Category Archives: Content Strategy

I Did My Taxes On My Phone This Year! TurboTax Mobile Site FTW!

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So I kind of wish I could kiss every member of the TurboTax mobile design team.

I did my 2015 taxes ON MY PHONE! And it was, *gasp*, FUN!

When I say, “did my taxes,” I’m not talking 1040EZ… I’m talking mortgage, student loan interest, kiddo deductions, stock, IRA etc. style taxes.

It was unreal. Every time I got a new tax form in the mail I’d whip out my phone, enter the deduction, save it, and think, “Dude… I’m doing my taxes on my freaking cell phone, and the UI is amazing!” Then I’d grin like a raging weirdo.

A task that is normally boring and stressful and frustrating was full of unexpected delight.

This experience was exceptionally better than my usual system, which is spending a week of being stressed to the max, rifling through piles of paper trying to find copies of lost tax docs all over my house.

The hamburger could use a menu label, but otherwise the UI was flawless. Perfect touch target sizing, clean inputs, clear fonts, simple nav, easy editing/deleting, etc. It’s beautiful and easy to use and I love it.

Huge kudos to the entire design team at TurboTax. Your clean, seamless mobile UI and absolutely fab UX have me looking forward to doing my taxes in 2016! Thank you for taking the agony out of tax submission time! Bravo!

And seriously people, if they can make an app used to do taxes this fabulous, apps for every other industry have a chance. They took the most boring, borderline excruciating task on earth and flipped in into a mobile masterpiece. There are no excuses left now, the bar has been set!

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Humanizing Your Brand: Step 1 – Give It A Face. (Literally)

So social media, when used properly, can give your brand a major boost in visibility. The key is to not sound like a robot retweeting machine. (And if your social media strategy is to USE a robot retweeting machine, then you’re doing it wrong.)

Step 1: Give your brand a face. 

I mean this literally, I’m not being esoteric. Slap a face on your stuff. It can be the face of your blogger, it can be the face of your social media manager, it can be a banner that contains photos of your team, just make sure you add some kind of graphic containing a human to your social media & web branding.

Excuse #1: That would be weird.

Well… you can NOT give your brand a face… and continue looking like an obscure, cold,  official organization.

Your human face can be low key, or it can be your team doing something ridiculous, or just a shot of your team smiling, or a super artsy picture of your whole crew looking like a 1920’s mobster group. (Our graphic designing creative team did that once. It was actually pretty epic.)

Just integrate a human somewhere. People will start connecting the photo of a happy person or people with your brand, and will subconsciously start feeling like your brand is friendly and safe.

Human brains are weird. We want things to make sense. Cognitive dissonance stresses us out. If we see happy smiling people on a website or social media account we mentally push for the brand to line up with the graphics. Boring cold graphics = zero emotional attachment. Happy warm fuzzy people = your brand is friendly and we think about interactions with you in a way that is consistent with the warm fuzziness.

Excuse #2: My organization is too professional to do that. 

Ok… so adding pictures of smiling employees or even stock photos of mildly happy strangers is too official for you? So basically you WANT to look stuffy and cold. That’s cool too, if you’re trying to reach an audience of stuffy cold people. Which.. some companies are. But seriously, even my BANK has pictures of happy smiling people on the log in page. Banks aren’t exactly places to throw parties. Loosen up and increase your marketing reach.

Excuse #3: But my logo is epic. 

It probably is. Lame logos don’t usually last very long. If you want to use your logo, you should definitely do it. Use it all over the place. Use it as your profile pic in your corporate social media branding if you want. Just make sure you humanize your page as well. Banners are a great place to make that happen if you can’t mix your logo into a humanized profile pic.

Step 2: Give your brand a clear voice. 

Voice is incredibly important when you’re dealing with branding. If you’re having trouble defining your voice, hire a content strategist. They’re pretty much voice defining rock stars.

Laid Back Voice

My blog has a laid back, tongue in cheek voice, because I’m the only writer (and can do whatever I want, including but not limited to drawing horrible stick figures), and therefore I write like I’m talking to folks in person.

I like to keep my posts short and sweet, because I have a short attention span. Get to the point, and do it fast, or I’m thinking about where I’m going to vacation next summer in the middle of your sentence. I try not to go off on 47 page rants because I would NEVER be able to get through one of those articles myself. I keep my voice light and personable, because I inject my own personality in my posts. This voice would not work for every audience, however.

Formal Voice

If your brand is more formal, you’re going to need to make sure your writers adopt a more formal voice. But make sure your formal force isn’t a horrifyingly boring voice. If it is, only a specific subset of the population is going to read your posts/tweets/website content. If people who enjoy boring content are your only target audience, do it up. If you’re trying to reach a broader audience, humanize your voice, but remain professional.

My company has a friendly, but professional voice. When I’m working on product copy, I definitely don’t use the same voice I use in my blog, because of our target audience.

Step 3: Respond to all of the social media interactions that customers throw your way.

The worst thing you can possibly do is have unmoderated Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Google+ accounts.

Handle Business

If you set those accounts up, you need to be all over them, responding to comments and tweets and posts and following people back constantly. Some brands hire a person or a team to handle their social media interactions. If you “don’t have enough bandwidth to do that” deactivate your social media accounts immediately. They’re going to harm your brand, not help it. Don’t delete them though, you may need them in the future and you don’t want to lose your brand handles & vanity URLs.

Voice = Key

Ensure that the person managing your social media is completely comfortable with your brand voice. If your voice is inconsistent in social media, you’re going to end up in cognitive dissonance land again, and you’ll stress out your audience.

Step 4: Tell your social media manager up front that if they EVER accidentally post a personal tweet through your branded account, that they’re fired. On the spot. Put that in their contract. 

There have been some absolutely horrifying accidental tweets and FB posts through branded accounts over the past few years that have caused enormous PR nightmares. This is the internet, you can’t delete something and make it magically disappear. Once it’s posted, it takes on a life of its own. Try as you might, you can’t make the general public un-see things.

To sum things up, humanizing your brand can make a huge difference in the way your audience views, interacts with, and feels about your brand. You can humanize your brand, and remain professional simultaneously; it’s not an either/or situation. And humanizing can have a very positive effect in increasing your brand reach. Give it a try! You won’t be sorry.

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Chanel Handbag Website: UX Fail (Disappearing Nav & Seizure Worthy Rotating Images)

I have a handbag addiction. It’s a problem. Last night I tried to check out Chanel’s Fall & Winter line, and absolutely couldn’t believe the website. It’s a UX & Design nightmare.

The navigation is wretched and believe it or not these images all rotate. It just about gave me a seizure looking at it. I added some pink arrows to show the nav, since it’s pretty much completely impossible to find otherwise.

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To see the rotating images in action, check this out: http://www.chanel.com/en_US/fashion/products/handbags.html

I get the concept… but it turned out looking like a discount warehouse website, not a site that makes me want to drop 4k on a handbag.

Making your site nav disappear in maniacally rotating images = UX Fail.

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Google Analytics Free: Your Data Is Fake (But It’s OK)

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I recently discovered that users of Google Analytics Free don’t always fully understand what they’re seeing when they log into their dashboards. They think they’re looking at their actual, honest to goodness data. So let’s clear some things up:

1. Your data is fake.
“What are you talking about! It’s not fake, there are graphs!” Your data is sampled. In some situations it’s still statistically significant. In fact, in most cases it is, so don’t panic yet.

2. Want access to your real unsampled data? Fork over $150,000.
For major corporations it’s pocket change. For the average person with a small site, your sampled data is still statistically significant, so it’s no big deal. If you’re a start up company who is still poor but is experiencing rapid growth, you’re out of luck. Break out your wallet.

3. If your company is expecting/experiencing rapid growth & has set up a bunch of custom events, of the four leading analytics companies, Google Analytics Premium is by FAR the cheapest.
If you hit 5 billion events per month, Google Analytics Premium bumps up to a flat rate of $220k. Adobe Analytics jumps up around $7.4 MILLION dollars per year. That is not a typo, it’s a legit quote. If you’re scaling crazy fast and need quality data, Google Analytics Premium is your friend from a financial perspective.

4. Unsampled, pure data is freaking expensive.
It just is. If you really need it, surrounded by a UI that isn’t terrible, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.

5. I previously mentioned that sampled data is statistically significant for most companies, so who cares about whether data is sampled or not?
CMS companies in particular need to care. Let’s say a company has global analytics tracking. They may have 4 huge clients (3 million events, 2.5, 2, and 1 million events per month) a handful of 100k – 250k events-per-month clients and so on into tiny client land.

Google samples the daylights out of your data. The higher the number of monthly events, the worse your sampling rate becomes.

From a global tracking perspective looking at high level metrics, sampling is no big deal. However, if a 100k events-per-month client calls and requests a report about mobile device traffic to their primary domain, you’re statistically SOL. You can pull the report, but the drill down data will be garbage due to the crazy sampling rate.

The worst sampling rate I’ve come across in Google Analytics Free was .02%, but you get what you pay for.

The moral of this story:
For small sites and small businesses Google Analytics Free is a viable option. Your data is “fake”, but still statistically significant.

If you’re a rapidly growing business with a pile of domains being tracked under one account, eat the cost and upgrade to Google Analytics Premium. From a scalability perspective it’s the cheapest option, and you can pull unsampled reports to obtain accurate data all day long if you want to.

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Hollywood celebs? Meh. Famous tech industry peeps? Insta-starstuck!

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Somebody please tell me I’m not the only one who turns into a tongue tied secret picture taking star struck weirdo when famous tech industry folks are near. Lol.

I had the opportunity to attend a book signing by Karen McGrane at the 2013 Web Conference at Penn State. I definitely walked up to the table, handed her my copy of Content Strategy for Mobile, and blurted out, “I LOVE YOU!”

Karen was really cool about it, and just grinned and said, “Thanks!” while she signed the book.

This year I attended ConvergeSE in Columbia. During one of the sessions I looked up and realized Ethan Marcotte was SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!

Instead of, you know, introducing myself, I snuck my cell phone out and took a completely creeper-ish picture of him that he was definitely not aware of. My coworker thought it was hilarious and picked on me for months about it. 🙂

A week ago I spoke at the Web Conference at Penn State where Ethan was also a speaker. I was again, mega shy (#introvertproblems) and saw him but didn’t actually approach him. (I did not, however, take any more creepy pictures. 😉 )

During Luke W’s session break, I went out to grab a cup of coffee and ran into Ethan. I was all, “You’re Ethan Marcotte!” after I recovered from the shock. He grinned and said, “Yes I am, it’s very nice to meet you!”

This time I actually shook his hand and introduced myself like a normal human. I later publicly admitted on Twitter to my ConvergeSE secret picture taking covert activity.  Ethan responded with a very kind tweet, and didn’t seem overly creeped out. lol

Please, please tell me there are others who suffer from this awkward affliction?

Seriously though, Hollywood celebs? Meh. Famous tech industry peeps? Insta-starstruck.

 

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