Category Archives: Tips

Developing with Quality and Speed: How we Code at SkillPages

I am lucky to be leading a great team of elite coders on the Front-End development team here in SkillPages.  I thought I’d share some insights into how we keep things running at light speed, and how we overcome the obstacles that prevent many teams, and team members, from ever reaching their full potential.

SkillPages FrontEnd Team - Xavier Torregrosa Jorques, John Hannon, Barry Delaney, Darren Mason and Enrico Foschi

1. Our coders understand our overall business

It sounds obvious but spending time talking about our mission and vision is utterly essential to developing great code that meets the needs of our members.  We make sure everyone knows why we’re doing one thing or another.  This keeps everyone on the same course and always knowing our destination.

Learning: Share goals and missions with your team and keep them in the loop.

2. We put users first

We don’t code for ourselves, or because we love the technology.  We code for our users.  We get a kick out of solving problems that real life people have.  Our total and complete focus is on making SkillPages useful for people, and perhaps more so, on making it usable!

Learning: Make sure your team members put themselves in the users’ shoes and don’t accept any compromise in usability.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once – The Importance of Performance Measurement for Online Businesses

One of the great aspects of being an online business is that we can test the site in a multitude of ways on a weekly, daily and even hourly basis.  However, without an effective performance measurement process, it’s akin to flying an aircraft with no instruments!

Your first option for measuring site performance could be to use Google Analytics – it’s free and can give you a high level sense of your site metrics.  In SkillPages, we’ve built our own comprehensive performance measurement engine that allows us to examine member behaviour at an exceptionally granular level.  This information enables us to refine the offering to our members, with the objective of ensuring that each member is gratified in a variety of ways – whether they’re looking for skilled people, seeking to get found for their skill or wishing to collaborate with similarly skilled people.

At SkillPages, we’ve adopted and adapted much of Dave McClure’s thoughts on Startup Metrics for Pirates.  This involves measuring member behaviour in 5 distinct ways:

  1. Acquisition – Conversion metrics from various traffic sources and activity of new members during first time member flow.
  2. Activation – It’s one thing getting someone to join the platform, but what do they do on the site soon after joining?
  3. Retention – Measurement of member behaviour on multiple return visits to the site – we embrace cohort analysis, whereby members are grouped together based on when they joined the site, where geographically they joined from, which traffic channel they joined through, etc. – it’s worthwhile having a look at the Q&A with Evernote’s Phil Libin  at Le Web 2010 for how he embraces cohort analysis to successfully manage the business.
  4. Referral – Much of SkillPages’ member growth comes from existing members referring the site to their contacts.  Viral growth must be nurtured and encouraged in social businesses – hence, the philosophy of REFINE, TEST, MEASURE and IMPROVE can deliver exponential results in member growth.
  5. Revenue – Members must ultimately engage in some form of monetization behaviour on the site – measurement of the effectiveness of different monetization options is vital to drive the business forward.

Measurement of micro detailed metrics, as well as high level key drivers of member growth and engagement, allows you to uncover those nuggets of gold, those high potential members, those viral junkies, etc.  Devoting time and resources to properly building a comprehensive performance measurement system should get your business from A to well beyond B, and at a much faster pace, compared to trying to fly a half built plane with no instruments!

– Emmet O’Reilly, SkillPages CFO

How To Set Up A WordPress Website In 4 Easy Steps

wordpressWordPress is a great choice for setting up a basic website – it’s easy to use and very search engine friendly.  A basic WordPress website doesn’t require advanced technical skills and can be built by following these 4 steps.

  1. Buy a Domain Name
    A domain name represents the unique web address of your website.  Choose your company name or one that reflects what the website will be about.  If you are a dance class provider, you might want to choose “www.danceclasses.com”.  For buying a domain, I would recommend GoDaddy – it’s cheap and the site is easy to use.  Expect to pay about $20 a year.
  2. Web Hosting for WordPress
    A hosting company is necessary for your website to be accessible on-line. Choose a hosting company with a cPanel – the function that enables synching of your website with WordPress.  My advice is to use HostGator – they’re cheap and reliable.  You can expect to pay about $130 a year.
  3. Set up WordPress
    HostGator makes it very easy to sync your website domain with WordPress.  Get started in just three minutes with this video tutorial on using the Fantastico function in cPanel.
  4. Choose a WordPress Theme
    At this stage your site will look like a basic blog.  To make it more like a website, find a WordPress theme you like.  There are hundreds to choose from on their free themes directory.  This quick tutorial will show you how to upload your chosen theme to WordPress.

Now that you have your website set up, the final part of the puzzle is to get traffic.  If you have a budget to get visits, have a look at our recent post on setting up your first Google ad.

If you want a more advanced WordPress website, there are many WordPress developers on SkillPages to connect with.

– Carl Buckley, Internet Marketing Specialist at SkillPages

Get The Right Applicants For Your Job

posting a jobRecently I posted about getting your skills found but now I want to share a few tips for those posting a job opportunity.

Posting a job on SkillPages is free and easy, but you can save yourself time in the long term by putting in the effort at the beginning.  There are many different types of jobs posted on the site; full time employees, tradesmen, business partners, collaborators, contractors, freelancers and much more.  No matter what you’re looking for, following these guidelines will maximize your chances of finding the perfect candidate.

1. Give Detail
Don’t be vague with the description – say exactly what the work entails.  List the skills that are required and others that would be beneficial.  A detailed posting will save you having to answer too many questions from applicants.  You can also add a job spec as an attachment if you have one but it’s not essential.

2. Don’t Assume
People will only give you what you ask for.  If you want somebody to give you a quote for example, say that in your description.  You won’t be disappointed with the response if you’ve specified what you’re looking for.

3. Add a Location
When you add a location to the job, we can notify suitably skilled people living in the area – the more relevant the location the better response you’ll receive.  There are, of course, jobs where location isn’t a significant factor, but if you are looking for somebody to work in your business or house then this is very important – don’t wait for people to ask.

4. Timeframes are Important
With the variety of jobs posted on the site, it’s important to specify if the job is full time, part time or one off, so people can easily see if it’s suitable for them.  For those posting one off jobs, don’t be afraid to specify when you want the work started and finished.  Managing expectations from the outset will create a better outcome for both parties.

5. Read the Guidelines
We have a list of Dos and Don’ts for posting jobs on the site, so have a look at the posting guidelines before you get started.

Now you’re ready to post your job on SkillPages!

New to SkillPages? Watch our video to see what it’s all about.

How to Create your First Google Ad

Millions of people use Google to search for skilled people every day. This post is for the skilled people who want to be found by the people searching for them.

google-adwords-logoWhat is Google AdWords?

Google have a great product called “Google AdWords” that allows us to show ads in front of searchers based on the “keywords” that the searcher typed.

The beauty of this form of advertising is that your ad should only show in front of people at the moment they decided to find someone with your skills.  This is very different from putting an ad in a newspaper that is irrelevant to the vast majority of readers.

The downside to AdWords, however, is that there is a lot to learn if you want to do it well, and it can lose you money if you do it badly!

Quickly Create an AdWords Campaign:

Step 1: Decide your Goals

Step 2: Login to your AdWords Account

Step 3: Create your First AdWords Campaign

Step 4: Create your First Ad

Step 5: Create your First Keywords

Step 1: Decide your Goals

For this example we take Tom O’Leary, one of the photographers on SkillPages, and show how he can create an Ad on Google to send visitors to his SkillPage, without fear of losing his shirt while doing so.

Tom has a great SkillPage showcasing his photographer skill at the following URL:

http://www.skillpages.com/photographer/london-united-kingdom/tom.oleary

Let’s imagine that Tom’s goal is to use his SkillPage to get more work, or to find a job.

He knows that there are many people searching in Google for photographers in London, and is keen to get some of these searchers to visit his SkillPage and contact him.

He also knows from his own search habits that a likely keyword used by searchers is “photographers london”.
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Why Difficulty is Good For You

Editors Note: This a guest article by Adi Gaskell, editor of The Management Blog.

If your aspirations are not greater than your resources, you’re not an entrepreneur. For large companies to be entrepreneurial, they have to create aspirations greater than their resources. You can call it “strategy as stretch” or “strategic intent.” – CK Prahalad

One of the fascinating facets of human behaviour is that often our most creative times come when we are faced with quite severe obstacles.  It’s often said that innovation occurs for instance when you simply don’t have the resources to do what you need to do.

The current economic situation presents us with many very real constraints.  So can we use this situation to get our creative juices flowing?  A new paper from the University of Amsterdam recently may shed some light on the subject.

The paper asks how do people cognitively respond to such obstacles? How do the ways in which they perceive and process information from their environment change when an obstacle interferes with what they want to accomplish?

The researchers seek to answer how obstacles impact our information processing.  They suggest that obstacles force us to step back from what we’re doing and take in the bigger picture, therefore integrating seemingly unrelated chunks of information and thus applying creative solutions to the problems they face.

After several experiments the researchers found that obstacles did indeed focus our thoughts and attention on global issues rather than local ones.  They found that obstacles allowed an expansion of our perceptual scope.  They were literally able to take more in when faced with obstacles. Read the rest of this entry

7 Essential Steps for In-Person Usability Testing

Here at SkillPages we like to ensure that all our users have good experiences when using the site. That is why User Experience (UX) is one of those precious arteries which keep the heart of SkillPages ticking nicely.

User Testing
User testing allows us to compare user expectations with their real experiences.

Usability testing is often thought to be time-consuming and expensive and so gets put down the bottom of a long list of tasks – this shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be the case. Testing can be lengthy and expensive if outsourced, but there are much faster and cheaper options out there which work just as well, if not better! I’m a big fan of Do-It-Yourself testing, not just for its lower costs and efficiency, but because… seeing is believing.

There are many user testing methods to choose from (that’s a post for another day), and all of these will achieve different results. Choose your method wisely and always keep in mind, your end-user and the results you wish to obtain, but most of all, keep it simple!

The following list of steps for in-person usability testing should see you well on your way to implementing or improving the overall user experience of your website/product.

1.Start
The most important step of all. Don’t put off testing until you think there is something more substantial to test; start testing and do it as early as possible. Even if you only have sketches, wireframes, mock-ups etc., test them. You’ll be surprised by the insights they will reveal, and this will save you time in the long run.

2.Plan
Make a plan for user testing and establish the purpose, goals, and objectives. Make considerations for costs, selecting participants, ethical consent, the test method, user tasks, time-scales, the test environment and how you will analyse the data collected.

3. Recruit
Determine the number of participants to be tested depending on their availability and your resources. Source participants through existing databases, market research groups, colleges, referrals etc., but try to keep it casual and personable. Screen your participants for the requirements you desire and select these, include some least competent users also. Schedule and confirm participants at suitable times.

4. Create Tasks & Scenarios
Keeping your goals in mind, create a brief scenario which describes the situation the tester needs to consider. Write short, direct user tasks and consider the materials needed to carry out the tasks. Make note of what a successful completion of the task should entail and plan task timings. Read the rest of this entry

Search Engine Marketing: Are you Just Buying Traffic?

The biggest benefit of paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is not that you get traffic to your website, but that you find out what your market wants.

If we define marketing as the process of:

1) Finding out what people want.
2) Finding out how to sell it to them.
3) Finding out if you can make a profit doing so.
4) Converting this knowledge into profit!

… then you can see how awesome paid SEM is.

The Purest Form of Traffic

By showing ads when people search for something in Google, we find out what they want.

If someone searches for “wedding rings Dublin”, then we know they are in the market for wedding rings, and that they are at the end of the buying cycle (since they are searching by location).

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Speaking to an Audience: 5 Tips to Grab their Attention

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the Dublin Web Summit about Website Performance.

Over 1,000 people attended the Summit, mainly entrepreneurs and techies.  It was a challenge to ensure that the topic would be of interest to everybody, but the presentation worked out well.

Enrico Foschi Presentation

Here are 5 tips that I’ve learned over the years from my public speaking experience:

  1. You are the focus, not the slides: the slides need to support your presentation, but should not be the main focus.  A few words per slide is more than enough.  This presentation on SlideShare has great tips for creating high quality and non-distracting slides.
  2. Know your stuff: make sure you know every single bit of what you are talking about and be prepared for questions from the floor.
  3. Be passionate about it: passion and enthusiasm are an absolute must to ensure that you capture the attention of the audience.
  4. Be prepared: how much time do you have?  Do you have slides?  Power Point or PDF?  Do you have a pointer?  Do you have an auto-cue?  Make sure to have answers prepared for these questions or your presentation may be negatively affected.
  5. Rehearse: for a 10 minute presentation,  I rehearsed for about 5 hours.  Do it in front of the mirror and in front of your friends.  Record and listen to yourself so that you improve your speech quality.

Talking to a vast anonymous audience is not an easy thing.  But, with plenty of preparation, you can have the confidence to succeed.

View my Dublin Web Summit presentation.