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Brand Catalyst Media - Website Designing & Web Dev Update Brand Catalyst Media - Website Designing & Web Dev  
RSS 6 |  Brand Catalyst Media - Website Designing & Web Dev

An Overview on Cross Platform Mobile Application development with NativeScript

Mobile Application development is an exciting, ever changing and constantly evolving industry. Mobile apps are an inseparable part of our lives and with the evolution of development technologies, apps have only gotten better and mobile app development platforms have gotten more and more innovative. With speed to market being a major factor when considering the development of a mobile app, there is no shortage of great app development options that are constantly trying to outdo each other when it comes to scalability, ease of use, performance and speed.


Today, I would like to discuss one such newcomer - NativeScript. NativeScript is an open-source cross-platform mobile app development framework for iOS and Android built by Telerik. NativeScript is a cross-platform framework that can create mobile applications with a single code-base. The primary language used to develop NativeScript based applications is Javascript. Additionally, NativeScript offers a lot of features that make it easy to get started and leverage skills you may already have:

  1. Leverages your existing knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS
  2. No need to have Objective C, Swift, or Java programming knowledge
  3. Write once run everywhere
  4. Access to native platform APIs for iOS and Android
  5. Can be used with Angular and Typescript

During the course of this blog, I would like to give you some quick sample codes just so you have an idea of what the syntax looks like. but first
:: Read More
(Published: 2017-09-28 18:54:55 GMT)

How to fix a slow Wordpress Admin caused by Wordfence

For any website or web application, security should always be a priority from the get go rather than an afterthought or a nice to have. At our agency, we offer a variety of bespoke website designing, web development and backend CMS development solutions as well as open source Wordpress website development.and WooCommerce solutions. Regardless of the end solution, security should always be at the forefront of any go-live plan.


When it comes to providing security and WAF services on Wordpress based solutions, Wordfence is by far one of the most popular security plugins in the world. 



With over 2 million installs and a 4.8/5 rating on the plugin's Wordpress page, there is no doubt that Wordfence has a mass appeal. Its wide gamut of features, Wordfence is a big favorite of ours as well and it is one of our top recommendations of must have plugins on a Wordpress or WooCommerce site. However, this otherwise awesome plugin can sometimes have a negative impact on your Wordpress website. While there are many reasons your Wordpress or WooCommerce website is slow, this blog article specifically helps you tune a website which has been slowed down by Wordfence.


The issue with Wordfence on Smaller Servers

While Wordfence is a great plugin, it can be a resource hog on smaller server deployments especially when its settings are kept stock. As an example, we recently ran into a resource situation while working on a WooCommerce based project where we had a stock Wordfence setup with all the default settings in place. The website was built to serve a very limited audience and was therefore launched on a DigitalOcean cloud running limited CPU & RAM resources. 


While the initial deployment of the project went off exactly as expected and the performance was great, we soon started to notice a dramatic drop in the performance of the website which was even more noticeable on the admin panel. Request that took 1-2 seconds were now taking close to 30 seconds to process, even more in some cases. The database showed massive resource consumption for its size and was a clear bottleneck. The bottleneck in this case wasn't caused by Wordpress or the WooCommerce plugin, it was primarily Wordfence trying to do it job of real time traffic analysis and protection as it was instructed to do using the stock settings. 


Here is where the issue lies. Most users simply install Wordfence leaving all the default settings in place. I mean, who wouldn't want all the recommended security being offered by the plugin. Great right? Wrong! Depending on the infrastructure, leaving these settings untweaked will have you run into the situation we have outlined above very.


Alternate Failed Fixes

Our first approach was to try an keep the settings for Wordfence intact however, after running multiple optimizations including tweaking the max connections and timeout settings, running WP Optimize and similar solutions, all our optimizations at a database level left us with little to no improvement. Of course, we could scale up the server but that would only temporarily resolve the situation.


The Simple and Correct Fix

The right solution to a slow WP Admin and website caused by Wordfence on smaller servers lies in a few simple tweaks. Visit the Wordfence > Options menu and update these settings  :


  1. Under Basic Options
    Uncheck ‘Enable Live Traffic View’

  2. Under Email Summary
    Uncheck ‘Enable email summary’

  3. Under ‘Scans to include’
    Check ‘Use low resource scanning (reduces server load by lengthening the scan duration)’
    Set ‘Limit the number of issues sent in the scan results email’ to 500


  4. Set ‘Rate Limiting Rules’ as defined below :


  5. Under Other Options
    Set ‘How much memory should Wordfence request when scanning’ to 100
    Set ‘Update interval in seconds (2 is default)’ to 15 seconds


  6. Set a valid email address for ‘Where to email alerts’. This is critical because you will receive important emails regarding the website on this email address so please ensure it is a valid and frequently checked email address

  7. Under Advanced Option > Alerts
    check ‘Email me if Wordfence is deactivated‘
    uncheck ‘Alert when an IP address is blocke
    d’
Once done, Save the settings. Give the new updated settings a few minutes to kick in and you should quickly start seeing your website and Admin panel become more responsive. For more settings, visit the Wordfence documentation.

In Conclusion

Wordfence really is a great plugin but it can be a demanding on your server resources. Good news is, keeping the settings tight can resolve most bottleneck issues and have your Wordpress website back to normal in no time.



:: Read More
(Published: 2017-09-23 15:50:15 GMT)

Android Oreo - A small but efficient leap in right direction - Quick Review & Whats New
“If you step back and take a holistic look, I think any reasonable person would say Android is innovating at a pretty fast pace and getting it to users.“
- Sundar Pichai


Abhijit from the Android Mobile Application team at Brand Catalyst Media discusses Android's latest dessert with you


On Monday, 21st August 2017 while U.S.A was witnessing the ‘Total Solar Eclipse - Totality’, Google officially launched a new version of Android thus making it a memorable launch. Also, keeping in with the tradition of naming their OS versions after Desserts, they called it “Oreo”.


The previous version of the Android OS i.e Nougat, was officially released on 22 August 2016, exactly one year before this launch. Nougat has approximately 13.5% users of total android users which is lesser than Android Marshmallow version, approximately 32%. It will be interesting to see how Android Oreo will affect these numbers.


Lets dive in

:: Read More
(Published: 2017-09-02 22:06:57 GMT)

BCM wins agency mandate for Times Now Mobile website

Brand Catalyst Media is proud to announce that we've secured the mandate for the new Times Now mobile website design and development. Having worked with Times Now (Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited) on previous engagements as well, we look forward to working closely with the team to structure the User Interface and User Experience for the new smartphone centric mobile website.


The design philosophy for the new Times Now mobile website is to keep the user experience clean, intuitive and extremely engaging. Following a unique component architecture, the project presents an exciting collaboration opportunity between the teams with the initiative being headed by Raj Sheth, Head of Product Strategy for Times Now. 


With a strong focus on iOS and Android smartphone users, the end website development will be intuitive, highly integrated and performant. The intention is to deliver a quick yet rich experience to mobile web users and to serve as an extension as well as a driving factor to potential Times Now Mobile App users.


:: Read More
(Published: 2017-08-28 09:55:53 GMT)

Is your E-Commerce Website GST ready?

July 2017 marks one of the largest tax changes in India, the long awaited and much discussed introduction of Goods and Service Tax or GST. 


Unlike other taxes introduced, GST unifies and replaces existing service and goods related taxes all together. Just like any other business, E-Commerce websites now have to adopt the new tax reforms and system. Good new is that at Brand Catalyst Media, we've got you covered. All of our E-Commerce website, mobile web and mobile application solutions are now fully GST ready. 


So what does GST ready mean?

Great question. Tax slabs have always existed on custom and ready-to-go E-Commerce website but with the introduction of GST, came changes computations and applicability. With this upgrade to our offering, all of our solutions are built to help your business adopt GST seamlessly. Our E-Commerce solutions now include :


  1. Built in GSTIN and home state configuration
  2. Product and service HSN and SAC management
  3. Multiple Tax Slabs based on product or service pricing
  4. Real time computation applicability of Intra State and Inter State taxes
  5. GST compliant invoicing and PDF invoice generation
  6. GST centric tax reporting

Given that we specialise in bespoke solutions that are modular and scalable, in addition to providing this as a major feature on all upcoming projects, we've also upgraded and migrated a majority of our existing E-Commerce clients over to GST.

Find out more about our E-Commerce website solutions

:: Read More
(Published: 2017-07-11 16:43:20 GMT)

BCM launches online car servicing platform and vehicle products website Oilzo.com

Its no secret that we love to work with startups. Given our history with budding entrepreneurs, its always exciting for us to launch a new platform and Oilzo.com is no different. We're excited to announce the launch of Oilzo.com - a responsive website for the startup platform driven by Oilzo Vehicle Services Pvt Ltd. We had the opportunity to work closely with the Oiilzo team on their website design and web development. Oilzo.com is a unique offering in the world of automotive products and vehicle servicing. The E-Commerce website, available as a fully responsive solution for desktops, tablets and smartphones, provides a perfect solution to anyone looking to purchase products for their vehicles or looking to get their vehicle serviced at their doorstep. 


Users can take advantage of a powerful filtering system on the website to pin point products specifically made for their vehicle make, model and variant and purchase these products across various sizes. Vehicle servicing is an even more exciting feature where users can select from a platter of services specifically made available for their vehicle and can customise these services with various products. What is even better is that these services can be scheduled as per the customer's convenience and at a time and location of the customers choice.


Read more about the Oilzo.com Website Case Study on our portfolio.


In a world where vehicle products and services are scattered, Oilzo.com provides a powerful and extremely cost effective option to customers who want to give their vehicle the best without burning a hole in their pocket. 


What is even more exciting is that Oilzo.com's website will shortly be available as a powerful, full featured Android Mobile Application and iOS Mobile Application



Coming soon

:: Read More
(Published: 2017-07-11 09:40:28 GMT)

1 month into the new Wrapistry.com website, Amruta Walvekar is taking on E-Commerce head on

Wrapsitry.com is home to the art of gift wrapping, stationery products and craft workshops. We had the opportunity to work closely with Wrapistry team on the website design and the web development approach for Wrapistry.com. Developing an E-Commerce website is always exciting and one month after we launched the new website, we speak to Amruta Walvekar, the young and dynamic entrepreneur behind Wrapistry to see how things are going.


--


Amruta, to give everyone a bit of background, please tell us a little about your business

Wrapistry is all about my love for paper and ink. I design stationery and wedding cards, gift wrap for special occasions and host craft workshops across the country.

 

One month into your new website, how's it going?

Its been great! I am so thrilled to finally have a new website which helps me showcase my work, sell my products to customers pan-india and allows my clients to book workshops instantly.

 

Has your new website changed the way you do business in any way?

It surely has changed how I work. Since all of the information and the booking process is online, I have received fewer phone calls and emails letting me focus more of my time on growing my business. The easiest part though is where my clients to buy products or book workshops and pay for them in real-time.

 

Have you had any prior experience managing websites?

No, absolutely no experience.

 

How has it been managing the website through the backend we built for you?

The backend CMS is built beautifully. Clear and easy to use. I make changes on the website even when I am on the go, simply by using my smart phone, that's how simple it has been in the last one month.

 

Have any aspects of your website made your life easier? 

Prior to my website, workshop bookings and product sales were via mail order or offline and we had to manually send out payment receipts and confirmations which was very time consuming. My website has made things alot easier now with online payments and automated invoicing in place.

 

How are your clients and potential clients reacting to your new web presence-

I have received endless compliments on how fantastic the website looks. Returning clients have expressed relief to see they can now shop and book workshops online.

 

With the payment gateway being in place do you still see a lot of clients making off-line payments to you?

No, actually I have had only a few clients who wanted to make offline payments. Trust is a major factor while shopping online in India and Social media is the heartbeat of most business across the world. I had built that trust over the last five years with a strong Facebook page (92,000+ followers) and presence across major metros in India since 2011. So when we launched the website, the payment gateway was a success.

 

What would be your advice to entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to venture into the E-Commerce space?

The online space in India has matured so much in the last 5-6 years and the first instinct is to rush the launch of a website, I would say do a little ground work first. Building a E-Commerce website requires a lot of time and effort, especially if you want to build a fantastic one.  The two very important factors here to consider: Photos - A good photographer will allow your customers to ‘experience’ your products online and make your website attractive, this investment is non negotiable. Secondly, you will find endless inexpensive options if you wish to build your E-Commerce website, however, it may not be such a wise thing to do. Find a team who has a solid experience in building websites and in depth knowledge in maintaining them as well, you need to be thinking years down the road, not months.  A website is the face of your company and should be a substantial investment.

 

Lastly, how is your working experience been with the Brand Catalyst Media team.

It has been fantastic! It has taken me a lot of time to find someone who could accomplish what I needed for my website. I have to say it was really worth the wait. I think we should always try to partner with people who are not just passionate about their work but absolutely love what they do.  This is probably the main reason why it has been great working with Team BCM.  From day one, they had a genuine interest in my work and the concept of Wrapistry. They took the time to grasp my requirements and built a good understanding of what I was trying to achieve; a clean and elegant design. They have build an efficient management system for me which is extremely easy to update and has cut down my admin time drastically.

 

They have walked me through every technical aspects of the website which I had no clue about. Using a Project Management tool, the team was proactive through the entire process of building the website giving me suitable options, constructive suggestions and answering my endless questions.

 

Both, Zahir and Burges not only have the ability to stay on top of everything but also possess in depth knowledge about website development and marketing which is crucial for clients venturing into a new eCommerce business. Their patience and professionalism have far exceeded my expectations and I cannot recommend them enough. 


Thank you Team BCM it has been an absolute pleasure working with you all.


-


Visit Wrapistry.com today!

Learn more about the solution we built for Wrapistry

 

:: Read More
(Published: 2016-11-30 09:44:30 GMT)

How businesses can manage their AWS & Google clouds easily
Software applications and hardware go hand in hand. This statement stands true for websites and mobile applications more than you know. 


You can hire an awesome agency (we're pretty awesome), design a great UI & Ux for your website, ensure that all your code is valid and integrate a powerful, well architected backend but without the right hosting, your website will be slow. Period! The same is the case with any mobile application that uses a backend and web services. Websites and mobile applications in any production environment need to have a perfect marriage of application & hardware. Your website or application needs to be built well, which is the first half of the battle but your choice of hosting for the website or backend needs to ensure that all those precious lines of code aren't wasted because of a bad last mile delivery. Slow is bad and users today don't do slow. Its that simple. 



Ok so some background, in case you’re not up to speed yet

The primary options available to clients till a few years ago were shared hosting (where you’re one of the clients hosted amongst 100s on a server), Virtual Private Servers (or VPS where you’re still on in a shared resource environment but you’re sharing with fewer websites than on a shared server) and finally, dedicated servers (you, on your machine, that’s it).


In recent years though, the web hosting industry has made a significant shift to cloud hosting. Cloud hosting uses an approach where instead of your website or web server being physically hosted on a single server, you can take advantage of virtualized resources such as disk space, cpu, ram or storage from multiple physical servers thereby giving you the advantage of quick recovery, scalability, redundancy and better uptime. 


We had published a blog on choosing the right host and performance tuning your website but today, we wanted to discuss some very specific cloud hosting options, namely - Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Digital Ocean. 


1. Amazon Web Services (AWS)



AWS has been around for awhile. Some of the top players in the internet space are hosted with them and their servers are second to none. With a range of different service flavours ranging from web servers(EC2) to databases(RDS), DNS management(Route53) and Storage(EBS and S3) - this is just the basics. AWS additionally provide a range of services that addresses almost every aspect of infrastructure requirements. 


2. Google Cloud Platform



Google’s cloud hosting services are a more recent offering when compared to AWS but they have quite a lineup on their platter offering competitive products for web servers, databases, networking and storage plus more. Just like AWS, Google Cloud is available at multiple locations world over though not at as many locations as AWS.


3. Digital Ocean



Digital Ocean is the new guy here but still worth considering for your hosting solution especially if you’re not looking at too much segregation of services. Digital Ocean servers or droplets as they call them, are more straightforward ‘one server for everything’ setups. While their offering is not as elaborate as AWS or Google Cloud, Digital Ocean is an up-and-comer especially among developers because of the ease of use of their platform.


--


Ok, so we just went over 3 options for cloud hosting and a lot of it had terms and concepts that may not make sense to everyone but here’s the bottom line. all 3 providers have great cloud hosting solutions at varied price ranges depending on the server size. We found Digital Ocean to be the cheapest of the 3 but between the 3 providers, you could get a server for your website up and running for anything between $15-50 a month. What is important to note is that all 3 solutions are completely ‘Unmanaged’ and that brings us to the next part of this blog.


What is managed and unmanaged hosting?

Managed hosting is when your hosting provider handles everything. If you need a server setup, you simply log in, provide some basic details such as the domain name (www.yoursite.com) and you’re done. Run into an issue where something isn’t working and the hosting provider will fix it for you. Unable to reach your server? Log a support ticket and they’ll do the rest. Managed hosting is essentially a great solution for anyone who doesn’t have an in-house server admin to manage their server and would rather focus on their website and business while allowing the web hosting provider to take care of everything


Unmanaged hosting is at the other end of the spectrum. With unmanaged hosting, besides a limited interface to deploy servers, everything else like getting your database up, setting up FTP users, troubleshooting downtime or server issues is your onus. This is a nightmare for someone who isn’t familiar with shell access or server administration.


In some cases, your agency will manage the servers for you but this is almost always at an additional cost. What ends up happening is that clients go with low end managed hosting services simply because they do not want the overhead of handling the servers themselves. Downside though is that you end up missing out on some great cloud hosting in the process and end up settling for a server that is either shared or less performant than some of the options that we have highlighted above.


So how do you go use servers from providers like AWS, Google Cloud & Digital Ocean and still not bear the headache of managing the servers yourself?

Now that is the question and the sole purpose of the article. 


Enter, the solution and options.


The first step is to identify the type of solution you really need and your agency is probably the best source to guide you on this.


1. A multi server architecture

If your application or website requires a distributed architecture where you need to maintain multiple web servers with independant database servers and mounted file storages, then you would need to hire a reputed managed services company that would setup and secure a solid, scalable infrastructure. There are complete business built on such managed services. If AWS is what you’re looking at roll out your infrastructure (and you should, they have great latency due to multiple locations world over, great servers with very little downtime and lastly, a solid reputation of trust amongst tech products world over).  


Our choice


Our choice, hands down, would be MediaTempleMediaTemple currently only supports Amazon Web Services. We’ve worked with them on multiple projects and their expertise and knowhow are fantastic. Since MediaTemple’s service is fully bespoke, they can pretty much set up any sort of infrastructure or application you need, as long as the service will be supported by AWS. MediaTemple has been around for awhile and they’ve really earned a great reputation over the years. 


Pros :

  1. Great for complex architectures where you would like to separate each service
  2. Gives you the flexibility of scaling only those services which are being used the most ex. if you're running out of space, scale your file storage, if you're running into too many database transactions, sclae your database server
  3. Easily take advantage of AWS's autoscaling groups so you never face resource related downtime on your servers. More traffic means your servers will grow automatically
  4. Multiple data center options so you can choose the one closest to your audience location and take advantage of latency
  5. Take advantage of all the great features offered by AWS so you can pick and choose which services you want or MediaTemple will recommend the best services to you
  6. Highly personalised setups specific to your project needs
  7. Independant Billing with the option of reduced billing by AWS through MediaTemple
  8. You retain root access and can revoke it at any time with a little administration

Cons :
  1. Higher setup costs 
  2. Higher monthly retainer
  3. Slower time-to-live since the entire process entails documentation
  4. Support offered only during working hours (PST)
  5. Not everyone needs a complex architecture, for a lot of websites that are clean cut, a single server may do just fine, in which case, the architecture setup cost it hard to justify


Pricing

MediaTemple’s Managed Amazon Cloud service is broken into two parts - a one time setup fee and a recurring fee for ongoing support. We strongly recommend MediaTemple to any client that would like to build medium to large scalable architectures and take advantage of Amazon’s different server types. The setup costs can vary between $3000 - $5000 as a one time fee with a monthly retainer of $500 - $1000. The costs payable to AWS here would be independant and would depend on the final servers deployed


Websitehttps://mediatemple.net/managedcloud/



2. A single server architecture

Now, on the other hand, an advanced multi-server setup may not be needed by everyone. If your application or website does not need a multi server setup where you’re going to be just fine hosting the web server, database and other services on a single server but you would still like the flexibility of upsizing your server at any point of time, this option is for you. 


Our choice


In the recent months, we have started working with Cloudways.com. Cloudways offers managed services on a range of different hosting providers including AWS, Google Cloud, Digital Ocean and other providers. They offer one click server setups with a range of server applications (PHP, Laravel, Magento, Wordpress etc), customisable server sizes and locations. 


Pros :

  1. Great option for simple single server setups for smaller websites, POCs and MVPs
  2. No additional setup costs or monthly retainers
  3. A range of hosting providers including AWS, Digital Ocean & Google Cloud Platform so you can compare and choose the host and pricing which works best for you
  4. Also supports multiple data centers options so you can choose the one closest to your audience location and take advantage of latency
  5. Fast to launch - we generally saw an under 7 minute configuration and launch per server
  6. Much faster time-to-live, sign up, create server, done!
  7. A range of applications supported including Laravel, Magento, Wordpress
  8. One consolidated bill 
  9. 24x7 tech support and live chat

Cons :

  1. No direct root access to your servers, Cloudways will retain root access to enable patches and maintenance tasks.
  2. Generic server setups
  3. No auto scaling groups for AWS, Google Cloud and Digital Ocean
  4. A generic server setup may work for some but more serious applications may require a more serious architecture 


Pricing

While their offering is primarily single server setups, they do provide instant scaling options which work really well and the biggest differentiator is that though their service is managed (they have quite a capable support team), you pay no setup cost and the managed service overhead is an approximate 10% markup over and above what you would pay if you bought the hosting through the end provider directly. 


Websitehttp://www.cloudways.com/en/

--


In conclusion

So as you can see, it is very much possible to use these top end hosting services and take advantage of high performance, redundant cloud hosting without necessarily setting up an 'in-house' resource to manage your servers. 


We hope this article was helpful and we would love to hear your feedback on it


Good luck with your cloud!

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(Published: 2016-11-04 13:25:48 GMT)

Journey to Laravel - How and why we transitioned from Core PHP to Laravel


Introduction

As a creative technology team, we at Brand Catalyst Media have always strived to be at the forefront of Web & Mobile technologies. Our focus through the years has been on building bespoke, ground up websites, web applications, content management systems and over the last 3 years, mobile applications. We can be best defined as restless minds, working harder and pushing forward, adapting to changes on the way. Here is how we evolved from what we did best and made it even better. 


“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
-- Albert Einstein


How we used to cruise

This is where the Software Architecture & Platform comes into play. For anyone who has a focus in PHP development, we all can agree that PHP is one of the world’s most popular scripting languages. If I were to talk about PHP and the sheer support it has, this article would be a lot longer. So I'll only talk about how we have leveraged the capabilities of PHP to build quality products. 


PHP is undoubtedly a strong language. It plays well with almost every major platform - Windows or Linux or Debian. It binds well with database solutions like MySQL, PgSQL, Sqlite, MsSQL, MongoDB. So essentially, our clients could have multiple combinations of solutions for their products to run smoothly. PHP provides a very strong foundation for any project. 


Since inception, our focus and forte was Core PHP. With Core PHP, one developer can code the exact same thing in multiple ways. It only depends on the developer as to how efficient and manageable code he writes is. That being said, we’re huge fans of standardisation and we have always been in front line when it comes to manageable, readable, scalable and secure code. We have written a range of solutions in Core PHP where we hand coded every little aspect of our client's requirements to provide a better and cleaner product. 


The Wheel

So, we were providing these great, complex solutions built in Core PHP to our clients. Sounds good right? Well yes and no. Our work has always been exciting but through years of deploying Core PHP solutions which were customised to the T, a lingering feeling of redundancy had started to set in with Core PHP. 


Here’s why…

We are a bespoke agency that creates custom solutions for our clients. For every project we build, the client owns the IP and rightfully so. The proprietary code which was a part of the IP was almost always directly related to algorithms, complex structures or unique features that we had built for the client. However, a large number of our clients had about 20-30 % common components which weren’t proprietary such as logins, registrations, payment gateway integrations, public API integrations (Facebook, Twitter), image optimisation codes and so on. 


When we were coding with Core PHP, it was getting increasingly difficult for us to reuse even basic common components given version differences, compatibility issues and other constraints. This left us feeling that even for basic functionalities, we were reinventing the wheel every time. 


With Core PHP, it gets worse when it comes to database queries. Complex and conditional queries were extremely hard to manage and bug fix. When it comes to adding more to the existing complexity, it is basically a complete rewrite. Lastly, when it comes to building APIs for mobile applications, we had had to ensure a lot of complexity in build secure and maintainable services. This took a lot of time and effort. 


There had to be a way to optimise this and it was this unignorable fact that made us want to find an option that allowed us to code faster, with more efficiency and a lot more scalability than before.


The gap

So what were we missing? We were missing an API layer and helpers in our code where we could still access the sweetness of Core PHP through API Hooks and yet have the ability to simply just plug a specific code and make use of its API goodness. Also, we needed a Database Query Helper, some sort of templating engine and encapsulation.


First lift off

We started searching for some solutions which could fill these gaps… and we have found some. We started focusing more on OOPs. We incorporated composer packages for database queries. This helped us a lot in achieving speed while managing complex queries and extending them later. But we wanted more. We wanted to have a structure that the entire team could follow. We knew that MVC was the right way to go where we could make applications as independent as we wanted. This process would lead to a separation of concerns, manageability and scalability. What we really needed was a Framework. 


The search for the right framework!

Here's where things got interesting for the developers. Firstly what is MVC? MVC stands for Model-View-Controller - where the database architecture is hidden away with Models and Views are only concerned with rendering the data that is passed on to it and finally, the Controller where all the business logic and complexity are encapsulated. 


We were constantly looking for a better framework and we had even created custom frameworks using Smarty, Fat Free, Eloquent, Routing and Helpers. But there was always a feeling that it wasn't enough.  


I had some experience in Laravel and while creating my own Framework, I wanted to achieve what Laravel was able to achieve. Then the obvious dawned… If we really wanted our framework to be exactly like Laravel then why not use that instead. I was convinced and determined to use Laravel in our future projects. I proposed the idea to Zahir & Burges and when I explained what all that we can achieve with Laravel, they were completely on board with the idea. This journey would have been impossible without them. I can't even put into words how awesome Laravel is and to be able to bring in a drastic change in the development methodology was an exciting challenge,


Hello Laravel!

This is my favorite part - talking about the Laravel PHP Framework


First thing anyone will notice in Laravel is that it is a Powerful and Robust Routing Engine. Many entry-level developers don't notice this but web routes are already CSRF safe. We don't even have to worry about that. Previously we had to build it for ourselves and those who have done CSRF protection manually know how painful it is. 


Then comes the Templating Engine - Blade. Trust me when I tell you that the name suits it perfectly. It’s sharp and cuts through anything you throw at it. Blade is completely Injection safe, out of the box. 


Then the database abstraction layer, Eloquent ORM. makes it an ease to perform complex database queries, managing relationships and later, scale them in breeze with the help of Models. I'm personally a big fan of Active Records myself. It represents queries like a readable paragraph. Query Scopes help to extend that even further. SQL Injection is history now. Many of us don't pay attention to the fact that Query Caching is built in. Then it has the migration files which is basically Database version control. 


RESTful Controllers - this is something we fell in love with. Controllers allowed us to write our logic, broken down into multiple readable methods or in a separate classes. In Core PHP, breaking down codes was a big hassle. With controllers, we know where to look if anything goes wrong and debug it instantly. The validation is what makes it even more interesting. No more ‘if-else chain of hell’. You can literally do multiple complex validation in a single line. You can provide custom messages if you want or Laravel will give you pretty good messages for your invalid data. 


Then comes the Artisan (I prefer calling it Laravel Personal Assistant). It is very powerful and extendable.Artisan is basically a generator for Laravel. Ask him to make a controller and he will do that for you. It comes with Tinker, which is a great console for playing with your code first.  


The Helpers & Authentication make it easier to code by writing less and doing more in a bit of a cooler way to do it. Array Helper, Collections, Session, Cookies, Request the list goes on. I'll also mention the Mailer. Previously we had to work for hours to make a good Mailer but Laravel completely eliminated the headache.


I want to cover the authentication part here too. Laravel comes with basic Authentication Features out of the box. We almost always need User Registration, Login, Forget Password. Having pre-existing standard functionality helped us a lot in speeding up standard delivery. We just had to extend the actual logic over the basic authentication layer and we were good to go. 


When we speak about authentication we have to mention Middlewares, Those are life-savers. User level authentication and permissions can be built in a minute. Not just authentication, hooking into the Request and Response with Marcos, which made it easy to build the Secure API. Now we don’t have to worry about the pre-processing of request and response in our main logic. They are automatically applied to the group of areas where we want it to apply.


The jaw dropping part is where we plug and play official or third party packages. This was a big leap forward for us. Form Model Binding where we now had HTML and Form Facades made our life much easier. No more manually filling a form while updating an entry. Want a Social Login? Socialite has got you covered. Want image optimization? Intervention Image is here for you. There are countless packages out there to help you with an API that you want to hook into and make your life easier. We have even created a bunch of our own packages that we just plug and play with Facades. 


Now comes the challenge of building APIs for Mobile Applications. Laravel is made keeping in mind RESTful API Development. The security measures for the APIs with Laravel are great - built in throttling and database query or other services are really fast. This approach converted many lines of code to just a few lines. 


We also realised that there were a few features we would have wanted within Laravel. One thing I really would expect from Laravel out of the box is CORS (Cross origin resource sharing) but no worries, we made a our own package for that as well. Build, plug and play! Simple! We are currently using a fork of Laravel and we integrated some of the functionalities into it that we constantly need in our solution like User Level Permissions, more Routes in Route Resources. We also made a full fledged CMS Solution for us to integrate on. It's easily maintainable and scalable. We custom build the backend modules as per the project requirements and the experience for us all is pretty amazing. 


Is Core PHP bad then? 

No, not at all. Core PHP helps you to understand the logic behind frameworks. Your logical thinking can be improved with Core PHP.  Core PHP becomes bad only when it goes to a bad programmer’s desk. Don’t dive into Framework without learning or coding in Core PHP or without some good experience in OOP. Please make sure that you read the full documentation before you start coding in any Framework. 

Adopting Laravel


So now that I’ve ranted about how great Laravel is, I want to close by saying that this discussion is not about all the features Laravel has, rather, it a discussion about what attracted our team to Laravel and how we took the leap. 


It was a challenge moving to Laravel from Core PHP. The transition wasn't so easy for all of us in the development team. We constantly fought our way through. We had to spend hours researching, learning, sharing and growing into the new development skin as a team. The early adopters took responsibility of making sure everyone was comfortable and now that the team has got the hang of it, they don't want to go back. I must say Laravel is pretty addictive.

We also had tons of clients running Core PHP solutions that were working perfectly fine. We rebuilt some of them in Laravel and we continue to maintain the rest in Core PHP till the revamp kicks in. One thing was for sure, anything current was definitely going to be built with Laravel.


For our clients, this development shift meant a heap of benefits. Faster deliveries, a larger focus on building custom functionality rather than spending hours on standard functionality, more maintainable, optimised and scalable code… the list goes on. 

With Laravel, not only did we transform our development methodology, but we also converted our time invested in adopting Laravel into delivering better products to our clients and allowed ourselves to be more agile in the process of being a bespoke development company. This shift allowed us to have a better justification for our time and product. 


What a journey

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(Published: 2016-10-29 16:08:18 GMT)

BCM wins mandate for Avendus Wealth Management portal revamp


We are proud to announce that Brand Catalyst Media has won the mandate against competing agencies to revamp the Avendus Wealth Management iOS & Android mobile applications as well as the web portal. 


Avendus Wealth Management is a subsidiary of Avendus Capital Pvt Ltd with a core focus on financial advisory and wealth management services. Avendus Wealth Management’s key services include customized equity portfolios, structured fixed income products and private equity opportunities.


We’re excited to work closely with Avendus Wealth Management to provide them with UI & Ux design, mobile application development, responsive web design and integration services. The Avendus Wealth Management platform will be available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store as well as a responsive website. 


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(Published: 2016-10-20 16:54:18 GMT)

OUWT raises INR 1 cr in funding from undisclosed investors

OUWT(now re-branded Flo Chat), which currently operates in Mumbai, where it lists close to 300 venues on its platform, is a GPS-enabled service which helps users discover and locate venues such as lounges, bars, clubs etc on the go. OUWT has successfully raised $150000(around INR 1cr) through an undisclosed list of angel investors.


The app also lets users locate clubs on the basis of the kind of music they play and numerous other power parameters including alcohol index - a unique feature that categorises venues based on budgets. Further, it allow users to discover locations that sell food late into the night, kitchens which deliver food at night, etc. OUWT also offers discounts and offers on certain venues. The app generates real-time updates about all its listings, so as to help users make informed decisions.


Founder, Prateek Lal, says that the fresh fusion of funds will be used to expand to other cities. By the end of this year, they will commence operations in Pune and Bangalore. To aid their plans of geographical expansion, they also intend to scale up their currently 12-member strong workforce. They are also looking to enhance the capacity of their sales vertical.


OUWT has been featured on numerous platforms including iamwire, VC Circle, Gadgets 360(NDTV) and so on. Brand Catalyst Media serves as technology partners for OUWT's current and future developments.


Find out more about OUWT

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(Published: 2015-11-20 17:06:16 GMT)

Client Case Study : Archh.com - Professional networking for architects done right
An interview with Rajesh Natarajan, Co-founder of Archh.com - a revolutionary networking platform for architects, interior designers, vendors and design students— and find out what gives it an edge over other social networking platforms.

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BCM : Before begin, tell us a little about yourself
Rajesh N : I’m a construction engineer by qualification and an MBA graduate from Mumbai University. I’ve, successfully, been running an executive search business in this city for last 15 years. I also have business interests in real estate and this got me interested in architecture. My earliest tryst with technology was when I set up recruitment management software for my firm. I’ve been an early adapter of social networking medium and have been using Facebook and LinkedIn even before they became household names.

Manish Dikshit, my partner and co-founder of Archh, is a practicing architect and interior designer with over 12 years of experience. He too attributes the growth of his practice to social networking and has acquired a large number of clients (especially in the initial days of his practice) by effectively networking on many social and professional sites on the internet. 

BCM : So what inspired you to create a comprehensive professional network for architects?
Rajesh N : We’ve realised that very little has been done to cater to the design community in the social media space. We also recognised the intrinsic need for architects and designers to exhibit their skills and increase the visibility of their portfolio in a professional environment, and noticed that there were almost no options available until now. When we introduced the website in 2013, we gave them a platform to interact with other designers from the global community and share and discuss wide-ranging topics pertaining to architecture and design. The response has been overwhelming. On a global scale, we have active visitors from more than 196 countries which signify the wide level of acceptance and appreciation of such a forum.

BCM : What is the most interesting feature of Archh? 
Rajesh N : Primarily Archh allows architects and professionals to exhibit their skills either under the projects or the products section. The projects/products can be viewed by anybody but only the members are allowed to like, comment and share. The motto of the website is to build and share project portfolio, promote skills, discover design ideas in real time and eventually, increase visibility of your work. The products and projects sharing feature has introduced many of our members to their potential clients from around the world.

BCM : What is your objective for Archh?
Rajesh N : Our objective is twofold. Firstly, to increase the opportunity for designers and help them acquire new assignments and secondly, aid in effective execution of assignments. The new features that are about to be introduced will help members in either or both of these. 

BCM : Since Archh.com caters to users world over, can you give us an example where Archh.com has helped international user's connect?
Nachiket Borawake from India needed to a lighting fixture vendor from Ireland.  This was made possible with the multitude of options available on Archh. With so many vendors displaying their products on Archh, the right vendor was just a click away! Not only did Archh meet his requirements, but also gave him references for two other projects in the United Kingdom with this contact.

In another example, Iranian Architect and Archh member Rooja Fallah desperately sought work in an international architecture firm outside her country. Through this platform, she was able to communicate her interest and showcase her portfolio and was soon hired as a Project Manager for an architecture firm in Dubai. “Given the sensitive political situation and limited internet access in my country, this could’ve been possible only through Archh,” she said. 

BCM : What is your advice to the new-age architect?
Rajesh N : With the latest technology at their disposal, young architects must harness the full potential of the online medium to promote, share and learn from other professionals in their field. Cross border association is made possible today with the creation of social and professional networking portals. Archh is one such medium which is widely read across the globe and will benefit the younger generation of professionals. 

BCM : Being a complete digital property, technology is critical for a platform like Archh.com. What made you choose Brand Catalyst Media as a technology partner and how has your experience been so far?
Rajesh N : We wanted a partner who could not only handler technical execution, but also articulate and implement our vision. We recognised this ability in BCM during our initial interactions and hence decided to partner with them.

BCM : Is there any advice you would like to give to startups in today’s market?
Rajesh N : My advice is don’t ask or look for advice from too many people. Chart your own course to success

You can connect with the co-founders of Archh, Rajesh Natarajan on www.archh.com/m/rajesh/  and Manish Dikshit on www.archh.com/m/manish/ 

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(Published: 2014-09-22 15:11:21 GMT)

Client Case Study : In conversation with Sharad Bajaj, Roofontop.com
In conversation with Sharad Bajaj, the sharp, extremely knowledgeable and driven co-founder of ROT Internet Ventures Pvt Ltd, the company behind www.roofontop.com - India's fastest growing property platform.

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BCM : roofontop.com is one of the fastest growing real estate platforms in India. What was the inspiration behind the platform?
Sharad Bajaj : Anil (Anil Kapilashrami, Co-founder) and I were eager to enter the consumer Internet space, out of all online markets - we found real estate had the greatest opportunity - the most white space. This space is exciting, its growing and the revenue potential is tremendous.

BCM : In an overcrowded real estate market, what is you key differentiator & how does roofontop.com set it’s services apart?
Sharad Bajaj : A lot of people talk to us about the overcrowded space, in reality there is no company that currently exits in our space. We look at ourselves as a complete real estate service provider, we hand hold our customers through their journey - from the time a customer goes on the website all the way until the property transaction is completed. On this journey there are many differentiators - our website (usability, information and flow), our platinum broker network (certified, trained and curated), our customer service team, our no-spamming no pushing policy, our E2R real estate technology. However our biggest differentiator is that we don’t wash our hands of the customer once they click on a listing, we provide managed fulfillment - that’s what everyone hasn’t figured out - there is more to the internet than just classifieds.

BCM : How does roofontop.com control real estate deals and maintain a higher quality transaction for it’s customers?
Sharad Bajaj : Our technology provides the first level of creating an overall higher standard. Our duplicity algorithms prevent the same property from being listed multiple times, our price check algorithms control the quality of data and our ranking algorithms give a higher placement to listings with pictures. The level of intelligence in this system is not seen anywhere else in the online real estate space.

Our second level of higher quality comes from our platinum network. We curate property agents. To be a roofontop.com platinum network agent - you need to pass the reference & background check, submit your income tax returns, sign our contract with SLAs included and attend the roofontop.com training. No such network of professional real estate service providers exist in India. Our customers use the highest quality service providers in the country - the quality of transaction is so far beyond anything ever seen before in India.

BCM : In the short time that roofontop.com has been live, how has the response been to the website and the roofontop.com experience?
Sharad Bajaj : Our online presence is growing steadily, we have expanded the network across six metros already and hope to be in every city in India over the next three years. We measure feedback on the roofontop.com experience through the number of referrals and repeat customers. All I can say is so far we are humbled by the overwhelming positive feedback, however its best to log on to roofontop.com and find out for yourself!

BCM : Technology and roofontop.com are close siblings and your digital solution is quite elaborate being spread over web and mobile platforms. What made you choose Brand Catalyst Media as a technology partner and how has your experience been so far?
Sharad Bajaj : Anil and I both being technologists initially found it difficult to outsource the core development of the website. In reality its been the best outsourced solution we have been a part of, that’s saying alot since Anil was the founding CIO for GECIS. Zahir has become the acting CTO of roofontop.com, all timelines have been met and the quality of work always exceeds our already high expectations. Roofontop.com’s partnership with BCM has been a major contributor to the success of roofontop.com and the speed to market which we have been able to achieve. 

BCM : roofontop.com has undoubtedly gained fantastic traction in the past year, what about the future? What’s next?
Sharad Bajaj : Lots of new innovative functionality on the website, an entire new section (will be the first in india), expansion of the network across the country, and an upcoming major advertising campaign. Lots happening in our world these days!

BCM : Is there any advice you would like to give to startups in today’s market?
Sharad Bajaj : My only advice is ignore all advice. If you fail, you learn and try again. Just believe and keep at it. Advice comes from what has been, success comes from what will be!

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Learn more about roofontop.com by visiting the roofontop.com project showcase. Roofontop.com is also available as a native iOS & Android application.
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(Published: 2014-08-04 15:13:12 GMT)

BCM wins Honourable Mention on Awwwards.com, TheFWA, CSSDA and more
We were recently nominated for the prestigious Awwwards.com SOTD award for our new portfolio showcase www.brandcatmedia.com. Awwwards.com is one of the most popular and celebrated design showcases on the internet and is one of the most visited design destinations amongst digital designers world over. Over the years, a handful of websites from India have made it to the nominations on Awwwards.com and it is truly an honour to be included this list. We are proud to announce that Brand Catalyst Media has won an 'Honourable Mention' award on the website and has been further shortlisted for a possible SOTD award.

BCM wins Awwward.com Honourable Mention award

To add to our excitement, www.brandcatmedia.com was also nominated and shortlisted for the famed Favourite Website Award (TheFWA), a website with a long standing reputation for hand picking only the best websites on the internet. 

Brand Catalyst Media makes it to the public shortlist on TheFWA

And it doesn't stop there, we were also nominated on CSS Design Awards, CSS Awards, CSS Winner & FolioFocus

CSS Design Awards CSS Winner 

Thanks for all the love! :)



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(Published: 2014-07-15 18:25:21 GMT)

BCM builds MTV Exit India's new website & digital strategy
Brand Catalyst Media(BCM) receives the opportunity to build the website for MTV Exit India. MTV Exit is a humanitarian initiative by the MTV Exit Foundation to spread awareness about Human Trafficking. The multi-level engagement would allow BCM to provide design, development and marketing services to the brand.

Addressing the issue at hand
Escalating in scale and diversifying in form, human trafficking has been identified as a form of modern slavery, as a threat to human security, and as one of the greatest challenges of our time. Commodified and customized for thriving markets, with supply and demand determining the prices according to age, gender, appearance and type of service - human trafficking continues with near impunity, mitigating all human rights.

The MTV Brand
MTV Networks' brands are seen globally in 640 million households in 161 countries and 34 languages via 170 locally programmed and operated TV channels and more than 400 digital media properties. It is the world’s largest television broadcaster and is a highly influential brand. In India, MTV is distributed to 40 million homes and reaches out to over 100 MN unique viewers annually.

The MTV Exit initiative
MTV EXIT INDIA is a multi-media campaign designed to raise awareness of trafficking in persons (TIP). It will apply MTV EXIT’s successful theory of change developed in the Asia-Pacific Region, which employs a mix of television documentaries, high profile concerts, youth sessions, roadshows, national and international TIP-focused websites, public service announcements, as well as features and music videos aimed at educating youth about the risks of human trafficking. In addition, placing a strong emphasis on working with and through local organisations, on building sustainable anti-TIP communications capacity, on mobilizing youth to promote awareness of TIP and on advocating for greater resource and policy commitment to the anti-TIP agenda. MTV EXIT’s television material is broadcast nationally and stately through MTV channels as well as terrestrial networks. In addition to these outputs the program produces printed material, supports youth forums and youth media capacity development camps (both designed to help push anti-TIP messages to the local level), as well as working with local partners to extend its messages and brand to areas that MTV would find difficult to target, i.e. rural locations. 

To date, MTV EXIT has reached over 700,000 people on-the-ground, its television content has been viewed 60 million times on air and reached over 27 million people online, with an active community of over 100,000 users. 

The Website
The MTV Exit India website will be a platform that promotes and serves the cause behind the campaign. Filled with information, blogs, news snippets and videos, the website would be available to users in English as well as Hindi. The localized presence will help the penetration activities of MTV Exit India. 

Additionally, the website will also house exclusive documentary coverage that shows MTV Exit's efforts in spreading awareness.

Apart from the website, Brand Catalyst Media will also handle the social media campaigns for MTV Exit India. We at Brand Catalyst Media pride ourselves with being associated with a cause such as this and a privileged to be a part of an awareness revolution backed by a brand such as MTV.

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(Published: 2013-10-30 15:17:05 GMT)

Real Estate just got Social
Facebook is by far India's #1 networking website. With the dramatic rise of real estate on the web, what better way to find properties than on your favorite social networking website? Enter roofontop.com's Social Property Finder.

roofontop.com is India's first consumer centric property portal. roofontop brings the best properties to it's users through an innovative quality processing system that ensures unique, qualified listings.  

The roofontop.com Social Property Application allows users to find the best commercial & residential properties across India. The app allows Facebook users to heavily customize their requirements and instantly find properties. For users who have specific requirements, they can 'Post a Requirement' and have a team of professionals over at roofontop.com help them find their dream home.

Here are a few screens from the app
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(Published: 2013-10-25 18:28:04 GMT)

BCM visits Swissnex, India
On the 7th of October, 2013, Brand Catlayst Media(BCM) had the opportunity visit Swissnex India at Bangalore. Being represented by Burges Dandiwala, Partner and Marketing Head of the agency, the visit provided Brand Catalyst Media with a unique opportunity to interact the Swissnex team and support the initiatives of Swissnex in encouraging Swiss-India relations.



"There is a tremendous potential for Indian providers to extend their services to the Swiss market. Swissnex's initiatives only elevates such a cause. Having worked with clients from Switzerland in the past and currently providing digital services to clients based out of Switzerland, I look forward to a deeper relationship. Clients from Switzerland have extremely high expectations on the quality, innovation and delivery front and that is exactly what we look forward to providing our clients, local & international with" said Burges. 

He also added that "We have currently tied up with Zesscom, AG, a leading digital agency based out of Switzerland to provide digital services, including web & mobile development, to them and their clients. The experience has been extremely positive. I tremendously appreciate the level of professionalism, dynamism & energy this relationship has. This has given us the opportunity to tap a variety of dynamic clients and has helped us build a meaningful relationship with Zesscom through a series of projects. The work ethic and the nature of the projects is what draws us tremendously towards building this relationship and the pleasure of strategizing, developing and deploying these projects is immense."

What is Swissnex?
swissnex is a network with nodes in the world’s most innovative hubs, where the future is being shaped. We take an active role in strengthening Switzerland’s leadership as a world-class location for science, education and innovation.

Read more about Swissnex at - http://www.swissnexindia.org/


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(Published: 2013-10-10 14:43:08 GMT)

Archh.com featured in Home & Design Trends
Our client Archh.com recently received a prestigious feature in Home & Design Trends magazine as a part of a special edition. Archh.com is a one of a kind, niche social networking portal for architects. Archh provides architects, design professionals, enthusiast and businesses with a platform to showcase their projects and products while connecting with other members of the community.



Archh.com, which is currently in a Beta stage, is constantly revolutionizing the way members of the architecture community network with each other. A network that is growing by the day, Archh aims to be a premier destination for the architecture world.


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(Published: 2013-06-11 18:30:39 GMT)

Custom Content Management Systems vs Open Source CMS Solutions
Over the years there have been many debates on whether an off-the-rack, open source content management system is a better solution than a tailor made solution. More often than not, this dabate will always lean toward open source applications and why wouldn't it? With open source, you get a massive community support, a plethora of plugins and avid fan-boys. The sheer options of open source systems today is overwhelming with Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla leading the pack. What about e-commerce? Applications such as Magento provide a great platform with the backing of 1000s of developers. Fact is, in this day and age, its easy to setup a website no matter what your MO.

So why would a client even consider a custom CMS when there are so many options out there? Honestly, custom CMS solutions are really underplayed based on the fact that a lot of clients have had bad and more importantly, rigid experiences with them. This however isn't the most fair assumption. A lot depends on the agency/developers building the CMS and this can make a world of a difference. A well coded custom CMS can out perform an open source system in terms of performance, scalability and security if done correctly. 

While open source applications are great, there are some important factors you need to consider before you decide to go all guns blazing into the web war field. Read on to know how a custom solution is probably the right choice for you in the long run.

Quick Note & a word to the wise.
The following points only hold true if you're developing a custom CMS through a professional agency or a developer who is following software life-cycles  and a defined development & deployment process. If you're looking at getting a custom solution developed by a novice programmer, these points will not hold true.

The Jargon : Custom CMS and Proprietary CMS are two different things.

First things first, lets clear this up. A custom CMS is a system built from ground up, written exclusively for you, with no tie-ins or obligation to go back to the developer to take your product forward. A proprietary platform is a system that is offered by a developer or an agency which cannot be expanded, scaled or modified without the direct intervention of the agency concerned. Make sure you know what solution is being offered to you. In most cases, a true custom CMS would only have one limitation, that it can be used with unlimited rights but for the concerned project or property only. In essence, you as a client own the custom CMS you paid for. That is not the case with a proprietary software where you merely have permission to use the system for a fixed amount of time. 

Make sure that the solution you're receiving is owned by you. That way, you can always take the platform to your 'future' in-house team or developer without any legal hassles or road blocks.

Analyse your requirement

What sort of website do you want? Is it a simple blog or a run-of-the-mill e-commerce shop? Is it a community website with a forum and what not? How unique is your proposition or are you just doing something that is already out there but just under your brand name? - These are very important questions you need to ask yourself. 

Essentially, if your website has a simple objective, an open source CMS might be right for you. What happens when your idea might be the next big thing and requires a truly unique feature set? Chances are that there might not be something out there that does what you want and that you can download and install. Here, you might just be better off choosing a good developer or agency with strong skill sets to build your next big thing.

The Architect matters

You have design agencies and then you have design & development agencies. Design agencies with limited development expertise as compared to an all out development agency will prompt you in the direction of an off-the-rack system. Agencies with strong development expertise will simply build it for you? Why? Because they can! Since they have the skills and know the language inside out, it makes sense that to write a well documented code-base and build it from ground up instead of going crazy customizing a ready made system.

Open Source if for everyone, Custom CMS is for YOU

Think of it this way, open source applications are standardized web based applications and like any new system, they require you to spend time on them and learn them. Often agencies up-sell and customize these open source applications to clients for an attractive price and the outcome is that the client needs to learn the new CMS and work in the fashion that the system provides. 

Now with a custom CMS, the entire system is built around the client, the client's need, convenience and minutest of specifications. Instead of spending time learning a system, the client has the liberty of working with a system that was built from ground up to work as the client would want and not the other way around. 

It's like buying a shirt as vs getting it stitched for you. If your needs are conventional and you're willing to spend the time required to learn the system, a ready to run system might be good for you. If your website or application plans are ambitious and tilt towards being different from the crowd, go custom.

Performance

Open source systems are built to cater to a massive range of clients. It is because of this generic client base that these applications have a fairly large code-base with a lot of functionality that might not be specific to you but might work wonders for another user of the system and vice versa. In many situations, this translates to unnecessary code which in turn results in a performance deficit over time. 

Custom CMS solutions are written for you in specific with a defined functionality set thus allowing for a lighter footprint. These system provide for a better performance simply because the amount of code written and database calls are lesser. Essentially, you get what you need and not the extras that you will probably never use. 

The Plugin Peril

Customization is a must with any website and can really transform a plain jane solution. Sure, given enough time, you might find someone to find, download, install and customize enough plugins to get you closer to your goal.While your core open source application is written by a strong team of skilled developers who have built the system through massive amounts of synergy with each other, plugins for applications like Wordpress are being built by 1000s of developers world over, each with their own coding style. 

The more your plugins, the higher the possibility of conflicts between them. Additionally, you need to make sure that all your plugins are up-to-date. Over loading your website with plugins to get it to do what you want will eventually cause a break which may be a bigger problem than you signed up for. If you run into critical errors or major bugs, you might find yourself in a situation where your developer throws in the towel and tells you there's nothing they can do and that the system is just broken.

If you're looking for a customized solution, you're better off custom building it from the get go and avoiding breaks in the system later. With custom CMS applications, you're paying for a team to build, assemble, customize and extend your system. Moreover, a good agency will write code for you that is filled with inline documentation & comments making it easy for any decently trained developer to pickup and extend in the future. 

Maintenance, Problems & Critical issues.

Open source applications have been tested by 1000s of developers so it's not going to need any upkeep. Right? Wrong! Just because you use an off-the-rack system doesn't mean it comes with no maintenance overheads. Upgrades, bugs in existing code, plugin conflicts, breaks in the system, customization etc etc all require skilled developers to fix and maintain. Since developers can't live on love and fresh air, you will need to bear the cost of paying a developer to do this for you.

Developers who create websites using open source applications will tie everything together for you and push it out the door. Since they haven't written the code-base themselves, you can bet your that they don't know it inside out and honestly, they can't be expected to. Everything is great till something breaks and that is when tracking down the problematic code or conflicting plugin can be a mammoth task which will cost you in man hours. It's worse if you need to wait for a plugin update or new application version to fix the issue.

Most custom CMS companies on the other hand will provide you with a basic maintenance and bug fix warranty for anything between 30-60 days of launch. Since the application has been created for you and from scratch, they know the code-base inside out and know exactly where to look when there's an issue. Further, documentation can be sourced from the agency for an addition fee, allowing you to hire your own in-house team or a different agency in the future.

Security.

Security is a major concern with all clients. Most popular off-the-rack applications release security updates and fixes regularly. The issue is that open source applications, as the name suggests, are freely available for download. Sites built with open source backends are easier to break into because the person breaking in already has the code-base with him and knows where to look for security holes. This is the single biggest issue with open source and security.
 
Websites, Mobile Applications & Mobile Sites with one backend system

While there are open source backends for all of the above. with a custom CMS, you can easily build one universal backend for multiple platforms complete with webservices, JSON data sources and XML databases to the T of your requirement or goal. This is a huge benefit of getting a system built from ground up by a professional developer or agency. 

While popular applications like Wordpress & Drupal have mobile themes, it's not the same as building a powerful backend that with dynamic & flexible webservices that allow handling of all the parameters involved with serving audiences on mobile platforms such as smartphone and tablet apps

Custom CMS applications are expensive.

With an open source application, the initial cost is lower. They are essentially free but you still have to pay someone to set it up for you. Consider this though, an open source CMS, plus plugins, plus modifications to code, plus cost of maintenance(updates) and fixes can potentially end up costing you quite a bit over time too. 

A custom CMS costs more upfront but can be used over years. A well built Custom CMS that follows a standardized development process will also help you keep your running costs low till you decide to upgrade your feature set again.

In Conclusion

While open source CMS solutions are great and it is foolish to say otherwise, the inherent issues, multiple coding styles, plugin conflicts, performance and maintenance gives you something to think about when you're looking to build a website, mobile application or mobile site that is not your average Joe. Choose an agency wisely and you'll never need to look back

:: Read More
(Published: 2013-06-05 15:19:29 GMT)

Tracking your campaigns with Google Analytics
CPC campaigns are a great way to promote your products, services, new launches or just create buzz. Most platforms today provide you with a range of targeting options that allow you to really reach out to your core marketing audience. Popular services such as Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads provide you with insights on your campaign that will allow you to tweak your ads over time to gain maximum performance from your campaigns. 

Google Analytics is by far the most widely accepted web analytics software on the web. With detailed reports covering demographics, traffic history and geographic data to name a few, Google Analytics is the perfect tool when it comes to measuring and gauging even the minutest details of your website's traffic.

When you're leading potential users and customers to a website or a micro-site, how do you go beyond insights provided by these ad platforms and track campaign traffic through Google Analytics? Well its much easier than you think. With the right metrics in place and the right URL parameters to track the source of the traffic, you can easily start mining your campaign traffic data right through your Google Analytics console.

Why track through Google Analytics when I already have campaign insights?

True, you could just refer to your ad platform console for campaign performance. However, tracking campaign traffic ensures that you view all your campaigns in one place. This data can easily be used to gauge which campaigns are converting best for your business goals so you can focus future marketing efforts on high performance campaigns.

With Google Analytics, you can track campaigns from the follwing sources to name a few :
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Twitter Campaigns & Promoted Tweets
  • In House Ad & Mailer campaigns 

How to do it
:: Read More
(Published: 2013-01-10 18:32:31 GMT)

HTML 5 is the future but is it the present
HTML5 has been the talk of the web for a few years now. In 2009, the working draft for the markup was released and it may just gain W3C recognition some time soon. And why wouldn't it? It's been backed by Opera & Mozilla from the get go. 

So what exactly is HTML5? It is a powerful semantic markup language that allows you to structure and code content for access over the web. Compared to its predecessors, HTML5 is a powerful document type that allows web developers to build dynamic web pages using video, audio, 2D/3D graphics, local storage & offline access among other features.

Does adding the HTML5 doctype to an existing page make it HTML5? Not really. HTML5 isn't merely a doctype, it a standard of semantic coding the has been built around accessibility. It involves writng code in a formatted manner that allows your website to take full advantage of the powerful features of the browsers out there today.

Sounds great right? Yes, HTML5 can certainly allow you to really bring your pages to life. But should you blindly scrap your existing code or have the markup for your next project written in stone as HTML5? No!

Before you decide, here are a few factors you need to consider.

Better for Mobile

While its a great document type to work with, HTML5 might be better kept to mobile sites and mobile web apps for the moment. This is because, as a web standard, it is still in development. HTML5 is still a few years away from become an official standard. Older browsers such as IE 7/8 don't support HTML5 but mobile browsers pm devoces such as Androids and iPhones offer pretty solid support for the markup.

Legacy Issues

Support for HTML5 is currently available only on the latest browsers. Legacy browsers do not support the HTML5 document type and using only an HTML5 render for your website would mean that you would be cutting off legacy browsers from accessing your website

Feature Support

Features : there is a 30% differential on feature support across browsers. In other words, some HTML5 features may be supported in Chrome, but not in Safari or Firefox . This problem carries into mobile browsers as well.



What about The Biggies

Apple, Google, and Facebook have all defriended HTML5 - for the time being: Facebook has abandoned its HTML5-heavy app for one built from scratch with Apple's iOS SDK. Facebook's rating in the app store has jumped from 1.5 starts to 4 stars  only a few weeks after launching the new app. While the development of the mobile web is clearly in Facebook's business interest because HTML5 supports payments for mobile web apps, it's not clear that it's Apple or Google's interest.  Consumers strongly favor apps to the mobile web at the moment, and Apple and Google take a cut of native app transactions.

Performance with Current Standards

HTML4 that is div based offers the same speed and performance with a higher compatibility across both mobile web and web.While HTML5 is a great standard, it's just not there yet. A better option may be using well written HTML4 with HTML5 components such as video and audio.

The above being said, HTML5 still is a fantastic markup language and while it may need to travel awhile before it overcomes it's roadblocks, it certainly cannot be dismissed.
:: Read More
(Published: 2012-11-08 15:21:41 GMT)

Slow Site Bad Site - What you should know and how you can fix it
 Over the past decade, the possibilities over the internet have grown many fold. Websites today serve everything from a social fascination to utilities. E-commerce has also witnessed an unprecedented growth over the past 5 years. All in all, life today is wired. While user expectations from websites have increased, so has their 'need for speed'. Today, with higher internet speed, users are impatient to say the least. 

Effect on Users
With E-Commerce, 41% of users will tolerate a site loading slow once or twice before calling it a day, never to return(Source : Gomez Online). The survey conducted by Gomez on the US audience points out that the average shopper spend in excess of 1000 USD a year on shopping, to lose a customer is to take some good pie and throw it out the window. These shoppers will leave your website and find an alternate retail store meaning, you're piratically handing users to the competition.

Consider this, for every 1 extra second that your site takes to load, results in 5-6% fall in user conversions. It's a proven fact that website with slow load times have a higher bounce rate with users abandoning the website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. 80% of these users will not return. If this wasn't bad enough, these users will go on to spread the message of their bad experience. This is where you do not want to be, period!

Take the Internet's largest and most comprehensive search engine – Google. Google prides itself with speed and page delivery. Notice how users are told how long each page took to load every time they run a search. Fact is, before we read it, see it or hear it, we're already Google-ing it. 

With the Mobile web gaining massive traction, having a mobile website that renders quick is a must.

Effect on SEO
As pointed out above, Google loves speed. Here's an excerpt from their webmaster blog.

“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed.”
-Google Webmaster Central Blog  

A website's speed has a direct impact on the website's ranking. Yahoo, Bing and Google promote website optimization towards speed and studies show that they favor faster websites.

Strike a Balance
The biggest issue with meeting user expectations is that, as the internet has grown complex, so have websites. Sites today are loaded with scripts, objects, components, social plug-ins & widgets.  From 1995 to 2010, the average page size has grown from 15kb to 500kb with an average number of object increasing from 2-3 to a mammoth 75. Now think 2012, we're talking about average page sizes of over 650kb with 80+ objects. Thats a lot to take in. So should we sacrifice the UI & UX for speed? Sometimes, yes but not always.

There are quite a few measures that can be taken at a website & server level that will really go a long way in providing your users with a better experience.

Website – Client Side

Image Optimization
Make sure the images on your site are optimized for the web. Optimized images ensure that image heavy pages don't keep users waiting forever. Further, if your website has very large images, add a loading indicator and lazy load the images once the html fully renders. 

Image Dimensions
Ensure that your html files have images that are of the correct size. Don't simply include large images into your files and downsize them to match your layout. Essentially, don't include images that are 500x500 pixels and squeeze them down to 100x100 pixels. 

CSS Sprites
Combining images into as few files as possible using CSS sprites reduces the number of round-trips and delays in downloading other resources, reduces request overhead, and can reduce the total number of bytes downloaded by a web page.

CSS & Scripts
Removing unused CSS elements from your stylesheets goes a long way. Further, using page specific rather than global/common stylesheets helps reduce the overload while rendering pages.  

Minifying your CSS and Javascripts can help save valuable bytes on a website's payload. For more information, view this link - https://developers.google.com/speed/docs/best-practices/payload#MinifyJS 

Another concept to consider while using javascripts is to defer their loading. In order for a page to render, the browser must parse all scripts. Minimizing the number of scripts required to load a page correctly allows a page to load faster. Unnecessary scripts can be loaded at the bottom of the page or can be lazy loaded once the main html renders. This helps reduce load times.

Asynchronous Resources
Synchronous resources end up blocking the page load until the resource is parsed. Asynchronous loading of files brings in the same resources without holding up the rest of the page render.

Server Side

GZIP Compression
GZIP Compression is by far one of the most effective ways of reducing load time. Effectively, this feature zips content before delivering it on a browser. GZIP compression reduces load time by reducing file size by upto 80%.  To check whether compression is enabled on your server, run a simple test at http://www.gidnetwork.com/tools/gzip-test.php 

Keep Alive
Enabling HTTP Keep-Alive or HTTP persistent connections allow the same TCP connection to send and receive multiple HTTP requests, thus reducing the latency for subsequent requests.

In conclusion
 Now that you have the tools, go on, switch on the turbo and see your visitor have a blazing experience on your site
:: Read More
(Published: 2012-11-05 15:24:16 GMT)

How to choose a Web Host - Making the right decision
Your website is essentially your face on the web. You realize the importance of having your business or brand accessible 24x7. You hire a great agency that brings fresh ideas to the table, you plan out the interactivity and functionality on the website, go through lengthy QA processes and finally you have a website you're proud of.

Now, all that is left is for you bring your great new website to your users by uploading it to a server and taking it live. Simple right? Not quite! You can have a great website but if your site isn't accessible and fast loading, you have just wasted your time. Now use this example with anything 'online', including web applications, mobile sites, mobile application backends or CMS solutions

Choosing a web host is one of the most underrated decision. You're understandably busy building a great product but ignoring an effective delivery channel(read web host) is criminal.

So, what factors should you consider when you're in the market for a web host? Here are a few tips :

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish



While its important to find a solution that fits into your budget, don't be unwilling to shell out a few extra bucks a month for a better service, it will go a long way.

An important factor to consider here is the actual nature of your website. Sure, a static site with just a few pages would be fine on a cheaper host but when you're running a dynamic website such as an e-commerce site or any solution that relies greatly on a database, you need to take into account the minimal amount of customization a cheaper host will offer.

An example,

Let's look at database connections on a dynamic website. Low-end hosts generally have a limit of 20 concurrent database connections at a time or 1000 maximum connections an hour. What happens if your site visitors just lap up your content and you exceed this connection limit? Your site will be switched off.

Again, opting for a cheaper host may meet your short-term needs but cheaper hosting may often mean low-end service, a non-supportive support backbone or even a weak SLA. Many budget hosts aim at serving quantity over quality so don't expect any 'heroic support' on a low end host. So when your site truly needs to be online all the time, don't skim on hosting costs.
 
Shared, VPS, Cloud or Dedicated?



With budgets being spoken of, the next decision is the type of hosing you need. Essentially, you have 3-4 broad options.

  1. Shared Hosting - Where you are one site on a server that houses 1000s of websites
  2. Virtual Private Server/Dedicated Virtual - Where you are one site on a server housing 4-10 others
  3. Cloud - Redundant or Elastic VPSs
  4. Dedicated Server - One server, One website
Now of course, you don't need a dedicated server for a relatively straight forward website, that would just be a waste of hard earned money. however, depending on the requirement of your website such as custom configurations with PHP, custom modules such as mod_security, you need to scale upwards towards a dedicated server.

That being said, you can be perfectly happy on a shared hosting service if your site isn't too demanding and can migrate to a better solution with time. The best guide on the type of hosting is your development team. Since they're building your website, they would be the best judge of your website's requirements.

What about the Cloud?
Well a cloud in its true sense of the word is a fully redundant solution. What this means is that no matter what, your site will always be online. What happens often though, is that web hosting companies market 'elastic' VPS solutions attached to a SAN(Storage Area Network) as a cloud. These solutions, however, are not bad. They provide you with a high level of configuration and customization and more importantly, allow you to scale your server horizontally(with more space and power to your machine) or vertically(with more instances of your server).
 
There's no such thing as Unlimited



There's no doubt that you will find tons of hosting providers that offer Unlimited hosting for a meager cost. Don't be fooled by marketing talk and read the fine print. There's no such thing as unlimited and your usage is subject to a 'Fair Use Policy'.  Somewhere in the SLA, you will find a mention of how much is too much.
As your site grows, you will realize that you're hitting these limits more and more. Pretty soon, you will max out your 'unlimited' bandwidth and space resulting in your site being switched off.
 
Commitment Phobia



Gone are the days where you need to sign up for a yearly commitment. Hosting these days gives you the flexibility of paying on a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis. Some solutions, especially cloud based, offer you the  options of paying by day or even by hour. This allows you to try out the service before you setup camp permanently. This simply takes the fear of committing to a particular host without having experienced them first hand and throws it out the window.
 
Read the SLA



SLA or Service Level Agreement is essentially a contract between you and your hosting provider. It generally covers
Your web hosting providers limited commitment to you
  1. Up-time Guarantees
  2. Service Commitments & Response times.
  3. Generally who is responsible for what.
A very important point here it the Up-time guaranteed to you. If for any reason, you do not receive the guaranteed up-time, most hosting companies will either offer you a discount on your next bill or credit towards it. This is your right, enforce it!
 
Managed Support



Support is something most users take for granted but honestly, in today's hosting market, support is an integral part of the service offering. Support levels can be of many types
  1. Basic - Where your host will support only hardware related issues
  2. Semi-Managed - Where your host will support hardware and bottom line server issues
  3. Fully-Managed - Where your host will support anything and everything related to your server
So which option is for you? Well, it depends. If you're running a simple website.you'll probably float on by with basic support and probably never have to speak to your host unless there's a disaster. However, if your website is complex, relies on a lot of dynamic section and you need to operate your website in a highly customized environment, then you're better off with atleast semi-manged or better yet, fully-managed support.

'But I already have a web design agency so why do I need a support level?'

Honestly, your web agency does what they're good at ie. building you a great website and maintaining your code. This makes up your software. Rarely will you find an agency that hosts your website. Hosting is almost always handled by an expert hosting company and that is the hardware part of things. So yes, while your agency can do a top notch job of making sure your application runs smoothly, hardware support would need to be provided at the hosting end.

We're not trying to get off the hook here. Yes, we're an agency and we do some pretty high end development. That's our forte. When it comes to hosting, we need to rely on support from the web host we go with for a client website simply because they have the best expertise and have dedicated teams that handle sever faults & issues on a daily basis. While any agency can provide you with things like setting up domains, emails, configs and the rest, certain tasks are best done by the guys running the hardware.show.

Support levels can often be opted for as an addon to your basic hosting package. This generally works on a per-month or per-ticket/issue pricing so make sure you ask your host about the support level and whether it is inclusive or extra. 

Freebies



Web hosting is like any business and like any business, customer acquisition is tremendously important. In most cases, if you're going in for a VPS, Cloud or Dedicated hosting service, your future webhost will be more than happy to oblige you with freebies such as
  1. Free Migration
  2. Discounts
  3. Server Installs
  4. Free Service Trial
  5. Waiving of Setup Costs
Remember, you can't expect to receive freebies on a low-end service but mid to top-end hosts will be happy to oblige.
 
Finally and most importantly, do your research!



While all this information should help you choose the right type of hosting solution and the right provider, nothing beats public opinion. Make sure you spend some time surfing the web to find reviews on your choice of web host. Forums like www.webhostingtalk.com provide a keen insight on how good a host really is.

:: Read More
(Published: 2012-11-02 15:23:47 GMT)

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