As the head of webspam at Google, Matt Cutts is a pretty powerful figure in the SEO world. So when he tweets, people listen. Last week, he confirmed via Twitter that Penguin–Google’s search algorithm update designed to punish spammy sites–was pushing out version 2.0 (Penguin 4 for searchengineland.com readers).
Penguin was introduced in April 2012 to clean up search engine rankings by penalizing sites that showed signs of black hat SEO tactics like over-optimized anchor text in the link profile, links from paid neighborhoods, and blog network links. To date, Penguin has affected over 3% of search queries in English. And due to its mixed track record, even white hat webmasters are nervous about the implications of Penguin 2.0.
If you’re engaging in illicit SEO tactics, we can’t protect you from the coming onslaught. But it’s never too late to ensure that your information architecture is optimized for user experience and rankings. Diagramming your sitemap is a painless way to visualize your site, and with so many sitemap generation tools on the market, there’s no excuse to go without.
Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that sitemaps are still a valuable tool for improving your site’s search engine rankings. The whole post is worth a read, but in his own words, the takeaway points are:
- Yes, please send us sitemap files, preferably sitemap.org XML files!
- Work on good URLs & use them to double-check your site’s navigation.
- Optional: Date or change frequency? Depends on how you work.
- Also optional: Priority.
Web designers can also use sitemaps for more creative endeavors. Here are 7 innovative sitemap techniques that will improve any site’s efficiency and organization:
1. Chart the basics
Once they happen upon a great idea for a website, many people want to jump right into wireframing and mockups. While those are important elements for planning user interaction and user experience, a sitemap will strip away all the flashy elements and reveal whether you have a cohesive, well-designed website. A web developer who starts off with information architecture can easily ascertain how many pages he needs, whether he’s missing anything crucial, and how fast the site delivers desired content to a visitor.
2. Think over your pages
Most sitemaps will indicate exactly how many pages your site has. That number depends on the kind of site you’re publishing. For example, a simple WordPress blog might have a flat structure with one page per post. A more complex site, like a library website complete with databases and tutorials, will need many more pages. A sitemap can help you organize either kind of site.
3. Sketch out hierarchies & relationships
A website can be incredibly confusing if it’s not designed well. A sitemap can help you quickly draw out the structure of your website, so navigation is simple for both you and your visitors. Even if you have limited time to fill out a sitemap, sit down and crank it out. You can always bulk it up in the future.
4. Convert, convert, convert
If you want to make money with your website, you’ll need to secure conversions. A conversion can be anything from a product sale to a newsletter sign-up. It’s up to you to determine what constitutes a conversion in your situation. To see if your site is effectively driving conversions, a funnel analysis can come in handy. While you can track this analysis with a flowchart or a spreadsheet, an effective method is tracking rates by sitemap. This technique allows a webmaster to see exactly which pages are most and least effective.
5. Search engine optimization
A sitemap can also assist with internal link structures. The map will give you a visual, overall view of your internal linking strategy, so you can see what’s working. For example, if a visitor somehow receives a 404 error, your link strategy might include links to the support page. A sitemap will help you determine when and where internal links are appropriate.
Another simple way to utilize sitemaps is to track SEO by page. If your goal is to make money, increase traffic, or both, effective SEO techniques should be incorporated into every webpage you build. Just as with conversion analysis, SEO efforts can be analyzed with site maps. It’s as simple as determining the quantity and quality of keywords used per page, then comparing the conversion rates page by page.
6. Cross-check your perspective
While sitemaps and wireframes are both essential tools for web development, each one represents a fundamentally different perspective. A site map shows the relationship between pages and provides a clear picture of a site’s content, organization, and navigation. A wireframe actually builds up the visual design of a site. It’s a sketch of the site without graphics and media, but it ought to include the elements of each page. With a sitemap in place, it’s easy to toggle between sitemap and wireframe to make sure you’re not missing anything. Think of a sitemap as your blueprint for the site’s structure; when it’s in place, you can beautify as needed.
7. Make a valuable investment
A sitemap is one of those diagrams that appreciates in value. A thoughtfully created sitemap demonstrates the logic behind your structural decisions and will serve as a guide to future developers, designers, and admins. Remember to continually update your sitemap so the content is always accurate and fresh.
Is the world eschewing Windows in favor of Linux? It’s starting to look that way–we were pumped to read that astronauts on the International Space Station will be making the switch to laptops running Linux rather than Windows.
Linux has an impressive track record in the scientific community: CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is controlled by Linux, and both NASA and SpaceX ground stations use Linux. Even DNA-sequencing lab technicians run Linux, which is no surprise when you consider the freedom and flexibility that a customizable open source operating system provides.
Keith Chuvala, leader of the ISS’s Laptops and Network Integration Teams, said, “We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable — one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust, or adapt, we could.” The astronauts will be running Debian 6, which is a well-tested and reliable distro.
Earlier this year, there were rumblings about a Ubuntu-based phone, with Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth stepping up to explain how a Ubuntu phone could revolutionize the mobile space:
With the latest developments, Linux is poised to wrest even more market share from Windows in many areas, with one notable exception: diagramming. Professionals who need to create diagrams on a regular basis, including network diagrams (complete with standard shapes like AWS and Cisco icons), ER diagrams, UML diagrams, wireframes, mockups, and org charts, are often stuck using Microsoft Visio, which is inoperable outside of a Windows framework. Whether you’re a scientist, a web developer, or a garden-variety geek, Lucidchart is an excellent Visio alternative for Linux.
Another reason to choose Lucidchart as a Visio alternative for Linux is its touch-free site updates and feature improvements. You don’t have to lift a finger — just sit back and let our developers do their jobs. Loyal to a particular browser? Check out this recent blog post from our team that compares Lucidchart’s performance on various web browsers.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to use Lucidchart is its baked-in collaboration. Since we operate in the cloud, it only makes sense to allow deep, rich interactivity. You can use hot spots, links, states (similar to layers in Adobe’s Creative Suite), and demo mode. These features create dynamic action between objects, pages, and external links, and are particularly helpful for demonstrating how a live website or mobile app will respond to user interaction.
Users may collaborate with anyone else, regardless of account status, and edits are saved and reflected instantly. This feature, while technically possible in Visio, requires access to SharePoint and a fair amount of technical wrangling.
If you’re looking for an affordable Visio alternative for Linux, do yourself a favor and sign up for a free 14-day Pro Trial. We don’t require a credit card number, a download, or your first-born child. And let us know what you think! Feedback can be submitted in the comments section or to email@example.com.
If you’re thinking, “That looks like a worker’s comp claim waiting to happen”, you probably shouldn’t work at a startup.
So why is our VP of Sales and Marketing atop a 30-foot scissor lift? We decided that our new building was lacking a few amenities; most notably a rooftop grill. Some people might call this dangerous or juvenile, but we’re under a lot of pressure to put out a consistently mind-blowing product, and sometimes, you just need a different challenge. Transforming the office from a ho-hum space to something more vibrant has helped us feel like we actually own our space and the work accomplished there. Continue reading →
After months of work, our team is excited to introduce a suite of free Visio Viewers across 4 popular channels: Chrome, Firefox, Confluence, and any other web application (with our exclusive API). Each viewer is completely free to download and use, and there’s no catch — no licenses or fees are required to view documents.
These viewers represent a new level of freedom for anyone who accesses Microsoft Visio files on a regular basis. If you or your colleagues are without Visio licenses, this is a great workaround solution. Our viewers are compatible with any operating system or modern browser, and just like the standard version of Lucidchart, they support .vsd, .vsdx, and .vdx file types. We also have a few more features for you to enjoy!
Visio Viewer for Chrome & Firefox
Our viewer will allow Chrome & Firefox users to open any online Visio file in read-only mode. You can also open attached Visio files inside your Gmail or Google Apps account. The viewers are easy to install and use.
To open Visio files from your email: Gmail and Google Apps users can view and edit Visio files attached to their emails by clicking the “Open in Lucidchart” button next to their Visio attachments.
To open Visio files from a website: With the extension installed, users can open Visio files posted on the web by right-clicking the hyperlink and selecting “View in Lucidchart.”
For more detailed installation and use instructions for the Visio Viewers or the API, please see our documentation.
Visio Viewer for Confluence
Our Confluence plugin will enable your entire organization to view Visio files for free. To install the plugin, just click here or navigate to Lucidchart’s listing in the Atlassian Marketplace, then download as you would any other plugin. The viewing functionality is bundled with our diagramming application, but you won’t need a paid license to use the Visio Viewer.
We’ve also designed a simpler, more intuitive flow for modifying and inserting diagrams in your Confluence instance. Simply type a curly brace, followed by “Lucidchart”, and select Lucidchart’s macro from the list that appears. You’ll be taken directly to a page where you can select a desired diagram. The diagram will be inserted at the curly brace while you’re still in edit mode, which wasn’t possible until now. Users can modify size and other elements quickly and easily.
Transparent PNG download
Lucidchart users can now download any diagram as a PNG with transparent background. This feature will allow users to create beautiful images that look good against any background, not just white ones. Transparent PNGs enable a host of creative applications for presentations and web design, so try them today!
IE8 no longer supported
As of June 2013, Lucidchart will no longer support Internet Explorer 8. We apologize for the inconvenience that this change may cause. However, our team has researched usage information and discovered that less than 0.2% of work done in Lucidchart actually occurred in IE8. Given the considerable difficulties of supporting an antiquated browser, we’ve decided to phase out support for IE8 to focus on an incredible experience for the vast majority of users. For an optimal experience, we recommend Chrome or another modern browser, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer 10. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns.
We always appreciate your feedback on new and existing features. Please watch for more as we respond to user requests, and as always, thank you for choosing Lucidchart.
Is your business spending too much time on social media? Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, the answer might be “Yes.”
Several weeks ago, we surveyed nearly 3,000 Lucidchart users to discover more about their purchase and usage behaviors. Take a look at this standard discovery question and its results:
See that itty-bitty column titled “Social media”? It means that a tiny portion of our users found Lucidchart through social media. When we dug a little deeper, we found that very few social-media sourced administrators are paying users. Since we believe that account administrators are the decision-makers who drive many of our upgrades and installs, this was troubling. Continue reading →
Our society has a lot of ingrained ideas about communication. But whether you’re trying to convince your boss to implement a new software feature or you’ve somehow ended up on Shark Tank, you have a limited amount of time to get your point across. So rather than testing every approach, just follow the tips in this article. We’ll show you when visual aids are appropriate and how to successfully incorporate them into any pitch. Continue reading →
Nearly 3,000 of you responded to our call for survey respondents, and we listened. You asked for better-looking diagrams, more robust web development tools, and enhanced shape libraries, among other requests. We took action on the most pressing issues and are happy to announce 4 improvements to Lucidchart that will ease your stress and simplify your work. Thank you for the feedback, and enjoy the new features!
Many users have asked for a way to quickly enhance the look of their diagrams, and we’re pleased to deliver a theming system that creates a polished look.
Each theme applies a tasteful blend of colors, lines, outlines, and text styles to a selected diagram. To access and preview these themes, click on the preset theme button on the top left corner of the editor interface, or click on the graphics panel on the right. Continue reading →
If you have a great idea for an app–or just an interest in app development–you’ll love playing with our brand new Android mockup library. This library will enable you to easily mock up and demo beautiful, lifelike applications for Android phones and tablets.
We offer shapes for the 4 most common Android devices: Nexus 10, Nexus 7, Galaxy SII, and the Galaxy Note. These shapes allow users to mock up an app for both tablets and phones, and each device can be displayed vertically or horizontally, with or without keyboard, and with light or dark screen settings. If the default shapes don’t fit your needs, you can create one with custom dimensions. Continue reading →
March Madness is nearly upon us! If you’re ready to trounce your nearest and dearest, read on for some tips and a custom digital bracket, courtesy of Lucidchart. You can update your Lucidchart bracket from any browser, operating system, or device.
First, some easy ways to improve your chances:
1. Now that the tournament teams have been announced, start researching the recent history of your favorite teams. Pay close attention to late-season injuries, winning and losing streaks, rebounding stats, and post-season playing history. All of these factors are good indicators of how a team will perform in elimination games where the pressure’s on.
2. Be sneaky and find out which picks the other people in your pool are making. Then defy their logic and choose an unpopular team–within reason, of course. Going against the grain might be intimidating, but you’ll win big if your pick performs.
3. Seek out expert advice. ESPN’s bracketology expert Joe Lunardi has been filling in and updating a full March Madness bracket preview each week of 2013, so taking a peek at his choices can impart valuable insight. You might also want to check out the Vegas odds or stats wizards like Kenneth Pomeroy, who advocates for his own advanced ranking system. Just remember, the tournament will be most fun when you minimize the number-crunching and just enjoy the madness!
To customize your own Lucidchart bracket, simply click on the image below, then hit “Use as template”.
How many times have you heard students grumble, “I’m never gonna use this stuff in real life”? Project-based learning, or PBL, is a great alternative to rote or lecture-based learning because it’s dynamic, challenging, collaborative, and outcome-focused. In short, it’s a lot like the real world. Plus, it hones skills that will serve students throughout their lives: solving problems, making decisions, connecting disciplines, and conducting in depth research.
Its flexible technology makes Lucidchart an excellent resource for PBL. Here are a few ways to leverage Lucidchart in a project context.
For critical thinking:
1) Brainstorm initial ideas. This is a great classroom exercise to get the creative juices flowing, and kids will love seeing their contributions appear instantly on the screen. Once you’ve recorded ideas, try grouping them according to merit. This can get overwhelming, but Lucidchart’s keyboard shortcuts will help you keep up. With a few clicks, add new shapes, text, and sub-topics; you can even collapse entire mind map branches with the push of a button. Continue reading →