We create websites people love. Of course I can't say that officially — although it's true — as HubSpot has already created a great campaign around "love."
I admire HubSpot's website because it says in big bold letters, "Create Marketing People Love." Then it qualifies that brand statement with a "here's how we help you do it" statement: " HubSpot has not only managed to create a product people find useful, they've created a brand
and a culture
associated with a powerful human emotion, love.
As we've been designing a new website for ourselves, we've been giving thought to what makes a website people love. The obvious answers are that it generates leads, is easy to use and maintain, performs well, contains relevant content and looks good. Marketers might add that it needs to be interactive, have calls-to-action buttons and enable users to interact. While we focus intently on all of that, we have found that what makes a website people love is to bring emotion and a sense of purpose to the web experience, which is derived from a supporting brand that embodies these deeper attributes.
IBM's "Let's Build a Smarter Planet" is another example of a B2B company that has created a culture not around technology or services, but a collaborative goal of building a better planet, something everyone can feel good about.
Our recent work for AirStrip, a mobile healthcare company is an example in the HubSpot/IBM mold. AirStrip is filled with passionate physicians, technologists and other healthcare professionals who have a sweeping vision for improving the American healthcare system through mobile technology. We harnessesd that passion into a powerful tagline, "HealthCare Transformation is in the Air," which distilled their passion and goals and tied back to their name and to mobility
. What makes the AirStrip website "loveable," aside from the increased traffic they've seen, is that the brand tagline spawned a whole language, i.e.,
- Healthcare mobility is in the Air
- Better Quality Care is in the Air
- Clinical Efficiency is in the Air
- Improved Performance is in the Air
As web designers, we see our job as "bringing company brands to life... on the web." More often than not, we are provided copy, which is written by engineers or others steeped in the one hundred percent buzzword compatible terminology dictated by financial goals, product details, perceived customer expectations, loss of objectivity or leadership that hasn't articulated a higher purpose. Even great graphic or interactive design can't transform mundane language or undifferentiated notions. People see right through that. Our most successful website projects are collaborations with organizations that have articulated, or are open to doing the work to articulate, a brand that in some way can be associated with improving people's lives, and carries both emotional as well as business weight.
"All our words from loose using have lost their edge." So said Ernest Hemingway, probably at a Spanish bar one night in the company of other inebriated literary elite. I imagine if he could see the current state of B2B marketing content, he would have the smug smile of the prescient. In 2013, there is still no more powerful communication tool than your website. It is also true in 2013, as the cliche goes, that "content is king." But it's not just the quantity of content, it's the quality. The best way to create websites that people love is to start with content that rises above and touches people on a human level, conjoining them with your mission.
Want people to love your website? Give us a call!
It’s a well-worn fact that B2C marketers set the trends that B2B businesses subsequently adopt. Between them there are usually several years of lag time. The case for B2B companies to adopt mobile marketing practices and a mobile-friendly web presence warrants an acceleration of that schedule in direct correlation to the speed at which mobility is reshaping the world. Here are some compelling arguments pointing towards the value of mobile to B2B businesses.
Don’t let the Trend Pass You By
Gartnerpredicts that by 2014, there will be a 90% mobile penetration rate and 6.5 billion mobile connections. Think about it, that’s about the number of people in the entire world! They go on to say that in 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. If that alone is not reason to maximize one’s mobile presence, here are some other things to consider.
Protecting and Enhancing Your Brand
“Many companies are still behind and are not optimizing the web experience for mobile, which is incredibly damaging for their brands," said Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua in an article titled,
"There have been countless studies that show a consumer will abandon a website in less than five seconds if the experience is unsatisfactory,” said Woods. “Now that we know potential buyers are reading our emails and visiting our websites from their mobile devices, marketers need to make the appropriate adjustments.”
Take a look at your website on a smartphone. Is it hard to navigate, slow performing or requiring a lot of pinch and zoom just to get from one page to the next? Now imagine your customers, prospects and prospective employees experiencing this. Does the experience support your brand image as a tech-savvy, customer-focused organization?
Business executives search using their mobile phones seven times a day, much of which is for business, according to a Forbes survey.At RainCastle, we have noticed the beginning of a “hockey stick” increase of mobile users accessing our website and as a result are currently redesigning our own site using “Responsive Design” to make the mobile experience as easy and compelling as the desktop. Our clients who follow their website analytics are experiencing the same trend.
Rethink Your Content
When your B2B audiences are working remotely they are seeking information that is easy-to-access and fits on their phones or tablets, whether it is text, imagery or video. As a B2B, you now need to make sure that relevant content is manageable and accessible not only on the desktop, but on mobile devices as well.
Respond Quickly to The New Normal for User Behavior
In the new normal, customers’ patience has plummeted while expectations for speed, accessibility and personalization of content have skyrocketed. When was the last time you had a meeting with a business executive who wasn't checking their mobile device multiple times? Whether or not that offends you, can you afford not to be reaching these people through their chosen medium?
Establishing The Personalized User Experience
Mobile devices present a more personal, one to one medium than marketers have ever had. People wear them, carry them and keep them next to their beds at night. Why wouldn’t you want to create a relationship through a medium that provides that kind of access? Mobility is changing us, driving new habits, altering the way we live, connect and market.
So, don’t miss the (mobile) boat lest you want to live the “Life of Pi,” trying to tame the (mobile) Tiger.
In a previous post, Three Cases of Websites Using Modern design Techniques, I touched upon some of the exciting new design techniques — that have become available on the web—which are beginning to change the face of the modern website. Digging down a level, these design techniques exist to serve your company's need to tell your brand story. The speed at which business is being done and the amount of noise you must cut through have elevated the need for distinctive, on-brand digital storytelling.
HTML5 and Flash are two important tools for digital storytelling. Both afford unique opportunities to bend the digital medium to your will and create compelling engaging experiences for your customers. Flash has gotten a bad rap as it is not supported by Apple moblie devices, but Flash can be saved in a video format that will render on Apple as well as PC and mobile devices. Flash is still a teriffic tool for presenting a corporate or product story with power, and sophistication. It is excellent for event presentations, where you need to Wow your audience, as well as for websites. Our recent brand launch for our client AirStrip, a mobile healthcare technology firm, is one such example.
As Digital Storytellers, we need to be able to express both high-level brand concepts and more detailed messages that allow for audience interaction for the optimal user experience. No single digital tool or technique can do it all, which is why mastering a broad array of digital tools and techniques is making design such a powerful force for strategic marketing these days!
What interesting and effective examples of digital storytelling have you seen lately?
It's the start of the holiday season and time to celebrate one of the most thoughtful (if derived from historically misguided events) days of the year: Thanksgiving. And 2012 has given us a lot to be thankful for. In light of this, we wanted to share some of the many things we at RainCastle are most grateful for this year in the world of web design and marketing. But, ever the Scrooge, couldn't resist the opportunity to highlight one particular 2012 frustration.
1. Responsive design and mobile traffic...
Or the ability to skip the Black Friday lines
Responsive design saw an amazing amount of growth this year, most notably with an official recommendation from the W3C, making it mandatory for all modern browsers to support this new direction in website development. So it's not surprise we've spent 2012 diving into responsive design. The ability to build a website that works visually and content-wise across all mobile platforms is a huge step forward in harnessing mobile visits, which are quickly becoming a huge source of traffic for many B2B and B2C companies.
We are grateful for responsive design's ability to provide valuable website information quickly, easily, and while on-the-go.
2. Memes, memes, and more memes...
To impress your "I'm too hip for you" nieces and nephews
McKayla is not impressed. Texts from Hillary. Inbound Style. 2012 wasn't just a banner year for memes (or concepts that spread and evolve over the internet as pieces of content) but also brought out smart, socially-significant ones, routed in politics, global cultural events, and even Korean pop songs turned marketing content. What's better than an entertaining meme? One that's clever, and can be used to showcase your company's sense of humor – and, if done correctly, your expertise.
Take HubSpot's viral hit "Inbound Style," which capitilized on the popularity of the second most viewed YouTube video of all time, "Gangam Style" by Psy. The HubSpot video has close to 200,000 YouTube views and picked up enormous PR for the brand.
We are grateful for memes and their ability to inspire laughter and creativity... and potentially convert a few leads.
3. The (accepted) convergence of content marketing and SEO...
Helping you find exactly what you need, be it the right stuffing recipe or the quickest escape route from your crazy uncle's dinner party
Content marketing and SEO: like mashed potatoes and gravy. You could have one without the other, but what's the point? They are complimentary. This isn't news to most marketers, but this year seemed to finally convert the non-believers.
With Google's increasing determination to weed out keyword stuffing and the rise in popularity of daily content creation across multiple platforms, marketers are now in a position to set aside the old "tactics" for ranking and concentrate on creating targeted, beneficial content. The ability to do so means more traffic (from increased content), more qualified leads, and a smarter lead nurturing strategy.
Essentially, it means that your prospects and customers can find what they want, when they want it, now, with you as their resource.
We are grateful for the convergence of content and SEO because it means less black-hat tomfoolery and an easier way to gain brand traction.
4. Easy-to-use content management systems...
So seasonal updates are quick to implement and track: Merry early Christmas
For us, 2012 was the year of Wordpress. A beautifully designed website is merely an online brochure unless it is maleable to marketing campaigns, product and services updates, and seasonal messaging. So, building and integrating custom design and functionality using a CMS that is client-friendly has been the gateway into making internet marketing easier.
Allowing the client's marketing team to utilize the site in this way is redefining success for us. Not only do they then have a well-branded website, they also now have the ability to shape it into a marketing powerhouse.
We are grateful for user-friendly content management systems for creating living sites that can grow content.
And one thing we're not so thankful for:
Or jelly beans. Sorry, but we prefer pecan pie. We're just cool like that.
Paul Regensburg: President, Creative Director, Don Draper Wannabe
Mobile: Mobile queries have grown 500% in the past year and 40% of people will turn to a competitor for a mobile experience that gives them a good user experience
Ever had a frustrating experience viewing a website on your phone? Well, chances are your clients have, too. This statistic represents two key concepts: mobile search is an undeniable beast, and potential consumers will turn to a competitor if your website is not optimized for mobile to a point where it makes browsing difficult.
Mobile can be a daunting task to approach; it entails a few different potential tactics, and can be as important format- and content-wise as an actual website redesign. The three strategies at your disposal are:
- Creating a separate website optimized and designed for mobile
- Creating a responsive website design that works across desktops, tablets, and smartphones
- Creating a mobile app
Each of these options can suit your mobile visitor’s needs, and the first step is deciding which one is most appropriate for your current situation. Is it creating a website from scratch that is responsive to each technology, or building a mobile-specific website that smartphone and tablet visitors get directed to?
Evernote, a popular organizational software company, has the
perfect service for a mobile app, as most customers use it on-the-go.
Image courtesy of BusinessWeek.
For more details on selecting the best option for your business, consult the three posts in our responsive design series (above).
There is an effective way to kick off your company’s internet marketing efforts with first steps that address these statistics: take baby steps. Take the first step in creation and integration, and create campaigns that you can build on and develop in the coming years.
Stay tuned for future posts in which we’ll address some of the other enlightening industry statistics and how you can harness them to reach your modern consumer.
Last week, we attended the New England Direct Marketing Association’s Marketing Technology Summit, and were treated to presenters from Google, Overdrive Interactive, HubSpot, Eloqua, and more. The conference centered on ways to utilize marketing technology to promote your brand, engage visitors, and create strong online relationships with future and current consumers.
We came out with great ideas for marketing campaigns, technology integration, and the future of mobile and online ads, but also with a long list of interesting marketing facts and statistics.
- The average American spends two months of his/her waking year online
- The 4 major screens that occupy our time: laptop, TV, smartphone, tablet
- Consumers spend 36% of time online – more than with any other media format
- Where B2B buyers get their information: 71% internet, 37% catalogs, 41% trade groups, 39% trade shows, 35% seminars
- People on average use 10 different sources of information before they make a purchase
- 16% of searches everyday on Google have never been searched before: that’s 160,000,000 new searches a day
- 1 out of every 5 searches has local intent
Video and Ads
- 1 in 3 Google advertisers are using video platforms for ads
- Soon, over 50% of ads will be opt-in – consumers will choose to engage with them
- In a Google study, 9 out of 10 viewers prefer TrueView Ads – the ad platform that allows them to opt-in to viewing video ads
- By the end of 2011, over half of Americans had a smartphone
- 1 in 8 requests to visit a site are mobile
- Almost half of Americans are on their phones or laptops engaged with mobile content while watching TV
- 79% of people with a smartphone use their smartphones to help with shopping
- Mobile queries have grown 500% in the past year
- 1 in 3 smartphone owners prefer using their mobile phone for web browsing or email – even if there’s a PC right next to them!
- 79% of large online advertisers do not have a mobile optimized landing page
- 40% of people turn to a competitor for a mobile experience that gives them a good user experience
- 11% of people yell at their phone if they are on a slow-loading site
- 1 out of every 3 mobile searches has local intent
- Over 50% of searches on Google Maps happen on mobile devices
- There were 18 billion downloads of mobile apps last year.
- By 2015, it is predicted there will be 182 billion downloads of mobile apps
- 15,000 new apps are released every week
- 294 billion emails are sent each day – that’s about 43 emails sent per person in the world
- 90% of email sent out every day is classified as spam
- It’s no longer 6 degrees of separation: you need to be connected to 4.6 people on social media to be connected with the world
- Levi's had 40% growth in Facebook likes by adding individual like buttons to their products on their website
In the next blog post, we’ll discuss what these statistics mean for your B2B company and ways you can implement supporting campaigns.
Are you looking for advice on how to enhance your internet marketing and don’t know where to start? Contact RainCastle for more information.
In the past few months, we've covered basic tutorials on your mobile web design options, concentrating on responsive web design and mobile site design. Lastly, we'll touch upon the Apple-inspired creation of mobile applications, their growing popularity, and whether or not they are right for your business.
According to analytics firm Flurry, in the past year mobile app usage has surpassed web usage in the United States in terms of the number of minutes spent on each platform per day. By December, Americans were spending 94 minutes a day on apps and 72 minutes online (both on mobile and desktops).
The same study found that the most popular and most used apps were gaming or social networking applications (49 and 30 percent, respectively). Entertainment and news followed. Not terribly surprising considering Facebook's domination, Twitter's need for constant involvement, and the phenomenon of Words with Friends and Angry Birds.
These analytics may flip your mobile switch and inspire you to invest in developing an app for your brand. So, how do you know if creating a mobile app is worth your time?
Consider Your Industry and App Purpose
Designing and developing an app can be a lengthy and costly process, so the first step is to ask yourself: what purpose would this app serve? Ecommerce companies will have an easier time with this. An app that makes mobile shopping easier may be a worthwhile investment to boost sales and rid shopping cart abandonment that comes when the checkout process is too lengthy.
Department store bigwig Nordstrom's app has a simple navigation bar at the bottom that allows you to quickly switch between shopping by department or brand and accessing your shopping bag.
This serves a specific mobile shopping function, and promotes conversions by streamlining the buying process. Many other Ecommerce companies utilize the same app layout with quick browsing and check out features, including Gilt Groupe and Sephora.
If your business isn't this straightforward, have a brainstorming session of creative and effective apps that can be developed to increase customer usage, retention, and conversion. A good app can:
- Make the customer pathway easier and leads to more conversions
- Provide something unique to the visitor
- Encourage social sharing and interaction (think of the Foursquare boom)
- Revolutionize a basic mobile element (Instagram changed the way we upload and share photos)
Also, if you're a gamification company or growing social network, then what are you waiting for?
Can B2B Mobile Apps Add Value to the Market?
As always, B2B companies are having a difficult time finding their niches in the mobile market. It's hard to establish immediate value when your business is a little more nuanced. That doesn't mean, however, that there isn't space for B2B brands. In fact, this area of mobile marketing is poised for growth.
Here are some ideas to get you started with a B2B app plan:
- Streamline your content in an app dedicated to industry news, insights, and beneficial content
- Look at the process your customers typically go through and address any needs; is there one question that continually comes up? Create an app that answers common client needs
- Create an event-specific app to promote an important upcoming company conference or trade show
- Create a calculator or other "tool" that your customers can use
- Adapt software to an app (like the Adobe Reader app)
There's always room for creativity in an area like this. What's necessary is a long look at where there are gaps in the market, and how your app can serve those needs or the needs of your customer.
So, any ideas?
As the mobile channel advances toward its tipping point, we are all learning best practices for mobile design, which are not always consistent with web design. Here are 5 key points to keep in mind with your mobile sites.
1. Simplify design
The best way to first approach a mobile design is to think, "simplify." Two big initial considerations are size and speed: mobile browsers, while getting faster, can still be irritatingly slow, and are only made slower by large files and sizeable amounts of content to load.
Additionally, with smaller screens comes less real estate for you to utilize. Branding becomes increasingly important here, because you really need to strip your content to its most basic purpose, and carefully choose and place elements to represent yourself in such a small space.
Some companies, like Spotify, a music
streaming service, really take the mantra
"less is more" to heart in their mobile design
This isn't to say that it has to sacrifice design for functionality, just that the two need to live harmoniously. In fact, designing for mobile is a new challenge that invokes creativity in designers.
To see how each brand approaches mobile design, visit the gallery Mobile Awesomeness, which features good and bad mobile designs for inspiration.
2. Use a Single-Column Layout
The single-column layout works hand-in-hand with design simplicity. On a mobile device, many users are scrolling or flipping between landscape and portrait mode, so the easiest way to maintain user-friendly navigation is to keep it all in line: one line, that is. Similarly, when designing a mobile version of your website, it is best to convert your navigation to a vertical, single-column layout. If you have a particularly content-heavy mobile site, use a collapsible navigation that allows users to open or hide particular content.
3. Re-think Visitor Paths By Examining Consumer Needs
A mobile site is not necessarily just a miniature version of the website. Part of re-defining your mobile navigation process is to evaluate why a customer might visit your site on a smartphone or tablet. Often, it is to use or research your products and services quickly. Mobile design should cut out unnecessary content and immediately deliver an easily discoverable path for the visitor.
Take for example Amtrak's mobile site versus their desktop site.
Amtrak's desktop design is a pretty evenly divided between: buying tickets and organizing a trip, conducting travel research, and offers and promotions. It is fair to assume that someone visiting from their computer could be looking into any of these things.
The company's mobile site, however, is much more straightforward, and assumes that the visitor is coming this way for one reason: to easily and efficiently map out a trip, right now. They eliminate the research portion and deals section to streamline the process according to consumer want, and make their mobile site a tool for the visitor to quickly accomplish this goal.
4. Think In "Taps" Instead of "Clicks"
One of the biggest physical usability differences here is that mobile design users tap where desktop users click. This means that small, numerous links on your website need to be revisited and reformatted as big, tap able buttons, yet another way to reconsider the content that is provided in each format. This also means that there is no option for hovering – a feature that is often used in desktop web design to reveal content.
5. Make Your Original Website Available
The best mobile designs allow for options, and sometimes visitors really do want to visit the original desktop website. Making it easy for them to access it represents best practices when it comes to mobile design.
Zatarain's, a supplier of New Orleans-style food products, smartly places their "view full site" link next to a newsletter sign-up call-to-action. While the link is in standard web formatting (more "clickable" than "tap able"), it is placed exactly where the visitor's eye would go to find the link: in the footer.
Other than revolutionizing the technology, telecommunications and music industries, not to mention global culture, Steve Jobs is having a decisive impact on the world of B2B web design.
Recently, while making a presentation on a laptop projecting a web browser, I seemed to be having trouble making eye contact with the CEO; not usually a great sign. As it turns out, he was very pleased because the work looked so good on the iPad that had been commanding his attention.
Is this indicative that we need to start changing the form factor for which we are designing digital communications? Our qualitative research has indicated that less than 4% of our B2B clients' website viewers are visiting on mobile devices and a small portion of those are tablets. This would indicate that while we should watch that number, for now, it's business as usual.
But that would be ignoring the "Steve Jobs Effect." The iPad has captured the hearts and minds of the ruling class, and regardless of whether "most audiences" are not (yet) using it, the decision-makers increasingly are. That means that web designers must consider how our designs appear and function on the iPad as well as on a web browser.
This has implications on at least two unique areas, navigation and animation. Certain configurations of content are more pleasing on the iPad than others. These may or may not be the best design decisions for a website. Yet, in the case of our client, the view on the iPad influenced the decision about which navigational option the client chose. I believe this is the first of a trend that is here.
The transitions are relatively primitive but clients are willing to forgo the uniqueness of Flash for the security of knowing that their website will work on an iPad.
"Thought Leadership" is another name for the "Steve Jobs Effect;" thought leadership so powerful it reminds us that even in a world driven by analytics, genius has its privileges.