More Fun Than It Sounds: Global Day of Coderetreat

“You spend a whole Saturday…programming?"

"Um, don’t you do that for work?"

"And then you start a project you can’t possibly finish, predictably fail to finish, then scrap everything and start again?"

These are the types of questions you get when you tell someone you’re participating in the Global Day of Coderetreat, which I was lucky and smart enough to do on November 15th this year on LeanDog’s awesome floating office. I came together with around 19 other curious coders, ranging from development lifers, who’d written their first programs on punch cards, to complete newbs who were simply curious about what the heck was going on.

So here are some extended answers:

Yes, we spent the whole day programming.

Image of Conway's Game of Life from Wikipedia

The entire point of Coderetreat is to attack Conway’s Game of Life again and again. This is a seemingly simple game, where a “cell” lives or dies from turn to turn based on the number of living or dead neighbors it had. However, once you start trying to program the game, you find out it isn’t so simple anyway. What does it mean for a cell to be alive or dead?  Can it be neither? How many cells are there? How can you find their neighbors to determine their state? How do you take a turn? Where’s the aspirin?

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Web Design Trends We're Thankful Are Gone

As Thanksgiving approaches and 2014 draws to an end, there's a few web design trends we aren't sad to say goodbye to.

  1. M. Versions of Websites (Separate Mobile Sites)
    As if maintaining a completely separate mobile version of your website wasn't enough of a deterrent, Google stepped up to say that they preferred responsive designs over separate "M dot" versions because responsive sites provided a better user experience and reduced duplicate content issues for search. Raise your hand if you've ever visited a mobile specific version and immediately started hunting for the "go to full site" link. That's all you need to know.
    Mobile website with click here for full site link
  2. Rotating Billboards
    People finally came to the realization that these features served little purpose beyond settling organizational disputes over whose content got featured on a homepage. Having hard data to prove that users don't really see past the first banner is finally killing these bandwidth vampires off. Read more about website carousel stats.
    ND.edu Feature Click-through Rates
  3. QR Codes
    Easily one of the most misused technologies from the last decade, the QR craze has finally died off. Mostly because people had such a hard time seeing their value. Marketers were just slapping QR codes on anything with no real thought behind it, and as a result this annoying technology never gained mainstream adoption. I have actually seen QR codes on webpages and in emails. Just think about that for a minute...take as much time as you need. Got some extra time? Check out these funny QR code fails.
    A QR code on an airplane banner
  4. Flash
    You know what people love? Working on their computer and getting interrupted by Adobe to update their Flash plugin. Thankfully, I can't even remember the last time I visited a site that utilized Flash, an encouraging sign for sure. I have stopped updating my browser's Flash player plugin. And you know what? I have not missed it. Good riddance to bad garbage.
    The dreaded Adobe Flash update screen
  5. Small Text
    In the earlier days of the Web, we had this collective delusion that we needed to ignore fundamental tenants of graphic design and try to cram EVERYTHING on a website "above the fold". One way we made so much crap fit was by making the text really, really, small and hard to read. Finally, people started saying "Man, I spend a lot of time reading on the Internet, I wish this text wasn't so damn hard to read. Plus, I can't read it all at once anyways, maybe we should bump this up a few sizes.". It took until 2014, but we're finally coming around on this one.
    Example of bad web design. Don't do this.

Got any web design trends you are thankful to see disappearing? Or are you sad to see any of the above go? Let us know in the comments.

How Webmaster Tools Helps Your Keyword Strategy

Back in April, we reported that Google was blocking organic keyword data in Google Analytics. For many inbound marketers, this was a major blow. It not only made it more difficult to understand which keywords were generating the most leads and/or sales for your business, it limited a company's ability to understand the type of content site visitors most wanted to see.

Fortunately, keyword insight isn't limited to Google Analytics. If you use other resources like Google or Bing Webmaster Tools, you can still find valuable organic keyword data.

 Keyword strategy

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How Remarketing Can Improve Your Content Marketing

I recently attended a presentation by Tom Martin that challenged the way I think about content marketing. One of my biggest “a-ha!” moments was when Tom said that 50% of the content he creates goes on other websites.

You see, today’s consumer is self-educating. On average, according to Google's ZMOT study, more than 10 sources of information are researched before a purchase decision is made. That means people are looking in places OTHER than your website to educate themselves on products or services that you offer. To take advantage of this shift in consumer behavior, you’ve got to publish content on websites where your visitors spend time, even (and especially if) it’s not your own.

List of sites on a remaketing report in Google AdWords

But here’s the rub: Consumers can find the information they need anonymously. That makes it pretty darn tough to know who your prospects actually are, which begs the question…

How Do I Know Where Else I Should Publish My Content?

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You Can Have Your Dogfood and Eat It Too

dogfooding

"Dogfooding" is a term to used to describe a company using it's own product or, essentially, practicing what you preach. Early last week, several members of the Aztek Development Team had the opportunity to travel to DogFoodCon in Columbus. This Microsoft-centric conference had everything from Azure to Xamarin; focusing on the .NET technology stack and the tools they've developed to assist customers with their products.

The conference started on a high note, when Byron Tardiff, Azure Program Manager, flew in from Redmond to talk to us about the usability and scale of Azure Websites. Oh, and he also demoed, for the first time in public, a migration tool to move web applications hosted on Windows Server 2003 environments to the cloud; a very cool exclusive!

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When Software Meets Hardware: A Must-Attend Developer Event

As web application developers, we work with bleeding-edge technology on a day-to-day basis.

So maybe you’ve noticed that it seems like a new JavaScript framework pops up daily. Try it, you can most likely type any word into Google appended with ".js"

There are many possibilities, but in the end they all do the same thing. At a very high level, all software pushes pixels in some way or another to help you perform an action, especially on the web.

But It’s Not Just Software

Software is changing the world around us and helping innovate that movement is extremely rewarding, though the Internet of Things is among us. A world where every device we own is connected and quantified is only a few years away.

From the boom of the smartwatch to a toaster that will tweet you when it has finished your toast, we are beginning to live the sci-fi movies our parents watched as children.

Smart Watch

That's why a few months ago I stopped at Radioshack to pick up a newer microcontroller called the Arduino. I read all over the internet how people were using this $30 chip to shape their everyday lives.

How Code Can Affect Physical Devices

In 2010 I went to one of my first developer conferences. I sat in on a talk where the speaker described how he was able to create a functioning, full-sized garage door opener using just this chip and a few servos. I even saw a demonstration showing how a car can be connected with this technology, allowing us to retrieve trip information, flash the headlights, or lock the doors. And then there was Scott Sullivan , a UX Designer from Columbus, who helped quantify foot traffic in his friend’s brick and mortar store with a whole network of these devices.

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Kevin Spacey uses the "f" word...a lot (and other reasons Content Marketing World 2014 was awesome).

Content Marketing World

We love Content Marketing World. Every year, we walk away with tons of ideas and a renewed energy for our industry that we just don't get from other professional conferences. The conference feels less like work and more like a second honeymoon where you learn to fall in love with your profession all over again.

Since #CMWorld 2013, we have embraced the concept of Youtility (helping self-educated buyers instead of selling to them). We nailed down our persona creation process. We started mapping personas and messaging to specific pages in our sitemaps and wireframes. And in the process, we created higher-quality work that generated quality leads for our clients.

This year's takeaways promise even more changes for the better. Below are some of our favorite points from Content Marketing World 2014.

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7 Tips to Help You Prepare for CMWorld 2014

Does hearing Katy Perry’s “Roar” make you think about content marketing?

If the answer is yes, then you were at Content Marketing World last year in Cleveland, Ohio. And you remember the video that ended with Joe Pulizzi running into the conference in a bright orange suit...

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How to Find New and Valuable Organic Keywords

Finding the right organic keywords for your website is hard. You need to understand your target audience. You have to consider the intent of each keyword (research, transactional, or branded). You have to identify which pages should be optimized for which keywords. 

And that’s just the beginning!

Adding to the complexity is the fact that Google gets 500 million never-before-seen queries per day (about 15% of their daily total). In other words, people will search in different ways to find the same information, making it more difficult to uncover the keywords that are most valuable to your bottom line.

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How To Make Sure You Are Using Universal Analytics

This is part 2 of our multi-part series: Get More Out of Google Analytics. If you missed it, make sure to read part 1: Getting Started with Google Analytics.

In our last post, we talked about how you can set up a new Google Analytics account with the new Universal tracking code.

But what if you already have an account and aren’t sure whether you have Universal Analytics? Or what if you know you don’t have Universal Analytics but can’t figure out how to upgrade?

Today’s blog post will answer both questions.

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Who are these guys anyway?

Aztek is a web design, web application development, web marketing, and hosting firm in Cleveland Ohio. We’ve been around for more than 16 years, and we’ve worked with more than 600 clients. Aztek is not affiliated with the unfortunate car of the same name, nor are we descended from a fifteenth century Mesoamerican civilization. At least, not that we know of.