The iMarc Boilerplate, much like the HTML5 Boilerplate or Twitter Bootstrap, is our starting point for new projects. It provides us with:
- Better, consistent defaults than what browsers use by themselves;
- Sharp, clean placeholders for styles on sites we can use until we've had a chance to restyle them;
- Clear, organized structure for our CSS going forward.
We wanted this file to be lighter than Twitter Bootstrap or the HTML5 Boilerplate and restructured in a way that was more fitting our mentality. Rather than layering our notions on top of one of these others, we wanted to take what we could from them create a base that fits us.
Best of all, we're releasing it on GitHub so its available to the community. You'll find more information on GitHub, as well as example markup and a separate page showing our document hierarchy and structure.
Did I just write “Springtime”? Yes I did. I was talking with my neighbor a few months back about the rainy season they call “winter” around here, and he advised me that once it passed, Spring was beautiful. I asked, “When is that Matt?”. “Oh, February.” I LOLed, but indeed it’s true. We’ve been hiking most every weekend and I went mountain biking after work last night.
Geography lesson: The dozen or so towns that make up Silicon Valley are variously known by their individual names if you live in one of them. Or as the “South Bay” if you live in San Francisco or across the bay in Oakland or Berkeley. Or you might hear “The Valley”, or of course the more formal but less locally flavored, “Silicon Valley”. But if you’re in Santa Cruz, it’s simply “Over the Hill” because it's, you know, just over the hill. And Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas or San Jose are roughly equivalent in the meaning of that. It’s like living on an island in that sense. “Over the Hill” means “Not in Santa Cruz”. 'Nuff said.
We had a mountain lion cruise through the ravine just down the hill from our house in Bonny Doon about 100 feet from our back door, caught on our game camera one night. How cool is that? My wife and I went hiking last Sunday, a scant hour south of the San Francisco city limits and saw two people the entire day, in the parking lot as we set out. It’s frightfully congested on the roads sometimes, but incredibly spacious in the other 99% of the state.
Gas is expensive, as is housing. Food is religion. The outdoors is your living room. People drive pretty darn well, and way too fast. The only style that’s not cool is not having some style. You could drive a dill pickle down the street and the CHP wouldn’t bat an eye, as long as it passes “smog” testing. Along those lines, if you drive a Prius, good luck picking yours out in a big parking lot when you come out of the store if you forget where you parked it.
This town has geeks and freaks and hippies and surfers and yuppies and locals, and a great Latino influence to boot. As I went mountain biking last night, plenty of folks were surfing at the break downtown, and 4 hours east of here they are putting chains on their tires to get to Lake Tahoe for skiing. This state is really a handful. We love it.
We are gaining traction out here, launching marketing campaigns, networking madly, and working with some really cool companies on some really cool projects. So far so good, but for sure the best is yet to come. Happy Spring!
Paul McCartney knows how to make things people like.
In Let It Be, the 1970 Beatles documentary, Paul offers wise advise on crafting a quality solution. The scene shows Paul and George arguing while writing the song "Two of Us". Paul doesn't like where the song is going.
"It's complicated now... so, see if we can get it simpler, and then complicate it where it needs complications." – Paul McCartney
Speaking words of wisdom there Paul. First, get it simpler.
PHP has been iMarc's programming language of choice since the very beginning. The decision to invest so heavily in PHP has been a true key to our success and will continue to be. From a purist perspective, no doubt there's a lot of legacy cruft that stays around from version to version, but PHP is as capable as ever for creating great websites and applications for our clients. Here's why we continually turn to it.
By recent counts, PHP is being used by close to 80% of all websites, and based on the trends that looks to keep growing and growing. Wordpress and Drupal, two of the most popular open source content management systems, are written in PHP.
Whatever you need, it's probably baked in.
Not that you shouldn't search out developer libraries for a more robust solution, but whatever you're trying to accomplish, PHP can probably do it out of the box (or has an extension for it.) Need to connect to a database? Done. Need to write tags to an MP3? It's in there. Less dependencies means less headaches.
It runs anywhere and it scales.
PHP can run on the most common of hardware. We don't have to worry about complex deployment strategies with PHP. You place your files on a server and it just works. We prefer Ubuntu for our platform, but it's no issue if we have to run on Windows. As for scaling, it is a complicated topic and there is no silver bullet, but overall PHP is fast. Facebook, one of the biggest sites in the world, is written in PHP.
PHP isn't just for the web. PHP also works great as a general purpose programming language. Command line scripts and utilities written in PHP work great. This means we can use PHP across our entire server side stack.
In the past, PHP has gotten a bad reputation for being insecure due to the bad practices of new programmers flooding to it. Like all languages, it's still up to the programmer to make sure they are following best practices to avoid issues such as SQL injection, Cross Site Scripting or Cross Site Request Forgeries. But make no mistake, at the core PHP is rock solid and secure.
It's easy to pick up.
Don't get me wrong, programming is hard and requires a lot of practice like anything else, but when we bring new engineers onto our team, we need to get them up to speed fast. Being styled mostly after C and Java, PHP looks and feels familiar. Also the documentation is the best of any language out there, hands down.
The language and community are growing up.
PHP has come a long way in its 17 years of existence. It's actually starting to look like a modern programming language now! In recent years we've gotten features such as closures and namespaces and people are becoming more concerned about writing to standards (PSR, PHP: The Right Way, iMarc Handbook). PHP also has a package manager now, Composer, to help manage your dependencies on a per project basis.
All in all, PHP is great and we are happy to be part of the community. It's been a great technology to work with and will only continue to get better.
In just a few short years, LinkedIn has evolved into the leading social networking website for professionals, with over 175 million members and counting. Chances are, you already have a personal profile on LinkedIn to make connections for career development, but have you recently taken a look at your company’s page? Is it optimized for acquiring new clients and recruiting qualified employees? Just as having a polished, professional website that is rich in relevant and engaging content is important to your inbound marketing efforts, a robust LinkedIn Company Page will also drive engagement with potential customers and top talent.
In 2012, Hubspot found that traffic from LinkedIn generates the highest B2B visitor-to-lead conversion rate over all social media channels. If that’s not compelling enough for you, consider the practical SEO advantage of maintaining a Company Profile on LinkedIn. Your Company Profile will ultimately show up in organic search results, so including strategically chosen content that is frequently updated will increase your search engine ranking and drive more traffic to your website.
LinkedIn’s Company Profiles have recently evolved with more powerful features and functionality. Below are pointers for how to effectively build out your Company Profile for the maximum impact:
Add a Banner Image
If you haven’t done so already, the first prompt LinkedIn will make while you administer your page will be to upload an image. This is a banner image, similar to Facebook’s timeline cover image. The image should be on-brand and consistent with other media. Images must also be under 2MB in size, and will be cropped, so be sure to produce a rectangular banner to align with their specs. This is a great opportunity to brand your Company Page and make a great first impression.
Showcase Products & Services
Companies can build a portfolio on LinkedIn that showcases products and services. Be creative, use these sections to feature the latest examples from your company’s portfolio, even if they are not products or services in the “traditional” sense. For example, iMarc uses this area of its Company Profile to feature the latest site launches. The Products and Services page also has a Promotion box to feature contests, discounts, and more.
Commit to Regular Status Updates
It’s not enough to have static content on your Company Page. Just like your website, it’s important to update page content regularly, and LinkedIn makes it simple with its “Share an Update” feature. Company Page administrators can drive on-going engagement with viewers and followers by posting frequent updates that incorporate rich content. LinkedIn has made enhancements to allow page administrators to incorporate images, video, and files for download. Topics to consider sharing include company news, awards, industry articles, event information, and promotional video. iMarc leverages content from its blog and includes a link to the iMarc website to access the full blog post. Remember to keep status updates authentic, relevant, and short for a better chance of being read and shared by LinkedIn users.
Follow us on LinkedIn for continued insight and conversation! You will find us at www.linkedin.com/company/imarc.
The Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA) has been a long time client, and I've personally had the pleasure of working on the last three redesigns of their site. To call this or any previous iteration of the MSCPA site a mere "redesign" really doesn't begin to encompass the amount of work involved translating their new branding to the web while enhancing the functionality and usability of the website experience.
In addition to the rebrand, the most important feature of the new MSCPAonline.org is its full site content management system. Administrators are able to control all of the site's content, so it's crucial that the design is flexible to multiple content lengths and still upholds the contemporary qualities of the Society's new brand. One of the most refreshing aspects of the branding overhaul that you'll see when visiting the site is its simplicity and focus. I always get excited when a client advocates removing visual clutter and shifting towards a concise visual language. Our initial homepage compositions were extremely open and clear, allowing both teams to focus on messaging while still having fun with graphics and other visual enhancements.
In addition to the new look, several important usability and user experience refinements were built into the site. Navigational structure was simplified and a tiered dropdown menu was employed alongside a collapsible header that literally "sticks" with users as they travel down the page. Something else frequent visitors of the site should appreciate is an overhaul of the way forms are displayed. Along these same lines, a lot of thought was given to increase engagement by simplifying workflows and calls to action. During the strategy phase, several key areas of the site were analyzed and wireframed before jumping into design. Our simplification of those complex pages will help users achieve their goals faster, while also being easy on the eyes.
MSCPA is always striving to stay ahead of the curve for the benefit of its members. Through design and usability research, we were able to deliver an incredibly flexible and unique site. Here's to MSCPA's new site, and more collaborations in the years to come!