Relational Database Design: A Best Practices Primer

database-design-development

http://www.riceconsultingllc.com/2012/database-building.php

Relational databases are the dynamic compartments of fundamental web and enterprise cloud applications. Relational databases normalize, sort and link data using tables and queries. The design is open to the interpretation of the database designer, but a poor database design can be disastrous for any business.

A poor design can slow performance, inhibit scalability and create bugs in an enterprise application. To avoid the pitfalls of poor design, a good design plan is critical.

Primary and Foreign Table Keys

Primary and foreign keys link tables together, so developers can query multiple tables in one Structured Query Language (SQL) statement. All tables require a primary key, and any tables that reference another table requires a foreign key to that primary key. For instance, if a database consists of customer information and the related customer orders, a primary key named “CustomerId” can be created in the “Customers” table and a foreign key named “CustomerId” is created in the “Orders” table. The customer ID field is always unique, so each customer is uniquely queried with its linked order. The result is that a programmer can query and display a customer with the customer orders.

Table Indexes

Essentially, the primary and foreign table keys create an index for the tables, but secondary indexes can also be created. Typically, indexes are created on fields that are used in the SQL “join” statements or columns where the programmer queries based on these column values. Indexes sort values for faster lookups and queries. Indexes can mean the different between a query that takes 10 minutes to run and 5 seconds to run.

Types of Table Relationships

Relational databases have two fundamental relationships: one-to-one and one-to-many. There is also the many-to-many relationship, but this type of relationship is not a normalized standard. Many-to-many relationships should be broken down to a one-to-one or one-to-many relationship.

A one-to-one relationship means one record in a primary table links to only one record in a secondary table. For instance, a customer can only have one login identity. The table design can include a main “Customer” table with the customer’s information, and then a “Login” table contains the customer’s login identity and password.

A one-to-many relationship means one record in the primary table links to several records in the secondary table. An example is the customer and orders relationship. A customer has one account, but a customer can have one or many orders. Linking the customer and orders table will result in several records dependent on the number of orders processed by the customer.

Table Normalization

Table normalization is standard in the industry, but each programmer and database designer has his own idea of proper normalization. Normalization is the process of reducing data duplication, increasing data stability and facilitating streamlined updates and deletions of data.

For instance, a new database designer might put “option 1” and “option 2” as database columns for a customer order. However, what happens if the customer has a third option or the business wants to expand to allow for a third option? This table design does not facilitate scalability for customer options. Using this example, the right way to normalize the database is to create an “Options” table and use primary and foreign keys to link the order and option tables. The “Options” table has a foreign key that contains the order number, and the SQL can link to an unlimited amount of options for the customer order.

After the basic database design is set up, there might be some tweaks and changes made to the layout after deployment. This is common with new database layouts, but these fundamentals will help the database admin fall into common configuration pitfalls that impede business growth based on the technology.

Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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This article is a guest post provided by a third party, its content was added to Digital Ethos to help provide additional information for our readers and followers. While the Guest Blogger posts do not undergo the same scrutiny as Authors and lack sources, the content was reviewed and approved as valuable to our mission.

How to Use Your WordPress Website in Mobile Marketing

wordpress-mobile-themesIt seems like everyone has some kind of mobile device these days. They’re so distracting that places like hospitals and restaurants are banning people from using them while inside those buildings.

Certain areas of the United States are passing laws that prohibit people from using them while driving. But all the people using these devices have one clear benefit, and that’s in mobile marketing for your small business.

If your small business website isn’t compatible with mobile devices, then you’re giving up the opportunity to reach millions of mobile internet users, some of who rarely if ever use an actual computer. Depending on the type of device they use, how your website appears to them could look very different compared to what you see on your computer screen.

Creating a Mobile-Friendly Small Business Website

WordPress is a great platform for small business websites. It’s a great place to start because it’s easy to update. Google likes WordPress. WordPress is updated frequently and there are a lot of features called plugins that you can just turn on. There’s even one to make your website more mobile-friendly by doing things like making your blog posts more readable.

A lot of the newer plugins have something called responsive web design. Those will actually reformat themselves based on the size of the screen viewing them. WordPress offers a lot of great solutions and if you already use the content management system, it’s going to be easier to give visitors to your site a nice viewing experience.

Designating an Employee to Update the Website

A lot of business owners are so busy, but they also have staff that can learn how to mobile-enable the company website. If this sounds like your situation and you aren’t technically inclined, consider signing up an employee for a class like Mobile Marketing for Non-Techies through

www.theschoolofinternetmarketing.com,  where people can learn to use WordPress to build their own site in a single weekend.

The benefit of signing up an employee for a course like this is that they’re probably younger. They are probably more internet-friendly. And best of all, they probably have a mobile device – or maybe even a plethora of mobile devices that they can use to see how your company website appears via those different methods.

WordPress is the Cost-Efficient Choice

The next thing to consider is, how practical is this? It’s not uncommon to run across someone who has spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to build a website that they don’t know anything about – including whether or not it’s mobile-enabled, or how to update it with that fresh content that Google loves. In that sense, WordPress is the obvious choice.

WordPress has all the functionality of software that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars little more than a decade ago. Most of the plugins you need are free, or you might decide to invest a few dollars on a specialty theme or to learn how to get started. For a small business, WordPress is very cost effective.

Mobile Marketing Plugins for WordPress

Plugins are similar to an iPhone or Android app, where you download it and it extends the functionality of your smartphone, tablet, or other internet-ready device. A plugin is the same idea. It adds more functionality to your website, and most of the apps are free. Here are some plugins that help make your WordPress site more mobile-friendly.

  • DeviceAtlas – This little plugin packs quite a punch. It determines what type of device your visitor is using and then directs them to the mobile version of your site that is compatible with their device operating system.
  • WordPress Mobile Adapter – In just a few clicks, make your WordPress site readily able to support more than 5,000 we-enabled devices.
  • WordPress Mobile Pack – This plugin gives a lot of control. However, it has so many options that it can seem overwhelming at first.

When people are searching for you on your phone from Google or some other way, they’re going to wind up at your website first. So you want your website to look right without requiring them to download an app first. It’s inconvenient, and many will just move on to another site instead of going through the hassle of downloading an app.

One of the misconceptions people have is mobile apps versus mobile-enabled websites. People are used to downloading app, and apps are great. Everyone with a smartphone has used apps whether it’s to play Angry Birds or Draw Something, or just to use Yelp or Foursquare to find a restaurant. As a small business owner, you can do both but the starting point is to get your website mobile-enabled. From there, the possibilities are endless.

James Martell is an Internet pioneer who discovered the lucrative world of the Internet in 1999. He is a leading expert in affiliate marketing, SEO & outsourcing. He lives in White Rock BC, a suburb of Vancouver, with his wife Arlene. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDMartell

About Guest Blogger

This article is a guest post provided by a third party, its content was added to Digital Ethos to help provide additional information for our readers and followers. While the Guest Blogger posts do not undergo the same scrutiny as Authors and lack sources, the content was reviewed and approved as valuable to our mission.

Beyond A Pretty Face: What Graphics Mean For Your Site

When it comes to web design, people are pretty much over being wowed by graphics. In fact, good graphics are more or less expected of any professional site. If you’re working with a firm that provides graphic design, you’ll want to discuss with them the value of graphics beyond making your site look better. This includes such things as:

  • Functionality
  • Accessibility
  • Branding
  • Look and feel
  • Usability

Good graphic content on your website can go far beyond making your website look pretty. In fact, if you’re working with an SEO firm, they’ll let you know that there are elements of your graphic content that need to be optimized for the search engines, as well as for the human eye. Putting this all together can get a bit complex, but here are some of the basics.

Accessibility, Functionality and Usability

When you’re working with a firm that handles graphic design, you may be surprised to find out that there are some concerns that go into graphic design that you hadn’t thought about. For instance, if you had the idea of making a red logo with green lettering, a good graphic designer would warn you off from this. People who are colorblind will not be able to read your logo. This addresses accessibility and usability.

Graphics should be clearly visible and should not distract from the rest of the content on the site. This is important for users. If the graphics make it harder for them to use the site, they’re likely to see it as a very unprofessional site or one that completely disregarded their needs from the start.

Some graphics are functional. For instance, image sliders may be provided with links that allow people to click on the image and go to an article. If the firm you find has SEO services among its offerings, though make certain that the graphics and the accompanying materials are set up in a way that ensure that the search engines can properly decipher and index whatever content goes along with that graphic.

Branding and Looks

Graphic design firms can do wonders for your branding efforts. If the company that does your graphic design is good, they’ll be able to redo existing logo so that they look more modern and attractive and will be able to come up with compelling new logos they give your business a branding edge.

Graphics are much more than things to look at. In fact, some of the most useful sites out there also have great graphic content. That graphic content tends to make it easier to use the site, easier to understand what each of the different functional elements of the site do and, quite simply, make the site look more professional. Talk to the company that handles your web development about good graphic design for business websites and how it may contribute to the overall success of the site that you have designed for your business.

Article provided by Division [1] Web Design, a web design, software application and web development company. To read more articles click here.
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About Guest Blogger

This article is a guest post provided by a third party, its content was added to Digital Ethos to help provide additional information for our readers and followers. While the Guest Blogger posts do not undergo the same scrutiny as Authors and lack sources, the content was reviewed and approved as valuable to our mission.

Inbound Marketing & 3rd Generation of Websites: Part 2

In part I we delved into the early stages of websites, how they begin, their evolution and where they are heading today. From a business perspective, sites have seemingly gotten smarter, and the potential to utilize them for growth and lead generation is amazing. I like to think of a website as having a salesperson working for you 24/7/365. No vacation, no sick days and a constant ability to draw in fresh prospects. Sure there’s upkeep and in this article we are going to get our hands dirty with the foundation principles of Inbound Marketing. What exactly is Inbound Marketing?

Much like many people asked what social media was a mere few years ago, the term inbound marketing is not part of the mainstream vernacular, yet.

Inbound marketing is the process of drawing customers and prospects to you, instead of you seeking them via outbound techniques, like direct mail or cold calling. Oftentimes, these traditional methods are unwelcome and interrupt people without their permission. Inbound uses a combination of methods that position a business to be found when the prospect wants to find you. This is a much different idea, and simple at it’s core. Think of it like this: If you were watching your favorite TV show on DVR, and suddenly thought, “Hey, I need a new vacuum” and a vacuum commercial came on, you wouldn’t skip it. It was there when you wanted it there, not when the advertiser would force you to watch it.

Mind you the concept is not new, and the term Inbound Marketing has been around for many years, created by Hubspot, who is at the forefront of inbound marketing software and education. (full disclosure, my agency Soul NYC is a Hubspot Partner).

For businesses looking to redesign their website to be 3rd generation, there are some key elements to consider to set it up properly for Inbound Marketing. Your website is the major component, but external factors also can come into play. 1. You must have a blog. This is a must. The cornerstone of inbound marketing is producing interesting and relevant content on a regular basis. A website with a blog, gives a business the opportunity to broadcast at will. Blog content, besides providing useful information for your audience, also gives the search engines more opportunity to find your site. Continually adding to your blog adds pages to your site, and that fresh content is actually considered differently by Google and other search engines. Recent changes to search algorithms give more weight to fresher content. “Google’s aim is to include recency and freshness when determining relevance.”

  1. But what do you write about? Think about the things your customers ask you over and over again. These are great fuel for blog articles, and will be the types of things people will search for. Make a list of at least a dozen potential titles, so you have somewhere to start. Try to schedule posting at least one blog article a week, if not more. Make sure your content and titles are SEO friendly, which leads us to…
  2. Optimize Everything SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a key component is setting up your website for inbound marketing. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do to drive traffic to your site. It is important that the page titles are used properly. We often see the name of the company only on every page title, or just a simple one word description of the page content. The title should include important keywords and other information, like location that can help to return better results on search. These title tags show up in the browser, search engine results and many social media sites use that title tag as the link when posted. Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name 2 In addition it is good practice to link keywords within the body of your website content and blog posts to other pages on your site. Remember to write your content for readers, but consider the terms or keywords that they might be looking for. As always make sure that content is relevant to your audience and useful. Stuffing it with keywords over and over for the hell of it will make it unreadable and Google doesn’t like that either! These are just a few of the many things that affect SEO on your site. Do some research or discuss with your web design agency about properly structuring your site for SEO. There are also practices for Offsite SEO that are equally important. As we’re talking about fine tuning your website for Inbound Marketing, we will save that for another article.
  3. Integrate Social Media Social Media can work on many fronts. It can help you build presence and audience external to your website and position you as a knowledgeable leader in your field. In terms of your website, social can be used to draw people back to your content when you post it on the channels that you choose to use. It also is a way to spread that content. The larger your audience is on social, the wider your potential reach is. So post often and with relevancy. Share and retweet other people’s content as well. It’s just good practice to do so, and will always lead to reciprocal sharing of your content. On your site, implement tools to make sharing easy. Give site visitors the opportunity to like, share, tweet and email without leaving your pages by using social share buttons.
  4. Create Clear Calls To Action Once you’ve done the work to get visitors through your site through blogging, SEO and social, now what? You want to speak to them directly. A call to action helps to do that by giving them a specific action to take. These can be catered to the different types of people who buy your services by creating “buyer personas.” This differs for every business and usually there are several types of them. Regardless of the specifics, your call to action (CTA) should be written and designed in a manner that will incite a response. Some examples: Start Your Free Trial Today Call for a FREE Consulation Download our Ebook on XYZ Tell them clearly what you want them to do. A good CTA is explicit, concise and stands out on your page. Place them on pages where people wind up from search and social, like your homepage, blog, and services pages. You should have multilple CTA’s to use that are specific to the page or content the viewer is looking at. Then link those CTA’s to landing pages…
  5. Use Landing Pages to Convert Visitors to Leads This is where the magic happens. A good landing page is written to reinforce the offer of your CTA. It should describe the benefits of the offer and again incite an action. Common practice on landing pages is to remove all buttons and links, leaving the user with just the form that you will use to capture their info and register them as a lead. Once the form is completed, the user is typically sent an email with a link to download the offer or confirming receipt of their information and the next steps you will take. Here are 7 Tips to Landing page success from Search Engine Watch 3

    1) Have a Clear and Emphasized Call to Action
    2) Align Your On-Page Message and Call-to-Action With Your Off-Page Promise
    3) Simplify Design and Reduce Text
    4) Use Images Judiciously
    5) Show Brand Validation
    6) Enable Sharing and Highlight Social Validation
    7) Test, Test, Test

  6. Analyze & Measure Everything The foundation for all inbound marketing efforts is analytics. You have to know where your traffic sources are coming from, what they’re looking at, and whether or not they are engaged with your content. This requires robust software to be installed on your website.

Google Analytics is a start but it doesn’t offer the full suite of measurement tools needed to effectively get the job done.

Good tools will track and measure many important bits of information that will allow you to continually improve your inbound marketing game. Knowledge is power, and the right platform will provide you all of the insights needed to craft better optimized content, stronger CTA’s and landing pages, as well as gain valuable insight about who is hitting your site. Leads and Conversions are also recorded and data can be tracked and compared over time.

This constant measurement allows us as marketers to improve our efforts while the customer or business owner has real data on what is being done and how that relates to ROI.

Final Thoughts…

Inbound Marketing, is a worthwhile, proven approach that can create a steady flow of traffic and leads when executed properly. If you’re considering a website redesign, ask your developer or agency about how you can implement features in your new website to facilitate this. As always make sure that the approach is right for your business. If you decide to go it alone and are not capable or writing and producing content in a timely manner, it may not be a fit. You can seek out assistance from a qualified professional or agency so that you get the most out of inbound marketing.

Sources:

About Tommy Spero

Tommy Spero ( @tommyspero ) is the Principal and Creative Director of Soul NYC (www.soulnyc.com) , a branding, web design and inbound marketing agency that helps companies large and small use design and technology to grow their businesses. Tommy drives the vision of the agency, with over 14 years working in the design and interactive space. His experience working with some of the worlds biggest companies, like American Greetings, Sony Music, VH1, Showtime and Novartis, gives him unique insight on how small and medium businesses can succeed through the use of branding and technology. His design work has been featured multiple times in the LogoLounge series of books by Rockport Press, as well as appearing on television and all across the web.

2012 Trends In Modern Illustrative Web Design

Illustrations breathe life into an otherwise standard web page that simply comprises interactive elements and textual content. Be it stock illustrations, freehand doodles or sketches, or even picturesque images – illustrations serve to break the monotony of content, highlighting some of the most important aspects by means of visuals. Web design today widely uses graphic and stock illustrations, given the time and monetary constraints associated with keeping the page contents of the website updated at regular intervals. However, there are quite a few aesthetic enthusiasts that go the extra mile to create or commission illustrations and hand-drawn sketches to adorn their websites. Here are a few illustration techniques that serve to enhance the visual appeal of websites.

Character Illustrations

Character illustrations serve to add a fun or humour perspective to the message that is being conveyed. A serious message is rendered in a lighter vein, while still emphasising the importance of the content. Mascots that are representative of specific brands, products or business offerings often add a personal touch to the message, irrespective of their usage. In addition to being prominently displayed on the homepage of the website, mascots essentially form a part of the advertisement banners instantly connecting the viewers to the corresponding brand. Along with this, the mascots will have to be unique, custom illustrations, pretty much on the same lines as a brand logo.

Thematic Illustrations

Thematic illustrations impact the entire presentation aspect of the web page – the layout, page elements, content all go hand in hand to focus on a given theme. Often presented in the form of a backdrop to a web page, these illustrations actually highlight the purpose of the website by means of their visual appeal and look. They either standalone or blend with other web page elements to communicate the intended message to the visitor.

Pattern Illustrations

Contrary to thematic illustrations, random ones simply add to the aesthetic appeal of the website, comprising almost any design that gels well with the purpose of the site and its contents. Geometric or floral designs, textured background, a transparent collage of colours, any interesting figment that adds value to the site qualify as random illustrations.

Infographics

Infographics effectively combines images with the corresponding information presented alongside, making it easier for the reader to correlate the messages with the pictures to understand the full picture. Info Graphics today are increasingly adopted to convey elaborate messages in a simple but effective format. It is certainly a great alternative to reading blocks of running text. Extending the same concept, an apt mix of illustrations and information on the home page of a website is a neat way to communicate with the user.

Irrespective of the technique adopted, it is important to delineate illustrations from interactive elements on screen such as links, command buttons and other elements that prompt user action, in order to present a clear picture. The visual medium has a greater reach when compared to other communication media. Illustrations not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of a web page but it also serves to make a lasting impression on the visitors.

This post was written by Simon Heard on behalf of SinageDesign.co.uk who offer professional graphic design in Brighton. Follow them on Twitter @sinagedesign

About Guest Blogger

This article is a guest post provided by a third party, its content was added to Digital Ethos to help provide additional information for our readers and followers. While the Guest Blogger posts do not undergo the same scrutiny as Authors and lack sources, the content was reviewed and approved as valuable to our mission.

Is Your Website Deliciously Sticky?

What is the point of having a website?

It’s to let people know all about your business, your products, your services; it’s to give them the information they need to contact you; and it’s to give them the information they need to choose you over your competitors. It’s also supposed to convince people to browse your site and keep them coming back for more. Essentially, you want people to stick to you like glue and that is why you need a ‘sticky site’.

A sticky site is one that gives visitors want they want immediately and entices them to click internal links so that they can find out more. It also makes them want to share the stickiness with their friends, like delicious fudge.

What makes a site sticky?

There are two main factors that contribute to the stickiness of your site.

1)     Website design

2)     Content

Web design

A lot of businesses, especially small businesses, skimp on site design. One reason is that they think it’s too expensive. But the cost of losing customers through a slap-dash site far outweighs the cost of a decent looking website.

Some businesses mistake flashy for professional. They try to jam-pack their sites with too many features, to many colours and too much information from the get-go. One of the key factors of sticky site design is simplicity. Simple doesn’t have to be bland or stark; it can still be striking and bold.

In addition to being overwhelming, flashy sites can take a long time to load. Sites with a long loading time are likely to die far quicker death.

Think of your site as a map; it should direct people to where they want to go via the most direct route. In web jargon, you want a site that is intuitively navigable and usable.

Content

Content doesn’t consist only of words. Images, polls, competitions, videos – they’re all content. Search engines like words and well-tagged images and videos, so you need to choose your words (keywords) carefully. But searchers like to be engaged, which basically means that you still need to choose your words carefully.

Your content is what sets you apart from your competitors, it’s what attracts and keeps attention. It needs to be especially sticky. Once again, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors with information. Once again you want to keep it simple. Bear in mind that you want to be clear and succinct and not curt and laconic.

Every page should have a goal and the content must support that goal. Steven Bradley says that you should follow the inverted pyramid style of writing. That’s all the most important information right at the top and the lesser details trailing down.

Search and social

Jordan Kasteler (Search Engine Land) says that you need to consider the different needs of search and social users.

Search users are likely to be looking for something specific – they want certain information and they want it now so they can convert. Social users are likely to be browsers – they’re curious; the kind of people who tell salespeople that they’re ‘just looking’ in a store.

Balancing these needs needn’t be too tricky because there is a fair bit of overlap. They both want information in as simple a format as possible, but search visitors are more likely to want your services/products and purchases pages, while social users are more likely to want your blog and about us pages – but they also want to see your services and products.

Basically, if your website and your content are designed with users in mind, you have a good chance of achieving stickiness.

Sources:

http://searchengineland.com/making-your-site-sticky-for-both-search-and-social-users-134233

http://www.vanseodesign.com/web-design/inverted-pyramid-design/

 

This guest post was written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Elemental, a specialist web development company that balances your needs with those of your online visitors. Follow Sandy on twitter @SandyCosser

About Guest Blogger

This article is a guest post provided by a third party, its content was added to Digital Ethos to help provide additional information for our readers and followers. While the Guest Blogger posts do not undergo the same scrutiny as Authors and lack sources, the content was reviewed and approved as valuable to our mission.

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