Nicom Builds Enhanced Container Tracking Web App

Earlier in the year, Nicom put into production for the Port of Halifax an “Enhanced Container Tracking” web application, which answers the question definitively, “Where is my container?”. That seems to be a simple enough question, but if the answer is “over there, see, under that stack of other containers,” then that doesn’t do you much good.

Or if the answer is “right here, see, but it’s being held up by customs,” that’s no good either.

What’s needed is a place where people can see not only where their containers are, but also when they’ll be ready for pickup, and what’s their status in terms of held and released.

That is what the system—part of the Halifax Gets it There portal, also built by Nicom—will do. After a container has arrived in Halifax, every phase of its journey is tracked—it’s been taken off the vessel, it’s now on a rail car, it’s left the terminal, etc. See http://halifaxgetsitthere.com/en/shipping-tools/EnhancedContainerTracking/ContainerQuery.aspx.

In order to be able to do its job, the portal takes feeds from many sources and generates a schedule. Users can register to the system and get notices via text or email whenever the status of a container they are interested in changes.

What’s next? Nicom is now doing a design for an “Operational Dashboard”, which will make other logistics information more visible. Stay tuned.

Five Basic Goals for any Website

We’ve just started re-building the website for a new client in the seaport business. So many websites out there need the same basic fixes, and that drives our goals for this project:

  1. Understand your target audience. In order for your website to be of value to your target audience, you need to understand what they are interested in. All aspects of your website should be driven by the needs of your target audience.
  2. Be easy to find, and have visitors landing on the right page. People rely on search engines to find what they are looking for, and they want to land not only on the right website, but in the right spot on that website. The trick is to make it be your website.
  3. Be mobile friendly. People expect a positive user experience on all types of devices and not just a desktop computer.
  4. Be interactive. This is where it pays for us to have programmers working with designers. More and more, websites and online business apps become one and the same thing, and that’s a good thing.
  5. Be easy to maintain. Having your website built on a user friendly content management system will give you the power to easily keep your content up to date. This will result in added value for users and improved search engine performance.

There’s more, but I believe those are the five big ones. Take care of those and the website will reach a larger audience, and the right audience.

Nicom’s New Website

We practice what we preach and we’ve recreated our own corporate website (www.nicomit.com) so that it has a crisp message and is friendly to mobile devices, just like the ones we build for our customers.

I want to thank Ryan Grant for pulling out all stops to get this out in time, and to Mike Hatfield for doing all the things needing doing for making this all work technically. And to the sales and management team for content.

The goal is to always keep our website up-to-date and being representative of what we feel our value proposition is. Removing superfluous content, and moving it to a user-friendly CMS like WordPress will make this much easier than it’s been in the past.

Needless to say, I am delighted to have this important project completed.

A Good Idea Goes a Long Way

How would you like generate a boat load of traffic to your web site without filling someone else’s boat with money to do it?  Well, it could be just as simple as coming up with the right idea. Or to be more specific, an idea that people will talk about.

We all stand around the water cooler talking about the latest neat thing we heard about on the radio or that a friend mentioned to us. Maybe it is a product, service or just something funny that was on TV the night before. But what if that water cooler was actually a complex social network that connected with thousands of other people? Suddenly what you thought was interesting is being discussed all around the world. Then somewhere along the line all of these people stumble across a web site, video or some sort of content that is related to this topic of interest. Suddenly links to that content start popping up all over the place. As a result traffic to the web site that is hosting that content goes through the roof and prominence in search results increases. Now what if you happened to have that content of interest on your web site? That would not be so bad, would it?

So how exactly does something spread like wildfire through these social networks? Well first, there needs to be that good idea. This idea does not have to be groundbreaking. In fact it could even be something that seems downright silly. But what it needs to be is something that people will talk about and more importantly send to other people online. So long as it generates some sort of buzz or interest, then the word will start to spread. This interest can be the result of something people find humorous, silly or even controversial.

Recently we had the pleasure of developing an online contest for KFC Canada’s website, which was able to reap the benefits of this phenomenon. The contest was tied into a promotion for their new spicy Wicked Crunch Sandwich. In the contest a video shows a fictional heavy metal band playing on stage. The singer in the band screams over the music and ends the song by breathing fire. They then cut to a shot of him backstage taking a bite out of a Wicked Crunch, to which he states, “Oh man that is hot.” That may or may not seem humorous to you. However, due to the fact that a company such as KFC chose to use a dark, leather and spikes heavy metal band in their contest, it was deemed a rather bold move by many people. Because of this bold move, people online started talking about the contest, posting links to it and even clips of the video started popping up on YouTube. Suddenly contest submissions started increasing and went from a couple hundred a day to thousands. In addition to that, the contest page on the KFC web site started showing up prominently in search results. All thanks to the interest generated by the links back to the KFC site from numerous blogs and message boards.

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