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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Important Information for Internet Explorer 6 Users

February 27th, 2010

Why you should stop using IE6…

If you’re still using Internet Explorer version 6 (or earlier) for public Web browsing it’s imperative that you upgrade as soon as possible to a modern standards compliant browser. It’s not hard to find lots of reading material regarding the myriad of security (and many other) issues inherent to Internet Explorer 6. For those who want to take my word for it, Internet Explorer 6 is an obsolete Web browser that is incompatible with the modern Internet and may present serious security risks. Using IE6 might be compared to driving a Model T down the 405 in LA. This analogy sounds a bit exaggerated but is really quite accurate in reflecting just how outdated and dangerous IE 6 is in the modern Internet Environment.

This is not just my opinion; there’s a consensus (including Microsoft itself) that IE6 users have clear and compelling reasons to upgrade. It’s easy to find this information through a Google search, but here are a few quotes and sources to get you started:

How do you check to see if you’re using Internet Explorer 6 / IE6?

IE 6

  1. Open Internet Explorer, and look in the upper right hand corner it will often indicate "IE 6".
  2. To to help -> About Internet Explorer and look for a version number

How to get rid of Internet Explorer 6

Recommended: Install one of the following non-microsoft modern standards compliant browsers. During the upgrade process you will have the option to import your prior bookmarks from Internet Explorer.


Alternate Option:
If you choose to upgrade to the newest version of Internet Explorer (not what I personally recommend) you can go to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer site and go initiate the download process for the most recent version of IE. When you upgrade your old versions are removed.

Essential Tips for Styling Text Content

January 22nd, 2010

Hints and tips for the styling and layout of your text content

With the vast amount of text being posted online and via social media these days I thought it would be beneficial to share this very brief tutorial for how (and how not) to style all that great stuff you’re sharing online. These tips apply anywhere you might post text—whether it be in one of our content management systems, WordPress, Facebook, Blogger or even old fashioned MS Word, these simple design principles will help insure your message gets the credibility that it deserves.

  1. Learn to use <shift><enter> (Windows) or <shift><return> (Mac) to insert line breaks with no vertical spacing. This practice helps insure you maintain close proximity of related content and greatly aides in readability.
    People often just hit <enter> between lines of text which adds awkward and undesirable vertical space.

    Example using <shift><enter> Example using <enter> only
    My mailing address:

    RisingLine
    111 S. Broadway St
    STE 101
    Boise, ID 83702

    My mailing address:

    RisingLine

    111 S. Broadway St

    STE 101

    Boise, ID 83702

  2. Don’t change typefaces (fonts). In fact you cannot change fonts/typefaces in our CMS text editor but many other text editors allow you to do so. The typefaces for your Website are specified in a single Style Sheet that was developed specifically for your site and insures consistency across all pages of your Website. Consistency in the presentation of your content is a cornerstone of good design.
  3. Don’t change typeface colors. For a professional consistent presentation of your content the colors are controlled through the Style Sheet. Emphasis colors (such as the color of your hyperlinks) have been selected by your professional designer specifically to harmonize with the color palette of your Website.
  4. Use the "font size" selector very very sparingly. Avoid at all costs using the "font size" selector to increase text size. This practice will invariably create inconsistent and amateur rendering of your content which cannot be controlled from the central style sheet. The only reason we retain the font size selector is for those rare occasions where a line of text needs to be reduced in size.
  5. Avoid using "U" Underline to emphasize inline text. People will think the underlined text is a hyperlink. Rather use the "B" (Bold) or "I" (Italic) icons to emphasize a word or sentence.
    For professional and consistent presentation of your content…
    Do Do Not

    News and Announcements

    We are extremely pleased to announce the opening of our second storefront in the beautiful city of San Jose, California. Please join us for our grand opening on April 3rd.

    News and Announcements

    We are extremely pleased to announce the opening of our second storefront in the beautiful city of San Jose, California. Please join us for our grand opening on April 3rd.

  6. Use the "Format" selector to change heading text size and create a logical hierarchy of content. Using this method allows consistent presentation for your site which is controlled by the Style Sheet.

Editing a page

Don’t get blacklisted by Google

December 3rd, 2009
Google has become so massive and so powerful that it can’t help but be dangerous to the small guys if not approached and treated with the most extreme of respect and caution.”

Yesterday Dan Macsai over at Fast Company posted, G-Railed: Why Did Google Bury the Web’s Oldest Entertainment Publication?, which was a timely underscore for two strategic principles that we’ve been passionately advocating for some time:

1. Placing too much weight on search engine marketing creates a high-risk business plan

Counting on Google for demand generation is extremely risky because it places the life of your business completely out of your direct control. You’re creating a system with a single point of failure and giving a kill switch to a capricious third-party who may not be “evil” but by the nature of its massiveness has become indifferent to the particular wants, needs and even justice afforded to the insignificant speck your business represents. I believe strongly that Google’s approach to search engine ranking was founded on truly noble principles; namely that the Internet community be the ultimate authority as to the value of a particular site. However, as a wise Englishman once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Google has become so massive and so powerful that it can’t help but be dangerous to the small guys if not approached and treated with the most extreme of respect and caution.

To hear more ranting on this topic, please review the post I made just a few days ago entitled The Danger of Relying on Search Engines for Your Business in which I advocate a strategy of building a business plan which does not rely on search engines to exist, but which absolutely still takes advantage of the marketing opportunities they offer.

2.Play SEO by the book (the Google book that is)

We’ve pontificated on this topic ad nauseam in the past all of which might be summed up with the statement:

  • Do not under any circumstances engage in any SEO practices that might be regarded as unfavorable by Google.

In other words, don’t fall for the scams of those SEO firms that keep spamming you. Great ignorance has persisted in this area giving rise to myriads of carpetbagger “SEO” firms from whom you’ve likely received an email from this type recently implying some proprietary approach to SEO and implying they posses secrets that will somehow fool Google into granting you a high search engine page placement. Not only are these types of approaches scams, in the long run they are more likely to damage your standing with Google.

There is no secret to SEO, in fact Google tells us plainly how to make your site Google friendly.  Even cheating a little is not safe anymore. Google’s algorithms are continually evolving and improving, much as anti-virus software does, and may at some point recognize and penalize even your smaller infractions and indiscretions (how many domains do you have auto forwarding to your main site for example?). Don’t be left like Studio Briefing was, scratching your head and looking on in despair as Google shutters your cyberdoors.

Conclusion

Google’s unrivaled power and indifference to your particular business is not a bad thing, but it is a fact that you have to embrace. For those who grant Google the respect and caution it demands, its power can be channeled towards your significant benefit. To play Google’s game right, here’s where to start:

  • Build using a smart business plan that mitigates potential risk from Google while maximizing the potential for benefit. Put simply don’t rely on Google for demand generation but take all you can legitimately get from them. Understand that (unless you intentionally are developing a high-risk/high-reward business plan) search engines should not be a foundational element of your comprehensive strategic business plan.
  • Religiously adhere to Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine tactics as guide lined by Google.
  • Be extremely wary of “SEO” solicitors.

Comments and questions are welcome.

The Danger of Relying on Search Engines for Your Business

November 30th, 2009
Your business plan needs to rely on demand generation from a source other than organic Internet search engines—a source over which you have more direct control.”

I ran across a great article by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger entitled, “What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop.” In it he recounts a time when his site’s traffic dropped a dramatic 70% suddenly and for no apparent reason. He relied on Google to bring in most of his site visitors and some unknown change in their algorithms resulted in this costly (for him) change of fortune. While not the point of his article, this example underscores a principle that we’ve been emphasizing for years—it’s very risky to rely on awareness and demand generation being driven primarily by high search engine result page placement (please note my emphasis of the words rely and primarily).

I’m not suggesting at all that search engine optimization efforts are not important, but rather that your business plan needs to rely on demand generation from a source other than organic Internet search engines—a source over which you have more direct control. The risk of building your business with a single point of failure over which you have no direct control whatsoever is prohibitively risky in almost all business scenarios.

It’s for this reason that we typically advise our clients to build a business plan without consideration for demand generation via search engines (referral marketing is always the most desirable and secure foundation for demand generation) and then go ahead and implement a best practice SEO strategy. If your business plan is solid and your unique value proposition legitimate a by-the-book (Google’s book that is) SEO campaign will generate demand over time; all of which should be treated like “gravy” until significant enough to begin including in your sales forecast. This strategy then mitigates the high-risk of relying on search engines for your business while at the same time taking advantage of the great high ROI opportunity that organic search engine marketing offers.

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