I was looking for inspiration for a mobile site design today, trawling WordPress theme stores, when I noticed a particularly stupid and unhelpful trend.
The image you see below is what I get when I visit the demo for a mobile theme on a mobile browser. Yes, that’s right – you’re looking at the full desktop site with the mobile version embedded in a frame…
I understand that these demos are setup to help people visiting from their desktop, but is it really such a stretch of the imagination to think that someone might want to demo your mobile them on, I don’t know… their mobile device?
The Earth orbits the Sun, and medical practices can’t afford to skimp on IT infrastructure… some facts are simply immutable.
Normally I would proclaim that any business can’t afford to skimp on its IT infrastructure, but given the current climate where just having a Windows XP machine connected to your network is a HIPAA violation, I’ve clearly got a certain target audience in mind for this post. That said, it’s not just medical practices that could benefit from taking a few minutes to read this post.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past months advising (and implementing) practices on how to make the move from the no longer supported Windows XP to Windows 7 and newer operating systems, and one thing has become readily apparent to me – there are two kinds of medical practices:
Practices that see technology as part of the patient experience.
Practices that only think about IT when it breaks.
The medical practices (and other businesses) that realize that their IT infrastructure is part of the patient (customer) experience tend to have made the realization that IT in a medical office is not just there to scan ID cards, print receipts or create patient forms, but actually adds substantially to the patient experience and bottom line of the practice.
Happy patients = more money!
That’s not a difficult concept right? I think everyone can agree that if a patient has a positive experience at your office they’re more likely to come back the next time something ails them. They’re also far more likely to recommend you to other potential patients (word of mouth marketing), leave positive reviews on rating sites, etc… Happy patients = more money for you. Simple!
A lot of medical practitioners and office managers appear to forget that the patient’s experience in their clinic is not just measured by the patient – doctor interaction, it comes from the everything they experience at your office. From the moment they walk in the door, from that first impression, the friendliness of the staff, the promptness of their appointment, the ease of filling out information – it’s all being judged by the patient and it ALL impacts your bottom line.
So, how does IT actually affect any of this? Well, let’s forget about silly little things such as multi-thousand dollar fines (per patient) when data is exposed due to poor infrastructure and / or running out of date operating systems and look at the ways that keeping your computers and software up-to-date actually affects your bottom line.
Faster computers (and modern operating systems) increase staff productivity.
It’s not just just the ability to run better, newer software, but multiply the 10 minutes it takes those ancient computers to start up by the number of staff you have and there’s a massive amount of wasted productivity hours. A lot of time is wasted every day because applications take forever to open / switch between, and all of that wasted time is time that you are paying staff for. If you want to get more productivity from your staff then give them the tools to do it.
Faster computers equal happier staff.
In my experience, there’s little that will annoy good staff in a good office faster than slow computers. It’s frustrating to have to not be able to move on to the next thing, especially when you have a patient standing there waiting for that document you sent to the printer 5 minutes ago.
If there’s one thing patients are especially good at picking up on, it’s the atmosphere in an office. When staff aren’t happy, you can be sure that patients aren’t, and that is going to have negative impact on their experience and willingness to return in the future or recommend you to other potential patients.
Faster computers equal happier patients.
When you’re sick, tired or in pain, the last thing you want to do is stand around twiddling your thumbs for five minutes at the check in desk at your doctors office waiting for their EMR (electronic medical record) system to pull up your details. That should have happened almost instantaneously, and it would have if the aging computer had more RAM, a faster CPU or better connectivity to the server.
Get those patients checked in and out faster for a better patient experience and a less crowded waiting room.
Keeping your infrastructure up-to-date saves you money.
All computers break down, have issues and occasionally need repairs, but performing support tasks on older computers takes longer. Slower machines take longer to install drivers on, track down issues etc. It’s not rocket science.
As your infrastructure ages there tends to be more issues which require support and the cost of that support can escalate rather quickly. You might only see it as a $100 here, $200 there, but when this is happening every other week (even when you have contracted support agreements) it can quickly get to the point where you could have actually paid to replace aging equipment and had LESS support call-outs.
Upgrading / Staying up-to-date doesn’t have to be a huge expense.
A lot of small practices get sticker shock at the notion of spending many thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars to replace equipment that still essentially works. Most don’t realize that these upgrades don’t all have to be done at once. Unfortunately a lot of vendors won’t tell you that, instead going for the big “all in one” sell – but that’s another blog post.
Implement a rolling upgrade policy. Start with the oldest computer (or computers depending on how desperate the situation) on your network and get them upgraded – whether than means adding more RAM, SSD’s or a better CPU or simply replacing the whole machine. If you have a server, see if that needs upgrading too. In 6 months time upgrade another machine or two and continue to do so over the next two years. By the end of the two years you’ll have completed 5 upgrades (0 months, 6 months, 12, 18, 24) and have replaced or upgraded 10 machines without any one major expense.
Most small medical practices will have somewhere in the region of 10 – 20 machines, but you can adjust the plan to suit your infrastructure needs and budget accordingly.
On month 30, start the cycle again – upgrading the components of or replacing the machines first updated at month 0. Repeat the cycle over and over again and you’ll never have machines more than 2 – 3 years old running on your network.
You may also wish to annually evaluate your networking equipment and see if any performance gains can be made by upgrading aging switches / firewalls / routers to newer faster standards.
Remember that it’s not just your hardware.
Aging software can be a productivity drain almost as much as aging hardware. Be sure to evaluate new versions of the tools and software you use in your practice and determine if making the move to newer versions could increase productivity or will add features that improve security etc..
Speaking of security… Don’t forget those updates…
Again I’m going to gloss over the potential fines that medical practices and businesses can be slapped with if patient / customer information is compromised, and instead remind you of the cost of having someone come out to clean your network of trojans, spyware and malware. Good anti-virus and anti-spyware software is always a must, but none of it is perfect. No matter your operating system – Windows, OS X, Linux… make sure that you are installing updates regularly. These updates don’t just add new features to your system- they fix bugs, can increase stability and performance, and fix security holes and issues.
If your IT person (you do have an IT person, right?) recommends that you turn off Windows updates for performance, or because things “might break” then you need to fire them. The days of such things happening are long, long in the past, and the rare times that they do occur are far lest costly than the potential damage than can be caused by not running them.
While you’re at it, have your IT person or vendor upgrade the firmware on you routers / managed switches / firewalls etc….
It doesn’t cost a lot to be secure AND productive…
For most practices, if you put your IT infrastructure on a rolling upgrade cycle the cost becomes pretty negligible plus you get to avoid the major sticker shock of a one time upgrade.
If you start thinking about your IT as part of the patient (and staff) experience the outlay will more than recoup itself in increased productivity, repeat patients and positive word of mouth marketing.
Can we just be honest when asking people to update or remove links?
It happens to all sites. Links move or change, posts occasionally get deleted, categories get restructured and despite your best intentions, you still have broken links coming into your site.
At this point you can either set up 301 redirects to a new location or relevant content, or you can reach out to site owners and ask them to alter or remove their links. Most site owners will be happy to update broken links, but a little bit of honesty will get you a lot further than trying to scare site owners by saying that Google is penalizing your site and the same will happen to them.
I’m seeing it happen a lot lately. Instead of just being honest and saying “Our bad, we restructured our site and don’t care to put 301’s in place” or “We deleted the content you were linking to” or (and perhaps most honestly) “we’re engaging in some reputation management”, most emails of this type appear to be defaulting to the “Google is penalizing us and if you don’t delete the link Google will penalize you and your site will never rank again” tactic.
The truth is that a handful of broken links on my site spread over thousands of posts isn’t going to result in Google issuing my site any kind of penalty.
While you’re at it, make it as easy as possible for me to find the link you want removed. Provide me with the name and URL of the post in which the link appears. Sure I could search for the URL you want removed but that’s more work for me. The easier you make it the more likely I am to actually do what you want.
Do not, ever, ever, ever send me a list of URLs from my site that include category indexes, tags etc. That’s pointless and making more work for me. Just 1 URL. That is all. Show me you’re not lazy and actually care.
Finally a tip for managing and detecting broken links on your own site. You really should be fixing broken links yourself as it improves not just your SEO but also the user experience. If you’re using WordPress try using a plugin such as “Broken Link Checker” to stay on top of things. Regardless of what platform you use, you should also be using Google Webmaster Tools which also report crawl errors and broken links.
The channel found that British police deal with around 20 “social media abuse” cases a day. In the last 3 years, there have been 20,000 investigations involving adults and almost 2,000 targeting children – although, since around a third of police forces did not give up their data, the number must be higher. Over 1,200 children have been “charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine,” including four 10-year-olds and one 9-year-old.
I have two questions to ask:
Why are the children being cautioned or charged instead of the parents?
Why are these parents allowing their children to use the internet without monitoring their activity?
Sadly, I suspect the answer to both questions to revolve around the same idea…
As per my previous post, this adventure in mobile productivity meant pairing my Nexus 7 with a nice Sharkk Bluetooth keyboard (which I can’t rave about enough), making sure I had plenty of backup power (not such a great experience) and finding solutions to productivity problems that aren’t even a second thought on my laptop.
In undertaking this challenge I really wanted to reverse my opinions about iPads (and tablets in general) being mostly media consumption devices (or Tonka toys of general computing) and come out swinging in favor of tablets being awesome productivity machines. I’m afraid that after a month of working as exclusively as I could on my tablet(s), there were simply far to many compromises made to quality and efficiency for me to call tablet productivity effective.
Yes, I’m sure there are some cases where people are hyper-effective working on their tablets, but those are niche cases. I’m sorry to inform you but your niche case does not make a strong argument for mainstream productivity.
Before I get into what I was doing and attempting, let me clarify that I DO NOT consider checking Facebook, answering email, instant messaging or anything like that productivity.
As a marketing consultant even I can’t justify hours of Facebook activity as productivity, and if you’re spending hours answering your email then you are clearly doing it wrong.
Anyway, when working for clients and equipped with my laptop, I find myself living in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Dreamweaver (and the awesome Notepad++), Photoshop, Audition, Premiere, RDP, VNC, various EHR and practice management solutions, and of course a browser.
Finding workable solutions for the Microsoft Office suite was easy enough – I just do everything in Google Apps (which I am fully vested in for my non-client work anyway), but there are issues such as formating of exported documents, and added steps that frankly make it a pain in the backside to move stuff between Google Apps and clients that are using the Microsoft suite.
Don’t get me wrong, Google Apps is awesome for how I use it, but I’ve yet to encounter a non-Microsoft product that exports/imports perfectly with no formatting errors.
Dreamweaver, Notepad++ and Filezilla proved to be an interesting challenge to replace, but after testing a number of apps I have absolutely fallen in love with DroidEdit Pro. It’s an awesome text and source code editor with syntax highlighting for lots of languages (HTML, CSS, C, C++, C# Python, Ruby and more…) as well as SFTP/FTP/Dropbox support and much, much more. If you’re a developer and need to get your hands dirty in code while you’re on the go without your laptop, you can’t do much better than this app.
I gave up trying to find workable mobile replacements for Photoshop, Audition and Premiere. Yes, there are a lot of stopgaps and half measures which are “kind of almost” passable, but the compromise in quality and features is not worth the the hassle. It’s much easier to stay with full featured desktop apps that also have the processing power to plough through the work in a decent amount of time.
While finding mobile replacements for desktop applications has been very hit-or-miss, even when I do find a suitable replacement there are always compromises to be made. Those compromises may be in terms of quality, the ability to easily export in formats that my clients can use, or simply because doing the work on the table can involve more steps (such as getting source materials to and from the tablet).
Did I mention that it also takes longer to do almost everything on a mobile device? Even with my nifty Bluetooth keyboard I’m still not as fast as I am with a laptop.
Access to files has also been a major issue. Yes there are lots of solutions out there such as Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive and more. I use all of the cloud storage/sync solutions I’ve mentioned and they’re great when I need to get to an invoice template but downloading a 30MB .PSD or a 1Gig+ .wav audio file for editing? Most of these services are just far too slow and storage space/bandwidth constrains on mobile devices may be a concern.
BitTorrent Sync has proven to be a lifesaver in that regard. Not only does the mobile app allow me to selectively download files from my shares on my home server, but it also allowed me to set up shares on desktop computers at my clients offices so I could have access to files, fonts, graphics and other assets that I use in my work but would normally be on my laptop. That way I can use their machines to do the work and have access to assets that I need without hauling my laptop around.
The solution works and doesn’t take long to set up, but, it’s a compromise that has to be made in order to work on a mobile platform.
I think it’s fair to say, that mobile devices are not yet ready to knock the desktop PC or laptop in terms of productivity.. In doing this challenge, I found myself not just using my Nexus 7, but also having to use my iPad at the same time. Some of my clients provide me with a dedicated workspace and computers so I was able to do a lot do the work there that I couldn’t do on the tablets and not impact my productivity. For my other clients I simply had to bring a laptop to remain as productive as possible.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. While I may not be able to replace my laptop (yet) I have found that I can replace large segments of my workflow and get by enough that I don’t always need to carry a fuller featured device around.
Take audio recording as an example. My Nexus 7, 4 or iPad coupled with the iRig Mic Cast, iRig Recorder or Hi-Q MP3 Recorder creates a nice portable rig for on the fly podcasts with minimal editing abilities. There are a multitude of apps for managing servers, RDP, VNC, time management, invoicing, blogging (this entire post has been hammered out on my Nexus 7 using the WordPress app) and almost anything else you can think of – so you can certainly get by without your laptop, but they are mostly one-trick ponies.
I expect that as mobile productivity apps mature, and someone figures out that for folks like me productivity requires true multitasking, then one day I may be able to shed my laptop for a iPad 17 or Nexus 21 – I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Side note: Having not yet gotten my grubby mitts on a Surface or other Win 8.1 tablet, I obviously can’t comment on those from a productivity perspective.
I guess it’s fair to say that with the exception of full-fledged Windows devices, I’ve always held that tablets were little more than media consumption devices upon which one would be mad to attempt a full days work.
While I still hold that is true with regards to processor intensive work such as video editing, I’ve found that mobility offered by my Nexus 7 has become almost indispensable in my day-to-day work. With that in mind, I’ve set myself the challenge of (excepting graphic design work and recording Nothing Serious) of working as exclusively as possible from my Nexus 7 paired with a Sharkk Bluetooth keyboard.
As you can see from the pictures, working with the ultra-thin (just 4mm) Sharkk keyboard, and the 7 inch screen of the Nexus, should be an interesting challenge for someone with like me. And by “someone like me”, I mean someone who suffers from “sausage fingers” (or dick fingers as Sara likes to call them) and an overwhelming desire to keep adding more and more monitors to every computer he can lay those sausage fingers upon.
I guess over the next few day I’ll find out just how “mad” it is to attempt to work like this.
Wish me luck!
BTW: This post was the first thing to be completed using this setup 😀
It looks like Facebook may be testing a new design for their “Like” buttons and boxes found almost ubiquitously on websites.
I first noticed the new button design, which looks a lot more like the social buttons offered by Twitter, Google Plus an others, while visiting Nothing Serious using Firefox. I still get the same design in other browsers and in Firefox on my other machines.
The new design features the Facebook logo to one side, followed by the word like, all in a blue container with the likes above. As I said earlier this brings Facebook’s button design on par with those of other providers.
As you can see from the image below, the design is also being tested on other Facebook widgets such as the “like box”.
Now that the World Wide Web is truly global lets start treating it as such. I’ve said it for years, and will continue to do so – It’s time to stop treating the web as a U.S. , and U.S. centric, entity. Everyone needs to be dealing on a global level and realize that the internet and policies that may affect it, extend far beyond our own national borders.
Also, it is well worth noting that as North America (Sorry Steven, I know they lumped Canada in with the U.S.) is almost completely saturated in terms of broadband penetration, the U.S. portion of the pie is going to decline drastically over the coming years and decades.