Web/Tech Feed

The Benefits of SaaS & PaaS

SaaS is a common acronym for "software as a service", while PaaS is "platform as a service". As new technology comes available so quickly, it should be no surprise that specialized tech companies with expertise in a specific area are able to develop robust, secure, stable offerings that cost less and offer more to their clients.

Companies that have traditionally supported their internal application development using in-house developers, SQL gurus and privately hosted servers are finding that the internal demands on their team often serve as a roadblock to making modern, time-saving, critical business tools available. Alternatively, companies will outsource to a "job shop". Both of these strategies leave an internal code set that must be maintained and starts decaying much faster than it can be reinvigorated.

Clients have frequently asked us to help with a solution that fits into the VDP Web product family when their internal development team had a few weaker members that weren’t performing in a timely manner. Often, in-house staff is simply not experienced enough to architect specialized processes with complex data, rules, and content management requirements.

There are several reasons that you may wish to consider using SaaS or PaaS solutions:

  • Lower cost
  • Richer features
  • 10-20 x faster to "go live"
  • Bypass issues with slow and overwhelmed internal staff
  • Regular upgrades to features and usability
  • Instantly scalable as your needs change

You can expect a better maintained solution with laser focus on key features. This saves tremendous amounts of valuable staff time. It keeps your internal team working to grow your business rather than managing technology to support existing business.

Major VDP Web Upgrades Show Huge Client Benefit

The recent upgrade to our PURL enabled Cross Media Marketing software is helping our reseller clients provide tangible and immediate benefits to their clients.

Rather than splitting our software into two separate platforms as some providers have been forced to do, we’ve been able to keep new innovations under one roof. This means that we don’t have the distraction of supporting and updating separate systems. Likewise, our clients don’t have the headaches of different accounts and pricing models.

We’ve also kept our platform as a true "software as a service," with nothing to install on the desktop. VDP Web works cross-platform with a normal web browser.

In this post, we’ll highlight some of the new features.

A Better White-Label Platform

Our architects have updated the whole system to a modern, clean design that incorporates large, crisp fonts. We’ve eliminated unnecessary content and design elements. The new interface makes a fantastic impression on users and keeps our resellers looking good.

  • Easily upload and white label with your logo
  • Choose a primary and secondary exact color
  • Select between two layout styles
  • Select rounded or square corners
  • Use a vanity domain for client access

View Screenshots of White Labeling

Easy Enterprise Security that You Can Customize

The other guys just don’t have this. Agency and Reseller accounts can choose their default security settings and also choose custom settings for each client. This keeps resellers from frustrating those that don’t need the extra security while accommodating financial, medical and insurance clients with more exacting requirements.

Protect logins from hacking and unauthorized access:

  • Can use traditional, no-hassle email/password login access
  • Optionally activate email confirmations for logins from unknown locations
  • Optionally protect accounts by restricting login access to known company locations
  • White list IP addresses for instant access
  • Dual authentication

Automatic security notifications:

  • Branded, white-labeled and professional security notifications
  • Automatically notify users when an incorrect password is entered
  • Automatically protect accounts after 5 failed login attempts
  • Notify users when a password, security question or account information is changed

Granular control on individual user permissions:

  • Control system access to creative, data and reporting
  • Limit specific users to reporting relevant to their role
  • Limit sales reps to data only from their region
  • Allow managers overview access to see all data and reports

Format PURLs Your Way

Our competitors squawk about whether PURLs with the personalized part in front of the domain name is better than PURLs that come after the domain name. We don’t make you choose. VDP Web let’s you do your PURLs either way. In fact, you can always access a PURL using either method as long as your domain is correctly configured!

Powerful New Content Management Tools

VDP Web is the only system on the market that allows you, the client, to develop and drop in your own custom web and email templates in minutes using standard HTML and CSS.

Three great ways to work with our variable data enabled content:

  • Custom web templates
  • Content Wizards
  • HTML pages

New Web Templates

The power of being able to create web templates that are available to every client account under an agency or reseller cannot be overstated. It allows for tremendous speed and cost reductions in setting up custom designs and launching new clients.

We estimate that this new functionality will cut production costs for our clients by up to 70%.

  • Create your own re-usable templates in minutes with standard HTML and CSS
  • Perfect for franchise marketing
  • Lock down disclaimers, legal language and control assets
  • Keep designs fresh and modern across all accounts by making updates in just one location without overwriting customizations that your clients have made
  • Make your own designs or choose designs from our well-stocked library
    • Responsive designs
    • HTML5 and CSS3 based designs
    • Traditional old school HTML designs

Unlike with other systems, you can allow your clients to unlock templates for full access. You are never "stuck" in a template! This makes the creative like a fully customizable springboard for quickly launching complex sites across hundreds of accounts.

Every agency or reseller account can create templates that are automatically available to all of their clients. Any changes to the template immediately update the design throughout the system, no matter how many client accounts are using it.

Even our Basic accounts have full access to our new web templates!

Rapidly Deploy Complex Content with Content Wizards

We still offer our Content Wizard tool to rapidly deploy sets of complex content with multiple pages, surveys, opt-in forms, images and CSS. The variable sections that require customization appear on the screen for quick editing that can be done by a non-technical user. Click the build button and a multi-page, full featured website with all of the appropriate cross-linking is deployed in seconds.

Always Open, Full HTML and CSS Access

Our founding premise has always been that normal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript should work perfectly in our system. And it does.

Both Content Wizards and Web Templates can be unlocked for full access editing if desired. Choosing from our great library of templates will never hold you back from customizing the design. Simply unlock the template and you have full access to the HTML and CSS.

Enhanced Image & Asset Management

Quickly upload images, CSS, JavaScript and other assets from your desktop editing environment. Edit files online. Upload files from directly inside the HTML editor. Choose between our traditional HTML editor or our new HTML5 oriented editor, or if you’re a hard core coder, turn off the HTML editors and work directly with code. It’s all become so much easier and faster.

Streamlined, Simpler Navigation

We’ve worked hard to cut back on the number of buttons on the page! The new interface separates less used commands to the footer menu, leaving the primary areas as the main focus.

You won’t need any “university” or group message board to figure out our software. No 3-day training or special employees that have been trained in the system.

VDP Web can be figured out in minutes. Our video tutorials are extremely detailed along with simple and clear online documentation. Our phone-based support is immediate and you’ll know the person who answers the phone.

Try VDP Web Anytime

If you’re looking for a better provider, come and see what we have to offer. We’ve always had clear, transparent pricing posted online at www.vdpweb.com/pricing with a no-risk 14 day free trial.

If you’re already offering PURLs and cross media services or if you’re looking to start, we invite you to speak with us!

  • No license fees
  • Month-to-month
  • No long term commitments
  • Transparent pricing
  • Cancel anytime
  • The best support in the industry

Buzz versus Performance in Marketing and Sales

I was at the mall last night and took a walk down the concourse, takin note of the advertising and traffic in the mall.  Some stores were packed, some were empty. Apple has ads everywhere.

The launch of the iPhone 5 sold a significant number of units.  According research by Canaccord Genuity published in Fortune, the Apple’s 5s model was the best seller at all major US Carriers.  The Galaxy S4 was in second place.  Now take a look at pictures from an upscale suburban mall taken last night. 

Here's a shot I took of the Microsoft store just last night followed by a shot moments later at the Apple store down the hall


Nothin' but crickets and employees on the xbox


Things are looking great over at Apple!


It has been well documented recently that competitors to Apple, Inc’s  iPhone have been steadily gaining market share despite scenes like this.

The key to understanding this phenomenon is to look beyond appearance.  While on the surface (no pun intended), and from the popular media, everything looks like it’s going great, so how can Apple be in trouble? Products are selling and the stores are busy but the media coverage is coming from the same group evangelists and sales are coming from the same group of people.  Their is a media bias here towards their pet favorite.  Repeat purchases by existing customers make up most of iPhone’s sales and that spells big trouble down the road.

The simple fact of the matter is that smartphones are a global business and Apple is steadily losing market share.  In fact, they lost the lead in smartphone sales way back in 2012.  In the one year period from the second quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2013 they lost more than 4% market share.  In consumer products, drops of less than 1% are causes for panic.  While there has been a slight bump in share for Apple in the immediate past, they are still way behind in recapturing lost ground.   

When looking at the future of your market segment it is critical to look past the hype.  Being a media darling which dominates pop culture and rides a crest of positive free press can’t hurt, but that may not translate into long term business performance.


Why Some State Health Exchanges Failed


With the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges, some states are celebrating huge successes while others completely failed.  We’ll explain why and how to avoid these mistakes when selecting a web development company.

Maryland was at the forefront of implementing the ACA. Gov. O’Malley established six policy workgroups and trained over 5,000 people to help consumers enroll.  Their exchange site failed miserably with fewer than 100 people able to enroll before the site was taken offline.

Kentucky, meanwhile, had a cake with the number 100,000 written on it to celebrate passing that number of people who had prescreened for enrollment by Wednesday.

Colorado’s exchange, where we are located, has had problems with users experiencing outages and downtime, but nothing as severe as Maryland’s flat-faced failure.  Still, it’s hard to imagine why the Colorado exchange’s homepage loads 1.1 MB of files and data!

The federal exchange is being mocked on Redit for its terrible coding and caching, noting that it loads 11 CSS files, 62 JavaScript files and that HTML is inexplicably nested inside of script tags.  None of the code is compressed and none of the files contain expiration headers allowing for local caching to work.

All of these mistakes are amateur issues that a decision maker hiring a firm would never spot without addressing the issues covered in this post.

The Challenge of Selecting a Competent Tech Company

The recent launch of the federal and state exchanges has provided a phenomenal case study about the difficulty in selecting a truly competent web development firm.

Organizations looking to develop excellent web applications will benefit from understanding a few important concepts when vetting a development firm.

First, I’ll highlight three key points about web applications that are often overlooked.  Then I’ll go into some recommendations about how you can address these points to ensure a better outcome.

Key Items for Application Development

  1. The visual appearance of a web page tells you nothing about how well the page is coded.  Two pages could look identical to the human eye on screen, but one may be far lower quality.  This can affect the expense of upgrading content and appearance in future versions, cross browser support issues, and most importantly performance and organic search.
  2. Examining the front-end code of a web application tells you nothing about how the backend software will perform under stress that comes with high volume use.
  3. Examining the back-end performance of a web application tells you nothing about how easy or difficult it will be to maintain and upgrade in the future.

Looking Beyond Basic Vetting

Every website project decision maker looks at basic qualifiers for a development vendor.  The firm must be capable of designing an attractive, clean and functional website that looks professional and is easy to use.  Then there is the importance of an established track record of successfully completing projects on time and on budget.

Once these two basic requirements are met, decision makers often start looking at the proposal costs.  This is a huge mistake.  Here’s why: An initial proposal from multiple firms is almost never apples to apples.  There is no real map or formalized architecture at the time of an initial proposal. 

Proposals often estimate radically different levels of application performance or features.

To use a car analogy, many firms attract business by quoting the site like they are building a Nissan Versa sedan, which costs under $13,000.  The problem is that almost no one buys the cheapest cars.  They simply don’t do what is needed.  What’s more, web applications generate the big costs down the line in maintenance and future development.

What is the answer to this dilemma then?  Never select a firm based on costs and content of an initial proposal.  Instead, vet the firm based on communication skills, level of service and responsiveness, ability to deliver on time and on budget, a proper hourly billing rate, and most importantly a complete knowledge set about front end design (UI/UX) as well as back end engineering (code, databases and business intelligence).

Beyond the Basics: Addressing the Three Key Points

Ask your development firm about all of these issues during the vetting process.  If their people can speak clearly, knowledgably and succinctly about these points, that is a good clue as to their skill and value.  If they stumble and don’t provide specific examples of how they have worked with and addressed these types of challenges in past projects, it is a big red flag. 

Point 1: Go Beyond the Visual Appearance

  • Review the page to make sure that there are no <table> elements used unless the design actually calls for a data table (i.e. for pricing or product information).
  • How many kilobytes are loading in the page code?  Is the design overly complex with too many elements or is the source code clean, consistent and easy to read?
  • How many elements are loading on the page?  Are there too many style sheets?  Too many JavaScript files? Are the images optimized for web performance?
  • Does the site use the most modern standards from HTML5 and CSS3?  It should!  But it should also still look good on older browsers too.
  • Google, Bing and other search engines will read the code.  More modern, well-designed, cleaner code will perform better for organic search rankings.
  • Poorly architected code will be hard to maintain and update.  It is difficult for a content manager to work with.  Poorly architected code also makes it hard for universal CSS changes that keep the site looking fresh and modern.

Point 2: Stress Test a Serious Site & Be Ready to Scale Up

If designing a small business “mom and pop” application, stress testing doesn’t matter.  But if you are designing a shopping cart that will end up with high volume in the future or high stress periods such as during sales or holiday shopping periods, stress testing is critical during development before the big launch.

  • What is the strategy for stress testing the site and discovering bottlenecks before “go live”?
  • Is the firm going to use third party software to simulate a range of expected traffic?
  • Will the load testing account for hacker attacks such as DDOS attacks (distributes denial of service attacks)?
  • What is the strategy for adding more support as volume increases?
  • What will the costs be to expand capacity?
  • How rapidly can these resources be added?
  • Can the resources be reduced during slow periods and increased elastically during high volume periods to save costs?

Point 3: How Architecturally Sound Is Your App?

Ask the question: If and when changes and upgrades are needed, how easy will it be to implement them?  A well-architected application is modular so that different components can be upgraded without impacting other areas.  A poorly architected application has code that is deeply entwined and makes it difficult to change.

  • Determine how the firm will trap, record and report on exceptions and errors.
  • Ask how the various elements of the application will be separated to ensure that other developers can work independently on different areas.
  • Will the firm use interface based design practices?
  • Will late model binding and inversion of control (IOC) methods be employed so that business logic and data management components can be re-optimized or redeveloped later to upgrade or enhance performance and capacity?
  • Most importantly, does the firm know these terms and understand why or why not to implement these development patterns for a specific project?

Easy to avoid email blunder

The following email arrived in my inbox today and reminds me of the juicy goofs that Heidi Tolliver-Negro frequently uncovers.


Lessons Learned:

  1. Proof on a small mail list before you send and have someone else check it over.  It’s too easy to miss details as the brain often sees what it expects to see, not what is actually there
  2. Use an email client like VDP Web® that allows you to preview your contents as it will go out, so that errors like this one in the merge field are glaringly obvious

On an editorial note, it still amazes me how many firms send spam.  Even if they are not based in the United States and are not subject to the CAN  SPAM Act of 2003, American marketers will get annoyed if you ignore these rules, and that can’t be good for business.


1. The Apple App Store now has over 650,000 apps and the Google Play Store has over 600,000 apps

2. IOS users have downloaded over 30 billion apps from the Apple App Store

3. iPhone Developers have received over $5 billion since the launch of the App Store

4. The average IOS developer makes $7,629 per app

5. Mobile app revenue amounted to $8.5 billion in 2011

6. From 2010 to 2011, mobile app use nearly doubled

7. The most common type of mobile apps used are email apps

8. 25% of mobile web users access the internet daily from their mobile phones

9. 79% of the time spent using mobile apps is spent using social media and gaming apps

10. From 2010 to 2011, the number of mobile retail apps increased by 350%

11. In 2011, the average number of apps installed on each smartphone was about 32. In 2012, that number has grown to 41

Iphone-apps-1Graphic from MichaelHyatt.com

New HTML Videos from VDP Web for Cross Media and Mobile

Join John Fager, the tech guru at VDP Web, for a high level, succinct and invaluable look at how to stay out of trouble with web and email for those of us who aren't technology geeks.  This seminar will give even non-technical attendees the confidence to work with cross media campaigns and get the basics on pricing, scope, hours required and common pitfalls.

Link shot

James Michelson on PIASC Choose Print Video Segment

JFM Concepts, the maker of VDP Web, is proud to announce that James Michelson has been featured in a video interview during the PODI AppForum by ChoosePrint.org a project of the Printing Industries Association, Inc. of Southern California (PIASC).   The featured segment is entitled “Print is…A Team Player” and can be seen in its entirety here.


More information of the topic can be found in James’s book, Cross Media Marketing 101: The concise guide to surviving in the C-suite published this year by Schooner Press. It is available online at amazon.com and other retailers or at https://www.createspace.com/3537914.

JFM Concepts is a full service cross media marketing technology firm featuring the VDP Complete® marketing system and VDP Web® Online software as a service. JFM specializes in creating variable data cross media marketing technologies with Personalized URLs, Email, SMS Text, QR Codes, Phone Tracking, Video, QR Codes, and more for commercial printers, agencies, and marketing departments of all sizes. The firm knows that technology development and marketing should come together to document both improved response rates and improved return on investment (ROI).

2012 Cross Media Marketing Webinar Series

Join JFM Concepts and VDP Web for the 2012 Webinar Series "Tools for Successful Cross Media Marketing."

In its 5th year, the popular JFM Cross Media Marketing Webinar Series is the industry standard in bleeding edge information and business strategies that can be practically implemented to show immediate results for service providers and practitioners. Discover the best professional training available anywhere, for free, all with no travel required. Register here.


2012 Cross Media Marketing Outlook

Join James Michelson and John Fager of JFM Concepts on this comprehensive analysis of the 2012 Cross Media Marketing Outlook for both marketing service providers and internal marketers. Discover lessons learned in 2011, the trends for the upcoming year, and benchmarks you can use to develop your own strategies for 2012.

January 17, 2012 1:00 Eastern & January 19, 2012 4:00 Eastern

Cross Media Marketing 101 for 2012

Learn the ropes of cross media with this informative webinar that details what cross media marketing is and ways you can enhance current efforts without breaking the bank.

March 6, 2012 1:00 Eastern & March 8, 2012 4:00 Eastern

How To Bid Cross Media & Effective Sales Strategies

Join James Michelson, Principal of VDP Web to discuss effective pricing strategies for cross media. Learn how to up-charge and price jobs without the dreaded "scope creep" and maintain a positive cash flow while showing value to your clients.

May 8, 2012 4:00 Eastern & May 10, 2012 1:00 Eastern

More Effective Self Promo's

Our valued clients have had great success with creating self-promos and marketing cross media services. Check out the do's and dont's with James and learn why self-promotion is the way into your client's budgets.

July 17, 2012 1:00 Eastern & July 19, 2012 4:00 Eastern

Cross Media Holiday Marketing 2012

Now is the time to think seriously about holiday marketing! Join JFM Concepts to discover how holiday cross media marketing can provide sales leads and good will even without an offer or sales call to action. Learn how cross channel communications with mail, email, social media, and landing pages can turn an expense into a revenue generating activity. Your customers, clients, and prospects will love it!

October 2, 2012 1:00 Eastern & October 9, 2012 1:00 Eastern

2013 Cross Media Marketing Outlook

Join James Michelson and John Fager of JFM Concepts on this comprehensive analysis of the 2013 Cross Media Marketing Outlook for both marketing service providers and internal marketers. Discover lessons learned in 2012, the trends for the upcoming year, and benchmarks you can use to develop your own strategies for 2013.

December 18, 2012 1:00 Eastern & January 8, 2013 4:00 Eastern & January 10, 2013 1:00 Eastern

Register here.