About a month ago my Microsoft 365 account was upgraded to the new 2013 experience, and I’ve been using it extensively ever since. I know feel that it is time to share my experiences from the perspective of a small business user.
- Updated Outlook Web App.
- Updated Calendar App
- Updated People Manager
- Updated News Feed
- Skydrive Pro
Primarily these are all user interface changed that bring Microsoft 365 in line with Office 2013, Outlook.com and Windows 8. Whether or not you like this new leaner, and simpler view of things is entirely personal. However I have noticed one thing. I am finding it much easier to navigate and access features in the system. Considerable work has been done to make things easier to understand and more logical to follow. These updates then are not mere colour changes they significantly change the operational experience – this is good as the original Microsoft 365 cold be confusing.
This is very much in evidence with SkyDrive Pro. This single change does 2 things. First of all it makes using Microsoft 365 as a company file server a much more viable option. It really is easy management and sharing of documents. Secondly it puts a context onto SharePoint sites. If SkyDrive is now your document manger then SharePoint Sites are places for projects to exist and share information. This single change has made it easier to explain how to use SharePoint in the Microsoft 365 context. It is a significant and important change that will greatly aid users new to this service.
Given that we have updates and simplifications in the work process what is it like to use? Well I’ve put it the test by directing most of my work through the browser and I have to say it is a practical proposition. The new Outook web app for example is not only good but in some instances, its notifications system manages to exceed the desktop app. Right now I am using it in preference to Outlook 2013. As far as I am concerned the only problem with it is that it does not like you leaving Outlook to go to another 365 function if you have an email open. I’ve found this not be killer problem – just a minor irritation.
This article was written entirely in the Word Web App on several computers. So long as you don’t need advanced features (programmability, review, mail merge, and drawing for instance) I don’t see a reason for buying MS Word and I can see some companies saving a lot of money by moving off desktop applications and onto the web.
I have had one issue that must be reported. In the early days of trying to use the MS365 exclusively I suffer some stability problems in IE10 on Windows 7. It did seem to like freezing or crashing. A great many of will not be surprised to hear of Internet Explorer crashes – it has never felt like the most stable browser. However in the last week or 2 this has changed. Running stability for a whole day in IE10 has become the norm. I can’t help but wonder if Microsoft noticed the problems of its users and responded. Should that be the case then Microsoft has taken a major step forward by understanding that cloud services live and die by how well the parent company responds to issues. This is unlike the Microsoft of old.
If you want great email, and calendar functions at a good price then Microsoft 365 is good compared to some offerings. The addition of SkyDrive, the underrated Office Web Apps and SharePoint make this a better for a small business than buying in your own server.
How does it compare to Google Apps. Well I like Google services and I have been a Google Apps customer, but I would use this in preference to Google Apps any day.
One of the great things about working freelance is that you are never quite sure about where your work will take you. 2 weeks ago I was in Cheshire and more recently I’ve been helping out a business that is literally just around the corner from me.
Creative Cakes by Nicola is a Cwmbran based business that specialises in bespoke and quite fantastic cakes. I was contacted by the Nicola who runs the company because I was local and flexible we had a meeting and decided that we could work together. The Creative Cakes web site already existed but it needed to be slightly refreshed and there was need to add more pages and more photographs to it. Additionally like all web sites it would need frequent updating.
I’ve worked with Nicola to work out how the existing content management system worked so that more images could be added, and how to perform essential tasks like adding pages, and making updates to text and images.
I have to say that I have enjoyed this stint of working locally and also want to wish Creative Cakes all the best for their future.
And as for the cakes … well having sampled the wares I can confirm that they are delicious.
I’d just like to take moment to mention the Centre for Business. This is a business support agency that over the last 30 years has helped to create over 10,000 businesses and supports over 8000 existing businesses. These are pretty big numbers, but this is not a case of get lots of numbers and hope for the best. Its a case of help lots of businesses because the quality of service is good.
Part of my work involves finding good things and passing on the good news.
So why not take a look at the recently upgraded Centre for Business web site – there is a lot of good material here – hope you find something of use for your business here.
You might wonder why I am endorsing Centre for Business. Well a couple of things have happened that reminded me that this was something that needed to happen. To start with I have received first class advice over the years from their business advisors. The second one is that I have been working directly with the Centre for Business on a number of projects and as a result I know that they work hard on the behalf of their clients and finally – the recent web site update – which I find clear and easy to use prompted to think – perhaps I should write this piece.
Writing good web site content isn’t just about writing. Its creating something that your audience can read, enjoy, and be informed by; whilst also being shareable and attractive to search engines. When you start thinking about all the roles that the text on a web site needs to fulfil it sounds a little daunting. Fortunately this type of writing is not so bad – especially when you break things down to simple tips or rules.
I’ve put together this list of 10 tips that will help write more effective content for your web pages and blog entries.
1) Use simple, clear and precise English. Keep sentences short and to the point. Leave no room for ambiguity.
2) Make sure that every page makes a definite point. Readers need pages that they get useful information from. Google is looking for pages with quality of writing. Make sure that your page is useful and good for the reader.
3) Keywords – words that people will enter to find you should be in the page title / page headline and first paragraph. Sprinkling these words liberally throughout a page in large numbers will not help you get found on Google.
4) Keep use of Keywords down. Keywords should typically only be about 4% of the text for each word. Keep repeating the same word(s) and Google will ignore the page.
5) Informative pages should contain at least 300 words. Anything shorter than that will not help as Google may deem this as too short to be of any value.
6) Make sure each has a specific TITLE and DESCRIPTIVE tag set for it. These help Google to index your site.
7) Reference external web sites from inside your paragraphs. Links written in context are very useful and will be seen as helping your reader.
8) Make it easy for people to share your pages. Consider adding social media sharing buttons to your pages.
9) Use images and videos. These improve interaction with your readers. Make sure you use good quality descriptive tags to this media.
10) Always use social media such as Google+, Twitter and Facebook to announce your pages and updates.
Today (5th February 2013) is Safer Internet Day. It is a day to take stock of how safe your actions online are for yourself and everyone around you. This is a worthwhile exercise it is very easy to cause harm without realising what you are doing. Here’s an example I came across earlier today. A burglary investigation yielded the probability that the victims had been targeted due to a Facebook event. The event was set to be visible to all and was a wedding. The list of wedding guests then became a list of empty homes ripe for burglary. Restricting the list to friends only – or just those invited would have prevented distressing robberies from happening.
I’d strongly recommend that anyone who uses the Internet take a look at the UK Safer Internet Centre. This is a repository of advice and research materials that are dedicated to helping you make full use of the Internet whilst remaining safe. If nothing else have a go at the Connect with Respect Quiz. Whilst the quiz is simple it does a great job of highlighting those things that think we know – but possibly do not.
The best way to make the Internet a safer place for everyone is if we all think about how we are using it – the Internet is inherently democratic – if we all work together to make it safer – it become safer
Websites perform better when they are frequently updated. Search engines see frequent updates as signs of vitality and continuity. Customers see updates as a positive thing; that your business is dynamic and doing well. However coming up with lots of new content and information for most small business web sites can be a difficult task. So here are 5 ideas that will help your web site seem new and fresh.
1. The Image refresh: Simply put just change some or all of the pictures. People are visual creatures and just updating photographs can really brighten up a web site for a minimum of effort. Good places to get photographs include iStockphoto, Fototlia and Flickr (but always obey the licensing terms).
2. Update your colour scheme. Simply updating some of site colours in terms of background colours, type colours, and menu colours makes an instant difference – again without having to come up with new material to put into your web site.
3. If you don’t have sharing buttons on your web site pages then add these. Sharing buttons simply allow your sites visitor to tell people on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ etc all about that page at a touch of a button. It is a simple update that adds more visual interest and can also improve how your website interacts with the larger Internet using community.
4. Consider a full theme redesign. This does not change the content of your web site – but does change how the pages are laid out, look and feel. It makes your web site look brand new – but all you have done is alter the look and not written any new information for it.
5. If you use social media such as Twitter, Facebook consider adding a system that shows your latest updates on your web site. This adds an area that automatically updates itself and contains your thoughts and ideas. If you are already writing useful posts for social media to help promote your business then bring them in and make better use of these updates.
I would like to just take a short moment to say Merry Christmas to everyone I have been working with over the last year. 2012 has been a very good year for me. It’s been full of interesting projects and I’ve met some fantastic people and so it seems only appropriate to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.