity of purchasing and maintaining infrastructure that must be in place beneath it in order for it to be functional / operational.

Simply, it’s a platform for the creation of software that’s delivered – ready made and ready to work – quickly and easily over the web.

Paas offerings will feature:

  • Services designed to develop, test, deploy, host and maintain applications within a same integrated development environment.
  • Web-based user interface creation tools that are intended for use in creating, modifying, testing and deploying different UI scenarios
  • Multi-tenant architecture where multiple concurrent users utilize the same development app • Programmed scalability of deployed software, with load balancing and failover included
  • Integration with web services and databases via common standards
  • Support for development team collaboration, with some specific ones featuring project planning and communication tools

PaaS products will be especially practical in any situation where multiple developers will be proceeding to work on a project, or where external parties must interact and work collaboratively within the development process. These models have been very well received in instances where a valuable data source already exists and the aim is to create new applications which leverage the established value of that data. PaaS is also expected to ease difficulties around rapid deployment and iteration of software.

IaaS is any proven method of delivering the servers, storage, networks, and operating systems of Cloud computing as an on-demand service. It’s obtained as public or private infrastructure, or a combination of both (very common, and also known as ‘hybrid cloud’).

IaaS offerings will feature:

  • Resources being distributed as a service, with full autonomy for the end user to apply them as he / she sees fit
  • A natural allowance for dynamic scaling, and to whatever extent is necessary
  • Variable costs, and different utility pricing models
  • In many cases, multiple users on a single piece of hardware

Examples of large-scale IaaS providers operating today are Rackspace and Amazon Web Services.

IaaS products will be a good fit in any situation where

  • Demand is volatile – increasing and decreasing, and often considerably so in either direction and without any discernible trend
  • A new organization finds investment capital for hardware to be a daunting cost
  • A growing organization finds scaling hardware to be problematic
  • A similar organization that needs to move from capital expenditure to operations expenditure

It’s a fact that Cloud computing is a rapidly accelerating revolution within the entirety of the IT world, and we imagine it will become the default method of IT delivery in the not too distant future. Becoming familiar with it is highly advisable!