Year: 2014

Don’t Do Branding First

Here’s my daily podcast from today where I explain the differences between marketing, advertising, branding, and public relations (at least in my opinion):

Today, Sam evaluates those differences with a number of warnings and suggestions about how to do your marketing better and spend your money more wisely (and how to avoid the chutes and climb the right ladders).

via ThinkingDaily: Don’t Do Branding | Thinking.FM.

It’s a point I like to make with clients and always a fun discussion.

Simple Websites and Expected Formulas

I’ve built hundreds of WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal sites over the years for clients (and a few for my own endeavors). One of the most frequent conversations I have towards the end of these builds when we get to the aesthetics and flow of a site is how design decisions impact not just “branding” but also user experience.

Websites are not only meant to be representations of a brand or a company. Sites are meant to be the front door of whatever experience a company is trying to express. Or more succinctly, sites are for marketing, not intranets.

Communicating this with clients is something I really enjoy doing, because it involves a bit of give and take. It’s not a one sided conversation by any means and every company or person has their own preconceived notion of what a website in a given category should look like.

Turns out there’s some science behind that and visitor experience to the site…

In a study by Google in August of 2012, researchers found that not only will users judge websites as beautiful or not within 1/50th — 1/20th of a second, but also that “visually complex” websites are consistently rated as less beautiful than their simpler counterparts

Moreover, “highly prototypical” sites — those with layouts commonly associated with sites of its category — with simple visual design were rated as the most beautiful across the board

via Why “Simple” Websites Are Scientifically Superior | SoshiTech – Social Media Technology – Soshitech.com.

The two part conclusion here is important for marketing agencies and companies looking to have a “better” website to consider.

First, overly complicated websites are junk. If Henry Ford had asked people what they had wanted to see in his car, they would have wanted a faster horse. If Steve Jobs had relied on “user expectations” for the iPhone or even iPad, we’d have a physical keyboards and lasers with giant stylus’ attached to our devices.

Building a website isn’t the same as building an iPhone, but you have to manage what you expect users to want with the simplicity of choice (I talk about this more deeply in a ThinkingDaily episode here). It’s easy to think that in 2014, a visitor to your brand spanking new spiffy site would want to be able to click dozens of “sharing” buttons or to see “what’s related” on the web because you see a competitor (or worse, Buzzfeed) doing those things on their site. It’s not true. Keep your site simple and keep your powder dry. Make the visitor convert to whatever you’re preaching with the power of your message and not with overly complicated designs and tons of drop down menus.

Second, users have an expectation of what a banking site, a garden site, a medical site, a social sharing site, a tech site, a lawyer site, a church site etc should look like. If you’ve hired a good developer or designer or agency to help you with your site, they should know this.

What that doesn’t mean is that you know what visitors actually want. There’s lots of research on this, and many of us spend considerable time staying on top of that research. Hiring a website developer, designer or agency should mean more than asking “which young person do I know can build me a website?” for this reason alone.

Sites are important. They are your front door and your exit. They are your first line of marketing and turning a potential visitor into a conversion or they are your worst enemy.

Tread lightly and do your homework.

Bringing It All Back Home 2014 Version

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I happened on a post by Alex King this week and it reminded me of my ongoing desire to bring back most of what I do online to this site (or at least having it as the hub of my online content production):

I’m a big fan of owning your own online identity and owning your content. I believe that WordPress is a great tool for this, which is one of the reasons I’ve used it and supported it for the last decade. My personal site (alexking.org) is powered by WordPress, and it is my home on the web.

I blog there, I post photos and status updates, I have a list of my projects, and I point people there when they ask where they can find me or learn more about me. And I’ve been blogging there since 2002, so there is plenty of interesting stuff to find there.

However, my site is not an island. I have integrations with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (via Flickr), Pinboard, and GitHub. My site is my home, but I love interacting with my friends in these other communities.

The problem with “blogging” as it existed and exists today is that most folks interact with content via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and it’s only the holdout nerds like me who still sing the joys of feed readers and RSS and federated content. I’ve gone back and forth over the last five or so years of searching for a solution to interacting with people on the social web while trying to keep most of my own content here.

I think Alex’s FavePersonal theme for WordPress might do the trick. It’s pretty straightforward to setup and includes some interesting dual flow between a blog and social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

I’m going to be experimenting with it in the coming days to see if this is the real solution.

I hope so!

Net Neutrality and the Power of Words

This is one of the most important things you’ll read in 2014.

Don’t let the term “net neutrality” scare you if you’re not a “geek.” it’s a term that means Verizon or ComCast or (God forbid) Time Warner doesn’t have the legal ability to throttle or expedite the flow of bits over their wires and pipes based on who is paying them for access.

For years, our cable and telecommunication companies have been asking for the ability to charge Netflix or Pandora or YouTube etc a fee to reach their customers (or the ability to offer different tiers of access to these services).

This is not good for the internet, but I have a feeling it’s already too late and 2014 will be the year we lose the open internet. Long live the walled gardens…

So, this is going to be a chaos. All you’re going to hear from now on is that net neutrality proponents want to “regulate the internet,” a conflation so insidious it boggles the mind. Comcast and Time Warner Cable and Verizon are not the internet. We are the internet — the people. It is us who make things like Reddit and Facebook and Twitter vibrant communities of unfiltered conversation. It is us who wield the unaffected market power that picks Google over Bing and Amazon over everything. It’s us who turned Netflix from a DVD-by-mail company into a video giant that uses a third of the US internet’s bandwidth each night. And it is us who can quit stable but boring corporate jobs to start new businesses like The Verge and Vox Media without anyone’s permission.

via The wrong words: how the FCC lost net neutrality and could kill the internet | The Verge.

Blogging Still Matters in a Social Media World

One of the main things I want to do more in 2014 is post on my blog. It’s a daily fight with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

However, this has been my web home for over ten years now an I need to start treating it better.

Great post by Matt…

Blogging is harder than it used to be. We’ve gotten better at counting and worse at paying attention to what really counts. Every time I press Publish the post is publicized to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, and Google+, each with their own mechanisms for enumerating how much people like it.

via The Intrinsic Value of Blogging | Matt Mullenweg.

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