Shopify Review

by Yang Yang on November 26, 2011

shopify - create your own online storeWhen I was trying to find an eCommerce solution for my wedding dresses store, I tried Shopify for 30 days and then been a paid customer for 10 days before I canceled my plan (NOT in a negative manner). Have something to say about them so I come up with this brief review, which, hopefully can be helpful to those who are in search of a fine way to build online stores.

What I like about Shopify

  1. Beautiful. Anyone who has used Shopify would agree that it’s the a beautiful and graceful eCommerce solution. People behind it are working their heart out. The free themes available for you to choose from for your store are eye-candies, simplistic and highly brandable. They SHOULD make more of them, though. Currently there are only about 10 free themes. If you want more, you’d have to pay. Commercial themes at their theme store cost about $100 – $300.
  2. Proactive and personal support. I got emails offering to help from their support team every once a few days ever since my trial sign-up. Friendly, helpful and very personal. Of all the companies that I dealt with, Shopify is the only one that proactively asked me if I needed any help, REGULARLY. WiredTree comes second by asking for my feedback every 3 months. Magento Go comes last by offering unparalleled ridiculous support.
  3. Very easy to use. It only took me a few minutes to set up the whole store with an attractive look and add the first product. The control panel was intuitive and texts (tab names, section titles, field names, etc.) were straightforward. I didn’t have to think to do something. It’s simply there when you need it.
  4. Unlimited bandwidth. I specifically asked about this offer in one of the emails I exchanged with Chris, my client representative at Shopify, and he assured me that this was as TRUE as it’s promised. I never had the chance to have an online store that got hit by 100,000 unique IPs per day so I don’t know. But I sure like it. Who wouldn’t.
  5. Premium yet affordable. While it may seem that a month-to-month SaaS eCommerce solution would cost more than buying a permanent license that could be hosted on your own server, it may not seem so when you scale up. When you hit the mark of 20,000 unique IPs per day and got over 20,000 products in your store, Shopify’s offer of $179 / month for unlimited bandwidth, storage and SKUs is simply irresistible. With licensed shopping cart software that’s hosted on your own server, you would worry about security and upgrade (it can be painful, believe me) which take time and money. However with Shopify, you don’t have to worry about them at all because underneath details are all taken care of. You get a store that’s silently self-evolving without your custody.
  6. They refund. This is the single most valuable thing in any business. I was charged for the first month before I realized that I would be charged after the end of the trial period (30 days). After corresponding with my support staff Chris, I was able to get my money back without a hassle.

What I don’t like about Shopify

  1. First off, they didn’t make it clear that I would be automatically signed up with paid membership and be charged for a month after my trial period ends. After talking with Chris, it seemed that the terms were in there, in fine print, and I needed to click to open the complete, tedious terms and conditions to find it. Well, I believe it would definitely be much more customer-friendly to get the text in the sign-up page in large print, like what Microsoft did with Office 365 so I know I have to cancel my trial contract to stop them from billing me when it ends.
  2. Shopify doesn’t have effective product filtering. Or they probably have it but it takes quite some work to have it up for my store. For instance, the left side “Narrow Your Choices” product filtering at Zappos Women’s Clothing. I asked Chris about this and he said they had it and could give me an example store that had it. He never did.
  3. Custom made products that are made to order are not well supported by Shopify. For example, a store that sells custom tailored wedding dresses where customers can freely select any of all the possible combinations of options: “Color”, “Size” and “Belt Color”. With 15 possible colors, 15 sizes and 15 belt colors, there would be a total of 15 x 15 x 15 = 3375 distinct combinations of product options (“Color”, “Size”, “Belt Color”) for each wedding dress. The problem with Shopify is, they treat every product as in the inventory rather than custom made, therefore I have to add all 3375 distinct combinations of product options one by one for each of the products. It’s simply an unrealistic job.

All after all, Shopify is among the top 3 most usable and beautiful online store solutions out there after I tried many of them. I would definitely recommend it to people I know and would very probably use it for some of my future ecommerce projects.

4.5/5.

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www.facebook.com facts

by Yang Yang on November 26, 2011

Facebook world mapStop! For a minute of break, feed yourself with these very interesting infographics, numbers, statistics and facts about www.facebook.com, the zoo of people. There are also data and survey about other social networking sites such as Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace that are listed in comparison with Facebook for your curiosity.

An Average Day on Facebook – What do People Do?

  1. What do people do everyday on Facebook?
  2. What are your categories of friends?
  3. Engagement with the Facebook platform compared to that of Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace?

Average Day on Facebook

Google vs. Facebook on Privacy and Security

  1. With the launch of Google+, Google and Facebook now compete in even more areas.
  2. Comparison of Google+ and Facebook on income, unique visitors, etc.
  3. Privacy checklist and security checklist against Google and Facebook.

google vs. facebook on privacy security

Facebook vs. Twitter – Breakdown of Demographics

  1. Facebook users gender, income, age, education, location, etc.
  2. Twitter users gender, income, age, education, location, etc.

facbook vs. twitter demographics

Facebook Random Stats, Funding and Top Likes

  1. Facebook is available in 70 languages.
  2. 75% of Facebook users are outside the U.S.
  3. 250 million photos are uploaded on Facebook every single day.
  4. 2 billion posts on Facebook are liked and commented every single day.
  5. There are 800 million users actively engaging on Facebook and 50% of them log in Facebook every day.

infographic graphics facebook numbers

Facebook’s Criticisms, Missteps and Outright Failures

  1. Facebook persuaded millions of people to share stuff about themselves under the guise of privacy.
  2. It remembers everything you do and make them publicly accessible.
  3. Blah blah blah….

Facebook's criticisms, missteps and outright failures

How Many People are Obsessed with Facebook?

  1. There 500 million active users on Facebook, which means 1 in every 13 people on earth actively use Facebook.
  2. 48% of 18 to 34 year-olds check facebook right when they wake up.
  3. Blah blah blah….

How many people are obsessed with facebook?

A World without Facebook

Yeah, right….

World without facebook

Facebook Generates Business for Companies that Use It.

Businesses are found to get positive results engaging on Facebook with their own pages, by a recent survey conducted among small business owners.

Facebook survey for businesses 2011

The Demographics of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter

A demographic breakdown of who uses the most popular social sites against the U.S. Population: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter.

The Demographics of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter

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Reducing Bounce Rate, A Quick How and Why

by Yang Yang on November 19, 2011

It is vital to have a web presence in today’s digital world. With the large availability of high speed internet providers, it is also crucial to provide content that gets the attention of the visitor right away and makes them want to stay on the site.

Bounce rate is the amount of “single page” visits a site receives and this number must always remain low. The following list outlines ways for a site owner to reduce bounce rate and improve chances for success.

Focused Content

Site visitors will not be inclined to stick around if the content is not focused. It is better in the long run to choose a niche and write about it well rather than be more general and aim for hits. Also, the content should be based in fact and not opinion. The audience can always tell the difference and will also want to see facts backed up with evidence.

Post Presentation

The way a topic itself is presented in a post can make or break a site. The reader’s attention must be engaged from the first word or that person will not stay. Good presentation not only reduces bounce rate but also encourages the visitor to promote the site to friends or other interested parties. Word of mouth is the best advertising and it is free.

The right approach to presentation also promotes engagement through comments, subscribing to the site and sharing the link on social media. A high level of engagement can improve search engine ranking, as well, as site statistics improve with each visitor that doesn’t leave the site.

Good Navigation

Any website can be the most beautiful on the internet but if it does not have proper navigation, it will fail. Inability to find what is needed quickly is one of the top contributors to a high bounce rate. It is frustrating for both the visitor and site owner.

Let’s discuss some benefits of reducing bounce rate.

Conversions

Keeping visitors on a site can result in higher conversions for things such as sales, services, signups, downloads, etc. This can translate to greater PPC, as well. Offering digital downloads is a simple and convenient way to deliver goods, especially with most people using high speed internet providers.

Content Sharing

As discussed above, presentation is king and will encourage sharing of content. A link shared on Facebook or Twitter has the potential to go viral and lead to a huge increase in traffic. This in turn can translate into more conversion and more sharing. Proper presentation is invaluable and can only build upon itself.

Search Engine Ranking

A harsh truth about web presence is if a site isn’t well placed in the search engines, it can struggle to be noticed. Search engines can ultimately take into account a site’s bounce rate during indexing. This is why keeping the bounce rate low is so vital.

The online world is a very competitive place and this is especially true when running a website or blog. Taking some very simple steps to create an interesting presence will go a long way toward long term popularity and profitability.

Blake Sanders is a writer of news and information on high speed internet providers at broadband comparison site Broadband Expert. He also specializes in wireless internet, cell phones, and other technical news.

 

Note: Photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude via FlickR Creative Commons.

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A Brief History of Video Games [Infographic]

by Yang Yang on November 18, 2011

Gaming sites. Of all the money making blogs, eCommerce, or even corporate websites on the web, perhaps none is more effective at bringing in the cash than those hosting game communities. The “why” of this is pretty obvious, kids and grownups spend huge sums at play, particularly digital playground play.

So, the reader is asking; “How did all that game frenzy thing start?” Well, games are about as old as mankind actually. But, for the digital age, or at least the age of electronic equipment, games and the graphics that support them have made an amazing journey. Perhaps the best way to understand why games and the sites that support them are so popular and profitable, is to take an insightful look at just how graphics have played their role.

What exactly are human beings able to put up with in order to play pretend they are really snuffing out those aliens, hitting that tennis ball back at an opponent? The cool infographic below reveals the graphical trip games have made into our lives and minds.

COLOURlovers History of video game colors

Created by COLOURlovers

So, as you can see, a lot about playing games early on was about “tweaking” the imagination only.” Not many people would sit and play pong for hours on end nowadays, not with Wii Sports around, not to mention Kinect by Xbox. One has to wonder what the next progression into graphical child’s play will be? But, for anyone considering starting up their own blog, the game space has to be a top choice if making money is the goal. Make no mistake though, the competition is tough out there.

Be sure to find more infographics at my W3EC blogs.

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Moredays: Cool Productivity Tool That’s Fun

by Yang Yang on November 4, 2011


Productivity tools don’t necessary make money for you, but they save money, especially those that help you keep organized, and save large amounts of data in one place so that you won’t have to access multiple sources to get much needed information. For people on the go, there’s no better, and more affordable solution, than productivity tools designed to sync between various devices, such as PC, tablets and smartphones.

Moredays is such a productivity tool – a cool calendar-cum-scrapbook  time management application based on photos and drawings. While many users will probably focus on creating cutesy calendars for their families, the business mind might reject it – and that would be a mistake. One of the best features of Moredays is that it records everything that is important to you.

When you add a new contact to your address book, Moredays can save complete information about the record, such as; when you added the contact, as well as notes, pictures and everything important related to that person. You can easily keep track of when you met your contact, and when you consult your notes related to that person, you will learn exactly what you were doing. To put it simply: Moredays is your personal diary, that can be accessed anytime, anywhere – because the information is saved safely in the cloud. Moredays is also a time saver, because, it’s so easy to use that even a child could figure it out, and because instead of having to type thousands of irrelevant tags to organize data, you can use a set of virtual “stamps”.

Another potential “cool” use for business, at the end of a contract with a customer, you can send her a printed version of your Moredays calendar together, as a reminder of the way you two conducted business every step of the way. A much better corporate gift than a keychain, if you know what I mean.

Moredays was designed to sync with Google Apps and Evernote – in the current beta these features don’t work yet, but they will with the public beta release in two weeks time. There are other features curently missing, like apps for iPhone and iPad – we expect to see them soon as well. In the meanwhile, why don’t you give Moredays a try? You’d be among the “early adopters.”

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skype site status buttonI was checking out some live chat services and it came to my mind that Skype might be a great alternative. It’s free and it’s widely adopted. Depending on the merchandise your website sells, Skype would be a great live web chat solution, such as in the niches of technology, digital productions, online applications, etc.

However, Skype may not be a good live chat solution for retailer sites selling common consumer goods, unless they offer some sort of web chat window when the visitor clicks the button.

Add Skype Live Status Button to Your Website

To enable your visitors to initiate live chat sessions with you, you need to add the Skype online/offline status badge (clickable) on your website. Follow these steps:

  1. Register an Skype account if you haven’t got one yet.
  2. Go here to get a Skype button by entering your Skype name and selecting a button style. The code is dynamically generated. Just copy and paste it on your website where you want the status tab to appear.
  3. Download the Skype desktop program and install it.
  4. Log in with your registered account in the desktop program, go to: Tools –> Options –> Privacy, and check “Allow my online status to be shown on the web.”

Click paths may vary in step 4 depending on the version of your Skype, but it’s definitely there, in the Options. Lots of people ask why the button they added to their websites doesn’t show Online when they are actually online. That’s why. You have to explicitly allow your status to be shown on the web from within your desktop program.

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When you get the gift card or certificate number (a series of alpha-numeric strings) such as this:

MASP-78DRUB-XCX9

You may add it to your Amazon account so the gift amount is added to your Gift Card Balance before you can spend it.

After you have signed in Amazon, go to “Your Account” and scroll to the “Payment” section and you would see the link “Apply a Gift Card to Your Account”.

Or, just click this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/account/payment/view-gc-balance.html/ref=ya_35

amazon_gift_card

Enter your gift card number and click “Apply to Your Account”. If the amount is successfully added to your gift balance, you’d see something like this:

amazon_gift_card_successful

Easy, huh!!

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PHP: Crontab Class to Add, Edit and Remove Cron Jobs

by Yang Yang on October 30, 2011

Provided that your user account on the server has the privileges to access crontab thus can create or remove cron jobs, you can use this PHP class to integrate crontab in your application. I created it for many of my own projects that need crontab to do scheduled jobs. It’s pretty straightforward.

Don’t know what crontab is and how it works? Read here and here. With this class, you or your users can easily set up crontab jobs and automate tasks by schedule with the web interface.

The Crontab Class

class Crontab {
	
	// In this class, array instead of string would be the standard input / output format.
	
	// Legacy way to add a job:
	// $output = shell_exec('(crontab -l; echo "'.$job.'") | crontab -');
	
	static private function stringToArray($jobs = '') {
		$array = explode("\r\n", trim($jobs)); // trim() gets rid of the last \r\n
		foreach ($array as $key => $item) {
			if ($item == '') {
				unset($array[$key]);
			}
		}
		return $array;
	}
	
	static private function arrayToString($jobs = array()) {
		$string = implode("\r\n", $jobs);
		return $string;
	}
	
	static public function getJobs() {
		$output = shell_exec('crontab -l');
		return self::stringToArray($output);
	}
	
	static public function saveJobs($jobs = array()) {
		$output = shell_exec('echo "'.self::arrayToString($jobs).'" | crontab -');
		return $output;	
	}
	
	static public function doesJobExist($job = '') {
		$jobs = self::getJobs();
		if (in_array($job, $jobs)) {
			return true;
		} else {
			return false;
		}
	}
	
	static public function addJob($job = '') {
		if (self::doesJobExist($job)) {
			return false;
		} else {
			$jobs = self::getJobs();
			$jobs[] = $job;
			return self::saveJobs($jobs);
		}
	}
	
	static public function removeJob($job = '') {
		if (self::doesJobExist($job)) {
			$jobs = self::getJobs();
			unset($jobs[array_search($job, $jobs)]);
			return self::saveJobs($jobs);
		} else {
			return false;
		}
	}
	
}

Public Methods

You may well ignore the private methods that do the internal chores. And keep in mind that any cron job is a text string.

  1. getJobs() – returns an array of existing / current cron jobs. Each array item is a string (cron job).
  2. saveJobs($jobs = array()) – save the $jobs array of cron jobs into the crontab so they would be run by the server. All existing jobs in crontab are erased and replaced by $jobs.
  3. doesJobExist($job = ”) – check if a specific job exist in crontab.
  4. addJob($job = ”) – add a cron job to the crontab.
  5. removeJob($job = ”) – remove a cron job from crontab.

This class has been tested on Rackspace Cloud and Wiredtree. Feel free to post your comments below and let me know how it works on other web hosts.

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personal developmentMaking sense is NOT what I’m known for. You are warned.

Success is a shadow of rarity. Try to be rare before you try to be successful.

99% of the people takes whatever they can while 1% gives whatever they can. 1% is a rarity. So they are 100 times more likely to get what they want than the 99%.

The idea of owning something is the source of suffering. It worries you and occupies your mentality, keeping you from achieving more because you are afraid to lose the things you have earned.

One should not try to own something. Owning or getting something such as wealth should not be the overall goal of his or her endeavors. Instead, one should try pushing the limits.

Want to be more financially successful? Don’t think of target numbers, but think about these questions – Why am I limited at where I am now? Why are the few others so ahead of me? What can be done to lift that limit and go farther? What can be done to be more productive or more creative? – And answer these questions by very very specific answers.

For example, I worry that one day I would lose the revenue streams of the many sites I created in the last 4 years, so I spent considerable time each week maintaining and promoting them. While results are slightly better and better by month, it’s ultimately not exponential growth which you would need to be a billionaire. It’s just a linear growth. Linear growth would only get you a millionaire at the best.

And this LIMITS me. It keeps me from getting better.

While these old sites occupy large portions of my schedule, I can’t concentrate enough on projects with “better outlook”. AND because I am dedicating my time to so many different projects at the same time, hardly any of them would eventually roll into an exponential growth at all because none of them are good enough to hit critical mass.

Even worse, it costs a lot when you multi-task.

It’s hard to give up on something you’ve been working so hard to build, because you are emotionally attached to it. It produces little yet you hold it dear.

Stop! Don’t get married to your projects. Move on, when you find out the niche isn’t as good as you thought it would be.

So I found one of the things that are limiting me – multi-tasking on too many projects at the same time. And my solution to this is: I’ll concentrate on one project at a time from now on.

Caring too much about the results would lead you to “copy” what the successful guys are doing, which is exactly what you don’t want to do if you don’t want to be mediocre.

You can do much better when you don’t care about the results than when you do.

Only when you lose you grow.

“Do one thing good, so the rest doesn’t suck. ”

(This line was from one of the movies. Can’t recall the title though.)

There is NO such thing as a saturated niche.

Be stubborn. Don’t seek advice. People are stupid. Don’t listen to them. Do what you think is right. Fail? So what!!

Take care.

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ssh consoleFew know that those who have web hosting are at the same time endowed with a free VPN (Virtual Private Network, a very safe connection to transfer important data). With a few simple steps by the help of PuTTY, the tiny legendary SSH program, anyone with a web hosting account can have a private VPN that’s dedicated, premium and only limited by the monthly bandwidth of your hosting account. This is the safest VPN because it’s not even monitored by the VPN company. It’s completely YOURS.

Before proceeding, you need to make sure your hosting account has SSH enabled. Most hosts offer that nowadays.

What you will get?

You will have an awesome auto-login VPN program on your Windows desktop via SSH tunnels, based on PuTTY. Should get you the same thing on other systems following the same steps outlined below.

Double click to start the program, and a dedicated socks5 proxy will be established on your local computer which connects to your hosting server to form a VPN you can use.

How to get it?

To turn your web hosting account into a private VPN so you can use it to surf the web safely and anonymously, simply follow these steps:

  1. Finish these steps: http://www.shanghaiwebhosting.com/web-hosting/use-your-web-hosting-ssh-session-as-a-tunnel-for-socks5-proxy-server
  2. In step 4 at the above URL, you will save the session and give it a name, e.g. ‘my_server’.
  3. Create a shortcut of this command: C:\tools\putty.exe -load my_server -l your_user_name -pw your_password

Make sure to use your own path to putty.exe rather than “C:\tools\putty.exe”.

The 3rd step is what makes all the difference – manual login or auto-login.

Without the 3rd step, you could still establish the VPN connection but you need to manually enter user name and password every time you start the SSH session. To make things simple, you want PuTTY to auto-login with pre-entered user name and password. That’s where the command line shortcut comes in.

The -load directive loads the saved session, -l specifies the SSH login user name, and -pw specifies the SSH password.

Double click, and that’s it!

Double click the shortcut and an SSH session window will be opened, PuTTY then automatically logs in with the user name and password you provided. If the auto-login is successful, a connection to your hosting server is established, thus VPN created.

Simply leave the session window open and configure your web browser to use ‘localhost’ as socks5 proxy on port ‘8844’ (you can specify a different port in Step 3 of this article), and you will be surfing the web safely and anonymously on a privately premium VPN!

Note that all your browsing traffic is counted on your web hosting’s monthly bandwidth bills. Think twice when you want to perform large downloads (such as 5GBs or larger) because they might end up being a bit costy.

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