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Tag: responsive design

May 8th, 2015

Did You Survive Mobilegeddon?

Perhaps you heard about Google’s search algorithm update last week. Google, a company that has been hinting for some time now that marketers should take steps to make their websites mobile-friendly, finally gave their mobile-friendly advice some teeth. The reaction was not entirely unexpected:

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Incidentally, Google refers to their algorithm change by the much happier and positive-sounding name, “Mobile Friendly Update.”

So why does Google care if your website is mobile-friendly or not? It’s simple. They want to continue to dominate in the search engine and, thus, the search advertising business. And to do that, they have to deliver the best web pages to their users for any given search. If you happen to be searching Google from a smart phone, you certainly don’t want them to send you to a website that loads slowly, has unreadable type and content that doesn’t display on your mobile device. From Google’s perspective, that’s more than just a hassle ‚Ä쬆it’s a failure that could lead their users to switch to another search engine.

Is it the end of the world for your website? Maybe not. But, if your website isn’t optimized for smart phones and tablets, there’s a good chance that you’ll start seeing significantly less traffic.

Our advice? First, don’t panic. Your website may be more mobile-friendly than you realize, and it’s super-easy to find out. All you have to do is go to Google’s Mobile Friendly Test page and plug in your website address. They’ll let you know if your website is affected by the new algorithm and even give you the reasons why.

Now if it turns out that your website is not mobile friendly, it would be a good idea to find someone to update your website using the latest responsive design techniques so that you can offer a great user experience to everyone, regardless of their device or screen width. Just so happens, we know a few people who are really good at doing exactly that.

So who ya gonna call?

January 14th, 2015

A major aspect of effective UX is being “responsive” (and that word doesn’t mean what you think it means)

One of the biggest buzz terms today is “user experience.” Truth is since the dawn of commerce those who have been successful have more often than not placed an eye toward user experience. Today the term has evolved to be more inclusive of branding and marketing – truly every touch point in which a user “experiences” your brand. In the age of nifty square icons with rounded corners, “user experience” even has a cool abbreviation: UX. Your humble author has written in the recent past about the new aspects that determine UX in the digital age. One of the most significant factors is the content/message being responsive. When you hear one of my types utter “responsive” today it usually refers to the automation of content constraints so that a virtual unique digital user interface is optimized relative to the experiential environment.

Huh?

UX Dots In Line

That’s geek-speak to say that the stuff on a webpage sizes itself to look right on different size screens. Most high traffic websites now are “responsive.” Columns, images, and text will resize and re-order to make it easier to consume via TV, desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone – portrait or landscape orientations.

This article, however, is not about that kind of “responsive” communication. This post focuses on a more elemental – and powerful – type of responsiveness relative to brand building. And I’m using two very recent and very impressive examples from organizations in the southeast US to do so.

How to build a fan base

Twelve-year-old Cade Pope is a middle-schooler from the Shreveport, Louisiana area (as best I can tell). Like so many young men of that age, Cade was just encountering many of the fundamental decisions that would shape the rest of his life. The least of which, no doubt, is deciding what NFL team to pull for (nobody wants to be accused of jumping on the bandwagon… #GoTheOhioSt). Young Mr. Pope took some time a couple of weeks ago to write letters to executives of all 32 NFL franchises, asking why he should be a homer for their team. Cade got exactly one response. He received a package in the mail that contained an autographed Luke Kuechly helmet, and a letter (hand written) from Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. In the letter Mr. Richardson stated the team would be “honored” to have Cade cheer for them, and pledged to always represent him with “class.”

CarolinaI have little doubt that if Cade joins a fantasy football league next year, his first pick will be Cam Newton.

Think about that. The NFL is a billion dollar multinational corporation (actually a non-profit, if you didn’t know). The¬† Carolina Panthers spend millions of dollars each year marketing their brand to fans. I would venture to say that this simple act did more for the image of professional football (and man does it need it) and for visibility of the Panthers organization than just about anything short of Tim Tebow being named commissioner and a Super Bowl victory, respectively. Do I think it was pure altruism with no regard for the PR value? Heck no. Do I care? Nope. Do I admire the Panthers for doing it? You bet. And there’s no way that they could have known they would be the only team to respond. But they were. To owner Richardson – great job. To the folks responsible for routing that letter to Mr. Richardson – awesome job. Back to owner Richardson – those a fore mentioned folks deserve a raise. Or at the very least their own Kuechly autographed swag.

For our second example we shift ever so slightly south and west.

‘Holla back

Atlanta-based Delta Airlines is one of the largest and most prominent companies in the world. Any travelers know that you very rarely feel more at the mercy of “powers that be” than when you fly commercial. I’ll also note it’s not like airlines are traditionally recognized as bastions of responsiveness and customer service, so this example may mildly surprise some people.

No, this isn’t some drawn-out story about lost luggage or cancelled flights that you’ve heard ad nauseum at cocktail parties (yeah, to YOU people, you’re not the ONLY one it’s happened to… #shocker). It involves social media (you didn’t really think a blog post from an ad agency could get by without mentioning it, now did you?). I had heard sometime back that Delta was really responsive on social media and was one of the better companies who utilized it as a form of customer service. So for the purposes of this article, I did a little experiment. You can see the results as follows:

 

To which I received within less than 15 minutes:

I thought the rest of the conversation was pretty good. *NH at Delta was a great sport:

That’s not the full correspondence. The responder actually sent me a link to contacts in Delta’s PR and marketing departments. Absolutely excellent. It was evident through the exchange that there was an actual human on the other end of the tweet line. Was it an actual Delta employee bunkered in a high-tech social media laboratory in Atlanta? Probably not. Was it a third-party contractor perhaps overseas? Maybe. Didn’t matter to me. The point was Delta responded promptly and substantively. I didn’t get a form response. Yeah, Twitter is a small part of what Delta does, but isn’t that the point? Paying attention to the small stuff gives me more confidence they’ll get the big stuff right. Or if they don’t get it right, they’ll make it right.

So what have we X’ed here?

In a world focused on UX, “responsive design” should mean more than the just the difference between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio. Digital experience is important but it’s only one component of brand interaction. As marketers we must think in a circumnavigational manner regarding our user’s interface. It’s not just screen to face. For brand building, the other senses matter too. Go Panthers. Fly Delta.

NOTE: Sports teams mentioned in this post do not necessarily reflect the preference of the staff, management, or shareholders of Maris, West & Baker. Go Browns, Saints, Tarheels, Boilermakers, Braves, and Blazers, among others.

February 7th, 2013

Microsite No More: Clearing the Digital Kudzu

BOUNCE RATE . . .killer of web ROI. When we think of measuring effectiveness of our interactive campaigns we tend to focus on impressions and click-throughs, but the real underlying indicator is bounce rate. Regardless of your success in attracting eyeballs to your website, if you consistently maintain a high bounce rate, you’re actually likely doing more harm than good.

“Bounce Rate” can have a highly technical definition, but in layman’s terms let’s just say that a “bounce” is essentially a visitor that lands on your website doesn’t stay there any significant amount of time. Sometimes this is due to user error – clicking the wrong link, entering the wrong address, etc. However, more often a bounce comes as the result of a user not relatively immediately finding information that is relevant to their query, not interacting further with your site, and “bouncing” right off your URL.

Yes, it’s important. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason to.

A decent bounce rate is less than 40% (4 out of 10 visitors to your site do not remain on a landing page or interact with the site). An average bounce rate is around 65%. Analytic services (e.g. Google) reads your site’s bounce rate and uses such as a metric when calculating site relevance, which is a determining factor in how highly (or not) search engines rank your site in search results.

As with all things digital, there are best practices that help you lower your bounce rate and increase your site’s relevance. A major factor is, of course, content. You can’t expect your audience to interact with your site if you don’t give them a reason it. So having content in place that users are looking for is one of the “no-duhs” (as the kids said when I was in school).

So if content is the “artistic” side of making your site relevant, the way in which the information is served to your audience would be the technical side. Traditionally, this has been the trickier aspect to get right. Even to the point of website best practices contradicting other website best practices.

Clearing the Digital Kudzu.

Kudzu_on_trees_in_Atlanta,_Georgia

Get out your weed whacker!

A cardinal rule of website design is to not overload the user with information on the homepage. Keep it clean, simple, and visually engaging. Problem is, how can your expect to serve relevant information for specific search queries if that’s the case? A solution to this problem came in the form of Micro-sites and custom landing pages. Search queries or other advertising would drive users to content-specific landing pages that would then link viewers back to your main website, or relevant sections on your website.

Technically, this worked. Practically, it was the digital equivalent of bringing in kudzu to control land erosion.

So the issue of serving relevancy was nominally solved, but landing pages and micro sites created more work. A lot more work (just ask your friendly neighborhood web developer). And from a branding standpoint, it often had the result of producing more brand confusion, and less awareness for the brand itself. No good. Throw into the mix the rapid proliferation of mobile devices – which necessitated the need for mobile versions of websites – and the problem was only compounded.

So to in order to maintain optimum user experience combined with effective brand promotion and organizational efficiency, we needed to find a way to clear the digital kudzu. The overgrowth of mobile sites, micro sites, and landing pages needed to go. The ability to reduce bounce rates need to stay.

Intelligent Responsive Content (IRC)

New technologies have emerged which seem to be a good solution that addresses each side of the problem. Collectively, I’ll call the approach “Intelligent Responsive Content,” or IRC. We’ve been implementing IRC solutions for clients now for several months, and have documented success with the approach.

In an IRC model, the technology addresses two aspects. The manner in which the content is served – particularly to the homepage – is dynamic and user-defined. Not to get too technical here, (you can contact me if you have further questions), but basically your website determines what content a user sees based on a series of “if/then” scenarios. The “if’s” can be derived from a series of factors – nature of search query (what did the user search for), manner in which they reached your site (display ad, facebook post, linked article, search engine, etc.), even aspects like geographic location, time of day, etc. One of more of these variables is then associated with a “then” that tells the site to service specific content.

flux-capacitor

For instance, let’s say you own a company that makes various products, including a Flux Capacitor. Let’s also pretend that the Flux Capacitor has a large profit margin, but represents a small portion of your overall business. It doesn’t make much sense to feature the product on your home page, but sales are still highly profitable to small group of people. You want to make sure that if someone if looking for a Flux Capacitor, they can find it on your site.

An IRC system can identify this person through their own actions – i.e. they search for Flux Capacitors on Google, or they read an article about Flux Capacitors, or they see a Facebook post that your company makes great Flux Capacitors. Then if that person comes inbound to your site, the technology behind IRC reads their intent, and “serves” information on your home – text, or visual – related to Flux Capacitors. Being hit with highly relevant information immediately will reduce bounce rate and also increase conversions.This system functions from code, with the content being served dynamically. Thus, you are able to have the effect of a custom landing page or micro site without having to maintain separate landing pages and microsites. One URL, multiple versions of the information on your site.

That’s the “I” component of IRC. The “R,” being “responsive,” is a relatively simple way of making your site mobile friendly without having to maintain separate mobile sites. Again, through a coding process, your site can recognize the browser window size of an inbound visitor, and re-order the information on your site for optimal viewing. So your information can be presented in customized layouts for smart phones, tablets, mini-tablets, and desktop screens.

A lot of Kudzu grew up around the Internet. IRC strategies can help to clear the vines.

 

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