Valegro Web site redesign

Valegro Office, Ground Floor, Swann House, 22 William Street, Melbourne Vic 3000.

Last year was a big year for our developers with the launch of Women’s Agenda followed by the redesign of Crikey.

 

Valegro recently moved to the ground floor off 22 William Street this year and having just completed the redesigned StartUpSmart web site gave us a brief opportunity to redo the Valegro website.

 

We intend to be a lot more social this year. We’ve hosted two overnight LAN parties and the new location is going to be a great venue for our technology discussions and workshops planned for later on this year.

 

I can see that 2013 will be the year where online trading will be big for us. We’ve started with the analysis, planning scenarios and work flows in order to map and implement the process flows on three new eCommerce web sites since early on this year. Indications are that and we are going to be talking to lot more people about their online sales and marketing ideas.

 

What does the NBN mean for my business?

A few question clients are asking us more and more is “how can we take advantage of the NBN?” and “what can my business do to prepare for the NBN?”

And it’s got us thinking, as right now, there aren’t a lot of solid answers to give – because it won’t be rolled out nationwide for some time.

But below are three recommendations about how your business can take advantage of the NBN:

1. Start looking at areas of your business that may benefit from it

That is, if you’ve always wanted to do more video on your website, perhaps you should start putting in the work to modify your web design and hosting to allow and accept the space and requirements for it, not to mention, what you’ll say and do on the video and how you’ll monetize it.

2. Talk to your suppliers and customers

You’d be surprised how actively those you have dealings with are thinking about how they’re going to tackle the opportunity the NBN presents and what they’d like to see it deliver. Maybe they’re hoping that ordering systems, payment systems or membership management will be easier, faster or more fluid. It is things like this, that with planning, time and a modest amount of resources that could put you well ahead of your competitors.

3.  Model an idea

Start working on a model for your idea. It may be early days but these are traditionally the best times – the quiet before the storm – to start running models about service delivery.

HyperMySQLi – an exercise in database out-scaling for Joomla! CMS

Joomla! Is often used for small business websites because it is easy and quick to set up, customize, and for the clients to learn. What is less known is that it can also quite happily support much larger business websites such as those designed and maintained by Valegro: StartUpSmart, SmartCompany, Property Observer, and The Power Index.

 

One of the first hurdles that a website needs to overcome when it starts to attract significant traffic is how to scale the infrastructure. Up-scaling is often an initial answer, but once the server is running at maximum specs, or perhaps even before this, out-scaling to a cluster of servers is the best way to achieve more power for the sites.

 

Joomla! however does not handle multiple servers without a bit of tweaking. It relies on a single database in order to correctly handle user sessions, even when the configuration might suggest this can be done using disk instead or when users are not logged in. Certain components also require a single database for read/write and of course a Master database must be defined so all writes go to a single point which is then replicated across other databases.

 

Using the excellent HyperDB for WordPress as inspiration we set about creating a database class which would cycle through an array of databases and use the appropriate one for each task; taking into consideration the type of SQL statement, the component it refers to, the response time and availability of the server, and the server’s known performance limitations. The result is a variation on the Joomla! MySQli class we call HyperMySQLi; which allows both manual and automated balancing across a number of servers, and customization to perform to the maximum capacity possible across a number of different Joomla! And infrastructure configurations.

 

Additionally, we added support for Memcached to allow individual query caching for an even greater performance boost; and overcame issues with Joomla! Legacy mode which imposed restrictions on the type of database classes you could use. The result, is a collection of sites which we have running with database load-balancing, complete redundancy, and the potential for easy out-scaling whenever required.

 

Please Contact Us if you want to learn more!

 

 

 

 

Web hosting – why getting it right makes all the difference

One of the first steps, when creating an effective business or publishing website is finding a hosting company that works with you. The choices can be overwhelming, but below are some effective ways to refine your search, so you gain a trustworthy supplier, not an unreliable creditor.

 

Hosting services based in Melbourne

 

Deciding what you need

 

Before you begin shopping for a web host, consider what your website will require.

 

Ask yourself how much content you plan on generating? How interactive you want your website to be? And will it be your primary face of business? Will it process transactions? Will is register newsletter signups?

 

Make sure you look around for great deals from companies that offer a range of services including web design, hosting and online strategy. These companies will often bundle each of the services into one amount, which can be more effective than having your design, hosting and marketing done from three separate vendors.

 

Shared Hosting and Dedicated Hosting

 

The main difference between these two different types of hosts is that shared hosting will house your website’s files on a server that also contains the website files of other companies. Just as you won’t have access to their files, they’ won’t have access to yours, but you are all sharing a single server.  Dedicated hosting is, considered by many to be more secure, more reliable and more personalised. It is more secure because there’s less people accessing the server, putting up whatever files they want. It is more reliable because less websites on a server means less opportunities for nasties to get in. Naturally for these benefits, and more, dedicated hosting is more expensive, but it will also allow your website to grow without being constrained, as some shared hosting options only give you so much space to play with. Dedicated hosting plans often come with dedicated technicians you can call should any issues arise.

 

Sorting Through the Options
Each hosting site will offer different levels of technical support, content management systems, and  pricing.

 

If you’re simply looking for a cheap solution to publishing one or two articles per month, or updating a small blog, then you may be best using a blogging service, such as WordPress until traffic grows to a volume where it makes sense to explore other options.

 

However if your primary concern is hosting your current business, or starting a new transactional based website then you need to talk to experts. When shopping around, make sure you ask about the businesses success and history with its Uptime. Those who shy away from answering aren’t worth your time.

 

Your website will arguably the most important thing your business has – it is your new online shopfront, your sales generator, your customer satisfier, your new product display cabinet, your voice and your ears to suggestions, compliments and complaints.

 

Make no mistake; if you want your business to grow, you need to due the due diligence on finding a good web host.

 

To find out more about website hosting solutions, and our Australian Hosting Starter Pack starting from just $10 +GST per month, give us a call on 03 9018-7510, or contact us on this form.

 

 

 

 

Custom coding with StartupSmart

Valegro client StartupSmart describes itself as “ a free news and information website for Australian start-ups and people thinking of starting their own business. ” and during the website build StartupSmart’s team approached Valegro about the possibility of an internal social network and custom functionality.

 

It was a request that delighted our team, who were instantly excited to be able to deliver a truly bespoke solution our client.

 

The agreed development platform and website CMS was Joomla, and we quickly looked around for customisable social modules and plugins.

 

Founder and CEO, Pieter Coetzee, and senior developer Fabien settled upon JomSocial as the appropriate base upon which to tailor further to bespoke client requirements.

 

Some of StartupSmart’s key requirements included:

 

> Being able to produce specific discussions about topics for the users, that are both moderated and more like a round table discussion, rather than a forum.

 

> Connect the small business start up community together to discuss important topics.

 

> Give the start up industry a voice and allow StartupSmart to react and interact with their users.

 

Fabien and Pieter quickly got to work on the project, and many hours, hundreds of cups of coffee and a few new grey hairs later, delivered a complete custom module solution, as a part of the website, that today, has seen StartupSmart’s community grow from two administration staff members to over 1300 community members in just 10 weeks since site launch.

 

You can see StartupSmart’s customised social community module in action here. We are particularly pleased to see the way in which the groups are working for StartupSmart too. The group functionality allows StartupSmart to have several different discussions going on at once, with members being able to join as many as they like. StartupSmart’s groups currently have an average of approximately 25 members per discussion and serve as both a feedback agent for smart start-ups, a point of informed discussion for business owners, and a mutually beneficial online meeting place for both StartupSmart and it’s users. We particularly enjoy the technology group.

 

To see more of our work with StartupSmart, please visit them here, and if you’re looking to make the leap from startup phase to small to medium business phase, please give us a call on 03 9018-7510, or contact us on this form.

The business of Business Spectator

Launched in 2007, Business Spectator is the brainchild of Alan Kohler and Eric Beecher. Joined by Robert Gottliebsen and Stephen Bartholomeusz, Business Spectator has quickly established itself as a genuine, and independent, alternative for business news and opinion in Australia.

 

Here at Valegro, we’re pleased to be associated with Business Spectator in several ways. During the launch of Business Spectator, Valegro founder and CEO, Pieter Coetzee, was the head of IT and development, and oversaw the launch and growth of the company, from the very first day right through the second redevelopment and expansion of the website. Under Pieter’s watch Business Spectator grew from zero page impressions at launch to over 6 million Nielsen audited page impressions per month.Business Spectator, Alan Kohler, Eric Beecher, Robert Gottliebsen, Infrastructure Systems Architecture by Valegro

 

Valegro is proud to be providing Business Spectator with high availability systems architecture services today, mainly focusing on the server and infrastructure management of a combination of Open Source Linux (Centos, Ubuntu), Microsoft server and IBM Lotus Domino cluster technologies driving the Business Spectator online publication.

 

“I’ve always been proud and happy to work with Business Spectator,” says Pieter Coetzee. “No matter what happens in the future, it is a testiment to our ability to work through tough technical system demands and deliver pleasing outcomes for our client.”

 

Business Spectator has presented Valegro with unique challenges, especially around maintenance and uptime of its very popular online business news publication. The Business Spectator website is constantly updated with new news every few minutes, published around the clock 24/7, every day of the year.

 

“One of the major experiences and learnings Business Spectator and Valegro has had is working together to ensure continuous uptime and fall back strategies in the unlikely (but surprisingly common!) event of server failure,” says Pieter. “The unfortunate reality of the internet is that at some point in time someone, somewhere is going to attack your servers, and try to disrupt your ability to run your business. As Business Spectator’s business is about being online as much as possible, we’ve taken extra precautions and have several procedures in place so that, if something does go wrong, we’re on top of it quickly, and service to the end user and the internal stakeholders such as the editorial team, aren’t disrupted.”

 

“I’m pleased to say that we have a better than 99% uptime record with Business Spectator – not bad when you consider they process and publish up to 1,000 news stories every day,” says Pieter, who also mentions that these aren’t just learnings he’s used to improve Business Spectator’s experience, he’s now sharing and implementing those learnings to all his clients for their benefit too.

 

To see our work with Business Spectator, please visit them here, and if you’re looking to make the leap from startup phase to small or medium sized online business enterprise, please give us a call on 03 9018-7510, or contact us on this form.

Diaspora : Why we’re excited

It may seem strange for us, a relatively small web development company in Australia, to be truly excited about the new social network, Diaspora, that’s being built by “Four nerds with a call to arms”, to paraphrase a NYTimes article about the start up, in New York.

 

But there are more similarities and more things to like about them, than many other companies right now, and it’s a tribute to the four young men who are building it, to say that they don’t care that their primary competition – Facebook – has over 500 million users.

 

What we at Valegro particularly like is that they’re addressing a need and providing choice to, quite literally, hundreds of millions of people globally. It is the tenacity, and the fact that they’re going open source, something we’ve advocated companies do for a long time, that really makes us stand up and watch in awe and delight as these individuals try and accomplish something extraordinary.

 

Diaspora, the name chosen as it is Greek for ‘the scattering of seeds’, is a truly wonderful idea. Their website says “Diaspora aims to be a distributed network, where totally separate computers connect to each other directly, will let us connect without surrendering our privacy. We call these computers ‘seeds’. A seed is owned by you, hosted by you, or on a rented server. Once it has been set up, the seed will aggregate all of your information: your facebook profile, tweets, anything. We are designing an easily extendable plugin framework for Diaspora, so that whenever newfangled content gets invented, it will be automagically integrated into every seed.”

 

Truly inspirational stuff, wouldn’t you agree?

Why we’re excited about Diaspora

Of course we don’t profess to be building the next Facebook killer, or Twitter killer, (although we are building some very cool new business products right now, that we’ll be writing about here soon) but what we really like is that, like us, they’re building something new, they’re building things that haven’t been done before, and, like us, aren’t put off by challenges that some people would simply say is too hard.

 

We’re eagerly awaiting the launch of Diaspora because we may just be about to see something truly amazing and mind blowing.

 

It’s working on projects like Diaspora that gets people like us really excited – because at heart we’re creative, we want to help our clients build the website of their dreams, we love being able to say ‘yep, we can do that’ when a client looks at us across the table in excited expectation at after explaining their idea. In short we love innovation and challenges from our clients.

 

Founder and CEO of Valegro, Pieter Coetzee, had this to say about the new social network “The Diaspora crew should inspire us all, because it’s only when you realise the truly awesome power of code and people that you realise that anything really is possible. Our online marketing guru will be jumping on Diaspora the minute it launches to help our clients maximise the opportunitites this exciting new venture brings.”

 

To discuss how our work and expertise and may be able to help you, please contact us on 03 9018-7510, or via this form. To read about some of the work we’ve done for our clients please follow this link.

 

 

 

 

StartupSmart: Starts up Smart

Valegro is proud to work with, and have developed the website for, StartupSmart.

 

Trusted from the outset, as a result of long term client relations with Crikey.com.au and SmartCompany, Valegro was ready to jump at the opportunity work with the team to produce the exciting start up, which reports on and delivers information to start up’s.

 

StartupSmart, startupsmart.com.au

A sample of StartupSmart's homepage

 

StartupSmart describes itself as “ a free news and information website for Australian start-ups and people thinking of starting their own business. “

 

StartupSmart is the brainchild of entrepreneur Amanda Gome, founder of SmartCompany and CEO of Private Media.

 

“When I was setting up my business, I often felt very alone and isolated. There was no daily publication to read, no site to help and no community to join. I knew from both researching start-ups and fast growing companies for more than 20 years, that the year setting up the business and the first few years of operations are the hardest for most entrepreneurs.”

 

“When I started my business, I found mornings the hardest: opening my laptop and often wondering what the hell I was doing. That is why we are also creating a daily email that arrives around 8.30am every day so when you start your day, you start with us, you start with our mentors, our advise, our warnings… you start your day smart!”

 

As Valegro is also a small to medium business we found the experience to be truly rewarding and are very pleased that StartupSmart has been happy with the launch and site layout.

 

Valegro worked with StartupSmart on all aspects of their website to ensure timely delivery and client satisfaction. Specifically, Valegro helped, developed and worked with StartupSmart with infrastructure and data flows, database options, platform and widget integration, custom coding, publishing tools, category and archive development, CMS, wireframing, hosting and ongoing on-demand client support and development.

 

Valegro CEO Pieter Coetzee said about the project “We were delighted to work with StartupSmart, and found the entire process very fluid, positive and fun.” Regarding the challenges of the project Pieter explained “Nothing is ever a problem, but there are challenges that range from doing something that’s never been done before, to coming up with solutions. When the client knows where they are and where they want to get to, my team and I really enjoy ourselves because it gives us the opportunity to be very creative, and delight the client”.

 

To see our work with StartupSmart, please visit them here, and if you’re looking to make the leap from startup phase to small to medium business phase, please give us a call on 03 9018-7510, or contact us on this form.

Growth happens by design, not accident

Success, growth and profitability happen by design, not by accident.

 

Only with a great strategy for delivering consistently wonderful, clearly explained products and services and enriching experiences do companies succeed.

 

Great SME companies that are ready to take that next step, between startup and serious growth all share a common theme: the know their business objectives and goals, and their consumers knows what they’re all about.

 

Your website will be, if it isn’t already, the single most important aspect of your business and, if designed and optimised correctly, one that will bring you new business effortlessly.

 

Keeping it simple is often easier said than done, and at Valegro we liken building a website to sculpting a new statue. Rarely do we ‘add clay’, we work with clients to ensure we strip away all the excess until the end result highlights everything that is important to the business, and the end result is a web design that focuses on driving new business.

 

Paul Hagen from US based consulting giant Forrester Research recently asked his readers this poignant question: “Costco customers expect barebones service in return for low prices, while Apple customers expect innovative products at relatively high prices. These firms deliver radically different experiences, yet they both delight customers. Should your company be like Costco or like Apple or something else entirely?”

 

Businesses of all sizes, but perhaps most importantly, Medium and small businesses looking to take that next step of growth should ensure that their web design is, if nothing else, absolutely first class. Afterall, even Google started small.

 

 

 

 

SEO friendly web-design

SEO friendly web design plays an increasingly important role for Search Engines choosing to display your content over another. SEO is a constantly evolving creature that needs constant work, and can ultimately lead to great rewards.

 

Valegro is constantly working to ensure that our clients’ websites are not only meeting but exceeding expectations by ensuring we rollout SEO optimised websites.

 

We’re frequently asked by clients for some basic tips and insights into what they can ensure they keep on doing, day in, and day out to make their content better.

 

We’ve compiled this quick list of five key tips, and hope you find them useful.

 

1 Use of Title Tag: Title is the most important element of a web page. It should be written with care. It is the first thing a Search Engine will see and will categorise the page, and will ultimately reflect on your whole website. The Title must include the most important keywords of a web page. Sometimes we see the web pages, which only contain company name in the title tag, which is a good start, but doesn’t really tell Search Engines what your company is about.

 

2 Meta Tags: Meta tags contain Meta keywords and description. ‘Meta’ means that which is beyond, something related but different, and conveying the idea without specifically saying it. In Meta keywords tag you can place all the targeted keywords and key phrases of that page and Meta description tag contains a brief about the web page.

 

3 Heading Tags: Every web page must contain one heading tag, which is written in H1 tag of HTML. Most targeted keyword of the web page is written in H1 tag. After this less important keywords or secondary keywords can be written in H2 and H3 tags. Valegro usually does this on behalf of clients with their input.

 

4 Image Optimization: To optimize images, ‘alt tag’ is used. Important keywords or key phrases are written inside the alt tag to describe the image. It is important to remember that search engines cannot read images, so pages made entirely of images may look very pretty but have little indexable SEO value. Alt tags help describe an image, but it still isn’t as effective as a short paragraph on the topic, accompanying the image.

 

5 Sitemap: Sitemap(s) are very important for a website especially when you have a dynamic site or a site with thousands of pages, such as some of our current clients, Crikey.com.au, Business Spectator and Smart Company. We give Search Engines a hand by creating sitemaps for the main site and news focused sitemaps to ensure Google, and other Search Engines have everything they need to read, scan and prioritise your website.