Making the sale easier for your customers
When starting a new business, one of the most crucial tasks is to make it easy for clients to contact you to engage your services or purchase your product. If your business website relies on an open source WordPress installation, there are a plethora of free and inexpensive forms available as WP plug-ins.
However, you want to be sure to select a form builder that is dependable, robust, and easy to use for both your client and your web developer. Furthermore, turning the data gathered by your web forms into valuable information for your sales team can be a bit cumbersome without the right tools.
Custom forms with Gravity Forms
Meet one form builder to rule them all — Gravity Forms which was released in August 2009, and is in use on over one million WordPress (WP) sites. Gravity Forms allows you to build, design, and embed custom forms on your website through the use of their form editor.
Whether a simple contact form or a multi-page form to separate your order pages from your shipping and payment pages, Gravity Forms can meet a wide range of business needs.
Keep in mind that Gravity Forms is not compatible with the WordPress.com hosted service. You can only use Gravity Forms on self-hosted WordPress installations. Gravity Forms is licensed under the GNU general public license.
Three tiers of plans
With three tiers license plans, you can select the best fit to suit your business needs. The Personal License at $39 per year provides unlimited forms and entries on one site, and you can export entries as CSV files. At the Business License level ($99/year), you can use Gravity Forms on up to 3 sites and have access to basic add-ons that allow you to integrate third party services such as Emma and MailChimp.
It’s the top tier Developer License ($199/year) that opens up a multitude of benefits for your business, with access to more advanced Gravity Form Add-ons on an unlimited number of WP sites and WP Multi-Site. These advanced add-ons include communication tools such as Campfire and and Slack, as well as CRM solutions such as Agile’s Sales Marketing CRM, Capsule, and Zoho. Integrate your invoicing and payment system with add-ons for Freshbooks and PayPal Payments, and many others.
The Developer License includes priority ticket support, while all three tiers of Gravity Forms licenses offer auto-responders, entry export, spam protection, and 1 year of updates and support.
Connected Systems founder and WordPress web developer Rich Plakas states that Gravity Forms is “easy enough for beginners to get started with basic forms.” Plakas has used the PayPal add-on to accept payments for events, and stated that “support has been very good when we needed it.”
Don’t see your preferred solution in Gravity Forms list of add-ons? No worries, there’s the Gravity Form Zapier Add-On that you can install to integrate with the over 200 web services that Zapier is tied into including Salesforce, Basecamp, and Gmail.
Tommy Oddo of Oddo Design stated that he uses Gravity Forms on just about every client project. “As a developer, its drag-and-drop features cut my development time in half— compared to the old way of creating/coding/designing forms. My clients don’t realize it— but my use of Gravity Forms saves them a lot of money.”
Minimize lost leads
Sales teams can appreciate the integration of forms with CRM, although Oddo opines that “they will almost certainly need some assistance from a developer/designer.” Oddo explained the Gravity Forms integration through Zapier in this September 2015 post “Why and How You Should Auto-Send Sales Leads from WordPress to Your CRM.”
Paying $199/year for Gravity Forms may seem a bit steep for some SMB owners, but it can more than pay for itself through its efficiency and minimizing lost leads.
Affiliate program and commissioned sales
Need more incentive? Gravity Forms also offers an Affiliate Program – receive a 20% commission on every sale you generate as an affiliate – but it is temporarily closed and they are not accepting new affiliate applications at this time. Stay tuned to their Affiliate Application webpage for updates.
What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!
(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.
There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.
Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.
The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.
According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.
UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.
Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.
The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.
2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.
Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller
(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.
Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.
Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”
The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.
The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”
The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”
These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”
According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”
Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.
One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data
(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.
How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.
At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.
Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.
With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.
This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.
Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.
If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.
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