Friday, March 21, 2008

Unintended Consequences

When software developers design and code programs, they usually have a pretty good reason for each feature they add. Many times they have dreamed it up, sometimes a customer requests it, sometimes they see it in another program.

One of the coolest things about designing/writing software is seeing what customers actually do with a feature. The initial intent of the feature (the reason the designer added it) is pushed way beyond what the designer thought it would do.

The HTML object in Web Studio is a great example. We originally thought it wouldn't be necessary since we thought our customers wouldn't know, or want to know anything about HTML.

In 1997 we were having a meeting with Adobe and the guys who wrote one of the original web design programs, Adobe Page Mill.

They asked to see how people could add/edit HTML to a site. We told them there wasn't any way, our customers wouldn't want that.

They though we were nuts not allowing access to the HTML of the site. We told them they were nuts allowing access to the code. We felt it was similar to allowing customers access to the code for Microsoft Word, or Photoshop. We knew they were nuts.

Well, we gave it some additional thought after the meeting. And decided it may not hurt, much, to allow customers access to the code.

Boy were we wrong, it ends up the HTML object and the associated Web Studio Expansion Architecture was one of the most important features in the program. It allows anyone to add anything they want to their site, even if it isn't a built in function in Web Studio. Boy those Adobe guys are smart :)

So what's the point?

We just ran across an unusual use of another feature we added in a Service Pack for version 4.0.

We added a Website ID number to the HTML code. We didn't know what it would be used for, but based on our surprise with the HTML Object, we knew someone would figure out an important use for it.

Guess what? That's right, someone smarter than us has figured out what to do with it.

Seems this customer had his website stolen and he wants to prove he was the original author of the site. Well, here comes the Calvary to the rescue (trumpet sounds the charge here), the Website ID is the key to his case!

Each Project file created in Web Studio has a unique ID number similar to our registration numbers (you know, those stupid 26 characters "numbers" filled with random letters and numbers).

That ID number is permanent part of the Project file and is added to the HEAD portion of the HTML for all websites create by WebStudio. The ID for a specific Project never changes, and each ID is unique.

The customer now has proof that the website is his, via the ID number and the Web Studio Project. Case closed!

Hmmm, maybe we should do some marketing on this feature, I can see it now, "Thief's beware, this site protected by Web Studio Site ID Technology"!!

Ahhh, other the other hand, maybe we should just go write some new features that you guys will put to uses never thought of. Yeah, that's what we should do.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Backups - A True Story

So, this past Friday, one of our engineers wanted to load some new code onto our in house server. This server handles our email system, customer & tech support systems, source control system, and backups.

It is a high powered Dell server with a Raid array.

Raid is a cool feature that will, in our setup, write the same data to two hard drives simultaneously. This means that if one drive fails, the other will have the up to date information on it and the computer will continue to work as though nothing happened. It'll send our network guy an email saying one of the drives failed so he can replace it.

Raid is great for ensuring the integrity of your most important data.

Obviously the data we have on this server is important, which is why we chose to have a Raid array in it.

So, Friday, three unrelated things conspired to give our network administrator a long, sleepless weekend.

All of a sudden, when the engineer was about to install his "stuff", the server crashed. It wouldn't startup. (Wasn't his fault by the way)

Fotunately we have backup systems in place. All of our incoming email is automatically routed to another server in another location (another city actually), so that didn't stop. But our local services, techsupport email system and source control did get interrupted.

So, the network guy starts looking into the problem. He finds that one of the drives has failed. No problem, just put a new one in, start the computer, and your back up and running. But why didn't he get an email?

Hmmmm... He then found that Windows was corrupted; the machine should have booted off the good drives but didn't. It seems that one of those dreadded Automatic Windows Updates was in progress when the crash occured and it corrupted Windows. He tried a Windows resorte, but of course, Windows couldn't be restored. It apparently was at a spot in the Automatic Upgrade where it couldn't recover from an error and left our machine damages and helpless, poor thing.

So, now we have a bad drive in the Raid Array, a corrupted Windows on the other drive that won't boot.

What about the safey with the Raid Array? Why can't we just put in the new drive and off we go? Why can't we do a system restore on Windows? Why can't we, why can't we, why can't we?

The whole point of Raid is that one drive can fail and the other(s) take over.

We'll seems that we had a drive fail first, then Windows started installing whatever security updates it needed to pretend it was a secure operating system, it crashed, wiped out half of Windows, and coudn't find its way home again. One bad drive, one corrupted drive, one bad day.

So, these things got together to ensure backups, redundancy, and money, won't buy you a good nights sleep.

The probability of all this happening is quite small, but it did happen.

The network guy got it all backup and running after buying two new drives, backing up about 100gigs of data (remember this is the backup server that crashed :), reinstalling Windows, synced the new drive with the old, restored a bunch of files. Fired it up. He then got a big hug and kiss, which was not welcomed of course.

But from a business point of view, how safe are we now? We still have the same "stuff". A powerfull Dell server and a "foolproof", "fault proof" Raid array. Industry norms say this is a secure, fault proof system. Say, this couldn't happen. But, it did...unreated errors combined to defeat the un-defeatable.

What's next? How do we ensure this doesn't happen again. First thing that comes to mind is another computer to backup this one. Kind of a Raid Array for computers. And what will conspire to defeat that un-defeatable bunch of hardware?

This type of system is called Fail-Over. When one computer fails, the other takes over. They both have the same data on their drives, and the same hardware. Sound familiar?

Boy once you have a Raid failure, you start to not trust anything.

Seems the only thing that can "fix" this is to have backups on another machine and/or on different media of all of your important files.

In this case, we did. Ironically, the backups that were on the Raid array, that were possibly lost, were all sitting on the computers that the backups came from . Sort of a reverse-backup. Since File "A" was backedup from Computer "B" onto the Dell. A copy was on both machines. If one machine went down, the other still had it. Hmmm, un-expected redundancy of backups.

Most of us think the desktop or laptop is going to fail, so we buy the backup server. In our case, the backup server failed, and the desktops and laptops came to its rescue. Hmm, life is feeling good again.

A backup machine and the source machine each, in essence, backing up each other. Cool, like that idea. But there must be another risk in there somewhere...

There is. The data needs to also be off site somewhere so if both machines go down, like in a fire, you still have access from another location.

We have that :) Our Dell would backup all of the office computers and development computers to its, now, semi-trustable Raid array of drives. It would then FTP the files to a backup server that is in the same location as our webserver--in some nuke proof concrete bunker that requires retina scans and finger prints to get into. The webserver also backs up its files, databases, website files, to the online backup server. It then FTP's that to the Dell.

Where's the next risk? If both our office and the bunker that houses our webservers go up in flames...we'll, that's when we quit.

Moral of the story? No matter what you do, you are at risk for hard drive crashing. Spend whatever money is necessary to get you to the level of risk you are comfortable with. Learn from our bad practices and from our good practices. ( I think ours are mostly good ones). Then believe that there are only two types of people in the world (those of you who have heard this can skip to the end), those who have had a hard disk crash and those that will.

Backup your files when you save them. Put them on two different machines. Write them to DVD Ram, have a backup machine, have an offsite storage location for DVD's. Have an offsite backup system in a bunker somewhere. Look into web based backup systems. And, give a Raid Array a try, we're going to stick with it and hope Windows doesnt' get in the way again.

Right!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Even More on Website Videos

Previously we reported that adding videos to your website is a very good thing. This based on research done by others.

We weren't seeing the kind of numbers they were reporting. And our Google analytics reports showed the same thing.

We got a few emails from customers, or potential customers, who said they tried but couldn't view the videos.

When you get "a few emails" on a topic from customers, or potential customers, that means there are tons of people with the same message for you, they just don't take the time to write...they assume you're an idiot for putting videos that don't work on your site and they quickly they leave!

We realized from those emails that the problem was the download time and the inconsistencies between browsers, video players, etc. In other words, some people had good equipment, some didn't.

In order to realize the potential of the videos, not to mention the investment creating them, we started a crusade to find the best way to deliver video over the net.

The criteria was it had to stream, without the customer or our (or your) server having any streaming technology. It had to be a file format that just about everyone (99% would be fine) would be able to view. It had to work on the various browsers and operating systems out there. It had to be easy and quick for us to use.

The answer? Only the Flash file format met all of those criteria.

Everyone has it, even if they never downloaded the Flash Player. It is little known, but all of the browsers in the last couple years actually have the Flash Player as part of the browser! So, that's pretty much everyone. Since it is in the browsers, the browser-operating system requirements are also met.

Flash streams video. Streaming means you only wait a little instead of a lot. Normally streaming videos start playing in 5 seconds or so. What is going on is that the Flash Player is starting to play as soon as it has enough of the file to show. Then it continues to download the file as it plays. If your internet connection is fast enough, and most are, you'll see the movie in real-time, without breaks. Oh, a Microsoft note...their Windows Media Player claims to steam and was the player of choice with our old videos, because it "streamed". What we found was that it streamed alright, it streamed the entire file and then and only then did it play the video. In other words, it downloaded it first, and then played it...not streaming. Good old Microsoft.

The last criteria was one we looked into previously, a tool to convert a video file (.wmv file in our case) to a Flash file. We used a conversion tool from one of the premier Flash software vendors, no, not MacroMedia or Adobe...they don't have one that we know of. The company (company-x) will remain nameless, but don't worry, we'll let you know the company and product that did the best job. We don't want to name company-x because their other software is breathtaking! If we told you about the one that sucks, your opinion of their other software may diminish. And since we're going to tell you the best software to get, you won't be considering buying company-x's product.

In any event, we got the software from company-x and it did a terrible job of converting the video to flash. Our videos were produced by a Hollywood cinematographer and looked great. When company-x got ahold of them they looked like a HyperStudio production from a 3rd grader. (HyperStudio was the best selling educational software for years, designed to enable kids to create multimedia presentations, they all looked like kids did them because they did).

Company-x's product, however, was not HyperStudio but was designed by a great company, not 8 year-olds (although HyperStudio was designed by adults, some of whome may have acted like 8 year olds, the 8 year olds designed the multimedia). So, we assumed that company-x's software must have been the best and determined Flash based videos were not for us.

Well, let's fast forward a bit, a customer sent us yet another email and was gracious enought to carry on a conversation with us about his problem, or was it our problem? Based on that, we decided to renew our search for Flash based nirvana software.

It didn't go very well. We found that company-x was actually pretty darn good compared to other available "solutions". But still not up to Hollywood standards. They all sucked

Finally, we came accross a product that looked too good to be true. Note, you always say "finally" in cases like this since you don't continue looking once you've found what you want. That is also why you always find the other sock or shoe in the last place you look.

We didn't find a shoe, however, we found a really simple to use piece of software that converted our Hollywood style videos in to something that met our criteria. Now, having said that, there was some video quality decreases in the final product, but it is the best we've found. And, considering the alternative to this is to not have any video at all, which the marketing guys say will be a bad thing since it sells products, we made a small compromise and are using the new videos.

Ok, what did we find?

It is a program named "Flash Video Studio 1.5". It is available on line at, you guessed it, www.flashvideostudio.com

Don't you hate it when the site name is the same as the product name; flashvideostudio.com, webstudio.com. Oh, forget that last cynical statement...

The program is a simple dialog based creature. You just go thru five steps, three of which you don't really need, and you've got a Flash file with your video sitting in it ready to stream to potential customers and pay for junior's college career.

We used the High Quality setting for the Video, Good fsetting or the audio, and 7 frames per second as the frame rate. If you don't know what all this stuff is, you will once you use the program. And don't worry if you don't understand it then, just use those settings and it will look and sound great.

Let's see, other things, they have a 30 day trial, that's cool. And the price is a resonable $49.95.

As far as the college payments go, our conversion rate of video viewing to downloaded-software increased dramatically. And our conversion of downloaded-software to sales increased dramatically. (Oh, conversion rates? That's marketing-speak for the percentage of people who did one thing and then decided to do another thing based on the first thing...like 75% of people who viewed our videos decided to download our software; and 20% of people who downloaded our software decided to buy our software, your mileage may vary, ours does).

Why did the Flash videos work so well? Our guess is that people who just downloaded our software and tried it out were influenced by past experience with web design software, opinions of others, lack of understanding of the process, etc. Our guess is these people downloaded the software and approached it cautiously, like hmmm, I wonder if this thing will really do what I need and what they say. They were warry of bad things, and hoping for good things.

Our guess is that people who've actually seen it in action, via our videos, approach it enthusiastically because they've already seen it do what they want. A much more positive attitude vs a cautious one. They are aware of good things going in and hoping for great things, which we deliver, of course!

Seems those guys who did the research and found a four-fold increase in sales weren't far off the mark. We're hoping to get to four, we still have two kids in college!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Strange Changes to My Computer

We've received some calls from customers who have experienced a change in behavior of their computer, and their Web Studio.

They are using the Thumbnail feature in Web Studio. It enables you to add a small image of a photo to a page and when clicked on it shows the full size image.

Their problem is that all of a sudden, the full sized images aren't poping up. They used to, but now they're not. Naturally, the suspect a problem with the software.

But, that's not the problem. It seems that Microsoft has found their way into their computer and changed things.

They have "Automatic Updates" turned on, on their computer. Late at night, Microsoft gets into their machine and changes things around without telling anyone.

Their problem, you see, stems from a recent update to Internet Explorer that adds a Pop-Up blocker to their system. Problem is, Microsoft didn't tell anyone they added it, typical Microsoft.

So, people are thinking they have a software problem, when the truth is that Microsoft is monkeying around with their computer.

If your machine suddenly starts doing things it didn't do, it could be Mr. Gates.

By the way, The popup blocker is in the Tools menu of Internet Explorer. You can't turn it off, at least we didn't find a way. But you can tell it to allow an individual popup to popup and you can tell it to allow "trusted" sites to popup windows.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blogs in Web Studio?

We have had quite a few customers asking when Web Studio will have Blogs built in as a drag and drop feature.

A hint at the answer would be the fact that we're using Blogger.com for our blog....we won't be adding Blogs to Web Studio.

We got interested in adding a blog feature when we saw an "un-named" competitor added blogs to their latest version. We actually designed a pretty cool blog system that was drag and drop and basically as simple as everything in Web Studio.

However, a discussion with someone outside the company brought us to our senses!

We have a great web design program. Google has a great blogging program. Should we spend our resources trying to one-up Google's Blogger.com, or should we spend our time improving Web Studio's other great features?

The facts behind the simple answer is Google has a team of people improving and inovating their blog system. It is an entire product for them. For us it would be one feature among hundreds of others. The cost of keeping up with Google for that one feature would be at the expense of all the other hundreds of features.

So, we realized it didn't make sense to add a feature that deserved to be a product all on its own.
There won't be a blog feature in Web Studio.

But we can point you to a really great blog program, Blogger.com!

We think this is much better solution for our customers!

P.S. You can host the blog on your website if you like. That way you can have your own URL to your blog. Blogger.com suports this. We use it for our blog. It is hosted right on our website, but we use Blogger.com' s site to create, edit, and upload the blog.

More on Videos on a Website

In an earlier post I talked about our recent experience with videos on our website.

We ran across an article by Andrew Johnson about the experiences of one, Brendon Sinclair, and his videos. Brendon shared some numbers which are most interesting!

In a nutshell, he found replacing the text describing his products on his site with videos describing his products resulting in a 4-fold increase in sales. Quadrupled sales with a video!

Take a look at the articles:

http://www.webpublishingblog.com/interview-with-brendon-sinclair-on-web-video-production.htm

Friday, March 24, 2006

Visual Power on Your Site with Online Videos

We've had a love affair with Video on our website and as an add on product/tutorial for some time.

We decided recently that adding video to our website to illustrate the power, simplicity of Web Studio would be a good thing. We did an analysis of what we think are the most powerful points of the product and proceeded to create videos that illustrate those points.

It helps to have a son who is a USC Film School graduate and cinematographer when you approach a project like this! The videos we got are professional quality, as professional as it can get on the web, but we'll get into that in a little bit.

Here's the meat of this. We added a new "landing" page to our site. It includes the videos and a message to both our business customers and our consumer customers on how Web Studio can help them with their sites. Each page has links to the videos, and they all play on that one page. We're pretty proud of our videos! But what happened next was unexpected. First a little background.

We have visitors come to our site via three ways: they type our web address directly into their browser; they go to a search engine and their search leads them to us; they see one of our "sponsored listings" on the major search engines and click on our Ad.

What we did was direct all of the visitors who come to our site via the sponsored listings, also known as PayPerClick or PPC, to the new video page. This is the page they "land" on when they click on our ad, hence the term "landing page."

What we found after our videos were in service for a period of time is that the number of people who came to the new landing page was the same as to our previous landing page, which was expected. However, the number of people who stayed on the page, watched the videos, and subsequently downloaded our 30-Day-Trial software was 55% higher than before the videos!!

Clearly, illustrating your product via video on the web is a very powerful tool!

Here's how to go about doing this for your site.

First, determine what things about your product or service are the most powerful features in terms of solving a problem for your customer quickly, and cost effectively. Once you've determined the top 10, 9, 8 or however many you want, powerful features, draw up a script that conveys that message. The script is a verbal script describing your product's benefits and features. Then put together a "story board" that illustrates visually what you want to show in your video(s). Then put them together and you've got your video.

Ok, so the last step is the hardest, and I didn't describe how to do that one. We'll you'll need to get some software tools to do it, and possibly some hardware tools. Here's what we did.

We have a recording studio, but you can get the hardware needed to do it easily and cheaply. We used a single microphone, a digital recorder, a compressor, and turned the audio track in to an MP3 file on a CD. You can get a microphone for less than $100, plug it into your computer's microphone jack, and record CD quality audio on the computer's CD burner. No need for a studio!

Next, you'll need video. We were doing video of our software program, so we used the computer to provide the video. We used a Macintosh (sorry, PC fans) program to "watch" Web Studio in action and record it. Once the raw recording was created, it was put into another Macintosh program, Final Cut Pro for editing. In Final Cut Pro, the audio tracks were edited and the video timed to match. There were a bunch of cinematographer techniques added, like panning, zooming, etc., to help focus attention on the important parts of the video. And finally they were turned into video files a computer can read and display.

This turned out to be an interesting section of the project. There are many differnet formats that can be used to display video on a computer. Which one to use is the question. We looked at who our audience is to determine the answer. The original videos were QuickTime ".mov" files. The Quicktime files were the highest quality of any we tried, and also the smallest -- another Machintosh advantage. However, our audience is people searching for web design software for Windows. Many people with Windows do not have Quicktime on their computers. Microsoft hasn't added Quicktime to the list of video types that Windows plays. So, we couldn't use Quicktime, even if it was the best quality and size. We had to look at what Windows could display and use one of those formats. We tried ".avi" files, but they are huge, look bad, and are a very old technology. We tried MP4 files, but Windows wouldn't play them either. We settled on ".mwv" files. They looked almost as good, were a few megabytes bigger, but they had the least amount of negatives relative to the Quicktime files.

So, that's what we used.

There are a ton of video production sofware programs available today. We can't recommend one because we haven't tried any, we used the professional Macintosh software. If you are making a video of a software program, there is a production tool named ViewLet Maker that we can recommend. All of our other online videos were created with this tool. Also, the videos on our Video Tutorial CD were made with this tool. It does a great job and results in a Flash Animation file, which you can insert or drag and drop right onto your Web Studio pages. It lacks in the audio department, however. We tried to use audio with it and found the computer slowed down to a dead crawl.

So, armed with a video camera, a microphone, video software, you can make videos that provide a exceptional view into your products, educate your customers to a much greater degree than possible with just a simple web page, and increase your business- hopefully by 55% all in one shot!

Oh, and one last "tool" and shameless-plug... if you'd like to contact that son who created our videos for help with your project, email him at jason@cochard.net

Control Your Website—Control Your Life

Everyone accepts that having a good web site is “pay to play” — no matter what size the business might be. But how can a small business create and maintain an effective web site without paying an expensive web designer? There are some simple steps businesses can take to web site success that won’t strain the technical expertise or budget of the small business owner. By managing their web sites on their own, business owners find that they can better control their businesses and their lives.

It’s important for business owners to select a web site design software package that will work for the business. They should look for products with live people for technical support. If the company is only available via e-mail, or through a form on a web site, it’s best to look elsewhere. No matter what the user’s technical skill level, the web design program must be simple to use, so that companies don’t spend too much time building the site, and not enough time building the business. It’s best to select software that allows a trial period and use it to build a few pages to understand the options and real level of complexity the software provides. For example, some tools start out as drag and drop, but quickly revert to HTML code, but there are programs that produce sophisticated web sites with no coding at all.

Tricia Corman, TC Designs (www.etcdesigns.com), a web site and graphic designer based in suburban Washington D.C., tried several web design programs. “I found other programs to be terribly cumbersome. I don’t like to stick with templates. I customize all my sites. So many of the programs out there require you to use their rigid templates in specific ways. They aren’t flexible and become a cookie cutter approach to building a site. Web Studio allows me to do what I want from a design standpoint; I can create my own designs, then drag and drop them anywhere I want on the page.”

Previously, Corman was an interior designer. She discovered her web design program when building a family site, and found it so easy to use, she started building sites for other people. Having a really easy program with great flexibility gave her a lot of control and allowed her to build her business from the ground up. Now, she designs and builds sites for many regional, and even international, businesses.

“After just a few months, I was able to stop my interior design work entirely, and work from my home on my schedule,” continued Corman. “I do other design work as well, but web design is 90 to 95 percent of my business. I really see this as a logical evolution in my career – I used to design physical spaces, now I design virtual ones. Because of the flexibility my business gives me, I’m able to spend more time with my family and be more active in my community.”

When building the site, it’s easy to focus on the design, then select a hosting provider as an afterthought, but it’s important to select the right hosting provider at the outset. Working with a hosting company can be complicated. Some of the common problems small businesses report with hosting companies are that they give incomplete information, use different terminology than what the company is used to with its web design software, hook up the domain names to the wrong web sites, or have technical problems that block site uploads. It’s ideal to find a web program that offers a hosting solution, so the systems are integrated and headaches and confusion are minimized.

While some businesses start on the web, many are existing off-line businesses that find they can move to the next level with an effective web site. Gunpoint Graphics (
www.gunpointgraphics.com) in Brunson, S.C., offers custom painting services for motorcycles. Owner Jody Davis began taking on side jobs on a part-time basis in addition to his full-time job at a local paint and autobody shop, but that meant working nights and weekends on side work he mostly got through word of mouth. Davis and his wife, Jennifer, thought it would be a good idea to post a portfolio online where they could direct prospective customers to review his work to try and build the business. Jennifer priced having a site designed, and found it prohibitive for her purposes. In her search for a designer, however, she found a program that she felt would work for her.

“I had some very basic computer skills, but certainly not the time or the level of skill I would have needed to build the site I wanted to using many of the other software products that were available,” said Jennifer. “But with the program I chose, it was so easy – I could visualize something I wanted to do in my head and it was easy to make it happen online.”

Within about a year of starting the web site, Jody was able to build a shop on his property, quit his day job, and pursue his business, full-time, on his own time. “Now, we have the flexibility of running our own business, so he’s more available for our family, and we have greater financial security than we ever had before,” said Jennifer.

In addition, controlling its own web presence has allowed Gunpoint Graphics to grow nationwide. “With our web site, we’re able to reach people all over the country, so now most of our business comes from out of state,” Jennifer stated.

One of the most important steps in building a successful web site is to optimize it effectively for search engines. This can feel complicated and overwhelming, but there are a few simple steps that every company can follow that will make a huge difference in the success of the site. Companies must determine what key words prospects will enter into search engines to find businesses like theirs. It’s best to try searching on a number of different words and combinations to determine the most likely options. Then, the company can include those words in the text on its home page, in headlines using large, bold type, and in product descriptions. Just this simple step can mean the difference between being found by prospects and not.

Pam Boles, founder of Floor Mania (
www.floormania.com), an online flooring company, based in Gadsden, Ala., learned the importance of search engine optimization. Floor Mania did $14,000 of business in the first month when she launched her Web Studio site and several eBay auctions the same day in July 2005. The next month, after optimizing her site for search engines by adding key words and meta tags, the business shot to $40,000 in sales. By August, Boles was able to quit her job and she and her husband now work full time with their own business, which grosses over $500,000 annually.

In the flooring business, as pricing and availability change constantly, it’s important that Boles has the ability to update the site easily and quickly on an ongoing basis.

“The real difference that having control over my web site has made in our business and in our life is that we have peace of mind – the peace of mind that comes from financial security and hope for the future,” said Boles. “We’ve been able to build up more savings, we plan to install a pool in a couple of months, and we hope that when our children get older, we’ll be able to pass this business along to them so that it is truly a family business.”

No matter what size a business is, companies can move their business to the next level by making their web site part of the solution.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Web Studio Blog: First Post

Welcome to the Webstudio.com blog!

This is the first, and introductory post for this blog.

First, who are we and what is this blog about?

I'm Steve Cochard, the president and CEO of Back To The Beach Software. Our main product is Web Studio 4.0 web design software. We design, develop, market, distribute Web Studio. Marketing and distribution is via the internet on our website, http://www.webstudio.com

Our customers fall into two groups: the owners of small and SOHO businesses; organizations; and consumers. SOHO is generally defined as small office, home office typically with 10 or less employees.

Our software, Web Studio 4.0, enables these people to create websites for their businesses. The software is designed to eliminate much of the barriers to entry presented by other products. Those barriers include the steep learning curve associated with professional softwar, the need for programming and learning programming languages, and the low productivity rate generally realized with professional level products. The other main barrier is the expense associated with hiring a professional web design firm.

This blog is intended for those people, those with and without our software.

The content in this blog will focus on the problems faced by these people. Problems, that are generic to the task of obtaining, maintaining, marketing and selling via the internet. We will not generally address Web Studio related issues, we have our own on-line forum for that as well as our personalized technical support.

Some examples of topics are "marketing your product via the internet"; "getting listed in search engines"; "the quickest way to great listings in search engines", all about hosting.

We have found over the last 8 years of marketing Web Studio that there is a unique intersection of needs between us and our customers. What we have found is we are our customers! We are a small business with the same problems, the same needs, and in most cases the same solutions, as our customers. We have been sharing these solutions with our customers on our website and our online-forum. Now we'll be able to share with the Web Studio blog.