7 essential planning tips when developing your application on Facebook Platform

Once you have come up with a great idea for a Facebook application, seeing an idea all the way through its implementation can be a tricky business. Once you’ve figured out how the application is supposed to work, your design of the implementation – the strategy of how you will code up your app – is crucial to the success of your initial version.

When targeting the Facebook platform, it’s essential we consider the following seven items before we even begin to start coding:

  1. Access control integration
  2. Life cycle callbacks
  3. Friend tracking
  4. Notification map
  5. Invite/request positioning
  6. Advert usage/placement
  7. Your main logic!

To guarantee your app’s successful development, read on for tips and tricks about all of the above.
Continue reading

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Be strict with your FBML for Facebook notifications

UPDATE: Facebook have completely discontinued support for notifications.

The Facebook platform can be a very restrictive mistress at times.

The documentation for sending notifications states:

“The notification parameter is a very stripped-down set of FBML which allows only tags that result in just text and links.”

But they’re lying – it’s even more restrictive than that. At the time of writing, enclosing any text in <strong> tags will cause it to disappear from the notification! It’s unclear why developers are restricted from emaphisizing the important text in a notification. I mistakenly assumed basic stylings would be possible.

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A cross-browser Windows Media Player component for ASP.NET 2.0

ASP.NET 2.0 is a very powerful, extensible web framework. Its component model allows for very efficient re-use of code and user interface designs.

As Microsoft created the entire framework, you might reasonably expect the default ‘Toolbox’ to offer you a wide range of components to integrate with other Microsoft technologies. Technologies such as Windows Media Player, MSN Messenger, Movie Maker or other client-side applications. Alas, this is not the case. Continue reading

Posted in Dot net | 2 Comments

Create an SEO-friendly website and be up and running in minutes

When you haven’t got any money and you need a website that will look nice and professional, my advice would be to head over to wordpress.com. As well as being really easy to update (even for non-technical users), they offer all sorts of nice features for creating web pages and news/blog posts. The bonus is that they have stats tracking built right in, so you can how popular your site is (or isn’t!) getting. Their site is built on the same engine that this website uses, and you can sign up with them for free.

Just what every bootstrapper needs.

Once you’ve built your site using their tools, it’s only a few dollars to ensure it appears whenever you visit your company’s main website address.

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How to build a web start-up

Ryan Carson just posted a link to a short video he’s made listing some top money-saving tips for starting up a web company. He also talks through a useful spreadsheet that helps you plan your cash flow for the first year.  Check it out.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Coping with all VAT tax

Tax is a slightly scary area. I’ve been reading a lot about VAT lately, primarily to make sure I’m fully compliant with all UK laws in the matter, but also to determine how to maximize my income.

As of April 2008, you don’t need to charge VAT until your company has brought in £67,000 of revenue in a year. (Note: you can check the latest figures from the relevant page on the HM Revenue & Customs site).

Once you have registered for VAT, the procedure is fairly simple – you add VAT to any invoices you send people, (eg. you add 17.5% to a bill for IT support services). Once people pay you the VAT, you keep it in a separate account from the main revenue you’re earning.

You also need to keep a log of anything you buy on behalf of the company that has a VAT charge (most equipment).

When the time comes to hand over the VAT to the tax office, you simply take the money you have saved in your special VAT account, subtract the amount of VAT you have paid on purchases, and send the remainder to your tax office. If you’ve actually spent more than you’ve collected then you can claim it back from the tax man.

You are allowed to register for VAT before your income exceeds a threshold £67,000, but until you’re about to reach that threshold, it’s optional. You might like to register if you know you’re going to be buying a lot of essential equipment for your business and want to claim back the VAT.

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Setting up a limited company with nothing but 20 quid, some ideas and an Internet connection

This article is all about how to set up an official private limited company, but to write about that subject requires me to make some assumptions. Without any, I’d have to write an entire book. So here are my assumptions – if more than a couple of these hold true, read on:

  1. You’ve got a ton of ideas and are struggling to find time to work on any of them
  2. You’ve hardly got any money to use to seed a company
  3. You want to build a company, a brand and/or something you can point to and call your own
  4. You live in the UK

The last one doesn’t preclude you from enjoying this article, but I’m going to focus on the specifics of starting up in the UK, because that’s where my experience lies. The bootstrapping blog has a guide for any Americans reading. Continue reading

Posted in HOW-TOs, Starting up | 4 Comments

Waiting for god

One of the constants of (UK) business seems to be late payment. I’ve seen many articles written about this, and it’s an unfortunate situation. But the reality is that when you send someone an invoice, the chances are that you’re not going to see the money for well over a month for the following reasons:

  1. You have to give a “reasonable” payment period on the invoice, which can be anything from 14 to 60 days. (30 days is fairly typical)
  2. Clients will often count the date of the invoice from when they receive it, not when it’s dated
  3. They have to send you a payment, and they will use 2nd class mail
  4. It’s likely the payment will take at least 3 days to clear

All in all, it’s a difficult situation when you’re on a tight cash-flow.

And people pay late.

So is there anything you can do about this situation, or do you just have to starve for your first two months of business? Well, if you’re bootstrapping your business it’s less of a worry, but in high-level terms, you have two choices:

  1. Join the culture – make sure you pay the bills that you receive on the last possible day and earn the extra few pounds/pence from the interest of having the balance in your account
  2. Fight the lack of good manners – pay your bills in a reasonable time, (eg. in the middle of the period) and politely demand that your clients do the same

I pass no judgement on either. Whichever is right/best is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Time is (always) running out

There’s a great new article over on the bootstrapping blog all about the benefits of being short of time. Over the years, I’ve seen lots of projects expand to the time available – they end up taking months when they could (and should) have been completed by the right staff in just a couple of weeks.

The causes of this waste are rarely intentional. However, while every medium or large company has its share of slackers, it’s often the split of job roles that leads to the biggest problems with efficiency. Although everyone often appears to want a project to succeed and to be seen to be helping things along as much as possible, if there are too many cooks, the broth will always come out spoilt.

Take a web design project, for example. In a small or medium sized company, your classic structure would require the following “resources”:

  1. A project manager
  2. One or two designers (depending upon the scale of the project)
  3. An HTML guy
  4. One or two back-end developers
  5. One or two systems guys responsible for server support once the project is live.
  6. One or two customer services staff to field calls from site users

This can easily be reduced to two people. A personable, business-savvy developer can talk to the client (or the rest of the business) and still keep on top of a project. An mature developer should also have experience with deploying real sites into production environments, so he’ll know how to cope with server load and scalability. Support calls should be minimal and best handled by the person who knows the system from inside to out. (And if support becomes a big drain on time, the developer can probably set up a system to help customers to help each other, such as Satisfaction).

Combine that with a personable designer who actually knows and cares about the web, and you’ve got yourself an unstoppable two-man team! The bonus is that if your team needs to go to a meeting, it’ll be highly technical and highly creative.

It’s still all about your employees

It’s not easy to find the right kind of employees who can cope with the challenges of an entrepreneurial environment. However, without the right people, and the right environment for them to work in, it’s impossible to produce anything efficiently.

Never make a project manager your first hire unless you have a huge client that will need nursing through every poor decision. If you can build a team of people who have solid skills, can manage their own time and have a passion for what you’re trying to achieve, being short of time becomes a blessing in disguise.

The sales bit: you could always contract such web work out, by checking out our products or getting in touch.

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Small is beautiful

When they talk about small companies, people often seem to get very scared about “looking like an amateur” and treat it as a big bad bogey man who must be appeased at all cost. Granted, everyone wants to look professional, no one wants to appear incompetent, least of all to their prospective clients or customers. But most of the time, these people are not really concerned with the professionality of a company at all, they’re scared to death that someone might see the human side of your business.

This fear of the human touch is endemic, from the roots of government right to the franchised shops and banks on the high street. Behind the scenes, call centres generate a total lack of personality – even when an operator gives their first name, who ever rings up later in the week and actually asks to speak to them?

In some instances the Internet can make things worse. Automated ticketing systems for technical support are meant to improve accountability, but the reality is that they often give a large support group a wall of anonymity to hide behind. In some organizations, a single ticket is picked up by several different staff member and any notion of being helped by a real person vanishes. Unless rapid resolution occurs, customers can easily be left feeling frustrated and under valued. The workers in this process are also left feeling uninspired because they do not get to build any kind of relationship with the customers.

Employees count

When your company is small, the people in it are what count. In the early months of a business, they may be the only thing that differentiates your company. They all need to be able to talk to your customers, and your customers need some visibility on who does what.

My message: be bold and show that you’re a person. We’re all people, so when friends and family warn you about being too personal, be kind but firm with them. Before hiring your first employee, you’re all you have – say NO to becoming a faceless corporation!

I hope the mere existence of this blog reveals something about my own personality, but as the site grows in the coming weeks, I’ll be adding more information about my background, (including why I think I’m qualified to do what I’m doing).

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