Newsletter - September 2010

In this months letter:

Business Software

Office Automation

Web Design

Flash Slide Shows

Website Templates

Extreme Blog

Screen Scraper

Integrated UI

One Search Program


Business Software

Office Automation

Watch this video...

In this example we show you how Extreme Design is using automation, the same automation we provide to our customers, to make Office faster and connection multiple applications together. 

Overview:

We often get requests from 3rd party software suppliers to help one of their customer with a software package.  In each case we have to:

 

  1. Register the information in our CRM (Contact Resource Manager)
  1. Enter a new Opportunity (a record that the CRM software uses to track potential sales)
  1. Export the cost and project details to Word and Excel
  1. Then upload the document to SharePoint which we use for all document management
  2. Finally email the estimate to the customer for review. 

As you can see this process is quite lengthy to explain and typically took 30 minutes to complete.  It also required the user to validate several items such as company and contact information, project prices, ect… and had a high degree of inconsistence between users.

Here is what that process looks like in a diagram:

Solution:

 

  1. The first step was to identify the process

We created a simple yet accurate diagram of the process (see above image).  Using this information we could clearly define the total time spent on each step and the overall impact it was having on final product.  In some cases we were competing against other suppliers and getting the information to the potential customer first was a huge bonus when they started making decisions on which supplier to select.  We found that in some cases when our price and skill level was equal to a competitor, a customer would select us simple because of our speed.

 

  1. Creating a plan to automate the process

Once you have an accurate picture of the process, the next step is planning for the next phase.  In this it was clearly automation, but how and what tools were needed?  That's the great thing with automation, you simple need to take the same steps and make them faster, that's it!  Because we manually connected every step of the process together, our process diagram was our template for automation.  We didn’t' need to purchase any extra software or get any extra training.  We already had the knowledge to get the job done.
 

  1. Automating the process

As with any automation it requires a detailed knowledge of software.  That's were our knowledge and years of experience with many software packages and working with all kinds of customers.  In this example we created a single addin for Microsoft Outlook which drive the complete process.  As you can see the example video we placed a few menu items in Outlook which allowed the user to drive the complete process from start to finish.

If your interested in automation we will first review the process with you and even complete the process documentation and planning phases for your team to review.  Based on our review we provide a quality software solution to fit your custom needs.  We always use standard software when ever possible and if you have a current set of software products.

So how do you get started?  All we need is a few minutes to review your process and we can get started.  If travel isn't an option we can share a web conference meeting with you .

Items to consider:

  1. Do you have a process that looks similar to this?
  2. Do you spend a lot of time repeating the same tasks?
  3. Is information stored in several systems that requires manual entry?

Watch this video...

 


Web Design

Flash Slideshows

Watch this video...

View the example...

It's common for a website today to have  a slide show of pictures, a gallery of videos or a collection of ads.  Have you ever wonders how to get that type of content onto your site?

Content:

Each slide show begins with the images or videos you want to present to the viewer.  Our approach is to write down a short list of the items and/or information you want to display.  Remember that to much information is a bad thing.  You can always make multiple slide shows and start to target each one to a specific topic so make your list short, just a few items to start with.

 

Then begin by organizing your list(s) and topics into a logical order.  Web users tend to look quickly at information so it has to catch them right away or they'll move on.

 

Formatting:

 

Once you have the items to present, the next step is getting it onto a format that makes sense.  Typically this requires some adjustment of images sizes or modifying the quality of video.  Keep in mind that images should be the highest quality possible without being to large.  If the quality is poor the pictures won't display well.  If the quality is very high, they will not appear any better, but it will take longer to download.

Presentation:

The final steps is finding a medium to present the information.  Typically this is some type of a flash animation or a hosting site such as YouTube.com.  If you're not familiar with the process of creating a slide show, watch the example video we've created.  Don't forget to link each image to a web page focused on that particular topic so they can read up on your product or service.

In this presentation we create a simple Flash application with a few images.  As you can see the item's present well and give the end user quick and accurate information.

Watch this video...

View the example...

 


Website Templates

Help me find a template...

Website Templates are a great way to get started with you new design and not have to spend hours adjusting every minor detail. 

Won't my site look just like someone else?

One common misconception with website templates is they will look like just like someone else's site.  This is true if you (and another company) take that template and publish it as is.  This is never the case as every site has different content, images and color schema's.  In many cases changing just a few colors and images will give a completely different appearance. 

So why purchase a site template?

The most common reasons for purchasing a site template include:

  • You get to see that it's going to look like before you start investing time.

  • The layout is complete and you can start to make just a few small adjustments to get a completely different look.

  • They are low cost, and cost far less then starting from scratch.

  • They typically are in different formats such as HTML and Flash so you can start with a simple design and switch over in the future.

Help me find a template...

 

 

Extreme Blog

View our blog...

Get great tips, examples and other information in our new blog!  As we grow so does our knowledge and we are starting to pass that on to you.

 

 


Screen Scraper

Integrated UI

Screen-Scraper has a great interface (called the Workbench) which offers many options to collect almost any dataset from the web.  However, sometimes you need to integrate it with other systems.  In some cases the end user will not have programming experience and a simple interface is the best option.  This is were a intermediate interface is a great solution.  The goal is creating a simple yet powerful application that drive screen-scraper as in this application:

The interface show above may look simple, however it has a good deal of power which connects screen-scraper and it's features to a well defined process which ports the data from the web to XML, Excel, CSV, Access, SQL and many other data storage methods.  As this application runs the user simply selects one options (which defines the website to scrape)  and clicks the start button.  This triggers screen-scraper and begins the process of collecting the data from the web.

We've compiled a list of past project and how each can help you:

 

  1. Internet Explorer Addin

This application ran as an addin to Internet Explorer.  As the user browsed a pre-defined website they would find pages they would like to collect data from.  When you reached a page of interest, a button is clicked which start screen-scraper, collects the data and exports a report for future reference.

 

  1. Desktop Manager

To make the process easier for an used user to understand, this application runs in the Windows system tray.  When selected a simple dialog opens to select one option, the site to scrape.  The dialog then monitors the progress and reports back an estimates time.  While running it compiles data, placing it in a SQL data which is referenced by the customers website.

 

  1. Excel Report Manager

A customer wanted to read data from a suppliers website.  The current process involved copy and pasting data from the site to Excel.  We create this application will contained a few report filters.  As the application ran, it placed results in Excel which the user could review and report against.

 


Try our new One Search Service!

Getting business data has never been easier!  With the One Search service from Extreme Design you can get any data from any website into your business systems quickly and at a low cost.  Find new contacts, keep an eye on competitors pricing, monitor key business data in real-time and much more.

You can think of One Search as the services side to our current screen-scraping software design program.  Our current screen-scrape design service works like this:

 

  1. You find a website with some information.
  1. We design the software to get the data.
  1. You import the results into your data systems
  1. Repeat the process for each additional site.

So how does One Search make this process easier?  We do all the work for you!  Instead of searching the web and finding just the right data, we handle all of the dirty work so can spend more time making sales and growing your business. 

To get started we just need you to answer one simple question, what are you looking for?  That's it and we can put our data service team to work searching the web, finding the right sites and sending you a report of the best inforamation.  Image after just one short phone call or a quick email, having more data than ever before. 

So, what are you looking for?