Invest in R&D, it’s vital for your business’ survival

If your business is running smoothly and if you have some great products that sell like hot cakes, should you stop investing in R&D? Maybe reduce the investment in R&D and reap the profits that is generated from your cashcow products? The answer is “No”. You should keep investing in R&D, you should keep coming up with great innovative products. Because success lies in continuous innovation, not in one-time innovation.

If Xerox stopped investing in Research & Development, it would be earning 60% less revenue:

More than 2/3rd of Xerox’s revenue comes from products launched in the past two years. source

Some companies like Sony believe in innovation so much, that, they would introduce new products even if those new products are going to kill its own current (cashcow) products. Because, Sony believes in creating “new markets” and not creating products for the existing markets.

Between 1950 and 1982 Sony successfully built 12 different new-market, disruptive-growth businesses. These included the original battery-powered pocket transistor radio, launched in 1955, and the first portable solid-state black-and-white television, in 1960. Plus: videocassette players, portable video recorders, the now-ubiquitous Walkman and 3.5-inch floppy disk drives, launched in 1980. source

So, as you can see, continuous investment in R&D is very important. Unfortunately, many small-to-medium businesses and some startups are usually stuck with few products. After developing few successful products they simply stop investing in R&D and stop coming up with new products. Rather, they resort to fixing and polishing the existing products. In some cases, years would past and the company would be still working on the existing products. What a sad situation that is.

If you start your own company don’t make this grave mistake of not investing in R&D!

Offline Usability: Voting Made Difficult

voting usability x markMalaysia is gearing up for General Election soon. Yesterday mainstream newspaper NST had an article about how people in Malaysia cannot even mark the voting ballots properly. It read:

AROUND the world, a simple X is all it takes to mark the spot on a ballot paper. But just leave it to Malaysians to get a little more creative when stating their choice of candidate…

…According to Election Commission figures, there were 134,058 spoilt votes cast for state assembly seats and 165,018 for parliamentary seats in 2004.

While it may sound so simple to just mark [X] beside the desired candidate, little they know that this is actually quite confusing for people, especially the elderly.

[X] is used for Deleting not Selecting

First of all, people never use [X] for selecting something. X is used for deleting, rejecting or making something void. In everyday life, people either tick or circle the preferred choice.

I am sure this problem happens in every country, it’s just more prevalent in one country than another. Sure, Governments can teach its people how to mark [X] correctly during elections and decrease the number of spoiled votes. But the better, more sustainable solution would be to introduce a system that is usable and intuitive to all people. Because when the system is flawed, you have to constantly teach the people how to use it. That means more expenses for the Government. But if the system is replaced with a functional one, the cost would decrease and there would be less errors and less headache during each election. Maybe using “tick” would help!? Or having separate “Yes” and “No” ballot boxes, where you could throw the deserved candidates? I am sure there will be dozens of other better alternatives if one was to brainstorm.

80/20 Rule, and How it Applies to Blogging

You all have heard about the “80/20 Rule” right? Which states that, for many events, 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes.

Example: 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients. Or 80% of the total profits come from the efforts of 20% of your employees in the firm. Or the majority of the earth’s species are located in 17 countries, out of total 240+ countries..

While it’s a general rule, it does apply successfully to many circumstances. We can also apply it to blogging.80/20 rule So, for example, according to 80/20 rule, we can say that 80% of the traffic comes from the 20% regular readers (see pie chart to the left).

We can also say that 80% of your blogging income comes from 20% of your advertisers (these are regular advertisers too, keyword is “regular”).

Finally, many of you can agree on this, that 80% of the comments on your blog are done by the 20% (regular) readers.

Thus, once you have clearly grasped the 80/20 rule and its affects on your blog, you will be able to work more efficiently. Because now you can concentrate on that “20%” more. That means paying more attention to your regular readers and worrying less about those accidental visitors, even if they make up 80% of your total unique visitors (per day/month/year). Because at the end of the day, this 20% are the one who is delivering you 80% of the total traffic your blog gets.

Similarly, you can strengthen your partnership with your 20% advertisers that bring you 80% of the total income that your blog generates.

Conclusion

I think in this “time-scarce” era, this rule is a golden rule that many of us can benefit from. It can make us more efficient, and our efforts more effective. Because by identifying our “important 20%”, we won’t be wasting our energies on things that bring no result.

However, here we should note that, we should not totally ignore the other 80% – we just have to allocate our time and energy according to its importance.

Have you been applying 80/20 rule to your life? How about to your blog?

WordPress: Increase your SERP using Post Slug feature

Do you use post slug feature in WordPress? If yes, then great! If not, then you should really start using it. Post Slug feature is located among one of those boxes at the right side: Categories, Post Status, Discussion… etc.

SEO Advtantage of Using Post Slug

When you use it, you greatly improve your blog’s SEO. In WordPress, if you enable permalinks and if you use Post Title in the URL structure, then you know that the post title becomes part of the URL for each individual post page.

Below is a screenshot of Permalink’s preferences in WordPress:

enabling permalinks

As you can see, I have set Date (Year/Month/Date) followed by Post Title for the URL structure.

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WP Plugin: Make your blog’s search strings SEO friendly

wp plugin nice searchNice Search is a WP plugin that makes your blog search “SEO friendly”.

It’s in quotes because normally search results won’t get indexed by search engines, because they are dynamic. Unless of course you store them as a static page in a specific folder in your blog.

But the plugin is still very useful, it makes your search strings “nicer” as the name of the plugin says. As you can see from the screenshot, it turns the normal wordpress search string into /search/keyword format, which is a lot more readable.

Plugin page: http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/nice-search/

Write Pillar Articles, but don’t overdo it (please)!

sample pillar articleDon’t you just hate those posts that have too many unnecessary and not important bullet points inside? Writing pillar articles is one thing, but overdoing it is totally opposite.

Writing pillar articles in its true sense will bring you more traffic (Diggs, Stumbles, Reddits, linkbacks), more readers (your blog will be bookmarked more, RSS count will increase) and more advertisers (you will earn more), but overdoing it will have the totally opposite effect. When you overdo it, it sends a message to your readers that you are incompetent and don’t know what you are talking. But before we proceed…

What is Pillar Article?

Pillar articles are complete articles, that start with proper introduction and end with proper conclusion. Body part of the article will contain points, arguments, or sub topics. Usually they are bulleted, numbered, or simply put under separate sub-headings.

It is this part (body) that gets abused. Some bloggers just want to make their article longer, and thus enter all sorts of bullet points, even if the points are insignificant. It’s not the length of the article that counts, it’s the substance, the ingredients of your article that is important. Therefore, do not bother if your article falls short of its intended or desired length. Your article is complete before you add those additional points.

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CSS Tip: Increasing readability of your blog in one easy step

One line of CSS code can do so much to improve your blog’s readability. It’s a simple thing to do, yet I see many blogs are not making use of it. It’s the line-height: code in CSS. It defines the space between the lines. Screenshots below show two different pages; one without line-height code and another with line-height set to 20pixels.

As you can see, it’s so much easier to read the second page.

css line height

css line height 20px

Just add: line-height: XXpx; to your main theme in style.css file

Whitespace around images

Another thing that is usually neglected is, not using whitespace around the images (i.e padding). It’s a simple thing to do too. I have blogged about it here, this post teaches you how to specify margins for your images, so that the text around the image won’t stick to the border of the image.

While these things are fairly simple things to implement in blogs (which many of us do not bother to do it), but the result that they produce is: better blog readability and professional looking blog.

Usability: Too fancy texts are ignored as ads

It’s a holiday season. So, many websites are offering various promotions on their websites, usually those promotions are placed on the main page (homepage), with the intention that the more people see it, the more clicks will it get. And more people will buy the products.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with most promotions, (they don’ get clicks, but get ignored instead) especially when those promotions are fancy banners and texts. At least that’s what the usability guru Jakob Nielsen has analyzed.

He made a research on U.S Census Bureau homepage, checking the usability of the population counter (text in red) and how many people actually used that text:

usability too fancy

86% of users failed to find the country’s current population when it was presented in large red numbers. The reason? Users ignored a key area because it resembled a promotion..

Beyond banner blindness, the major reason this homepage failed is that it used made-up terms or branded descriptions rather than plain-spoken words. Terms like “Population Clock,” “Population Finder,” and “QuickFacts” are not as descriptive as a simple line of text that says: Population of the United States: 302,740,627 (as of Aug. 31, 2007)

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Common mistakes of a new blogger

Every blog goes through different stages. First, as a new blog (beginning stage), then a growing stage, then maturity stage (and hopefully no decline stage). It is in beginning stage that many of us make mistakes. In this post, I would like to discuss some of these mistakes that new bloggers make. I will start the list, and hopefully you will complete it by contributing in the comments section.

Display RSS counter too early

Displaying your RSS count too early can have a detrimental effect on your RSS readership growth. Usually people will not subscribe when a blog has 10+ RSS readers. People like to follow the majority, because common sense tells them that, if many people are reading something – it must be interesting! On the other hand, when nobody (or less people) is reading a particular blog, they see no reason to subscribe to its RSS, neither will they visit back in the future.

Therefore in the beginning it’s better not to display your RSS count, it’s better to concentrate on writing good articles instead. When you have at least several hundred RSS readers, then you may put it up.

Display too many ads

Most bloggers want to make money with their blogs, and new bloggers are no different. One of the mistakes that new bloggers make is, putting too many ads on their blog. They think the more ads they put on their blog, the more money they will make. (Wrong!) They might make more money during the first few days, but later their blog will be cannibalized by their ads, thus generating very low income or no income at all.

The blog that have too many ads on it, simply cries out to new readers saying “Go back, and never come back to this blog again!”. Continue reading

Blogs with vision finish rich

What do I blog for? This is the question every blogger ought to be asking himself or herself.

Is it for money? If your answer is yes, then there is nothing wrong with it. But it’s a very slippery rope you are holding on to. And it’s not a long term strategy either. Why?

Let’s imagine this situation: Let’s assume that one fine day you lost all your advertisers, and your blog suddenly stopped making money. One month passed, it brought zero income. Two months passed, still no sign of any advertisers. Three months passed, you are still sitting on zero profit.

If this is the situation you are in, do you think you will still be blogging? My guess is – you won’t! Rather, right after the first month, you will be putting your blog on auction at sitepoint or shutting it down indefinitely.

So, how not to fail and blog for long term?

The answer is, in the vision. If you don’t have a vision, it’s very likely that you will be closing your blog (or selling it off) at the first crisis that you encounter. That’s what happened to many blogs recently.

In contrast, if you do have a vision, you will most likely to succeed almost all the challenges you meet in your blogging career (see the illustration).

Let’s say, your vision is to help bloggers improve their writing skills. Now, when you have such a vision, do you think some PageRank decrease will make you close your blog? Or worse, sell it to someone else? Of course, not!

Because you are NOT blogging for PageRank, neither for money, nor for self-promotion. Rather, you are blogging to help other bloggers improve their writing skills. And as long as you can help others improve their writing skills, I am sure you will be blogging for many many years to come. Continue reading