January 20th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Leisler
Increasingly, the topic of having a “Responsive Website” makes its way into conversation early during Discovery Phases of new web projects.
Should we build our website to be responsive (working on a variety of devices such as desktop, tablet, phone with a single CMS) or build a desktop version and a separate mobile version? At this point it’s clear that responsive is overwhelmingly become the popular direction of choice.
Content decisions are made early on regarding how images and copy should be displayed and the importance of each design element is weighed against what will create the most user-friendly experience on each respected device.
Seems easy enough right? Create a content plan, everyone communicate effectively and soon enough users are experiencing content on the device of their choice.
There is however one little detail that is often forgotten – how responsive design relates to search engine optimization.
With SEO best practices constantly changing, today’s rule of thumb is to create honest content (no black hat tricks) and user-experiences for visitors. But it also means building your responsive website so that search engines know how to find it and index content easily. This is particularly worth pointing out during the content development phase of the website build when key decisions are being made about when and where content is displayed. The SEO solution for a “traditional” desktop solution may not translate 100% to a responsive site.
It requires another level of thinking and a lot more planning than in the past, but necessary to ensure users can easily find what you want them to see.
To learn more and for a checklist, check out Smashing Magazines write up: SEO for Responsive Websites.
Categories → Best Practices, Trends & Research, Web
January 6th, 2014 | Posted by Susan Weissman
How’s that for a shock? We were crawling out a recession, there was a brutal civil war in Syria, our government shut down and demonstrated to us just how dysfunctional they are and the whole NSA spying fiasco. But Zack Beuchamp shares some big picture facts that make your head spin:
- Fewer people are dying young and more are living longer.
- Fewer people suffer from extreme poverty and the world is getting happier.
- War is becoming rarer and less deadly.
- Rates of murder and other violent crimes are in free-fall.
- There is less racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in the world.
Now, that’s what I call pulling your head out of the weeds and looking at the big picture. A very difficult and important perspective to achieve. It’s also representative of something called Asset-Based Thinking. A foundational philosophy one of our clients teaches and builds into all of their service offerings. It’s the practice of working to see the cup as half full. You can actually build skills to approach your business from this perspective.
I’m optimistic about the future. I believe we can keep improving the world we live in, the businesses we create, the relationships we have. But sometimes I feel naive believing in a positive future. I appreciate Zach and my Asset-Based Thinking friends at The Cramer Institute for helping me see it another way.
Categories → Design & Culture, Trends & Research
November 5th, 2013 | Posted by Susan Weissman
For many years, marketers followed the adage of communicating benefits, not features. Tell your customer what’s in it for them. Right? Wrong. We weren’t going far enough. All of the research now tells us that one of the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make is communicating business values (which drives consideration) without communicating the “personal values” inherent in buying the product or service you’re selling.
So what is the difference? Business values are functional benefits and business outcomes. They speak to your mind, not your heart. I know we all want to believe we’re making very logical decisions based on data. And yes, we need to check the data and make sure we’re getting the basic characteristics we are looking for. But all the research indicates that even when we are making multi-million dollar decisions, we are making them based on emotions. The emotions can be categorized into three personal values (according to CEB/Motista Survey): professional benefits (I will look good, smart, maybe I’ll get a promotion); social benefits (everyone is doing it, this is a popular trend, I feel like I’m in the know moving in this direction) and emotional benefits (I feel confident, safe, empowered by purchasing from this organization).
It’s extra work to get to the personal value. You need to think about what your customer needs and wants, what problem she is dealing with and how your service or product helps to solve that problem. If you can translate your business values into personal values — you’ve got gold.
Categories → Best Practices, Marketing Principles, Trends & Research
October 4th, 2013 | Posted by Christine Manfrede
Earlier this week, Google announced 14 new features to Google Analytics—one of which should be extremely impactful for marketers: audience reports. Yes, you’re finally able to see the age, gender and interests of your visitors. This is a game changer.
Now there is vast potential to draw insights, create tailored messages and reach your best prospects. Your criteria can get so granular as to indicate what content is being accessed by, say, English-speaking 18 to 24 year old females who are interested in cooking. And this kind of info can be segmented by channels or campaigns.
This new level of demographic acumen will allow you to better inform both online and offline marketing efforts by targeting your most best customers, and potentially finding unexpected outliers, as well.
The interests segmentation will probably offer the most audience insights. However, as a designer, I’m personally interested seeing the differences in how the genders and various age groups interact with sites.
The other exciting announcement is the launch of Analytics Academy—free community-based video courses focused on helping people use and understand the new features of GA. As Google has already announced 70 features this year, this level of assistance is truly welcome. You can complete each course at your own pace during a three-week window beginning on October 8, 2013. The first course, Digital Analytics Fundamentals, is now open for registration.
Videos are now available within the Google Analytics interface, offering relevant reports as you’re looking at them. This is huge. Prior to now, instructions were only offered through the boring haze of the Google Analytics Developer portal.
All in all, GA is becoming increasingly more robust, complex and integral. I’m happy to see that Google is offering tools that will help us focus on people and not just hits, allowing us to navigate the ever-changing world of analytics.
Categories → Trends & Research, Web
September 6th, 2013 | Posted by Jerome Gaynor
“Material honesty” is an architectural idea that suggests that objects are more beautiful when they seem to be made of what they’re actually made of. It’s an idea that’s been around for hundreds of years, and it’s easy to come up with examples: just compare a solid oak table to one that’s finished in plastic veneer that looks like oak. Compare a brick house to one that’s made of cinder blocks painted to look like bricks. The superiority of the authentic option is pretty self-evident.
I never knew what it was called, but I’ve been intimately familiar with this idea since I was a child. Alas, the 1970’s were a decade when this concept seemed to have been nearly forgotten. The artificial sweaters that I was forced into on Sunday mornings looked like wool, but were made of a synthetic material that was as uncomfortable as it was dishonest. And the aforementioned vinyl-veneered furniture assaulted one’s eyes at every turn.
In “Material Honesty on the Web,” Kevin Goldman extends this idea to websites. A website is a virtual object on a flat screen. According to the author, making websites that look like books, or old-fashioned stereo receivers, is inherently less beautiful than just making a website look like what it is, because the former is “dishonest.” He even suggests that drop shadows, bevels, and all those other respectable old website standards are merely tacky artifice that ought to be dropped in favor of minimalist flatness. This is an idea that lends legitimacy to the current trend in “flat” design, but I wonder if flatness is inherently better because it is more “honest,” or if it’s just this year’s trend?
I can’t help but think of the wonder that I felt when computer graphics started feeling “real”: in the 1990’s, and well into the 2000’s, every new version of Microsoft windows sported increasingly convincing glows and bevels. Was my amazement at Windows ’95 the same as that which was felt by my father the first time he witnessed the miracle of the wood-paneled Ford station wagon?
I prefer flat design, but I’m not sure if it’s because of its novelty, or because it is inherently superior. Check back with me in 2023 and I’ll tell you for sure…
Categories → Design & Culture, Trends & Research