redesigning the website

September 29, 2009 · 0 comments

i took a spin of the recently released google fast flip (i know i'm late to the game, it's all about sidewiki now) and it got me thinking of how bothersome going to websites is these days. as fast flip rethinks how we read news, i believe a rethink needs to happen on how we view web content.

here's where we are in 2009: sites are all about stickiness and page views. ad supported sites deliver an incredibly cluttered experience for their audience, and the advertisers. a page is peppered with all manner of navigation, info-buttons, promotions, ad units (multiple), forms, calls-to-action, links, columns, and every-which-way to serve up the content in tiny slivers. the result is pretty ugly. the hope is that the more you readily see, the longer you will stay on the site because something might grab your interest.

it's all too much, really.

beyond the visual look of the site, it's about structure and experience as well that need an overhaul. content isn't seamless and integrated, it's linked out (still on site though). articles are spread over multiple pages. there's a lot of scrolling to get through a page in it's entirety (which means it's mostly ignored). social tools are rare. content types are siloed (video player vs. integrated with the page).

it can be quite onerous to navigate and enjoy.

i come at this from both an advertiser and audience perspective. as a site visitor, i'm being bombarded and am overwhelmed with the plethora of (mostly) garbage a site is throwing at me. as an advertiser (or agent thereof) i'm not getting the value out of my ad placements i could or should be.

yes, people wanted more at their fingertips so sites put more there. but they missed the 'more' part they should have focused on - more intelligence in structuring it, laying it out and presenting it ('it' being content). there's certainly a fine line between just enough and too much on a given webpage. more often than not, it veers toward the 'too much' camp, often wildly.

as an advertiser, i've seen the value of ad spaces on websites deteriorate over the years. you've got banners in inconsequential locations where they are out of the viewer's periphery, and a cornucopia of ad units littered across the page fighting to stand out. yes there's some new impact ad units that are starting to become more common, but that's not changing the standard much nor is it solving the experience.

here's some initial thoughts on what i'm thinking that would make for a good site design

  • a site 'capsule' that is properly sized to maximize the user's browser window and usable space (vertically and horizontally)
  • the centerpiece acts as a 'content' player so all media types are viewed in this window, not separately as is with text (main content), video (players), and photo (albums) now
  • little to no scrolling (no more 'fold')
  • ancillary content area served based on user interest, habits and inputs (not throwing everything under the sun at them)
  • navigation that is tidy, concise and expandable to be more robust when interacted with
  • 1 or 2 meaningful, integrated ad positions that are noticeable and have value (still accommodates custom units and over-the-page)
  • powerful search capabilities (a must in these content rich times)
  • strong social integration (a must in these social times)
maybe i'm off on this or alone in it, but i feel we need an overhaul or at least rethink how we see websites as experiences. right now, they're a cluttered mess and advertisers are not seeing the value they should. maybe it's not as drastic as outlined above, but work needs to be done.

all or nothing: drinking kool-aid and not doing favors

September 8, 2009 · 0 comments

i read a lot of blogs on a lot of different topics under the marketing umbrella. most people sit in their camp and evangelize, from ivory towers, that their particular area is the king. it gets pretty discursive because there is no mediation. i spend my time not absorbing the content, but mostly applying a rational filter to the greater scheme of things.

it's kool-aid drinking at it's finest. self interest prevails and people start defending their area. it's in the language, the tone, and facts presented. you can include the absence of facts to that as well. mostly, it's the lack of context to the greater marketing picture that is most troubling.

the search people do it. the social media people do it. the online ad network people do it. the tv people do it. many others too. each trumpeting their wares and pedestalling them (yes i made a verb of pedestal).

each has strengths, each has weaknesses. it's a media mix, not a media exclusive. this is where a channel neutral media agency is so important. we take the inputs of glorification and meter them to a cohesive, cross-media plan for a client's communications.

we are in a time where the consumer has so much control over their experiences. the world is highly fragmented. it's an attention economy. no one thing is the savior. it's how many things work together.

media is content. content is media. media is social. social is media. it's all intertwined, and only one perspective sees it all and how it can work together - the media agency. we also have all the tools to measure all sides of a marketing plan and not in isolation of any one or all other components. it's holistic.

i know this isn't a popular view and angers a lot of specific segments as it takes some of the wind out of their sales. the point is two-fold

  1. for the areas of specificity, stop the over-glorification of your area as the be-all and end-all of marketing. start thinking bigger picture and the role your media plays amongst a cross-media world, not a singular one as you often profess.
  2. for the clients, start looking to your media agency as greater partners. if we are the purveyors of the landscape our consumers are immersed in every day, then our role is seemingly amplified.

planning social media isn't short term media planning

September 1, 2009 · 0 comments

in my particular line work, it's that time of year where we lay down the foundation of our brands in media for the year to come. we plot out campaigns across all media channels and social media activations. the problem is that we plan both of those things as if they are the same. moreso, we force fit social media into the planning paradigms that exist for traditional media.

you see, traditional media fits nicely into campaigns and campaigns nicely into fiscal years. a flight of TV is just that. it lasts for x number of weeks and it's done. it does it's job, there are specific outcomes and results neatly tied to the time it was on-air. same with radio, outdoor, print and even online. so few of any advertising has life beyond it's short window of planned existence.

amidst this relatively short shelf life media, there's SM and the relationship marketing side. this doesn't fit nicely into a campaign or even a year. you don't just jump in and jump out as you do with other media.

social media takes time. it's about nurturing and continued support of a community over time. yes, you change the dynamic of the conversation depending on your in-market communication stream, but those are just outlets. they don't end as a campaign ends, it's ongoing. long lasting.

beyond the community cultivation and consumer engagement that is a continuing endeavor, there are a number of other ways that social media isn't short term.

  1. long term presence - what happens in social spaces lives on indefinitely, well after a campaign is over (that is until it's not so shiny anymore and shutters). it builds, it evolves, supplemented, referenced and complimented.
  2. searchable - as a result of being eternal, it is indexable and more easily found.
  3. greater impact of two way communication - participation by real humans, on both sides of the marketing hourglass, make this more powerful, especially the peers.
  4. memorability of personal interaction - should you be so fortunate (albeit sometimes of unfortunate circumstances) as to get personal interactions from the brand, that is something that lasts with you for a long time and alters behavior.
one of the main problems with this fiscal thinking is in how we link back our activities to the business. with traditional media, it's very easy. we see immediate lifts in sales, soon find out measures of brand salience as a result of seeing advertising or we look at clicks (sorry, but it's an easy example). with social media, the cycle isn't so immediate. it can take time to build the affinity, or know when a social touchpoint exhibits itself as a change in consumer behavior.

it's always difficult to change how people operate. social media represents such a shift in marketing operations that it's worth revising our necessity for short term planning and thinking.

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