The Everyday Carry of an iMarc Engineer

Posted by Kevin Hamer on October 1, 2014. Tagged: engineering

I'm a latecomer to most of the fascination with the belongings people carry with them on a daily basis. I keep my laptop bag stuffed as much as the next person here. So here's all the things I carry with me every day (mouse over for details.)

Western Digital Passport I back up this 500 GB drive regularly, but less for data recovery and more to just have archives of old projects or code that I may want to review and use again. Tron Legacy USB Drive I try to use this when I'm transferring files around the office, or I just want to show off some Tron memorabilia. Logitech USB Audio Adapter The X1 Carbon doesn't have a mic jack, and this is the easiest way to get one if I need it. It also letsme send different audio to speakers vs my earbuds, which I've done once or twice. Logitech AnywhereMX Mouse I do carry around a mouse, although I don't use it much. I prefer the trackpoint on the laptop most ofthe time. Cherry MX Keycaps and Switches I bought a mechanical keyboard switch sample kit a while from WASD and have it with me. I neverknow when I may need to geek out over keyboards. Leatherman Leathermans are nice and they last. I've had this one for ten years or so and I don't see any kind ofmodel or such on it. Sharpie Pen Sharpie pens write well, write anywhere, and dry fast enough that I don't smudge it all over the placewhen I'm writing (being lefthanded.) Reversible Screwdriver Just a simple reversible screwdriver. When you pull out the metal piece, it flips around to become aflathead. Business Cards I got this Umbra business card holder somewhere along the way. I just keep a stash of my own cards inthere usually, but I'll swap them out for ones from clients at a meeting. Fossil Wallet Just a black, bifold wallet I got as a gift from my fiancee when we were first dating. Mini DisplayPort to DVI I have adapters I leave at home and work too, but its good to have a way I could connect up to anexternal monitor or project in a pinch. MicroUSB Cable and Charger Both the external hard drive and my phone can use this cable for data or charging. This cable andcharger are just the ones that came with the HTC. Klipsch S4 Earbuds I prefer earbuds at work so I can hear if someone is trying to get my attention. I must have tried adozen different types of earbuds before finding these. I'd recommend these and Klipsch's newerversions to anyone. HTC EVO 4G LTE This is the third generation of EVO I've owned. I really do like the dedicated camera button and yes,the kickstand. I don't see myself switching away from Android to iOS, but I may check out the Ubuntuphones when they show up in the US. Keys and Carabiner I only carry two keys besides my car key. I've been clipping my keys to a belt loop for years. I'vewrapped a velcro strap around the keys just to prevent them from jingling as I move around. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon This laptop is near perfect for me. I run linux instead of Windows and couldn't really make use of atouchscreen yet, and this size and weight seems like a great balance. Also, the ThinkPad keyboardwith the trackpoint is as good as it gets for a laptop keyboard.

How It's Made

The interactive graphic above doesn't use any JavaScript – it's an SVG with CSS. While most of the time SVGs are static, SVGs can including internal CSS rules that define CSS animations and transitions.

While putting together the graphic, it occurred to me that it'd probably be possible to build an entire website using SVG instead of HTML, but I expect that there's probably ramifications that I've forgotten.

End of Quarter Evaluation: How to Determine the Effectiveness of Your Website

Posted by Katelyn Weber on September 25, 2014. Tagged: best practices, creative, design, engineering, mobile, technology

Whether you redesigned your website this year, last year or ten years ago, it’s important to perform a website evaluation at the end of every quarter. I know it seems like a lot, but with the constant evolution of technology, trends and user-habits, it’s crucial that your website can withstand the test of change and time.

Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself when measuring your website's quarterly performance: 

Is my site responsive?

Mobile Internet usage is exploding and with Google's recent Mobile Friendly Algorithm update, it's more important than ever that your website is mobile friendly. With hundreds of available devices, it’s important to consider where your users are accessing your website from.

Pull out your phone and go to your website. Can you find content easily? Can you access specific pages? Can you register for that important event? If you can’t, it might be time to consider making your website responsive.

Can my users access content easily?

Whether you’re accessing your website on a mobile device or desktop, finding information on your website should be simple and clear. Having multiple pages, with multiple avenues to access content can be extremely confusing for users.

Consider refreshing your information architecture or how your content is structured throughout your website. This will help users access your content more easily and engage more frequently. Check out iMarc's blog post on how NOT to be late delivering your website content.

Can I update content easily?

A content management system (CMS) is the heart of your website, allowing you to manage and update content for your staff, your users and your stakeholders on a regular basis. Are you finding that it’s becoming more and more difficult to update content? Is it taking you longer than usual? Are there things on the site that you want to change but you can’t?

Increasing administrative efficiencies will not only make your life easier but your user's experience easier overall. And with content marketing on the rise, it's even more important that you're able to update users about this valuable information. 

Is my branding outdated?

With crystal clear screens and giant desktops, it’s important to consider what the look and feel of your website says about your brand. Look at your website again: does it look outdated? Are the colors not working as well as they used to? Is your logo something out of the 80’s?

A brand refresh isn’t meant to be done every year but it’s important to be aware of what your brand image is saying about you and how it looks to your users.

Is my site generating leads?

There are multiple ways to generate leads through your website. Contact forms, calls-to-action, webinars, resources, downloadable content are all great ways to entice users to engage with you and reach out. Take a look at your conversion rates quarter over quarter, year over year — is your site generating the same amount of qualified leads? 

Your site is an interactive experience and should provide users with multiple ways to interact with your business and engage with your content. Measure your marketing efforts, track your leads — use your site as a tool to figure out what's working and what isn't. If you are seeing a decrease in qualified leads, it's time to start evaluating how your site can help. 

Results?

So, how would you grade your website? Ask your colleagues to do the same; does everyone agree? Ask your customers; are they happy with their experience on your site?

Grade your website on a quarterly basis. Getting ahead of these types of problems will help your team budget time, resources and withstand the test of change.

Didn’t get an A? We’re here to help. Email us at hello@imarc.net!

Infographic: LinkedIn Best Practices

Posted by Allison Boyajian on September 23, 2014. Tagged: best practices, social media

LinkedIn connects over 200 million professionals and is one of the largest and most influential professional social networks. LinkedIn can be a fantastic vehicle to drive business results, promote thought leadership and it can even work as an HR landing page for your brand.

Studies show that there are certain times, words and types of content that work best for the LinkedIn audience. Check out our infographic and study up on LinkedIn best practices to make the most when you post!

linkedin best practices

Sources:

http://blog.red-website-design.co.uk/2014/08/27/40-fascinating-words-that-generate-more-shares-on-twitter-facebook-linkedin-and-google-plus/

http://blog.red-website-design.co.uk/2014/01/06/how-to-increase-linkedin-engagement-by-386/

http://blog.red-website-design.co.uk/2014/09/02/33-quick-and-easy-linkedin-tips-from-the-worlds-top-social-media-experts/

 

Ditch the pixels and get your hands on something real

Posted by Paul Kelley on September 17, 2014. Tagged: creative

Ditch the pixels and get your hands on something real

If you’re a web designer like me, you’re used to creating things in the digital space. You have a list of design galleries you visit for inspiration and you frequent websites like dribbble to stay on top of the latest trends; but have you created anything lately out of physical objects with your own bare hands?

If you haven’t done it in a while it can feel quite alien. My hands are so used to working with keyboards, mice, and wacom tablets that it sometimes feels weird to pick up an exacto blade. Lately though, I’ve been making an effort to create more things with my hands. As an example, I have a lot of pins I’ve collected over the years of various Disney parks. They have been collecting dust in my closet and I always meant to do something with them. Recently I finally pulled the trigger on a way to display them at home.

Back away from the computer

Sometimes you have to step away from the computer and exercise your mind in a different way. Planning out a digital project is similar to planning out a physical one, but the subtle differences can be beneficial to developing your problem solving skills. For my pinboard project there were several factors I had to think about that just don’t exist in the digital space: Was the board thin enough for the backs of the pins to fit? Will the fabric hold up under the weight of all the pins? How do I lay out the pins so that the weight is evenly distributed. Needless to say, working with physical objects opens up new problems to solve.

Stay sharp

The more problems you solve, the better you get at problem solving. To be the sharpest you you can be you should always be solving problems across different mediums. Do crossword puzzles, work on DIY projects, get creative with your landscaping if you’re a homeowner. It all keeps your mind sharp. I, along with my creative cohorts, are always thinking about different projects we can work on and they’re not always in the digital space.

Here are some examples of how we can flex our creative muscles away from the computer.

Paul's pinboard

Using embroidery hoops, black fleece, and foam board I created this Mickey Mouse shaped board to put my Disney pins on.

Jared's woodwall

Rather than painting this wall a different color, Jared used this creative approach of using barn wood to spruce up this room.

Christian's tool rack

Christian wanted to hang his tools in a fun and creative way so he used a pallet on the side of his shed to create this display.

Get out there and make something, it's fun and refreshing.

Do Home Page Carousels Work? The 2014 Edition

Posted by Robert Mohns on September 12, 2014. Tagged: best practices, user experience

Whether you call them slideshows, rotating banners, multiple offers, or carousels, you’ve seen them. You visit a new website, see a big banner or hero graphic, and a couple of seconds later, it changes, then changes again. They’re really popular. But do they work?

Last year we took a look at the research. Findings were mixed. They’re still popular and our clients still ask for them, so let’s revisit the research.

Why are carousels popular?

Here are the top reasons that my clients ask for carousels:

  1. Fear of the Fold. What’s on the first screen? Some of my clients start out fearful that visitors won’t scroll down the screen, and their first instinct is to push as much content as possible onto the first screen. Carousels let you put lots of content on the first screen. Hooray!
  2. Multiple Audiences. The site has several audiences. They’re all important. A carousel lets you offer something for everyone. Hooray!
  3. Internal Politics. Senior stakeholders do not agree on the business priorities for the home page. A carousel is an easy compromise: it lets you feature everyone’s pet issue. Hooray!
  4. Unclear Content Priorities. Closely related to the internal politics problem, the client can’t decide what’s truly most important to their site visitors. A carousel lets everything be important! Hooray!

Ye Olde Carousel Solution:

Disney carousel

Disney's carousel does all the wrong things: It starts moving by itself, has no consistency of theme or message from slide to slide, and has vague calls-to-action. Ship it!

 

What does the research say?

The clearest numbers yet were provided by Erik Runyon of Notre Dame University:

  • 3.7 million visitors
  • 1.07% clicked the carousel
  • 89.1% of those clicked the first slide
  • Positions 2–5 received 3.1% to 2.4% of clicks

Runyon also measured performance on several other sites that are used by parts of the Notre Dame community:

  • Two departmental intranet sites had 1.27% and 3.0% click rates, respectively.
  • A news aggregator with auto-playing carousel got a 9.4% click rate.
  • An “executive site” had a 1.5% click rate.

Check out Runyon’s first article and the follow-up data for details.

WiderFunnel, an agency focused on conversion, has found rotating offers hurt conversion. They describe the effect on the visitor experience:

Let’s think about your visitor’s experience for a moment.

  1. She arrives on your home page and needs to orient herself to your layout in order to decide which information to zero in on. A strong, page-dominant banner with a headline and bold image is where she’s likely going to start her focus.
  2. Unfortunately, the message in that banner usually isn’t relevant to what she’s looking for. Why? The marketing department is featuring current events, offers and news that may be important to some department within the organization but not to the majority of the visitors.
  3. In the lucky event that your visitor sees an offer that looks interesting to her, she will want to read a little more about it. But, just as she’s gathered the motivation to click through and learn more… the rotator switches to the next offer.

WhatUsersDo, a user testing firm, found that few users use the banners:

“Data shows that few visitors (other than your internal teams) ever get to the end of your rotating banners on your home page. This is because there is an average of a 50 percent drop-off after each banner.”

Ecommerce consultant Dan Barker found carousels get fewer clicks than static spots:

“I’ve set up tracking for quite a few of them. On the couple of occasions where they’ve gone from ‘no carousel’ to ‘carousel’, the carousel got less clicks than the static spot that was there beforehand.”
(Emphasis mine.)

Auto-playing or auto-rotating carousels have other well-documented usability problems:

  • Motion-Triggered Reassessment: “Motion in a scene triggers the reptilian portion of our brain. This occurs at the level of automatic survival instinct and cannot be avoided. Frequent motion changes in a part of the page keep stealing the visitors’ attention and make it difficult to visually prioritize or to consume any other content on the page.” Tim Ash, CEO, SiteTuners.com, Rotating Banners, April 2012
    (Emphasis mine.)
  • Your users won’t wait: Tim Ash also noted “a 10- to 15-second slideshow is way outside what we are willing to sit still for.”
  • Looks like an advertisement: “Because it moves, users automatically assume that it might be an advertisement, which makes them more likely to ignore it.” Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Normal Group, Auto-Forwarding Carousels and Accordions Annoy Users and Reduce Visibility, January 2013
  • Reduced accessiblity: “Moving UI elements usually reduce accessibility, particularly for users with motor skill issues who have difficulty clicking something before it’s taken away.” ibid.

Carousels or rotating banners may also hurt your Google rank. Google has found that page load speed directly affects conversion and user satisfaction. Google has used site speed as a page rank factor since 2010. However, this isn’t a slam dunk: Moz found last year page size doesn’t impact Google ranking, but server response time does. So while carousels slow down your pages, they won’t hurt your Google rank.

Should I use a carousel on my site?

No.

Really, no. The research says static, unmoving feature with simple, concise copy and a clear call to action will out-perform a carousel, pretty much every time.

Here are some great examples of carousel-free home pages with clear, on-brand, actionable heroes:

Home Depot: No Carousel!
 Home Depot leads with brand-level imagery supporting seasonal customer activities. They expose their navigation by default, and product features follow.

REI: No Carousel!
REI's home page is a bit busier. They use a promotional hero focused on current promotions, and then follow it with several selected “sub-heros”.

LL Bean: No Carousel!
LLBean splits their hero into two promotions, follows it with a quickly-read banner, and shows the visitor there is more content below the fold. Like Home Depot and REI, the layout leads with focus and then encourages exploration.

Carousel best practices

If conversion is important, the very best practice is not to use a carousel. But maybe you can’t sell that internally, whether because of politics, ignorance, or entrenched opinions that can’t be swayed with facts. So be it.

If you must have a carousel, here’s what to do, courtesy of Brad Frost and Nielsen’s Kara Pernice.

  • Use a hero instead. Offer one really big feature, and a couple of little ones. Nothing moves, and your visitor can see everything and pick the one she wants.
  • Every slide must support your brand. Sounds like a no-brainer, but every slide must be on-brand. No random “Like us on Facebook!” slides (unless your brand is desperate for attention, in which case, full steam ahead).
  • Don’t use more than five slides. And even that’s pushing it. Remember, each one will get half the clicks of the one before:
    1. 1%
    2. 0.5%
    3. 0.25%
    4. 0.125%
    5. 0.0625%
  • Give the user control. Tell her how many slides there are, show where she is in the progression, and make sure she can navigate easily.
  • Suggest more content. Make it really, really obvious that you can go find more content off-screen or below-the-fold. (This is a general best practice, but it’s shocking how often this is forgotten with carousels.)

Now you have the research, and the best practices. Use them wisely.

Infographic: Twitter Best Practices

Posted by Allison Boyajian on September 9, 2014. Tagged: best practices, SEO, social media

Social media has quickly transitioned from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for businesses. In fact, 93% of marketers use it. [1] If you aren’t posting daily, relevant content on all of the current platforms, your brand runs the risk of being quickly dismissed as archaic and untrustworthy.

That being said, long gone are the days when a simple news update or an interesting article share cuts it; your social media presence must be strategic. Studies have proven certain times, words and content better perform better than others.

Our handy infographic compiles some of these powerful stats to help you succeed on one of the most popular social media platforms, Twitter.  What, when and how you tweet plays a large role in your social-success, so keep these tips on hand whenever you're ready to Tweet.

twitter bp

http://www.fastcompany.com/3021749/work-smart/10-surprising-social-media-statistics-that-will-make-you-rethink-your-social-stra

https://redwebsitedesign.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/8-reasons-you-don_t-have-more-followers-on-twitter.png 

http://blog.red-website-design.co.uk/2014/05/08/14-words-and-phrases-that-generate-the-most-retweets-on-twitter/ 

Procrastinating? 5 Things To Do When You Can’t Get Anything Done

Posted by Katelyn Weber on September 4, 2014. Tagged: best practices, strategy

desk

Procrastination, noun: the action of delaying or postponing something. 

Imagine - it’s Tuesday morning, the day after Labor Day and an amazing 3-day weekend. On your ride to work, your checklist for the day combats your thoughts about your kayaking trip and you already know that shifting into work mode isn’t going to be as easy as you thought. You get into the office, sit at your desk, write down your mental checklist and head to your email. You answer a few, archive a bunch and cross some things off your list. Then it hits – procrastination. 

Your mouse guides you to some news articles and the most recent celebrity scandals; you just can’t seem to get yourself to tackle that checklist. Before you know it, it’s 5:00pm and your checklist is still staring at you, begging to be completed. You leave the office feeling deflated but hopeful that Wednesday will bring productivity…

It’s never easy coming back to work from a long weekend, a vacation or even a sleepless night. Your mind is somewhere else and tackling that checklist might as well be climbing Mt. Everest. If you find yourself battling procrastination, here are 5 things to do when you can’t get anything done:

1. Start with your inbox

If you find yourself unable to focus, head to your inbox. Clearing out some emails, unsubscribing from that newsletter and even answering a few are always a good start.

2. Clean your desk

There’s nothing better than a clean workspace. Clear your desk off, wipe it down and organize those folders you’ve been meaning to sort. Clearing your workspace helps to clear your mind and will help you stay focused, longer.

3. Organize your desktop

Documents, folders and drives – oh my! Like your desk, there’s nothing better than an organized desktop. Compiling your documents into folders, renaming them and sorting are great for right now and for long-term.

4. Research blogs to follow

Some of the best advice comes from other professionals in your industry. Do some Google searching; find the best blogs and start following them! Their perspective and insight will not only help you in the future but will inspire you to get things done now.

5. Meditate

Though it’s not for everyone, sometimes the best way to focus is to stop doing anything at all. Closing your eyes and clearing your head will help you to forget about that kayaking trip (though it was unforgettable) and start focusing on the work at hand (If meditation isn’t for you, head outside and go for a walk!).

Getting back into the swing of things is never easy. Try not to postpone that meeting or put off that email, but if you can’t help it, these 5 things will certainly help.

Must-Have Elements for a Modern B2B Website

Posted by Allison Boyajian and on August 28, 2014. Tagged: best practices

This post was also published on OpenView Venture Partners Labs blog. OpenView is a Boston-based venture capital firm specializing in expansion stage B2B SaaS companies, and a recent collaborator with iMarc. Check out their blog to see the full post.

website

So you’re a B2B company and you’re redoing your website. What’s most important? Here are five critical elements that will ensure your website gets clicks.

1) Content

I recently attended a wedding in Long Island. I had a bit of culture shock, because yes, they really do talk that way! Clichés become clichés because they are true.

On the web, the cliché is “Content is King”. And it’s the literal truth. There is no other reason for anyone to visit your website. Good content generates traffic, establishes thought leadership, and gives value to your customers.

Your content should be concise, relevant, shareable, and valuable. (Accuracy helps, too.) Your visitors will pick it up—think about it, talk about it, and quite possibly even share it—and soon enough, Google will too.

Photos and video are content, too. Studies show that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. There’s a reason infographics get so much attention.

Pro Tip: Be short. No fluff. Terminate functionless words with extreme prejudice.

Hubspot is a great example of an excellent content curator. Their blog consistently features concise headlines, crisp images and stimulating content.

hubspot

hubspot

2) Responsive Web Design

Quick: How many screens are within ten feet of you? I’ll bet you have at least three from this list: phone, laptop, iPad, Kindle or Nook, TV.

Next question: When you want to get some info online, which do you use? If you’re like most people, whichever is closest to hand. We expect any screen to work with any website.

What is the best solution to make your website flexible enough to fit on all of them? Three words: responsive web design. It’s not a panacea, but for B2B, it’s pretty close.

So what exactly is it? Open this article on a desktop browser, grab the corner of the window, and make the page bigger and then smaller. Taller, thinner, wider, slimmer: it won’t matter. You’ll see the layout magically adjust itself comfortably fit the new width of the browser—or screen. Whether you view it on a small iPod screen, a fat Samsung phablet, or a 65” HDTV, it will look right and work well. That is responsive web design.

Here’s an example of our website working flawlessly on five different screens:

responsive

Responsive design is the most important development in web design in the past five years. One site, one set of content, for all people. It’s so effective that Google recommends it as a best practice over mobile-specific sites.

I’ll give you three reasons your next site should be responsive:

  1. Mobile. If your site isn’t phone-friendly and tablet-accessible, your customers will bounce right off your site and give their business to your competition. And did I mention that 61%­­­­ of users own a smartphone?
  2. SEO. Having one single URL, instead of an extra mobile site, consolidates your search juice. Responsive sites are better Google performers.
  3. User experience. Nobody likes wasting time trying to zoom and tap tiny links, and squinting at postage-stamp sized images. Happy customers=happy business.

Pro Tip: If you can’t make your site fully responsive, at least ensure it has views designed for phone screens and PC screens.

3) Social Media

You are a Facebook fanatic, a talented Tweeter, and an Instagram celebrity. But does that help your business? Your website and social identities should be symbiotic.

Potential clients will check out your website, then check your social media profiles to vet you. If it’s too hard to find, they give up, and your effort was wasted.

To fix, make sure your website has at least a little social media integration. That means a button for respective platforms, sharing buttons on your blogs, and maybe a bit of Twitter.

Social media buttons should be displayed in an easily accessible location on your website; the top, bottom, or along the side of your homepage are recommended.

Pro tip: Don’t neglect LinkedIn. It’s the social network for business and usage rates are astoundingly high.

The website iMarc designed for RSA Conference is a great example that demonstrates seamless social media integration. The conference site has easily accessible buttons, as well as live feed of their Tweets. Users are able to effortlessly connect and engage with the brand.

rsa

4) SEO

Your site is great: interesting content, beautiful pictures, the occasional video and shiny new social media buttons. You built it. Will they come?

Search engine optimization is tuning the content of your site to encourage free traffic from “organic” listings on search results. You know, the ones in the main column that people actually look at.

There are a lot of resources available to aid improving your SEO. Annexcore has compiled an excellent list of tools to give you great SEO results.

Pro Tip: Set up Google Webmaster Tools for your site for more insight into what content is drawing people to your site. It’s free.

Rapid7 is a strong example of what successful SEO looks like. Rapid7 is a leading provider of IT security risk management solutions. Upon doing a Google search for “Boston vulnerability testing” and “Boston security penetration”, they come up at the top of page one.

rapid7

5) User Centric Design

People want interesting content, beautiful images, and entertaining videos, and theyabsolutely will not do work to get it. User-centric design means the user is more important than you are. The design should help them. Nothing should slow them down.

You’ll have to take into consideration some complex cultural and psychological tendencies. Where does the eye hit a page? What kinds of buttons do users actually push? Which emotions do your colors elicit?

Look at your site. Does it make sense to someone who isn’t you? Does it serve their needs? If the answer is yes, good job. You are already a step closer to creating a positive user experience!

Pro Tip: Spend fifty bucks to test your site at usertesting.com. You’ll be shocked at how much you learn from watching a video of just one person trying to use your site.

iMarc recently designed and developed Quaero’s website, which features strong emphasis on UX. The design is clean, lively, engaging and straightforward. Users simply scroll down to view all of the information they need on one page.

quaero

Go Forth, Be fruitful, and Multiply Your ROI

With these five tips, you should be on your way to an effective B2B website design. Your users will associate your brand with the positive experience they had on your site, and keep coming back for more.

How NOT To Be Late Delivering Your Website Content

Posted by Robert Mohns on August 28, 2014. Tagged: content, strategy

So, you're responsible for doing a whole new website? I'll tell you why it will be late: Content.

Writing the content for a new or redesigned website is the most underestimated part of any project. Odds are you will spend more hours writing than your production team does designing and programming.

Here's a way to calculate a realistic time requirement for the hard, hard work of writing. I'll use a fictitious B2B client, ClientCo, to illustrate.

1. Quick and Dirty Content Audit

Pull out your sitemap. (You've got one, right?) Count up the pages that need content. Use common sense; ignore old news, events and blogs. Just focus on what's new!

Here's the sitemap for ClientCo:

Generic Site Map for fictitious client

ClientCo has 18 product pages, 12 solutions pages, 5 major about pages (plus a handful of leadership bios to write), and 3 major Careers pages. We're assuming that the News, Blog and Contact pages only need a sentence or two at most, and that we are migrating existing Articles, Resources, Events and Press Releases from the old site and don't need to re-write them. We'll also ignore the home page for now; it's a task unto itself.

18+12+5+3=38, plus let's assume 5 bios to write for the executive team. Call it 43 pages total.

2. Know Your Workflow

Someone has to provide the content, and someone has to write it – and they probably shouldn't be the same person. (Sorry, but Subject Matter Experts are often the worst web writers—it's easy to get into the weeds when you know so much!)

If you're optimizing for SEO, your SEO analyst will need to help as well. And, of course, someone has to slug it into the website's content management system. It probably looks something like this:

Page Content Authoring Workflow and Time Requirements

Each task needs a time estimate. (I've provided some good starting points above.) Note also that your SEO analyst will need a bunch of hours for basic research before any of this page-level stuff, and your writer will need time to become familiar with your company's brand and voice, market positioning, offerings, and audiences.

3. Add 'em up!

Take the median time required for each task, add them up, and then multiply that by the number of pages you have to create. Here's how ClientCo's sitemap and workflow add up for each role and in total:

Content time estimates

If that made you break out in a cold sweat, congratulations—you did it correctly!

The hard part

My fictitious ClientCo project calculates out at 371 hours of effort. That's 9 weeks and 2 days at 40 hours/week.

It's a lot of work, but when you break it back down by role, and realize that you will be dividing up work across Subject Matter Experts and possibly a couple of writers to share the load, it's not quite as overwhelming.

(And your web developer will handle the task of slugging your content into the site and adding all the supporting graphic design.)

Still, it's a lot of time. Talk to your team about their availability, huddle up with your producer, and adjust your project schedule if you have to—better now than later.

Now you have the tools. Get to it!

Special Thanks

I'd like to extend a special thanks to Kristina Halvorson, Karen McGrane, and Liam King, for their for invaluable writings and fantastic presentations over the years. I've learned a ton from you!

Timeless Design: Creating A Modern, Yet Classic Website

Posted by Christian Keyes on August 18, 2014. Tagged: design

As a creative team, we attend design kickoffs on a regular basis as part of our creative process. During these meetings and calls, we solicit feedback from our clients regarding a number of popular and attractive websites. In addition to looking at the most trendy and cutting-edge designs, we like to revisit successful designs that have aged particularly well. We often hear that designs we create should feel "timeless" for obvious business and aesthetic reasons. It's always a shame when you come across a site that is only a few years old and has no functional issues, but sports a design that was clearly rooted in a passing trend. More and more frequently we're asked to create "timeless" work that somehow remains "contemporary" and "modern". We strive to always produce clean and cohesive designs, so as seasoned pros, we generally don't fret. However, this raises an important question: what exactly makes a site look and feel timeless?

I polled the creative team and asked how best to achieve a look that is not only contemporary, but timeless.

Focus on content and readability

As we've said incessantly for years; content is king. Design in a manner that doesn't detract from the message and you'll be on the right track. Similarly, legibility is always in fashion. Paying close attention to contrast and using an appropriate typeface goes a long way towards constructing a solid design.

Great alignment

It's no secret that solid alignment of elements will make almost anything look cohesive and professional. While there are a million great books and articles about grid systems and their merits, I find that people tend to rely very heavily on such systems, treating them like a visual panacea. Know when to break out of the mold and create your own rules. Be consistent and have a plan, but don't feel obligated to copy a system older than your parents, or one invented by a bored developer last month. This leads well into our next suggestion.

Avoid relying on gimmicks or plug-ins

As designers, we're constantly inundated with new tools, frameworks, presets and libraries that aim to make our jobs easier. When Photoshop first introduced layer styles, it was difficult to find a website that didn't have some kind of beveled glossy button on it, or a thick drop shadow dangling from some glowing text. We all get anxious to try fun new techniques and technology, but always question how it fits into the grand scheme of your site. Another danger here is that if you're using a popular tool to create your work, chances are that your contemporaries are as well.

Add accents judiciously

Absence of design is not design. However, don't feel like you have to add elements for the sake of it. Design is art with purpose, so if something needs to be present, have fun with it and use design to solve problems for your users. A good design should delight viewers visually, so I always try to fight to keep quirky elements present when they add life to a page. The challenge here is to keep out of trend territory.

Don't be a follower

Every designer worth his or her salt should keep a constant finger on the pulse of new trends and best practices. Contemporary design arises from the culmination of hive mind design thinking and steadily advances the norm. However, it's important not to be swept up in any one trend, no matter how wide spread or solid it may seem. We could be chuckling about flat design next year the same way we currently scoff at bevels and rounded corners. Be sensible and let your content and audience guide your decisions. The same amazing network that connects us and let's us show off our trendy new work can be less than open to unconventional ideas. Truly timeless designs originate from sincere and appropriate work.

An exercise in defining timeless design

To witness all of this firsthand, I've devised this task. Visit one of the following Web design galleries:

http://www.cssdsgn.com/

http://www.siteinspire.com/

http://unmatchedstyle.com/

Have a look around the few newest pages. You’ll no doubt see trends emerge that feel very “now”, but look also for designs that seem like they could have existed 40 years ago, or will not look absurd 10 years in the future. Next, use the paginator to journey back in time by choosing the last possible page. Work your way from oldest to present day and you’ll no doubt see designs that not only succeed in looking clean and “modern”, but that would still pass as a beautiful site today.

What do you think defines a "timeless" design?