Consumer reports have continuously found that consumers (just like you and me) prefer the recommendations of their peers instead of other advertising means. Why? Because it’s (for the most part) unbiased and since these friends and colleagues know you well, you assume they would know what you like and have your best interests at heart. Yes, word of mouth marketing is alive and well, and will continue to thrive.
Restaurants have always relied heavily on word of mouth marketing. When you want a delicious meal, you often ask your friends or read reviews from critics. But what if our reviews of our favorite tasty places could be shouted from the rooftops to all of our connections? With the advent of social media and user-generated content, word of mouth marketing has become a tidal wave of great marketing opportunities that just need to be harnessed. So how can restaurants get on board and start surfing the wave? Here are some unexpected ideas…
Start monitoring, join the conversation, and some shameless self-promotion never hurts either. Twitter is particularly handy because it’s short and it’s RIGHT now. Lots of twitter users are looking for suggestions on where to go or watching where other users are going. Twitter can be a great venue for the customer satisfaction pulse. If someone has an issue, it’s great to provide on the spot customer service, and this can create amazing brand loyalty. Also, what a great way to help loyal customers (your Twitter followers) know about menu updates, specials or just how much you love them.
Yelp, Urbanspoon and other Review Sites
These great sites will help you keep up on what people are really saying about your establishment. Don’t ignore these reviews. Sure, you can’t please everyone, but if you’re looking for suggestions on how to improve your service, look no further than these treasure troves of great info. Tip: Don’t be afraid of the occasional nasty/rude review. These bad apples make the rest of the great reviews more genuine. Sometimes you’ll even get a loyalist on your side that will discount those mean mentions. Also, many review sites have iPhone applications, so going mobile is a snap and free to you.
Get yourself listed! With Google Maps it’s free to list your business and may be more helpful than you may think. Let me tell you why. Google is the number one search engine and is moving forward with blended search results (particularly local). This means it’s more likely a map result will get precedence over other content. Want to be on the first page? This is a good way to do it! Also, Google Maps is a leading service in mobile mapping technology, so if someone is looking for a good place to eat while they’re out and about, you’ll show up! Also, Google will aggregate most review sites and average those reviews, making it really easy for consumers to get the scoop on your delicious venue.
Meetup, Upcoming, Facebook Events and other Event Sites
Looking to promote a particular event at your establishment? Broadcasting it on local-based event sites is a great way to get visitors that didn’t even know you existed before. Also, look to partner with groups that may need venue suggestions. If you have a particularly slow night (say Tuesdays), offer them up a great deal (maybe happy hour prices) to host their group. This is a great way to start brand loyalty with new faces.
Flickr and YouTube
Got a camera? Take some shots of your famous menu items to share with fans and people that might be interested in learning more about your restaurant. This will help people get a better understanding of portions, how delicious your food is, etc. Also, there’s a great chance these photos will show up in blended search results! Got a video camera? Even better! Take a video tour of “behind-the-scenes” to give guests a unique experience on what goes into creating the amazing dishes you offer. This can really create buzz and be a nice personalized touch, especially if you already have fanatical brand loyalists.
Hope your mouth is watering with all these delicious new marketing opportunities that online relationships offer. Now that you’ve had a taste, how do you think you could harness this new trend to get more patrons?
Originally written for On Our Minds – Santy Integrated’s blog.
I presented at AIGA Arizona Say Anything on November 10th. Here is the write up of the talk based on the slides that were presented that evening. I hope everyone got something out of this presentation and please feel free to post comments regarding questions you may have on this material. Thank you to AIGA Arizona for the opportunity to present and I hope to be back real soon.
Step 1: What is Web Design?
Often fear is simply a lack of understanding, so to begin this journey, let’s start by defining what web design, as a craft, is. I feel that Jeffery Zeldman of Happy Cog Studios put it best when he summarized web design as:
Web design is the creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity; reflect or adapt to individual voices and content; and change gracefully over time while always retaining their identity.
Wow, lots to digest there, let’s break it up a bit.
The creation of digital environments that facilitate and encourage human activity.
So basically all this is saying that web design is design within a digital space (i.e. the web) but more importantly that it’s main purpose is to facilitate and encourage human activity. We want to interact with them, give and get from the user. This allows for a special kind of communication that we haven’t ever seen from media before. Instead of dictating to the consumer, we can now receive and act on information provided to us, very powerful.
Reflect or adapt to the individual voices and content.
While the web is still a relatively new media format in the grand scheme of media and advertising, it’s still very customizable. We should harness this adaptability and use it to the best of our abilities to reflect and present the content in a very specialized manner. The web was created for the purpose of collecting and sharing information; web design cannot forget these roots as we move forward. Content is king, it’s the most important part, and should be treated that way.
Change gracefully over time while always retaining its identity.
Web design is unlike many other forms of media because of the way it can be changed over time. Unlike print, we can continue to add, take away and mold this space over and over again. The tricky part is doing it gracefully and staying true to the original brand and statement. If we change too often or off course of our brand in can alienate our users instead of creating those core connections and communications levels we would like to have.
Overall, web design is very similar to other types of design; there are still guidelines, best practices, and techniques that separate good design from the bad. Also, just like all other types of media, it’s centered on communication, however there is a new addition that makes this a new frontier, the interactivity of the users who use it.
Now that we know our adversary, let’s delve into those guidelines, best practices and techniques that will allow you to be empowered to go head first into the fight.
Step 2: Knowledge is Power.
The more you know about why and what you’re designing for the web will help you in your quest.
Start with a purpose.
What’s the real reason behind why the design needs to be created? Perhaps it’s to share product information or to be able to process online orders. What ever it is, nail it down and keep it simple. Even if there are a few reasons, keep them concise and in front of you at all times. This will help you stave off the needs for the “wouldn’t it be nice if?” scope creep that can really get you in trouble later.
Define your users and what they need.
Who are your users? What do they want from you? More often than not they won’t need a sales pitch, they’re qualified leads or else they wouldn’t be there. So veer away from the extended sales pitch and instead focus on giving your users the information they need & want about your services or products. Need help figuring out what your users want the most? Check out your current google analytics statics to see what your users are looking for the most, or check out a heat mapping service such as Crazy Egg that will help you visualize what your users are looking for and clicking on.
Communicate to develop correct functionality scope.
Talk with your client, project manager, and development team to come up with a correct scope of functionality. When the client signs off on designs, often they’re not only signing off on look and feel but functional items such as searches, drop downs, user functionality, etc. Make sure that everything that’s depicted within the comps is with in functionality scope and doable.
Collect all content.
This is a tough one to accomplish, but stick in there and this one will pay off! More often than not timelines slip because the client doesn’t realize the scope of content needed to complete a web project. When you focus on getting these items right off the bat it allows the client to become more of an active participant in the planning and will help them understand how much work is involved in the design and development process. It will also keep them busy so they’re not prodding for more features or badgering you about deliverables sooner than the timeline suggests. Collecting all the content also helps you plan out an accurate site information architecture and will help you design with the voice and content already in place.
Step 3: Organize for the user.
Once you’ve got all your parts and pieces remember to organize them keeping the users and their needs in the forefront at all times. Knowing more about usability will help you out here, so check out this definition from Jakob Nielsen.
Usability: the users perception of how consistent, intuitive, and organized it is to accomplish tasks within a system.
Offer the user clear choices.
Don’t overload the user with options, stick to the purposes and users needs that you had outlined earlier. Keep it clear, easy to understand, and if you can make it so easy that the user feels like a GENIUS because it was so easy to use.
Use conventional terms, icons and positioning.
Sure we all want to create something new and fun, but try to stick with the normal terms, icons, and placement on standard web stuff. Such as don’t replace the e-mail envelope with the @ symbol, it will require your users to think, and to break that stream of consciousness enables poor usability. However, just because you should stick with the standards doesn’t mean you can’t bend the rules, you just have to do it in such a easy way that it can be picked up with minimal effort. Most users scan the page in a F-Shaped eye tracking, so you most likely want to place your most important pieces within this pathing.
Easily digestible content blocks.
Avoid large / lengthy blocks of content if possible. Most web users tend to scan content vs. read it fully so keep it short and concise. If you want to overview content, stick to three to five bullet points with links that go to the full content for those who are interested.
Consider user flow.
Remember for every link you create in your design there must be somewhere that goes to. Remember standard user flows like what are the steps/process when a user registers, signs in, or tries to buy a product? Remembering these steps as you design will help you comprehend the whole flow and layout of the website as a whole. If you would like help with some of these steps, check out a handy service called Product Planner.
Wireframes are your friends, you can’t have to many.
Wireframes can help considerably when you’re still planning out the placement of major items and user flows, they’re less time consuming and can be really amazing tools when trying to understand what should be the most important elements within a page.
Step 4: Roll up your sleeves.
Alright, with all that collecting and planning I guess you should be ready to actually design something right? Check out some of these tips to make your design to implementation time shorter.
Be smart about imagery/graphics
- Too many images means it will take too long to load, while it loads it will look like crap. So, be smart and use the less is more approach. Also, all those images won’t have the search engine weight as text would have, so remember that when choosing typefaces as images, etc.
- If you REALLY want to use a non-standard font face, check out sIFR for your implementation, but a few notes on this, sIFR uses flash to render the font so it will still impede load time. It will be SEO compliant, but it will also require flash.
- Images can be an accessibility nightmare, if seriously informational text is included in graphics it needs to be in full text as the alt attribute for the image. Instead of having to remember all this, using a regular font and HTML text would be a better decision.
- Organize your PSD to have all elements grouped together by area such as header, footers, callouts, etc this will make selecting and merging for cutting easier later.
- Include on and over states for navigation, since this is an interactive space these styles will need to included so that they can be implemented later.
- Keep all your layers editable, you never know when you’ll need to change a piece of text or a background color later, instead of redoing the entire PSD, just be smart and don’t merge layers.
- Create a style guide that outlines all fonts, colors, and styles used so that creation on the CSS style sheet can be easily created without having to re-examine your PSD later
Stay true to the end user
Even though you’ve focused on the users during the gathering and planning processes, you can’t forget about them now. Through out design iterations it’s easy to forget about the end user in hopes to quell the client, keep in mind that this website isn’t for your client to use, its for their customers, so they’re most important.
I’ve left my position at Terralever as a front end architect to explore other opportunities within the Phoenix area. Over the last few months I’ve developed an interest in other aspects of the web industry, not just xhtml/css. I’d like to expand my abilities in areas such as web marketing strategy, seo/sem, design and other areas in web design and development. Terralever is a great company that provided me with spectacular opportunities to work with big name brands and cutting edge technology. However, each employee is very specialized and a very T shaped professional, while this position allowed me to become very specialized in XHTML/CSS, I didn’t find the flexibility I required to delve into other areas I was interested in.
I have accepted a short term contract with Drawbackwards, a smaller strategic design and interactive marketing agency. I will be filling several roles at Drawbackwards that will enable me to have the flexibility to explore the other areas of the web industry that I’m interested in. Over the last week I’ve been able to create information architecture, SEO/SEM suggestions, project plans, etc. I’m sure this is just the beginning.
I’ve realized that I’m interested in more than just how the web is created. I want to know how people make the web great. Focusing on strategic approaches to connect great companies and services with customers and users whose lives will be enriched by these products, services and relationships.
Look for the tone of my website to change a bit, perhaps less technical and more theoretical. With the career change I’ll have more mobility, working from home three days a week, so I hope to be able to post more often. Also, in early March I’ll be attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, so I look forward to posting regarding all the exciting ideas I get from there.
Adaptive Path Employees share their new years resolutions with their users. Some of them are very much work related, some not so much, but I thought it would be interesting to see what other web professionals are reflecting on at the beginning of this year.
This amazing Honda Accord ad required 606 takes, cost $6 million dollars, and took 3 months to complete.
Pretty decent CSS cheat sheet for those of you who want to learn more about the production wonders of the world.
Interesting SEO Success Pyramid graphic that highlights some of the key requirements of great SEO success.
“How many five year olds could you take on in a fight?” Enter your stats and find out how many five year olds it would take to take you down!
So I got to sit down with Brian Shaler yesterday during the Phoenix BarCamp and really pick his brain regarding his recent boost in popularity on the net.
I’ve been on a big personal branding kick and I’m trying to talk to anyone who’s someone to ask them how they “did it”. Not necessarily to find the best way “in” but to be able to at least assess my possibilities and think of it another way. So when I heard Brian was getting some SERIOUS digg attention and had over 6k followers on Twitter… I started to wonder if he was my next brain-sucking victim in the quest to become immoral. Sounds kinda creepy when I put it that way eh?
Anyhow, when Chuck Reynolds and I finally hog tied him and tossed him into the back of the van, after HOURS of threating to toss him into a vat of scorpions, THE Brian Shaler gave up his secret to his AMAZING popularity rise.
When he first found Twitter, he realized the growth potential of seeding the popularity contest that is viral marketing. How you ask? It’s brilliant really. You follow people… doesn’t matter who really, the more active the better I suppose. Lets say you start following… 3 thousand people… then all the sudden, even HALF of those people return the favor by following you. You instantly have a captured 1,500 user audience in which to broadcast yourself and things you want to become known. Once you have a decent size user audience, communication back and forth can continue the viral campaign, since every @brianshaler twitter statement someone makes is broadcast to all the users twitter followers as well, and these people start to ask, who is this person they’re talking to? Perhaps they too will start following you. All the sudden you have over 6 thousand twitter followers just like Brian Shaler.
He uses this captured market as a launching pad for things to become viral and tracks every link he sends out to this base group so that he can track the SEO effects of his experiment in viral activity. So, lets say… he has a site that he wants to promote. He sends out the link to his twitter followers saying, “Hey check this really cool thing out…”. Because of his extensive research on the SEO traffic produced by his Twittering alone, he knows that he can pretty much rely on about 100-300 click throughs from his Twitter followers alone. So perhaps his twitter followers actually think that this thing that he has sent them is a great idea, so they send it to a friend, two friends or three friends. The viral exponential factor already starts working its magic… but lets say that someone submits it to StumbleUpon or Digg, and the their own viral patterns start to build on top of this small 100-300 base click throughs. Suddenly you have created a mountain out of an ant hill.
The craziest thing about this, is that due to the way the internet naturally is a sharing device, people who will never ever meet Brian are now his number one fan. During the BarCamp we were recording and streaming the presentations. A Brian Shaler follower from Germany found out about the web broadcast and came into the web chat, this follower actually asked Brian to tell his friend (who was also a Shaler follower) that he had flown to Phoenix and had actually hung out with Brian. Crazy eh? Off of merely creating a viral platform to toss things out on, Brian has actually become internationally famous.
Besides creating that viral base for yourself, Brian also seriously recommended building your own brand of yourself. As cocky as this may seem, it really helps promote the idea of “he is someone” much like personalities such as Oprah or Michael Jordan. Then using this identity for everything that you toss out into the sea of the internet, or even in real life. Brian actually has business cards that just say “Brian Shaler” on them… on both sides, nothing else. Why? He says, “If you can’t contact me in 30 seconds using the information on that card, don’t contact me.” This very small piece of printed material just adds to the effect that Brian really is someone you should already know of.
Brian also chalks up his fame to some of the side projects he’s put effort into in the past, and believes that it’s better to have many sites to your brand with lower search rankings than one site with a high page rank. Why? Because different people have different interests and you can reach a larger, broader audience. He has recently broken out his blog from his personal portfolio site, widening his name sake that much more. But you can really see this effect in his creation crappygraphs.com. The whole site’s premise is crappy graphs that really don’t display accurate data at all, but more so a point. After creating only 20 crappy graphs, he decided to create a flash application on the site that allowed users to create their own crappy graphs and submit them to the site. After ten hours of intense manual labor over the course of one weekend, he now gave his crappy graph followers a way to really express themselves…crappily graphically. Crappy Graphs now has over a thousand graphs… why? Because of user submissions. These user submissions have been Dugg, StumbledUpon, and spread throughout the viral universe, and how did Brian accomplish this? By creating one, 10 hour application that allowed his users to express themselves.
So while the rest of us are trying to figure out the best way to market some silly viral ad campaign, Brian will be tossing links out into his twitter feed and reaping the click throughs, Diggs, and Stumbles.
** I was forced against my will to name the following links… part of the verbal agreement to be talked to by THE Brian Shaler. But do check them out anyhow. You’re welcome Brian. **
For those of you who DON’T know you Brian Shaler is, check out his blog, his personal portfolio site, his famous twitter account (6k followers and counting), the ShalerJump and of course Crappy Graphs.
I’ve been getting a TON of hits for the search term “evofc”. Now, at first I thought there had to be something else that was picking up the audience and mis-guiding them to my site. So I took a look at the results, headlamps and a soccer team… college enrollment codes…. hmm. But you’ll notice, the first two pages or so have a ton of all my personal accounts from flickr to myspace. Perhaps people just want to know what EVofC means? E-Visions of Creativity, my friend.
There was a year between high school and college where I was VERY lost as to what I wanted to do as a career. I had always had a love for the web and had been creating websites for myself and friends for a couple of years at that point. Tiny geocities, not awesome to look at, sites. In my search for a career, something to do for the REST of my life, I wanted to make sure that what ever it was I would love, I would want to do, for a lifetime. This kind of decision was very hard for me to conceive at the age of 18. I spent most of my time online, gaming, building sites, playing with photoshop and wondering what I was going to build the rest of my life on. In a particularly heated discussion with my father, I exclaimed, “Dad, I know you want me to go do something.. but I’m not sure what I want to do! I want to love it, I want to be it, for the rest of my life!! That’s hard.” My father shook his head, “April, why don’t you just build websites for a LIVING.”
DING, DING, DINNNNNGGGG! We have a winner!!! An epiphany then crossed over me, like a cold shower. ” You mean they pay people to do this?” Finally, I had found my answer, this wonderful morsel of personal honesty and self-realization. The answer to the ultimate question after high school, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life.”
So, instead of working at a burger joint or a movie theater through college, I started my first freelance company, E-Visions of Creativity. And now you know the rest of the story behind what EVofC stands for.
So I spent a good chunk of time yesterday over at the Phoenix’s Desert Code Camp and I must say, what a great set up! There were lots of sessions available for most every type of coder. I found two sessions to be especially interesting, SEO for Coders and Designing the Obvious.
The SEO for Coders session went over how developers can start from the inside out when creating a site to really give SEO a fighting chance.
Some of the on-site SEO considerations are:
- keywords in the domain
- relavant, keyword rich content (Content is King!)
- keywords in page titles (Page Title should go before Site Name)
- clean, keyword rich urls
- keyword proximity and density throughout the site (use Ranks.nl to test density, 2-5% is good, anymore and possible spamming might be considered)
- having keyword encompassing meta tags, make sure all your keywords are covered
- internal links
- relevant, keyword rich alt and title tags
- valid xhtml code that’s quick loading
Some of the off-site SEO consideration are:
- inbound links to your site
- reciprocal link exchange
- press releases
- forum comments
- paid links and pay per click
Overall it was a great session that covered the basics of SEO as well as some of the tips and tricks of the trade. Such as using dashes instead of no space or underscores in your page urls. I confirmed a lot of my beliefs about SEO as well as learned about some new tools to look for great keyword combos and how to better market my sites outside of my own.
Designing the Obvious was a wonderful session as well that covered some of the overlooked, but very important pieces of designing a user-friendly site. Some of the highlights were:
- first impressions are important, make sure you put a lot of thought into the front page of your site
- use wireframes to mock out your site before designing or developing, it saves time and money
- pay attention to diagonal balance, don’t force it, but be aware that the users eye will tend to shift from the top left to the bottom right and try to put your main branding and focal point to fall within that diagonal line
- when designing navigation try to use verb noun pairs to support the users mind set of getting things done
- many sites are now changing the style of used objects to make them more pronounced on the page, the more the user uses it, the darker it becomes, making it easier for the user to find what they’re really interested in
- we need to explain exceptable values on forms, approach form design as if you were a user looking at it the first time, make sure everything is instructive and clear
- there are three states to any interaction on the web, invitation to act, manipulation or the steps to complete the process, and completion and confirmation, confirmation is the least remembered step in web site creation, but a very important step for the user, make sure to include it
Robert Hoekman, Jr., the speaker for Designing the Obvious session, also has a book out by the same title. Also check out his blog and he’s starting Up Down Repeat Workshops that you may want to check out, the next one coming up is about form design.
Come one, come all to Desert Code Camp! Want to learn more about a new technology or how your peice of the development puzzle fits in with another? Maybe you just want to hang out with a bunch of geeks for two days?
When: September 15th & 16th
Where: UAT Campus
Classes are filling up now, so sign up on the Desert Code Camp website asap to reserve your seat.
We have recently hired on a GENIUS of a woman named Kay at work. She does all our SEO implimentation and organic keyword creation, etc. Basically, if you want to be in the top 10 on Google, she can make it happen.
While Terralever has always been a results driven company, Kay is amazing in the amount of information she provides clients regarding SEO and organic keyword trafficing. So, being inspired by her wisdom, I’ve sat down this evening and added the All in One SEO Pack for WordPress allowing me to customize my post meta keywords and description. To track my success, I’ve also bought into Mint and installed it on my server so I can see EVERY little move you make my dear visitor… scary eh?
I’ll let you know my progress as I track my way into being a WORLD FAMOUS web guru. hehe Alright, maybe not, but at least I can send Christmas e-mails out to all of my seven visitors!