Quora: Powerful Crowd-Sourced Questions & Answers

Q&A

The internet is a miraculous tool. Type in a question and the majority of the time you will find the answer. Sometimes the answer comes in the form of a blog post, other times you can find an entire video answering your specific question. However, despite being extremely powerful, there are some questions that are too specific or hard to articulate that Google simply cannot fetch a simple answer for. Enter Quora.

Quora is a crowd-sourced Question and Answer platform that allows users to post a question and have the community submit answers and vote on which answers are best. In this regard Quora sounds much like any other Q&A site out there but there is a major difference: the people on Quora aren’t 11 year old trolls.

Quora can be summarized thusly: Yahoo Answers but with the exact opposite quality of answers.

The average Quora user appears to be rather well educated with a demographic that appears to skew heavily towards a variety of professionals; whether they operate in the tech, science or general business space. What this means is that you get insightful answers to very specific and often technical questions — questions that Google cannot easily answer.

Specific questions like: What is the best way to redirect a single page URL to the same page with a different URL?

The site has already accumulated a large user base and, while there are plenty of trolls, the site has remained intellectual with reputable answers. The site’s power lies in its crowd-sourcing nature. Instead of typing a query into Google and hoping it can find an answer to your obscure question, you are able to put your question out in front of thousands of intellectuals to tap into their knowledge.

What is even better about the platform is the ability to identify your skills and knowledge and follow topics of interest so that you can share information on topics that you are well versed in. For example, I have used the site many times to get answers to questions about developing my wedding site, since weddings are not generally my forté, while answers questions about marketing, technology and social media.

Quora is now my number 2 source of information with Google Search still holding the number one spot. I thought I would share because I think many others will find as much success with Quora as I have. Imbeciles need not apply.

Crowd-Sourced Questions and Answers

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Best New Google Analytics Features

For the unititated, Google Analytics contains a series of the most powerful web analytics tools on the market – and the best part is: it’s free! Whether you are tracking website traffic, conversions, site speed, or audience demographics; Google Analytics is for you.

As a content and website manager myself, I can say that I use Google Analytics frequently. Combined with marketing software like Hubspot, there is very little you cannot find out about your online audience. I could go on forever about its usefulness but for the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the best new Google Analytics features.

In-page Analytics (Content > In-Page Analytics)

Google Analytics - In-page Analytics

In-Page Analytics allows you to see which elements of your website are most appealling to users and generate the most clicks – essentially a heat map for click activity. Above you can see the screenshot of the website I manage (exciting stuff, Inventory and Accounting Software). The tool isn’t perfect – many of the results do not match the colour properly or reference the correct element, perhaps because of positioning issues, but hovering over each section will reveal the data for the correct element. Colours range from blue (low click rate) to red (high click rate).

With In-Page Analytics, you can navigate from page to page and determine which elements are most interesting to your audience and which are not so that you can make changes accordingly. Like the rest of the Google Analytics interface, you can change the time frame to see click data for different periods.

Included with In-Page Analytics is the ability to “see what your audience can see”. This feature is simply labelled “browser size” and allows you to determine how much of your page is visible to the average user of your website. This is particularly important as Google leans more and more towards content located above-the-fold. The tool is also useful for designing mobile sites and ensuring content is visible as well.

Motion Chart (Available Throughout Interface)

Motion Chart - Google Analytics

The next best Google Analytics feature is the Motion Chart. Found throughout the system, Motion Charts allow you to visualize data over time. You can enable Motion Chart by clicking on the icon indicated on the screenshot above. Not every screen has the option for motion charts but many do. This feature can make presentations on data over time a breeze. You can choose 2 criteria to evaluate, one for each axis, and then scroll through time to see how the data has changed for each element selected. The flexibility and power of this tool was surprising.

Visitors Flow (Audience > Visitors Flow)

Visitors Flow - Best Google Analytics Features

The last Google Analytics feature I want to talk about is Visitors Flow. Visitors Flow visiualizes, well, the flow of visitors throughout your site. You can quickly pin-point the most popular pages and the pages that have the most significant drop-off or bounce rates. You can also highlight “traffic routes” to see how which pages users are most likely to visit based on a given entrance page, for example. This can be powerful insight and allow you to make decisions to improve a visitors pathway to maximize conversions.

I feel bad for any company trying to sell website analytics – Google offers a ton of functionality for free. All marketers and webmasters, should become very familiar with Google Analytics.

Ars Technica Sets the Standard for Mobile Sites and Design

ars-technica-sets-mobile-site-standardMobile is the buzz bouncing around the entire digital industry these days, whether it is web design, advertising or telecommunications, everyone is concerned with mobile – and they should be.

Now that everyone and their brother has a mobile phone, it is increasingly important to make sure that your website is well optimized for a small screen. That can be accomplished by designing your site in such a way that it dynamically resizes for smaller screens or create a separate mobile site perfectly optimized for mobile devices (usually the better alternative). Despite the importance of mobile sites these days, many companies are still far behind with horrible mobile sites, if any at all.

Ars Technica is not one them.

The Ars Technica website has always been gorgeous (okay not always) but their latest redesign easily makes it one of my favourite websites to visit. Below I have included some photos of the mobile site taken from my iPhone. Let me know in the comments below if you can think of other amazing mobile sites. I’ll add them as an honourable mention if they compare with Ars Technica.

mobile-site-1mobile-site-2

The layout is simple, the colours balanced and the typography is brilliant. The experience is so smooth that I consistently find myself browsing through looking for new articles after I have already read everything that was posted in the last week!

Ars Technica sets a high standard for mobile web design but a standard that every website should be aiming for. As content consumption shifts to mobile devices, it is a short-sighted move not to have an elegant mobile site. Not all websites seem to understand this (ahem, College Humour, ahem) with some content being inaccessible on mobile or so poorly presented that it may as well be inaccessible.

I look forward to a bright future of awesome mobile sites that are as much a joy to use as Ars Technica.

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How to Save Website Passwords and Forms with Last Pass | Password Manager


Video Transcription

I just want to take a minute to introduce to everyone, one of the biggest time savings sites/add-ons that I have found in a long time. Everyone I have shown this to, have lived by it ever since. So I want to show this to everyone in as much detail as possible.

The add-on is called Last Pass, and you can find it at LastPass.com. It is a browser add-on that is compatible with all the major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera) as well as mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry etc.). What it does is it allows you to store website passwords automatically. It sounds basic, but it is extremely comprehensive and powerful and has a couple other tools such as the ability to automatically fill in web forms.

First, you will download LastPass. It’s going to install to your browsers, whatever you have installed by default. I use Chrome and Firefox and IE if I absolutely have to. So I have it for all those browsers. So if I open up a new tab and go to Twitter, you will see that there is a new bar “last pass has filled in your login information for the form”. So if I go to sign in here, you will see that my username and password has been already inserted. You can see the little Last Pass logo so you know it has filled it in.

Last Pass can remember multiple logins so you can login with a work or personal account. Once your login details have been autofilled you simply have to click once to sign in automatically. You can actually set autologins as well so they automatically fill in the information and login.

Password Manager - Last Pass

Again, it is cross-browser, so you install it once on each browser and sign in and it will keep all your passwords in the cloud. You can log off and have someone else login and they can immediately access their passwords from your computer as well. So you can move computers with no problem. Last Pass is one of the most amazing things I have ever installed for my computer, period. It is actually incredible.

The other thing that it allows you to do is automatically fill web forms. I have this Yahoo registration form and I can sit their and fill in this form manually (no idea why anyone would want a Yahoo account these days) or I can actually define a form profile to have auto-filled. If I click on the Last Pass button and click “Fill Forms” you can see that I have two profiles already, one for my company and one with my personal information. For demonstration purposes, I’m going to create a new profile.

Start by clicking “Add Profile” and enter a name for the profile. I’m just going to call it “Test”. You can then enter in your name – “Dave, Silva” – and can fill in your birthday information, for example. Then you click “Add Form Fill Profile” and now I can click on the add-on, click on Fill Forms and click on “Test”. The information I entered is then inserted into the form automatically. The more information you fill out on the profile, the better. When you have those long forms that ask for your address and more, it can save you several minutes every time you need to register for a new website.

The fact that you can have multiple forms is very useful. You can have a work profile with work phone number and address as well as your personal one. Obviously, this is extremely useful.

Those are the most useful features, there are some others that are nice add-ons but those are the most important parts. You can save multiple logins for each site, multiple forms and even have websites auto-login when you visit them. The app is password protected and encrypted so you can choose to have to log on each time you open your browser for added security.

This is literally the most useful thing I have installed as long as I can remember. If you are like me and you have to reset passwords for sites all the time, this will save you a lot of grief.

Please let me know what you think about it in the comments below, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

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Which Browser Do You Use? Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Opera?

Many users may not care what browser they use – perhaps they all seem the same. Us web designers know that there are big differences and we wish some browsers (ahem, Internet Explorer) would disappear forever. My question is: What browser do you use? Please answer in the poll at the bottom and let me know why you use what you use in the comments below.

Personally I use several browsers, although my favourite is Chrome. For the longest time I was using Firefox but Chrome was first to implement some of the most innovative features such as the universal bar (where you can enter searches, web addresses and even search through your bookmarks and history). Chrome is lightweight, quick to load, has all of the features of a modern browser, and continues to push the envelope.

Firefox is my second choice; a great browser all-round. I used Firefox for several years before switching to Chrome. Firefox now has most of the features Chrome has implemented. I switch between the two for website testing purposes and with each new version release I may find a reason to use one over the other. Each browser also has its own strengths for certain uses (some websites run better on Chrome than Firefox and vice versa). Also, some updates cause issues with the browser so I temporarily switch until the next release fixes those issues.

I imagine that most young and reasonably tech-savvy people use either Chrome and Firefox and know better than to use Internet Explorer. Previously I wrote about how how mucchrome-firefox-internet-explorerh internet explorer sucks, especially for web designers that have to find work-arounds to support a browser that doesn’t work like the rest. Unfortunately, us web designers are forced to take Internet Explorer into consideration because many users (mostly new to the internet) still use Internet Explorer. It doesn’t help that IE is the default browser on all new Windows installations.

I ask each of you, regardless of which browser you use, to please do the world a favour by installing Firefox or Chrome for your friends and family that are still using Internet Explorer. It will save web designers like myself significant pain and several heart attacks.

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Google Hides Organic Search Keywords

In an extremely selfish and seemingly ridiculous move, Google has recently removed organic keyword tracking for users that are logged into Google services. All organic search keywords will simply be reported as “not provided” effective immediately. For those who are unaware, SEO Moz has a great article on the topic – Google Hides Search Referral Data.

Google estimates that, because the change will only apply to users logged into Google services, the number of affected searches will be less than 10%. Of course, to those who rely on the data, this is a significant proportion. Google claims the change has been made to protect user privacy but after scouring my Google account settings I have not found an option to turn it off. For Google, an organization that strives to be as open as possible, this is a bizarre and terrible move.

google-organic-search-not-provided

The situation is fairly serious for us internet marketers that rely on keyword tracking to make strategic marketing decisions. For now, the number of searches that it affects is relatively small but will almost certainly increase exponentially overtime, as more users sign up for Google services. Entire industries have been built on this data so it is very surprising that Google would make a significant change like this with no discussion or forewarning.

Theories have been thrown around about why Google removed their organic keyword tracking, but the predominant theory is that they have removed it to prevent competitive ad networks from gathering data from their systems. While this theory makes sense, it is extremely disappointing that they close up their system when they have prided themselves on being an open company.

Personally, I don’t see the harm in tracking keywords that users have typed in. What harm can come of someone knowing that you typed in “cheap socks” to find a particular site? Not to mention that Google will surely continue to collect this information for themselves – so it really isn’t fully private anyways.

Users have nothing to gain and marketers have much to lose. We can only hope that if we kick up enough of a fuss that they will realize that this is important to an entire industry and decide to stick to the principles that they have built their empire on.

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4 Reasons Google+ Should Die

I want to start by saying that I am a huge Google fan. I am a Gmail, AdWords, Google and a Google+ user among others. Despite loving Google’s services, I cannot wait for Google+ to die, and here’s why:

 

  1. There is too much division on the internet
    As I mentioned in my previous post “there is too much division on the internet”, I do not enjoy the fragmentation of services across the net. Although it is good for competition to have competing services, there is certainly a lot of value in having only a few go-to websites to satisfy all your needs. For google-wave-killedexample, since most people already have Facebook and are likely logged in at any given point in time, it would have been most convenient for users if Google to have incorporated a “like button” into their search results instead of their own +1 button. Rather than having to manage multiple social networks, it is much more convenient to have one central location for all of your friends and app connections.
  2. Google will likely kill it like it has its other mediocre products
    Google has a history of half-hearted efforts at social products. They just killed Buzz, their second attempt at social, as well as numerous other services (don’t forget Wave – whatever exactly it was . . .). Despite putting a lot more behind Google+ they may eventually give up on it like they have on so many of their other products. Why invest time building a profile on a service that may not be around for long? Don’t get me wrong, Google+ will be around for a long time (Google will not give up on it so easily and they have virtually limitless resources) but at the end of the day its popularity could still wane.
  3. Facebook Does Everything Google+ Does (mostly)
    It did not take Facebook long to introduce most of the same features as Google Plus, such as the ability to share posts with certain groups of friends and not others. It was good for Google+ to come along and get Facebook facing some competition to get them moving again, but now there really isn’t anything to use Google+ for. There are still some differentiating features but by enlarge, Facebook does most of what Google+ does in most areas, and even more in others.
  4. The Value of a Social Network are in its Connections
    Finally, when it comes right down to it, the most valuable aspect of a social network are the connections you google-buzz-killedhave on it. If only 10% of your friends are on Google+, then why use it when those same friends are already on Facebook and you can use it to keep in touch with them and everyone else?

Those are the reasons why I am hoping Google+ is headed for the grave of unwanted products. If it came out before Facebook, I would probably be hoping for Facebook’s demise, but it didn’t. Google Plus, you were late to the game and I like change, but not when it comes to my social network.

 

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.

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