Alternating Table Row Colors in Rails

by Melvin Ram on January 5, 2011

A common task in business web applications is displaying tables of content in a spreadsheet style format. A nice treatment that adds a lot of usability to such tables of data is visually separating alternating rows of content.

The easiest way to do this in Rails is to use the cycle function as follows:

<%= cycle("odd", "even") %>

Here’s a more full example:

<tr class="<%= cycle("odd", "even") %>">
  Row of content

You could easily use it with any element, such as a div or li.

For more information, please see:


The Meaning Of Technology

by Melvin Ram on January 3, 2011

I got curious today as to the root meaning of the word technology and I stumbled onto this interesting definition:

“technology – the practical application of knowledge;”


Getting Current Path In Rails From Current Request

by Melvin Ram on December 22, 2010

There are a number of reasons you might want to get the current path. For example, you might chose to create a menu system that compares the current path against a list of paths that are available and use that to add the “current” class so you could indicate which page you were currently on.

This current path is located inside the request.env['REQUEST_PATH'] property. A shortcut to this property is request.path.


Make It Easy To Find

by Melvin Ram on September 30, 2010

If you have a link or a button on a website and it’s not easy to find, it might as well not even be on the page because to the visitor, it practically doesn’t exist. Take the “YouTube Partnership Program: Welcome” page from YouTube:

It explains to me that one of my videos has become popular (a modest 3,000 views) and that I can sign up for revenue sharing. Great. I’ve always to learn more about the process that is involved. It tells me all the steps and says “Let’s get started …”. Sweet… let’s do it. Wait, how do I get started? I re-read the instructions in-case I missed something. Nop, I didn’t miss anything. Right as soon as I was about to say “forget about it” (in New York style, mind you), I saw something in the corner of my eye.  It’s a link that says “Next Page >” in the bottom right corner, right above the footer links. Let’s review where my eye was expecting it and where it was:

Why would they have it so far from where you’d expect the link? Did they just not think about it? Do they want to discourage revenue sharing?


Mixergy Interview – Chance Barnett

by Melvin Ram on September 29, 2010

If you’re going to be doing internet marketing, you owe yourself to watch the following Mixergy interview of Chance Barnett. It’s just one of the many incredibly value videos on Mixergy. I highly recommend becoming a member.


Results May Vary

by Melvin Ram on September 7, 2010

About 21 hours ago, I read Carlos Taborda’s blog post on how they were able to increase their conversion rates by 45% through testing and optimizing their design/content. The results were impressive. The key changes they made were:

  • Remove navigation bar. The idea was to limit the users options. They had to either either click to see Plans & Pricing or view the features.
  • Red call to action button.
  • Features instead of Screenshot.
  • Big Letters
  • No Pricing in front-page
  • Some better description text, more concise, bullets, etc.

Of the above, the one that I hadn’t tested was removing the navigation menu on our home page. I’ve tested removing it on our consultation form and it works great but I hadn’t tested  it on the home page. Next task: Test!

Test Overview

Using Visual Website Optimizer, it was pretty easy to get a test setup and running.

Here’s the header for control:

Here’s the header for the variant:

I setup 4 conversion goals:

  • Viewed Pricing Page
  • Viewed Consultation Page
  • Became Lead
  • Engagement (inverse of bounce rate)


After a few hundred people viewed the test, here are the results as compared with the control which was website with menu on home page:

  • Viewed Pricing Page: -15.57%
  • Viewed Consultation Page: +3.19%
  • Became Lead: +1.1%
  • Engagement: -49.73%


As you can see from the data above, the engagement rate is way way down. Consultation page views and Lead conversion is up slightly but it’s not worth the huge gigantic drop in engagement on the website.

This quick test doesn’t prove that you must have a menu on your website. It simply means that you should take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt and test everything you change on your site because as they often say in weight loss commercials, “Results May Vary!!”

PS: I know the sample size is small but the difference is so significant that a reasonable conclusion can be drawn on which variation will be a better performer.


Recommended Practice For Installing WordPress Updates

by Melvin Ram on September 7, 2010

high quality music downloadI got the following email from a client of mine a few minutes ago:

What is the recommended practice for the WordPress updates? Should I be installing them as they become available?

This is a great question and below is my general recommendation:

  • Small point upgrades (3.0 to 3.0.1 to 3.0.2, etc) should be applied almost immediately. They usually don’t break anything and are security/bug patches.
  • For medium point upgrades (3.0.x to 3.1 to 3.2), themes and plugins might have conflicts. I usually like to do these immediately but make sure to have a backup that you can revert to almost immediately if something breaks.
  • For full version upgrades, 3.x to 4.0, upgrade should be done relatively soon. I usually like to wait for some reports to come out giving a green light or a red light. Sometimes it’s wise to wait for the x.0.1 or x.0.2 patches to upgrade. Historically speaking, full version upgrades have a tendency to break plugins and/or themes so it’s wise to be 100% sure you have a backup copy of your site before upgrading.


Website Optimization Is A Moving Target

by Melvin Ram on September 3, 2010

Ran Reed Respect The Architect albumWhen you’re optimizing your website, you need to keep in mind that if your audience changes, your results are mostly likely invalidated and you should re-test.

An example of this is our link to the pricing/lead generation page in our main navigation menu. A few months ago, we ran a test that tested various language for that link (ex. Pricing, Pricing Info, Free Price Quote, Free Pricing). The test ran for a month and had a significant amount of visitors. At the end of that test, “Free Price Quote” was a clear winner converting 60% more than the control (which was “Pricing”) so that’s what we ran with. Later, we tested the button on our home page with similar wording variations. Same result as expected.

About a month ago, we acquired a few companies/websites and have been very active on the marketing front. This has increased our traffic significantly. One thing I noticed was that our numbers had not held up after the increase in traffic and the likely cause was that our mix of website visitors has changed so we decided to retest the language for our pricing/lead-gen page.

The new test is currently running but we’ve already gotten a significant amount of visitors to be able to trust the data. With our new mix of visitors, “Pricing” is actually converting about 70% more than “Free Price Quote” and has about the same bounce rate. I’m going to continue running the test for the next month to make sure it holds.

PS: I’m using Visual Website Optimizer to run the tests. A full review is coming soon.


Companies Google Has Acquired

by Melvin Ram on August 25, 2010

Google has a reputation for building amazing products and hiring the smartest nerds around. However, you might be surprised to find out that most of the products & services is widely known for were actually companies Google bought and integrated. The graphic below visually shows details of the companies Google has acquired.

Google Acquisitions.

Research by

Some of these acquisitions have been very strategically important while others haven’t really been used too well. The real lesson to take away from this post is that you can grow exponentially through acquisition if you do the work to integrate and own the purchased company/products. We’ve made some acquisitions recently and are hard at work integrating. I hope to share them with you soon.


Dude, Where’s My Hard Drive Space?

by Melvin Ram on August 1, 2010

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve had some family members over from New Zealand. My uncle had brought his Sony VAIO laptop that was a few years old that had grown painfully slow. The main problem it had was that it had almost no hard drive space left.

The first task was to figure out where all the space had gone. This can be a very time consuming task if you do it manually.

Fortunately, there’s a fantastic free software for windows called WinDirStat that will analyze your hard drive, identify where all your space is being used and show it to you with a breakdown by hard drive.


To download it, visit