How To Do Market Research

The market research is the process through which certain information is collected from the market, this information is analyzed and, based on this analysis, decisions are made ​​or designed strategies.

The depth of market research and the need for it can be diverse and can range from a somewhat informal research that allows us to better meet our customers through small surveys, to a formal investigation, costly and several months of duration to allow us to test a hypothesis market.

Whatever the case, is usually thought to conduct a market research is a complex task that is why we should hire the services of a specialist that do for us now (which often charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars); However, the truth is that making a marketing research is something that any of us can do if we have the will and know the steps.

Let’s look at what are the steps to do market research, along with a simple example that will help us gain a better understanding:

1. Determine the need for research

The first step is to determine the need for research; that is, the reason why it is necessary to perform it.

Generally, the need for market research arises from a problem or opportunity that has been presented.

If a problem arises, there may be the need for an investigation to find the cause and solution of it, and should there be an opportunity, there could be a need for an investigation to determine if this really is an opportunity, and find out how you can leverage.

Example: We have identified the opportunity to launch a new product to market, which is a new brand of shirts for men, so there is a need to conduct a market research that allows us to determine the feasibility of launching or enter the product to market.

2. Establish the objectives of the research

Once you have determined the need for market research, the next step is to set goals that will have the same.

The objectives of market research must arise from the need of research.

If the need arose from a problem, the objectives may be related to find the cause and solution of the problem, and if the need arose from an opportunity, objectives could be related to determining the feasibility of the idea, and knowing how to take full advantage.

Example: Once you have determined the need for market research that allows us to determine the feasibility of launching a new brand of men’s shirts to the market, we set the following objectives:

  • know the possible consumer reaction that forms the target before the introduction of a new brand of shirts to market.
  • know the tastes, preferences, customs and habits that make up the target with respect to the purchase or use of the garment shirt.
  • determine the possible selling price could have each of the shirts.

3. Identify the information to be collected

Once you have determined the need for and objectives of the research, the next step is to identify the information we need and therefore collect.

The information collected should be to allow us, once analyzed, meet the need and objectives of the research.

Example: To assess the feasibility of launching the new brand of shirts to market and achieve the objectives, we determined that the information we need and collecting shall be:

  • acceptance of a new brand of shirts by consumers making up the target audience.
  • at first it was fixed when buying a shirt.
  • their models and favorite colors.
  • places generally buy their shirts.
  • the average amount usually pay for a shirt.

4. Determine the sources of information

Once we have identified the information that we collect for research, the next step is to determine the sources from which we will obtain such information.

The sources of information are usually classified into primary and secondary sources:

  • Primary Sources : are sources that provide information “first hand” to the present investigation. Examples of primary sources are the consumers, competition, company employees, the company records, etc.
  • Secondary Sources : are sources that provide information that has already been collected and used for purposes other current research. Examples of secondary sources are the databases of the enterprise, government agencies, books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Example: Once you have determined the information we collect in order to achieve the objectives of our investigation, we determined that the sources of information that we will use will be shaped by consumers who make up our target audience.

5. Select and develop techniques for collecting information

Once you have determined what is the information we collect, and where we are going to get, the next step is to determine how we are going to get; ie select and develop the techniques or methods of gathering information that we will use.

Among the main techniques or methods of data collection used in market research are thesurvey , interviewing, observation , the market test , the focus group and survey.

Example: to gather the information we need will make use of the technique of the survey, which was conducted on a representative sample of the target audience. Some of the questions included in the questionnaire of our survey are:

  • Are you willing to try a new brand of shirts?
  • What is the first thing that you set when deciding to buy a shirt?
  • What are your favorite models?
  • What are your favorite colors?
  • Where do you usually buy your shirts?
  • How much is what usually pay for a shirt?

6. Collect information

Once you have determined the information we collect, sources where we get, and the techniques or methods of collecting information that will use, the next step is to effectively make the collection of information.

To do this, previously named the charge or responsible for gathering the information, the train if necessary, and determine the place or places where it is held, the date when it will start and how long it will last.

Example: Once you have determined that we will make use of the survey and have designed our questionnaire, we turn to appoint personnel to make the target audience surveys, and make it effective.

7. Analyze information

Once you have collected the required information, the next step is posting it (count data), processing (sorting the data, tabulate, encode), interpret, analyze and draw our conclusions.

Example: Once the information collected through surveys, data were tabulated, analyzed and the following conclusions were obtained:

  • launch a new brand of men’s shirts market is feasible, as there is sufficient demand and consumer forming the target audience is willing to try a new brand of long shirts and when it is of good quality.
  • the first thing a consumer that makes up the target audience when deciding fixed by buying a shirt is the model and the quality of the fabric.
  • There is a preference for bold patterns and bright colors.
  • the consumer that makes up the target audience usually buy their shirts in department stores.
  • the average price you usually pay for a shirt is $ 25.

8. Make decisions and design strategies

Finally, once you have analyzed the data collected and received our findings, the next step is to make decisions or design strategies based on the analysis and conclusions drawn.

Example: Once you have analyzed the information collected and concluded primarily to launch a new brand of shirts to the market is feasible, we make the following decisions or design the following strategies:

  • the decision to introduce the brand new shirts to the market is taken.
  • we proceed with the design and manufacture of shirts, paying special attention to the quality of the fabric and striking design models based on light colors.
  • it comes into contact with different intermediaries that serve as outlets, giving more importance to department stores.
  • the decision that the sale price of each shirt will be US $ 20 is taken.

New MindManager 15 for Windows offers valuable ease-of-use enhancements

MindManager 15 for Windows, released today by mind mapping software developer Mindjet, offers some practical new features and enhancements that will help you to be more productive and well organized than ever before.

The most significant new features of MindManager 15 include a vastly expanded selection of map parts, project management improvements, a new set of hand-drawn icons and a reorganized and simplified template view. The developer’s objective for this new version was to make it easier for new users to get started with the program, while also responding to customer requests for enhancements to existing features.

Here’s what’s new in MindManager 15, and the significance of these new features and enhancements to business users of the program:

Expanded map parts

I’ve always been a fan of this feature of MindManager, because it makes it easy to build common types of mind maps using drag-and-drop functionality. My biggest complaint with it was that there weren’t enough map parts and they didn’t address enough key business uses of mind maps. In addition, the thumbnail images were so small that it was hard to see what each map part looked like.

Mindjet has remedied these past shortcomings in MindManager 15, which includes 50 new map parts. These “plus and play” map components are divided into categories, including brainstorming, project planning, business analysis and meeting planning. In addition, you can select any topic in one of your maps and save it and all of its child topics into a new map part. This could potentially save you many hours of work if you repeatedly create the same types of mind maps.

Improved templates view

In previous versions of MindManager, the templates view required a lot of scrolling. In version 15, Mindjet has regrouped them into six topic-focused folders – management, meetings and events, personal productivity, problem solving, project management and strategic planning. This gives you a concise, high-level view of the types of templates that are available. You can then open a folder to view all of the templates it contains.

In addition, it displays blank templates for creating radial, right, tree and org chart maps, and continues to give you access to Mindjet’s online MapsForThat gallery. Any templates you have created are stored in a new My Templates folder. This new compact layout makes MindManager’s templates view much easier to use.

Hand drawn icon set

In addition to the standard set of icons that ships with previous versions of MindManager, version 15 now includes a set of over 600 hand-drawn icons. They are available in four colors. Mindjet VP of Products Michael Deutch says he was inspired by a post on this blog about the Vector Doodlekit, a third-party collection of hand-drawn icons and symbols, to include a similar set of resources in MindManager 15. The goal is to enable users to create mind maps with a more organic, hand-drawn look.

Project management enhancements

In previous versions of MindManager, if you had a project that was going to start significantly earlier or later than you planned, you had to manually change the start and end dates of each task. In version 15, a new “move project” command simplifies this process. By changing the start date of the overall project, MindManager 15 automatically adjusts all of the task date ranges. You can also use a new command to eliminate slack time in the GANTT view of your project. This can help you to ensure that your project gets done at the earliest possible date.

New topic “quick add” buttons

As part of Mindjet’s goal to improve the usability of MindManager for new users, version 15 now includes small nodes, each containing a plus sign (+), that stick out of the top, bottom and side of each topic. Clicking on one creates a new linked topic in that direction. Deutch said that new users sometimes get stuck trying to figure out how to add new topics to their mind maps. These quick add buttons make it easy to see what to do next. In addition, they enable any users of MindManager 15 to quickly add topics without having to mouse back up to the program’s ribbon toolbar each time – nice!

These new buttons each require a small amount of extra vertical space, however, which can potentially cause printing and page fit problems for some users. If you don’t want them to be visible, you can turn them off in the program’s options. Very smart!

Auto-creation of slides

A new command in MindManager 15 enables users to have the program auto-create slides. If you need to quickly present a mind map to your colleagues, this can be a big time-saver. A new map theme included in this version contains font sizes and settings that are optimized for display on a screen, too.

Whither MindManager 15 for Mac?

Deutch said a Mac version is now under development; Mindjet hopes to release it by year-end. He said the company is driving toward a new development platform that will make it easier to develop one set of code and deploy it to all platforms (Windows, Mac, mobile and web). That sounds like an ambitious goal, but Deutch believes it’s achievable in the next year or two.

MindManager + SpigitEngage?

During Mindjet’s briefing for MindManager 15, I asked for an update on the company’s acquisition of Spigit, a developer of enterprise idea management solutions. Can we expect to see some connections between MindManager and SpigitEngage? Deutch said the Mindjet team has done some research to figure out where the two applications could potentially connect. Clearly there are steps in the innovation process where visual thinking could have a significant impact. The next step is to determine where such integration will offer the greatest benefit to Mindjet and Spigit customers.

Conclusion

MindManager 15 for Windows represents a well thought-out evolution of the program’s comprehensive feature set. The usability enhancements – such as the new templates view, quick-add buttons and the expanded map parts gallery – will be especially appreciated by new users. Experienced users of MindManager will appreciate some of its more powerful new features, like move project and remove slack time for projects.

For more information about and pricing for MindManager 15 for Windows, please visit Mindjet’s product page.

Watch this blog for a review of MindManager 15 in the next month or so, where I will take a deeper look at the new and enhanced features of this excellent program.

iMindQ 6 debuts strong presentation and project management tools

The new iMindQ 6 from Seavus features a well-designed new presentation mode, enhanced project management tools and other improvements clearly aimed at the needs of busy business people.

When iMindQ was launched only three months ago it was an impressive mind mapping program, worthy of your attention. But its developer hasn’t rested on its laurels. It continues to add new functionality to this well-designed visual mapping tool, while also maintaining its ease of use. The latest release of iMindQ, version 6, was launched in mid-October.

Here’s what’s new and notable in this new release:

Rich presentation mode

This new version of iMindQ offers a rich presentation mode that enables you to present your ideas with style. Best of all, Seavus hasn’t followed the lead of many mind mapping programs in moving to a slide-based presentation view, which displays topics in isolation and makes it hard for audiences to follow where you are within the structure of your mind map. Rather, it uses the superior model of “flying” around it, which helps the audience better follow your flow of ideas and information.

To access the presentation mode, simply click on the “from beginning” button in the “present” tab of the program’s ribbon toolbar, and iMindQ 6 immediately launches a full-screen view of your mind map. You can advance to the next topic using either your mouse or the space key. As you progress through the child topics of your map, they are highlighted in a different color, making it easy for the audience to follow along. Child topics “pop” open with a pleasing animation.

In addition to an automatic mode for generating presentations, iMindQ 6 enables you to manually “roll your own” using what the developer calls “Smart Presentation Mode.” You can use iMindQ’s default settings to generate “scenes” (the equivalent of slides in PowerPoint) and then tweak them to suit. You can also manually create new scenes by dragging and dropping one or more map topics onto a blank scene.

The animations panel to the right of the program’s work area displays each step in the selected scene’s animation at the top of this panel; controls to adjust the animation type, effects and timing are located at the bottom. Once you’ve adjusted the scene’s properties, you can preview it in the presentation view of your mind map in the middle of the screen – it’s nice to be able to do this without having to play your presentation. A “show panels” button can be used to display them so you can tweak your presentation, or they can be toggled closed to give the screen a cleaner appearance, ideal for thinking about how you want to present your ideas.

Whether you’re working with a mind map, flow chart, concept map or GANTT chart, the process works exactly the same. You can let the program create a set of scenes for you and then tweak them to meet your needs, or you can add your own using the process I just described for mind maps.

I played around with the default mind map that opens automatically in iMindQ 6 and found the presentation view and controls to be very easy and intuitive to use. It’s nice to see a mind mapping program that gives you this much control over presentation settings and which uses the “fly around” presentation mode I mentioned at the beginning of this review.

New project planning options

 

In iMindQ 6 you can now manage and set working hours according to your project’s needs by using the 3 new calendars that are included in iMindQ 6: Standard, night shift and 24 hours. These are accessible via a “working time” command, which displays a dialog box that enables you to first select one of the three the base calendar types and then lets you designate days as working, non-working, exception and non-default work weeks. For companies that have people doing shift work or flexible time arrangements, these customizations will be quite welcome.

You can mark non-working days in the calendar, such as holidays, and input details about them. I created an exception day; its date on the monthly calender immediately changed color to indicate it’s a restricted day.

Summary tasks appear in the GANTT view as brackets, while individual tasks are displayed as gray bars. When you define a relationship between two task topics in the mind map view, a line depicting that dependency is automatically added to the GANTT view. Clicking on a small box in the middle of the relationship lines enables you to quickly change the direction of the dependency.

Expanded map templates library

iMindQ 6 also includes an expanded collection of mind map templates, including 26 business, 4 educational and 2 personal. You can also save mind maps as templates for future use. The business maps are colorful but very professional in appearance, and really make the greatest use of iMindQ’s ability to shift seamlessly between mind maps, concept maps and flow charts. In other words, they enable you to create more complex relationships between topics, as depicted in the screen shot of the templates at right. Business templates include:

  • Business plan
  • Balanced scorecard
  • Fishbone diagram
  • Employee performance evaluation
  • Business Model Canvas (nice – a first for a mind mapping program!)
  • Project plan
  • Promotional plan
  • Risk management matrix
  • WBS chart
  • Stakeholder map

Clearly a lot of time and thought went into the creation of these map templates, which are not only focused on key business needs but also get the blend of color and content just right – not too boring but not too gaudy, either. Just attractive and functional.

Here, too, you see the true benefit of iMindQ being more than just another mind mapping program: Its ability to also produce flow charts and concept maps means you have a variety of options for depicting and connecting your ideas. How else could you support visual business tools as diverse as a fishbone diagram, business model canvas and balanced scorecard? These templates are truly impressive, and showcase what’s possible with iMindQ.

The growing iMindQ family

In addition to desktop versions of iMindQ for Windows and Mac OS X, Seavus has launched apps for the iPad and iPhone, and recently announced an app for Android and an online version of its mind mapping tool. Both of the mobile apps and iMindQ Online support popular cloud-based storage services like Dropbox and Box. The next step will be for the desktop programs to be able to open files stored online, which will enable you to start creating a mind map on your mobile device and then continue working on it with your PC or Mac.

Conclusion

In my first review of iMindQ in July, I told you I was very pleased with this capable mind mapping program. It continues to get better in version 6, adding some well-designed capabilities that should increase its appeal to business users. Seavus continues to walk the fine line of adding features and functionality to their flagship mind mapping program, while at the same time not making it overly complex to use.

iMindQ 6’s layout is clean, well-organized and intuitive, which makes it a pleasure to use. As you know from reading my reviews on this blog, if a program contains features and functionality that cause me to scratch my head or which aren’t easy to use, I’m not afraid to tell you what I think. Everything I’ve seen in iMindQ so far has met my expectations and then some.

A perpetual license for iMindQ 6 is US$149 for Windows and $99 for Mac; a subscription payment model is also available at $67 and $45, respectively. Considering that some of its competitors retail for up to $350, iMindQ 6 is an excellent value, based upon a comparison of functionality and cost.

With so many announcements coming out of Seavus in the last 6 months, it will be fascinating to see where the developer takes its family of mind mapping tools from here.

iMindMap 8: An awesome new tool for creating and presenting your ideas

ThinkBuzan has placed brainstorming front and center in iMindMap 8, the latest version of its popular mind mapping software program. It features an excellent new free-form ideation mode, improved Windows ribbon toolbar and branch target tool, as well as a redesigned presentation view that contains some great new capabilities.

In this review of iMindMap 8 Ultimate, we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant business-focused functionality of this new version, and I’ll give you my opinion on the program’s pros and cons.

A significant improvement in usability

When I reviewed iMindMap 7 a little over a year ago, I praised its many new features, but expressed some reservations about its overly-complex toolbars and contextual tools, which I thought could overwhelm first-time users. For version 8, ThinkBuzan has succeeded in fixing these issues and helping users get oriented and get down to the task of creating mind maps.

One case in point: When you first open iMindMap 8 Ultimate, you’re given three choices: Create a new session in brainstorming view, create a “professional” mind map or a Buzan mind map (see the screen shot below). What’s interesting to me is the distinction between the latter two map types. The thumbnail image of the professional mind map shows skinny, angular connector lines and rounded rectangle topic shapes, while the Buzan mind map has colorful tapered branches with words upon them – what we’ve come to expect from iMindMap. Apparently, it’s developers have recognized that business people tend to be very pragmatic, and want map designs that look more professional and less “creative.”

Brief on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand, and should help new users understand the basic concepts of creating mind maps and brainstorming with iMindMap 8. Nicely done!

To give me a better sense of what changed from version 7 to 8, I opened up a map I created last year in iMindMap 7, and compared the two. The differences are striking! iMindMap 7 looks cluttered, with tabs and buttons everywhere – in the toolbar above the workspace (which has two sets of text menus above it) and in the properties panel on the left side of the workspace, which displays 6 tabs, with several more hidden from view.

By comparison, iMindMap 8’s user interface is simpler, more businesslike and efficiently designed. Its menus and options are all still available, but they are better presented in ways that don’t overwhelm the user. Kudos to ThinkBuzan on an excellent user interface!

Brainstorming view rocks

iMindMap 8’s new brainstorming view (only available in the program’s Ultimate version) resembles a cork board; ideas and images can be placed on it and are styled to resemble Post-It notes. It’s a perfect representation of a brainstorming wall in your cubicle, office or in a meeting room.

Using the program’s contextual brainstorming toolbar, you can easily add ideas, small ideas (think of half-sized sticky notes) and images to its canvas, and move them around at will. A playful-looking font gives you the impression of hand-written notes, adding to the authenticity of this creative thinking environment. Images appear as if they have been affixed to a sticky note at the top edge with a piece of transparent tape – a nice touch, in my opinion.

One key to capturing ideas in a program like this is the ability to do so quickly. That means keyboard-only input. I experimented a bit and determined that the INSERT key doesn’t work, but the spacebar creates a new idea in your brainstorming workspace. You can also create a new, regular-sized idea by double-clicking in a blank area of the workspace.

Adding a group to your brainstorm causes iMindMap 8 to add a white box to the corkboard surface. Like images, groups appear as if they were taped to the surface. Adding items to a group is as simple as dragging and dropping them into it. The box automatically resizes as you add more ideas to it.

This is an ideal setup, because it enables you to engage in free-form brainstorming, without regard to the structure of your ideas. You can then switch from ideation to evaluation, grouping your ideas in ways that make sense to you. In doing so, you’re creating a hierarchy that will drive how they are arranged when you switch to mind map view.

Another way to visually classify your ideas is by color; iMindMap 8 enables you to select from 8 colors for ideas. The virtual Post-It notes can also be toggled between full and half-size, if you need to squeeze more ideas into the space of your screen. In addition, you can drag with your mouse on a blank area of the workspace to access additional screen real estate, giving you almost unlimited room to capture your inspirations.

I played around with brainstorming mode while evaluating iMindMap 8, and was delighted with its functionality. I’m an avid student of brainstorming tools, technologies and techniques, and I’m not easily impressed. ThinkBuzan definitely got brainstorming mode right in iMindMap 8!

Simplified branch target aids new users

In iMindMap parlance, the branch target is a set of buttons that pop up as you hover over the end of a map branch. They enable you to complete common tasks without needing to move your cursor back to the ribbon toolbar each time. In version 7, the branch target was like a Swiss Army Knife, with a myriad of commands clustered into a two-tiered set of icons. In iMindMap 8, it has been considerably simplified to do four things:

  • Adjust the branch’s shape
  • Add a new subtopic
  • Add a new box topic
  • Add a relationship line

ThinkBuzan has wisely limited its functionality to one essential über-task: Adding content to your mind map. This should make iMindMap 8 much more intuitive to use, especially for first-time and occasional users.

Another simplification: In previous versions, when you selected a branch, control points were visible, which enabled you to reshape the branch. These are now turned off by default, but can be toggled on via a command in the layout menu. I think this is a wise decision; the average user will probably never used this feature. Advanced users, who want precise control over branch shapes, will appreciate that it’s still there and can be turned on as needed.

Presentation view gets a facelift

The presentation view of iMindMap has been significantly improved in version 8, and contains some very cool touches. You can auto-create a presentation with a single mouse click, or “roll your own.” You can then make adjustments in the slide viewer panel on the left side of the program’s workspace by dragging and dropping them into the order that makes the most sense to you. You can even rotate the view, to add more visual interest (don’t overdo it, though!).

You can also group slides in presentation view. How does this work? Let’s say you have a pair of topics at the lowest level of one of your map’s branches that the auto-create function has interpreted as two separate slides. Simply multi-select the two slides and group them. The result is a single slide with both topics displayed. Two slides have become one using a simple, intuitive process. If you change your mind, iMindMap 8’s presentation toolbar contains an ungroup button, which returns the topic to its previous state.

As you view a slide in the sorter, a blue box appears over the mind map that corresponds to the amount of it that will be shown in that slide. If you want to adjust that to zoom in, zoom out or reposition that slide’s view, you can do so by manipulating the blue box. Nice! The updated presentation view in version 8 now enables you to add notes to each slide. During a presentation, these notes appear to you but not to your audience.

When you give a presentation using iMindMap 8, your presenter view displays the current slide with a timer below it; to the right are smaller views of the next slide and any notes you have added to the current one. Your audience only sees the current slide.

You can also open a vertical sorter panel during a presentation, which enables you to immediately move to any slide in your presentation – ideal if a member of your audience wants you to go back to a specific slide for additional discussion about it. Best of all, this all happens “behind the scenes” – only on your screen. I love the intuitive way this works!

Best of all, iMindMap 8 “flys” you from one topic to another during presentations, rather than just displaying a series of map “snapshots” as some competing programs do. This latter approach is inferior, in my opinion, because it causes your audience to lose sense of where the currently-displayed topic resides within the overall structure of your mind map.

One of the keys when presenting information to an audience is to include your company or brand logo on each slide. iMindMap 8 makes this easy. All you do is click on the “branding” icon in the presentation toolbar, and the program lets you select an image from your hard drive. You then have the option of placing it in any one of the four corners of your slides. It may take some experimentation to get the logo to display at the size you want it – you can’t scale it up or down within iMindMap. Perhaps ThinkBuzan will add this capability in a future version.

Presentation view also includes an intelligent group of settings that give you more finite control over how it handles animations, transitions and how the program traverses from one slide to another. Kiosk mode enables you to set up your presentation to auto-run and loop continuously, unattended. This is ideal for trade show booths, lobby displays and other applications where you want your presentation to run continuously.

Contextual menus reduce visual clutter

In iMindMap 8, ThinkBuzan has adopted a user interface technique that Microsoft Office has used for years to help manage complexity: Contextual menus. These are additional tabs that only appear in the ribbon toolbar when you’re performing certain functions – such as branch tools, brainstorming and presentation mode. This helps to decrease toolbar clutter and once again, makes iMindMap 8 easier to use.

New icon library and properties panel

iMindMap 8 features a new icon library and properties panel, nestled in a set of buttons that expand into tabbed panels on the right side of the workspace. Seven buttons/tabs provide fast access to topic notes, the image library, icon library, attachments, flowcharts, snippets (segments of mind maps that can be added to your map at any time) and task data. The design of these tools is clean, uncluttered and intuitive.

Conclusion

It’s common for mind mapping programs to fall victim to “featuritis.” Under pressure from customers and salespeople to “just add this one more feature,” software often becomes bloated and harder to use as more features and functionality are added.

That’s why iMindMap 8 is a breath of fresh air. Its clean, intuitive design makes it a pleasure to work with. As I’ve said in previous reviews on this blog, there’s a real art to keeping what’s visible in a user interface simple enough so new users don’t get overwhelmed, while also keeping advanced functionality close at hand to meet the needs of power users. ThinkBuzan got this balance right in version 8.

I’m an especially big fan of the new brainstorming mode, which helps you get into a creative mode with its corkboard background and colorful sticky notes to capture your ideas. I’m glad to see it supports keyboard-only input, so when the ideas are coming hot and heavy, you can keep up, whether you’re facilitating a group brainstorming session or ideating solo.

The presentation mode also includes some thoughtful touches that elevate it above many competing programs. I especially love the group/ungroup slide and branding capabilities. In addition, the “flip screen” command is very useful – since most times you’re going to be preparing presentations at your desk or at a laptop, without the benefit of a second screen. Being able to toggle back and forth between your view and what your audience will see is a real plus. Compare that to what you would otherwise need to do – run your presentation, exit from it, tweak and repeat. This is much faster!

Best Blog Software for Both Beginners & Developers to Use

To select the best blog software for our readers, we have reviewed dozens of blog applications mainly from feature and support. As a result, we found that the ones introduced below are the best, coming with a large number of highlights to enable bloggers to get started easily and manage their blogs effortlessly.

The most common and efficient way to set up a blog is to utilize blogging software. Doing this way, normal bloggers, especially beginners, can either save the time and energy of working on building a blog manually or save the budget spent in hiring a web developer to handle the code-related process. There are dozens of choices, and we only select the best ones to introduce here. All of them are backed by a large community of developers and contributors, and come with great ease of use.

In below, we have worked out a comprehensive review to list the main information of them to explain why they are the best. Move on to the details.

WordPress

Website: http://wordpress.org/

WordPress, which is both free and priceless at the same time, is PHP open source software that can be used to create a beautiful blog. It is easy to install and upgrade this software. If you want to use an FTP program, you are able to create a database, upload WordPress using FTP and run the installer. If you are not familiar with FTP, you need to choose a web host offering 1-click script installer to help you install this application with a few clicks.

WordPress is the most widely-used blogging platform as well as CMS around the world that has over 60 million loyal fans including some large and well brands like eBay, Metro UK, Variety and BBC America. Starting as simply a personal blogging tool, now WordPress is adopted for all kinds of mainstream purposes, such as education, technology, e-commerce, etc.

WordPress is backed by a huge community consisting of millions of users in all levels of knowledge on this software – from beginners with nearly no technical skills to web developers having been devoted to the online development for years. With the contributions of so many people, WordPress comes with excellent customizability, with which users can make any changes they like to give a new look or add new functionality to their blogs.

Reliability is the most important factor to evaluate software. According to our experience, most software complaints come from mass of bugs and problems, and meanwhile, most happy experience come from reliability. In this case, WordPress has been proven to be a reliable software for many years so far.

More highlights of this blog software are listed in below.

  • Simplicity & flexibility.
  • Available in more than 70 languages.
  • Built-in comments & search engine optimization.
  • Thousands of free elegant-designed themes & plugins.
  • Textpattern

    Website: http://textpattern.com/

    As a reputed blogging tool, Textpattern has great flexibility and extensibility which are loved much by web designers, developers, publisher, and bloggers (the largest part of its customer base). The powerful and sophisticated engine makes this CMS a suitable choice for whatever types of blog and other website that you can imagine.

    Textpattern is a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use, with numerous built-in tags and reusable code partials that enable you to fully control the presentations of the content of your blog. With a browser-based interface in more than 40 languages, excellent support and full range of features, this software is suitable for publishers, designers and developers to establish a blog.

    The admin interface of Textpattern is minimalist, efficient and clearly labeled, with which bloggers can easily get on with publishing and managing content. Built-in tags and textile are also coming with the software, which enables users to have complete control over the content and presentation, as well as get the ability to transform plain text into fully-formatted web content in seconds.

    What’s more, if you want to go beyond the software’ default capabilities, you are allowed to quickly install any of hundreds of available plugins or create your own in PHP. Moreover, In the Textpattern’s wiki, technicians and engineers have worked out a pile of in-depth articles with a lot of information about software installation, administration, themes and plugins. If you can’t find the answers you need in the wiki, you can check the official forum or contact the company’s community.

    b2evolution

    Website: http://www.b2evolution.net/

    b2evolution is a popular CCMS (Content + Community Management System) that is mostly used to set up and manage multiple blogs. Being free and open source under GNU GPL, you can freely download and install this software to fully power your own blogs.

    b2evolution can run on any web hosting platforms supporting the recent versions of PHP and MySQL, and it is another state-of-the-art publishing system besides WordPress, with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and ease of use. Besides, b2evolution comes with many features including an extensive plugin and skin system.

    Nucleus CMS

    Website: http://www.nucleuscms.org/

    Nucleus CMS is a self-hosted fully featured content management system that comes with the largest advantages in blog management. Now in version 3.65, it is one of the lightest, most flexible and secure options for maintaining one or multiple weblogs with a team of authors.

    Nucleus CMS has a large number of helpful blogging-related features which can be used to schedule works, boost search engine rankings, managing comments and categories, and so on. Also, there is a built-in backup system which allows users to create a backup version of the database contents with a simple one click to significantly reduce the risk of unexpected data loss.

    Weebly

    Website: http://www.weebly.com/

    Starting a blog with Weebly is very simple, because you have the ability to use flexible drag and drop interface to build your blog content quickly and easily. Moreover, the powerful design and publishing elements enables you to focus on your content while the Weebly services pull all the weight in the background. In addition, there are a plethora of widgets and media options in your blog dashboard, so that you can make it all work with ease, no matter you blog is about photo journal, video diary or literary review.

    More highlights of this software are :

    • Full control over layout and post structure allows you to create exceptional blog sites.
    • Complete category, tag and sidebar customization provide the key navigation and interaction elements modern blog visitors crave.
    • Free blog templates are able to work as standalone sites or pieces of a larger website.
    • RSS and social sharing feature are built into every blog to help amplify your message across the channels that matter.

    Typepad

    Website: http://www.typepad.com/

    Typepad is one of the most famous blog software, with which you are able to publish quickly and easily from your computer, mobile or even via email. In addition, this application allows you to tweak a theme with custom CSS. You just need to use the Theme Builder to easily build your own design or design your own template from the ground up. Moreover, you are able to use your blog built with Typepad to sell your products or services, run ads and join their effective affiliate program.

    In addition, you have the ability to see what is going on with your blog since the smart stats of audience integrated with Google analytics is on your blog. Furthermore, you are capable of using the beautiful templates and user-friendly design tools to handcraft you own special blog. If you had any problem about blogging, you are allowed to contact the professional Typepad team for help anytime.

    Drupal

    Website: http://drupal.org/

    Some people might be surprised at the selection of Drupal for blogging, as it is not commonly used for this purpose. But in fact, according to our review and experience, Drupal is a quite good CMS for building and maintaining fully featured blogs due to its user-friendly user interface and built-in blogging features.

    The functionality and customization possibilities are unlimited with Drupal because there are over 24,000 modules and themes available at Drupal.org, let alone the numerous ones at other marketplaces. The active community is still working on the development and extension of Drupal core.

    Wix

    Website: http://www.wix.com/

    Being a beginner, if you have sufficient ideas about PowerPoint presentation, then Wix is an appropriate tool for you. It is ranked as one of the best website building software available presently because of its versatility in the operations and simplification of tasks.

    Wix appreciates the fact that you are a beginner in the field of website building and provides you with a simple user interface. The drag and drop feature is one of the most attractive features of Wix because it allows you to upload content or images within minutes.

    One of the highlights of this website building tool is a series of templates facilitating the design and appearance of the website. However, the templates once applied cannot be changed after the project has initialized. To make it possible, the user has to start all over again.

    Wix offers a manageable storage and bandwidth limit of 500MB each.

    SquareSpace

    Website: https://www.squarespace.com/

    It is one of the most versatile website building software with some premium features for the prospective website makers. It offers a sleek design to the website that is full of attractive features and functions. Being premium website building software, it has several plans for its clients that help the clients choose the most appropriate one for their websites.

    When it comes to the technical specification, SquareSpace provides its remarkable service in various packages starting at $8 per month. Under the cheapest offering, SquareSpace allows 500GB of bandwidth, a mobile-compatible website with up to 20 pages and 2 GB storage. Adding to it, the client gets a custom domain and an all-time support. In its best plan, SquareSpace allows you to enjoy unlimited bandwidth in addition to other premium features.

    The best part of SquareSpace is that it allows the website to transform into WordPress in the long run to enjoy its highly customizable features.

    uCoz

    Website: https://www.ucoz.com/

    uCoz is a website building software having the simplest user interface. It is the software that builds websites for free. It offers many features to the users who choose to make a website using this software.

    Being a template-based website building tool for beginners, uCoz consists of about 250 default templates and 22 modules. Adding to it, it is compatible with tons of widgets and gadgets that can be customized into the website. It supports data backup and allows unlimited disk space to all its clients.

    Jimdo

    Website: https://www.jimdo.com/

    If you are looking forward to having a remarkable user interface on your website, there is no better solution than Jimdo. It is a website building software that consists of Dropbox integration and many attractive features. The Dropbox integration allows you to share or use the photos easily, thanks to the Dropbox account!

    Being a paid website building software, Jimdo has some very attractive features to offer. It has the ability of produce coupon codes which are required in multiple fields. Apart from it, Jimdo has an automated system of email where purchase confirmation emails are generated automatically.

    When it comes to the specification, you get about 20 custom email addresses which you can use for different legal purposes. Adding to it, Jimdo allows you to get unlimited storage.

    Conclusion

    Based on our review on the blogging tools’ features and users’ votes, WordPress is the deserved winner of the best blogging software that can be used to build a rich-featured, easy-to-use, and search engine friendly blog. However, as WordPress needs a server to reside on, we recommend the following 3 best web hosts for WordPress companies for their ability to well serve WordPress blogs with excellent reliability and high performance.

Is OpenStack Ready for Enterprises?

Currently there is a lot of talk justifiably about OpenStack because Enterprises, Telco Providers and SaaS vendors are all looking for an open source based Cloud OS stack alternative for their clouds. The early adopters in the hype cycle have already started deploying it, but the real question is whether OpenStack is ready for Enterprises to run their business critical applications on it. Before I answer this question, I will briefly describe what OpenStack is and will then give my opinion about OpenStack readiness.

OpenStack is a conglomeration of a number of distributed services like Compute (Nova), Network (Neutron), Storage (Cinder, Manila, Swift), GUI (Horizon), Monitoring (Ceilometer), Database (Trove) etc that together represent a Cloud OS. Companies such as HP, RedHat, Cisco, EMC, Mirantis are packaging these various services into distributions (similar to what RedHat does for Linux) and are providing support services.  In some cases these companies are also providing their own public clouds that are based on OpenStack.  For many of the current OpenStack services, the publically available code is not enterprise ready, and in these cases, vendors are augmenting the open source code with their own proprietary plugins. In essence, these companies are trying to become the private data center infra-structure provider of choice and are projecting themselves as the single neck to choke.

OpenStack definitely has momentum because of the amount of money big companies like Cisco, HP, EMC, Huawei and the Telco providers are ploughing into it. The attendance at the OpenStack conferences is steadily increasing every 6 months and a lot of new functionality is being delivered in each new OpenStack release (every 6 months).  It is safe to say that currently OpenStack seems to be having more momentum than other open source based cloud stacks like CloudStack.

However, here are my thoughts on what needs to be done in order for OpenStack to really become main-stream:

  • Too many Networking Initiatives: Currently, there are way too many networking initiatives like Neutron, OpenDaylight, ETSI-NFV, OP-NFV, ONF, and ONOS that at the end of the day are trying to provide a framework for SDN, NFV and Cloud OS networking. Some of these initiatives are being driven by networking vendors and others are being driven by Telco providers. Dust still has to settle with respect to which ones will gain traction. OpenStack networking community cannot do everything on its own, and they need to strategically adopt code bases/designs from these other standards groups.
  • Too many disparate services: Linux was successful because Linus Torvalds ensured that there was a single cohesive vision for the Linux Kernel. Currently, in OpenStack, there are many developer cliques that are driving the different OpenStack components. Hence, currently there is a lack of a cohesive vision with respect to the development of the features for these various OpenStack services. At Google, Microsoft and Amazon, there is a single individual whose neck is on the line for providing a set of cohesive cloud services. Thus, there is a need for a benevolent dictator in the OpenStack community.
  • AWS APIs Rule:  Many graduating students are getting their training in building applications using the Amazon AWS APIs because many universities have started letting their undergraduate students do their projects on AWS due to agility and cost reasons. Since OpenStack is playing catchup with AWS, it is critical for OpenStack to mimic AWS APIs in order to make it easier for new graduating students to code to OpenStack APIs.  So far Amazon has not started any litigation against OpenStack, and thus, copying AWS APIs is a positive strategy to pursue.
  • Difficult to Deploy and maintain:  Most of the enterprises that have successfully deployed OpenStack have either employed an army of consultants or are large government agencies with an army of internal hackers/developers. Furthermore, since the APIs/content is changing with every release of OpenStack, it requires expensive full-time technically savvy people to constantly maintain OpenStack deployments.

In conclusion, I want people to have an open source alternative in the Cloud OS space in order for people to have choice and also a vehicle to innovate. I want to see the OpenStack initiative succeed, and that is why I am highlighting the issues that I want to see get addressed.

Equinix Programmable Network (EPN): A Dynamic Foundation for Multi-cloud

Cloud computing is here to stay. Most enterprise CIOs I speak with are turning to the cloud to increase business agility and enable elasticity for both their application portfolios and business processes. And, in almost all cases, they are adopting more than one cloud platform to support their business applications – applications that require multiple services that run on multiple clouds. This practice of multi-cloud, multi-platform deployments addresses the unique requirements of these business applications, while also providing better value via higher availability and scale than single cloud deployments.

Yet, the move to this multi-cloud architecture can be hindered by the time and effort it takes to provision individual ports and connections to each cloud platform – often measured in weeks, not the seconds that are required to be truly agile. We designed the Equinix Cloud Exchange specifically to meet these provisioning needs and enable customers to connect to multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) either via colocating in an Equinix data center, or through their choice of network services providers (NSPs) through a single port connection.

At the heart of Equinix Cloud Exchange is the Equinix Programmable Network (EPN), the foundational layer that enables this.  EPN takes a software-defined networking (SDN) approach and allows customers to self-provision these connections instantaneously. It’s highly scalable, provides ease of management via automation and ensures customers can maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

As we continue to develop the EPN platform, we are ensuring that the core of the EPN software adheres to the following principles:

  • Agility and Management at Scale: Manually provisioning, monitoring and trouble-shooting network connections isn’t practical in an agile, multi-cloud era, in which CSPs, NSPs and cloud integrators deal with thousands of enterprises. EPN allows users to control network service management via a proven set of APIs that allow customers to self-provision multiple new connections instantaneously. Equinix Cloud Exchange is able to manage at scale because EPN has been architected to leverage an SDN-based approach, where users specify their requirements in high-level service-based terms and EPN automates the underlying low-level network management operations.
  • Modular Architecture: EPN employs a modular, service-based architecture through which new services are described via high-level YANG language models. Today, EPN provides Layer 2 connection management, virtual local area network (VLAN) management and link aggregation services. However, its modular architecture makes it easy for EPN to roll out new services in future releases at higher Open System Interconnection (OSI) networking layers and also to orchestrate third-party network management services.
  • Multi-Cloud Awareness: From the very beginning, EPN has been designed to operate in a multi-cloud environment. Thus, it uses the notion of “transactions” to configure distributed resources (e.g. switches) across multiple clouds as a single atomic operation.
  • Vendor Neutrality: EPN is a logically centralized SDN subsystem that is hardware vendor-agnostic. The SDN subsystem abstracts the underlying network topology. This allows both cloud providers and enterprises using EPN to seamlessly deploy switches from multiple vendors and maintain a vendor-neutral strategy.

In sum, just as Equinix has grown to become a leader in providing interconnectivity solutions to Enterprises and NSPs, we are also leading the cloud interconnectivity industry through the capabilities of Equinix Cloud Exchange.  Equinix Cloud Exchange is a multi-cloud interconnectivity solution that satisfies the high performance, availability and security requirements of today’s CIOs.  With Equinix Programmable Network (EPN) at its core, it provides us with a software-defined, next-generation network management platform. EPN and Cloud Exchange put Equinix, its customers and its partners squarely at the forefront of the cloud industry.

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