Modernizing a Workflow in Magento – Part 1

Before I start let me introduce myself. My name is Tim Hooker and I’ve been building websites for about a year now. I’d like to talk about my process in setting up a Magento development environment that allows you to simplify theming a Magento site using Gulp and Compass.

Compass is a tool for creating css using a program called Sass. It makes supporting multiple browser stacks easy. It also allows you to make multiple files for all your css. This allows you to reuse that code on other projects more easily.

Gulp is a build tool. It can do many things but I use it to look through a folder of files, find what is needed for my website, and put them in a new folder all prettied up and ready for the web. I also use it to let me see my work live in my web browser and refresh it when I make changes.


In this post, I’m just going to talk about the challenges and my thought process.

Here are the challenges and why this is worth some effort:

  • First, Magento, unlike WordPress and other popular frameworks, separates your html and xml (structural files) from your other files (css, javascript). They’re not even close together so you spend most of your time jumping between directories. (It should be noted that Magento 2 relieves most of these issues but Im not holding my breath for the release date)

When you’re jumping around between directories it can get really confusing. You can easily find yourself editing the wrong files. That’s the first challenge. I’d like to put them all in one big mama folder.

  • Secondly, we need focus. We have to figure out which files we need to alter and pay attention to those specific ones. Magento is a system built almost entirely on overrides of files. Out of the box, Magento already works and your theme will only override or extend the core look, feel, and functionality. So it’s like this big onion of code with layers and layers to look through.

If we’re going to be successful, we have to figure out which files to include in our big mama folder.

That said I’ve decided to pay attention to one child of the RWD theme folder which is a fully functional responsive them. That will save time. RWD has a default folder which is also not the folder I want to pay attention to. My folder will be named for my theme and essentially will override the RWD default folder. If I have a header.phtml, it will override the default header.phtml. If I don’t have one, it will fall back to that file. It also works that way for css and js. This way, when you want my files, you’ll go to RWD/mytheme both in the app/design/frontend folder and in the skin/frontend folder. This should simplify where we focus.

  • The final challenge is to make this simple. Another developer needs to be able to pick this up and in about 2 minutes have it up and running without too many questions. It’s no good if this doesn’t work in a team context.

Now that we’ve gone through the challenges, I’ll talk through the process in the next post.

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Top Web Design Trends of 2015 (So Far)

Now that we’ve passed the halfway mark of the year, it’s time to see what’s trending in the world of web design. In 2015, web design makes use of video, animation and mobile-first thinking to bring the web more responsiveness, interaction and connection. Here’s a look at 4 of the top trends of the year so far.


  1. Card Based Design

Pioneered by sites like Pinterest, Google Now, Facebook and Twitter, card-based design is the new—and growing—form of UX architecture. “Cards” offer content in small, digestible packets of information, allowing users to quickly scan chunks of information and quickly “choose their own adventure” in navigating a site. It’s also highly conducive for mobile, allowing for information to re-order and re-size easily for different screen widths.

grandover pinterest


  1. Responsive Story Telling

While the idea of “responsive story telling” has been around for a while, with wider browser support of fast-loading vector graphics, native video, CSS3 effects, HTML5 animation and parallax, websites are interacting even more with the user to tell a brand story.  Encouraging users to explore and engage with the content allows users to connect with the information emotionally and effectively.


Built by Matt Dempsey, Co-Founder


  1. Big Video

2014 championed big, full-screen background photos. In 2015, these images are moving. Full-width and full-screen video take the stage.  Whether it is a subtle, full-screen background loop or a fully-interactive video website, big bold video adds a story and a life to a website, often working hand-in-hand with the movement toward responsive story telling.



  1. Flat Design Gets a Little Less Flat.

Flat design is still trending, but we’re seeing it with just a little more depth in 2015. Google introduces the language of Material Design, adding a hint of shadow, meaningful movement and a more three-dimensional space that follows the rules of physical objects. These design elements provide context and clarity to flat elements, providing cues to the user on how to interact with content.

gpc screenshot


New trends are emerging everyday so it’s important to stay current with what’s new. If any of these trends caught your eye, feel free to reach out to us today to discuss our extensive design and development capabilities. Call us at (336) 421-2168 or contact us here.

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Responding to Negative Reviews Online

If you’re online, odds are, people are talking about you. And as much as I’d like to tell you they all say, “You’re the best,” well, they probably don’t. Negative reviews are going to happen. The way you handle those reviews can have a huge impact on your business, both with current customers and potential ones.

dealing with a bad review


  • Monitor your presence

The first part of responding to a negative review is knowing one exists. You need to be consistently monitoring your online presence and social/review platforms. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to dealing with online reviews. It’s simply bad for business. A prompt response can go a long way toward dealing with a complaint. Try a reputation monitoring tool such as Review Trackers to keep a close eye on what’s being said about your business.


  • Apologize…In the right manner

Time to put pen to paper—actually fingers to keyboard. First step: apologize. ‘I’m sorry,’ is one of the most powerful phrases at our disposal, and it can go a long way to appease someone who’s had a bad experience. Be careful how you phrase the apology though. When you read the review, you should know whether the company was at fault. If you don’t know, take the time to find out. It changes the approach you take to the apology and the solution. If the issue wasn’t your fault, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” is a better approach than “I’m sorry we messed this up.”


  • Address head on and provide a solution

When responding, address the issue head on. It’s important to your reviewer that they know you’re sorry they had this problem. You should communicate what may have gone wrong and what has been or is being done so it doesn’t happen again. Providing a solution or next step lets your audience know you’re working to improve the business and overall customer experience. A simple, “We’ve put a new process in place,” can mean a lot to a potential customer as well as the person who issued the review.


  • Take it offline if necessary

Not all issues can be dealt with simply by replying with one comment. If need be, take the issue offline and contact the reviewer directly. A personal approach can often be the best approach. However, make sure to leave some response on the platform for others who may be reading.


  • Know your audience

Lastly, it’s important to know who you’re responding to. Hint hint, it’s not just the person who wrote the review. Whether it be Yelp, Facebook or any other site, prospects are reading to see how you handle the situation. Take Yelp, for instance, which has a 1/9/90 Rule. One percent of people create content, nine percent edit content, and 90 percent simply consume content. That’s a lot of people eager and ready to read your response. How you handle a negative review online can be the difference between a potential customer choosing your business or not.


You’re bound to get negative reviews online but take the chance to look at them as opportunities. As long as none of you result to physical threats and you follow the guide above, you’ll be a pro at handling negative reviews on the web (see how not to deal with a bad review).

As always, if you need any consultation, feel free to reach out to us here.

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Improve PPC Performance with a Customer-Centric Paid Search Strategy

We’ve written a fair number of blog posts about pay-per-click channels in the past, focusing on both tactical tips and strategic recommendations. Both elements are equally important, as the best PPC specialists have an incredibly strong grasp on the mechanics of the channel, but also understand the marketing fundamentals of their product or service. This means they can deliver the right content to the right people at the right time – ensuring that the ad text and landing page copy is not only on-brand but tailored to where the user is in the buying process.


This “customer-centric” approach to paid search means providing answers to informational queries for people that are just beginning to do research – for example, promoting a buyer’s guide for the person searching for “best small cars 2015”. Based on this search term, it’s likely that the person knows that they’re interested in buying a compact car, but really don’t know which brands or models they should consider. Knowing this, the advertiser can adjust their ad copy and landing page accordingly; if I am wondering what the best small car on the market is, it would be inappropriate to take me to a page where I can customize my car or schedule a test drive with a dealer. I haven’t even decided what brand I’m looking for! At this point in the buying process, content that is educational, rather than “sales-y” or overly self-promotional, is what users are looking for.

reliant robin rolls over

In hindsight, you probably should’ve purchased something that lets you go around corners.

Consider a different search query – “buy a sweet fake beard online” (don’t judge my search history, please). Based on the wording of this search term, the user is likely ready to make a purchase, so it’s okay for the advertiser to take them to a page that is more overtly promotional than in our SUV example above. It would be a waste to take them to an informational page (say, a video about how to apply a fake beard, or a history of great moustaches in film) – since the user has already done their research and is ready to buy, the ad copy and landing page should reflect user intent.

fake beards

Pretty sure the bottom three product images are just pictures of my dad in college.

Let’s look at a few ways to ensure that your paid search campaigns are built around your customers’ buying process.

  • Campaign Structure. Since keywords, ad copy, and landing pages all have to be tightly controlled in this approach, you may have to dramatically expand the scope of your campaigns. Consider allocating two campaigns for each product or line of service you offer – one “informational” campaign, one “conversion” campaign. Within each one, build out multiple ad groups around similar terms. It’s okay to get pretty granular here – for example, “small car buyers guide” and “small car reviews” can be segmented into two different ad groups, which will let you tweak the ad copy to be as specific as possible.
  • Extending Your Landing Page. Visitors to your site from informational queries may not be ready to buy just yet, but this doesn’t mean they should just consume your content and leave! Extend the impact of your landing page and marketing by providing next steps – for example, a white paper download in exchange for their email address can be an excellent way to begin a drip campaign to guide them down the sales funnel. Similarly, you can reconnect with visitors and encourage further engagement with a remarketing campaign.
  • Tools and organization are your friend. With highly targeted campaigns and ad groups, you may soon become a victim of “PPC sprawl” – a mass of keywords, ad copy, rules, and extensions that can become unwieldy over time. Consider developing a naming convention for your campaigns and ad groups that is easily extended and scaled as you grow. Multiple campaign and account management is also greatly aided by Google’s AdWords Editor; larger advertisers may want to consider a third-party management tool such as Kenshoo or Marin.
  • Are You Testing? You Should be Testing. You really should. Even with a great understanding of your audience and the buying cycle for your product or service, there are always insights to be found by testing out different ad creative, landing page creative, keywords, and more. There are tons of tools available for A/B and multivariate testing (including landing page platforms like Unbounce and Optimizely, which can help you deploy highly specific landing pages quickly and at scale – ideal for bigger campaigns), as well as qualitative research platforms like ForeSee. But remember: test results are only as good as your insights! Make sure that you design tests in a way that makes the results actionable; for example, testing ad copy variations to answer the question, “do users respond better to ‘Free Shipping’ or ‘10% off’?” will provide you with data you can use across other channels, promotions, and media.


With the customer-centric approach to paid search, you, as the advertiser, are awarded with much greater flexibility and control. For example, you may want to increase top-of-funnel awareness by focusing on informational queries. Alternately, you can target more educated, ready-to-convert users with ad copy and landing pages that are designed to drive immediate action. Finally, since users are seeing highly specific content that matches their intent, you can expect to see better click-through-rates, Quality Scores, behavioral metrics, and conversion metrics.

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Single Page Checkout Done Right

Everyone is doing it

Seems like everyone is switching to single page checkouts. They are the new trend for improving ecommerce checkout user experience (UX) and conversion rates. There are several reasons for this trend:

  1. It just sounds simple: one step is always better than three right?
  2. It makes decisions easy: Just put it all on one page.
  3. Increased Conversions: There is some research that suggests that one-page checkouts out-perform multi-step in A/B tests.

It’s not that simple

As simple as it sounds, it really isn’t that simple. Improving your ecommerce website UX and conversion rate take more effort than just dumping your un-optimized checkout form onto one page. In fact, single-page checkout has the potential to make the process seem more complicated and time intensive to users. For example, which form would you rather fill out?

mulit-page checkout

Form A: Optimized Multi-Step Checkout

single page checkout unoptimized

Form B: Un-Optimized Single Page Checkout

I’m guessing most of you choose option A. Why? Because it looks easy and simple, where option B looks long and confusing.

Single page checkout doesn’t have to look (or be) long and confusing. Amazon recently changed to a single page checkout:

single page checkout


Doing it right

Why does the Amazon checkout seem so much easier to use than the other single page checkout (Option B)? It follows general usability guidelines that apply to both multi and single page checkouts:

  • Clearly Defined Steps: It’s easy to spot Amazons 3-steps required to checkout.
  • Limited Form Fields: Amazon keeps the form fields presented to a minimum to speed up checkout.
  • Remove Distractions: Amazon’s checkout page has its own clean, distraction free template so users can focus on the task at hand.

In Brief

Changing to a single-page checkout may speed up the checkout process and thus help improve conversion rates, but only if you:

  • Address the pitfalls of single page checkout (e.g. too much on a single page can seem overwhelming to the user)
  • Use general usability guidelines to optimize the checkout process

Need help optimizing your checkout process and improving your conversion rate? We would love to help. Contact us to get expert help with your ecommerce website today.

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5 Keys to Successful Content Distribution

  1. Create engaging and sharable content that distributes itself…

The key to shareable content is to start with key problems your target personas face on a regular basis. The problem stage (also known as the awareness stage) of your audience’s buying cycle is where you can establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry. If you can solve the user’s problem, they are more likely to share that information with their colleagues and other similarly minded friends. You’ll have a limited time to grab each user’s attention, so make sure you also have a title that catches the reader’s eye too. For example: “3 Web Design Hacks To Double Your Conversion Rates”. An educational piece with a catchy title and provides value to your customers can spread like wildfire!



  1. Spend as much time on distributing your content as you do on creating it…

Did you know that over 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day ( Competing for visual space in social media and other distribution channels has become almost impossible. Creating or sourcing powerful imagery and videos helps to both break up content into digestible blocks and keeps the reader more engaged. Furthermore, utilizing images in distribution helps your posts stand out from others in news feeds.  Also plan to schedule your content to be posted when your target audience is most active. Finally, a simple e-blast to your following is a great way to share new content with an existing customer base and stay in front of them on a regular basis.

  1. Utilize distribution tools to send messages from one central management portal…

Tools like Hootsuite and Post Planner allow you to schedule posts, monitor performance, respond to comments and in some instances even predict the effectiveness of posts before they’re even sent! Furthermore, these tools integrate with a variety of platforms allowing you to send out a single message (or slight variations) from one location instead of having to log in and post new content to each individual social media or other distribution channel.

ContentDistribution3 ContentDistribution2

  1. Consistency and planning…

One of the biggest pitfalls of content distribution is failure to send out new content on a regular basis (daily or weekly). Creating a content calendar is a great starting point for staying ahead of schedule each month. Content calendars typically include a theme for each month along with what content you’re planning to generate. Revisit the content calendar on a monthly basis to add new topics and themes for coming months and experiment with different times of day as well as types of content for each of your channels to see what your followers are looking for.


  1. Measure the results…

Always have an end objective in mind and the means to measure your content’s performance. Metrics you should be able to measure include:

  • Engagement Per Channel – How many people liked/tweeted/pinned/favorited, shared or clicked on your content
  • Reach Per Channel – How many people potentially saw your content
  • Macro And Micro Conversions – Includes something as small as signing up for a newsletter or something as large as buying a product/service or completing a contact form.
  • Qualitative Data – Polling users and getting feedback on the effectiveness of your content, what information they would like to see included or other topics that you can discuss in the future.


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5 Marketing Tools You Should Be Utilizing

The right tools can make all the difference for a marketer and their clients. Check out these tools you should be using:

A/B Testing

A/B testing tools are used to run experiments to help companies make informed, data-driven decisions. Track and measure metrics you decide on and get valuable insight to actions customers are taking on your site. For example, test the wording of your call to action. Does one phrase significantly outperform the other and lead to more conversions? Optimizely is a great tool for any and all A/B tests you can think of.



Call Tracking

Call tracking tools, such as DialogTech, give valuable insight into where calls originate from. Track your inbound calls back to the source, whether it be specific ads, keyword searches, social media, or offline campaigns using unique phone numbers. The ability to track and compare multiple channels allows marketers to make informed decisions about where to spend their marketing dollars. With some tools, you can also track leads through the sales cycle by integrating with Salesforce or your CRM tool.

Web Crawler

Web crawlers, used to spider websites links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective, give key vision to onsite performance. They can provide key data (url, inlinks, SERP snippet, etc) and report on response codes, redirects, page titles and meta description among other useful information. The SEO Spider tool from Screaming Frog is an excellent tool for analyzing sites, especially large ones, where going through each page is simply too time consuming. Screaming Frog makes it easy to export any data you find useful to work with outside the program.

Social Media

Social media tools, such as Hootsuite and Buffer, which are used to schedule and execute social posts across multiple social sites can be one of the most valuable tools you have. They allow you to manage social outreach and engage with followers from one single dashboard. One of the best things about these tools is the ability to schedule multiple social posts, across all your social accounts, in one sitting. This means I can plan and schedule my social posts for a week or a month and put my mind at ease as the platform will take care of the rest. Some, such as Hootsuite, also provide social analytics and a browser extension which allows you to quickly share content from around the web.

Keyword Tracking

Tracking performance of the keywords you’re targeting is absolutely essential. Moz has a great keyword tool that allows you to track national or local keyword rankings, see keyword difficulty, and view rankings over time. Keyword tools help you save time and choose where to focus SEO efforts.

All seem a bit daunting? Contact our team of specialist and let us help you maximize your marketing efforts.

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Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

Bigger than panda. Bigger than penguin. The new Google algorithm change will have a greater impact than prior updates.  The April 21st update will reward mobile friendly sites in ranking on mobile search results. The new algorithm will include app indexing and mobile-friendly usability factors. According to Google, “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” A few takeaways:


Mobile Rankings Only

  • To be clear, this update will only affect mobile search results, not desktop. The change will impact mobile search rankings in all languages worldwide, using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Think of it as favoring mobile friendly sites versus demoting non-friendly ones. Nonetheless, if your website, landing pages, or blog are not optimized for mobile, this is a great incentive to make the move. Not sure where you fall on the mobile readiness scale? Not to worry because the wonderful folks at Google have you covered. Check out this tool to get a quick assessment of your site and the impact the new algorithm will have on it.

Having a Mobile App

  • Google has also announced that apps that are indexed through App Indexing will begin to rank higher in mobile search. You must be a signed-in user and have the app installed on your mobile device for this to take affect. This app portion of the update has already started and is currently active.

Google’s Goal

  • What it all really comes down to is better user experience on mobile devices. Giving searches exactly what they’re looking for with the least amount of resistance. As the number of mobile searchers increases, it’s important they feel that they’re getting the best results and are not trying to view sites that are not optimized to be seen on a phone.

So, only one question remains, are you mobile friendly? If not, check out our responsive design services and contact us today.

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