Christmas Story

January 6, 2011

by Roger Pynn

Everyone loves a good Christmas story.  The folks at Spanair wrote one that unfolded on Christmas Eve and demonstrates the value of thinking outside the box and of going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations.  The airline did what no one would have expected and has YouTube followers clicking away on this video.



YouTube v.s. Vimeo – The Faceoff

January 5, 2011

by Dionne Aiken

When it comes to video embedding and sharing, there are many options such as BlipTV2, Flickr, and Photobucket just to name a few.  However two leaders that continue to stand out among all others as the top video streaming services are YouTube and Vimeo.

So what are some major differences between the two? And what makes one better than the other? I pulled together a comparison chart to see how they both measure up to help answer that question:


Click here to view PDF.

CEOs across the state are talking via video about how technical assistance from a client program of ours called GrowFL helped grow their business.  Here is the same video in both YouTube and Vimeo:

The video streaming service you use will most likely depend on your specifications and needs but of these two champions in the game, which one is the winner?


“We Wish You A Merry Christmas in This Happy E-Mail!”

December 17, 2010

by Dan Ward

I’ve noticed that our reception desk is devoid of the usual clutter of holiday cards this year, and while I’m sure there’s a possibility that we’re simply no longer popular and have fallen off of many holiday lists, I think there’s another factor at play: the holiday e-mail card.

As the holiday envelopes have dwindled, the “please open your holiday message here” e-mails have quickly grown.

I’m curious whether others have noticed this as well, and whether you think this is positive or negative. Certainly an e-mail card is more cost-effective, important in today’s economy. It’s also more environmentally friendly. But does it still provide the same personal touch as an envelope and a stamp?

Personally, I’m happy for any holiday message I receive, whether in the form of a card, e-mail or tasty cookies (hint, hint).

As for us, we’re sticking with snail mail and are keeping the tradition alive this year of a more than a little off-the-wall holiday card, because nothing says Happy Holidays like Frosty, WikiLeaks and the TSA.

Stay tuned for a major leak …


The Psychology behind Web Design – Part II: How?

December 3, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

In “The Psychology behind Web Design Part 1” I briefly touched on why psychology is so important to web design in that it not only enhances the user experience but also drives calls to action and thus business results.  But how do you get there?

Here are the “Hows” behind design considerations taking into account the user experience and psychological needs (click on each item to jump to a section):

  1. Trust
  2. Familiarity
  3. Purpose
  4. Imagery
  5. White Space
  6. User Flow & Information Hierarchy
  7. Color Psychology and Symbolism
  8. Logo & Brand Consistency

Trust

Safety is the second fundamental human need as defined by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. By meeting this basic need you can build trust with your users. The bottom line is that people spend time on sites they trust. To build trust, consider the following:

  1. Design Integrity The overall look of the site must be of a certain level of design integrity to make a good first impression and build credibility. This is an extension of your brand. If your site appears unprofessional, users may see your entire business entity as such and it could deter users. (This includes technical considerations also; for instance, adhering to Web standards and best practices, providing working links, proper coding structure, and good overall functionality.)
  2. Don’t Get Too Personal Too Soon Don’t ask for personal information up front or in ways that are counter-intuitive or inconsistent with the user expectations. If these request disrupt the user flow, are abrupt, unexpected or out of place they become a deterrent. Find intuitive ways to integrate these requests seamlessly into your website where they make the most sense.
  3. Use Trustworthy Indicators  Adding testimonials from noteworthy clients, reviews, seals of approval, recognizable affiliations, certifications and other trustworthy elements add value to your site and help establish a sense of trust with visitors.
  4. Deliver A website, no matter how superb, is only as good as the actual business entity itself. The business entity must deliver on their product and services to meet customer expectations.

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Familiarity

When you go into a grocery store you expect to see aisles of groceries and signage on each aisle that tells you where things are located. You expect shopping carts, registers, entry & exits to be at the front of the store. The same holds true for a website. Once your audience is introduced to your website, there are certain expectations of where “signage,” items and locations of said items should be.  Consider the following to assist with placing elements in a manner that will assist with user familiarity:

  1. Don’t Send People on a Wild Goose Chase Off the bat, people want to know what you do and how to contact you … don’t make people search or guess for these key pieces of information. Tell them up front or offer clear ways to access them, i.e., “About Us” or “Contact” pages or even listing a phone number or address in the header or footer on all pages of the site will help too.
  2. Provide Road Maps People want to know how to get from point A to point B and where they are in the site at all times. Have clear navigational elements that stay consistent throughout the site and strong indicators or “you are here” landmarks that show users what page they are on. This can be done with basic design elements, or even a breadcrumb. It also helps to include a sitemap somewhere on the site that lists all the links to your pages. You can have a separate page or section dedicated to the site map and then link to it or, if the site map is small enough, you can add it to the footer so it’s present on all pages of the site. Providing good road maps and directional indicators or “signage” not only helps users navigate your site but also helps search engine crawlers crawl your site pages and links and thus boosts SEO.
  3. Above the Fold Because we are taught to read from left to right and top to bottom in our Western culture, it is good practice to place all of the important website elements in the “top fold” or “above the fold.” Logo, branding elements, header, navigation, search fields and so forth should at the very least be visible in the top 800 by 600 pixel-area of your Web page to ensure that users can easily and immediately view/access them. This isn’t set in stone but you should take into account factors such as varying screen resolutions, multiple stacked toolbars, browser window sizes and so forth when considering your top fold real estate. Creating layouts that auto center with the user’s window or fluid layouts can also assist with making sure key elements get the exposure they need.
  4. Design Consistency  Design things and place things in an intuitive manner. How many times have you gone to a website and clicked on what you thought was a link or button only to find that it wasn’t a link at all? If all the links on your website are blue, bold and underlined, don’t make your headings blue, bold and underlined, especially if they aren’t links! Make sure you have specific design treatments for each recurring element on your site and that the same approach is carried out throughout the entire site. Design consistency and intuitive placement of items, will help users get familiar with your site.

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Purpose

A great quote from Andy Rutledge’s article best sums the purpose of website pages:

“In a very general sense, the purpose of a site’s index page is to convince visitors that they should venture further into the site – and compel them to do so. In order to do that the page must engage in advisable psychology (through design and copy) while avoiding distracting and irrelevant purposes that run counter to the primary function of the page. The index page must not attempt to dump the entire site’s content into the viewer’s eyes in one fell swoop. Rather, the page must make a concise and clean first impression; an impression focused on a specific rather than all-encompassing purpose.” – Andy Rutledge

Each page should be specific to its functional purpose. The home page should introduce, attract and direct. The internal pages are where you want to deliver your actual content and pull users further into other pages and areas of your site.

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Imagery

Careful image selection and treatment will support the content on your website and reinforce an overarching concept. Images should also be contextually appropriate and purposeful. If not, they will detract and lessen the impact of your messages.  

White Space /Breathing Room

“In a very general sense, a contextually inconsistent environment, clutter and cramped quarters tends to encourage a lack of interest while open space and a consistent context in the environment tends to encourage interest and openness to suggestion.” – Andy Rutledge

By grouping things logically and allowing adequate spacing amidst and between copy, you allow users to focus and read your content and thus pull them into your site.  An article published by Smashing magazine gives more examples of ways to incorporate white space into your layouts with additional links and resources.

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User Flow & Information Hierarchy

Here is an example of a home page layout that has strong information hierarchy and thus strong indicators for user flow of accessing information:

Hierarchy in Web Design

 http://www.onextrapixel.com/2010/06/24/a-closer-look-at-hierarchy-in-web-design/

Use strong design elements and employ basic design principles to highlight important areas and elements, support the message, and to direct the viewer’s eye and user flow.

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Color Psychology and Symbolism

Understanding the psychology behind the use of colors will make for better design decisions and will help better communicate and support your brand and messages.  For example, use blues to communicate security or yellow to communicate happiness.  There are many resources that talk about color and the psychology behind different colors*:

http://www.pepfx.com/articles/web_design/webdesign_colors.php

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/Pantone.aspx?pg=19382&ca=29

*It is important to note that the above is in reference to colors in our Western society, the meanings people associate with different colors may vary across different cultural and geographical boundaries.

Logo & Branding Translation/Consistency

When you land on a company’s website is should be the same feeling as if you were to walk into their office building.  The website should be an extension of their brand, not an afterthought.  There is a certain lifestyle, a point of view, a culture, an attitude and aura associated with and unique to each company.  It is the designer’s goal to make sure all these elements carry over and are communicated in the look of the site.

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By addressing these key points, you can tap into the user’s psychology and create better web experiences.  In the long run, this will contribute to more calls to action and drive business results.


The Psychology behind Web Design – Part I: Why?

December 1, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

When browsing through websites, ever ask yourself “Why?” Why is the navigation at the top or on the left and then again at the bottom of the page? Why are all the links a certain color? Why does the overall website look and feel the way it does? These answers should be driven by conscious and purposeful decision, taking into account the user experience and psychological considerations, and not just because “I think the color blue and shiny Web buttons are cool!” (Although I must admit I’m a sucker for shiny Web buttons, myself!)

Basic design and psychological principles play a critical role in the push and pull of information between businesses and consumers by impacting the user experience in a way that generates calls to action and thus translates to business results.

An excellent article written by Andy Rutledge titled “Design Psychology” further attests to this as it goes through an extensive explanation of the psychology behind design and why individual subjective preferences should take a backseat to proven design principles and user expectations.

Similar to a step in our very own corporate philosophy “Analyze the Big Picture,” a video interview with Lance Loveday of Closed Loop Marketing and Eric J Hansen of SiteSpec  stresses the importance of a re-focus on overarching business goals to bridge the gap between developers, designers and decision-makers to boost ROI and business results. Throughout the interview they also make the connection between effective Web Design and ROI.

Here are additional articles written on the topic of psychology and Web design that further explain the “whys” behind the design decisions:

http://abduzeedo.com/psychological-study-web-designs

http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/05/the-psychology-of-web-design/

As shown in the examples above, good design decisions take into account the user’s psychology, basic design principles and objective data, and lead to better Web experiences, user action and thus translate to business results.

In an upcoming post, I’ll explore the “Hows” behind implementing good Web design based on users’ psychological needs, so … stay tuned!


Promotional Fail

November 29, 2010

by Kim Taylor

I recently attended a one-day conference for business leaders and entrepreneurs.  Like at many conferences of its kind, attendees received a number of promotional items like notepads, totes, etc.  But, my favorite item of all was this handy erasable pen provided by Bright House Networks.

Cool, right?  I remember thinking I hadn’t seen an erasable pen in ages, and who couldn’t use something that gives free reign over writing mistakes?

One problem:  the pen didn’t actually erase … not even a tiny bit.  It left me scratching my head.  Was this emblematic of Bright House’s Business Solutions?  Were they trying to be ironic?  Or was this just one big promotional fail?

While you’re contemplating an answer, does anyone have a pencil I can borrow?



More Than Meets the Eye

October 18, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

According to Wikipedia, typography is the arrangement of type through the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing), adjusting the spaces between groups of letters (tracking) and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning).

Whether for print or Web, typography plays a critical role in strengthening a design and supporting the communication of a message, but there is so much more to typography than first glance.

For example, what makes a good typeface, and how do we select the best typeface for the job? What visual cues are there in type that make our eyes stop and start reading as we follow a line of text? Or what makes something easier or more difficult to read? Why is OpenType one of the most widely used font formats?

A few weeks ago I attended a Typography Workshop conducted by Ilene Strizver of The Type Studio, wherein she answered all of these questions and more. In a segment called “Kerning Demystified,” Ilene took us through a series of exercises and examples using the following tips as a guide to problem-solve and troubleshoot type issues:

  1. Sand in Hourglass Principle – visually and conceptually there should be the same amount of negative space between/amidst characters
  2. Like Letterforms Have Like Spacing – theoretically, there should be the same visual amount of space between related character shapes: straight-to-straight characters have one distance or relationship, straight-to-round (or vice versa) have slightly less, and round-to-round slightly less than that
  3. Three Letter Rule – look at letters in groups of three to better recognize kerning issues
  4.  No Touching EXCEPT Diagonals – some exceptions, i.e., custom ligatures, etc.
  5. Consistency is Critical! – there should be a consistent look to type overall

This last segment was very powerful; not only did we walk away with a ton of valuable information, but we also left equipped with tools for identifying and resolving type issues. Ilene encouraged all participants to continue practicing these exercises beyond the workshop in an effort to strengthen typography skills and to make better type choices.

I encourage you to take a closer look at type next time you’re out and about. You’ll begin to notice there’s more than meets the eye.


Guinness Records are Hot Again

October 8, 2010

by Roger Pynn

What we’ve always considered a staple for generating long-lasting global recognition, setting a Guinness World Record is once again gaining popularity and challenging the creativity of organizations out to promote their brands.

Here in Orlando, our friends at the Orlando / Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau capitalized on the opening last week of the new Amway Center to reinforce its savvy and hugely successful Orlando Makes Me Smile! campaign by setting a Guinness World Record for the most people creating a Smiley Face.

At last count there were half a dozen Guinness Record certificates on our walls here at Curley & Pynn – for everything from creating the World’s Largest Crayon (a project for Dixon Ticonderoga’s Prang Crayon brand) to several major events at Universal Orlando Resort including the World’s Longest Drum Roll promoting the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and the World’s Largest Cocktail in partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville during the opening of Universal City Walk.

Now our friends at the University of Central Florida are chatting up an attempt by their College of Education to help set a world record for the most people reading the same book on the same day with 3- and 4-year-olds from the UCF Creative School for Children reading “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats along with UCF education students and volunteers.

The reading event was designed to call attention to the importance of reading.

The Guinness Books and Records will be around a long time and they assure searchable reference to your accomplishment.  Beyond that is the opportunity to engage large numbers of your stakeholders (employees, customers, friends and neighbors) in a fun way.  Not to be overlooked, however, are what can be huge logistical challenges.  Believe me … making a 10-foot tall crayon was no walk in the park, and just for safety’s sake we made two.

A few tips if you’re thinking of attempting a record breaking event:

1)      Contact Guinness ahead of time to be sure they have an interest.  Just because you set or break a record doesn’t mean they will certify or publish it.

2)      Make sure you understand and follow all of Guinness’ requirements.  They aren’t difficult, but they are specific (such as requiring having a public official on hand to certify your results – which, by the way, can be as easy as finding a Notary Public to be on hand).

3)      Be certain what you are doing is relevant to your brand.  UCF’s reading project is a good example … what is more relevant to education than teaching kids the importance of reading?

4)      Have an experienced special events and logistics team.  You’ll likely have volunteers to coordinate, media to deal with and any number of last minute logistical issues to nail down.

5)      Don’t forget to have fun.  These aren’t things to take seriously.  They are supposed to be light-hearted so celebrate what you are doing and let the media know you understand this isn’t the most important thing happening in the world this day … but it is something people will find fun and interesting.




“… Involve me and I understand.”

September 21, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Guerrilla Marketing workshop at Full Sail University by Mario Saccamango and Wagner of Beloved Experiential.

An old Chinese proverb best sums up their discussion on experiential design:

“Tell me and I forget.  Show me and I remember.  Involve me and I understand.”

Unlike traditional marketing which persuades people with ration and facts, experiential marketing takes this a step further and modifies consumer behavior through visual, emotional, mental and physical appeal.  The key is to engage them on all these levels to establish relationships and convert consumers to be brand ambassadors.  Mario and Wagner further illustrated this phenomenon with a pyramid diagram that showed the growth as each brand ambassador converted and created their own sub-groups of brand ambassadors creating a domino effect.  They also show a series of examples.

A powerful example given during their lecture was the Sony VAIO marketing campaign.  Sony VAIO wanted to take their stylish laptop to another level beyond just a piece of technology.  So they hired models wearing the latest high fashion designer clothing, sporting the trendy Sony laptops and released them on the streets of Manhattan, and in Grand Central Station to pose as live mannequins.  This attracted a lot of publicity to the point that Fashion Week eventually picked this up as an installation.

Another example a little closer to home is Beloved’s experiential marketing campaign for Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company called “Favor Flavor.”  This five-phase guerrilla marketing campaign consisting of brand ambassadors donning mobile media units, a street tagging session and more is currently underway http://www.facebook.com/belovedexperiential#!/event.php?eid=146346258729172.  It will be interesting to see such a non-traditional marketing campaign hit the streets of Orlando.

Experiential marketing is all about connecting with your consumers by engagement that go above and beyond expectations providing intangible, memorable and most importantly personal experiences and interaction.


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