Is Your Web Designer Unknowingly Harming Your Business?

Why? How? Because they’re involved in software development. And before you start wondering what I’m talking about, I’d like to remind you that your web site (although cool) is nothing more than a software program running on a computer. And ever since people started writing software there have been very well defined roles and skill sets.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with roles and skills definitions for software development, however I am going to make it easy for you to figure out the type of web resources you may have at your disposal and whether they are helping your business – or unknowingly harming it (just in case you were wondering.)

An analogy that will help:

Does the interior decorator or designer of your home perform the same duties as the architect? What about the builder of your home, are they the same as your architect? Of course not, the interior designer works with the look and feel of your home, the builder erects the structure and the architect designs the master plan and oversees the development and ensures the finished product meets all the requirements (and the building code!)

There’s no doubt that the builder and the interior designer are absolutely critical to the success of the project, however they follow the guidance of the architect and the plan the architect created. When put like this you immediately see it’s a little foolish to assume all the roles are alike and how easily it would be for an over enthusiastic builder or designer to unknowingly cause you some problems because they had no master plan to follow.

So here’s a quick cross reference and comparison for you:

* Architect – The master planner develops the architectural plan and oversees the project. They stay abreast of changing rules and ensure the sites optimal design and performance. Many factors are considered including marketing trends, SEO, usage data and so forth. The architect is very familiar with the latest construction technologies and with user interface design because they direct those aspects of the project.

* Builder – The Web Programmer codes the pages and works with architect. Some builders (web programmers) are specialists and code only databases while others focus on different specialties. And just like a construction site has a Foreman, there is an equivalency in programming and they’re called the Lead Programmer. The LP often makes build decisions about the project and works directly with the architect. On small build teams the LP and the builder are one and the same.

* Designer – The Graphic Designer develops the look and feel of the site. They work closely with the builder(s) and the architect to meet the final objectives. The GD creates the unique personality of your site – again this is under the purview of the architect and the client. The GD helps to form the visitor’s first impression of your site.

* Sales Rep – Ok, the whole building analogy gets a little fuzzy here, but the ’selling’ on your web site relies heavily on words and writing for the web is not the same as writing for the print world (the architectural plan heavily affects the writing and the web copy aspect, mess this up and the nicest site with best code will not save you because your site will not be found.)

Many Hats

Often times a web resource has more than one skill set, after all there is a well defined career path and each step leads to new skill development. Usually the ‘art’ path and the coding (building) path don’t co-exist together – think oil and water, and writing code is usually more scientific than designing a beautiful interface.

And figuring out how to code the web page is not the same as deciding why that page should even exist, or what that page should accomplish functionally within the framework of a bigger picture – that’s the architect’s job.

However every once in a while you find a unique individual who has crossed back and forth between the art/design camp and the world of technical analysis and coding. It’s rare, but they do exist – invariably they favour one area more than another.

Conclusions

There are at least four (4) discreet roles for your web project:

   1. Architect (plan/design),

   2. Builder (construction),

   3. Designer (look/feel),

   4. & Writer (words/messages).

Now you know why it can be risky assuming the person putting together your great looking web pages is also capable of formulating and architecting your sites master plan, and why your web designer (or your web programmer) may be unknowingly harming your business.

Remember, to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail and programmers tend to think code fixes all ills, and graphic designers tend to think that graphics will save the day.

But I’m guessing you’ve figured that out after reading this article…

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Ancient Memes and the Keys to Social Media Success

What makes for a social media success? What critical elements must be in place for the site to come alive? Today I am exploring some ideas I’ve been considering and I’d really appreciate your feedback in the comments below.

Please note, the following thoughts have never been committed to print before and have only been edited lightly – I didn’t want to crush the creative spark that often shows up in such things. So without further ado, here they are:

— Is Technology Key?

The first thing I’m asked about Social Media usually relates to the technology. I ‘get’ this, I understand we think the tool is what makes the solution. It is, and it isn’t. Consider this, if technical wizardry was responsible for social success then why do nerd and geeks seem to have the worst social-life in school? It’s true the nerds built the web and Internet infrastructure, but it was the rest of the world that made it social.

— The Engagement Factor

The site needs to engage the visitor. Actually with the advent of social media sites, we should stop calling people ‘browsers’ or ‘visitors’ because they’re now active participants in the web experience. Social media sites are interactive and include blogs, voting mechanisms, posting features for text, video and audio, message boards, forums, chat groups, and site-wide private messaging to name some common features.

Remember, the key here is not technology, but how the tool is used by the site members. “The best tool is often not the most advanced or cleverest tool. The best tool is the tool that is understood and gets used daily.” This is why email is still the #1 web application.

— Mass and Momentum

There are many “social ghost towns” littering the web, why is this? Each is likely different, however I have noted the successful sites are like engines: they need a spark – an injection of energy – to get them started.

This initial injection of energy is required to create momentum and gain the first critical members which in turn attracts more members and keeps the system growing. It snowballs, and like a snowball it’s fragile and prone to crumbling in the early stages of that fateful first roll.

Ironically, the tool that allows us to forge out and create our own online communities doesn’t allow us to break the laws of human nature. These communities still need to render qualities that ‘real world’ environments provide – if only in a psychological aspect.

Review history, it has the answers to the fate of little communities; they got swept away by marauders and ultimately rolled into bigger cities. Sound familiar?

— Ancient Memes and Mind Viruses

But is that all a successful social media site needs? A group of people and some cool technology – NO. The most important factor is much older and far simpler and lies buried deep within our primitive nature. Success is locked up in something called a meme, or if you prefer a more dramatic image, a “mind virus.”

Richard Dawkins introduced the concept of the “meme” and “memetics” in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ referring to the imitative process whereby humans transmit ideas, values, beliefs, and practices to each other. The memes that catch on are conditioned by repetition and continued by subsequent generations.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.  Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by a process similar to how an infection spreads – ergo a mind virus.

But why did I mention ancient memes? Simply because I believe the most successful social sites leverage our oldest most ancient memes as well as our newest, and this allows us to embrace these base natures in a socially acceptable and even productive fashion. Consider how many social sites pander to aspects of our natures that as children we were discouraged from participating in: gossiping, time-wasting, forming cliques and more.

I’m not saying social sites succeed because we want to express our darker nature, but those sites that have gained the most momentum have done so by allowing us free rein over our basic human nature.

Something to consider isn’t it?

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A Simple Content Marketing Strategy

The Internet is a network of interconnected nodes of information (content.) The more densely interconnected the information becomes (the density factor) the more useful and valuable it is.

Data + Interpretation = “Meaningful” Information

Without ‘parroting’ the obvious, content (meaningful information) is what people seek online. And in all fairness what people really seek is an answer to some question. Further compounding the challenge is the fact people use words and phrases natural to them – not to a computerized search engine.

It’s quite the conundrum… What key unlocks the door to untold ’search’ riches?

Cornerstone Key Phrases

Keyword phrase demand and supply is at the cornerstone of content provision and armed with an understanding of the search terms, and the modalities of the user’s presentation (how a person perceives the world), you can begin to provide answers to their questions in the form of articles, white papers, blog postings, forum inserts and so on.

Writing is an art, and although most people think writing is easy they’d be incorrect in that assumption: bad writing is easy, good (or great) writing is hard work.

The Artful Dance

And writing to balance the needs of a human with the needs of a computer is an artful dance for sure.

But there is some relief, since the dawn of the Internet the search engines have aimed for purity of search. In other words the engines are attempting to understand the true meaning of your question so they can return the best possible answer.

This means that so long as you write truly to meet the needs of the people (and keep an eye on the engine requirements) you will undoubtedly be rewarded for your efforts.

The ‘Real’ Reason

Writing content so the engines find you is great, however the real reason for this publishing process is the embedded links back to your select sites. As you publish and share your content, those that pick up your work and republish it will also republish your links to your selected websites.

Article marketing (for this is essentially what this is) is incredibly powerful and results in a strong and wide web of connections and links back to your sites.

Of course you need to provide content that people want to read and share…