Business Catalyst Blog

Introducing Business Catalyst Open Platform

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

As we are starting a new year here at Business Catalyst, we are excited to finally be able to share with you one of our biggest development projects. We have heard time and again about your quest to deliver more complex, custom made projects that would perfectly tailor the site to your customers. And most of the times that included not only customizing the front end of your site, but also working on the administration section. 

BC Open Platform at a glance

Our new project called Business Catalyst Open Platform allows you to build custom-tailored Admin experiences for your customers. The new functionality utilizes the idea of apps (or applications) and powerful REST APIs. It is designed to allow you to easily interface with Business Catalyst as a platform, by creating, editing and styling your own menu items using simple JSON configuration files, or connecting with external tools and applications using our APIs. The full Open Platform program will include:

As we move forward we want to open up some of these elements to more developers in a closed beta testing program, so read further to see how you too can be a part of this program. But first, let's take a look at what these new features will help you achieve. 

Build custom functionality in the admin section


Whether we are talking about menu entries in the top ribbon or additional entries in the side menus, you will now be able to control how your customers see and interact with the Business Catalyst admin area, which is where most business owners spend their day. 

For example, you can add your own homepage slider, where the owner of the site can easily upload images or choose them from the existing library, manage all slides in a single dashboard or even create a video slider with clips integrated from Youtube or Vimeo.

This application will  help you by saving development time and giving your end customer a better experience by allowing them to quickly edit their own site in the admin without having to call the partner for future updates.

By creating your own application you will be able to deliver completely custom interfaces, fully adapted to the needs of your customers. These new menu entries can link to outside content or newly coded applications designed specifically for your customers. 

Using the new APIs and having the ability to customize your menu entries will allow you to extend the admin section of BC by building your own tools and applications. 

Package the apps and sell them on the marketplace

Once you decide that you want to monetize your work beyond a single site, you can package your applications and sell them on the BC App Store (managed by BC Gurus), generating revenue from other partners who want to optimize their work by including your application in their sites. 

Over the past few months we have tested these workflows with a handful of dedicated partners which we would like to thank for their efforts. In the App Store you can see some of the applications they already created. Take a moment to review them and see how your sites could benefit from using one of them. They cover a variety of uses such as:

  • Web App Autoloader
  • Twitter feed
  • Captcha with Refresh
  • Team Directory
  • Homepage slider
  • Dev in a box
  • Get an application installed on your site today and take advantage of the reduced development time and added functionality!

    We want to thank these developers who took the time to test a new technology that was at times incomplete, and who provided invaluable feedback to our team as we progressed. We hope that as we move forward we will see amazing apps built on this platform. 

    Start learning with Developer Documentation and Forum

    Our Developer program includes detailed documentation to guide you through the first steps in building your application, a developer forum where you can chat, ask questions, collaborate and share ideas, as well as provide the BC engineering team with feedback that can be later integrated into to product. 

    At this time these tools will be restricted to the beta testing team, but we expect to open them to all BC partners as we move towards a public Beta release within the next few months. 

    Join our closed Beta Program

    At this time installing apps is available for every Business Catalyst partner. In order to join our developer community and try your hand at coding one of the applications or customizing the admin area of your own site, please join our closed Beta Program. You will be required to sign an NDA and receive access to documentation and tools that will help you with the very first instances of app development. 

    To join the program please send an e-mail to the BC Partner team expressing your interest in this, and they will guide you through the procedure. Please note that the testing group is open to all partners (paid or free) that have created at least one paid site on Business Catalyst.  

    Within the next few months our team will continue to develop these features with the help of the Beta Group, and then open the development program to all partners of Business Catalyst. 

    We hope that you are as excited as we are to embark in this new chapter for Business Catalyst, and shape the future of the platform. 

    The Business Catalyst team

    Discontinuing Version 2 of our Business Catalyst Admin

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    As announced back in the BC November release, we are slowly moving towards a complete decommissioning of our V2 admin interfaces. With a project that started back in 2011, version 3 of our administration interface is now prepared to take over from the old version. 

    As part of this transition there are two further steps that will be taking place within the next month:

    • Starting with January 15th all users will be automatically transitioned to Version 3 of the admin interface with an option to switch back to V2 if needed
    • Starting with February 5th the option to switch back to V2 will no longer exist, and V3 will remain the only admin interface available.

    We advise you to communicate these changes to any customers you might still have working on the old interface and facilitate their move to the new interface and workflows. If you have any questions please let us know and our team will do their best to help manage and support this transition in its last phase. 

    The Adobe Business Catalyst team



    SEO month on Business Catalyst!

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

     

    For most online business owners, having their site as a top recommendation on search result pages is a healthy indicator that their business is going places. And this should be indeed part of your BC site’s growth strategy: more visitors = notoriety + more sales + a bigger client database.

    This month we will talk about SEO and a series of articles, tutorials, webinars will follow, to analyze this topic in depth. 

    What is SEO?

    SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and probably came into use in 1997. It is the process of getting traffic from the organic or natural listings on search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.  not paid or "sponsored" results such as Google AdWords.
    Web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users.
    At its most basic, SEO means finding ways to increase your BC site's appearance in web visitors' search results.

    How does SEO work?

    In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently your BC site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive. Nobody can guarantee that your site will be ranked first but following some simple, best practices will make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.

    SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.
    As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

    Some good strategies to improve your BC site's SEO:

    • Edit the site's content regularly and be sure to keep a constant flow of fresh, exclusive and  high quality content. Valuable content will generate returning visitors + new visitors.
    • Use keywords and improve the structure of your URLs for easier and more intuitive searches.
    • Make your site easy to navigate through a clear and easy to navigate menu using the homepage as your starting point.
    • Integrate internal links into your site.
    • Remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.
    • Use external channels to promote your site: social media distribution, newsletters, conventional marketing (posters, direct mail etc.)

    Other good strategies are using search friendly URLs, metadata descriptions, using effectively the robots.txt and being aware of "nofollow" links.

    SEO and BC

    Using BC, you will have access to a set of built-in tools to ensure that your site receives a SEO boost:

    • BC produces friendly and customizable URLs for your website, blogs, online shop catalogs and products, web apps and more.
    • At regular intervals, the system produces your website's site map in the format specified by Google and Yahoo and sitemap.xml and RSS feeds will have SEO friendly URLs resulting in better SEO. These search engines will index your site map and add all the content on your website to their database.
    • All of the major search engines are aware of all the content on your BC website: web pages, announcements, FAQs, literature (PDF documents), shopping catalogs and more. And if you want to keep private certain content, you can place it in secure areas so it is automatically excluded from the list of content that is available to the search engines.
    • With BC, you will have access to a dedicated user interface and tags to display custom blog post metadata.

    And we are constantly improving BC sites’ SEO performance through system releases.

    Since we're dedicating January to SEO, stay tuned for a webinar on SEO powered by Katherine Anderson from Sirocco Web Design, a cool showcase example and a few tips and tricks on becoming a SEO master.

    Register here: 


    The Adobe Business Catalyst Team

    2014 brings the topics you've requested for the BC Partner Webinar

    Diana Iliescu Monday, January 13, 2014

    Don't forget to register for our webinar on Wednesday:

    Wed, January 15th: SEO with Katherine Anderson from Sirocco Web Design and Business Catalyst SEO

    To help you put your learning into practice, webinar participants will be receive a 15% discount on their next website. (*Some conditions apply, see below)


    Registrations are now open for the February sessions as well:

    Wed, February 12th: Email Marketing with Megan Taylor from Kapow Interactive


    If you could not join us live, you can click the links below to access recordings of our last 3 webinars:


    If you have any questions or suggestions please do not hesitate to send them over to BCPartner-Team@adobe.com. We will be happy to answer all your inquiries.

    *15% discount coupon applies for new site upgrades on any yearly desired plan, for the 1st year fee. Pricing will be reset to regular pricing after 12 months from the upgrade date. Coupon validity: 31-Mar-2014, only available for the webinars’ attendees.

    Thank you and hope to see you there!

    2013 End-of-year Partner events

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    We had in 2013 a BC end-of-year event on 3 continents with a newcomer location in Europe – London. BC Partners from all over the world got together for a drink, chat and nice atmosphere.

    Luke Wakefield from Wysi organized the UK party - check out the pictures from the 2013 UK BC party.

    In US, Scott B Reynolds from Thrise was the organizer of a vibrant event. Watch the US BC 2013 holiday party video or check out their Photos to see how it went. 

    And in Australia Brett Stockley from Pretty was the mastermind behind an awesome night - Take a look at how the Australian BC Partners partied.

    A big thank you to everyone who was able to make it and to the Partners who were amazing hosts for these parties.
    Stay tuned in 2014 for more great events and exciting news.

    The Adobe Business Catalyst Team

    Episode 33 of the BC Podcast - Holiday Giveaway Winners Announced!

    Diana Iliescu Wednesday, January 08, 2014

    Tune in for Episode 33 of the Business Catalyst podcast! In this episode, we announce the winners from the big Holiday Giveaway, listen to an interview with long time partner Karim Ardalan, get an update from Brent’s recent trip to Romania to visit the BC engineering team, and then get this month’s Story Challenge. Don’t miss out, listen below.

    Listen to this month's podcast:

    Simply click the play button below to stream the podcast via your browser.

    player

    Alternatively, you can download the podcast in .mp3 format for offline listening.

    In this episode :

    • Brent Weaver and Brian Lowry announce the Holiday Giveaway winners by doing a drawing from all the entries
    • Learn about Karim Ardalan’s company MIS and his BC-specific projects AidBC.com and BackupBC.com
    • Get an update from Brent Weaver on his recent trip to Romania to visit with the BC engineers about upcoming developments and features
    • Learn what the Story Challenge is and how you can win a free install of the Homepage Slider or Client Trainer Apps

    Get Interviewed!

    If you want to make your debut on an upcoming BC Podcast, contact Brent (brent@bcgurus.com)

    Win big by answering the Story Challenge!

    Leave a comment below with your answer to the story challenge and you will get the free Apps mentioned above.

    Until next time,
    Brent & Brian

    BC Sandpile - January meetings

    Monday, January 06, 2014

    BC Sandpile is a weekly online meeting run by Business Catalyst Partners for the purpose of sharing ideas, best practices, and networking.

    Weekly Day/Time:

    • San Francisco: Tuesdays, 5pm (all times adjusted in relation to this time)
    • New York City: Tuesdays, 8pm
    • London: Wednesdays, 1am
    • Sydney: Wednesdays, noon

    How To Use Business Catalyst in Develop Mode - 7th January (8th in AUS) 2013
    Scott B Reynolds from Thrise and PrestoBC will show how to best use the develop mode in Business Catalyst. Following this short presentation, the group will discuss which tools they use to build BC sites.
    Details: http://thri.se/1eAfT5Z

    Marketing with Business Catalyst (3 of 3) - 14th January (15th in AUS) 2013
    Adam Zoblotsky from Mustard Mouth Marketing is going to complete his three part series on Marketing with Business Catalyst. Be sure to watch Adam's previous marketing Sandpiles on the event's details page.
    Details: http://thri.se/1eAfSil

    Business Catalyst Questions and Answers- 21st January (22nd in AUS) 2013
    This Sandpile we are going to ask the group questions. The answers will likely uncover solutions and techniques that will better everyone who attends. Some of the questions that will be asked are listed on this event's details page.
    Details: http://thri.se/1eAfPTV

    Top 5 jQuery Techniques Every BC Developer Should Know - 28th January (29th in AUS) 2013
    Michael Sallander from BC Academe will show off the top 5 jQuery techniques every BC developer should know. Even if you're not a developer this is a Sandpile you won't want to miss.
    Details: http://thri.se/1eAfPmR

    Full schedule: http://www.bcsandpile.com/_blog/Meeting_Chalkboard/
    Sandpile Recordings: http://www.bcsandpile.com/business-catalyst/resources.htm

    The last showcase of the year is on Responsive Design

    Diana Iliescu Monday, December 30, 2013

    Kerry Ballard, Managing Director of BC Partner Dezines Internet Solutions Limited, has shared with us her experience in providing Responsive Design to their clients over this past year, which it's proving to be absolutely critical in all of their web projects now.

    Retailers announced last week that they had seen massive online sales over the past few weeks leading up to Christmas, and the vast majority of the online sales generated, were from Smartphone and Tablet devices. They indicated that a good proportion of customers were browsing their website in the evening whilst watching television, as opposed to browsing from the desktop in the home office or at work.

    Kerry thinks every web development company needs to understand what's happening in terms of consumer behavior, and with that in mind - it becomes very apparent that Responsive Design is playing a major role in driving consumer engagement and buying behavior.

    Below she describes one of her completed projects - the website TriDri Diving:

    “TriDri Diving approached us in the summer of 2013 initially to scope out whether we could create a transactional website that would showcase their new diving accessory product ‘TriDri’ – an effective device that rapidly dries the inside of drysuits. It was important that we launched the website by October 26th the weekend of DIVE 2013 International Dive Show at the NEC, Birmingham, UK. The client had seen our full service approach website (also responsive) at www.dezines.co.uk and from that, felt we were the right web development company to work with.

    After a number of meetings, we accepted the project and agreed to deliver an engaging website that allowed customers to buy online with minimum fuss. Understanding BC, we knew the fully integrated platform would permit us to create a website framework that allowed customers to create online commercial accounts and access secure forums. Page content needed to be precise and layout simple, but we recommended a responsive design for the website, as we understood how consumer behavior has changed very quickly when buying online over the past year, and there is now an extremely strong trend to using mobile smartphones and tablets to purchase goods - it was critical therefore, the website functioned on any device! Our client required access to powerful CMS and CRM systems and prior to DIVE 2013, needed to send out an email marketing campaign to drive brand and product awareness, driving traffic to the website and the DIVE 2013 trade stand. Social Media tools were also important and the client wanted to maximize the effectiveness of the technology that powers the BC platform. A multi-platform instructional video was created by us, and we are planning to add additional video content of the product in use in real time scenarios in the near future.

    The client has received advanced training from us, to maximize their use of the website, plus they have access to video support resources at our dedicated platform website www.dezines.eu. Having seen good online sales since the site went live, and excellent feedback from visitors at DIVE 2013, our client is currently preparing the next phase of their email marketing campaign to target the Police, Fire & Rescue, Military, Professional Divers, Oil & Gas companies, Sports and Recreation sectors. We are supporting them as they develop their business, but without BC, it would have been extremely challenging to deliver such a powerful integrated platform, at a price that was affordable for the client.

    We have been a BC UK partner now since early 2010 and it has revolutionized the way we can deliver solutions to a range of businesses and organizations with start-up budgets to £300M + turnover! Business Catalyst is allowing us to solve complex problems for high end projects and as a company, we have grown in confidence knowing we can truly develop websites that drive brand awareness, customer engagement and revenue for our clients.”


    The Adobe Business Catalyst Team wishes you all a Happy New Year!

    Happy Holidays!

    Diana Iliescu Monday, December 23, 2013

    It's been a busy 2013 at Business Catalyst - we've migrated our servers to Amazon, brought you a range of new features, and started work on some exciting new technology to help you build your own BC apps in the new year.

    We'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. See you in 2014 for what's bound to be our best year yet!

    The Adobe Business Catalyst Team

    Video of the Month: Enhanced Responsive Design with Dreamweaver

    Diana Iliescu Friday, December 20, 2013

    We're continuing our journey this month in the world of responsive design. Now we're exploring the option to create responsive projects in Dreamweaver using the Fluid Grid Layout feature to help make designing for multiple screens easier.

    Fluid Grid Layouts provide a visual way to create different layouts corresponding to devices on which the website is displayed by displaying content in containers that have widths set to percentages, which react proportionately to changes in screen sizes.

    Check out the video below to see how designing for multiple screen sizes can be simplified with the enhanced Fluid Grid Layout. You will also see how enabling a class based workflow gives you more control over shared properties and behaviors on your Fluid Grid Layout framework.