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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Malissa Ito

December 30, 2011

Categories: Development

Sitecore is a world leading content management system (CMS) used by more than 32,000 websites — several of them some of the biggest brands in the world. Its popularity is attributed to its user-friendly features, including an intuitive interface for the simple creation of websites, a content editor that allows you to make changes to content right on the page, and design and template tools that make creating page layouts simple (even if you have limited HTML experience).

Despite its simplicity, Sitecore is not limiting; it provides comprehensive support all the audiences who use it (e.g., IT professionals, developers, online managers) or benefit from it. One example of this support is Sitecore’s marketing center, used by online managers to set goals, develop campaigns, and create Analytics filters for their site.

Developers and content managers can use sitecore to manage and deploy an unlimited number of sites from a single installation, making it easy to share assets within the media library and maintain consistent messaging and brand identity between different sites. In fact, Sitecore’s functionality within a media library itself is another great benefit: you can manage all your digital assets (PDFs, images, videos) in one location, and the editor can manipulate images within the library.

With built-in functionality for blogs, wikis, forums, polls, and surveys, as well as multilingual capabilities, Sitecore meets the needs of both big and small clients. When you are working with a CMS, it has to be adaptable to your needs — but also scalable to future industry trends and standards. Having worked with Sitecore extensively as a developer, I can truly say that they do a great job of this.

Bryan Vorp

December 16, 2011

Categories: Graphic Design

I can honestly say, the first time I saw the word dissonance, I had no clue what it meant. I recently saw this word pop up in a headline on one of the daily blogs that I read. Little did I know, the author was using dissonance to persuade me to read the article. Since then, I have read a few more articles about this powerful concept and thought I would share some of my findings.

Dissonance is described as a state of mental conflict. The headline of that blog was “Designing with Dissonance.” As a designer, I thought I should know what dissonance was and how my work may be able to benefit from it. In other words, my lack of understanding caused a state of mental conflict, and the only way to resolve that conflict was to read the whole article.

With this simple example, we start to see how dissonance is used every day in writing, marketing and design. Sometimes its use is obvious, and other times you may have no inclination that you’re falling prey to dissonance.

In design, typically our goal is to lessen dissonance. We want the audience to take away a very specific message and if our designs cause a state of mental conflict, chances are the message is being diluted or disregarded all together. To do this, for example, designers reduce the number of callouts on an ad or remove excessive links on a homepage. By reducing the number of choices for the audience, we are reducing the effect of dissonance on them. If there are too many choices, conflict and confusion start to creep into the mind of the audience.

On the flip side, a designer sometimes chooses to create dissonance by challenging the audience’s beliefs and then providing a solution. The solution in this case is the product being sold or the service being offered by our clients.

For example, imagine you are looking at an ad for a new packaged food product. The ad is comparing its ingredients to that of its top competitor, a popular brand. The ingredient list for the popular brand is long and contains many ingredients that most consumers can’t even pronounce. If the audience is a health conscious shopper and they see that the new product ingredient list is shorter and made with all natural ingredients this can start to cause dissonance with those types of shoppers. To lessen this dissonance, this type of consumer may switch to the new product.

It’s clear that we experience dissonance all the time – whether we’re reading a news story, viewing an ad, or writing a blog entry. In design, the examples above make it clear that dissonance is not always the right answer for a project. But by understanding how dissonance affects our thinking and our decision making, creatives can use it to achieve more effective design and marketing. And if you’ve read this far, it’s safe to assume dissonance has affected you.

Tim Friez

December 13, 2011

Categories: Business, Development, Tech

Why You Should Backup Your Files

"Backup the backup of your backup."

A wise, old IT guru gave me two pieces of advice when I chose IT as my profession. First, 90% of networking issues will be DNS related so learn it. Second, backup the backup of your backup. Many years later these two pieces of advice still hold true. However, one has become cheaper and easier over the years—backups.

You would be surprised how often I get a late night phone call saying, “I was just checking my email and BAM! everything is gone on my computer,” or, “I just went to turn on my computer and it won’t start.” For me, that’s when the real fun starts. Usually the first question from the user is, “What is going to happen to all my pictures and all my music?” They don’t realize that all their financial info, homework etc. is at jeopardy too until I ask them what other type of data they have on their hard drive. That’s when the look of panic sets in. And when I ask if their data was backed up, 90% of the time I get the response, “What?!” followed by a pause, then the answer, “No.”

This is when it starts to get interesting. Without going into all the techie details, most of the time a malware or virus clean up will fix the problem and the user is good to go with lesson learned, hopefully! But unfortunately, there are too many times when the hard drive went south and the user is up a creek without a paddle.

Bottom line—every company should have a good backup and recovery plan. Granted, nothing is ever 100% but your IT staff should do their best to protect your valuable data. It costs a lot of time and money to recreate or restore lost data, if recovery is possible. The same holds true with your personal computer’s data. We spend hours taking pictures and video of events in our lives just to have it pile up on our computer’s hard drive until that old hard drive kicks the bucket.

These days there are plenty of cost effective ways to back your personal data. With all the cloud based storage now available, a quick Google search can help you find online storage offering various amounts of free storage space. Pick one that’s right for your needs. Also, an external hard drive is another good backup source. Terabyte external hard drives can be found for under $100 nowadays. I recommend putting data on non-erasable media. Get a spindle of DVD-R’s or a few Blu-ray discs and burn the data. You won’t be sorry.

For a little bit of time and a little of money you can protect your valuable data. You’ll sleep better. And so will I, knowing you won’t be calling me in the middle of the night.

Quest Fore

December 9, 2011

Categories: News

Quest Fore yesterday received a prestigious Marketer of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA). The South Side-based marketing firm was recognized in the category of public relations and advertising firms.

All winners, including Quest Fore, were honored at the Marketer of the Year Awards Ceremony at LeMont Restaurant on Mount Washington. The region’s top creative firms and marketing departments were represented at the event.

“We are proud and honored to receive this award from the AMA,” said Ken Cuccinelli, President and CEO of Quest Fore. “We have to be able to deliver on our promise of providing the absolute best strategic marketing support there is, and, in addition to producing great work every day, this helps us do that.”

The prestige of the recognition is unique: The Marketer of the Year Awards are the region’s only results-based marketing competition. Thus, Quest Fore was chosen as the winner for its measurable successes in executing several self-promotional initiatives, including the redesign of; the implementation of new sales strategies and tactics; establishing a trade show presence at conferences like this year’s Energy, Inc.; developing new promotional materials, marketing collateral and advertising; and building an increasingly dynamic social media presence, including holding a Facebook contest offering marketing support to startup companies.

In addition to client expansion, improved sales lead generation and increased website traffic, the Marketer of the Year win is supported by Quest Fore’s internal growth over the past year. Since the beginning of 2011 – a time when cutbacks and layoffs have plagued the marketing industry – Quest Fore has nearly doubled its staff. “In spite of the economy,” said Cuccinelli, “by being aggressive when opportunities arose and patient at times when it was necessary, we’ve been able to create jobs at Quest Fore, and most importantly, help our clients grow and prosper, too.”

Kara Reid

December 5, 2011

Categories: Graphic Design

They’re peppered everywhere from beer bottles to billboards. The little black and white matrix has infiltrated the market from every angle. The question is, why have they landed on this planet?

The QR code was initially created for the automotive industry to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Due to its fast readability and storage capacity, this little module has been adopted in every corner of the market. Without getting into the Wikipedia details and all their gritty specifications, the QR code is undoubtedly a convenient and speedy way to communicate information.

Ugly QR Codes

As a designer often confronted with the demand to contaminate my otherwise flawless design, I still have to ask myself – do they have to be so ugly? After more research, I found that they do not. It’s just a matter of how “scanable” you require them to be. Thanks to error correction (and Wikipedia) it is possible to take artistic liberties with QR codes and still have them scan correctly, but contain intentional errors that allow them to be more attractive and, in turn, less repelling.

Pretty QR Codes

The only question you have to ask yourself is now, after all this work, where is this fancy little vehicle taking you? In the end, the destination is probably more important than the aforementioned designer rant.