Month: May 2013

Flat Design: The Good and the Bad

It seems like, without us knowing, a new design trend has taken over the webspace.  Flat Designs have been popping up all over the web lately.  With Microsoft (look at their newly designed Windows interface) and Google as advocates for this new design approach – it seems like this design trend might be here to stay.

What is Flat Design?

Flat Design is exactly what you think it is.  It is about stripping the web designs of any three dimensional effects, which means designing without shadows, gradients or texture. The idea behind Flat Design is simplicity – it is about streamlining the elements on the page to bring attention to the details that matter.  There is one major point to clarify though – Flat Design does not mean there is no depth.  The use of pictures can actually add interest to your site, especially when used with flat buttons and text.

Flat Design makes a lot of sense to me, given that we are using our smartphones and tablets more than ever before. Having a minimalistic and clean design translate so much better to the smaller screens.  Just look at the new interface on the Windows phones and on Windows 8!  I love the colour-blocking effect combined with the crispness of the text and pictures.

Photo: cnet.com
(Photo: news.cnet.com)

The Bad: While I love the look and feel (yes, I love the minimalistic look), I’m not sure how well this design trend will be received across different industries. We’ve seen how well it has worked for the tech and creative industries, but how well will it work for..say, my industrial clients? Time will tell, I suppose. Just look at how well skeuomorphism played out! Another concern I have is that while skeuomorphism made the web experience an easier transition for beginner users (because it imitates real life), flat design is a more sophisticated approach. Designers will have to make interactive elements of a site stand out that much more!

Flat Design Inspirations

Check out FlatDesign. and Web Designer Depot for some great inspirations. Oh the possibilities!  *Sigh*

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A Marketer’s Occupational Hazard

It must be an occupational hazard of being in marketing because every time I visit a new website, I have a need to dissect and analyze all the different elements of the site.  Here are just some of the things I do when I find myself on a new site:

  1. Restore down the browser window and check to see if the site is responsive
  2. Identify all the CTA (call-to-actions) and note their location on the page and their use of colours
  3. Scan the copy for catchy taglines and headings
  4. Analyze what’s above the fold… and what’s under
  5. Try to identify their SEO strategy – I look for any bolded text, links, or headings
  6. View page source
  7. See which social media platforms they are on
  8. Look for a blog
  9. Study the design elements like colour palette, the use of column layout vs. block layout
  10. annd look for mistakes like spelling errors, broken links and hidden gems :)

Google+ and its Latest Makeover

In the world of online marketing, nothing ever stays the same. Today, we saw the launch of a newly designed (and drastically different) Google+.  First YouTube and now this?  C’mon Google, I need some time to breathe! The focus of the new Google+ design is clear – there is an even greater emphasis on content and each update is meant to encourage sharing and social engagement.  Here are the changes I’ve noticed:

  • New Column Layout: the new design seems to be responsive. Depending on the size of the screen you’re viewing from, you will see either one, two or three columns.
  • Chat becomes Hangout: my chat was enabled and I see that it has been changed to make Hangouts within circles much easier.
  • Much (MUCH) Bigger Visuals: we all know visuals drive engagement and Google has taken this fact to heart by using big visuals. Not only are the pictures bigger, cover photos for both profiles and business pages have both increased.
  • #Hashtag for Content Exploration: my favourite feature! It looks like hashtags are automatically added to your posts and clicking on them will allow you to browse and explore related posts and relevant content.

Overall, I don’t mind this new design although it does feel very Pinterest-y to me. Visual content is huge because I did not see a single post with no picture or video attached.   Scrolling through my feed, I see that certain posts are featured and made bigger than others.  Although shares and engagement do seem to be higher on those posts, not all high engagement posts are featured – I wonder what goes into the algorithm calculations?  I also do like the trending topics and community suggestions as you scroll through the feed, done very tastefully and subtle. From a marketer’s standpoint, the takeaway seems to be this: here is another argument for content marketing with an even higher focus on visual content. Since the objective is to drive content exploration, your updates should have clear messaging that can be easily hashtagged. Google+ just got a whole lot more interesting!

My 3 Must Have Apps for Working Out

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with running.  I’ve signed up for a marathon in July (and by “marathon”, I really mean Color Me Rad – a 5 km run where bystanders get to throw colour bombs at you as you run by :D Check out the website for more information!). It’s not a real marathon per se, but nonetheless, it was the perfect motivator for me to get into shape and to commit to finishing the whole 5 km with decent time.

This of course means that I’ve been spending a lot of time at the gym and on the treadmill!  Here are the 3 apps that I’ve been using at the gym to help me get my fitness on:

Songza App

App: Songza

Songza is a brilliant music streaming app that gives you playlist recommendations based on the time of day, your mood or activity.  I always look forward to being able to use the “At the Gym” category while I am there.  Their “Drop-A-Beat Workout” and “Euro Dance Workout” playlists have definitely sustained me on many a runs!

Nike+ Running Club

App: Nike+ Running

I love Nike+ Running. This app has all the features that a runner would need – GPS tracking, distance and speed tracking, calorie counter, and time tracking.  As you’re running, it gives you regular updates of your progress aannnd it tracks your progress over time.  You also earn goals for reaching milestones – which is probably the feature I love the most!  They definitely keep me pushing ahead to try to break my own records. You can even add friends – a little competition never hurt anyone, right?

Nike Training Club

App: Nike Training Club

The Nike Training Club is a women’s training app full of workout plans. You can choose complete workout plans that are 45 minutes in length based on your level of fitness or you can choose by a target area.  As you log more time and reach milestones, you’re rewarded with bonus workout plans curated by top American athletes or exclusive access to promotions and recipes.

It used to be that the time at the gym was time away from my phone – not true anymore!  These apps have been so great and have kept me motivated to push myself a little bit harder with each gym visit.  If you haven’t tried these, go and download them now!

This is Water – Wisdom from David Foster Wallace

I didn’t know about this commencement address by the late author David Foster Wallace until I read about it in an Adweek article.  Even though the video was only posted 4 days ago on May 6th, it has already gotten over 2.9 million views.  The success of this video can be attributed equal parts to stunning visuals and a powerful message – the perfect formula for going viral!  The production team perfectly executed this video to not only draw you in… but to keep you thirsting for more.  Because really, when was the last time you willingly watched a 10 minute video? That is the difference between a video that pulls you in – and one that pushes information at you.

Beyond that, DFW’s words just rang true to my ears.  There is something to be said about making the right choices day in, day out – when routine and frustrations can rule the day.  It takes much more effort to see through the bad to find the good. This video definitely had me thinking… and re-examining my own point of view.

Enjoy!

 

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On a Quest to Master LinkedIn

Sure, I know my way around LinkedIn – but do I know enough to utilize it fully for my clients?

It was LinkedIn’s 10th birthday a couple of days ago.  Looking through the timeline photographs, there is no doubt in my mind that LinkedIn has come a long way. LinkedIn first started back in 2003 and at the time, Friendster and MySpace were the biggest social networks around.  This was  even before Facebook and Twitter became household names. For a social network that’s been around for 10 years, I fee like it took them a really long time to figure things out!

I would say I’m quite an active member on Linkedin.  Because of my job, I log in almost daily and sometimes even more than once a day.  I used it frequently during my job-hunting days to look for new opportunities and research job requirements for the roles that I was interested in. However, it wasn’t until recently that I would spend more than 5 minutes per visit on the site.  LinkedIn made very little attempt to keep people interested – so what resulted was strictly a glorified social network for your resumes. You can see how this can be problematic for Linkedin if they wanted to make money from advertising. (Yes, that’s how social networks survive!)

With the addition of LinkedIn Today, the news feature section at the top of the page when you sign in – the site’s stickiness increased and there were more reasons for people to spend more time on the site. Groups were added to build a sense of community. Company profile pages created an opportunity for brands to connect with their followers in a professional setting. Stickiness improved which increased advertising potential.

But for clients such as mine (small to medium sized businesses), I have to wonder what the advantages are to advertising on LinkedIn.  The pay-per-click system is similar to Adwords with decent targeting options. Minimum bids have been at least $2.50 from what I’ve seen.  The most troubling for me though is how rarely I see any ads on there that I am interested in.  I am part of quite a few marketing-related groups but have not seen many ads that are focused on marketing. I see the promoted jobs quite often – but again, none appeal because of their location. Safe to say, LinkedIn advertising has not been very effective on me – so how can I convince my clients otherwise?

I haven’t seen too much on the effectiveness of LinkedIn advertising – perhaps it is more effective for certain industries? Maybe one of these days, one of my clients will have extra money they don’t care about and let me put together a LinkedIn campaign for them…