QR Code Based Virtual Shopping is the Future of Shopping

QR Code Based Virtual Shopping is the Future of Shopping

 

If you can’t get customers, who are too busy to shop, to come to your store then take your store to them. With this mindset comes the future of shopping using QR Codes.

 

An increasing number of companies are creating virtual stores, that are made up of posters displaying the products with quick response (QR) codes, rather than having physical merchandise. Customers are able to scan the matrix barcodes with their smartphones, pay for the items in their virtual carts and then have the items delivered to their home within hours, depending on the items. For the person who doesn’t have time to shop, it is the advantage of window shopping without the hassle of waiting in a checkout line.

 

For the last four years, virtual stores have been popping up around the world, in countries which include South Korea, Canada, The United States, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Chile and Argentina. Walmart teamed up with Mattel to open a virtual toy store at Union Station in Toronto for a month of Christmas shopping. The virtual toy store is positioned so that 200,000 commuters a day pass by it. The hottest toys of the season are displayed to catch the commuters’ eye as they head to and from work.

 

Even though most companies offer online stores for shopping, the ability to browse is what is making these virtual stores more popular. Mobile devices limit the number of products that can be seen because of the size of their screen. The merchandise posters, however, allow the store to display dozens of products at a time.

 

These displays catch the consumer’s attention and help them find items quickly, which also allows them to avoid having to use keyword searches in an online store which isn’t as quick because they may have to figure out the correct keyword to find what they need. These virtual stores are also capitalizing on prior shopping experiences by including products on shelves, which encourages an immersive shopping experience that they can’t find from a mobile online store.

 

The concept of a virtual store began in 2009, when the British grocery chain Tesco launched its HomePlus service in South Korea. They installed posters that looked exactly like a grocery store aisle onto the walls of subway stations. When a commuter made a purchase, the items would be delivered to their door within hours. A similar type of service is now being offered in Chicago by Peapod, with several train stations having virtual stores in them.

 

QR codes have been around since the 1990s, however, the surge in smartphones has made them incredibly popular for gathering information, whether it’s for shopping, travel or anything in between. Besides Walmart, other major retailers have their own virtual stores in highly populated areas including Sears, JCPenney, Kmart and Staples.

 

This isn’t really a new concept, in fact, companies have been doing it for years in the form of mail order catalogues, dating back to when Montgomery Ward mailed out the first in 1872. Back then, item descriptions were combined with an item number that could be added to an order page and items were received through the mail weeks later. Today, images of products give a visual representation of the item, QR codes have replaced the item number and delivery times have been slashed to days, and in some cases even hours.

 

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The Importance of a Responsive Website – Mobile Industry Trends

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach which is focused on creating a site to provide an optimal viewing experience which includes easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling on a wide variety of devices.

 

Responsive web design allows your website to be easily viewed on not only desktops and laptops, but also tablets and smartphones as well. The design of your website adapts to the screen of the device accessing it so users don’t have to zoom in and move side to side to view all of the site’s content.

 

Since SEO is a core component of your digital marketing strategy, having a mobile-friendly website is becoming crucial.

 

Mobile sales have already passed desktop sales, and mobile internet usage is predicted to surpass desktop internet usage by the end of this year. It is only logical that mobile search will overtake desktop search at the some point in the near future as well.

 

A study shows that 67 percent of internet users claim they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-friendly website, companies that rely on SEO would be wise to start making the transition to mobile-friendly websites, and specifically responsive web design.

 

The debate about whether to choose a responsive website or a separate mobile website is a popular topic. However, the truth is that both options have their pros and cons.

 

The option best for your business depends on many factors, such as the purpose of the website, the intended target audience, and whether SEO is a factor. If SEO is a factor to your website, here are a few reasons why responsive web design is the best option for your mobile website.

 

Google recommends it

Since Google is a the major player in the search engine industry, when they speak, search marketers pay close attention. Google states that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration, and they even go so far as to refer to responsive web design as the industry best practice.

 

They make this claim because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of the device, which makes it easier and more efficient for Google to crawl, index and organize content. In contrast, a separate mobile site which has a different URL and different HTML than its desktop counterpart, would require Google to crawl and index multiple versions of the same site.

 

Google also prefers responsive web design because content that resides on one website and one URL is much easier for users to share, interact with and link to than content that resides on a separate mobile site.

 

For example, a mobile user who shares content from a mobile site with a friend on Facebook, who then accesses that content using a desktop will result in that user viewing a stripped down mobile site on their desktop. This will create a less than optimal user-experience, and because of the large emphasis Google is placing on user-experience as a ranking factor, this is essential to consider with regards to SEO.

 

One website covering several devices

One of the most appealing aspects of responsive web design is that a responsive website can provide a great user-experience across many devices and screen sizes. This is important, since it is impossible to anticipate all the devices and screen sizes searchers will use to access your site. A site that works well regardless of these variables will provide a better and more consistent user-experience than a separate mobile site that is designed for a specific device and screen size.

 

An example of this would be, someone searches for a product on their smartphone during a break at work. They find a site that has the product they’re looking for, and decide to continue research when they get home. However, when they get home, they use their desktop instead of their smartphone.

 

If the site they are searching is responsive, they will have a positive user-experience when transitioning from their mobile device to a desktop because they will be viewing the same site on their desktop as they did on their smartphone. On the other hand, if the site is a dedicated mobile site, this person will become frustrated with the fact that they have to locate the desktop version on the site, and find the product all over again.

 

Easier to manage

Having a separate desktop and mobile site requires having separate SEO campaigns. Managing one site and one SEO campaign is far easier than managing two sites and two SEO campaigns. This is a major advantage that a responsive website has over a separate mobile site.

 

However, there are benefits to having a mobile-specific SEO strategy, such as optimizing for keywords that are more likely to be searched when someone is on their smartphone.

 

For example, someone performing a mobile search for a local restaurant may be more inclined to use the word “nearby” in their search query. However, a separate mobile site isn’t a requirement for a mobile SEO strategy, and there’s no reason why mobile-specific keywords can’t be incorporated into a responsive design site as well.
A responsive web design is recommended because it allows one website to provide a great user-experience across many devices and screen sizes, and it also makes managing your SEO strategy easier.

Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails, or as its simply called Rails, is an open source web application framework which runs on the Ruby programming language. It offers a full-stack framework that allows the creation of pages and applications which gather information from the web server, the ability to talk to, or query the database, and create templates “out of the box”. Because of this, Rails features a routing system that is independent of the user’s web server.

 

Ruby on Rails emphasizes the use of well known software, engineering patterns and principles, such as active record pattern, convention over configuration )CoC), don’t repeat yourself (DRY), and model-view-controller (MVC).

 

History

David Heinemeier Hansson extracted Ruby on Rails from his work on Basecamp, a project management tool by 37signals, which is now a web application company. Hansson first released Rails as open source in July 2004. However, Heinemeier did not share commit right to the project until February 2005. In August 2006, the framework reached a milestone when Apple announced that it would ship Ruby on Rails with Mac OS X v10.5 “Leopard”, which was released in October 2007.

 

Rails version 2.3 was released on March 15, 2009 with major new developments in templates, engines, Rack and nested model forms. Templates enable the developer to generate a skeleton application with custom gems and configurations. Engines give developers the ability to reuse application pieces complete with routes, view paths and models. The Rack web server interface and Metal allow people to write optimized pieces of code that route around ActionController.

 

On December 23, 2008, Merb, another web application framework, was launched, and Ruby on Rails announced it would work with the Merb project to bring “the ideas of Merb” into Rails 3, ending the “unnecessary duplication” across both communities. Merb was merged with Rails as part of the Rails 3.0 release.

 

Rails 3.1 was released on August 31, 2011, featuring Reversible Database Migrations, Asset Pipeline, Streaming, jQuery as default JavaScript library and newly introduced CoffeeScript and Sass into the stack.

 

Rails 3.2 was released on January 20, 2012 with a faster development mode and routing engine (also known as Journey engine), Automatic Query Explain and Tagged Logging. Rails 3.2.x is the last version that supports Ruby 1.8.7. Rails 3.2.12 supports Ruby 2.0

 

Ruby on Rails 4.0 was released on June 25, 2013, introducing Russian Doll Cashing, Turbolinks, Live Streaming as well as making Active Resource, Active Record Observer and other components optional by splitting them as gems.

 

Technicals

Ruby on Rails comes with tools included that make common development tasks easier “out of the box”. These tools include scaffolding, which can automatically construct some of the models and views needed for a basic website. Also included are WEBrick, which is a simple Ruby web server that is distributed with Ruby, and Rake, a build system which is distributed as a gem, or a self-contained format. Together with Ruby on Rails, these tools provide a basic development environment.

 

Ruby on Rails is also most popular for its extensive use of the JavaScript libraries Prototype and Script.aculo.us for Ajax. Ruby on Rails initially utilized lightweight SOAP for web services. This was later replaced by RESTful web services.

 

The application is separated into various packages, namely ActiveRecord (an object-relational mapping system for database access), ActiveResource, provides web services, ActionPack, ActiveSupport and ActionMailer.

 

The main reason that Ruby on Rails is so popular is because it is the most productive way to build web applications. Custom software development has always been expensive, which has resulted in pieced together solutions which dominated the software market. However, the dominant question was always, how can businesses differentiate themselves from each other if they all use the same application? The answer is obvious, custom software can help businesses differentiate themselves and provide deep competitive advantage through data collection, visualization and distribution in an organization, where users and departments know what data they need to operate efficiently.

 

Ruby on Rails makes this type of software development economical for companies ranging from fast-growth start-ups to large corporations that want to experiment without having to add to their IT budget.

 

This type of experimentation was very cumbersome in the past. When companies wanted a new application implemented to take advantage of market opportunities and trends, they had to first present a formal request to their boss. This then turned into a formal request to the IT department, which was then reviewed by a board for budget approval.

 

Once the budget was approved, equipment and personnel skills had to be evaluated. Several months later, the project may even begin. Individual groups within companies are now learning to use Rails to speed up development and reduce costs.

 

With start-ups increasingly focused on information delivery rather than physical product delivery, many choose Rails to build apps quickly, at low cost and, therefore, low risk. They are leveraging Ruby on Rails’ software delivery economics in the core of their products and services.

 

With Ruby on Rails providing a programming framework that includes reusable, easily configurable components commonly used for creating web-based application, it is gaining traction with developers.

 

As businesses explore how they can use Ruby on Rails to build their next generation products and services for consumers and employees, they’ll discover the significant development time savings Ruby on Rails offers. Combining this with low up-front investment and overall cost savings, it makes perfect sense that you will continue to see more companies choosing Ruby on Rails.

 

Reception

In 2011, Gartner Research noted that despite criticism and comparisons to Java, many high-profile consumer web firms are using Ruby on Rails to build agile, scalable web applications. Some of them largest sites running Ruby on Rails include GitHub, Yammer, Scribd, Groupon, Shopify and Basecamp. As of March 2013, it is estimated that about 211,295 websites are running Ruby on Rails.

 

“Rails is the most well thought-out web development framework I’ve ever used. And that’s in a decade of doing web applications for a living. I’ve built my own frameworks, helped develop the Servlet API, and have created more than a few web servers from scratch. Nobody has done it like this before.” Says James Duncan Davidson, Creator of Tomcat and Ant.
“Ruby on Rails is a breakthrough in lowering the barriers of entry to programming. Powerful web applications that formerly might have taken weeks or months to develope can be produced in a matter of days.” Says Tim O’Reilly, Founder of O’Reilly Media

The Secret to Successful UX Design

User experience design, for several people, means creating interfaces that are easy for users to understand and navigate. And this thought is correct, but it isn’t what lies at the heart of good user experience.

 

User experience design is a major focus of the business community, and for very good reason. A major reason for the attention is due, in part, to the success of Apple. In some cases Apple has re-defined the marketing landscape and companies are scrambling to stake their claim.

 

Apple has taught many companies that selling on features is not as effective as selling on good design. While other MP3 players are sold based on their storage capacity, Apple sold theirs on how it empowered customers by putting one thousand songs in their pocket.

 

Many companies are realizing that just adding more features won’t make a product or service sell better. However, providing a better experience will.

 

Whether that experience is how the product looks and feels in your hand, or the details of the customer service people receive, user experience design can transform how a customer feels about a product. However, even though many businesses understand the benefits of user experience design, they usually start from a completely different direction.

 

The wrong train of thought

Many companies that are focused on user experience design are asking how they can make their products or services better. This is the wrong approach. Its like saying I have this item that people don’t like using, so how can I dress it up so people want to buy it.

 

This way of looking at an issue is only going to lead to superficial changes. If you take this view when designing a website, you might try to improve the site’s usability and make it more visually appealing, but if the content doesn’t address user’s questions it will still be a failure.

 

Correct approach

Even before a product is designed, there is one question that must be asked. What problem do you plan to solve for the customer? The product or service needs to start with the goal of empowering the user, not just making an existing product or service more appealing.

 

For example, Amazon Prime makes customers feel they can receive anything they need almost instantly. iPhone makes users feel like they can stay in touch with the whole world whenever they choose.

 

User experience design should help solve user problems and help them to achieve their goals.

 

In the past a company would create a product or service and if people needed it they would buy it. This is no longer the case. Few companies, with the exception of tech companies, have people with a design background on their team.

 

Today, with so many competitors only a click away, it is vital that the product or service is carefully shaped around the users needs from its initial conception. To do this, a company needs people with the authority to shape the products and services that are being sold.

 

Website design

Most of the time we approach our websites with the attitude, we have these messages to communicate, how can we persuade users to view them.

 

Even when we are trying to create a website that users will want to use, we still think in terms of the content or functionality that users will supposedly want.

 

We hardly ever ask ourselves what users ultimate goal is or what problem they are trying to solve. Rarely do we think about how we can make the user feel empowered. We hardly ever look at the website to see how it fits the bigger picture of what we are offering customers in terms of products or services.


If we are going to adopt the principles of user experience design, it is crucial for us to focus on what problems we are solving for the users.

Canonical URLs & Preventing Duplicate Content

A canonical link is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent issues with duplicate content. The canonical URL tells search engines which version of a URL to index. One page may be associated with many different URLs. A search engine will attempt to identify the canonical, or authoritative URL for each page. Unlike duplicate content, canonical URL issues happen only within a site and not between separate sites.

 

In 2009, Google, Yahoo and Bing announced support for the canonical link element, which can be used to prevent a loss of search engine ranking due to duplicate site pages. Google stated that the canonical link element is not considered to be a directive, but a hint that the web crawler will “honor strongly”.

 

While the canonical link element has its benefits, Matt Cutts, leader of Google’s webspam team, has claimed that the search engine prefers the use of 301 redirects. Cutts stated the preference for redirects is because Google’s spiders can choose to ignore a canonical link element if they feel it is more beneficial to do so.

 

There are many different forms of duplicate content, but the major reason is multiple URLs that point to the same page. This happens for a lot of different reasons. An ecommerce site may allow various options for sorting a page. An example of this would be by lowest price, highest rating, etc., the marketing department might want tracking codes added to URLs for analytics. This may lead to a hundred pages with 10 URLs for each page, creating 1,000 URLs for the search engine to sort through.

 

This causes problems because:

 

  • Less of the site may get crawled. Search engine crawlers use a limited amount of bandwidth on each site. If the crawler is only able to crawl 100 pages of your site in a single visit, you want those pages to be unique pages, rather than 10 pages being crawled 10 times.
  • Each page may not get full link credit. If a page has 10 URLs that point to it, then other sites can link to it 10 different ways. One link to each URL lowers the value that the page could have if all 10 links pointed to a single URL.

 

Using a new canonical tag

Specify the canonical version using a tag in the head section of the page as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swed

 

You can only use the tag on pages within a single site including subdomains and subfolders. You can also either use relative or absolute links, however, search engines recommend absolute links.

 

This tag will operate in a similar way to a 301 redirect for all URLs that display the page with the tag. Links to all URLs will be consolidated to the one specified as canonical. Search engines will consider this URL the one to crawl and index.

 

Best practices for a canonical URL

The search engines are more likely to use this process if the URLs use some best practices including:

 

  • The content rendered for each URL is very similar or exact
  • The canonical URL is the shortest version
  • The URL uses easy to understand parameter patterns, as in the case of ? and %

 

Matt Cutts of Google claims, when asked if this process can be used by spammers, that the same safeguards that prevent abuse by other methods (such as redirects) are in place here as well, and that Google reserves the right to take action against sites that are using the tag to manipulate search engines and violate search engine guidelines.

 

This tag will only work with very similar or identical content, so you can’t use it to send all of the link value from the less important pages of your site to the more important ones.

 

If there is a conflict between tags, for example, if they point to each other as canonical, the URL specified as canonical redirects to a non-canonical version or the page specified as canonical doesn’t exist search engines will handle them as they do any other pages, and will determine which URL they think is the best canonical version.
The canonical tag won’t completely solve duplicate issues on the web, but it does help make things a lot easier especially for ecommerce sites. Site owners need all the help they can get to stay ahead of the pack in search rankings.