Content Management System

silver midmarket solution provider competency

Metisc achieves Microsoft Silver Midmarket Solution Provider Competency

Metisc is excited to announce it has again achieved the Silver Midmarket Solution Provider competency, demonstrating its ability to meet customer’s evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment.

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joomla cheat sheet url parameter in rs form

Joomla! CheatSheet: How to auto-fill form using parameter through URL in RS Form?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could open up a form page and all the necessary fields were already filled out? It would be like your computer or the website just knew who you are and it can fill out forms for you. Not in a scary “your-computer-starts-ruling-the-world” kind of way though.

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Microsoft IIS Server performance issue

Microsoft IIS Server Performance Optimisation with Joomla

As a System Administrator there inevitably comes a time when you hear reports from users that a website you are hosting is slow. We opened up this week with such a scenario for a Joomla website hosted through Microsoft’s IIS. 

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Joomla 3.1 Cheat-sheet: How to create an article & add article to the website in Joomla 3.1

Joomla 3.1 provides plenty of options for creating various types of content and structuring it to your website. In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through the steps for adding new article to your website in Joomla 3.1. There are many workarounds to accomplish it, but we are only going to mention the simplest way.

Step 1. Log into your dashboard.

Step 2. In the dashboard page, click Add New Article OR Hover over to the top menu, choose Content - Article Manager, and the click on Add New Article. 
add article Joomla
Create article Joomla
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Our mBO PHP Software is now plug & play with all popular CMS's

One of the nice things about building software in a mature market space like CMS that most people know what to look for and how to use the systems. Even within the small but growing open CMS segment, there are tonnes of great extensions to choose from. At Metisc, we have spent the past 20 years in the industry building truly unique and powerful extension for clients that heavily leverage their websites for customer acquisitions, retention and complex operations.

This year our phone has been ringing off the hook with businesses looking for the top notch CRM extensions with the sleekest user experience and superb integration plugins. Well, Hello World! Our developer have been working their butts off for months to finally deliver the latest improvement in our extended CRM service. Metisc proudly announces that our mBO PHP side software is now plug and play with all of the popular CMS system such as Joomla, Wordpress, Magento and Drupal. The packages for each CMS all reference a common library of PHP code.

PlugIns: The Right Way

There is no canonical way to use PHP. Our mBO side software aims to provide our clients with extensive possibilities integration with all the popular CMS systems. These new integration components help our clients to roll out and enhance basic functions from our mBO webservices in minimal time, allowing us to focus more on implementing new functionality. Overall this results in minimising the development time allows us to spend more time on quality control for you and less time in reinventing the wheel for each new project.

As every client is different, with each project we are incorporating our client's unique requirements into these common libraries, meaning that custom development time is always decreasing and thus the costs to our future clients.

Plug Ins Joomlaresize

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White Paper - Going Mobile - Web or Native?

If you are interested in going mobile with your web and organizational content, you might be interested in the following article.

Nowadays, people are using smart phones or tablets more and more to read or consume content. Are you?

If you are not convinced of the trend, you can check out interesting figures provided by Cisco (Cisco article). It is huge!!!

If you look at their forecasts; like this one saying "Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic (on the internet) by 2018.", I am sure you will concede that the world is "going mobile".

So I thought I would share some thoughts and interesting links in order to provide you insights and elements to consider as you make make your own decision on how to provide mobile access to your members, customers or donors, that's assuming you haven't t already of course.

There are two ways for creating mobile content or interactions; Native or Web Apps. I have summarized the differences below.

Native

  • Pros
    • More user friendly as this method uses the native or best features of the phone - the device user will manage to use your app straight away as the experience may be better.
    • Faster - For some apps, even if you don’t have internet coverage, the app will work and can provide many of the features off line. It won't need to load as much data from the web as if it is a local app (screens/style does not have to be loaded from the web as it is installed on the phone).
    • May integrate with other local phone apps. Because the app works with the capabilities of the phone, some apps will be able to inter operate with other native device applications.
  • Cons
    • If you want the app to be on IOS (Apple), you might also want it to be on Android and Windows phones, so it is a lot more work to build multiple native apps, than just a web app as you have to build an app for each device. However, depending on the complexity of the app and what components of the device are being used, there exists technology that can build one app with a single set of computer program or source code (write once, deploy many devices) and can then be deployed deployed to multiple different device types as native apps. This is the way of the future, but its still in its early stages. (Delphi/Embarcadero XE5 Rad Studio for example)
    • Every time the platform (IOS, Android, Windows) gets updated, you may have to upgrade your apps. So there might be quite a lot of maintenance involved if your application is used for years on many devices.
    • About SEO, the content of the application cannot be crawled by Search engine; it will not impact your ranking or show on search pages in the search engine results.
    • You need approval from the stores to publish your app according to their rules, and it could take time to release.
  • Conclusion
    • If targeting specific markets like users of iPhones, native apps are the way to go
    • If you have the budget and think that it will be better to have native apps, that is the way to go

Web app

  • Pros
    • The web app can be used by all kind of devices (if you have a responsive design template). The content will adapt based on the size of the device's screen
    • Only one application to support for all devices
    • Faster and cheaper to deploy generally
  • Cons
    • When your app is used by mobile devices, it does not use all the native features, it will be within a browser. There is a lot less capabilities as you don't have access to the mobile features.
    • If users don't have internet coverage, they can't see or use your app
    • Interacting with other apps on the device is more difficult
  • Conclusion
    • If you don't have an extensive budget and don't want to focus on one type of device (because your users/members have IOS or Android for example), then web apps are the way to go

The above information comes from my experience as well as Conferences I attended like Web Directions (Web or Native article); and my colleagues’ experiences.
Also, the following link has a different approach I find interesting:  Venturebeat.com article.
If you have any questions about how to go mobile or would like to share your story, please contact me.

Written by Renaud Vandewalle - Metisc CMS Practice lead - 27/02/2014

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White Paper - OEMS - MailChimp and Campaign Monitor insights

Metisc will be releasing a new version of iMail which allows synchronization/integration with your favourite CRM (MS CRM, iMIS, etc...) with MailChimp and Campaign Monitor (adding to the existing iMail bridges available for MagnetMail, BlueHornet, Xpedite/EasyMail, MYOB, etc...).

While looking at these two new OEMS (Online Email Marketing Solution), I thought I would share with you a few differences I noticed that could be of your interest.

The below is not a full comparison, I will only talk about few features/aspect of the products.

Campaign Monitor Template Builder

Campaign Monitor Template builder tool is easy to use. Standard templates are great and easy to update. These will cover most of everyone requirements. For example, you have only 4 different types of template available, but this actually is a good thing in my opinion, as it helps you to not overload Emails with too many columns etc... When you update a setting, it is really quick to apply the changes in comparison to MailChimp.

The down side of this easy and simple interface is that you will encounter a few restrictions. For example, if you would like to add links to the footer or remove out of the box links from the header, you will need to export the template, apply the changes manually (requires some basic HMTL knowledge) and then re-import it. Also, once modified you won't be able to use the Template customization tool anymore.

Campaign Monitor Template Builder - screenshot

MailChimp Template Builder

MailChimp, allows you to easily change the template settings. You can edit/modify the template without having to update any HTML code.  If you are a developer who would like to modify the structure of the template, you can still use HTML to change things directly. MailChimp provides a great intuitive tool with boxes highlighted in the template while editing properties, so you know what the property (The elements you will see in your emails) changes will effect in the email. There is a handy Code view for developers as well.

The down side is that it is quite slow to apply the changes to the template; you need to wait for few seconds to see your changes applied. This could become frustrating if you work with a lot of templates.

MailChimp Template Builder Screenshot

Summary: Campaign Monitor is nice and simple, but remains limited in terms of customisations within the design tool. MailChimp provides all you need.

Content Updates (Campaign Monitor and MailChimp)

The same comments as the Template builder apply here with the interface of Campaign Monitor being nicer but offering less capabilities. It can be an advantage helping you to not damage the template by using inappropriate style for your content. However, some people like the flexibility and ability to change everything that MailChimp provides.

Campaign Monitor – Email Content Editor Panel

MailChimp – Content Editor Panel - 1

MailChimp – Content Editor Panel - 2

Pricing (In USD$)

If you only send 1 newsletter a month and have less than 2.000 subscribers, you could use MailChimp for free. And Not For Profits have additional email numbers they can use for free compared to normal organizations. But, the down side is that it will display the MailChimp's badge on the email campaign footer (at least they suggest different logos you could choose from to make it fit with your template colors).

Without the MailChimp Logo it would cost $60 (0.030 per email sent - without a plan) with Campaign Monitor it would cost $25 (Pay as you go option). [Pricing calculated based on information provided on the provider website in January 2014]

On the unlimited email package, Campaign monitor is about 2 to 3 times more expensive. On the basic plan, it is hard to compare as one is giving a price per email and the other one a price per subscriber emailed in the month. So I suggest you check it out by yourself for your specific number of subscribers or the number of emails you are going to send to compare pricing:

Campaign Monitor: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/pricing/

MailChimp: http://mailchimp.com/pricing/

Segments query filter

A segment (Marketing/Industry segment or group) is a sub list of your subscribers based on specific criteria. This allows you to report on the results of your campaigns based on the different segments (you might find that for example people from 18 to 25 years old are reading your emails more than the 25 to 40 years old, or s specific member type reads your emails more).

To create segments, with both MailChimp and Campaign monitor, it is by applying rules on the standard or custom fields (e.g. Age greater than '21'). The two OEMS offer quite basic way of creating segments (which covers most of everybody's requirements), but we found that MailChimp offers a simpler way to create these rules.

Also, they both have limitations regarding how to create rules based on conditions, but if you have specific segment you would like reports on like "Group of Men under 21 or who are Students" I suggest that you export the data from the OEMS to an excel spread sheet and create your own reports. The second and ideal option would be to integrate the EOMS with your CRM solution which would allow you more complex reports.

The segments are a reason why iMail is so important. As well as having the information in your dedicated email marketing system, you can also get the information back into your CRM or Accounting system to analyse and see if there are specific segments or trends that provide higher response rates.

Summary: Both limited but MailChimp slightly easier to setup.

MailChimp

Campaign Monitor

I hope this provides you with some insight into the functionality I compared on these 2 popular EOMS. If you would like this extended to additional email marketing systems, lease do not hesitate to let me know or share your general thoughts or opinions by adding a comments or sending me an email (renaud.vandewalle@metisc.com)

Written by Renaud Vandewalle - Metisc CMS Practice lead - 31/01/2014

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White Paper - Marketing and Websites, Keep It Simple!

I’ve often attended in person seminars and internet webinars where the speaker spoke about the latest marketing methods and Customer tracking (CRM) or Web based tools.  Sometimes common sense, often expensive and regularly associated with a new methodology and services to help us do it properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising this part of our business lives, I’m in the IT business and this is how we work as well.

We spend our time looking at ways to get new customers or have our existing customers use more of our services and products.  It’s nearly always associated with increasing revenues or harder to measure benefits like brand awareness, community acceptance and reputation.

But let’s look at our marketing in a simple way.

We let people know about our product or service, and when this results in some actions from the people we are engaging, we follow a formal or informal marketing or sales process to complete the sales cycle.

So why are websites and customer tracking systems so important in this process?

I’m using my own experience as an example.  In my business we get busier as a part of the business grows, and there comes a time where sharing information with another sales person is required, or if you are a small business, you move from sales to getting involved in delivery of what we sold.  But the busier I get, the more difficult it becomes to remember all the details of all the people who have contacted me either directly or through our website.  And if I have to load those people’s names in a computer system, and I’m busy, it becomes that much harder to keep everything up to date.  Now I know some sales people may need a single verbal comment and they are off, like a machine they follow their sales cycle, closing the deals and engaging with new customers.  But I’m not like that!

I have found that I need three basic sets of information to make the marketing and the sales process run efficiently and consistently for me; and this comes back to my comment about a simple way of looking at marketing. The three sets are:

1.    Potential customers details and any description of why they are considered a prospect; and

2.    The communications be it verbal, phone, email, sales, website use, sales material accessed from this prospect; and

3.    When and how I need to communicate with my potential customer.

Just as these three pieces of information are required, I am going to suggest there are three basic activities we need to do to meet this requirement.

1.    Record any prospects (contacts) in a single permanent list with some basic information about where the contact came from (Marketing Intelligence). If they are already on your list, you may have a repeat customer!

While a post it note is better than nothing, post-it notes don’t satisfy the need to easily locate and work with a contacts information. And sharing that information with your colleague is problematic. The Post It note may end up in the bin.  Remember this contact may not do business with you straight away, but letting them know you remember them in one month, or two years’ time could be the start of a great new business relationship. Paper based notes makes this really, really hard to do for most of us.

And let’s talk about efficiency.  The really efficient way to record contacts is to write or enter the details once only and reuse them.  If the contact comes through your website, save it, don’t re-enter it somewhere else, if it comes through an email, recognise the details and capture it, don’t retype it in another system, if it comes through an intra office message, have the message saved in a way can be related directly against that contact without duplicating work.

2.    Link or associate any emails I send, phone calls I make, tasks I have recorded or documents produced with my contacts.  The communications and results of those communications should be easy to see at a glance afterwards, so I know what I did last and if I promised to do something. If I send an email I don’t retype it somewhere else, the message needs to be automatically linked to my contacts details (Most of us have email addresses these days, why not use them to link a contact and communication!). And if I’m doing documents, the document summary (I know some people DO load these for every document ) should be related to my contact as well.

3.    Remind or prompt myself to do something for this contact. If I have a due date, something promised or required of me, I need to be reminded to do this. This should be automatic. If it’s not, I will forget!

I know there is a theme here.  I’m lazy and forgetful and I’m not afraid to admit it.  I have heaps of things I need and want to do every day (there is always one of our great clients I’d like to drop in and catch up with, or a new gadget in my industry I’d love to play with).

So what do I do in many daily work, and what do I tell my customers to do about the activities required to effectively manage the three sets of information?

Firstly, you need a central list of names and addresses. That’s right, the requirement hasn’t changed for decades. One list of who we want to do business with, who contacted us, who we already do business with and want to work with more.  This one is not rocket science.

I know many businesses do this with Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word and are successful.  But I also need to be able to search this information easily, and I need to be able to see my communications history, and ideally see where the customer found out about us from so I can choose the most cost effective way to get my next customer.  And as I have a team of people that work together, Excel as a customer management tool is out.

My contact list is kept in a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) that is dynamically linked to my Website or Content Management System (CMS). Don’t be alarmed by the acronyms, while these systems have a reputation for being very expensive, for the simple functions I need they can be very cheap as well. And I love my CRM system.  This tool helps to keep my business running and growing.

Remember, I’m mainly after a central name and address list, and I can do it all online through companies like Microsoft for under $100.00 a month subscription, or even lower if a Charity or Educational organization is involved.  If I don’t like it, I can drop the subscription, if I really like it I can add new staff members as I need them, all sharing the same information at the same time.

And secondly, I want any website visitors or emails I send to automatically link up with the centralized contacts name and email address. Again, it’s pretty easy to accomplish this. Most good CRM systems have the capability to link to your Outlook system, or for bigger businesses Microsoft Exchange. (Unfortunately not all email systems have this ability so check first).  If you are an Apple user don’t despair because I mentioned Microsoft!  You can also use your iPad, iPhone or Microsoft Office for Mac and a Sync tool like MiSync for CRM to keep your contacts and appointment information linked with your calendar and emails. On the website front there are easy to use tools available linking your commercial or free website to your contacts name in your CRM system.

And thirdly, I need some simple technology to remind me about what I need to do. In my case I have an international market base and need to do certain things around the clock. I love my iPhone, and my colleagues swear by their Windows Phone 7! It’s there feeding me things my CRM system says I need to do. That phone call at 11:00pm, the website visitor asking for more information, or the appointment at 8:00am. Not only am I reminded, but I’m tracked.  Did I complete my task (Don’t you hate Big Brother …. But isn’t Big Brother sometimes very useful to help really smash your goals!), when did I complete it, does it need to be done a different time, should I assign it to another person in my team?  And the technology even does some pre-programmed thinking about my sales process without me doing anything except completing my task!

Follow up activities our team have decided are important to running a successful business can be commenced, emails sent, tasks for staff generated and transactions in Accounting and ERP systems generated if you want to really sophisticated.

Summary

In summary, at a time when staff can be very expensive, and margins are getting lower; being able to more successfully complete a sale and delivery at a lower cost are an essential fact of life. The new applications that run on someone else’s technology or “in the cloud”, without you needing expensive computer hardware or software are here and now.

Get your business running a little smoother and more successfully with the basics you need first, and give yourself a great way to implement the more complex marketing methodologies and systems as your business benefits and cash flows start to flow from doing the basics well.

Good luck with making your business and work successful and rewarding.

Written by Graham Hill - Managing Director - 19/12/2013

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White Paper - How to select your CMS?

Hopefully you already use a CMS (Content Management System) for your website.  If you are in the process of selecting a CMS to use; or you already use a CMS but it does not meet your requirements anymore; this article will provide you advice and tips for selecting your best CMS match.

Selecting a CMS is a long term decision. When you move to a new CMS, it can take a lot of time for your staff to get trained (depending on the CMS), and of course it would probably cost more money to rebuild a website from scratch rather than revamping the existing one.

You first need to look at documenting what you want your website to achieve (the “Requirements”), and if you have an opinion about how you want your users to work with your website, describe how a user will work or use your website (the “Use Cases”).

You need to list all the requirements you can think of and try to take into account future needs. Indeed, it might be possible that your company is planning to update their IT infrastructure or technologies soon. You might also want to write down or think about how your site will need to change if your objective of increases in customer/member numbers occurs (thanks to your website revamp for example ?).

When these first steps are done, you would probably want to look at all the cool features that some CMS offer. Even though this is quite important to know the limitations of the different CMS, it is also really important to look at other aspects like:

  • Background and Strategy (if this CMS has been around for a while and if there are regular updates available) - This will give you a good idea whether they keep their CMS up-to-date with new technologies
  • Technology used - This will also tell you if they keep the CMS up-to-date (latest version of PHP, or .Net)
  • Community - It is not only about the size of the community or the vendor you get the CMS from, but its also about the activity of the community/vendor. You could have a big community for a CMS which was good 5 years ago and now they are just stuck with this CMS as they don't have budget to move away from it. It will also tell you if the CMS is well supported or not. If the issues reported are fixed quickly or not. The same applies for a Vendor as well.

Once you have completed your research, listed what you need, and narrowed down your options, I’d suggest you look for examples of the CMS working. A lot of CMS offers Events or eShop modules for example, but some might not be as extensible as others and sometimes you only find out when you try it out.
In many cases asking different vendors to comment and provide estimates based on the Requirements and the Use Cases we suggested you create is a great way to get some comparisons and see examples of other peoples sites and things that are similar to what you need.

And one last suggestion, when you are doing this review, try to separate the functionality (what it does) from the Look and Feel (how it looks).

Written by Renaud Vandewalle - Metisc CMS Practice lead - 19/12/2013

Sources:

7 Rules for selecting the right content management system
How to select a web content management system?

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