Categories
Books

Moments in Time by Ralph Miller – Artist Dunedin

 

Moments in Time by Ralph Miller Dunedin

Moments in Time… Ralph Miller was a highly talented Dunedin artist who died in 1956 at the young age of thirty seven, but left over 1000 sketches and artwork that has been kept in the family for decades; some artwork is in galleries.

A wide selection of Ralph Miller‚ sketches and paintings are reproduced and presented within the context of his life and the events and people who influenced him. This book for the first time shows the quality and extent of his work, which now has real historical value

More…

Categories
Web Site Design & Development

Search Engine Optimisation [SEO] and being found online – an overview

BinosMany owners of a new website can be quite amazed that it won’t show in the first, or any search engine results pages. If it does appear quite quickly then it’s either luck or good planning and hard work with attention to detail.

Here are a few thoughts assuredly not covering every aspect – none of us probably have the time to implement or know how they all work, but it’s the mix that holds the secret:

Choice of a domain name:

Short is good, and descriptive of what the site is about. What it ends in is relevant, eg .co.nz or .com are both good, .info, or a name split with a hyphen maybe less so.

Have more than one domain name – think about how people may think regards your business name, eg if its a helicopter flight business maybe have multiple domain names containing heliflights, helio etc. Some names will resonate well in some cultures /countries but not in others

Hosting:

If it’s a dot com domain and you wish to attract traffic in the US, then consider hosting the site there.

Wordpress logoSome platforms make SEO easier than others. WordPress, a database driven system makes it easy as it seems to be literally hot-wired to broadcast new content.

The speed with which a site loads for a user is apparently measured by search engine spiders [computers that constantly index content all over the Internet], and if it’s a site / page full of superfluous or dirty code then there will be penalties. Many systems that make a big deal as to ease of authoring by being able to place words and images by dragging them about, will generally not make for “clean” code, and of course will then be slow to load.

Remember this one simple concept: What is good for the users of your site, will be good for search engines. It’s that simple, but the devil is in the detail [as below]:

Page structure:

Unique page title for seo

The title of each page should be unique and reflect with honesty the content below it. This is often overlooked!

Most users “land” on the Home page, so make sure it contains what the user is seeking. If another page is where a high percentage people find themselves then make sure they get to what they need, and know where they are relative to the Home page and other content.

Irrespective if it’s 1 – 4 column layout have adequate white space so words can breathe – make the layout for people easy on the eyes [black text on white is still the best].

Iphone screen shot 150Will the site’s pages scale down in a responsive manner so they view well as a list on an iPad, tablet or iPhone so the user does not have to zig zag to find and read content? Can any phone numbers on a page be tapped so the phone part of the device can dial the phone [instead of having to memorise the number and enter it]?

Both of these factors will be ignored at the risk of not being found because the site is not suitable for the increasing number of users accessing content from mobile devices.

Grouping pages: it’s easy enough to cross link from the Home page to any other page and back again, but when there are more than several pages then the only solution to enable clean straight forward navigation that is logical to users and search engines, is to group pages by topic and/or category.

…which leads to menus: Drop downs are popular, but spiders may have trouble following them to sub pages, so have an alternative menu in a side bar, and another page called a Site Map [which can be submitted to search engines]. Think redundant navigation!

Dead linksDead links: Even in your own site a link could be aimed at a page that no longer exists – its easy to fix, but you’ve got to know [WordPress has a monitoring plugin which is pretty handy]!

The problem takes on a whole other dimension though when its a link on someone else’s site pointing at a page you’ve deleted or shifted, and the server serves up it’s default, a not very helpful 404 error page. The good news is a substitute to the default can be crafted so the probably frustrated user who has just hit a wall has helpful options to consider, or another scenario is the 404 triggers a predetermined redirect to somewhere else. 404s are all too often overlooked, but Google won’t overlook them – note you never see error pages very often in results!

Page and site content:

The words used in the first paragraph[s] on the home page are critical. They must describe succinctly and clearly what you have on offer, and tie in with the page title [as above], and everything else on the site.

Writing grammar So how do we find relevant user words and grammar?

Open a Google account and then an AdWords campaign to access their Keywords tool, and there is also Google Trends and Google Insights. You see you might think your potential users / customers wishing to rent a camper van search for “camper van”¬†for their holiday, but actually search using a term like “mobile home hire”!

These tools will help you identify alternatives and the number of times they’re used per month etc. You don’t have to pay for an AdSense account at this stage btw.

Then using the above and / or your imagination do searches yourself and then analyse the words used in the top results as you look at other sites – your competition!

Fresh words and contentFresh content is best – reusing the words off other sites is called “scraping” and while it’s OK to use a small amount in relation to your own efforts [be responsible please re copyright], if you use too many your site will be penalised.

Duplicate content is not cool! Duplicate content is not cool! Duplicate content is not cool!

Content relative to your overall plan is KING! Then navigation, and lastly the “looks”

So why not run a blog [word derived from Web Log] in your site? Give content away knowing the reward will be in greater connections with people. When you post encourage discussion, and if you get comments reply to them as you OK them, to show on your page. Posting to your blog can actually be a lot of fun – I’ve made some wonderful friendships with mine.

Don’t try to hide text by making it the same colour as the background either! Honesty will get you further in search results.

 

Working Images to Advantage:

Green wordsDon’t put words on images – search engine spiders indexing the web can’t read like humans can.

Instead describe the photo using a few words in keeping with the thrust of your site and in keeping with the image. It’s known as putting words between the Alt tags, or sometimes called Alt Text [where you find these tags to put the description between depends on the software you use]. The Alt Text does not show to users – the concept was first developed so a browser could read for the blind. For warm blooded users you can caption and also describe any image alongside, on top or underneath, but Alt Tags are really where its at, because if done properly the image works for you, as long as it’s accompanied by a good honest choice of words.

If you have to display a very large image, then consider placing it lower down on the page, so it as it’s loading users can read text above it. Thus keeping them engaged and less likely to leave.

A constant challenge for many is how to prepare and load images onto a page or into a gallery. The process is called “optimisation” [or optimization in US English] and “uploading”. Basically this means the width and height of the image being adjusted [in pixels is the norm for measuring]¬†¬†so it fits in the space available, and this being done prior to uploading rather than having all those bytes of data downloaded to the user’s computer with an accompanying delay, and then being forced to fit.

However there is a further complexity and it’s been around for awhile: it is the dpi [dots per whatever…]. Screens are happy with a minimum of 72, but for print it needs to be higher. So the lower the dpi of images on your site the faster the image will appear on the viewer’s screen. And then to make them even faster downloading jpeg is a sort of compression algorithm more like how an old school shorthand typist would abbreviate while taking notes, and this process used carefully means quality can be reduced with software on your computer just to the point one step up from unacceptable, knowing this too will help speed.

The good news is digital cameras usually produce jpg format images, and now to get around all the above there is software in smart-phones/cameras that will resize and optimise, and let you upload all in one go, thus negating the need for an intermediary computer. Again the likes of WordPress makes an app for iPhone/iPad and Android, so the photo can be taken and uploaded on the fly. To my mind the text and context can be tweaked later from a desktop.

Embedding a Google Map in your site is also a great opportunity, as via your Google account you can place details of your business on the map – then by another means you’re listed with Google yet again. This takes awhile while warm blooded people check your placement. On the map page it can be useful to list business hours etc.

animated gif butterflyAdobe Flash animations are bad – iPhone etc. won’t play them as they make things unstable and also hog battery life. The old fashioned animated Gif as illustrated can be surprisingly useful [don’t forget the alt tags!] And then there is Java – which is beyond the scope of this post, but just know to avoid Flash!

Social media:

Some love it, some loathe it, but as above don’t just post to FaceBook, Google + or Twitter like you’d put an ad in the local paper, instead write to develop relationships. You can either post in one of the aforementioned, and have a link to your site or blog, or do it the other way around. You could also explore paying for ads. that point to your site’s content. Currently your dollar will get the best return in¬†FaceBook I believe.

 Where to put your time:

Doing all of the above can be daunting so the trick is what to focus on!
Analytics by Google
This is where¬†Analytics come into play. It’s a free service from Google and what it can tell us about users of our site can be amazing. For example watch the reports or dashboard regularly and you’ll see some pages never get looked at, so use this to guide you through where to put your time and resources. Reports will also identify what words in a search led to your site, how long they stayed, where they went, and which country or province they’re from. Use these tools in relation to money spent on traditional advertising.

Getting really serious:

Consider making multiple duplicates of your popular pages, and then change the content a little on each one, then study the Analytics to see which combinations are attracting the most visitors.

None of us will ever understand Google’s secret algorithms, but the above is a way to get a little closer if you’ve the time.

Astute train spotters reading here will notice I’ve not mentioned meta keywords and phrases – being words embedded in the code the user cannot see easily. Well, once they were important, but not so much anymore. It’s all about the page titles being unique, and content the reader can read being in tune with them – those paragraphs are holding the keywords and phrases [and your images being tagged]!

But wait there is more:

You may not wish or be inclined to address all the above, but your site can still be useful especially in saving you time. Identify questions you get asked on answering the phone or in impromptu meetings, and simply list these on your site, perhaps under Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs], and just direct your seeker of information to the site either orally or by business card.

So your site can be used to save time rather than “being found”!

On closing please be aware the above is offered on an “all care” and “no responsibility” basis. It’s what constitutes a lot of the basics which can be tweaked and built on with more advanced SEO if you so wish.

Best of Luck!

Cheers

Donald

Categories
Community Work and Sponsorship Environment

Volunteer work on a new conservation initiative in Mt Aspiring National Park

Sometimes I take some time-out to help the NZ Dept of Conservation do braided river multi day bird surveys, or to help even the odds for endangered species like the Buff Weka, and once even did a bat survey in the dark.

In a joint venture with the newly formed Matukituki Charitable Trust, last week several of us headed into the West Matukituki Valley an hours drive from Wanaka, and laid many 500m lines of tracking tunnels on the opposite side of the river to the popular tramping trip to Aspiring Hut, from the Rob Roy Glacier track up to Pearl Flat. Each tunnel was placed 50 meters from the previous, with a max of ten per line [hopefully straight, and in the bush].

Tracking tunnels simply consist of long semi round or rectangular tubes, inside which a card and an ink pad are be placed.

Typically peanut butter is smeared in the middle of the tunnel to attract animals in and onto the ink, and so when they exit, they leave footprints on the clean card on either end, thus enabling predator control programmes to be tailor made for the predominate species identified.

To get animal densities, called tracking indices, tracking tunnels are placed on pre-determined lines in the bush. Most commonly 10 are placed at 50m intervals along each line. The cards are left overnight, and when collected the next day the footprints are used to determine what animals had been there.

full explanation via >> Tracking Tunnels | Conservation in NZ

Carrying the tunnels can be quite awkward…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

While Flo takes GPS settings Stu nails a marker to the tree a tracking tunnel is to be attached to at the base…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

We were so thrilled when a rare South Island robin found us and kept us company for awhile. The New Zealand robin/toutouwai is a sparrow-sized bird found only in New Zealand.

They are friendly and trusting often coming to within a couple of metres of people, but we are not always the attraction but rather the invertebrates disturbed by our activities…
NZ native South Island Robin

Crossing the Matukituki River each morning was a bit of chore in the frost, and river levels had to be monitored to ensure we could get back across later…
River crossing Matukituki River Mt Aspiring National Park

Gillian heads off fast with a load of tunnels to warm up as the frost and mist disperse …
Matukituki Charitable Trust's Gillain carrying Tracking tunnels

We did have vehicle support…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Sharks Tooth from the Matukituki Valley


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But it was still quite hard work bush bashing…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But the views really made up for the sweat lost…
Plunket Dome - Mt Aspiring National Park


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project


Beech tree Mt Aspiring National Park


Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

My group having a self congratulatory “selfie” photo using my camera’s timer, to celebrate a job well done…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

After another convivial and restful night in the Aspiring Hut Warden’s Quarters we headed out early the next morning followed by rain…
Aspiring Hut Warden's Quarters


Sheep Mt Aspiring Station, Matukituki Valley


Rainbow Matukituki Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park

Categories
Community Work and Sponsorship

Sponsors of the website for Wanaka and Queenstown weather forecasts by David Crow

Wanaka and Queenstown weather forecast
Published daily before 11 am by David Crow… more>>

A Wanaka and Queenstown weather forecast site hosting the legendary David Crow’s predictions has been sponsored by MacAssist for well over eleven years at no cost to the community…

Categories
Endorsements

Endorsements, appreciations, testimonials and recommendations

Strawmark WanakaMy Knight in Computer Armour!

For those of us not so computer savy – my mentor – my problem solver – my new equipment supplier – since introduced to computers in 1996, the patience of a saint and all at a moments notice!

Karin Cameron Strawmark – ‘Living as nature intended’ with ‘beauty and performance’

Renmore House Wanaka B&B

I have owned a small Bed and Breakfast for the last 13 years and 2 years ago we purchased a self contained villa for short term rentals.

Donald set up my websites and has managed them from the beginning. Many guests have remarked on the clarity and ease of use of both websites.

Villa7 Wanaka

Donald helped me with overall internet management and marketing and is very supportive of new ideas and ongoing training to keep up to date with the ever changing internet market.

Kind regards  Rosie ex owner Renmore House B&B and Villa 7

We have been using Macs within our business for the last 8 years. Honestly, Donald became as important in our Skydive business as the plane itself !

We were a business that was constantly innovating, tweaking making changes and then re inventing – there was nothing that we threw at Donald that he didn’t come back with an answer for – a program written, a solution.

Donald – like ourselves – is an out of the box thinker. He also provides very good service – always being there for us when we needed him – as a 7 day a week business we appreciated that support.

Jools Hall ex owner Skydive Lake Wanaka

Don Lousley has extensive knowledge of Macintosh computers, both hardware and software. He is also an expert in the development of relational databases using FileMaker.

Don has built highly functional websites for many clients and can include databases within websites if required.

He is renowned for being able to sort out computer emergency problems in both hardware and software with a cool level headed approach; a result of years of mountain rescue experience.

Brian Miller ~ Lifelogs Publishing and Easy Guides, Dunedin

Categories
Web Site Design & Development

Responsive Web Site Design

Responsive WordPress on an iPhoneViewers might have noticed that this site has changed somewhat of late.

The reason was simple: to make it more simple! But most of all so it can be viewed on small devices such as iPhones and iPads. Because this is where the web is headed.

This is quite a shift away from the style of so many web sites, that are “loaded”, and sadly many don’t get to the point quickly anyway, let alone on a small screen.

I’m quite a fan of WordPress as a web site platform and develop sites for clients on same, and before this I’d migrated my thinking long ago to the use of Cascading Style Sheets [CSS], which just so happened to at least when swiping cross ways on an iPhone, sort of snapped the page into the boundaries of the div containers. But this meant navigation of a page involved a zig zag browsing approach.

And in case you’re wondering WordPress makes extensive use of CSS.

But now there are a few themes about that organise content into one long column on a narrow screen, yet displays 2-3 columns on a desktop browser.

With the help of a new CCS editing app I love called Coda 2, I’ve now got my head around how to produce a site that is “responsive”. Mostly the work is done for me in the theme, and I use Coda and a few other tricks to tweak colours and line widths.

On the left you can see how this site organised itself when displaying on my iPhone.

Categories
FileMaker Pro Newsletter

A rule of thirds that works for any software project…

G4

An article in this morning’s ODT got me thinking again about the huge NZ education payroll system debacle Novopay, especially as a friend just last night asked me what I thought [ans. was “probably the quickest thing would be to rebuild it”].

 

 

FileMaker loop Script
A FileMaker Pro script loop

I don’t claim to be a programmer, but I’ve built a few databases over many years usually using the off-the-shelf FileMaker Pro [Mac and Windows]. It’s an amazing tool for creating custom solutions, and can be scaled up to handle a lot of data input among other things.

 

 

For those considering embarking on any software project, including the construction of a web site, to improve workflow, sales or efficiency then a rule-of-thumb is to break the project into three parts:

  • Research what is needed – objectively ask lots of questions, and tour the business, and outline then group your findings on paper. In the case of a web site pin the paper pages on the wall for a few days and regard it not as a web site plan, but a business plan. If it does not look like one, then consider changing it so it is!
  • Build what needs to be built to achieve the above, always being on the lookout for what you don’t know or opportunities to use the tools you know to add useful features. Again continue to ask questions and find out what you don’t know or what was missed in step one. This middle third of the process is often the easiest stage!
  • Install the software for testing and debugging, and then action the training of the people who will use it. And start small, then expand when and as it’s proven the solution is stable and meets the needs of the users

If in the process of servicing these three aspects, if they get out seriously of the suggested 33 percent ratio, then know that the last third is likely to be hell on earth!

You can get more insights here if you wish:

Fix for Novopay unlikely, lecturer says | Otago Daily Times Online News
A computer software engineering specialist says it would be easier to dump the Novopay payroll system and rebuild it from scratch than repair its compounding problems.

Otago Polytechnic information technology senior lecturer […]

more via >> Otago Daily Times Online News

Categories
Books Shop SlideShow

Digital Cameras the Easy Way by Brian Miller

There is quite an effort needed to master today’s highly computerised digital cameras and their manuals!

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Dunedin writer and publisher Brian Miller has addressed this by writing an outstanding little book, fact filled with solid practical advice [with even a quote from iCommunicate’s Donald], all about Digital Cameras the Easy Way.

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Digital Cameras the easy way is Packed full of useful hints and explains the gobbledygook that comes with manuals, Jan, Page & Blackmore Booksellers, Nelson

There is plenty in this book to justify it’s modest cover price to anyone starting out in digital photography. and if you are putting off buying a digital camera because it all seems too complicated this is the book for you‚ Jeremy Rose, Scoop Review

Full of simple, sensible advice and numerous tips, but without wodges of unnecessary information to wade through. Otago Daily Times

The little handbook is quite wonderful, and has the approach of a master teacher and it feels throughout that [the author] is beside the reader and sharing his journey with him .  Graham Hill Wanaka

Helps demystify digital photography with essential tips to improve your photographs. Never overly technical, it is aimed at the average person who just wants better images. NetGuide #alttext#

Categories
Books Shop SlideShow

Otago Central Rail Trail easy guide

This innovative pocket-guide will change the way people ride the Rail Trail in Central Otago.

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Over 10 000 people ride and enjoy the rail trail each year but too many ride each section without stopping to enjoy the side-trips.

This compact illustrated guide packed with useful facts, cross-sections, easy-to-digest information and suggested side trips will enhance your experience on the trail. A book to buy before the trip and to use as you do the trail.

The first section explains why Central Otago is so special, with an overview of natural history,  geology, climate, plants and animals. Photos help bikers identify the common plants and animals. The human history is equally fascinating and all about the first travellers, the squatters, the discovery of gold and the building of the Otago Central Railway on which the trail is built.

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The cross-sections of each part of the trail along with maps of main towns and surrounding areas make it easy for trail trippers‚ to plan their movements. Includes tips for good lunch spots, fun quiz questions to enliven these breaks, locations of loos.

Also web-site links, to an Events Calendar for those who want to link their trip to regional activities, hints for taking better photos and biking tips.

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This pocket-sized guide is so full of useful facts and easy-to-digest information that it should find a home in the pocket of every track visitor.

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iCommunicate’s Donald L. is delighted that his below image of a New Zealand Bush Falcon has been included in this book. Capable of flying at speeds over 100 km/h and catching prey larger than itself, this New Zealand falcon / Krearea (Falco novaeseelandiae) is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular birds…