Homesbotello's blog

Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

On December 14, Amazon announced Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Spot Instances. This new beta service allows consumers to bid on unused EC2 capacity and run instances as long as their bid exceeds the current Spot Price (which fluctuates based on supply and demand).

According to Amazon, here are a few applications well-suited to EC2 Spot Instances:

What do you think of Google's real-time search?

Earlier this week, Google announced the launch of their real-time search features. With real-time search you can see updates from Twitter, FriendFeed, news stories, and blogs within seconds of when they are published. The real-time results show up on your search results page in a scrolling Latest Results window.

Website Redesign Checklist

Within seconds of arriving at your website, visitors will begin to make assumptions about your organization, and in some cases they will decide to leave the website immediately. Knowing this, do you think your website properly represents your business?

You can use the following checklist to determine if it's time to consider a website update.

My website:

…does not align with my current business goals and strategy.

…is made up of entirely static content.

…has outdated information.

…contains mistakes, typos, and broken links.

Santa uses Twitter, shouldn't you?

This week I discovered that Santa has a Twitter account. (Well, actually there are several Santas on Twitter, but that is not the point.) So this holiday season even Old St. Nick is using social media for promotional purposes, but are you?

Web Templates vs. Custom Design & Development

When it comes to creating a website, many companies wonder, "What's wrong with buying off the shelf?" This can be a difficult question, as every company has different needs and requirements, but custom web design and development offers some definite advantages.

Technorati Troubles

Technorati, the first blog search engine, has released a new beta version of their website. As you can tell from the site's support forums, the new website has met with some mixed reviews. In the least, it seems that Technorati could have done a better job communicating with their members before the new changes took effect.

The redesigned Technorati site has the following features:

BlackBerry - Mac Sync

Due to some unfortunate events, I recently had to return my BlackBerry and receive a new one. I was not excited about moving all of my information over. I had yet to sync my contacts, calendar, etc. with my computer because I have a Mac. I previously looked into some software options that would allow me to sync the two devices, but I was slightly turned off by the price/features so I held off.

5 SEO Necessities

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website's search engine page rank, thereby increasing traffic and attracting prospective customers. Here are 5 SEO necessities to increase your search engine visibility and improve your page rank:

Ecommerce Tip #10

Ecommerce Tip - Make customers feel safe and secure.

When it comes to sharing information over the internet, fraud and identity theft are always a concern. It is important that your site use security encryption measures, such as SSL or TSL, to ensure the safety of customer information. You can then put customers at ease by displaying security badges on your web pages so shoppers know that they are protected.

This post is number 10 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #9

Ecommerce Tip - Remember customer service is key.

Ecommerce Tip #8

Ecommerce Tip - Keep the checkout process simple.

Remember that people enjoy shopping online because it is fast and easy. Don't overwhelm users with required information fields and numerous unnecessary steps in the checkout process. If checkout must require several steps, use proper headings or breadcrumb navigation to help shoppers identify where they are within the checkout process.

This post is number 8 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #7

Ecommerce Tip - Give them options.

Every online shopper is unique. To best accommodate their needs, you should offer multiple payment and shipping options. In some cases, it is also a good idea to give shoppers the option of adding items to a "wish list." For various reasons shoppers may not be ready to buy during their first visit, but with a wish list shoppers can save their desired items to purchase later.

This post is number 7 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #6

Ecommerce Tip - Don't forget to cross-sell.

Shoppers don't always know exactly what they want or need. To solve this problem, take a cue from traditional retail stores. Think about how they group particular items together so that shoppers can compare similar items or purchase related products.

Ecommerce stores should duplicate this practice by displaying alternative and/or complimentary products to those that a shopper has selected. Look to other e-tailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for cross-selling and up-selling inspiration.

Ecommerce Tip #5

Ecommerce Tip - Always display shopping cart items.

During a shopping session, users want to be aware of which items they have selected. Many successful ecommerce sites have implemented small shopping carts that display on every page. These mini carts are usually located at the top of a web page or in a sidebar. Mini carts may display a number of selected items, a list of the selected items, and/or a running total. Once shoppers proceed to checkout, a detailed full-page shopping cart is displayed.

This post is number 5 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #4

Ecommerce Tip - Include plenty of product details.

Unlike traditional brick and mortar stores, ecommerce websites do not allow consumers to inspect or try out a tangible product. Make sure your shoppers know exactly what they are getting by providing detailed product information.

Ecommerce Tip #3

Ecommerce Tip - Clearly identify actions.

All buttons (such as add to cart, continue shopping, and checkout) should be obvious and easy for users to locate. Try to keep buttons above the fold (visible on the screen without scrolling). Using both icons and text can also make actions easily identifiable.

Ecommerce Tip #2

Ecommerce Tip - Don't ask for too much information up front.

Many shoppers will be turned off if they are asked to fill out a registration form as soon as they begin shopping. Keep shoppers happy by allowing them to add items to their shopping cart without registering. This will create a more pleasant shopping experience without unnecessary interruptions. The shopper's information can be gathered later during the checkout process.

This post is number 2 of 10 in a series of ecommerce tips.

Ecommerce Tip #1

When it comes to online purchases, shoppers are looking for something safe, quick, and easy. In the next 10 posts, I will be sharing tips to help you create an online shopping experience that will lead to happy repeat customers.

Ecommerce Tip - Make your products easy to find.

Confused by the cloud?

Are you still confused by the term cloud computing? According to Wikipedia, "Cloud computing is a paradigm of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet." In other words, cloud computing allows you to access resources over the Internet rather than storing those resources in-house.

More Cloud Terminology

Bing Now Has Visual Search

Microsoft announced a beta version of Visual Search for Bing today at Tech Crunch 50 in San Francisco. Visual Search allows you to search by images rather than text. This should come in handy when you know what something or someone looks like, but you can't remember the name for it.

Storm Clouds on the Horizon?

As most people already know, there was a Gmail outage earlier this week. In fact, with the extensive news, blog, and social network coverage, you would almost have to be living under a rock not to have heard about it. The Gmail outage left both those with personal and business accounts without email for a reported 100 minutes.

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud

Amazon Web Services has just introduced their Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). The AWS website states that Amazon VPC is a secure and seamless bridge between a company's existing IT infrastructure and Amazon. It enables enterprises to connect their existing infrastructure to a set of isolated AWS compute resources via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, and to extend their existing management capabilities such as security services, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to include their AWS resources.

Google Adds Some Kick with Caffeine

Yesterday Google revealed their next-generation search architecture, code-named Caffeine, which they have been secretly working on for several months. According to their Webmaster Central Blog, "it's the first step in a process that will let [Google] push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions."

Bing Travel: Price Predictor

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of buzz around search with the introduction of new engines like Wolfram Alpha, real-time Twitter Search, the launch of Bing, and now the partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo! In all honesty, I didn't feel like these factors would change the way I personally search online.

Microsoft, Yahoo! Deal Confirmed

This morning an official press release confirmed a long rumored agreement between Yahoo! and Microsoft. The release "announced an agreement that will improve the Web search experience for users and advertisers, and deliver sustained innovation to the industry. In simple terms, Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' premium search advertisers."

Website Design Tips: Usability

The past two blog posts have discussed tips for creating a website design strategy and layout, but for a website to be truly valuable, it must be easy to use. The following tips will help to ensure your website is useful to site visitors and functions properly.

Website Design Tips: Layout

In a previous blog, we discussed tips for developing a website design strategy. The following tips focus on making your design elements visually appealing.

Keep it simple - Don't overwhelm your audience. Avoid using flashing graphics and don't cover the entire site with images and content. Remember that white space can be an important element in design. Also, try to keep page content concise. Web users don't enjoy constantly scrolling to read text.

Website Design Tips: Strategy

Designing a website goes beyond creating something visually appealing. A successful design project must incorporate aesthetics, business strategy, audience needs, functionality, and usability. The following tips will help you create a successful website design strategy.

Mozilla Open Web Tools Directory

The Mozilla Labs blog announced yesterday the launch of a new Open Web Tools Directory. (Mozilla Note: a modern browser with canvas is required to view directory, like Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, Chrome 2, or Opera 9)This directory is meant to give web developers a central access point to the overwhelming number of development tools available.

IT Helps You Weather the Economic Storm, Part II

A while back, we posted a blog titled IT Helps You Weather the Economic Storm. This post outlines four reasons to invest in Information Technology during the recession. I recently discovered an article about a study commissioned by Microsoft that sheds some more light on the importance of this subject.