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design & marketing blog

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

What is Web 2.0?

May 29th, 2008

Web 2.0 is a term that has proliferated rapidly over the last few years. The term has become so popular that it’s now being used by about anyone for about anything (Web 2.0 Easter greeting card anyone?). For most businesses, it’s not necessary to understand Web 2.0 in much technical detail. What is important to understand are the massive social and business environment changes that the Web 2.0 phenomena is driving.

Web 2.0—The widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication.

Web 2.0—The Basics

Web 2.0 is simply the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. As you may be aware, some of the most common Web 2.0 applications are blogs, podcasts, Content Management Systems (CMS), social networking sites and user forums. Each of these technologies can be defined within Web 2.0 depending upon how they’re utilized. Technology is a prerequisite for Web 2.0, but it’s the widespread acceptance and use part of the definition that really matters.

Let the Buyer Beware

The most important aspect to Web 2.0, from my perspective, is that it has sparked a grassroots revolution by consumers. The era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) progressively grew through the 20th century until we languished under a never ending stream of unbelievable advertising. Regardless of consumer protection laws, the reality was that we were largely forced to rely on the naturally biased advertising and promotional information provided by businesses.

The losers in this environment were of course the consumers, but also those businesses who truly did offer unique value and could not afford to carpet-bomb our televisions, magazines and mailboxes. Nor could a business offering real value do much in their advertising to show they were different, since their competitors would make the same claims.

Consumers who wanted unbiased information about a seller relied on personal referrals—the most unbiased and believable feedback available. They were limited however by the finite capacity of their own personal networks.

Let the Seller Beware

Web 2.0 has ignited a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware). The rapid change in the marketing nvironment is not due to legislation or litigation, but rather the widespread practice of consumers sharing unbiased
information about a sellers product to other customers and prospects.

A simple example can be seen with books. Outside of our friends’ recommendations, we’ve had to rely on the
publisher’s information or from the questionably neutral editorial reviews. Now, thanks to Amazon and others, we have access to a large and active community of other consumers who provide us their unbiased feedback. Of course this is not a perfect system, those with ulterior motives can post reviews but we can use common sense to evaluate the reviews collectively and form a more reliable conclusion about a product.

For example, if I were to rely on attractive cover and glowing editorial review for Deck Planner: 120 Outstanding Decks You Can Build I might convinced to buy this book. But when I look at relatively low rating by consumers and their mixed reviews, I opt for a better choice.

The important point to understand about Web 2.0 from a business perspective is that our products and services will increasingly be promoted or demoted in the marketplace by consumers, and that advertising and PR will continue to lose effectiveness. Consumers now have better choices of where to get information before making a purchase decision.

The Web 2.0 revolution is only bad news for those sellers who have gotten away with neglecting their customers. In my next post, we’ll explore some of the unprecedented opportunities and strategies for businesses offering true value.

Be Aware of These Web Scams

May 15th, 2008

We receive a very high percentage of customer inquires regarding two general type of solicitations they receive. Since these same scams continue, sometimes with different company names and angles, we thought it would behoove our valued clients for us to post some info on them.

The most important principle to remember to protect yourself from any marketing scam is to always be extremely wary of any unsolicited communication, whether by phone, email or postal mail, that claims to:

A. Be able to do something that seems too good to be true, or

B. Presents a “bill” or “invoice” regarding your domain, Website or some other Web related service from a company that sounds official, but of whom you’ve not dealt with before.

Scam 1—Bogus Domain Registration Invoices

Almost anyone with a domain name registered has probably come across this one. An official sounding company sends you an invoice that states or implies you will soon lose your domain if you don’t register with them. If you have never heard of this company, there is a 99% chance it’s an unethical attempt to get your money. The easiest thing to do is Google the company name or do search on the FTC site. If are still uncertain don’t hesitate to fax or email us a copy.

Scam 2—Unsolicited SEO Spam

I get a kick out the chutzpah of professed SEO companies who resort to spam marketing their implied expertise in driving new customers through search engines. If they really are so good at getting business through search engines why do they have to resort to the most despised of illegal Web marketing to get their own?  The answer is obvious.

Google states it best:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue….Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators. No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. (Read the whole page at Google.com)

We encourage you to read this prior post of ours where we go into more detail on the topic.

Web Design

April 24th, 2008

Graphic design is the first thing that many Web site owners and managers think about when they seek out the services of a Web developer. There is no denying that the graphic design element of a Web site is important, in fact research shows that design has an immense and immediate effect on your visitors. Within moments, about 1/2 of those visitors will make a judgment on the credibility of your company based solely on the quality of your graphic design. So design is immensely important, just like a foundation is important for a building. The foundation must be solid and it must come first but without the building on top it acheives little.

    Google screen shotWithout design being part of a holistic strategic approach to communication, it becomes impotent. A site with no design will trump the most artistically original site if the former has quality content and offers intuitive and easy to use solutions to its target visitors needs. The classic example is the most visited and arguably most successful Web site in the world: Google.

    Web sites are a lot like people, their success is ultimately based on the value they contain, not their outward appearance. This is vital to understand so that design is put into its proper place. Web design is still important, it just has to be the dressing for content of real value.

    Google is like one of those geniuses who are so recognizable and brilliant that they can get away with wearing an old t-shirt and jeans to deliver a key-note speech. It’s fair to say the brilliance of most of us is not as common knowledge.

    Web design is the same, once the foundation of quality content is present, professional and usable design is an excellent catalyst to facilitate communicating the value of your site. In my next post I’ll get into some specifics about our philosophy and methods for designing Web sites that are modern, appealing and clearly communicate the values of your organization.

    Windows Vista – Internet Explorer 7 Flash Issue

    March 10th, 2008

    Some installs of Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista have a bug which prevents the display of Adobe Flash Movie Files. If you experience this problem our recommended solution is below:

    1. In IE7 delete all browsing history, after pressing “Delete all…” Check the box “Also delete files and settings stored by add-ons.”
    2. In Windows Vista close IE7 and all other open applications.
    3. Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Programs and Features
    4. Select and Uninstall any programs referring to Adobe Flash Player ActiveX or Adobe Flash Player Plugin. There may be as many as three files listed.
    5. Open IE7 and navigate to Adobe’s Flash Player Download Center and follow the prompts to install Adobe Flash Player.
    6. Additional resources on this topic can be found in this Tech Note from Adobe.

    An alternate method which we have not tested is demonstrated in this video.

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