Yesterday, Google began rolling out an update to its search algorithm that will boost the rankings of mobile-friendly sites in mobile searches. Sites that are built with Responsive Web Design will generally have no issues as they are specially coded to adapt page content automatically and fluidly to the size of the viewing screen (and even to the orientation of the screen in the case of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones). It's important to understand that this update affects searches performed on mobile devices and not those done on desktop or laptop devices.
Over the past few years Microsoft hasn't gotten a whole lot of stuff right. Rife with stinkers like Windows Phone (stuck at 2.5% market share), Surface Pro 1 and 2 (both flops), Surface RT (nearly a billion bucks down to the toilet), Bing (Google isn't losing any sleep over this money drain), and the king of the current crop of stinkers, Windows 8 (arrrgh), well, it's been a difficult time to be Microsoft. Fortunately, Windows 8 appears to have become something of a clarion call for Microsoft. After two rather tepid updates (release 8.1 and Update 1), it looks like Microsoft has finally thrown in the towel and conceded that this latest version of Windows has hurt them so badly that it deserves nothing short of a bullet between the eyes. (Indeed, as PC sales have languished in the past few years, Apple's MacBook sales are actually on the rise no doubt in part to the migration of frustrated Windows 8 users who just had enough.) Microsoft recently commenced the first early test releases of the next version of Windows. This version will be such a massive overhaul to Windows 8 that they'll jump two full versions ahead to Windows 10 (sorry Windows 9, we hardly got to know ye). This is actually splendid news because it confirms that Microsoft fully understands how truly craptastic Windows 8 is and is now ready to listen to its customers and get the next version right. For real.
You've almost certainly heard of cloud storage solutions like DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud, Box, and so on. DropBox arguably refined and popularized cloud drives for the masses some years ago with its elegantly simple web interface and, in particular, its downloadable desktop application that essentially creates a sync folder right on your computer hard drive that automatically synchronizes its contents (folders and files) to a cloud-based mirror. That model is now pervasive with most of the cloud storage solutions.
About a year ago, we switched from DropBox to Microsoft's OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) primarily because OneDrive had evolved to pretty well match all of the core functions of DropBox but offered substantially higher levels of storage on all tiers, free and paid. As of this writing, OneDrive provides you with 15 GB of free storage while DropBox provides only 2 GB (you can increase both limits in 0.5 GB increments with referrals to other people you know). Additionally, if you install OneDrive on your smartphone and turn on the "Camera Roll" function (more on that below), you'll get an additional 3 GB of storage space. Need more space? OneDrive gives you 100 GB for $1.99 per month, 200 GB for $3.99 per month, and a whopping 1 TB for $6.99 per month (this is actually part of the Office 365 Personal subscription service). By contrast, DropBox's only other individual price tier provides 1 TB of storage for $9.99 per month (and this obviously doesn't include any of the goodies from an Office 365 subscription).
With great regularity, we receive inquiries from prospects who want to get started on a shiny new website for their business or organization. And almost without fail, when asked for the purpose/intent of the site and for some of the key content, well, that's when we get the very pregnant pause. Too often, prospects and clients presume that the web designer will not only create the structural container of the website but will fill most of it with content as well. While any good web design firm can refine and augment your page content with a particular focus on making it web-friendly, their job is absolutely not to write your content for you. You are the foremost expert about what you do and are thus in the best position to provide the key content that will promote that. It's not necessary for you to write in Shakespearean prose but you should, at a minimum, be able to drop 5-10 bullet points that explain and promote your business or organization. So let's take a look at some of the key things to consider BEFORE you ask anyone to construct or update your website.
About a week ago, I picked up a new 2-in-1 Windows computer (essentially a laptop that converts into a tablet). While the transforming hardware is pretty nifty, the more interesting experience was with Windows 8 (technically, Windows 8.1, Update 1). Let's first get this out of the way: if you can avoid "upgrading" to Windows 8 then by all means do so. If you're using a perfectly decent Windows 7 PC, keep using it. Windows 7 is rock solid, pretty secure, and works as well as you can expect of a Windows machine (when Windows 7 was initially released, even Apple people begrudgingly considered it to be "not bad" which is high praise indeed). If you're using a Windows XP machine, see if you can buy a (legal) copy of Windows 7 from anyone who has one available for sale or buy a used or refurbished Windows 7 PC. If your needs are fairly light (i.e., you use your PC primarily for email, web surfing, and some light document work), you might consider moving to a Linux variant like the Ubuntu operating system (only do this if you're reasonably tech savvy) or perhaps a jump over to a Google Chromebook. If you're using a version of Windows older than XP, well, you are either a defiant technology iconoclast or an oddball (maybe both) but I sure hope you're running some serious security apparatus to keep you safe on the internet.
This is a little bit off the topic of all things web but having encountered enough clients who pay full-freight for Microsoft Office thinking that they have no cost-effective alternative makes it worthwhile to chat a bit about what the alternatives actually are (and there are quite a few). First, let's be completely fair to Microsoft and say that their office suite is without question the gold standard in productivity software. Even people who really, really don't like Microsoft will concede to this pretty undeniable fact (but there will be a lot of pouting along with the conceding). Second, I'm only going to discuss alternatives to the desktop version of Office that most of you are familiar with. There's a subscription version of Office called Office 365 that gives you access to what amounts to the Professional version of Office (i.e., includes Access, Outlook, and even Publisher) but I'm not going to get into that one in this article since most users of Office don't need the full buffet of the productivity cheese plate.
So you'd like to build a website but you really don't have the budget for a professional web designer (and, really, who wants to deal with those people?) and don't possess mad web coding skills. What alternatives do you have? Well, if your needs are not particularly exotic, you might consider using Wordpress.com. You can set up your Wordpress.com account absolutely free and have the basics of your site up on the interwebs in just a few minutes after signing up (no credit card required). All of the most current Wordpress site templates employ Responsive Web Design so your site will look great on both desktop and mobile devices. Now, there are a couple of things to make note of here: (1) Wordpress.com is different from Wordpress.org; and (2) Wordpress (both .com and .org) can be used to build standard websites not just blogging sites (in fact, you can build a Wordpress site that doesn't have a blog page at all if you wish).
Despite the long history and rather excessive amount of advertising on television, it's still pretty amazing that there is such a wide range of quality (anywhere from, "So bad it burned my retinas" to, "Can't wait for the movie version"). Recently, the TV commercial that really got our attention was the underwear ad for the Duluth Trading Company. This company produces apparel in the not particularly inspiring work wear retail space. Notwithstanding that, Duluth's ad agency of record, Planet Propaganda, put together a terrifically clever and dry-witted cartoon ad campaign that humorously but effectively communicates the virtues of Duluth Trading's clothing lines. Everything from the hilarious animation to the voice narration is nothing short of brilliant.
The original, nearly four year old NW10 Design site was getting a little long in the tooth both aesthetically and functionally. After six months of fiddling around with various new designs and reworking our content, we finally got around to applying a rather substantial overhaul to our site. Cosmetically, the page design is changed from the previous dark theme to a more contemporary light, airy, sectioned layout that employs flat design, clean modern fonts, and loads of white space punctuated with our brand orange. Functionally, and most importantly, is the introduction of Responsive Web Design (RWD).