A Data-Centric Approach, Professional Website

From the beginning, I envisioned our service would be built with a data intensive backbone – meaning our databases would play a major role in all facets of our service. Our approach was to build interrelated MS SQL databases that could easily be accessed by SQL queries, procedures, and functions across many different platforms; it was also clear that our professional website service would not only be accessed as a website on a computer but also as a website or app on  mobile devices such as a mobile phone or tablet. There are many advantages with our adoption of a data-centric approach, including:

  • Accessibility from various platforms and devices
  • Flexibility to create apps
  • Interchangeability with templates and page layouts
  • Searchability from internal and external sources
  • More comprehensive, yet efficient way to store information
  • Capability of outputting various types of files, XML or PDF resume
  • Connectivity with support channels, GroupShare
  • Adaptable for all different types of templates, which act as “skins”

Essentially all possible platforms and devices can connect and read data from a MS SQL Server database; in addition our native ASP .Net environment can serve content to most platforms. A XML file may have to be created as a conduit file for some platforms – like a Java app for Droid – though this is an easy transition from data stored in a database.

We have already created a few applications that take advantage of the data stored in databases. For example, we have created a timeline application that shows a professional’s experiences, body of work, and communications over a period of time. These applications draw from data already collected from your professional website and convert it into highly functional content – without any further effort spent by you.

Our data-centric approach makes it easy to change between templates. Barring  possible changes to fonts and colors, you can change from one template to another with a click of a button. Let’s say you are a recent college graduate and had a template with your university colors and logos. You spent a few years building your professional website and now you are ready to change your template. Simply select from our collection of templates and  the change will be made instantaneous. Your database remains intact as you switch between templates.

You can easily change back and forth between page layouts without having to make modifications to your content. For example, perhaps you want to have a tabular layout of your employment experience while you are seeking employment and once you are employed want to have a page layout. Simply toggle between layouts and the same data will populate the page.

We have built an internal search mechanism based on the data collected in our databases. The tables within our databases are interconnected making searches more effective, while providing richer content in the resulting table. You can search on a particular skill and get a results page displaying when that skill was used in employment, educational, and other experiences. In addition, our data-centric approach makes our service more integrated for external web applications – such as a job search board.

We would like for you to keep your professional website throughout your career, so as you can continually add more content, it acts as a repository of all your professional content. If content becomes outdated or irrelevant, you can simply hide it from view (perhaps you will apply for a security clearance or background check where it could be useful at a later time, however).

With our data-centric approach, it is possible to output various types of documents – like a PDF or XML resume – without having to make any further modifications. The resume content will be populated from the data collected from your professional website.

GroupShare, where you can connect with your support channels for peer-reviews, depends on our data-centric approach. Interconnectivity, communication features require data being shared accross different interfaces.

As we develop new templates, we will have more flexibility because of our data-centric approach. If you consider a template like a “skin”, there are almost limitless ways we can develop it. A data-centric approach gives us the opportunity to create a “next generation” of templates in the future.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a data-centric approach to building your personal professional website.

An alternative to the data-centric approach might be where everything is stored on a page as a control and you design and develop each page. You have more latitude in the development of the page, but since there is no preconceived framework (such as a resume), it is difficult to build a relational-based database; to improve searchability, you can add “tags” and categorize the elements. Many of the “build your own” website services use this type of approach.

We use this alternative approach with our “custom pages” interface  for two reasons. First, it is impossible to cover all the possible content a professional might want to put on their website. Second, with our early beta testers, we discovered some mid-career professionals wanted to sacrifice the benefits of a data-centric page for complete control over the style, layout, content, and aesthetics of the page.

Layout of Admin Interface, Professional Website

The first step in setting up your professional website is walking through the setup wizard, which helps you build the basic foundation of your website and setup some of the configuration settings. Everything seems alright, the wizard interface is simple. But when you are finished with the wizard and taken to the next screen, the main page of the Administrative Interface, it might seem daunting and you will probably ask yourself: What should I do now? I think one of the biggest reasons it may seem complicated is because there are so many things you can do with the system.

You may want to read or watch a tutorial and learn what to do next; these tutorials are accessible from the main website (Support). However, if you are like me, you just want to “dive in” and figure it out yourself.

The rest of this blog will discuss how to understand the menus and structure of some of the pages, which should help you figure things out.

The basic navigation/functionality structure is based on three separate menus.

  • Top menu in black, which represents all of the different sections or pages that appear on your website. To read, create, update, delete, or hide content for a particular section, click on the menu link.
  • Left menu in blue, which has links for all the functionality and configuration of your website.
  • Right panel in green, which displays functions relevant to the particular section or interface you are working with.

As you work through the development of your pages, accessing them by the top black menu, there are some common threads and structure in the pages.

All of the pages have the following header:

  • A layout option. This is where you can choose between a tabular or page layout for the related section. You can learn more about this option by viewing a previous blog: Page and Table Layouts.
  • A display Social Media checkbox. You may decide to include social media links (Google + and Facebook) to appear on a page for the related section.
  • Preview Website Button. You can preview how a page is going to look by clicking on this button, and you must click on this button to design a page with the page layout option. The page that appears also has functionality to develop the style and layout of your tables too.
  • Understanding the Use of… By checking on this box, you will get a detailed description of each field used in a particular section.

I will discuss the structure of the pages based on my favorite acronym CRUD, which represents Creating, Reading, Updating, and Deleting records. The READ page will always be the one that appears when you click on the top menu.

The experiences interface (employment, education, and interests) is built with the same structure:

  • The READ page is structured like a resume. There are links to create, update, and delete elements. You can drag and drop elements into a sort order. The green menu has tabs for Navigation, Content, and Space. The navigation tab is used to jump to specific elements on the page. The content tab is used to help with the use and frequency of action verbs. The space tab is used to manage space allocation for uploaded files.
  • The UPDATE and CREATE pages for an employment responsibility or education project or an interest has functionality to add basic content and interactive elements. You can learn more about these interactive elements by reading a previous blog Experience Section.
  • The DELETE page will prompt you whether you are sure you want to delete a record and any related files.

The READ page for the portfolio and blog pages have a header element where you can describe an objective and configure settings. The page also has an interface to CREATE individual elements and has links to UPDATE and DELETE items.

The rest of the pages (Publications, IT Skills, Certifications, Languages, and References) are built with the objective of implementing CRUD effectively on a single page, so as you work with related records, it never feels like you leave the page. This should make managing your content seem much faster and more efficient. Moreover, as we start to develop mobile applications, we will use this same approach.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a professional website service which has an administrative interface described in the above discussion.

Evidence a “Pull Approach” Is Effective

In a previous blog, I introduced a “pull approach” to employment seeking – where you “pull” potential employers to your professional website to find employment (Pull Approach, Employment Seeking). The effectiveness of this approach hinges on whether potential employers seek employees. For many reasons, I think this is where the landscape of finding employment is going and there is evidence that it has already gained traction.

One of the biggest reasons why employers are increasingly seeking employees is because the current approach – where employees seek employers –  is so inefficient. Potential employers are required to post employment opportunities in many places, such as job boards, newspapers, on their corporate website, etc. This is expensive because of overhead, time, and the use of other resources. However, the biggest problem is that strong candidates who did not find the job posting will not be considered for the opportunity. Evidence that the current approach – where employees seek employers – is on a serious decline can seen by the precipitous loss of market value of the major players offering related services, for example, MonsterJobs has lost a staggering 81% of its value over the last 5 years (according to a Forbes article in the July 12th issue).

There is a faster pace in finding talent for immediate needs. Much of this comes from the velocity of information technology development in the service industry. The current process can take months to hire the right candidate; a posting is added, candidates submit their resume, resumes are evaluated, and interviews are setup and conducted. With a “pull approach”, the first three of these steps go away. Theoretically a potential employer can be at an interviewing stage within a few hours.

Viewing a professional website is much faster and easier than a standard resume for evaluating a potential employee. A professional website is essentially a multi-dimensional resume with rich content (and multimedia), communication features, and an internal searching mechanism. Moreover, it is easier to evaluate among a team – simply share a professional website URL among colleagues.

With an effective search mechanism in place, a potential employer can quickly get a finely-tuned search result (or list) of talented professionals in a manner of minutes. A professional website, built on a skills-based foundation, has the necessary structure and keywords to be searched through.

The evidence that potential employers are seeking employees can be found in the success of LinkedIn and their flagship product Recruiter. It is one of their biggest revenue generating services and can cost as much as $8,000 per user (according to the same Forbes article mentioned above). Clearly, companies are purchasing this service and using it to find employees.

There are some issues in relying on a LinkedIn profile to represent you. First, you do not own all the content with your free profile, and LinkedIn can use the content to generate revenue with third party marketers. Second, it does not necessarily represent everything about you. Third, it currently does not support all multimedia content such as video, audio, etc.. Fourth, it does not have the stylistic appeal of a website. In summary, it is not necessarily setup as a way for you to project yourself in the best possible way. There is a place in your LinkedIn profile where you can share a link to a website – I suggest using it to share your professional website.

Finally, there is one subtle difference with the LinkedIn approach. The idea of a “pull approach” is to give you all of the functionality you need to best market yourself and effectively lure potential employers to your professional website. You are always in control. It does not mean just having your profile getting found in a search by an employer.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a professional website, which is the ideal platform to “pull” potential employers to.

Read more from the July 2012 Forbes article referenced above: How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine.

Rich Content, With A Professional Website

Throughout past blogs, I have talked about the importance in having valuable textual content on your professional website and I standby the necessity to have succint, results-oriented statements that have been peer reviewed for accuracy and effectiveness. However, after reading a blog “Visual-Content-Trumps-Text-in-Driving-Social-Media-Engagement-INFOGRAPHIC”, I thought it necessary to clarify. When we talk about having rich content on a professional website, we refer to the full gamut of possible content, this includes: text (or rich text, styled with HTML), images or graphics (JPEGS, GIFS, or PNGS), video (MOV, MP4, or WMV), audio (WAV or MP3), and document files (MS Word or PDF). If you are adding multimedia content to a structured section and rendering the page as a table, there are a few ways you can infuse multimedia content into your table. Otherwise, if you are developing a customized page, you can simply upload and place any of the above mentioned files onto the page.

Adding multimedia content to a structured section, like your employment section, can be accomplished in a few ways.

First, you can simply upload the file in the interactive section to the particular element and a File icon will appear with a link to the file in your table. For example, lets say I wrote a paper in a marketing class, I could upload the MS Word file under a project within my education section. Someone could read the file by clicking on the “file” icon.

Second, if the file is hosted somewhere else, you can add a link to the file; a Llink icon will appear with a link to the URL. Perhaps you have a YouTube video you want to link to, for example.

Finally, you can use the concept of an “internal page” to link to a customized page (which as mentioned before is versatile with multimedia content). Simply create a page under the “Custom Pages” link and define it as an internal page, then go back and link it the related element (this is available within the interactive elements section). A icon will appear in the table and when it is moused-over, it will display a link to view the internal page.

To design a custom page (as a main page or an internal page), click on the “Custom Pages” link in the main menu. Once you are on the “Custom Page” designer, add a new control and within the properties section on the right menu, there are controls to upload and label a new file. Click on the browse button , find the file on your local computer, and then click save. Images and videos will automatically appear and you can control their height and width parameters and placement on the page. Documents will appear as a link that will bring up the file when clicked on.

Effectively infusing multimedia into your professional website is highly recommended. It can make your website standout and improve its overall appeal. Moreover, this is how you can put your personal mark on it.

TheProfessionalWebsite.com offers a professional website service where you can add content as mentioned above.

Understanding Stylistic Appeal Of A Template

Stylistically speaking, there are a few basic components of a website. First, there is the overall layout; this includes how the page is structured, its color scheme, and any other distinguishing features of a page (and is visible on each page within a website). Second, there is a menu; something that allows for you to navigate through pages in a website. Third, there is a header; this can be your logo or branding. Finally, the actual content of the page. In selecting or building a template for your website, you should have some expectations with each of these components.

There are some characteristics of the overall layout you should consider. First and foremost, the general vibe of the layout, you should pick a layout that has a “look and feel” that relates to your profession and/or education and perhaps other things such as your demographics. For example, the layout of a template for a lawyer should have a very different appeal than a layout for an IT professional. Second, the page structure, you should choose a structure that best presents your content in an efficient manner. You may decide between vertical and horizontal menus, the number of columns on your page, etc. Third, the color scheme, you will obviously choose a template with a color scheme that best fits your preferences; this may be an option you can control with each template. Finally, the background, you may choose a layout that has a solid background or a graphic; perhaps the graphic makes the layout unique.

Continue reading “Understanding Stylistic Appeal Of A Template”

What is a professional online identity?

With the ever expanding reach of the internet, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how your identity is managed across various web platforms and also developing your own professional identity – something that can act as the primary node for all professional information about you.

The idea of establishing a professional identity is to provide a single source for all professional information about you, so someone looking for you finds everything they need to know about you in one place. If it is comprehensive and integrated enough, it should make further inquiry about you on other web services less relevant. There are a few important characteristics of an effective professional identity:

  1. A unique address. Your identity must have a unique reference point – your own URL works well – http://www.yourname.com
  2. Comprehensive. The platform should store all possible professional information about you. It  is less valuable if the viewer has to search other places to fill in the gaps.
  3. Integrated.  It needs to be able to perform well in all types of web services such as job search boards, search engines, and social media. There should be tools in place for SEO (search engine optimization) and full indexing of the content. In addition, there should be proper referencing for landing pages in social media.
  4. Accessible. The platform needs to be recognized in the industry, and it is crucial that the URLs perform well in all types of search engines – there is no value if the URLs are not found.
  5. Standardized. Viewers of an online identity should have at least some basic expectations of its structure, so they can quickly find the information they are looking for.
  6. Adaptable. As new technologies are introduced, it is crucial that the universal identity platform can be changed to utilize the new technologies. For example, it needs to have functionality to work with cellphone and tablet applications.
  7. Controllable. You should have control over what content is available to viewers and how it is displayed. When you subscribe to web services, you usually can control your content but it is not always clear how it is shared with third-parties.

A well designed professional website has all of these characteristics:

  • You get your own domain name
  • You can enter your contact information and all relevant professional information.
  • Works well in Google search engines, and has a proper paging interface
  • It usually appears high in Google rankings
  • Based on an expanded resume foundation, it is standardized
  • A data-centric approach should make it highly adaptable to new interfaces
  • You own your professional website and control your content

TheProfessionalWebsite offers a professional website service that promotes the development of a professional identity and has all of the functionality mentioned above.

Page and Tabular Layouts, A Professional Website

For many of the sections of a professional website, there is the option to render the web page in either a tabular or page layout. This is true for all of the “experiences” and “body of work” sections and also the “blog” section. A section rendered as a “tabular” layout will display as a table on a single web page. A section rendered as a “as a page” layout will display as multiple web pages, one for each subsection of the particular section. There are advantages and disadvantages with each type of layout.

Continue reading “Page and Tabular Layouts, A Professional Website”