What Does It All Mean?
The list of technical terms and acronyms goes on and on. For those without the knowledge, these words and phrases can seem like a foreign language. But, fear not. We have taken the time to sort it all out for you.
This page contains a collection of articles and videos that our staff has put together to help alleviate the mysteries of the Internet. Some of the content are in-house productions. Other pieces are curated from resources provide by organizations and individuals who are dedicated to promoting the positive aspects of the Internet.
On a personal note, we would like to thank Dr. Kevin Tharp at the University of Wisconsin-Stout for his superb method of teaching web development and social media marketing. Dr. Tharp's innovative teaching style nudged us into full engagement. For that reason, we offer here some of his presentations as reference material.
YOU'RE OVERDUE TO LEARN ABOUT IT 'UX'
Derek Newton, Entrepreneur, December 31, 2015
Not too long ago, designing an appealing, functional, easy-to-use website was considered art. Or alchemy. It was a dark art.
The availability of do-it-yourself web design tools and fast, inexpensive web design services have made getting a good website less dark and less mysterious. But the evolution of web design has also made it less art and more science.
Today, web designers are more like engineers than artists. There’s no doubt that’s because web pages are no longer seen as simply online advertisements for your business. They are still that. But websites have become indisputable, non-negotiable business tools – not just engines of commerce but the engines of commerce for literally millions of businesses.
How, where and why people interact with websites is the essence of business survival. The science of how that happens – and making it happen through design – has become UX design. User experience design, for the uninitiated.
“We live in a time where everyone is in the technology business, regardless of what product or service you sell," said Philip Tadros of Doejo. Doejo does full integrated marketing and management -- they know what they’re talking about. "User Experience is everything. It's rude to your customers and detrimental to your business if you choose to be lazy with design and engineering.”
If you’ve been to more than a dozen sites in your lifetime, you’ve probably felt bad UX -- you just know it. For some people, bad UX design is what a typo is to me -- a deal killer.
The shocking thing is that so many businesses, especially small ones and startups, have bad UX design but they don’t even know it. I’ve heard more than one bootstrapped entrepreneur put off UX or dismiss it outright as something they don’t need or can’t afford. For some reason, UX gets put on the “that would be nice to do” list instead of the “we’ve got to do that” list.
More business leaders would do better for themselves if they started to see UX and having a website as the same thing. As you wouldn’t have a car with no engine and no doors, it makes no sense to have a website with no UX engineering. Your customers won’t know to get in it or out of it and it won’t go anywhere.
Moreover, when you consider the costs of other startup business requirements, decent UX planning is downright cheap. It’s possible you will spend more buying a good domain name than UX, which makes zero sense.
“Investing in a good domain name is important,” New York UX designer Elena Titova of Et 2 Graphics told me. “But having a good domain and no UX is like buying expensive real estate and not hiring a competent architect.”
Getting good UX help isn’t just good public relations and marketing advice, it’s good business advice. When you build a site, invest in UX design. Even if you already have a functioning website, bring in someone who can do a UX review – the only thing you have to gain is more customers.
HOW TO CREATE INSTANT WEBSITES
Michael Frank, Entrepreneur, December 12, 2015
When photographer Benjamin Edwards wants to update his website, all he has to do is load a new picture onto his phone; drag it into his web host, The Grid; and voilà, the program loads it onto his home-page and rearranges and recolors the entire site to work with the new image. For his work on behalf of charities such as World Relief that takes him around the globe, the technology is a godsend.
“Since I’m out in the field so often, I don’t have a ton of time to work on my website,” says Edwards, who is based in Bend, Ore. “I can be in Bolivia, shoot a photo and, if I have cell service, it can be on my website right now.”
While building and maintaining a web presence has become easier than ever, it can be a laborious and expensive process. That’s where The Grid comes in. The San Francisco startup, currently in beta, provides a URL, hosting services and a dead-simple app -- not a complicated content management system -- on which to build a website. All users do is move text, video and photos into The Grid’s program. Once the content is loaded, The Grid’s artificial intelligence arranges it into a sleek layout based on best practices for user-interface architecture and SEO. It knows, for instance, if it’s building an e-commerce page and will create boxes beneath the images for descriptive copy. Prices are automatically turned into click-through buttons that lead to the checkout page. More impressive, The Grid’s AI makes thematic suggestions to improve the overall vibe of the site and its effectiveness, analyzing colors, photographs and text so it understands the subject matter.
Founder and CEO Dan Tocchini IV says his goal is to enable business owners to wrest control from web designers and template-driven website services. “You’re not sending ideas back and forth with a designer, waiting weeks to approve the latest backend,” Tocchini says. “All that latency is gone.”
More than 60,000 “founding members” paid $96 over the summer to beta-test The Grid and help its AI to grow smarter. At press time, the company was aiming for a year-end launch. New users, who will pay $300 per year for the service, will reap the benefits learned in beta. Today, for example, the software knows that when an image is dominated by blue sky, text can go into that negative space; meanwhile, if it detects a face, copy cannot run over it.
Andy Chou, who last year sold his software quality and security analysis firm, Coverity, for $375 million, says he turned to The Grid “because I wanted to create a website for myself, and I have no interest in being a web designer.” The more Chou investigated The Grid, the more he wanted to invest, eventually taking a stake in the company’s Series B round for an undisclosed amount. The $3.1 million Series A round, which closed in November 2014, included Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang; Greg Badros, former vice president of engineering and products at Facebook; and John Pleasants, former president of Disney Interactive. Tocchini says he has since declined an offer from Facebook to buy The Grid for an unspecified amount.
Chou was attracted to the simplicity of the business model. “There are so many web startups that are trying to figure out how to monetize after the fact,” he says. “The Grid is monetized at the start. You use the product, you pay for it.”
Thinking Mobile First
Alex Iskold, Entrepreneur, December 9, 2015
It is mind blowing to me how many startups and big companies get mobile totally wrong. Take a look at this tweet from Benedict Evans:
This is mobile commerce -- currently the worst experience on mobile, but it is still growing at a huge pace. People are still buying stuff on mobile despite the clunky mobile shopping experience.
Next, go read a great post by Evans titled "Mobile Is Eating the World." What this means is that your customers are increasingly coming to you via mobile devices. This applies to everyone -- from consumer apps to enterprise technologies. Even if your customers are going to spend millions on your enterprise license, they still are likely to first click on a link on their phone, while sitting on a couch and not paying attention to some TV show.
Responsive design + app = You are doing it wrong.
Lets get straight to the point: Responsive design and having an app isn't a solution for your mobile problem. It is not good enough and likely just plain wrong.
To be truly mobile-friendly, you need to think mobile first from the ground up. Mobile-first doesn't mean I figured out what to remove from the desktop design so that it fits. Mobile-first means thinking hard about how to present your brand and product on mobile screens. Then coming up with the absolutely best possible design for it.
After that, you can think about if it makes sense to have the app -- sometimes it may not. If you choose to have the app, think about how and when to up-sell it properly. And finally, think about how to expand your brand to desktop. The desktop is the last step.
The mobile web information challenge
The beauty and the challenge of mobile is that real estate is really small. It is beautiful, because less is more, and because it is finally liberating. It is challenging, because we didn't grow up with less is more, we came from Windows, from desktop and from larger screens that afforded bloatware.
Because there was a lot more space on the desktop, we thought about how we could add complex menus and a ton of information and graphics and text. Well, the problem is there is just no space on mobile for any of it.
If you take a standard desktop website and make it responsive, it will be useless -- unless you remove 90 percent of it. Here in lies the secret to building a great mobile experience. Instead of figuring out what to remove from your desktop web site, just throw it away completely, and re-think the whole user experience from scratch.
5 tips to make your mobile website awesome
1. Brand: Even though mobile user experience is very compressed, start by thinking about how you communicate your brand on mobile. Your logo, colors, fonts -- whatever it is, make sure to breathe your brand into the mobile experience, so that your customers remember you.
2. Scroll: Make everything scroll-friendly. Organize information in a way where more important information is on top, and don't be afraid to have stuff stacked on top of each other. On mobile, people are used to scrolling when they want more information.
3. Copy, fonts, images and menu: Make your copy tight and shiny. Mobile affords the opportunity to make the copy really simple and crisp. Use branded fonts, and make the text larger to make sure people can read it. Use less text and more images.
Images are the killer app for mobile. People love them and love clicking on them, so make sure your images link to where you want users to go. Use a standard menu and place it on the top left, because most people are right handed so that they won't hit it by accident.
4. Calls to action: Direct users to the action you want them to take. App download? Email signup? Or perhaps you want them to text you? Whatever it is, make it crystal clear what you want the user to do, and then drive them to do it. Use big buttons and sticky prompts to get the users to the next step in your conversion funnel.
5. Test, measure and optimize: To quickly test how your website would look on mobile, shrink your browser on the desktop. Then test it out on the latest iPhone and Android to make sure there are no bugs. Track the clicks using MixPanel or your favorite analytics software. Keep iterating on the mobile website until your conversion is healthy. The good news is that since mobile contains a lot less than desktop, you should be able to optimize it a lot faster.
Here are some of my favorite mobile experiences: apple.com, untitledatthewhitney.com, flip.lease, nytimes.com, spoonuniversity.com
Video courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Stout, Dr. Kevin Tharpe, and
Video courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Stout and
Dr. Kevin Tharp (Thanks Doc!)