5 SEO friendly ecommerce platforms to use in 2016

To get your web campaign off to the right start, you need to have a web platform that will give you a strong foundation to build your web business. There are several CMS options floating around on the web. And as easy as they sound to setup and operate in the short-term, selecting the wrong platform could cost your business thousands of dollars to change or upgrade over the long-term. If you are new to e-commerce, Online Marketing Gurus recommends that you look into the following CMS platforms, which can help fulfil your commerce and SEO requirements.


Bigcommerce is one of the most popular e-commerce solutions on the market today. The platform is SEO friendly, easily customisable for displaying the catalogue of digital or physical goods as well as providing the shipping options and payment gateways. Plans for Bigcommerce start at $29.95 per month for the standard, $79.95 for the Plus and $199.95 for the pro. There is also an enterprise option that offers customisable developments at varied pricing.

One of the things to bear in mind with the different packages is that you have a limit on the amount of sales orders that you can process with your CMS package. On the plus side, customers that purchase through Paypal on Bigcommerce can expect to pay lower rates.


For people that want a strong CMS commerce solution, Magento provides a strong ‘off the shelf solution’ web platform to get your online store operating quickly and hassle free. Magento provides many free and paid plugins to enhance the performance of your website.

Magento is usually developed with SEO friendliness in mind and the directory expansions makes it easy to manage the business’s merchandising and web marketing efforts for those that aren’t so web savvy. The Zoey cloud solution is completely hosted on their servers and prices start from as little as $89/month.


Drupal is one of the world’s leading Open Source ecommerce platforms and is used extensively on the web. There are thousands of active developers that work together on the platform and its modules to make it better. Other solutions that are driven by profit-motivators tend to have their developers work in silos and usually requires the purchase of modules (which can be up to a few hundred dollars) to get the site functioning exactly as you would want it to. The Drupal commerce system is all built from the same base Drupal 7 components and each new module uses the underlying API, which can be used with existing modules.
The Drupal CMS is flexible, SEO friendly and cost-effective.


Shopify is a relatively new player in the CMS game and has been winning over web entrepreneurs with its ‘easy-to-use’ platform, which is catered for the non-savvy web person. The catch is that any additional plugins are generally quite expensive.


WordPress is one of the most used platforms on the web. In terms of SEO, it is probably the best CMS solution to help sites amplify their organic search reach due to their functionality with tagging, URL structure and content markup. Setting up the site for an ecommerce solution requires configuring plugins (of which some are free and some are paid for) in order to get the right ecommerce solution for your business.

When it comes to selecting your CMS provider for your ecommerce solution, you want to make sure that the platform will allow your web business to scale easily with as much SEO friendly integrations as possible.

PHP 7 : New Way To Code The Website

Significant changes to PHP have increased the performance of sites that use the language dramatically. In fact, it is estimated that PHP 7 offers a 100% improvement in performance speed over PHP 5.6. This major improvement in speed allows web developers to create sites that provide interesting and engaging interactive features that still respond to user input as quickly as modern web users have come to expect.

Another motivation for the development of PHP 7 is the need to develop scripting languages that run more efficiently. This demand is driven by two factors: the need to reduce costs and the need to reduce power consumption to protect the environment. Compared to PHP 5.6, PHP 7 places substantially reduced demands on servers, which makes it a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice, as comparatively less energy is needed to power servers running PHP 7 applications.

PHP 7 Performance
There are certain things that appears new in PHP 7, some are mention below;

  •   PHP#NG– the New Zend Engine for PHP 7 

Currently, the PHP 5.X uses Zend Engine II which powerfully enhances the functionality of the PHP 5.x based websites and adds the extensible object model, providing performance boost to the language.

  • Twice the speed of Previous Versions

One of the most undeniable and visible advantages of the new PHPNG engine is the improvement in performance. It also includes Just-In-Time (JIT) that provides the compilation done in run time – avoiding it to be done before the code execution.

  • Simplifies Error Handling

For PHP coders (until now), handling catchable fatal and just fatal errors was never an easy task. The newest Engine Exceptions allows you to replace such errors, keeping exceptions. Just in case the exception remains undiscovered, PHP will to return to the same fatal errors as they have in the 5.x version.

Also Read : Why PHP 7 Is Very Helpful For Developers?

  • 64-Bit Windows Systems Support
For those who didn’t know, PHP is a vital member of LAMP stack. This concludes that LINUX is their native environment, but it is possible to use PHP on Windows system as well. The 5.x version does not provide the 64-bit integer as of yet.
On the other hand, PHP 7 is set to change this by launching their consistent support to 64-bit, meaning that it will give both natives the support of large files and 64-bit integers. It gives developers the confidence of running language on their 64-bit Windows system as well.
PHP 7 Performance
  • Gives out Accurate Type Declarations
To improve the feature even more, PHP 7 has introduced four new type declarations for the scalar types:
1. Bool
2. String
3. Float
  • Addition of Anonymous Classes
With the benefit of adding Java and C+, PHP 7 allows programmers to add any anonymous class to their code. For those who do not know, an anonymous class is a class that has no name. Nonetheless, the object being instantiated has similar functionality as the named class object.
  •  Provides You with A lot of Space
The main aim of PHP 7 was to set up free space in order to provide improvements in this version. This is why it was important to get rid of the deprecated functionalities, along with the unsupported, old Server extensions and APIs. This largely helped in giving out free space.
In PHP 5, the removed items are deprecated for some time. However, if you are thinking about running your old PHP version app, PHP 7 may break the code.

Make your windows stand out with these genius ways

Believe it or not, the appropriate type of window treatments can change the aspect of a room to 180 degrees. It is a great way of redecorating a space without investing a fortune in new furniture or accessories. Replacing curtains and opting for more modern variants might be exactly what your home needs to feel welcoming, modern and appealing again.

How do we make a room feel stylish once again using the simplest, most conventional ideas? Believe it or not, there are so any things you can change in your home on a budget. All you need is some imagination to get started. Here are some trivial but genius ways to make your windows stand out.


Neutral elegance

Neutral beige colors are the best when you’re trying to have an elegant living room. Floor to ceiling window treatments will add more height to your space, as well as width. Your room will appear larger and it will feel fresher. Also, beige accents give you the opportunity to play with colors; add stronger accents for the throw pillows and accessories, and transform your home into a comfortable, modern and stylish environment.

Contrasts are a great way of adding a touch of ingenuity into your personal space. Pick a theme, adapt is to your personal preferences and make it work. For example, naval influences are in trend this season. Choose light blue for the shades, stripped blue in the same hues for the cushions and throw pillows, and complement the room with a darker blue rug. The end result will exceed all your expectations.

Simple elegance

When adorning window treatments, you should know that drapes and curtains are not always the most important accessories. Sometimes, it’s all about the hangs and ring headings. Choose luxurious varieties with interesting designs and color palettes and keep the aspect of the curtains as simple as possible. Light orange drapes for example will match perfectly with all-black stainless steel hangs and rings. Counterbalance and make your windows pop; choose window accessories that shape the frames and give your home an architectural, innovative appeal.


Pastel pinks

Pink is not just a color that goes into your little girl’s room. When properly adapted and adorned, the hue can actually work miracles in the living or dining area too. It’s all about staying away from strong accents of bright pink and fuchsia. Pastel pink on the other hand, shouldn’t be neglected. Ideal in home with little sunshine, curtains and drapes in this nuance will bring more light into your home; it will make your space look bigger and your furniture more chic.

Dramatic draping

Add more drama into the living room and invest in longer drapes and curtains. This will make your space seem extravagant, out of the ordinary and incredibly chic. Loose linens make a space seem more fluid; they’re excellent in the bedroom when you want the ambiance to scream comfort and elegance. For a more casual allure, leave the curtains shorter but opt for a striking design. Stripes for example, might be the best solution to create a dramatic living space without cluttering it.

Industrial accessories for window treatments

Now that you’ve done with the window installation process, how about changing the general look and appeal of your drapes with some innovative drapery hardware? This season, all eyes are on the industrial trend. Unique and colorful holdbacks, curtains finials and additional accessories are an excellent way of adding glamour and shine to standard drapes and curtains. The variety of styles and colors is endless. Choose holdbacks with interesting designs – colored flowers, twigs and leaves – and after you’ve selected your curtains, pay some attention to accessories like rings, hooks, and rod brackets. These will give a finishing touch to the window treatments, and your home will scream both comfort and style.


Changing your home’s appeal is a lot easier than you think. Believe it or not, you can make your space feel comfortable and look chic without spending a lot of money. Be smart and invest in high-quality window accessories. Choose drapes and curtains in timeless colors, and pick materials that are thick, full and durable. Warm combos are the best because they provide warmth and comfort; however, if you want to welcome more light into your home, lighter shades are also highly recommended.

By Paul Trevino and VanessaArbuthnott.co.uk!

Best Steps To Hiring A Perfect Mobile App Development Company

In this digital age, taking in to consideration the huge variations in prices from one web development company to the next, web development and application development is a highly convoluted area.

There are thousands of budding new development companies joining the market everyday and a lot of them are inexperienced or have jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck.

When developing your website or application, it is quite common for you to never actually meet the person who is developing it. Therefore it is very important that you know what to look out for, can recognize potential ‘red flags’ and how to separate the genuinely professional application and web development companies from those who are unlikely to deliver on your request.

Also Read : Why Enterprises Invest High on Mobile App Development?

Here are a few tips on how to find out if the mobile application company will:

  • Successfully deliver on your website development or application development project.

  • Meet your deadlines effectively.

  • Ensure that your website or application is error free and working correctly.

  • Follow logical project management steps to ensure the website or application is built correctly.

  • Initial contact with the web/mobile application development company

Mobile Application Development

When dealing with the web development / mobile application company for the first time, here are the main things that should be covered, both from the customer’s standpoint and the developer’s:

  • The mobile application / web development company should always offer to contact you either by phone or via email to discuss your plans for the project at no cost to you.

  • The web development company should always conduct a preliminary ‘discovery’ meeting, where they will go through the overall plans for the project, application or website functionality, timescales, general website or app design and they should also offer up clear and concise advice and recommendations with the minimum of technical jargon. This should also be at no cost to you.

  • When speaking to the mobile application development company, the customer should always find out:

    • How long the company has been in business, where the company is based and if the company is registered in the country they are in.

    • What work they’ve done in the past (such as websites they have online and applications they have on app stores. If the company has their link at the bottom of the websites or applications they’ve developed, that is a strong sign of their authenticity).

    • If they have any references or received any recommendations that they can show you. Ask if there is a previous client you can speak to before making a payment.

    • The project payment structure. This will vary from company to company. It is common to make up front payments in the industry – however it should be clearly defined, in the form of a contract, as to what will be done upon each payment. The customer should NEVER pay for the full project up front. The full payment should be split in to manageable payments. If you are in any doubt as to whether the company is above board, do NOT make a payment. Remember that the development company is there to work for you and should be willing to make certain concessions and work hard to get your business.

    • What the overall plan of the project is. The website or application development company should be able to give you a clear understanding of what the project will entail. For example, they should specify the technological platform they plan on using for the website or application, they should give clear information as to what the website or application will look like and the different types of functionality available (more on this later).

    • Who you will be dealing with on the project. It is very common in the industry, to deal with a project manager, therefore that person should be knowledgeable and capable.

    • What the projected timescale is. It is normally safer to ask how long it will take (approximately) in working days.

    • Use your gut instinct to determine if the person you are speaking to is honest, forthright and doesn’t evade questions.

    • You should always expect a strong customer service ethic and the guarantee of a high quality product.

At the start of the mobile application or website application project

Before paying for your project to start, you should always receive an overview of the project plan, a proposal and terms and conditions in writing. This will give you a strong idea of how your project will be managed.


This will contain an explanation of everything that the customer needs to be done. This is ordinarily what is detailed in the management report.

It should also contain:

  • The terms and conditions (how long you have to get coding errors fixed, how many changes you can make to the system before you need to start paying for them etc.)

  • An overview of the project plan.

  • The amount of working days the project will take to complete (approximately).

  • Any discounts that may be offered (and the terms and conditions of those discounts).

  • The full price split in to manageable payments.

The project itself

Project management varies a great deal depending on the size of the project, however nearly all information technology projects will require the following phases to be carried out:

Must Read : iPhone App Development Trends in 2016

Application or website documentation (where necessary)

This normally contains:

Every page title that will be included in the website or mobile application and a brief description of the page.

The functionality the website or mobile application will contain. It is very important this is explained in full as there are numerous functions and styles that can be included in the application or website, and they generally affect the price. A few of these are:

  • Screen sizing

  • An events calendar

  • A rotating image banner

  • An e-commerce section

  • An advertising banner

  • A sign in section

  • A permissions section

  • A contact form

  • A donations section

  • Social media linking

Upon payment of the first installment, your project gets underway.

iOS Mobile App Development

There are a few key phases that all website and application development projects will always contain. These are the main steps, in order:

Wire frames

Wire frames are normally an outlined ‘sketch’ of what each page; of the website or application, will look like. This is ordinarily done using certain software – and can also be done using Photoshop. They give the customer the opportunity to move things around on the screen and make changes to screens where necessary, and to get an overall idea of what the screen will look like upon completion.

This is the main area for the customer to discuss and make changes.

Website / Mobile Application Design

This is the design of the screen once all the colours and the company logo has been added. This should be exactly what the site or application should like on the screen or device, when it is officially ‘live’ (on the web or on a mobile device).

Website / Mobile Application Development

This is the website or application coding that ensures the site/application functionality works correctly.

Error testing and fixing

All information technology projects should be thoroughly tested to make sure they work correctly. They should be tested on all the main browsers (Chrome, Safari, Explorer, Firefox) and the functionality should be checked, to ensure that you can, for example, add an event to the events calendar and it saves correctly or log in to the site and add your details or add permissions to a certain document so that only designated users can see it, etc.

The company should offer a period of at least 30 days for the customer to use the site and to fix any coding errors found.

For more information on how ACT Mobile Solutions works, please visit our Mobile Applications page.

Wrapping Up:

Here is a complete checklist that help you to determine the best mobile application developer/website developer for your needs:

  • Always have a lengthy ‘discovery’/introductory meeting with the developer.

  • Never pay for anything until you feel completely comfortable that they are ‘on the level’.

  • Ask general questions about the company, including what they have developed in the past (do they have links at the bottom of the site or application?). Do they have references you can speak to/email?

  • Determine whether you were getting straight, honest answers.

  • What project steps will they take for your project (Report, Wireframes, Design, Development, Error testing etc.)?

  • Have they provided you with a contract, a project plan, a proposal and terms and conditions?

  • What’s the general timescale for the completion of each phase and the project in its entirety?

  • Does the cost seem reasonable for the work that is to be done and the professionalism, size, location of the organization?

*Please note: Information Technology/development costs vary significantly from company to company, the country they are in, overheads and size of company. You will most likely be quoted very low and very high prices, depending on who you talk to. If you look for:

  • Professionalism

  • Honesty

  • Customer service and a product guarantee

  • Initial work carried out without the expectation of payment

  • Knowledgeable staff

  • in the individuals you speak to, that should be enough to determine the company is legitimate.

For clear, honest advice delivering excellence in the mobile application and website design and development industries, don’t hesitate to contact PixelCrayons.

Understand The Term ‘Internet Of Things’

Internet of things (IOT) one of the raging technologies is luring end users with its captivating benefits and features. Every emerging technology has a dark side to it, which should be explored and kept in mind while using the technology. ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’, one of the raging technologies, is luring end users with its captivating benefits and features.



In simple terms, Internet of Things, also known as Internet of Everything, is a group of devices that are interconnected over the Internet, just like your smart-watch, Fitbit, or even your refrigerator. All these devices are capable to transmit as well as collect data via the Internet, contributing to our Big-Data world.

Also Read : Big Data : Amazing Facts and Stats

To demonstrate how fast Internet of Things is growing and it affects on our lives and business we have analyze some mind blogging IOT numbers :

  • ATMs considered some of the first IoT objects and went online as far back as 1974.
  • Back in 2008 there were already more objects connected to the Internet than people.
  • It is assume that by 2020, then number of internet connected things will reach or exceed 50 billion.



  • The IoT will connect many of the devices we have in our homes, from thermostats to smart fridges.
  • By 2020, a quarter of a billion vehicles connected to the Internet, giving us completely new possibilities for in-vehicle services and automated services.



  • Machine-to-machine connections will grow from 5 billion at the beginning of this year to 27 billion by 2024 with maximum share of china and US.
  • According to estimations by the Mckinsey Global Institute the IoT will have a total economic impact of up to $11 trillion by 2025.

Let’s have a look at both the pros as well as the cons of using IoT in our daily lives :

Pros Of Internet of Things :

1 .Cost Savings : It makes the electronic appliances communicate to each other in an effective manner thereby conserving and saving cost and energy.

2 .Information : Whether it is general decisions as needing to know what to buy at a grocery store or if your company has enough supplies and widgets, knowledge is great power and more knowledge is always good.

Also Read : How Internet of Things Affects Your Business?

3 .Communication : IoT encourages Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication (communication between devices).




4 .Automation and Control : Owing to physical objects getting controlled and connected digitally with wireless infrastructure, there is a big amount of automation and control in the workings.

Cons of Internet of Things:

1. Over Dependency of Technology : At present , it is observed that the younger generation is a technology freak and they depend upon technology and its devices for every little thing.

2. Losing security on Privacy : As there is involvement of different technologies and devices, there is monitoring by more than one companies, which directly questions the security and privacy issues.

3. Lesser Employment Prospects : With IoT, daily activities getting automated and naturally there will be fewer requirements of human resources and less educated staff, which may create employment issue in the society.




5 Reasons To Choose Ruby On Rails for Web Development

Ruby on Rails is one of the hottest technological trends for 2015 which has taken over the web development industry. Ruby on rails developed in Ruby programming language is an open source web application framework. Rails is the software library which extends the software code that are added in Ruby Programming Language.


Comparison of summary statistics of Node.js and Ruby On Rails

About Ruby On Rails :-

Ruby On Rails

Ruby Programming Language is one of the most popular open source framework which helps to develop simple or a complete web applications. It has the capability of rich interactivity and functionality which makes ROR as the one of the best framework for developing powerful web applications also. It is developed with the help of Model view controller design pattern. This helps ROR to be agile nature of development framework unlike other platforms.

5 reasons to choose Ruby on rails for your upcoming project which are :-

1. Quick launch :-

Ruby on rails modules and solutions

Rails consists of ROR programming software library which comprises of extensive set of ready-made modules and solutions. These tools saves at-least 30% development time and ensures quicker launch of results.

Also Read : All Aboard with Ruby On Rails

2. Cost -Effective :-


Ruby on Rails provide an excellent platform for web development spending less time. This saves the cost and you don’t have to compromise with the quality of the project.

3. Built in testing :-

Built In testing for ROR

Ruby Programming Language uses advanced algorithm for testing process. Unlike other frameworks it consist of a built in system where manual testing is not required. In simple way it runs on a test driven development methodology where codes exists after they are tested. This process saves cost and time both.

4. Flexibility :-


Ruby on rails is readable and that is why it is easier for the programmers to take up an existing project and update them. ROR provides excellent flexibility for the easy modification of a project in future.

Ruby on Rails Web Development

5. Complex Websites :-


The ready-made built in solutions of Ruby on Rails provides excellent solutions for building complex websites. Moreover it is much easy to find the solution of any complex problem which occurs at the time of development of website

Why Should Migrate From Drupal 7 To Drupal 8?

The new release of world’s leading open source content management platform Drupal is packed with over 200 new features and improvements. With these prominent features, Drupal 8 will set new standards in offering plethora of ways to customize your website content, display data on mobile devices, and build API’s.

 The updated version reveals some of its astounding features, and better arms Drupal users to take advantage of the emerging internet technologies, particularly the digital marketing and social media optimization. It is essential for Drupal users to learn about the software’s continuous evolutions that bring forth new capabilities to overcome challenges and achieve goals. Here is what they all will get in the Drupal 8.Here is what they all will get in the Drupal 8.


Must Read : What New In Drupal 8?



 1. More User-friendly:

Many often use to complain that Drupal is not as simple as WordPress. Drupal 8 has been designed to address all issues that used to make it complex. Now, it’s simpler, and easier to build websites quickly and upload/edit content in an effortless manner.

2. Simple & Mobile Content Editing:
The new Drupal version comes with a built-in WISIWYG editor that makes your task of editing content a breeze. Instead of puzzling at the back-end, now you may edit the content at the front-end as well, so that everything will remain visible to you instantly. Moreover, it allows you to edit content through mobile devices as well.

3. Responsive & Fast:
In Drupal 8, with an optimum JavaScript load, the content caching task is more efficient and faster. That’s why the content becomes available at a faster pace with no wait time. It also makes your website look impressive with more responsive characteristics. Thus, users will love to access your website via multiple mobile devices.

4. Multi-language Support:
If your goal is to build a multi-lingual site to penetrate new geographies speaking different foreign languages, Drupal 8 could be your sensible choice. It allows you to build a website for users speaking multiple languages and manage it more efficiently.


Did you get your website developed in Drupal 7? But now you wish to migrate it to Drupal 8? It’s not a worry! The previous versions of Drupal were not that supportive in terms of the website migration. It was mere supportive. But now with Drupal 8 developers can effortlessly shift the websites that have been coded in either Drupal 6 or Drupal 7. Undoubtedly, this is going to ease the work load of many developers out there, who are always expected to ensure the website compatibility with the new flowing in technologies. Thus, with Drupal 8 it is easy to update the websites for the developers.

Why Use Xamarin For Mobile App?

Developing a mobile app can turn out to be a expensive and long process. With the advent of new technology Xamarin, cross-platform mobile development has become quite easy and prompt. In this blog post, I’ll explain some benefits of Xamarin as a cross-platform mobile development tool.



Xamarin offers some astonishing efficiencies for cross-development applications that appear and perform like native apps on Windows, Android and iOS devices. Regardless of the cross-development tools that programmers use, seamless integrations with their companies’ systems are essential to get the most from code-sharing or building native apps for the major systems.




Here are some advantages of using Xamarin as an cross development tool:

1.Xamarin helps in building mobile apps faster

You have write most of the codes only once and can share it on Android, iOS, and Windows. In this way, you can also decrease your mobile app’s time-to-market. By cutting down on cross-platforms code duplication, you will have more time for adding functionality to your mobile app.

Also Read : Why Enterprises Invest High on Mobile App Development?

2.Xamarin helps in delivering a native platform experience

Xamarin is fully integrated with the SDK of each platform. This allows developers to use the common API to access native controls that provide an authentic native experience.

3.With Xamarin you can easily avoid bugs

Probably the greatest benefit for users of apps developed with Xamarin is an increase in software quality due to code reuse. It stands to reason that the chances of introducing platform-specific errors can be dramatically decreased when app code is written once and shared on different mobile platforms.

4.Xamarin helps in developing code using a full-featured IDE

It increases productivity of developer with features such as code completion, a powerful debugger that works with either an emulator or hardwire devices, support for easy app publishing and an interactive UI builder.



Why Use Xamarin For Mobile App Development?

Developing a mobile app can turn out to be a expensive and long process. With the advent of new technology Xamarin, cross-platform mobile development has become quite easy and prompt. In this blog post, I’ll explain some benefits of Xamarin as a cross-platform mobile development tool.



Xamarin offers some astonishing efficiencies for cross-development applications that appear and perform like native apps on Windows, Android and iOS devices. Regardless of the cross-development tools that programmers use, seamless integrations with their companies’ systems are essential to get the most from code-sharing or building native apps for the major systems.




Here are some advantages of using Xamarin as an cross development tool:

  1. Xamarin helps in building mobile apps faster

You have write most of the codes only once and can share it on Android, iOS, and Windows. In this way, you can also decrease your mobile app’s time-to-market. By cutting down on cross-platforms code duplication, you will have more time for adding functionality to your mobile app.

  1. Xamarin helps in delivering a native platform experience

Xamarin is fully integrated with the SDK of each platform. This allows developers to use the common API to access native controls that provide an authentic native experience.

  •   3

  •   .With Xamarin you can easily avoid bugs; therefore, increase software quality

Probably the greatest benefit for users of apps developed with Xamarin is an increase in software quality due to code reuse. It stands to reason that the chances of introducing platform-specific errors can be dramatically decreased when app code is written once and shared on different mobile platforms.

  1. Xamarin helps in developing code using a full-featured IDE

It increases productivity of developer with features such as code completion, a powerful debugger that works with either an emulator or hardwire devices, support for easy app publishing and an interactive UI builder.


How Brand Design Is Going To Change Your Business Strategies

Brand StrategyOne of the biggest mistakes any small to medium size business can make is not investing time and money into their brand identity.  So why is it that so many SME’s invest in building their brands?

I’m a business owner myself and I know the daily demands on your time when running a business. You may think brand building is relatively unimportant when struggling to get your product or service to market, or even to try and find your niche market fit. But don’t dismiss the power of good brand building.

Good branding does not cost the earth and nobody telling you to hire expensive brand strategists to explore your company’s market or image. But it is important to go beyond just picking some colours and a nice font and then calling that you’re ‘Brand’.

Below I have put together some thoughts on how we can all learn from the big brands and how we you can make your brand just as powerful within your industry.

Develop your brand standards

Think about everything you know about Coca Cola. Now think about a new can that has been released which is blue and has ‘Times New Roman’ font as the words ‘Coca Cola’. You can’t picture it right?

That’s because Coca Cola has one of the clearest and most recognisable brand standards out there. Everything from the packaging, television commercials, website and social media profiles, draws on its colours, fonts, motifs and experiences. None of this is just by coincidence.

A big part of Coca-Cola’s success comes from its ability to transmit feelings and expectations through its branded elements. When you see that red and white can, you know you’re going to get a crisp, refreshing beverage, no matter where in the world you’re buying it.

One key way to develop your brand is to create a set of design rules that tie together the look and feel of all your marketing materials. These rules are often referred to as “brand standards.” Ideally, brand standards do the double-duty of creating awareness of your brand and differentiating your brand from your competitors. Think you’re not big enough to worry about your brand? We recommend that even the smallest companies develop and maintain brand standards from the very beginning.

The breadth and depth of your brand standards can vary greatly, depending on your needs. Keep in mind that if you’re too strict, you may get issues when trying to be creative, while if you’re too loose, design chaos can result. Focus on strategy and consistency in the following five areas:

1. Logo.  There’s perhaps no single more important element to your brand standards than the consistent use of your logo. First, you should never alter or redraw your logo. Second, its placement and sizing should remain consistent within each communication vehicle (for example, your letterhead, brochures, postcards, fliers, etc.). Rules can vary according the type of material you’re using your logo in, but they shouldn’t vary drastically.

And if you want to look like a large company, remember this irony: The bigger the company, the smaller the logo.

2. Graphics. Use distinctive symbols and shapes in a consistent way. Choosing the same basic graphic elements will help customers remember your brand faster. Also, be consistent when using borders and/or backgrounds–or show a pattern of consistency that complies with your brand standards. For example, you could choose a cupid-themed border for a Valentine’s Day ad and a clover-themed border for a St. Patrick’s Day ad. In both cases, your border should be consistent in size and/or weight (the amount of emphasis it receives relative to the other elements on the page).

3. Colors. Color is one of the most important components when it comes to brand identity. The colors you choose will make an immediate impression on your audience, and play a large role in memory retrieval. Therefore color can significantly impact someone’s perception of your brand. For example, gold, silver and burgundy are perceived to be upscale, while green is viewed as fresh and healthy. I highly recommend you research and/or test-market certain colors before you commit to a palette. One easy–if not scientific–way to do this is to create a brochure or ad in three or four different color palettes, then survey various people for feedback. And remember that colors have different meanings in different cultures.

4. Fonts. Choose just a handful of fonts for use on all your materials, selecting at least one serif font and one san-serif font. Serif fonts have “feet” at the bottom of the font to guide the reader’s eye, while san-serif fonts don’t–“Times” is an example of a serif font; “Helvetica” is an example of a san-serif font. Serif fonts work well in paragraphs or body copy because they give the eye something to “hang on to.” San-serif fonts should be reserved for headlines, numbers in charts, very small text or text that’s reversed out of a color. As a general rule, you should use no more than two fonts in a document, although a third, decorative font could be used sparingly.

5. Illustrative or photographic style. Consider what type of visuals-pictures–you want to feature on your marketing materials. Will your visuals consist of illustrations or photos? Try to stick with one or the other. Regardless of your choice, your visuals should be similar in style and color usage–black and white, four-color, two-color, etc.

When you’ve identified rules for the above areas, write them down and distribute them to any employee or vendor–such as a printer–who may need to reference them. Your brand standards will go a long way toward building your brand equity. It’s worth the time and effort to do it right.

Dedicate one agency and person with your company to guide and enforce brand standards

Once you have worked with a brand agency to create your brand standards, it is critical that you appoint either the agency or someone within your team working with the agency to manage this and enforce this with all your marketing material online and off.

Your brand ‘ambassador’ should be involved with everything that your brand goes out on whether it be packaging, online marketing or offline brand collateral. No matter how branded elements play into your company’s business processes, give this person/agency the overarching authority to make changes — even if they aren’t convenient (or cheap).

Just like Coca-Cola wouldn’t let that purple can go down its assembly line, don’t let anything your company produces interfere with the standards you’ve set for yourself. Doing so will only create confusion and diminish the effectiveness of your efforts.

Embrace telling your story

There are many great examples of storytelling. But this nike example is a great way in showing how this can be done. Check out one of the ‘Find your greatness’ campaigns produced by Nike

Harnessing the power of storytelling isn’t limited to the big brands alone. We tend to think of stories as things that might begin with “once upon a time,” present us Good Guys and Bad Guys, take us on a journey which is resolved, if we’re lucky, with a happy ending.

But how does a Powerpoint presentation fit into this scheme? Or a television spot promoting a particular product benefit? Or a marketing campaign that aims to associate your brand with a certain set of images and feelings?

Share the story of how your company came to be. Post case studies that show how you’ve impacted the stories of your customers. Forget about talking like a marketer and instead focus on sharing the things that make your company unique.

Brand storytelling is:

· The reason why your company came to be

· What motivates your team to wake up and come to work everyday

· How your product came to be

· What types of customers find value in working with your brand and why

· A transparent view into the people behind the company

· A relationship-building tool

· More subtle than you realize

· A concept that underscores your entire web presence

· Something that your entire team, at organizational levels, embraces

· A look into who you are as a company

· Direct

Brand storytelling is NOT:

· A long-winded, 5-paragraph essay about your company

· A blog post

· Something isolated

· A fragmented view into your company

· Something reserved for the marketing team only

· A PR stunt

· A viral video

· A tool to manipulate customers and prospects

· Boring

· Artsy

· You’ll be amazed at how quickly your customers adopt these stories and spread them for you.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly your customers adopt these stories and spread them for you.

Look to take advantage of data

“Big data” is one of marketing’s latest buzzwords, but just because it’s “big” doesn’t mean it’s unattainable for smaller brands.

Chances are you already have a number of programs producing data for you, from Google Analytics to your customer-relationship management system and more. But are you actually doing anything with this data?

Start by figuring out what metrics matter most for your company’s success. Then, figure out how to extract reports from your data sources that will measure your progress towards these key performance indicators.

Once a month (or more or less frequently, depending on the length of your sales cycle), run your reports, read through them and make at least three changes based on what you find.

Don’t overcomplicate things, and don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of data you have access to. Begin with this simple process, but refine your approaches as you get more comfortable harnessing the power of data.

Community Matters

At its core, branding should draw people in. People who observe your branded elements should feel as if they’re part of a community, that they have a shared bond with others in the same situation.

Some big brands choose to make this relationship more explicit, as in the case of Expedia’s “Find Yours” campaign:

The campaign encourages participants to share their travel stories, creating a powerful sense of community amongst those featured in the videos, as well as those who view them.

No matter how you approach it, find ways to encourage your customers to share their experiences with your brand. It’s a powerful approach to community-building that serves the dual purpose of building brand exposure and awareness as well.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to have a big budget to create good brand standards and. The most creative marketing solutions tend to develop out of necessity, not when you have a lot of financial padding. The creative juices really start flowing when the funds are limited.