In a recent study, 57% of users will leave your mobile website if they have to wait 3 seconds for the page to load. After 1 second of load-time, conversion rates drop by 3.5%, and that’s if your site is even mobile-friendly in the first place. Oh, by the way, almost half of all website traffic comes from mobile devices nowadays.
So what is the best solution for mobile web design? How do you provide an equivalent experience across devices while also minimizing load times? You will have to choose between responsive design, client-side adaptive, or server-side adaptive, to implement a One-Web Approach.
All for One-Web and One-Web for All!
As defined by the W3C, “One Web means making, as far as is reasonable, the same information and services available to users irrespective of the device they are using.” With this approach, you are not designing just for today’s smartphone and tablet, but every conceivable viewport size that may ever exist in the future of the Interwebz. Of the three most popular One-Web solutions, only responsive design, when implemented correctly, can account for all future devices and screen sizes. On the other hand, only adaptive programming can allow developers to customize website UX based on the strengths and weaknesses of specific viewports, devices, and even operating systems.
Responsive Web Design
A truly responsive website design makes use of media queries and a fluid grid to adjust the flow of web page components based on the size of the user’s viewport, and sometimes to snap elements to new locations when the fluid grid doesn’t provide an ideal responsive experience. Although responsive design typically uses a fair amount of CSS, the scripting and coding is kept to a minimum and developers are usually able to utilize a single HTML template across devices.
For these reasons, maintenance – including bug fixes and enhancements – is usually fairly simple and can be completed by less-experienced developers. The fluid responsive grid will account for most possible future viewport sizes, with the possibility that a media query may be needed to snap something into place. There are also some great responsive toolkits like Twitter Bootstrap that can provide the initial framework for your responsive website.
Although responsive design is the most popular technique today, implementation on a non-responsive website usually means a full website rebuild – design and code. For large websites this can be a costly effort, from $50K up to well over $500K, and will take several months to even a year for full implementation and QA testing across all devices and browsers.
The most successful responsive designs are often built mobile-first, which means the basic components are designed for the smallest possible screen size first, then progressively enhanced for larger viewports. However, this means we can’t always take advantage of a full design canvas in the earliest steps of the creative process.
Page load times can also be impacted by the overhead of loading a full set of page assets before responsiveness kicks in. For this reason, some mobile pages, specifically in the eCommerce sector, can be as large as 15mb.
Client-Side Adaptive Design
Server-Side Adaptive Design
Like a fully responsive redesign, this approach requires an adaptive rebuild and redesign on both the server- and client-side. Multiple templates needed to be coded and maintained, and back-end scripting requires a developer with strong knowledge of the language and some experience with server administration. Because browser detection and related functions are executed on the server, high-traffic websites can experience high resource usage and slower load-times. For this same reason, most caching must also be turned off unless the adaptive framework is built to redirect users to customized URLs that can only render pages for a specific device.
At Piehead we have tried all three of these approaches to One-Web and we think responsive design is the easiest to build and to maintain, but client-side adaptive design can sometimes offer the kind of device-customized experience that clients desire. We have discussed the merits and limitations of a completely server-side adaptive design, and we feel the maintenance, support, and server resource costs far outweigh the benefits. Most websites typically only need responsive design, with breakpoints, a fluid grid, or both.
When analyzing existing templates for an adaptive approach, we mostly find that those templates need updating, optimization, and some level of responsiveness, so why not just redesign and implement a new fully responsive template while we’re at it?
Would you like to have your website or web application analyzed for mobile compatibility? Contact us today to discover how we can help you increase traffic and conversions, decrease your mobile bounce rate, and impress all of your visitors, regardless of their device, with a brand new responsive mobile presence.]]>
Last week, a few members of the Piehead team boarded the Piscataqua, a reproduction of the flat-bottom gundalow barges that were once prevalent in Portsmouth and the Seacoast region. While the “lunch meeting” included a beautiful sail on the Piscataqua River, we were along that day to help their team brainstorm new marketing initiatives and strategies for 2014.
We were excited to team up with this local non-profit organization, based in Portsmouth, NH, and to learn more about their mission “to protect the Piscataqua Region’s maritime heritage and environment through education and action.” The Gundalow Company currently educates (and entertains) through public sails, evening music sails, private charters, and educational sailing programs on board the vessel.
These shallow-drafted cargo barges were used in the 1600s to transport goods all around the world. These days, the two-hour sailing tour runs from Strawberry Banke out to the mouth of the Piscataqua River and back, educating guests about the vessel as well as the cultural and natural history of the region.
After helping to set the main sail (Ahoy, matey!), the teams discussed ideas on how The Gundalow Company could use their often limited resources to leverage digital channels to reach new target markets and drive interest (and participation) in their “public sails.” Proceeds of the public sails support “off season” education programs they offer to schools and groups in the region.
“In my volunteer life, the Gundalow folks have offered their expertise to help me to educate people about how they impact the health of the waterways on the seacoast,” said Phyllis Ford, Director of User Experience at Piehead. “I was more than happy to volunteer myself and other Piehead team members to share our knowledge of the potential uses of digital media for brand engagement.”
This was a fun and exciting opportunity. We look forward to working with The Gundalow Company in the future to help implement some of the great ideas we generated and to further spread the word about the sails. There are still a few more sails this fall, visit http://www.gundalow.org/public-sails/buy-sailing-tickets/ to see upcoming events and dates.
Check out our pictures and look for the The Gundalow Company next year running from May to October 2014 for events and activities. http://www.gundalow.org/]]>
So, you’re a programmer working on your company’s next big application. You’ve already written twenty thousand lines of code and you probably have twenty thousand more left to write. Now consider these questions:
- How much of your code will be reused?
- How many other eyes will attempt to decipher it?
- How many lines of comments are cluttering up each file?
As you write code you have a perfect opportunity to modularize. But are you? So many programmers cram a million potential functions into a single block and then explain everything away with comments. Wouldn’t it make more sense to factor your code into reusable modules where function names, variable names, and short easily understandable code blocks can replace endless lines of comments?
Factoring your code is essentially a form of communication. Through years of web application development I’ve learned a thing or two about user experience (UX) on the web. One of the main principles of a good user experience is that people won’t read large blocks of text. Instead, UXers have shown us that titles and short blocks of text are more easily consumed. This lesson is very easily translated to the use of function names and variable definitions to break up your giant blocks of code. Just like on a website, you want to avoid having your users skim, get bored, and click away.
A developer trying to skim thousands of lines of code to find the one or two lines that might be causing a bug, is going to end up confused, bored, and will probably end up clicking away to check his email after a while. This is highly inefficient for the project, fairly discouraging for the developer, and will end up costing your organization thousands or even millions in the long run.
So why not write your code based on what we know about user experience?
Reasons to Modularize
Modularizing your code actually clears your slate. Here are some benefits I’ve noticed for factoring and refactoring my code:
- The function name gives you a distinct purpose and enhances readability.
- You know exactly what data IS passed in and what data TO pass in, which eliminates variable value guesswork.
- Variables and other objects can use shorter names since they are local in scope.
- The code block will be short and thus easy to read and understand for future developers.
- You can use a return statement, which facilitates error handling and debugging.
- No need to separate every half dozen lines of code with comments.
All of these things help to avoid code instability in the future. Would you rather build your house on twenty thousands loose sticks, or five thousand tightly packed bundles each containing four sticks? Factoring might not lend itself to job security, but it certainly enhances application stability and scalability.
But Avoid Over-factoring
There are many good reasons why you might want to factor, but don’t take it too far. There might be a time and a place for a function with two lines of code, but those shouldn’t be the norm. If your code won’t be reused, won’t ever need to be modified or enhanced, and is easy to understand inline, just leave it alone.
Creating too many unnecessary layers of abstraction is just as bad as duplicating code and writing thousand-line functions. With all things in life, strike a balance. Factor, refactor, but don’t abstract beyond comprehension.]]>
Over the last 2-3 years Google’s search algorithm updates, known in some SEO circles as the ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ updates, have penalized websites that over-optimize anchor text and publish duplicate promotional content. Following these updates, industry experts have analyzed websites’ search rank, backlink profiles, and even social media signals, to figure out the secret to ranking #1 in the search results.
As of mid-2013, in their content guidelines Google now outwardly states that, “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”  These link violations include press releases, blog posts, article syndication, and several other methods of content distribution.
Engaging in this sort of activity will result in search rank penalties for the target website. Therefore, it is in your best interest to beware of SEO and PR firms that use these practices, though the majority of them have constructed their business model around just such strategies.
Billions Spent on Advertising
With businesses spending just over 10 percent of their annual revenue on marketing (a figure that’s expected to go up another 9 percent this year ), the marketplace is huge and not likely nimble enough to respond to this change quickly. It’s therefore up to you to find a partner who can build high-quality, interactive content that elicits organic back-links and social sharing, not just pump out soon-to-be-digitally-taboo press releases.
At Piehead we understand your need for ‘white hat’ search optimization, engaging social media, and effective marketing efforts to build and retain an online audience. Our content writers are experienced at drafting highly informative and engaging content. Some of our social strategies range from sweepstakes (The Real Story) and contests (Treasures of Middle Earth Design Contest), to real-world interactive promotions (Sorry Bunny), and mobile-compatible Facebook apps (What’s your superhero name?).
Contact us to see how we can help bring your online presence to the next level.
Something very exciting might be happening!
Facebook has pledged to make it easier for small- to mid-sized Facebook game developers to distribute their apps to Facebook users. They are offering promotional support, analytics, and distribution to targeted users across the suite of Facebook mobile apps. A new pilot platform promises to help bring Facebook game participation to a whole new level.
View the details of Facebook’s new pilot platform here: Facebook Mobile Games Publishing
This program sounds helpful in theory, but what is the cost to those makers of small, medium, and large apps and games currently in the market as they try to optimize the Facebook app system for their own requirements?
According to Facebook, “in exchange for a revenue share,” Facebook’s new Mobile Games Publishing platform will make it easier to distribute medium-sized Facebook apps to “more than 800M monthly mobile users” by providing analytics tools, and expertise gained from helping games grow on the Facebook app platform for many years. Facebook claims that they will help developers to acquire highly-targeted high-quality long-term players for their games.
It seems like this new program could be great for the developers of small- and medium-sized games and apps. Although Facebook is taking a cut, when you are a small firm or even a single person, the profit that you DO collect should be enough to fund enhancements and future development. Revenue share is not as important when you only have to pay yourself or a partner.
What About Large Game Developers?
On the other hand, larger game developers like Zynga, who is already reeling from a poor business model and falling revenues, could see their market share fall… even further. If they utilize the Mobile Games Publishing platform they may get more exposure, but Facebook is going to drain some of their revenue (which is most likely part of Facebook’s goal). If they don’t utilize the Mobile Games Publishing platform, they are left up to their own means to distribute their games to Facebook and mobile users, and judging by Zynga’s rise to fame and subsequent crash, even larger game makers can’t afford to have any of their revenue sucked up by The Facebook.
The Future of App Development in Agencies
The Mobile Games Publishing platform does look to be a promising tool for Piehead and other web agency app developers. Piehead has already observed great success with our Ice Road Truckers, Top Gear, Play for Your State, Archer Agent Mash-Up, 30 Rock Meme Maker, The Real Story, and Swamp Trapper apps, among others. As we expand our entertainment partners Facebook presences and our own technical skillset, our Facebook apps and experiences are becoming more like Facebook games.
Contact us today to see how we can help you leverage a Facebook app or canvas game. With all of these new tools at our fingertips, you can be sure that we will deliver an interactive experience to those more than 800M monthly mobile users, encouraging page likes, returning visitors, sales leads, or joining your mailing list – whatever your goals might be.]]>
Those who come to work every day in a digital engagement agency environment are often drawn to the variety of the work: a wide range of customers, projects, and issues, all of which come and go with great regularity. Add to that a plethora of tools, techniques, and technologies that can be used to do the work that meets customer needs and you have an exciting workplace. We live by words like fast-paced, chaotic, flexible, and unpredictable. While some days are better than others, it all makes for an exciting and enjoyable place to work.
So how does Finance, with its columns and rows and emphasis on predictability, fit in to chaotic, flexible, and unpredictable? After all, a digital engagement agency must foster and reward creativity in its employees while accountants shy away from being called creative.
The simple answer is that no business is perfectly predictable. The key is to understand the relationship between customer work which comes in at uneven intervals and the relatively more steady cost to deliver that work. As with any business, it helps to know the details of where you have been, and planning for where you want to go.
On the sales side, the agency needs to know what level of expertise it can bring an engagement. The agency may want to target certain industries or projects which involve the type of work the agency wants to. Knowing your service offerings, your capacity, your costs, and your price points all contribute to presenting an attractive message to new and existing customers. Knowledge of typical repeat business plus new opportunities in your pipeline helps to build a sales plan.
On the cost side, the agency must invest in a core team of talented individuals who have developed the skills required to complete projects. This may include expertise in project management, user experience, design, creative, software, technical, etc. The approximate expertise needed can be derived through analysis of past projects completed and future projects anticipated. In addition to putting their skills to work on specific customer projects, the team must have the time to develop new skills in various ways: cross training within the team, on-the-job training, and formal training. The cost of keeping a high caliber team must therefore include the time spent directly on projects, but also the time spent on development for future projects.
In addition to maintaining a high performance permanent team, the agency must also leverage its access to temporary resources. This includes consultants who have specific knowledge which may be needed only occasionally and also consultants who provide extra capacity during peak times. The “bench” plays an important role in servicing customers while helping to maintain a proper cost structure.
The challenge for agency management is to constantly balance current and future project load against fixed costs while making use of flexible resources. Tools for monitoring sales and pipeline, tracking time, utilization, project status, and project cost are all vital, but must be used not as absolutes but guides on the overall financial health of the business.
This all leads to satisfied customers who will receive quality work delivered on time at a competitive price. The end result for the agency will be a well-trained, productive, stable workforce which in tune will lead to profitable growth.
In preparation for writing this blog, I did some research and an article came across my attention: 5 Attributes of a Great Project Manager. After reading the article, I determined that nearly every successful Project Manager I have met throughout my career possesses almost every attribute listed. Upon further reflection and research, I even got to laughing because personally I have always been this way. Not just in work, but in my home life as well. The girls’ camping trip meeting, where I showed up with a pen and paper in hand and delegated tasks to all of my friends. How I make my kids’ lunches the day before and have everything organized and ready to ensure that the morning runs smoothly. The way I compartmentalize my life into silos—work, kids, home, friends. How I have checklists for every single thing in my life, whether it be in my head or on paper. My friends and family often tease me about my “Type A” personality.
In addition to the attributes listed, Project Managers can also be described as:
- Type A
- Good listeners
- Fair and balanced
- Always with a pen and paper handy.
I started wondering—how do Project Managers get into project management? I reflected back on my own career and really, it happened by accident. I started out in customer service and realized that a new call ticketing system was needed. So I took it upon myself to spearhead the effort and it was a success. After that, more and more special projects came up and I handled them on time and on budget, and was able to delegate. So I was approached to take on the title of Project Manager and continued using my “natural abilities” for over 10 years before coming to Piehead, where I am now the Team Lead of Project Management.
Of course, all the personality traits that were listed are great ones to have if you are looking to get into project management. However they are not necessary. The great thing about project management as a career is that there are a plethora of classes you can take to hone your skills and give you essential tools for managing a successful project, such as learning how to mitigate project risk and how to easily identify scope creep. Project Managers can also earn credits for classes and achieve their much-respected certification with the Project Management Institute (PMI).
If you read through the list of attributes and thought, “hey, that’s me!” then maybe deep down you’re already a project manager and you don’t even know it.]]>
All successful brands have a story to tell. From the logo, to the website, to your business cards, each piece of marketing needs to contribute to that story. The stronger the story, the better the customer connects to it, and the more likely they are to use your product. By keeping your branding consistent throughout your company, every time someone encounters it, they will be reminded of the story—and the importance behind it.
Successful brand stories allow the customer or client connect to your business on an emotional level. Once that connection is made, they’re more likely to choose your company over one that doesn’t have a solid brand story. And in the most innovative cases, they might choose your company even though your product or service is more expensive, harder to get, or less immediate.
A really great brand story needs to be easy to tell, short, poignant, and memorable. Once it’s established, it then needs to permeate your brand, and be constantly reinforced. Social media is especially effective here. Everything you post to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog should somehow relate back to your story.
Take TOMS, for example. Shoes are widely available elsewhere, but their one-for-one program brings customers to their website because they know that for every pair purchased, a pair is donated to a child in need.
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is another great example. Everything about the company—their packaging, their website, their logo—reminds us that they are based in Vermont, they are home-grown, and they care about being socially responsible. You can find a great comparison between Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen-Daaz by Roy H. Williams at this website.
Think about your brand story in every outward communication and watch how positively your customers and clients react.
What is your company’s brand story?
Want to learn more? Check out these links:
More Shoppers Gravitate Toward “Brand Stories” (NPR.com)
10 Brand Stories from Tim Leberechts TED Talk (blog.TED.com)
Three Ways to Tell a Social Brand Story (Huffington Post)
7 Basic Types of Brand Stories: Which one is Your Brand Telling? (AdWeek)
Co-branding, the art of two brands joining forces to sell products, often makes for some odd bedfellows: snacks and video games, chain diners and blockbuster movies, killer whales and airlines, and hotels and motorcycles. These odd pairings certainly get a lot of attention (which is essentially the point), but co-branding is far more widespread: Betty Crocker mixes with Hershey’s chocolate and Reese’s Peanut Butter, Dell computers with Intel inside, Samsung phones powered by Android. Co-branding is everywhere. This time of year, though, gives us a chance to consider the most co-opted brand in history: Christmas itself.
If Santa Claus wasn’t in the toy business, he could make a killing in marketing. Christmas has become one of the most widespread, beloved, and enduring brands in history, reaching an audience far broader than the faithful. The holiday has easily recognizable icons, symbols, and well-known color schemes that evoke common feelings across huge swaths of the population. Most importantly, they also have the ability to prompt consumer spending on an unmatched scale.
With that kind of commercial sway, Christmas is reliably the biggest event in retail every year. Everywhere you look, stores and their respective sites are festooned with holly, bows, and other seasonal decorations. But the true power of the Yuletide brand extends beyond equating Christmas spirit with Christmas spending: and co-branding with Christmas often goes beyond pitching presents.
This is a time of year when we as a culture grow more reflective, more nostalgic, and more social. We sing songs about peace on earth and goodwill to men. We watch It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street and old stop-motion cartoons. We throw more parties than we can keep up with. In that spirit, many brands take a moment to connect with their clientele through some genuine holiday cheer. It’s the perfect opportunity for some positive brand interaction.
Ultimately, there are almost as many ways to co-brand Christmas as there are to celebrate it. Here are some of our favorite Christmas co-opts through the years.
● Our own contribution to the holiday co-branding craze this year was a partnership with Kingfish Media to develop a Holiday CMS site for Boston Market.
● Starbucks capitalizes on the American holiday tradition of hot drinks with friends and family. Their stores are always decorated for a cozy chat on a snowy day, and their promotions include a two-for-one drink offer. Starbuck’s “rekindle” holiday microsite includes coupons, holiday blends, and a fairly involved Facebook app.
● In 2010, law firm Parker Poe set up 2010wishes.com, a charming site that crowd-sourced goodwill to men.
● Tiffany & Co. plays up nostalgia with a classic black and white video that invokes Bing Crosby.
● Pandora knows what its listeners are looking for this time of year, and has set up easy access to holiday stations at the top of the page.
● ElfYourself started out a few years back as a clever Flash piece, but it’s evolved into a big push for OfficeMax, including a Facebook experience and a mobile app.
● And finally, my favorite Christmas co-brand of all time. It’s a co-branded co-brand, where Santa, rice cereal, and a modern stone age family collide in one of the most regrettably memorable commercials of all time. Seriously, I saw this ad so many times during my childhood that I can sing this better than most legitimate Christmas carols. I still find it strangely heartwarming to this day. (This ad narrowly beat out a similar spot from the same era, when Ronald skates with that kid nobody likes.)
What are your favorite Christmas co-brands?
Did your company do a special holiday promotion?
Let us know in the comments below.]]>
Fact: Loyal customers spend, on average, 65% more than new customers.
Fact: New customers cost businesses, on average, 500-1000% more than up-selling to existing customers.
Fact: A happy customer will share their experience and the next great deal with their friends and family.
Theory: Businesses should put more effort into making existing customers happy and into offering them a multitude of opportunities to buy more merchandise, more often. They should prompt them to share their experiences with others in order to seamlessly acquire new customers.
How might a business most effectively accomplish these goals? Allow me to introduce the loyalty program.
What is a loyalty program?
Loyalty or reward programs provide incentives for customers to do business with you on a regular basis. The more they buy or share, the more rewards they earn. Rewards can vary from free merchandise to discount coupons, tickets, special services, trips, and the best reward of all – cold, hard cash. Some loyalty programs require customers to purchase upgrades, while others automatically increase the reward value over time. Programs like those offered by PunchTab, TeleFormix, and Venga allow businesses to create and monitor custom loyalty programs, both online and offline, based on the needs of their industry and their customers.
What are the downsides to loyalty programs?
There really aren’t many, aside from wasted effort. A recent census (http://www.colloquy.com/files/2011-COLLOQUY-Census-Talk-White-Paper.pdf, page 4) reported that nearly 33% of loyalty rewards go unredeemed. You might think, “well, that’s a good thing because my business won’t have to give away free merch,” but this line of thinking is flawed. Time, effort – and therefore money – is wasted when customers neglect their reward points. We want your customers to redeem their rewards so they get more perceived value from the business, and again, share their experience with others.
To combat wasted effort, we need to offer a high value loyalty program. This can be most effectively achieved by bypassing complex cookie-cutter rewards programs in favor of a combination of some of the following high-value customer loyalty rewards.
How to Encourage Repeat Business With a Tier System
Using the tier system, we are trying to find the optimal balance between rewards that are attainable and rewards that are desirable. When loyalty rewards seem unattainable – for example, if customers need 1,000,000 frequent flier miles to get a ticket discount – most of them will just ignore the rewards system entirely. Why should they care?
Typically, top tier rewards are the most desirable, so it is also important to provide desirable low tier rewards to keep customers coming back. As customers upgrade to consecutive rewards tiers, the top tier is increasingly perceived as more attainable. When a big prize seems attainable, customer retention tends to soar!
How to Simplify the Points System
The points system is the most common loyalty program, and it is applicable to virtually all types of business. Using this system, customers earn points for each purchase. Once they reach a certain point total, they redeem their points for a prize, which can be a special service, a free product, or a discount code.
The secret to simplifying the points system is preventing the customer from having to think. Some of the best strategies include:
- a simple punch card that is redeemed for a freebie when full
- a loyalty card, swiped at each purchase, where the reward discount is applied automatically when the reward threshold is reached
- a loyalty card, swiped at each purchase, where the reward coupon is sent to the customer when the reward threshold is reached.
How to Make Rewards Programs Fun
Many companies can attribute their rewards program success to fun and games. Allow your frequent customers, who reach a reasonable reward threshold, to participate in online games where they can win discounts and prizes. For example, every 5 purchases from an eCommerce store unlocks a game that offers a small variety of prizes like free merchandise, gift cards, and service discounts.
This would also be a good opportunity to partner with related online vendors, who might donate prizes for your games and mutually benefit from the inexpensive promotion. A little research can go a long way to understanding what additional products and services your customers can use.
People also love to share their experiences socially. With the recent surge in social networks like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Pinterest, and Instagram, many companies offer reward programs based on quality and quantity of social sharing. The more sharing your customers do, the more rewards they earn, and if you are able to track successful conversions from social traffic, additional bonuses can be offered for those as well.
Monitoring the Results
Once your loyalty program is in place, it is important to monitor the results on customer retention and participation. Try to gauge whether or not the loyalty program increases the customer retention rate – after all, this is one of the primary goals of the program. Over time, a successful loyalty program will increase customer retention. If this is not happening, then the loyalty program is flawed. You also want to monitor participation and redemption. How many customers upgrade or purchase as a result of the rewards program? How many of them redeem their rewards?
Just as it is always important to split test your advertising and marketing campaigns, effort should be made to split test loyalty programs as well. Offer a variety of prizes, services, and benefits; altering tier upgrade requirements; and partnering with several different vendors, are all suggestions for split testing a loyalty program. Sometimes the littlest changes can have significant results on your bottom line.]]>