Make Your Website Stand Out with Media

The Internet is inundated with new content on a daily basis—websites publish 1,440 new WordPress posts per minute, and this figure doesn’t even account for websites using other platforms like Squarespace to publish content.

Visual media is more engaging and it can get your content in front of more people. That’s why small websites owned by academics right up to enterprise websites are all complementing their blog posts and other text content with lots of images and videos. 83% of human learning occurs visually, and that color visuals increase a person’s willingness to read by 80%.

Some of the main advantages of visual media for individuals running a small website are:

  • Visual content is excellent at grabbing website visitors’ attention.
  • Some people learn better from media like infographics and videos than pure text.
  • People tend to process visual information much quicker than text.
  • Visual media is more shareable on social media platforms, encouraging greater engagement and more eyes on your content.

Using images and video helps your website or blog stand out from the crowd. However, you need to take active steps to intelligently use visual media because a scattergun approach doesn’t work.

Five Tips for Using Images & Video on Your Website

1. Compress Images

Whether you’ve created a helpful infographic or you merely want to spice up your content by inserting a few choice images, it’s critical not to directly upload and publish those images without compressing them first.

Compression refers to any type of process that attempts to reduce the file size of an image without degrading the image’s quality to an unacceptable level. The problem with uncompressed image files is that they tend to be quite large. Directly posting those images to your website causes knock-on problems in terms of slower page loading times, which directly and negatively impacts user experience.

Compressing images is not a very technical process—several WordPress plugins can do it for you. There are also free websites/tools online that compress images so there’s no reason not to do it.  

2. Third-party Hosting vs HTML5 video player

There are two options to display videos on your website:

  • Third-party video hosting sites such as youtube and Vimeo: Third-party video hosts are straightforward to use and you can simply embed your videos from those services onto your website’s pages using some simple code provided for you. However, some people prefer to have more control over how videos are presented, including the players they are played on.
  • An HTML5 video player: HTML5 video is the most modern way to display videos: formerly, people had to use a special Flash plugin to display videos online but this all changed with HTML5. You can avail of some free HTML5 video players, such as Video.js but there are commercial providers too offering HTML5 video players with playlists, integration with advertising platforms, and more advanced features.

3. Optimize Images for SEO

It’s always wise to optimize your images for search-engines so that services like Google and Bing can understand them. Search engines cannot understand images on their own, however, the text accompanying images can assist with telling search engine spiders—special computers that crawl your website—what your images are about. Some tips for SEO image optimization include:

  • Informative titles: instead of using the default numbered image name you often see, such as image001.jpg, rename your images to something more informative, such as carrot.jpg, where you replace “carrot” with whatever the main subject of your image is.
  • Alt tags: These tags are specifically used to tell search engines about an image. Again, simply use one or two descriptive words highlighting what the image is about. Never leave alt tags empty.

4. Use Images Legally

There are tons of images at your disposal with a simple Google search and it can be tempting to just copy them straight to your website, but this is a terrible idea. It is not legal to use other peoples’ or websites’ images, even if you provide attribution. Always seek permission first before using them. Better still, there are some free stock photo websites that contain thousands of royalty-free images you can use without needing any permission or attributing the source.

5. Use Free Video Editing Software

Editing is arguably the most important part of creating any good video. For individuals running their own small website, professional-grade video editing tools can be expensive to acquire. Consider using any of the excellent free video editing software available online.

Small website owners looking to build up a web presence find it increasingly difficult to get noticed with standard text content alone. If you want your website to gain traction in the competitive online landscape, it’s important to make clever use of images and video to diversify your content arsenal. It’s difficult to continue publishing when you feel like nobody is reading about the topics you work hard to publish, and the tips here give you the best chance of getting your content in front of more people.


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Getting Ready for a Conference Abroad

Attending an academic conference abroad is something that you will likely do at some point in your life whether you are a graduate student, researcher, or professional. Academic conferences present ideal opportunities for discussing work, networking, and learning. However, the being abroad dimension adds several aspects that mean you need to plan your trip to a tee. You need to plan your trip properly to get the most out of the experience. Unplanned travel can be exhausting and hectic. Let’s have a look at few tips on making the most of any academic conference you attend abroad.

Plan Your Trip

To plan your trip, think of important details, such as choosing a location in close proximity to both the venue and the main city or built-up area. That gives you a broad range of places to visit without having to go too far. I also recommend booking your trip early to get the best deals. In addition, consider using an app to plan your trip. The wonders of modern technology make everything easier. Some trip planning apps I can recommend to create, manage, and improve your trip are:

Networking, Networking, and Networking

Academic conferences, particularly those held abroad, give you an excellent opportunity to network with people you don’t already know. The more people you talk to, the more chance you have of meeting someone who could potentially collaborate with you on future research or work with you in the industry.

At academic conferences, there are always receptions events. During such occasions you often get to speak more in-depth with people you’ve just met, so use the opportunity and take a seat at a table with interesting people who you’d like to get to know more about.

You can plan in advance who it is you’d like to speak to and seek them out. Also, make sure that you know how to introduce yourself. That’s something I learned from Michael Brenner, the keynote speaker of the last conference I attended in San Diego, CA. It is not about you. It is about who you help and why. That’s the content formula. Of course, don’t forget your business cards!

Nail your Presentation

I recommend practicing your presentation before traveling. Once the conference begins, you will not have much time to do it. Even if you practice a lot, do not worry if you feel nervous. Feeling nervous or anxious before a conference presentation is completely normal. Even people who’ve been doing public speaking for years often feel a twinge of nerves in their stomachs, and these nerves can actually inspire you to perform at your best.

It is most important to be succinct and clear with your presentation. Don’t speak fast so you get the main message across. The audience is there to listen, not read. That’s why the visual aids that you are going to use are key. You have to keep the audience interested all the time. Remember that attention spans of audiences are shorter than readers. At the time of the questions, let the audience to finish the question. Do not interrupt them. This will give you time to think about the answer.

Finally, you are the one who knows the most about what the work you are presenting. So, be confident, enthusiastic, and enjoy the presentation.

Dress Appropriately

A good rule about what to wear at an academic conference is to opt for smart/business clothing.

You have to look professional. You will meet colleagues, prestigious researchers, CEOs and potential people you could work in a near future. Therefore, a first impression is never overlooked.

Enjoy Yourself

You are abroad, after all, so it’s important to have a good time. Consider arriving a day in advance of the conference to give you time to explore the city or location in which the conference is being held. While the academic aspect of the conference is clearly the main draw, it can feel too much like a chore to travel abroad for a conference if you don’t give yourself sufficient time to explore the place you travel to. Each day, I always go to explore the city after the sessions of the conferences are done.

Again, the Internet can be your friend when seeking out recommendations for things to do, interesting places to see (museums, monuments, etc), and great restaurants to eat in. The reviews you find online for restaurants abroad are often comprehensive, honest, and trustworthy, so I’d recommend using those as a guideline.

See your academic conference abroad as a great opportunity to inform people of your research, to learn from others, and to grow your network. Plan your trip properly and the whole thing will feel like less of a chore. Network and present yourself well, and remember to try and have fun. 

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Why and How You Should Include Cloud Computing Technologies in Your Curriculum?

Cloud computing is a fast-growing collaborative learning tool for students. So, let’s talk about some concrete examples of cloud computing being included in the curriculum for different engineering programs and some tips for teaching cloud computing so that students can get the most from it.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Enterprise Cloud Computing is a computing environment that provides software (SaaS), infrastructure (IaaS), and platforms (PaaS) as services to an organization. Often these services are accessible off-site to multiple clients via an Internet connection, in what is known as the public cloud.

Public cloud providers offer easy scalability, with the ability to provision hardware, software, and platforms on-demand without costly capital investment. Another option is the private cloud, in which hardware and software are provided to one specific client using a private network connection [2]. The private cloud offers much better security and control over important data, but it’s more costly to set up and maintain such infrastructures.

Some companies combine public and private clouds into a hybrid cloud setup that gives the best of both worlds. Hybrid cloud adoption is actually the preferred enterprise strategy for cloud computing nowadays. Most companies now use some type of cloud for their workloads; they run 41% of workloads in a public cloud and 38% in a private cloud [3].

Cloud Computing in Engineering Curriculums

Cloud computing provides many benefits to engineers, including the ability to access software from anywhere in the world and improved productivity as a result of easier project management and collaboration. Furthermore, engineering firms can use the cloud to backup important data. Therefore, it is a surprise that more engineering courses don’t offer dedicated cloud computing modules. Here, there are two examples of where cloud computing is included in different engineering programs, and what the syllabus includes.

  • The American Military University has an undergraduate online program specifically dedicated to cloud computing [5]. The course entails a detailed curriculum on the key principles of cloud computing, including security, privacy, and service-oriented architecture.
  • The University of Illinois (UIUC) has a Master of Computer Science degree which cloud computing plays an important role in [6]. As described on the course website, “students gain graduate-level expertise in four core areas of computer science: data visualization, machine learning, data mining and cloud computing.”

What a course should and shouldn’t include to make it more applicable to a working environment?

Any cloud computing module should go beyond the basic terminology to focus on aspects of cloud computing that are applicable in modern enterprises so that students are best equipped to work in such environments.

  • Teach students about a cloud ecosystem and how all of its layers come together to create a well-functioning cloud deployment.
  • Focus on how to go from logical designs into real-world implementations as cloud services.
  • Teach students how to evaluate whether an organization is equipped with the right assets, such as security and governance policies to implement cloud computing in the right way, with the fewest risks to both compliance and data.
  • Give a detailed breakdown of cloud orchestration and its benefits for making cloud deployments more efficient, specifically by automating the provisioning of cloud services using policy-based tools. Orchestration is taking on more importance with the increased use of hybrid setups.
  • Educate students about application architecture in the cloud [7], including decoupling data from applications, and other important design principles that can help people build smooth-functioning cloud-native apps.
  • Discuss how to optimize the cloud deployment for the best performance with maximum agility. Focus on optimizing network connections and making sure that no bottlenecks occur in the functioning of critical IT services that operate in hybrid, public, or private cloud setups.
  • Security is an important IT concern for all enterprises and organizations. Sensitive data needs to be protected from the huge range of cyber threats that are constantly evolving. Therefore, students should learn about Cloud security and Cloud Backup. Cloud backup services allow businesses to mitigate continuity risks associated with using the public cloud.

These tips will help ensure any modules focusing on cloud computing are comprehensive and relevant to the challenges faced in the real-world by organizations and enterprises that are moving to the cloud. Graduates will, therefore, be equipped with a level of cloud computing knowledge upon commencement of their degrees that can help increase their attractiveness as employees.



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Are You Designing Your First Website? Have a Look at These Tips!!

Whether you are a student, consultant, or researcher, building a website is one of the best things you can do to showcase your work, regardless of what field of academia you are involved in.  

Building a web presence can open up a wealth of opportunities, particularly for students, who might find job opportunities that simply wouldn’t exist without having a website. The same rings true for researchers—the people who make promotion decisions need to know who you are and how good your work is, both of which are made much easier by having an easily accessible, well-designed website.

For those who take the leap into academic consultancy, having a solid website is imperative in terms of demonstrating how their research has a wider impact on society. A good website explains why organizations would want to use the consultant’s expertise. In all three cases, building a website is another form of networking. As the report by Jennifer Streeter explains,

“Networking is somewhat like exercise in that it requires extensive time and effort without being able to see immediate results…over time, you will see signs that your efforts are paying off”.

According to this article published by Forbes, using information sourced from Workfolio, 56% of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool.

The value of building a website as an academic is clear, however, many people are intimidated by the prospect due to the anticipated technical complexity of it, which may eat into valuable time that they could spend doing other work. The aim of this post is to highlight some basic web design concepts and tips, demonstrating that building a functional and good-looking website doesn’t have to be too complicated.

Web Design

Web design is a broad field, encompassing the use of many techniques, programming languages, and frameworks for making a website look good and function well for end users.

According to Adobe38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive, and academia is not exempt from this.

It is not necessary to have advanced web design knowledge to build a website, and there is no need to go all out and design a site that looks incredible. However, some familiarity with the basic terms can go a long way to making your website stand out.

  • Responsiveness—this is a key concept in modern web design that attempts to ensure web pages look good on many different devices, reflecting the diversity of ways in which people can now access the Internet. Responsive images are a central part of responsive design principles. Users should be served image resolutions and sizes that best fit their devices. See this resource for more on responsive images.
  • HTML & CSS—HTML is a markup language that defines how to structure a web page. CSS is a special language used for styling the elements that appear on multiple pages of a website, including font colors, headings, font sizes, and page layouts.
  • Negative Space—sometimes referred to as white space, negative space is the empty space around web content that separates different page elements. At the micro level, negative space refers to the spacing between letters, words, and paragraphs, while at the macro level, negative space means the spaces between larger page elements, such as sidebars, headers, and footers. The main idea of negative space is to use it to your advantage because the less cluttered a web page looks, the better the user experience.
  • CMS—A content management system is an important enabler of building a well-designed website without much if any knowledge of programming languages, CSS or HTML. Users can simply edit, delete and manage website content via an intuitive user interface. Popular examples include WordPress, Weebly, and Drupal.

Web Design Tips

Here are some actionable tips for designing your first website so that it looks good and encourages people to stick around and read your work.

  • Don’t Try to Reinvent The Wheel. Sometimes when people start to learn a bit about web design, they try to add creativity where it is not needed. A particularly compelling example is in the contrast between font and background. Black font against a white background makes the most sense, particularly for academia, where the readability of what you publish on your site is most important.
  • Simple Navigation. Simplicity is best for most websites in terms of navigation, but for academics, it takes on even greater importance. The people who visit your website should be able to quickly find what they are looking for, whether that means a resumé or a collection of research papers you have authored. A simple horizontal navigation bar with your main website categories (About page, research section, blog, consultancy services, etc) works best.
  • Minimize Font Types. Some of the most cluttered websites on the Internet use lots of different types of font. For academic websites, you are best limiting it to two or three different font types: one for the headings, one for the content copy, and perhaps one more for your website’s menu.
  • Use a CMS. If it’s an option for you, resort to using a CMS because it drastically simplifies everything about web design. You can still change many aspects of the design, including your website’s theme, without having to worry about any coding or other technical aspects.

The value of websites for professionals in terms of networking and job opportunities has often been cited in studies, and this value definitely extends to those in academia. It’s important when you build your first website that you understand some basic terms about web design so that you can create a site which provides the best browsing experience possible for users.

In general, good websites for academics have an uncluttered design with simple navigation and not too many font types or different font colors. Keep it simple stupid, and let your research, expertise, and knowledge stand out.

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Get Yourself Noticed: Why Marketing is Relevant for Aspiring Engineers

Marketing is a relevant topic both for brands and individuals. In our increasingly interconnected world, marketing can make a vast difference to companies aiming to attract new customers and professionals aiming to find work.

First, let’s have a look at what online marketing is since it is becoming an essential tool in today’s modern world. Online marketing refers to a set of tools and methodologies used to promote, products, services, companies, or people on the Internet. Companies spend an average of 35 percent of their marketing budgets specifically to internet marketing [3]. Undoubtedly, they want to increase profitability and acquire new customers.  

Online marketing has altered the marketing sphere enormously. According to the Adobe 2016 Digital Trends Report, 76% of respondents felt that marketing has changed more in the past 2 years than in the previous 50 [1]. The various online marketing channels include social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing. Global spending on digital marketing is expected to increase from $200.8 billion in 2015 to $306 billion in 2020 [2].

Although online marketing definitions include “people” as a market to promote, nowadays, people neglect the fact that they can market themselves online too. So, why don’t take advantage of this possibility? In the past, it would have been hard but at present, the technology and the internet offer us so many tools that we must use it!!!

With the increased demand for skilled marketing personnel in the economy, marketing majors will see on the rise at third level. In fact, the Ivy League research university, Cornell University, the Business, Management, and Marketing major is in the top three most popular majors at that institution [4].

If we do not market ourselves, how will people know about us? about our work? You could be an expert in your field but if no one knows about, what is the point? That’s why lots of professionals are now deciding to supplement their traditional college majors with a masters in marketing, such as the importance of marketing in so many modern vocations.

Anyone navigating the modern business world should understand a bit about online marketing. As engineers, we should understand how to market ourselves, our projects, and skills to attract new clients or employers and expand our network. Networking is key! Marketing tools provide an invaluable means to make the whole process of online marketing more straightforward.

You may be wondering how to start. So, let’s go through some resources and marketing tools that can get you started with marketing as an aspiring engineer.

Where To Begin?

Two resources you can use to begin broadening your understanding of marketing are:

  • Neil Patel—this successful online marketer runs his own blog on which he publishes many relevant and helpful tips on internet marketing. Particularly useful are his blogging tips, which you can use to start your own successful engineering blog.
  • Copy Hackers—this helpful website equips you with the tools to write effective marketing copy, which can help you better market yourself as an aspiring engineer.

You can also consider some of these tools to help you with marketing:

  • Lusha: Lusha is a lead enrichment tool that provides professional contact information at your fingertips. This tool simplifies networking and outreach for engineers by automatically grabbing contact details from social profiles, including phone numbers and emails, saving you lots of time.
  • Buffer: Social media marketing is one of the most important aspects of online marketing. Buffer provides a platform for scheduling social media posts, letting you connect multiple accounts to one dashboard. This makes navigating the different social media platforms much easier, helping us build up a social media presence or reach out to more people easier.
  • Google Analytics: If you want to better understand your target customers or markets as part of designing a system or product as an engineer, Google Analytics provides a slew of data for free. The different options can be dizzying, but even an understanding of the basics can provide insight on what people want.

Few aspiring modern professionals can maximize their knowledge and their earnings without at least a basic understanding of marketing, whether that entails marketing themselves to prospective employers or knowing how to market a new product. As engineers, we can help grow our network, improve our job prospects, and become more well-rounded employees by learning some marketing fundamentals. The available marketing tools like Lusha and Buffer can make the more laborious aspects of marketing and client outreach much more straightforward.  


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