Startup

Whatfolio: Bands, Business, or Personal Portfolios

For those who follow along closely, we at SlapStart are always enthusiastic about sites that have anything to do with bands. Bands are the opposite of the boring life. In a band you stand before the roar of the crowds, you live the life of luxury, and people buy you free beer. Well, the reality is you stand before half filled rooms of people who might be listening. And we don’t recommend quitting the day job, but people do still offer you free beer. At least the bartender tends to send some up to you. Sometimes. It happened at least once I think. Anyhow, bands are good.

What bands need most is for people to get the word out about their music. In fact, this is what every start-up initiative needs. Consultants need a home online to direct people to. Many people enjoy having a home page that represents their skills and interests. By now just about everybody has a homepage online somewhere.

Portfolio pages can be created in a variety of different ways. The truly inspired can build them from scratch with HTML and style sheets. This presents the issue that you’re reinventing the wheel each and every time. Sidestepping this is to hire someone to build one for you. Those who are skilled in the arts of web development will almost invariably be faster and better than people setting one up for the first time. But paying someone may cost more money than you intended. It also requires a certain amount of oversight to ensure the final product is to your liking. There needs to be a way to build a site on your own but doesn’t make you start from scratch.

As it turns out there are many ways to utilize prebuilt tools to build websites. Google and Yahoo offer various versions of these, along with any number of other vendors. The question becomes which should you choose, and why. Whatfolio is one such provider of online portfolio building tools, and they bring a new slant to their product. You can not only build a website, but it’s readily converted to be iPad, tablet, or mobile device format as well. With it anybody can access your site from the device that’s most convenient to them. So if you meet someone at a social gathering and want to share your site, they can bring it up on their Droid or Blackberry right then and there.

When building any site content is key. Whatfolio’s prebuilt pieces give you a number of widgets you can add. These include Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or RSS feeds from your favorite blog. You can also add content from your Tumblr account including posts, photos, quotes, music, and videos. Or you include your Blogger account. Finally, and true to our highest ideals, you can add Bandsintown and Soundcloud. What would the world be without music?

Whatfolio Home

The core offering for Whatfolio is free. You can set up an online portfolio and point the entire world to it. Soon to be offered you’ll have the ability to remove the Whatfolio branding and solely include your own logos and labels. You can also use your own domain, which makes it a fully white label solution.

Whatfolio is a dynamic tool that people can utilize to create a presence online. Whether they’re a business, an inspired individual, or an up and coming band, it’s an easy way to set up an attractive portfolio website. With it all people can bring a site online, which can be viewed across multiple mobile apps.

Sponsored

BroadbandGenie: Independent Broadband and Smart Phone Price Comparisons in Plain English

I’m in the early stages of trying to find a flight home for Christmas.  It’s not pretty.  Airfare is ridiculously high and showing no signs of coming down – yet.  Fortunately, there are a ton of cool tools like kayak.com and orbitz.com to help me search multiple carriers for the best deal.  The same thing can be said nowadays with car insurance, home electricity, hotels, and so much more.  It’s a good time to be a consumer.

But what about shopping for your home broadband, mobile broadband, or smart phone?  After all, there are tons of providers out there, and as anyone who’s checked their monthly bills can attest, the fees sure add up.  Well, now there is a third-party, unbiased site to help you intelligently shop around for the best broadband and smart phone deals out there: BroadbandGenie.

BroadbandGenie Home

BroadbandGenie provides, in their own words, “a place where UK consumers can learn about home broadband, mobile broadband and smartphones and how to compare broadband providers in an unbiased, independent, plain-English environment. We maintain reviews and price comparison data for all the leading broadband ISPs and mobile broadband networks, and many of the smaller ones too.”

The site makes navigation simple.  Just choose from one of four major boxes: compare home broadband, mobile broadband, smart phones, and talk to a human (what a concept!)  Then there are also cool deals available, consolidated on its mobile broadband with iPad and tablet PC deals page.  BroadbandGenie is ahead of the curve on this one, as anyone who’s been following the smart phone market will tell you.  For those not in the know, we just learned a few weeks ago that Amazon has officially entered the tablet arms race; the online retailer, along with other electronics manufacturers believe that they can effectively go after and undersell Apple.  It’ll cause many sleepless nights for business managers over there, but it’s great news for consumers, which is why BroadbandGenie’s offering is so cool.  It provides a subsidized iPad or tablet PC with a pay-monthly mobile broadband contract.

Take a look at what they’re offering and you’ll quickly see it’s a veritable buffet of tablet goodness.  For example, for £149 upfront and £25 per month, I can get a 24-month contract for a 64GB iPad with speeds of 7.2Mb and 15 GB’s worth of downloads per month.  And that’s just one of many deals available – all of which will fit into your budget.  In addition, BroadbandGenie takes the lessons taught us by Amazon and their ilk by providing informative, peer reviews so you know what you’re buying in advance.

Mobile broadband with iPad & tablet PC deals

The same principles also apply to UK broadband comparison.  Now call me a technology neophyte, but back when I was in England in 1998 I was struck by the sophistication of the country’s mobile devices and networks.  (I mean, here in 2011 my friend still can’t get reception in a small American city; he has AT&T, of course.)   The UK’s wireless infrastructure has only improved in the past decade or more, and given the fact that there are multiple broadband providers vying for your business, BroadbandGenie’s comparison tools, deals, and peer reviews can save you time and money.

Check the link and you’ll see a host of UK broadband deals available.  The top deal – which comes along with a 69% approval rating of users – finds Sky offering £5 per month unlimited broadband for six months, plus 20 MB broadband with unlimited downloads.  After seeing this, as an experiment, I went to Sky’s website to shop around for similar deals.  I was confused.  I mean, they had a “Shop” selection on the navigation bar, but under it, there were multiple, seemingly repetitive options, “Bundles and Offers” versus “Broadband & Talk” versus “Buy Sky.”  My point: it took me a whopping .05 seconds to find that killer Sky deal on BroadbandGenie’s site, whereas after a minute or two on Sky’s home page, I found myself flustered, irritated, and just not fun to be around.  Throw in the fact that Sky is just one single provider – others include Virgin, Talk Talk, Plusnet, BT – and you can see how difficult it truly is to shop around on your own.

Ergo, the beauty of BroadbandGenie: it consolidates deals from multiple UK providers so you don’t have to, saving you time and money in the process.  Most importantly, it has no broadband dog in the hunt, as we awkwardly say here in the States; meaning, BroadbandGenie’s primary value proposition is its objectivity and its keen ability to articulate complex telecom and networking terms in plain-spoken English.  How refreshing.

Sponsored

Replo: Tracking Ad Efficacy

Internet marketing is one of the weirdest things in the world. People carry on with the oddest antics in an attempt to get more attention. Some employ complex keyword schemes to trick Google into sending them more search traffic. Others establish voting brigades on social networks to push their preferred content to the top. Still others tattoo their logo on persons of questionable character. Sometimes I stop and wonder, how did it ever come to this?

One of the tried and true methods of gaining internet traffic is to pay for it. You pay an advertiser to host your ads on their network of sites. Many if not most web developers take part in this either as a host or advertiser. This method is a great way to bring an immediate influx of targeted users. It’s also a great way to spend a whole lot of money. As paid advertising can be a costly endeavor businesses would do well to track the success of their campaigns. They need to know which advertisers are leading to the highest conversion rates. Once you have more than one advertiser in the mix and target multiple pages this data becomes fleeting and time consuming to monitor.

Providing a tool that gives marketers, advertisers, and site owners full insight into the effectiveness of their ad campaigns is Replo. You can install simply tracking codes which will produce full reports to monitor the success of your ad campaigns. Replo is a tool for a web development and marketing firms to implement so they can provide reports back to their clients.

A full articulation of Replo’s usage can be found here. A high level overview is you first create a client. Next you create a campaign. From there you follow the campaign wizard to set up tracking for your ad campaign. The campaigns consist of goals, landing pages, ads, advertising channels, and then routing rules. The goals could be something like selling more mud masks or registering new users. The landing pages are the pages that the user will arrive on once they click an ad. The ads are typically banner or text ads that link to the landing pages. Advertising channels are the sites that will host your ads. And the routing rules explain all the different paths between ads, advertising channels, and landing pages. You may have the same ad hosted on multiple sites, targeting multiple pages on your own. You can set up all the various paths to your content so all the data is collected.

Replo allows multiple methods of deployment as well. Ads can have a tracking code installed on the link so Replo will know where it came from. Or the ads can be tracked by the landing page itself. The latter is useful if you include an easy to type URL in a mailer offline. That way you can even track offline marketing efforts. You can also track ads using redirects from Replo, which routes the user for a split second to Replo’s server and then on to the landing page. Replo just provides the tools, clients can select the solution that works best for them.

Replo Dashboard

As the data is collected there are many ways to filter it. You can slice and dice it however you like. If you’d like to see all the goals achieved from a certain advertising channel you can filter on that. Or if you’d like to see which advertising channels had the most conversions across the board that’s readily viewable as well. It provides online graphs, and all data can be exported in CSV format for offline processing. A particularly helpful feature is the custom reports. Here you can create a report and share it with your client. That way you don’t have to email reports back and forth. Replo allows you to add users and set permissions to give staff and clients appropriate access.

Advertising online is at the heart of any successful website. It’s the only tried and true method of maintaining a steady influx of traffic. Replo gives you the tools to ensure you’re getting the most value for your money spent. With it web development and marketing firms can clearly document the effectiveness of their ad spend and make quantitative decisions with that information.

Startup

Proto.io: Prototyping Excellence for Mobile Apps

In the world of software development there’s a quiet battle that goes on. On one hand you have the waterfall style of development, and on the other you have agile development. Waterfall development works much like its name implies. You have a design team that designs the product. Once finished they lob it over the fence to the software developers to build. In an ideal scenario nothing is left to chance and everything is planned out exactly as it will be in the final product. In the agile world you have a list of components that the application should include. Each is built sequentially almost entirely on its own. As the product progresses it morphs and changes to accommodate the new pieces. Part of the idea behind agile development is that you can’t really plan for all the intricacies of a final product so why waste your time attempting to.

As it turns out there is a scenario where it makes a lot of sense to plan as much of the final product in advance- when working with clients. The key to managing clients is laying out as much of the final product ahead of time and getting them to sign off on it. Otherwise you’ll end up making lots of changes down the road. If you aren’t careful these changes will have to be done for free. Which brings us back to the issue that it’s exceedingly difficult to accurately design a final product with wireframes, mockups, and descriptions. Invariably as the application comes together you encounter unforeseen issues that need to be addressed. This task gets even more difficult when you’re designing for mobile apps, as they have their own set of features and limitations.

Proto.io Home

Into this complex and challenging issue in the design cycle comes Proto.io. It’s a prototyping tool that strikes at the core of the toughest design paradigm of all- the mobile space. They go far beyond providing a basic wireframe tool and static mockup builder. Proto.io allows you to create functional working prototypes for all mobile devices with specific UI elements for iPad, iPhone and Android. What’s more, they allow you to make them quickly. It addresses all the drawbacks of waterfall design with one simple tool.

Proto.io is one of those tools that’s best understood by using it. They make it easy to do since the single user license is free. There are also a couple demos posted here, both of which were built in less than four hours. You have the ability to view and work with your prototypes online, but more importantly you can use them on the device they’re targeted for. So if you’re designing an app for the iPad you can build a prototype and test it out on an actual iPad. It even accounts for the iPad specific features such as whether the screen is horizontal or vertical. It also allows you to design for the various touch events that exist in mobile devices. For those too lazy to test the demos you can watch the brief video below. Notice the soothing music while the prototype seamlessly falls into place.

The editor itself contains a drag and drop interface which requires little training or explanation. For those in need of help they can review the knowledge base of tutorials and guides. A few notable bonus features include the ability to create reusable templates and reusable containers which can be attached to any screen or template. The entire prototyping application is web based though it also includes many keyboard shortcuts for common actions. As a matter of interest, all Proto.io components render in HTML5 placing them directly on the cutting edge of the latest the web has to offer.

Proto.io is a tool brought to us by those that have been in the web development world for some time- Sideshow NetQuest. With over 14 years of web development and other digital services experience they’re familiar with the intricacies and challenges of successfully designing products. Proto.io is the culmination of their expertise and allows you to produce a working model of your mobile designs.