“Bad strategy tends to skip over pesky details such as problems.”
“Strategy cannot be a useful concept if it is a synonym for success.” (It’s not just about winning)
“A word that can mean anything has lots its bite. To give content to a concept, one has to draw lines.”
“The words ‘strategy’ and ‘strategic’ are often sloppily used to mark decisions made by the highest-level officials…but when you speak of ‘strategy’ you should not simply be marking the pay grade of the decision maker. The term ‘strategy’ should mean a cohesive response to an important challenge.”
“A good strategy includes a set of coherent actions. They are not “implementation” details: they are the punch in the strategy.”
- Quotes from Richard Rumelt’s “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy.”
You are gifted with a unique vocabulary of terms that only apply to your business and your industry.
You have the ability to create an ecosystem, an environment, a world of words that add to your identity.
Why waste these chances by using labels, instead of real language?
I’m speaking of navigation conventions on websites. So many sites choose undescriptive labels like “What We Do” instead of simply stating what it is they do.
On the nametags we adhere to our actual torsos, we always write our actual names. The word defines us. I don’t write “MY NAME” and let people peer closer to read “Kevan.” No, “KEVAN” is the most visible word I write. My name itself, not the descriptor of my name.
If you can cut to the meaningful language faster, you not only assist your users in gaining insight quicker, but you add to the culture of your organization. You use your unique assets instead of burying them.
Language is better than labels.
Language doesn’t just describe, language IS.
Language doesn’t just label things, language builds culture.
On the web, the sentences you write create the interior decor, the lighting, the texture, the sound, the actual furniture your users interact with.
Let’s talk through an example:
Love146.org is a beautiful charity with a gorgeous website. They are focused on incredibly meaningful work of helping end child sex slavery and exploitation.
The labels chosen for their nav spell out “LEARN WHAT WE DO.”
It’s a really neat navigational concept, actually:
Learn = learn about the issue
What = learn about the services/approach
We = learn about the organization
Do = users are encouraged to act
It’s a great concept that really works. However, the words comes together to form a sentence that is actually kind of lifeless. “LEARN WHAT WE DO” is still just a label, a descriptor: it’s saying “FIND OUT MY NAME” instead of saying your name.
I like the concept of letting your navigation labels actually spell out a sentence. That’s a neat idea. But what if the sentence could employ some of the unique terminology of the organization’s unique work? Is there a way to write this call-to-action in a way that evokes the rich, desperate, meaningful, compelling, original, vital, work of this organization?
CHILDREN = learn about the issue
NEED = learn about the services/approach
US = learn about the organization
NOW = users are encouraged to act
This way, the final sentence is actually a cal-to-action that drives home the very point of the organization.
If Love146 is on the leading edge of choosing compelling labels for their navigation, where is the rest of the world at?
Why do any websites still have navigation links called “Resources?” Isn’t everything on your website a resource? It would be like labelling a section “Information” or “Web content.” A gas station labels its resources Gas; a library has sections, why do YOU get to call your content “resources”?
There’s a trend afoot in web design: the decision to visually scatter information across the screen in a tiled format. As we acknowledge that homepage slideshows might not be as effective as we thought, we seek new ways to feature content. Tiles might be one of the ways sites are choosing to do it.
When would it be good to embrace a “tiled homepage” design?
1) To encourage exploration: Like Pinterest, if your main aim is to invite users to explore an enormous depth of content, the tile layout works: it abandons any pretense of content hierarchy. If your business model thrives on serendipitous discovery or constant exploration, tiles make sense.
2) To showcase volume: If you need to show off inventory, and develop credibility by showing a large volume of products, articles, etc., the tile layout can be a way to show at-a-glance that you’ve been incredibly busy.
3) When you just can’t decide: If you’re caught between multiple messages or features, you have the option of letting your content fight it out amongst itself: do a tile layout, let them compete for your users’ attention. Then, once you’ve got some data gathered, you can narrow it down to the items that should be featured exclusively.
What does it mean for projects we design? What does it mean from a user experience perspective? What other sites are doing it, and why? Is the tiled approach effective? Is it here to stay?
I don’t believe users click the “share” buttons on websites.
I believe that people who use social media all have a preferred workflow for posting content, and it does not include trusting a mystery-meat link on a publisher’s site that says “tweet”.
I believe the “share” buttons exist for three purposes:
1. To remind readers that they should and can share this article on their own channels, using their own tools, external to the site.
2. To establish credibility to show that the publisher in question is, y’know, down with the social media business
3. To show social proof that shares are taking places, via the share count
I think it’s valid to have social media sharing functionality on a site, for these reasons, but I would love to see some data about how well they work. I don’t think it’s about enabling users to share the content, I think it’s about reminding them to.
Of course, these are untested theories with no data whatsoever. Anybody seen any case studies? Any data to prove or refute this?
There’s something a little inspirational about highly-used services starting all over again.
User Testing = Hearing 5 people talk about your website
When you’re doing user testing, you can capture 80% of the feedback you need after consulting only 5 people. And the best way to capture their input? Sit beside them while they use your website, and ask them to think out loud. I love that true effectiveness can be so low-tech.
- from useit.com, Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users
Simplify your story to one page
If they only have a few things to say, I want companies to simplify and cut down what they put on their websites. I often end up thinking that the one-page site is often where it’s at. If you can simplify your story to the main components, and tell the story in a succinct, clear way, then maybe all the user needs will be discovered within a single, well-written page. This week I discovered One-Page Love, a repository of well-done one-page websites.
Content excellence is at the heart of marketing
Coca-Cola has sketched and narrated a little 7-minute video explaining why contagious ideas and good storytelling is now at the heart of their marketing strategy.
I’ve been shooting a little more video lately, via my iPhone. I am so impressed with the tools that are now available to not just shoot, but also edit movies, on a mobile device.
One night this weekend, as I was cradling my one-month-old daughter in one arm, I was editing a movie one-handed in the other. There was a day when I’d need a camcorder, a firewire cable, an external hard-drive, a desktop computer, and hours of time to do this kind of thing. But nope, in less than 20 minutes I assembled footage from a company party on Friday, and had it uploaded to Vimeo before the hour was done (see below)
For shooting, I’ve been using the app 8mm. It lets you film using instagram-esque filter effects: noir, 1920s, 60s, 70s, Sakura, etc.
For editing, I paid $5 for the official Apple app, iMovie. Like I said, one-handed video editing.
What tools do you use on your device to shoot or edit film? Any tips or tricks to offer?
D7-as-a-client Day from Kevan Gilbert on Vimeo.
The toothbrush. I have a fancy one now.
It’s got a built-in timer.
No matter how fast I brush my teeth, I’m only done when the two-minute timer ends. (Unless I click Stop before the timer goes, but that’s cheating.)
Some evenings, in a hurry, I realize I’m scrubbing furiously and holding my breath, hoping that faster brushing will make it end quicker and I can get on with being asleep. But all that happens is I discover I am not breathing, and I’m am moving with irrational quickness.
The same thing happens to me at work when I’m overwhelmed: I act fast, hold my breath.
I need to bring toothbrushing lessons to work:
It’s only done when it’s done. Breathe deeply, focus on the task at hand.
Technology needs boundaries. We need to own it, and can’t let it own us. Our attention will continue to fragment, our souls will continue to be distracted and burdened, until the time where we intentionally take sabbaths from the tech.
It’s time to become present in conversations, and not fidget with phones.
We each need our own “personal social media strategies” to decide how we will and will not let smartphones, social media, technology infiltrate our lives.
It’s okay to use the tech. But not okay to let it slowly chip away at your cognitive functioninng.
We DO get re-wired the more we perform certain habits. Is the “check-in addiction” a habit we want to integrate into our souls?
In the future, the humans who can set boundaries with technology are the ones that will find wholeness, health, success.
In the future, we need to teach technology boundaries as we teach sex ed. Only maybe less awkward.
Spending 3 years writing under a pseudonym on an online message board, back in the late 90s, was how I learned to craft content for consumption by a community.
Yes, what I am describing is writing fan-fiction about a book series with a bunch of book nerds online, as a teenager.
Writing anonymously allowed me to experiment without worry, build a brand outside of myself, create without taking credit, and practice-practice-practice without fretting about “what people were thinking of me.”
“What will people think of me?” and “What if they laugh at me?” is the biggest psychological obstacle facing anybody who wants to make, write, do, act, sing, play, design, create, blog, talk or share for a living.
What if we were able to remove that worry, encouraging people to publish what they *really want to* without having to put their face and name next to it?
When publishing content online, do you need to put your own name on it?
Wouldn’t you take more risks if it didn’t have to be your name on the byline?
Facebook and Google+ and LinkedIn and the rest of the gang all put our faces and full names next to everything we make.
Twitter lets us choose our own handles.
On Tumblr and other places of publishing, we can still make our own brand.
It’s the central point that Moot brought up at 2011’s Web 2.0 summit: how can anonymity boost creativity? Isn’t it false to assume that our “name+face= true identity” online? When we talk with our friends, do we always present the same version of ourselves to each friend, or are do we present different identities to each person already? Doesn’t one friend know us differently than our spouse knows us?
I think there is a lot of merit in challenging yourself to take bigger risks and create what you wouldn’t otherwise create, and if what it takes to get you there is writing anonymously or under a pseudonym, do it.
Here are your options for what you do with your brand online:
If you can’t deliver the first two, don’t pretend. Just do the third, and do it well.
So many companies cling stubbornly to a vision where they imagine their sites are accomplishing number 2 or 3, but they’re not committed. As a result, their web strategies skulk slowly off into the corners and make loud sighing noises. Their websites are like huge, fully-furnished, abandoned castles, designed to accommodate royalty, but inhabited by nobody at all.
I wish more companies were bold enough to be simple.
Bold enough to say: “Only 10 people are ever going to read our History page, and 5 will read our Board Members page; the only reason we have them is because our executive team wanted it there. All that our users are interested in is our hours of operation; so we’re just going to have a one-page website that just shows that.”
Consider non-profits. Why aren’t non-profits cutting out the clutter, and saying only what matters?
Even on this list of fantastic non-profit websites, the best of breed, many of them are choosing clutter and style over action and message.
Why am I on your website? Is it because you craft amazing stories that I can’t wait to read? More likely, you’re writing formulaic blog entries (sorry, that was mean) that I won’t spend time reading. I’m on your website because I want to do a little research and perform a quick action (I know, I’m generalizing; forgive me.)
So I dare you to be simple.
I dare you to simplify your website so much that all we see are two or three absolutely vital things, and absolutely zero clutter.
No busy work.
No filler pages.
Nothing but the core of what you *need* people to know or do.
Who else is doing that?
Prove that you are unique and confident and worth partnering with, by being simple.
Courtesy of an ebook by Radian6
“I was listening to the radio a lot — Top 40, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, all that — and couldn’t get some of the hooks out of my head. The synths, the heavy bass, the beats, they were swirling around in my head…but we still had all these instruments and ideas from Viva la Vida kicking around, too.
I know everybody expects our music to be derivative, to be a little sappy, and I get that. But part of me wants the music we make to be so epic, and so fun to listen to, that you can’t help but just turn it up a bit.
I’m kind of embarrased by the new album. Truth, the reason I wear the elephant costume in Paradise is because if people saw how red my face was, I’d have to stop performing it right there.
Is this record tongue-in-cheek? I don’t know. It’s more like the record I would make if I could somehow disable all my inhibitions. I couldn’t entirely, not all the way, but if I wear an elephant head mask, I feel more comfortable induldging in the guilty pleasure of fast-moving pop music without feeling as embarrased about it.”
“It’s just that I’m not that sad right now. I’m really not. I don’t think I’m being fake or shallow about it, I’m just legitmiately enthuastic about a lot of things, and it’s the type of feeling that makes you want to sing obnoxious pop music in front of thousands of people.”
- Chris Martin,
In an interview that didn’t happen, that I just made up, imagining what I would say if I were him.
1. Create it (the act of making something original)
2. Curate it (collecting or recommending existing content)
3. Critique it (writing commentary or reviews: new content ABOUT the original content)
4. Comment on it (short bursts of engagement in the form of a short reply or observation)
5. Consume it (read it, watch it, look at it, listen to it)
I was reading this (ow.ly/7lts4) about what makes great videos, and I just felt…meh. If it was just about studying what works and trying not to make mistakes, everybody would be winning.
All this marketing research, all this data, all these infographics about what makes success, it’s anthropology: the detached study of culture. MAKING something worth studying, that involves community: people making things.
Studying what makes something good doesn’t equip you to make something good. Practicing, playing, trying, failing, is what helps you make something good.