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Is Test Automation Cheating? Image 1 by Michael Bendit

Is Test Automation Cheating?

{2:50 minutes to read} Since this is my third post on the subject, I’ll admit to having an obsession with testing.

I took my last final exam nearly 25 years ago as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) student. Now I wonder if test automation would have made my life as a student less stressful, or would it have been considered cheating?

As far as I know, there isn’t a robot that will take your school exams, but software developers have been writing automated test programs (i.e., “test robots”) for years. These test programs can run those mind-numbingly routine procedures to ensure that the developer’s software is working properly. In fact, some of the most progressive software development teams are actually writing these test programs before coding the software to be tested – an approach referred to as Test-Driven Development (“TDD”), which TypeMock describes rather elegantly on their website.

Test automation is particularly well-suited for validating the proper functionality of large systems with a myriad of usage scenarios.

Is Test Automation Cheating? Image 2 by Michael Bendit

Since each new update to such large systems has the potential for introducing errors (“bugs”) anywhere in the code, the quality assurance team should run through a full battery of tests, using both historical and new test cases, before each software release. This process is known as “regression testing.” Without test automation, regression testing would be almost impossible since it involves such large numbers of test cases, all of which need to be run with every software update.

Although using software programs to automate your software testing is nifty and cutting-edge, it isn’t always appropriate.

There can be a considerable cost involved in designing and programming software tests, which may impact your development budget. If your application is relatively small, and can be tested manually, that might be the better approach. Usability testing is also very difficult to automate and is better done with real people who can experience the system as a user would.

If your software project has a big budget line for automated testing, and you aren’t building a large, complex system that is slated for several updates, the automated testing program may be more than you need.

Still not sure if test automation right for your software development project? Contact us to let us help you with that assessment.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Software Testing and Quality Assurance Helps to Avoid Nightmares Image 1 by Michael Bendit

Software Testing and Quality Assurance Helps to Avoid Nightmares

{3:00 minutes to read} Let’s be honest: Software testing is really boring!

At the risk of falling asleep, you might wonder why you should even read this blog post. And while the very thought of testing might make you drowsy, failure to test before launching your new website or mobile application could result in real NIGHTMARES.

If you’re a business person or marketer, you probably won’t have to do the testing yourself, but when the system is ready for “User Acceptance Testing”, both you and your staff should be prepared.

The User Acceptance Test, or “UAT” in technospeak, is your last opportunity to approve your new software.

Before you make the final payment, you should be certain that everything works, as specified, on all of the correct platforms and browsers. Paying the final development bill indicates that you are “accepting” delivery of the software in its final form.

Most reliable software development vendors warranty their software for 30 days after the launch and cover the cost of repairing any programming flaws. However, you could be contractually obligated to pay for any problems that arise, after making the final payment.

Even if you are not personally responsible for assuring the quality of your application, you want to be sure that your software development vendor is testing it thoroughly, both while it is being built and upon completion.

The testing process is complex, but the diagram below provides a pretty good overview of its scope.

 

Software Testing and Quality Assurance Helps to Avoid Nightmares Image 2 by Michael Bendit

The row of boxes in the middle of the diagram identify key artifacts of the testing process, beginning with the project plan, which should allocate ~20% of total resources to testing, and ending with a database of bugs. There should be no unresolved high priority bugs in the bug database when it comes time to launch.

Make sure that the following key documents are in order so your development team knows what they need to both build AND test your software:

Test Plan;

Test Specification; and

Test Cases.

These are all based on the documentation that defines how your system is intended to function —Requirements, Functional Specification and Detailed Designs.

If you are still awake, and even a tad curious about how software testing works, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to walk you through it — over a strong cup of coffee.

How will you avoid unresolved issues and costly fixes BEFORE you launch your new website?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Unfair Bad Rap for Tests Image 1 by Michael Bendit

Unfair Bad Rap for Tests?

{3:00 minutes to read} Tests get a bad rap.

As a diligent student and consummate worrier, the very mention of the word “test” has always brought a cold sweat to my brow. Ironically, I did consulting work for The College Board (also known as the company behind the SAT) later on in my adult life, much to the chagrin of my children. In fact, their antipathy for tests was so great that they jokingly accused their father of working for the devil!

For digital marketers, however, testing is an invaluable tool to dramatically boost ROI.

My most recent article focused on conversion optimization and stressed the importance of honing a website’s landing pages to “convert” carefully targeted visitors into paying customers—something much easier said than done. One solution for bridging that gap lies in A/B testing.

A/B, or “split,” testing pits two versions of the same page against one another in a randomized test to see which has a better chance of achieving a company’s marketing goals. Typical goals include gaining more click-throughs, sign-ups, purchases or downloads.

Unfair Bad Rap for Tests Image 2 by Michael Bendit

Wishpond’s blog on A/B testing has some great, detailed examples of real A/B tests and some success stories that include:

Although A/B testing sounds sophisticated and difficult to implement, there are a number of inexpensive online tools that can help turn a rank novice into an A/B testing pro.

Grace Smith’s January 2015 blog post on Mashable summarizes the capabilities of 10 A/B testing tools ranging in price from FREE to $1,500 per month. It includes A/B testing standard-bearers like Unbounce and VWO. The list also summarizes the capability of some unique tools such as the Five Second Test from UsabilityHub. This test allows marketers to test what users remember from a page after viewing it for only 5 seconds—the same amount of time as the average browser is likely to spend on any given page.

Let us know if A/B testing sounds any more appealing than it did before you read this post. We would be happy to help you turn that spark of enthusiasm into real results.

How can A/B testing improve the effectiveness of your website?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Double Your Gifts with Conversion Optimization by Michael Bendit

Double Your Gifts with Conversion Optimization

{3:10 minutes to read} My girlfriend is half Jewish, half Protestant and raised her kids Catholic. I told her that she should be getting double the number of gifts every holiday season. In other words, she should practice “conversion optimization.”

Digital Conversion Optimization is a gift we can give ourselves, without suffering through a religious conversion.

My last two blog posts focused on techniques for efficiently targeting the right audience and getting people to visit a website. Yet, a digital marketer hasn’t done his job until he is able to convert those visitors into customers, or, at least, prospects.

This is why savvy search specialists, such as NYC SEM, help clients with both search AND conversion optimization. For one client in the pension and personal asset management business, NYC SEM nearly doubled their conversion rate (from 0.6% to 1.1%) through a combination of highly targeted ads and equally compelling landing pages.

The landing page is your company’s first impression for every new online prospect – and the quality of that page may be the most important factor in maximizing your conversion rate.

According to WiderFunnel, a Vancouver-based digital marketing agency, the quality of a landing page can be measured along the following six dimensions which together, provide conversion LIFT:

Double Your Gifts with Conversion Optimization by Michael Bendit

1. Value Proposition: Are you offering something of real, discernable value?

2. Relevance: Is your value proposition particularly relevant to the prospect?

3. Clarity: Is the value proposition easy to understand and is your call to action obvious and simple?

4. Urgency: Does your landing page encourage immediate action?

5. Anxiety (conversion inhibitor): Does your page allay concerns that might scare your prospects away?

6. Distraction (conversion inhibitor): Does your page have too many diversions that could interfere with your conversion objective?

For some great ideas on how to turn your landing page into a conversion machine, take a look at the smartly designed landing pages highlighted in Ginny Sosky’s January 2015 blog post 15 of the Best Landing Page Design Examples You Need to See.

Although well-designed landing pages are more likely to hook your prospect, you still need to reel them in. Depending on your business model, this could mean a direct path to your shopping cart, or months of lead nurturing to convert prospects into customers. I’ll delve into that a little more in my next blog post on marketing automation.

How would you use digital conversion optimization to turn website visitors into valuable customers?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Programmatic Advertising is the New Black Image 1 by Michael Bendit

Programmatic Advertising is the New Black

{2:10 minutes to read} Remember the buzz about “high frequency” trading that was blamed for the sudden stock market plunge known as the 2010 Flash Crash?

Fortunately, the Flash Crash was short-lived, but similar technologies called, “programmatic advertising” are now widely used for maximizing the efficiency of buying and selling digital ad space. If you have not considered using programmatic advertising for your digital ad buys, you may soon be at a disadvantage – choking on the digital dust of your more savvy competitors.

Even small buyers and sellers of digital ads can take advantage of the power of programmatic through relatively simple programs provided by Google, Facebook, and other ad networks. (See my previous blog post on micro-targeting.)

Programmatic Advertising is the New Black Image 2 by Michael Bendit

If you want to play in the big league of digital advertising, you should look into industrial strength systems known as demand-side platforms (DSPs) for buyers, or supply-side platforms (SSPs) for publishers.

According to Forrester Research, the leading DSPs are provided by:

  • AOL;
  • AppNexus;
  • AudienceScience;
  • DataXu;
  • Google;
  • MediaMath;
  • Rocket Fuel;
  • The Trade Desk; and
  • Turn.

 

Ad Ops Insider lists of the top 5 SSP providers as:

  • Admeld (Google);
  • PubMatic;
  • Rubicon Project;
  • OpenX; and
  • Appnexus.

 

If you are wondering how DSPs, SSPs and Data Management Platforms (DMPs) network to enable programmatic advertising, RocketFuel’s colorful PDF download does a good job of explaining the complex interactions.

For additional entertaining animations on programmatic, check out: Viviki’s space age video, or Interactive Advertising Bureau’s more academic video describing the evolution of digital advertising technology leading up to programmatic.

If you’re still confused…

We would be happy to guide you through the vast universe of digital advertising and marketing technology, so don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

How will you embark on your journey into the age of programmatic advertising?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor by Michael Bendit

Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor

{2:50 minutes to read} What caused the 2012 sales explosion at Target?

An angry father storms into his neighborhood Target store outside of Minneapolis brandishing a handful of store advertisements for maternity clothing and baby furniture. He demands to speak to the manager.

“Why is Target sending ads for baby furniture and maternity clothes to my teenage daughter?” he asks.

“Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

Target Like Target Without the Creep Factor by Michael Bendit

As Charles Duhigg recounts in his 2012 New York Times article, the angry father apologized to Target after learning that his daughter was already pregnant. Target had been analyzing her purchases to predict that she would soon be in the market for the advertised products. According to Duhigg, Target’s sales of mother and baby products exploded as a result of this ad campaign.

Target isn’t the only company using reams of purchasing data to “target” consumers who are primed to buy a specific product or service.  

According to Jonathan Silver, CEO of Affinity Solutions, similar techniques are deployed by other organizations. Silver, a purveyor of purchase data analytics services, claims these methods are used by everyone from national retailers to small and mid-sized consumer businesses. Even culture and art institutions are jumping on board the digital micro-targeting bandwagon. For example, some of them are gravitating to a new targeting platform for live entertainment marketing from VRRB Media headed by Michael Hirsch, a veteran of the industry.

So how does a small company get in on the digital micro-targeting action?  

Fortunately, the two 800-pound gorillas in the industry have not forsaken the millions of small businesses which drive a significant portion of their revenue. Google Analytics enables advertisers to target consumers based on five dimensions:

  •    age
  •    gender
  •    lifestyle
  •    purchasing and
  •    interest.

 

Facebook targets audiences based on those same five, plus: 

  •    location
  •    language
  •    Facebook connections and
  •    a broad range of other parameters made available through partner provided data.

 

WARNING – the power of these audience-targeting tools is immense. Improper use could backfire (like it did with Target in its maternity campaign) or cause you to waste a lot of money reaching the wrong audience.

What new methods are you using to reach your target audience?

If you want help getting started with audience micro-targeting, contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Opening the Kimono on Pricing

{3:10 minutes to read} When I was living in Japan in my mid-twenties, I had an Australian friend who supplemented his income with frequent trips smuggling photography equipment to and from Hong Kong. He said it was a great side business, but not for people like me whose visible discomfort with duplicity would reveal all at customs.

I’ve never been a good liar.

Early in my career I thought that bad liars like me could never be successful in marketing or sales. However, it turned out that I was adept at making sales when I believed in the product or service that I was selling – as long as I had nothing to hide.

Opening the Kimono on Pricing by Michael Bendit

Now that I run my own business selling software development services, I have the luxury of choosing the teams I represent and being completely open and honest about their amazing offerings, including how they price their services.

My last blog article focused on the frighteningly large range of quotes that different software vendors might submit a bid for the same project – from the freelancer who low balls the job at $5,000 to the high-cost, premium-brand agency with the $1 million bid.

I also promised to “open the kimono” on how my teams price their services, based on the real economics of the custom software development business.

My teams usually submit fixed-price bids for projects with a well-defined scope.

Our quotes are determined by these four factors: 
  •  Hourly cost of our development resources, which make up 90% of the cost for any professional service business.
  • An estimated number of hours required of each type of resource.
  • The risk associated with underestimating the required hours.
  • Markup required to cover overhead and profit.

 

To compete successfully in the software development business, my teams have to manage all four of these factors:
  • Hiring, training and retaining the most skilled resources for the job from around the world, which is why more than 70% of our work is developed offshore.
  • Using the best methodologies for estimating development, testing and project management hours while continually honing our estimating skills.
  • Mitigating estimation risk by leveraging proven platforms and investing in proofs of concept.
  • Using reasonable and competitive markups to cover the cost of doing business.

 

Ask your software development team how they price their services, and be wary of any team that isn’t willing to open their kimono on pricing.

How does your software development team set their prices?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Scary Quotes for Software Development Projects Lead to Grave Results by Michael Bendit

Scary Quotes for Software Development Projects Lead to Grave Results

{3:10 minutes to read} Fear is in the air: Halloween is rapidly approaching. Although ghoulish rubber masks of Frankenstein or Freddie Krueger are frightening to children, most adults remain unfazed.

Yet, something as mundane as the cost of a software development project can strike terror in the eyes of a buyer, particularly a small business or startup company that isn’t flushed with cash.                                                                 

Recently, we submitted a quote of $40,000 to a client for the development of a fairly complex, online gift registry. Apparently, our bid was somewhere in the middle. The range was frighteningly wide: $5,000 on the low end to just shy of $1 million on the high end.

While I’m sure that the prospective buyer was shocked by that outrageously high bid, he should have been equally wary of the low one.

If you take a look at my LinkedIn profile, you will see that in addition to selling software development services, I do pricing strategy consulting with Abbey Road Associates. In my experience, software development vendors price their services strategically.

The vendor with the $1 million bid is probably a full-service digital marketing agency that already has a well-known brand name as a premium provider, or is trying to establish itself in that niche. It most likely has a large staff in the hub of New York City, with a cost basis much higher than its competition. Its $1 million quote was probably intended to attract high-flying customers who see value in paying a premium associated with the vendor’s brand and “scare away” the value-conscious prospects.

Scary Quotes for Software Development Projects Lead to Grave Results By Michael Bendit

At $5,000, the low-end bidder probably does not fully grasp the complexity of the project. Their entire development team is most likely situated in a low-cost corner of the world. And, assuming they are not totally naïve, I would have to guess that this bidder is “low-balling” to get a foot in the door with a client who might view them as a “low-risk bargain.” Inevitably, the price will rise as the project progresses and the vendor disingenuously claims that the scope of the project is significantly expanding. As the client becomes exasperated with delays and cost overruns, they may decide to start over with a more reliable vendor. When this happens they will realize that their initial choice has cost them both time and money.

Programming Sweatshop (1)

Stay tuned.

In our next post, we’ll open the kimono on how Software Development Resources prices its projects. In the meantime, something to think about: How does the quoted price of a project affect which vendor you select?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

 

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Digital Marketing Beast By Michael Bendit

{3:00 minutes to read} In the 1958 movie, The Blob, an old man wandering through the woods stumbles across an otherworldly, glowing liquid and starts poking at it with a stick. Defying gravity, the blob quickly travels up the stick to the old man’s arm, then completely engulfs and consumes him. The blob continues to grow, and soon begins gobbling up entire towns, ultimately threatening all of humanity. Is Digital, “The Blob” of marketing, consuming everything in its wake?

{3:00 minutes to read} In the 1958 movie, The Blob, an old man wandering through the woods stumbles across an otherworldly, glowing liquid and starts poking at it with a stick. Defying gravity, the blob quickly travels up the stick to the old man’s arm, then completely engulfs and consumes him. The blob continues to grow and soon begins gobbling up entire towns, ultimately threatening all of humanity.

Is Digital, “The Blob” of marketing, consuming everything in its wake?

At roughly 25% of total U.S. ad spending in 2014, it may be too soon to crown digital as the “king of advertising,” particularly since TV and Cinema advertising still control the largest share. However, as shown in the ZenithOptimedia chart, “How advertising spending has changed in America,” digital has accounted for nearly all advertising growth since the 2008 recession.

Although growing rapidly, digital’s share of total advertising spend still lags significantly behind its massive 45% share of time spent on all media, per venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers’ Annual Internet Trends Report (see Slide 15).

But there is more to consider than time allocation – digital offers a huge advantage in terms of highly efficient targeting and measurability.

The Digital Marketing Beast by Michael Bendit

Two of the best examples of the effectiveness of digital marketing targeting are programmatic advertising and pay per click advertising:

 > MDC Advertising, which specializes in programmatic advertising in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, recently ran a campaign for a client that yielded an ROI of 550% while conforming to all of the stringent regulatory guidelines placed on prescription drug advertising.

 > The Times Square franchise Ripley’s Believe It or Not! saw a 35% uplift in sales in 2014 over the prior year as a result of their investment in search engine marketing. With the help of a local Search Engine Marketing Agency, NYC SEM, Ripley’s then used ecommerce analytics to identify the most effective campaigns. They cut their pay per click advertising spending in half while increasing sales another 13% over their 2013 sales.

Stay tuned for our next article, where we’ll dig deeper into how companies make the most out of their digital marketing budgets. Until then, be on the lookout for expanding digital technology and prepare yourself for the invasion.

Where do you see digital marketing taking us in the next five years? Reply in the comment section below or on social media. We look forward to continuing the conversation!

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

 

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New Launch and New Commitments By Michael Bendit

{3:30 minutes to read} Even if the calendar says otherwise, I have always considered September the start of a new year. Maybe it seems like a new year because it is the beginning of the academic year, or maybe because it’s the season of the Jewish New Year. Whatever the reason, September seems like a great month to make commitments and start new projects. And so, with the writing of this article -- I am pleased to announce the launch of our new website and regular newsletter/blog.

{3:30 minutes to read} Even if the calendar says otherwise, I have always considered September the start of a new year. Maybe it seems like a new year because it is the beginning of the academic year, or maybe because it’s the season of the Jewish New Year. Whatever the reason, September seems like a great month to make commitments and start new projects.

And so, with the writing of this article —

I am pleased to announce the launch of our new website and regular newsletter/blog.

  • New website – Our new website brings Software Development Resources up to current design standards with parallax scrolling pages and bigger, more prominent images, while maintaining our focus on providing access to the best software development teams.
  • Newsletter/blog – Our blogs will continue to address important issues and opportunities related to the fast moving world of marketing technology with a bent toward making it more accessible to non-technical marketing and business professionals.

In our blog, we will share current events, trends and news in the marketing technology universe, which, like our physical universe, is huge and expanding at an accelerated pace — we hope to help you keep up with it!

Perhaps the best visual depiction of the size of the current marketing technology landscape is Scott Brinker’s 2015 infographic of the industry’s 1,876 vendors, roughly double the number depicted in his 2014 version.

marketing_technology_jan2015

If you download the 6.5 MB high-resolution PNG of Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape infographic, you can zoom into each of the 43 categories, including those software development platforms and technologies in the bottom two rows where my teams bring deep expertise.

If you spend a little time exploring this graphic, I am sure you will find many vendors that you recognize and probably already use, such as:

  • Google and Amazon.com under “Cloud/IaaS/PaaS”
  • Constant Contact and MailChimp under “Email Marketing”

Kudos to anyone who can spot a mistake, such as: typos, or duplicate logos in the same category – e.g. “Channeltivity” in Channel/Local Marketing. I will compile a list of corrections and send it to Scott.

I hope you will join us as we explore the universe of marketing technology. Until then, I just have to ask…

What new projects are you preparing to launch or what topics do you want to discuss?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

 

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