Monday, June 6, 2011

Enhance your driving experience with Telematics

Photo courtesy of Graur Razvan Ionut

The Newland Group headquarters in Mississauga has been quite occupied these
last couple of months launching a refreshed website for one of our AAA clients. Quite a bit has happened since my last post. In particular, Newland President - David Kingsland, attended the annual AAA/CAA Eastern Conference. After discussing the highlights (and there were many!) one thing intrigued me in particular - Telematics.

I needed to know more, so I did some digging. Telematics is the combined use of Telecommunication and Informatics. The most common example of Telematics is GM's OnStar system used to offer drivers many useful services and communication while on the road. AAA/CAA has expressed an interest in adding this technology to their service line. The possibilities are endless. Just imagine, you're on your way to catch an international flight and you stop at the bank to exchange some money for your trip. You slam your car door shut only to realize the instant that it has closed, your keys are still in the ignition. Imagine a technology smart enough that with a call to your local AAA/CAA club could unlock your doors instantly without having to wait for Roadside Assistance. This is a true story. I did end up making my flight but, at the cost of my sanity. I only wish Telematics had been around then.

GPS tracking and access to so much personal information does bring to light a concern with privacy. Should your safety come at the cost of compromising your personal details? Absolutely not and Erik Goldman, President of Hughes Telematics agrees. "We are hyper-sensitive to the privacy issue. The car owner owns the information gathered by the system, and the owner controls access to that info." - How the Hughes Telematics Device Works. Granting the user ultimate control over personal information through the use of firewalls and encryption keeps the customer at ease.

If you wish to know more about this innovation, check out this site Telematics Update

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top Ten Tips for Launching a New Website

There comes a time in every website's life where it starts to look dated or tired and in need of a facelift to breathe new life into the business it represents.  Here at The Newland Group, this is what we do - from redesigns to updating pages or creating fresh new applications.  So, when it came time to update our own website, we found ourselves working on a very personal project. 

Here are The Newland Group's top ten tips for launching a new website:

1.  Have a kick off meeting with your team to brainstorm ideas.  Involving everyone who may not be directly working on the actual creation of the site is imperative to building a site that is well-rounded.  Have everyone on your team come prepared to the brainstorming session with a wish list of things they would like to see on the new site and discuss all the possibilities as a group.  Allow a fair amount of time and aim to walk away from the meeting with some clear and established objectives for the website.

2.  Conduct a Heuristic EvaluationYour website is too important to have any aspect of it left to chance.  Have a heuristic evaluation of your website to ensure that all updates have a purpose and will improve the overall quality of your website.

3.  Hire a professional Web Artist.  Don't leave the look and feel of your site to an amateur.  Much like meeting someone for the first time, it only takes 30 seconds to make a first impression.  Hiring a pro will allow your site to create a positive, lasting impression in your visitor's mind.

4.  Hire a professional content writer.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but seeking your internal pool of writers or outsourcing will greatly improve the quality of your site.  Recruit the specialists of your company to provide their expertise to sections of your site and then have your content writer translate this information into well composed content for your site.

5.  Get all your ducks in a row.  Once you have nailed down the look of your website, your audience and the sections you would like to include, start thinking about the set up and long term use of your site.  

6.  Establish the website structure.  Developing all your ideas into a an organizational structure for your website is key.  Keep in mind your audience and your central message.

7.  Test! Test! Test!  So, you've crossed all your t's and dotted your i's and your website looks great, right?  Think again.  At a first glance, there are many functional glitches that can be missed without a thorough test of your entire site.

8.  Cross Browser Compatibility.  Don't assume that because your website looks flawless in one browser, this is how it will appear in all the other most popular browsers.  Establish a standard of which browsers your website will be compatible with and then ensure that your development and testing phases include this as an item to be checked off your list.  Which browsers do you choose to be compatible with?  Analytics is a great way to identify which browsers your visitors use the most to access your website.

9.  Content Proofreading.  Never underestimate the power of a keen editor.  Small things like spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or misplaced content can skew the impression you leave behind on your audience.  It may seem like a minor detail however, it is all the small details combined that have a really big impact.

10.  Know when to triage smaller issues or details until after launch.  During the life of your project, there may be details that arise that may not be in scope or can be included as part of a second release of updates for your site.  If you have a hard launch date, this is particularly important to manage.

Today, we are incredibly proud to announce the launch of the all new . Take a moment to have a look and let us know what you think!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Launch new web applications with confidence using quality assurance

Think of your daily morning routine.
Have you ever left the house and asked yourself if you had locked the door, turned off the iron or let the dog out?  Chances are, sometimes these things are missed and you have to return home causing you to be late or be very frustrated.

The other possibility is that you are confident that your morning tasks were complete and return home to an unlocked door, house in flames or an unhappy pet.  The point is, if a morning routine could be backed up by Quality Assurance, these insecurities would be assessed before leaving the house therefore allowing time to plan for them and as a result, eliminating frustration .
At The Newland Group, we include Quality Assurance as part of all of our projects large and small.  When creating new applications for CAA/AAA clubs, we rigorously test them before they are passed on for approval.

Not only do we test, but we craft the best approach and document this in our Test Strategy document. Once the approach has been planned, test cases are developed to instruct the tester exactly how to test each feature or process, along with scenarios that paint a clear picture of a real life situation.

Recently, we have adopted the Iterative Development Process which allows development and testing to be broken down into smaller modules of the entire project.  The bugs are identified in parallel with the development process which allows for accurate diagnosis and assessment if the issue could lead to further challenges in the future of the project development.

Once testing has passed and all bugs have been fixed, the product is passed on to the customer.  With test cases in hand, they may choose to conduct their own testing or have confidence in the provided test results to proceed with deployment.

Releasing a product to your members that works is what you sign up for.  Customers should not have the frustration of dealing with deficiencies in your software.  Once a product is released, it should work out of the box, just how you envisioned it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boost membership with pages that command sales

Have you ever wished you could go into the homes and offices of your website visitors to get a "read over their shoulder" perspective of how your website could be better tailored to their needs?  Multivariate testing software allows you to do just that.

Every club’s goal is to boost membership numbers, both new and renewals. How effective is your Join process? Could you increase your Plus and Premier upgrades? How can you get more people to sign up for ACCR when they renew? Put your site visits to action with a real and measurable analysis of what actually makes these pages more effective.

When The Newland Group joined forces with Autonomy Optimost, AAA and CAA clubs were able to get an in-depth look into what really engages their users.  "By exposing different combinations of content—simulating thousands or even millions of variations—to different online visitors and then measuring their actions, Interwoven’s solution can identify the most compelling combination of content and layout." Quoted from "Autonomy Optimost Marketing Optimization Solution."  Autonomy Optimost. Nov. 26, 2010.

The Newland Group made this happen by working with Optimost and embedding JavaScript hooks in the
key pages to be analyzed. The Optimost code used these hooks to present different content to different
visitors, while keeping track of how effective each variation was in achieving the predefined goals.

Sometimes we wanted to go beyond simple multivariate testing and actually measure the effectiveness
of adding entire new pages to the process flow. Again we worked with Optimost to tailor our
development to interwork with their software.

At the end of each experiment we not only had clear and measurable statistics, but actual optimized
pages that were generating significantly more revenue than they did before the project began.

To read more on multivariate testing, check out Optimost is at

Friday, November 19, 2010

Take your website to a whole new level with SOAP

" SOAP is a simple XML-based protocol to let applications exchange information over HTTP." 
Soap Tutorial in  Retrieved from

The Newland Group development team has been making websites squeaky clean with SOAP.

Recently, The Newland Group developed a SOAP client for several AAA/CAA clubs as part of a PA-DSS initiative to securely transfer information between 2 servers as discussed in last week's installment - "Star studded new addition to AAA/CAA webistes makes members feel secure".

Using SOAP to integrate web services on your website is a great way enhance the user experience.  For example, a practical use for CAA/AAA clubs would be to offer a battery look up service to determine the exact battery for their particular vehicle.  First, you would need to identify a web service that supplies comprehensive battery information.  On the club website, the member completes a SOAP enabled form.  SOAP allows a background request to the web service which returns the correct battery data.  A simple yet effective way to instantly enrich your website!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Star studded new addition to AAA/CAA websites makes members feel secure

Well, we're not talking about celebrities here but, AAA/CAA members have been seeing stars with a secure new addition to club websites.

The star in this case is known as PA-DSS which was sparked by an initiative from credit card companies.  This is a standard that enhances data security.  In the past, credit card transactions were handled simply by HTML.  According to the TJX data heist in 2007, which happened to be the largest customer data compromise to date, it became clear that this was not enough security.

Now, enter PA-DSS which teams up with Java and Axis to create a supremely secure process. On the customer facing end of the process, once a credit card number is entered, all but the last 4 digits are replaced with stars.  The back end works to secure payment applications so that they do not store vulnerable data, such as credit card and PIN numbers.

From the consumer's perspective, it is comforting to know that sophisticated measures are being taken to prevent fraud and theft.  It is imperative for businesses to always remain one step ahead of the game. Protecting the customer also protects hard earned revenue.

Monday, November 8, 2010

AAA WCNY Hits the Refresh Button on My Account Service

At the heart of every great business, it's no secret that the driving force is revenue.

WCNY approached The Newland Group when they decided it was time to give membership numbers a boost. The vision was to refresh the My Account service (MAS) with a whole new look and user interface.

It all started with a heuristic analysis of the 2009 version of the MAS. The results determined that the MAS was not as user friendly or intuitive as it could be, for a few reasons;

  • Ineffective use of space:

    Then: Members had to jump through a few hoops to access their personal information.

    Now: The new design allows members full access to account information on one, easy-to-read page.

  • Labels & Buttons create too much guesswork:

    Then: Dual purpose buttons and poorly named labels made for a confusing experience.

    Now: Avoidance of multi purpose buttons and clear labeling creates a more stream lined, user-friendly experience.

  • Where are the instructions?:

    Then: Lack of direction or instruction left the member unclear on how to perform simple actions.

    Now: There is better descriptive information that guides the member along a smoother process.
The overall goal was to create a win-win situation for the club and the member. For the club - a refresh of their current MAS to stimulate more revenue through quicker membership acquisition, add/upgrade and renewal processes. For the member - a new MAS that is user-friendly and efficient enabling easy access to all their personal account details.

WCNY is the pioneer of this project and with great success. Several clubs have already signed up to make this revenue boosting change. Look out for more re-vamped MAS's heading to a AAA/CAA club near you!

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