One week into 2013, it's prime time for New Year's resolutions. Just walk into any gym in North America for proof. Of course, three weeks from now it'll be a very different story. It's easy to go out on January 1 with guns a-blazing only to crash and burn by the end of the month.
As marketers, designers, and developers, no doubt there are tons of goals we could be setting for ourselves, but trying to do too much too quickly is often our downfall. Here are five resolutions for 2013 that are actually doable and can help yield rewards throughout the new year and beyond:
1. Resolve to add value. Clients love working with agencies and design firms. Believe it or not, clients get excited about meeting with their agency team. Quite often it's the most fun part of their day. They get to look at new designs or concepts, ask questions, give feedback, and make decisions. But clients should be looking forward to working with you for other reasons, too. What value do you offer them? Are you regurgitating the same marketing plans over and over with a different client name in…
Growing up, my mom used to say, "Those who have nothing to hide hide nothing", usually right before she'd read my diary. Transparency may not be the best policy when you're 16, but the mentality is well-regarded in the professional world. Corporations make their financial records public too, whether online, in an annual report, or in a press release. Charities are open about sharing their financial information so the public can see where their money is spent. Everybody likes to toot their own horn a little bit, so agencies of all sizes often issue a release when they win a new client or a new piece of work.
Transparency goes beyond financial information and a public client roster. It can mean things such as sharing information about how your business is run - your internal processes, your full client list, the way you work. Most companies have a section of their website dedicated to profiling their team members, perhaps a few images of their office - a little peek inside the doors of an organization, a way to put a face to the names of the people you're working with.
Some companies take it…
Since its incorporation, Headspace has changed locations a few times. Our office used to be located in downtown Dartmouth, followed by about a year of working remotely. Since the summer, we've been in our new home in the Hydrostone Market in Halifax.
Our team is well versed in the pros and cons of both scenarios.
Working In An Office: The Good
There are obvious benefits to working in an office, which is why probably 99 per cent of people with jobs in any industry don't work from home.
For our team, having an office means there's always a meeting space available to chat with clients - no scrambling to find a coffee shop that isn't too noisy or showing up at our clients' location for every discussion.
Having a central workspace builds a sense of camaraderie amongst the team. It's easier to ask questions and get information from colleagues when you can see them face to face.
I believe it also looks better for potential clients when we have a physical address. While many clients don't care where the work is taking place as long as…
I returned to work this week after a year's maternity leave and was surprised by how much has changed since I left Headspace last fall to have my munchkin.
Things are different at the office. Our little team of five has grown to nine. We've gone from remote offices to a lovely new spot in the Hydrostone. We have a new process in place, new clients, new projects galore and a new website.
The work we do has changed, too. Last fall we were beginning to test the waters of responsive design and had launched a couple of mobile applications for clients. This year, responsive is almost second nature, and apps and software design and development are a huge part of our business.
It makes me think about how quickly things change, not just in the digital realm, but in the communications industry in general. I started working in advertising in 2006 and looking back on those early days slaving away as an account coordinator, there are tons of differences. Smartphones and tablets didn't exist then. There were no QR codes. Online advertising is no longer an afterthought - in fact,…
I used to think process was an ugly word. Who wants to be neck deep in charts and documentation, wasting time when we could be actually doing the design or dev work? And it’s that kind of thinking that got us screwed over on jobs our first couple of years in business.
Well this year, I think we finally got it right. Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but there are several ways in which we nailed down, perhaps our most efficient, effective process of building websites and applications, and one that actually enhances the fun for us, while also ensuring clients get what they want in the end.
Take a look at this process chart I made a few months ago:
This process shows a more refined way that we go about a project that fits into one of two camps; Either a website built in ExpressionEngine or an application built within the CodeIgniter framework.
Putting the visuals first: UX first
We’ve recently adopted a UX-first approach to most projects. The bigger and more complex the application, the more important this approach is.
It used to be that the average person thought of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a series of tricks that a professional expert used to trick Google into ranking their site above a competitors'.
And for the most part, that was true. There's the old definition of a SEO being either black hat, someone employing cheap nasty tricks that got huge results for the short term, and white hat, someone focusing on quality content and link building which takes longer but gets long-term results.
In 2011 Google made black hats pretty well redundant for good, and even some strategies that the quality SEO's utilized has become less relevant. Google has updated their search algorithms with something called "Panda" which takes into account ratings from real human beings visiting a website. More than ever, this means that Google's criteria for ranking a website is based off of the following:
- How trustworthy does the site feel?
- How easy is it to use and navigate?
- How engaging is the content?
What has become much less important are things like meta tags, headings and other technical tricks that…
Email is 70% useless.
As someone unfortunately known in our office for writing 'Rackigrams', that is, pointed emails that are specifically designed to let someone know they're an a-hole, I have learned something:
Email should never be used to express anger when you want to preserve a relationship. It causes hurt feelings and needless drama, particularly because to the reader, you sound about 10 times angrier over email than in person (unless you're Steve Jobs apparently).
In an email, writing "I'm disappointed in your services" sounds to the reader like "I'M DISAPPOINTED IN YOUR FACE, YOU S.O.B". Talking in person however, we use inflection in our voice and soften our language with things like "Sort of", "a little bit", "pretty bad". If you aren't worrying about severing the relationship, then great. Go to town.
Now in a lot of cases, email can be great. Particularly when you want to send a message that has multiple components, broken out in headings, in a numbered list, and you want to offer up this soliloquy with no interruptions, no counter-arguments, questions or even expressions of agreement that get in the…
Yesterday I attended Podcamp Halifax, which is a great annual, free event full of presentations about the web and social media. It's a great place to connect with people face-to-face that you know from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and learn new things that can help you with your business.
Much kudo's to the folks who put it on including Craig Moore from Spider Video. To those who came, it was great meeting you and I hope to you next year (or sooner)
I was privileged to put on a presentation based on Aarron Walter's book, Designing For Emotion. It attracted a good sized crowd and seemed to resonate with the people in attendance. Here were some mentions on Twitter:
HarmonicDev Harmonic Internet
GREAT talks yesterday by @brightwhite @kyleracki @SpiderVideo and keynote speaker @julien #podcamphfx and big kudos to the event organizers!
I was looking at a website today and noticed a link to an online application for payroll. Great, I thought. An alternative to ADP. I reviewed their site and found the sign up form to learn about a special offer.
I took the time to fill out the form, which included fields asking how many employees I have, and what I currently use for payroll, and within 30 seconds I received a call from the sales agent. Everything okay so far. But he made several mistakes that lost him the sale in the end:
The sales agent seemed like he wanted me to start the conversation when he was the one who called me. After some ums, ahs, and stutters, he asked me what I wanted. He should have already known what I wanted since I filled out a form to learn about a special offer!
Making me repeat myself
The rep then asked how many employees I had and what I currently use for payroll. It wasn’t hard for me to repeat what I already typed in the form, but the point is that I already told them and…
Just recently, a big change came along in web design; Arguably the biggest revolution since modern web standards in the early 2000's.
Responsive Design has been invented. It's a term used in new age architecture to describe buildings that behave 'responsively'. That is, they adapt or respond to conditions such as the amount of people in a given room, for instance. They will automatically change heat, air and even room size (yes, the walls expand and contract!) to accommodate more or less people.
And just like Responsive Design in architecture, when it comes to the web, responsive design allows websites to no longer behave like static online brochures that scroll, but rather they adapt by expanding and contracting, resizing themselves to appropriately fit a variety of screen sizes. So for example, a website might have five columns when viewed on a 52" wide screen, but when viewed on a laptop it may scale down to three columns, two on an iPad and down to one column when viewed on a smart phone.
The best way to illustrate this is…