Building a Geospatial Information System

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Web Map Showing Chicago Neighborhood Crime Trends and Statistics

In this post I provide a behind the scenes look and quick explanation of how I prepared and mapped Chicago crime data using a Content Management System (CMS) specially designed for GIS data. The system allows you to create, manage, collaborate and share your maps, apps and data with groups you setup or via social media. The hallmark of any CMS is access control, the ability to create user roles, set permissions, and enable better use of resources by making content available to those who need them most. I attempt to demonstrate these concepts in this short blog. At the end of the blog, there is a link to the crime web map where you can access and use the resources through the CMS where you can then modify the map for your own purposes.

Web Map Showing Chicago Neighborhood Crime Trends and Statistics

I created this map several years ago as one of three submissions to a technology contest called ‘Apps for Metro Chicago’ (#A4MC on Twitter), no I didn’t take any of the prize money but I learned a lot and had some fun participating in the contest. The web map is built with ESRI’s ArcGIS cloud-based technology. The crime data is from the Chicago Police Department’s crime data API, which is downloadable from the City of Chicago’s open data portal. There are approximately 5 million records represented on this map.

Data Preparation

Before I was able to create the web map, I had to prepare the data for mapping at the neighborhood level. I used professional GIS desktop software to do this, figure 1. This phase took about a month. I started with an Excel spreadsheet, performed many spatial overlay queries on the data to allocate each crime record to its corresponding Chicago Neighborhood.

Geospatial Information System

Further data analysis created new fields to store the neighborhood crime totals by type of crime. These fields were used for displaying the totals on the web map’s pie chart in figure 2.

Map Design

The next phase was linking the data to and designing the web map, figure 2. The web map is highly interactive, using popup window graphs to show crime trend data over a ten year period in popup window 1, and a click-able pie chart showing the total number of crimes by type in each neighborhood in popup window 2 (hint: look for the small left/right facing arrows). The map itself is designed as a choropleth thematic map that color codes polygons to convey information about the area, neighborhoods in this case (a thematic map is a type of map especially designed to show a particular theme connected with a specific geographic area). The map’s numeric values representing the total number of crimes in a neighborhood consist of four value intervals displayed on the map in varying shades of blue.

Demo Map

Geospatial Information System

Now try out the map for yourself. Follow the link below and then the instructions to open the CMS’s built-in map viewer. After the map opens, you’ll be able to use the map as is, or modify it, creating your own mashup by adding data and maps shared by others. Look for the ‘Modify Map’ link in the upper right-hand corner. Start by changing the basemap choosing one of the included aerial/satellite imagery backgrounds, topographic or street maps. The topographic basemap includes authoritative content provided by a global online community. Next, you can add additional data by searching for and adding new data layers (for example Census demographic data, business locations, crime indexes, etc.) to the map. You can even add your own data from an Excel spreadsheet and change map symbols through the built-in map viewer. You can then share your modified version of the map with groups within your organization or using social media. You can even use your new version of the map embedded in your own website or blog. Look for the share link then the Embed in Website link. Here you can configure the settings for your own mapping application as I’ve done, shown below.

View: Web Map Showing Chicago Neighborhood Crime Trends and Statistics
Note: clicking this link will take you away from this website.

Web mapping application

When you’re ready to discuss your project, give us a call!
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Be More Mobile | More Responsive | More Social!

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Today’s Mantra for the Web and Your Business Needs to be Mobile First

Moving forward, your business presence on the Web requires a mobile Web site, optimized for location and social media and powered by a modern Content Management System (CMS). Your customers and clients will want to find and interact with your Web site and with you while on-the-go, this includes sharing their findings with others via. social media. With a modern responsive Web design your one Web site can meet both desktop and mobile needs.

A recent survey by technology research firm “Net Market Share” reports that more than 90 screen resolutions are in use when you count up all the desktop, table, smartphone, and related mobile devices in the world. Depending on your project’s requirements, Responsive Web Design (RWD) would allow you to build one Web site that would look good on all devices.

Read about the RWD concept in this seminal article by the man who coined the term, Ethan Marcotte at the Web site A List Apart.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web design is illustrated in the graphic below. The key to making responsive Web design work is: fluid layouts, flexible images, and media queries. In landscape orientation on an Apple iOS iPad, our Web site looks as it would on any laptop or desktop with the typical horizontal menu system (see red arrow). Switch to portrait orientation on the same Apple iOS iPad and the menu system collapses to better fit the smaller form of the device.

The reconfiguration that took place provides a much improved user interface and a much more pleasant experience for the end-user of the Web site. When the mobile device is a smartphone, a responsive design is even more compelling, integrating seamlessly with the device maker’s unique user interface component.

In this example we see the Apple iOS iPhone’s “Picker” rotary user-interface component to present the menu system to the end-user. What does this do? It presents your business in a more positive light, it shows you care about your Web site’s visitors, and shows that you’re a progressive, tech savvy business.

Content Management System (CMS)

Being mobile and responsive also means that you’ll need to be more active | proactive in the day-to-day operations of your Web site. In order for you to quickly respond to rapidly changing business situations, you need to be in control of your Web site content.

Adhere to these 4 design fundamentals: 1. Simplicity 2. Usability 3. Quick Load 4. Focused Content.

With a CMS you can easily login and manage your content and communicate with your clients and customers through contact forms.

The key to all of this is your CMS infrastructure features Click >>See our list of the features that come with our CMS solutions.

In summary

The desktop version of your Web site needs to reformat for mobile devices;
You need a modern CMS to manage the backend; this will liberate you from unnecessary technical support;
Your social media activities need to drive traffic to your Web site as social media signals play a more important role for search results;
Where to start? Use a responsive theme for a Drupal CMS; and
Adhere to these 4 design fundamentals: 1. Simplicity 2. Usability 3. Quick Load 4. Focused Content.
We can build your CMS for mobile, and optimized for social media.

Call for a free estimate when you’re ready.
Ross Capaccio
+1 (847) 635-4752

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Why Use a Content Management System (CMS)?

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Reasons for using a Content Management System

content management systemsToday’s design trend is to give organizations more, if not total, control over the day-to-day operations of their Web site once it has gone live.

Today’s design trend is to give organizations more, if not total, control over the day-to-day operations of their Web site once it has gone live. The demand for Web sites with more dynamic features has grown rapidly. Equally demanding is the requirement that these same dynamic Web sites perform well on all mobile devices. Our WordPress or WordPress or Drupal CMS solutions provide mobile support – iPhone, iPad, Android devices etc (responsive design).

Mobile eCommerce is also supported using responsive design methods, so your online store will display and work across mobile channels.
 
After going live with your new WordPress or Drupal Web site, you will have access to:

• User-Friendly Editing. No need to learn HTML or submit a change request to your IT department. If you can use a simple WYSIWYG editor, you’ll be able to use our WordPress or Drupal solution;

• Database-Driven Web Content. All of your web content will reside within the safe confines of an database. Menu hierarchies, category definitions, SEO assets and web content all reside within a database, neatly organized and ready for use by your site visitors;

• Advanced Design Control. Want to add a new menu item to a pull-down menu? Want to switch the order of the categories on your top navigation? With our WordPress or Drupal solution, it’s a snap — just a few mouse clicks and you’re done;

• SEO Intelligence. We will built your WordPress or Drupal solution in a way that helps you to search engine optimize your site. Very few content management systems have been developed with such an SEO-centric design;

• Advanced WebForm Creation. It’s easy to create and maintain user input forms. Use our WordPress or Drupal solution to select any information you want to collect from your Web site users; for example: name, email address, phone number and organization. Content managers can easily create web forms without coding;

• Automated Email Response. Immediately after your visitors fills out a form, a completely customizable and personalized email can be sent from your Web site to them. Use our WordPress or Drupal solution to easily create and configure the email response message. Your Web site management team can also immediately receive notification for quick follow-up;

• Easy File Management. Add/edit PDFs, images, videos and other rich content to your Web site with ease. No more asking IT to FTP your files to the Web site. Use our WordPress or Drupal solution to securely upload directly from your web browser;

• Data-Powered SEO. Interested in content that is SEO-optimized for every page on your site? Need a SEO-friendly page of content for every product offered? Our WordPress or Drupal solutions for Web site content allows you to intelligently generate this content with minimal effort, leveraging great content writing and great database-powered technology to efficiently create high-quality web content;

• Analytics and Conversion Tracking. We know that your Web site is all about getting results. With our WordPress or Drupal solution, you’ll be using analytics features for tracking users as they go through your site. Built-in features help you benchmark and improve conversion rates for key Web site goals.

Call for a free estimate when you’re ready.
Ross Capaccio
+1 (847) 635-4752

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After You Build an APP, the Real Work Starts

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Marketing your APP

Marketing your Apps – Getting an app into the marketplace is a tough task. The whole process of building and submitting to Apple takes a long time.

Apps submitted to Apple are rejected for all sorts of reasons, not always technical. My Garden Journal App was rejected just once because of the graphics used that show up in the Apple App Store where you purchase the app.

After your app finally makes it into the app store, it’s only natural that you want to see your first downloads, validation for all your hard work and bragging rights, telling all your friends that you made your first sale of your $1.99 app (which Apple takes 30%) and that now you can kickback and watch your dashboard as the $$ roll in-NOT SO!

Marketing, yes, marketing the age old art of advertising and salesmanship. Guess what, people are cheap, won’t even spend a $1.99 for for a complex piece of software that they know they need. So what do you do? Work as as hard marketing the app. Since the launch of the Garden Journal app, I’ve spent hundreds of hours on social media building a community, ad campaigns and direct marketing. Don’t get me wrong, the time was necessary and well spent. I’m just saying anticipate spending a lot of time and money on an app project. After my first two weeks of setting up social media accounts and experimenting with the various best practice marketing techniques, I can only say that Internet marketing is amazing. At no cost to me I ‘m now communicating directly with serious gardening/landscape design types all over the World, it’s actually very cool.

Even if you don’t sell your app at first, what I’ve found is that people all over the World are basically the same, friendly and love to give feedback, which is fine because the first step in the marketing process is building awareness for your product. Casual conversation on social media is need to build a community for your app. Twitter has been an invaluable tool for building a community around the app. The next most valuable digital ad platform has been YouTube; I once read that if you can’t draw a crowd with a 30 second spot ad on YouTube, you need to re-thing your app.

Taking this advice to heart, I produced a 30 second spot ad (actually 29 seconds) and created a YouTube channel for the app. At first I used Google AdWords to create an ad campaign with the objective to have people click a link to watch the YouTube video. At the same time I joined the Google Partners program in order to monetize my videos. This arrangement places ads in my video. The length of the video is important. Using YouTube analytics I discovered that people are watching the full 30 second ad, but the average watch time on a (similar) one minute app features video falls off quickly. Lesson learned: there’s a delicate balance between marketing and closing the deal.

Internet Marketing

In Internet marketing there’s something called the conversion funnel that is split into four steps:

Awareness,
Interest,
Desire, and
Action
Each step requires that your conversion objectives will differ, they have to, you’re trying to navigate a completely different set of emotions at each step. If you ever do an app project you’ll soon learn that each of the social media platforms has its own particular strength corresponding to the 4 stages of the conversion funnel. I’m aggressively using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and to a lesser degree Instagram and Pinterest. And yes, you have to have a Web presence for marketing the app. I’m using WordPress. Here is a mind map with the details.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

(847) 635-4752

Ross

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Google XML Sitemap

Speaking the Language of Search Engines

sitemapThis plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently.

The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content.

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Improve your Website’s Search Ranking using Social Media

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Very Important for Search Engine Results Page Rankings

Channel Art WorkYour Web site will rank high in search results if two conditions are met: 1) the content in the body of your Web page is relevant to the search query, and 2) 
you have quality links pointing to your Web site.
 
Before social media, third party links from relevant sites “a vote for your content” were the basis of Google’s PageRank system. Today, social media plays a much larger role; a link to your Web site’s blog, for example, from a Tweet, influences search results in the same way as the third party link of yesteryear. In addition, the author’s influence makes the link that much more powerful.

Google and Bing have successfully implemented social media and user engagement signals (Google is calling then signals) into Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Social media signals have all but replaced the external link (source of much spam) as one of the most important factors for better Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) rankings.

Search engines are continually improving search relevance and presentation. Bing’s relationship with Facebook allows Bing SERPS to include user behavior. Google doesn’t have the same relationship, but they do own their own social network, Google Plus, with their +1 button that similarly factors in recommendations from your social connections into your search results.

Twitter, as already mentioned, promotes the concept of author importance or authority. With regard to a Tweet, popular Twitter accounts, as you might expect, those with thousands of followers, but in turn, follow few others, score higher as authoritative authors. So, if you were to get one of these star powered tweeters to include a mention (with a link) to your blog, well then, you can imagine what this would do for your website’s search ranking. Hint: the day of the mention you would see a spike in Google Analytics’ “Audience Overview” tab.

So, in summary, here are four important social media signals to use for better SEO.
1. Links in Tweets (the author’s authority is also a factor)
2. Links on public Facebook pages
3. Facebook “Shares” and “Likes”
4. Links shared in Google+

We can build your CMS for mobile, and optimized for social media.

Call for a free estimate when you’re ready.
Ross Capaccio
+1 (847) 635-4752

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Create Channel Artwork using Your Smartphone

Creating Great Channel Art Work

I’ve discovered a new mobile app from Adobe called Spark Post. It allows me to prepare my channel artwork for all my posts and social media platforms, quickly and easily, and I do it all using my mobile device.

 

Artwork Design Tasks

Managing multiple Web properties and social media platforms takes a lot of work, consequently, between writing blogs, preparing graphics, taking photographs, producing videos, and publishing Web content on a fairly regular schedule, I have little time left in the day. So, being more productive is very important to me, therefore, I’m always looking for better ways of doing things; therefore, when I find a new productivity tool that really helps I’m eager to try it.

New App from Adobe

Artwork for post. This image was formatted (sized) to fit into a Tweet.

This image was created and formatted for Twitter using Adobe Post.

I’ve discovered a new app from Adobe called Spark Post. I use this graphic design app exclusively on my iPhone, and I use it a lot. As a result, it allows me to prepare professional looking artwork for every digital channel format I use. Most of all I use it for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, as a result my artwork looks great and I’m more productive.

Feature Rich

Adobe Spark Post provides easy to customize professionally designed templates, most noteworthy, you can start with an existing template or created your own while using your images on your mobile device. .

Here are a few examples from my collection. All the graphics in this post’s slideshow were composed on my iPhone using the Adobe Post iOS app. In my constant pursuit for being more productive using mobile app, I then wrote this blog post using my WordPress Mobile app.

In conclusion, whether you’re sitting in a coffee shop, in your car, or on-the-go, getting your work done is a bit easier when you use some of the great mobile productivity apps out there.

Samples I Created

So, if you want to learn more about the app here is a link to the product page. Adobe Spark Post Web site

Finally, visit my Twitter page to see many examples of my Tweets that include images formatted specifically for Twitter using Adobe Spark Post. @roosdesign

Download and enjoy!
Ross

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Here’s How to Write the Perfect Blog Post

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8 Steps for Writing the Perfect Blog Post

Write the Perfect Blog PostIn this post I will illustrate how to write the perfect blog post. Following the eight (8) goals in this post will get you very close to near perfect search engine optimization (SEO). Read more