mobile

Tech Thursday: Terrible or Not Terrible (Website Edition)

We turn our opinions about website behavior into a game show like extravaganza. There’s singing, laughing, knowledge-dropping, but we couldn’t get a creepy game-show host…



Anonymous Social Networks 101

The internet began as an anonymous place. Chat rooms asked us ‘a/s/l’ and I’m sure I am not the only one who pretended to be a completely different age, sex, and location than I was. There was something about trying on a new identity.

As social networks using our real names came into play, it was harder to be anonymous. Your potential employer or your mom could be looking at what you just said or shared.

It was only a matter of time before the internet cycled back, recoiled from too much sharing. Apps and websites where you can be anonymous have come back into popularity.

We’ve previously blogged about YikYak but there are a couple of other anonymous sites to know about:

Whisper

So this network combines anonymous with location data. So you can share your secret thought and other people can like or comment… but you can also see other people’s secrets that are near you (1 mile radius, 5 mile radius, etc.) The secrets range from silly to serious:

whisperconfession1

whisperconfession2Something about having the image with the thought makes them stand out a bit, nice to read on a mobile device. And since this is an app, that makes sense.

 

Reddit

Reddit is a bit of a longer form social network with writing and links. You can see what’s trending overall by going to the homepage:

reddit-homepage
The more interesting part of Reddit though are the subreddits. For example, you can join a community about Game of Thrones (at www.reddit.com/r/gameofthrones) and discuss you interest in this show in detail with people all over the world.

Clearly works well if you are more verbose, or want to share a link and get comments on it.

Some people chose to have an active anonymous account while others use ‘throwaway’ accounts for a one time confession.

Anonymous social networks are similar to regular social networks:

  • Typically ordered by most recently updated content
  • Can participate on your phone only for some, others you can access on your computer too
  • You can like/heart/upvote things that you like to show support
  • You can leave comments for more detailed feedback.

Of course, sometimes anonymity brings out the worst in people in the way of cyberbullying but honestly, in these communities, I have found mostly support for my ideas too weird or dark to share on regular networks. (I know it’s sad but I used to be a little nervous to go on Reddit but, much like staying away from the seedy streets in your city, is a nice place for the most part of you don’t go searching for the bad stuff.)

As we figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to share with our real life friends on social media, I see the popularity of these sites growing. I personally love Reddit because there’s no real ads, no messaging, and I can just browse information… and contribute when I feel like. Personally I appreciate that because of the internet, there is a lid for every pot.

Google’s Algorithms as the Cast of “Mean Girls”

Google_Mean_Girls

You may have heard- Google is updating its algorithm at the end of the month (April 21, to be specific) to rank mobile friendly sites higher in search results. This was always vaguely the case, but no one could definitively figure out the amount of weight it carried. Which made me think, Google is the most popular girl in school who we all wait on to decree what’s important and what isn’t. We’ve been saying mobile friendly is cool for years now (hence the switch to responsive design only a couple years ago), but now that Google has declared that it’s definitely “in,” everyone is going to scramble to make sure their websites are compatible. Perhaps due to the excitement of using the stand desk all most of the day and Anchorspace opening to the public tomorrow, my brain decided that Google operates in very much the same way as Regina George. The rest of the Plastics are the algorithms that she has decided (in the past or present) are important. Get ready, because we’re about to crack open the internet’s Burn Book (well…sort of).

Google as Regina George. Like Regina, Google decides who comes and who goes, what’s in and what’s out, and we all clamor to meet it’s expectations. Ponytails once a week and pink on Wednesdays are the current expectations, but that could change at any moment. Below is a comprehensive infographic from Hubspot that details all of Google’s algorithm changes since 2003.

infographic google algorithm changes keyword seo

 

As you can see, there have been several updates to the algorithm every year, most go by without us noticing. Panda in 2011 and Penguin are considered the two largest updates based on the number of sites affected. Keep in mind that although your current method is doing well, this guarantees nothing about your site’s future performance. Regina can always change her mind and throw you under the bus.



Authorship as Gretchen Weiners. Google Authorship was declared dead in August ’14. As this article so eloquently says, “Google [Regina] has repeatedly demonstrated that nothing it creates is sacred or immortal.” Meaning, just because Gretchen/Authorship is “SUCH a good friend,” Regina/Google may still decide there are bigger fish to serve as your right hand man and then fry.

For those who implemented authorship on their website and gave it a lot of time and effort, the decision to pull authorship was a pretty big bummer. There were blog posts detailing the importance of integrating authorship, complete with how-to instructions for various software, so of course people thought “Hey, I should probably do this.” Remember the girl who bought  army pants and flip flops because she saw Regina George wearing army pants and flip flops? Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to cater to Google’s rules, but don’t get caught in the web of having all your eggs in one basket. As the chart above demonstrates, the things that Google considers important are a shifting territory, and you have to be prepared to make changes when the time inevitably comes. In other words, don’t rest on your website laurels. The rules, much like Gretchen Weiners’ popularity, are fleeting.

Sorry Gretchen.

Sorry Gretchen.

Mobile Friendly as Cady Heron. Mobile Friendly sites have been around for a bit now, and are a huge determining factor in the amount of time visitors will spend on your site (more statistics on mobile users in this blog post). Yet, some people weren’t entirely sure if having a mobile friendly site was “worth it” until Regina/Google decided “Cady/Mobile Friendly is IN.” Once Google officially pronounced mobile friendly as relevant, even those who had formerly been on the fence were buzzing about how cool and necessary mobile visitors are for websites.

Creating a mobile-friendly site will only become more important, so if you’re not already on the bandwagon, you’ll want to hop on soon.

Loyal friends are always good to have around. Or at least, people to help you with navigation.

Loyal friends are always good to have around. Or at least, people to help you with navigation.

 SEO as Karen. Obsessing over search engine optimization is about as rewarding as trying to teach Karen algebra. The theory of keyword stuffing to increase search engine rankings is pretty outdated (I mean, it was a good idea in the 90’s, but so were scrunchies and mom jeans). This quote from the aforementioned Hubspot article perfectly articulates the early life of SEO: “Ranking high in search results could be accomplished by essentially using a simple, two step procedure: Step 1, stuff your keyword phrase into your page/website as many times as possible. Step 2, get as many gosh darn inbound links as you possibly could.” In the Plastics, simplicity comes in the form of Karen, who doesn’t fully understand carbs or weather.

Keyword stuffing as a method of increasing search engine results for your website is old school (and not in a good way). But, if you’re really interested in keywords, consider instead using something like Google AdWords. Our friend Colin at Root Deeper Marketing is an AdWords guru, if you want to learn more about this type of service.



Facebook as Aaron Samuels. Google and Facebook have an on again/off again courtship. There are rumors that  having a Facebook account associated with your website increases your ranking in Google, but no one knows how serious this relationship is (and let’s face it, they’re probably both seeing other people). According to Matt Cutts of the Google webspam team, Facebook and Twitter do not necessarily factor into Google’s algorithm. In other words, Google is able to retrieve certain content on your Facebook or Twitter page, but it can’t sort out the number of page likes or posts. Being popular on Facebook does not mean being popular in Google search results.

All other search engines as Regina’s Mom. (This is purely for my own entertainment). Regina’s Mom is a lot like Bing or Yahoo. Sure, they’ve been around longer, but we all know who really runs the show.

BingYahooCoolMom

The internet, like high school, is tricky to navigate, unless you have the right information and the basic understanding that nothing is set in stone. Stay in the loop with internet related news (or, have someone in your circle keeping you up-to-date with this information), and you’ll do just fine. Also, I hope you enjoyed this comparison as much as I enjoyed writing it.



Tech Thursday: Why Don’t You Want My Website to Have Fun?

Some weeks, we end up doing more design than marketing. This was one of those weeks. After some of our meetings, we felt kind of like parents who were telling their kids they couldn’t go to a party, but that they’d thank us later. We aren’t trying to shoot anyone’s design dreams down, but to better explain our rationale, we thought we’d use this week’s Tech Thursday.

We walk the line between artists and technicians in the web design process. It’s not that we don’t want your website to be fun and pretty- because we absolutely do. It’s just that we’re also thinking about things like mobile users and load time-the customer’s overall experience. As Kassie says, when your website’s animated header won’t load on a Kindle, it fills her with nerd rage. We want your site to look great, but also work well!

Tools such as Pingdom (tools.pingdom.com) are a great way to test a website’s load time, and it will show you the elements of the site that are taking longest to load. Most of the time, it’s an image that is slowing your roll. There are also ways to customize your site that aren’t going to impair your site’s load time- think of sprucing up photos by adding drop shadows, rotating pictures in your slideshow- and all that jazz.

To summarize, we aren’t being lazy or lame when we try to steer you away from an idea. We’re just trying to make your site the best it can be!

Money and the Internet: Collaborating for Convenience

My most recent trip to Boston was basically one big learning curve, which may be apparent considering this is the third blog post dedicated to “Things I learned during Wordcamp weekend.” YikYak was fun and delightful, and learning about marketing is always a blast for me- but this latest topic is a bit daunting for me.

I’m about to talk money.

Internet_Money

That is, money and how it’s interacting with the internet, affecting the way we buy things or even interact with each other. Sure, there are online shopping carts and PayPal, but there’s an emerging realm of online currencies and payment processing tools that I was blind to pre-Boston.

A New Currency

To start, let’s think currency. When I first heard the term “Bitcoin,” I imagined the little coins on Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, and that’s about as much thought as I put into it. But, when we were in Boston, I noticed that many stores had flyers in their window proclaiming “We accept Bitcoin.” Sure, I had the brief flash of Mario money, but it was followed by a few minutes of active contemplation. And then I asked someone out loud, “What is bitcoin, anyway?”

 

Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency (a very simplified explanation is that it’s a digital currency that isn’t governed by a bank). There are hundreds of different cryptocurrencies out there, apparently  (including but not limited to Litecoin, Dogecoin, Namecoin, and one called Chtulu), it just so happens that Bitcoin is the most popular and/or successful. It’s controlled by the people who use it.

Who is using Bitcoin? My first, naive impression was that this number would be low, as I assumed people would forgo this “Mario money” for “real money,” but the numbers proved me wrong. In the past 24 hours, there have been about 75,000 transactions via Bitcoin, or a little over 3,000 in the past hour.

There’s a couple reasons using Bitcoin appeals to people. First, what you see is what you get. There are no hidden or extra charges with transactions via Bitcoin. Also, vendors don’t receive any personal information from you (credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc.), which is ideal considering the amount of security breaches lately. If you’re looking to make some purchases on the sly, Bitcoin probably isn’t for you-all the transactions are logged online (it’s open source, after all). You’re not going to find the privacy of cash only transactions with cryptocurrencies, but then again, we are talking about the internet.

Exchanging Money

In addition to currency, there are new ways of exchanging money online. PayPal and Square have been around for a little while now, but Venmo is a mobile app designed for smaller scale transactions, mainly between friends and acquaintances.  Venmo allows you to pay a friend for lunch, rather than trying to make exact change, directly from your credit card account.  Venmo can handle transactions a couple different ways: a) if someone pays you, the balance stays right in your Venmo account, and you can continue to exchange money that way, or b) if someone pays you, you can choose to Cashout and have the money deposited in your bank. Whereas Bitcoin is available internationally, Venmo is only available to people in the U.S.

Venmo is especially popular among millenials, and was designed by a pair of twenty-somethings who were tired of settling up with each other all the time for meals and various activities. According to a Forbes interview with the co-founders, their goal is to”be accepted like Visa and used like Facebook.” It’s pretty ambitious, but $314 million went through Venmo just in the beginning of this year, and the numbers just keep going up.  VenmoUsers

What’s so great about online currency and exchanges?

There are countless other apps out there designed to manage money. Even most banks have apps available to mobile users.  As a culture, we have come to associate mobile accessibility with convenience, and that appeals to everyone. Don’t just take my word for it- check out this blog post on the current state of the mobile user. During my research process, the one overarching point I noticed is that people want what’s convenient. Trying to split a cash only bill when everyone in the group has only 20s is not convenient, but the ability to pay people back instantly without having to count nickels and dimes? Bingo. Another interesting characteristic shared by Bitcoin and Venmo is the idea of Peer to Peer (or P2P) transactions, or the idea that I could square up with you, and cut out the middleman altogether.

Thinking about money still stresses me out, but after learning a bit more about money and exchanges online, at least now it’s convenient.

The State Of The Mobile User

People like us are always telling people to think of the mobile user.

I know it seems like we are making up just how important this group of people are and it’s easy to assume that it’s only young people using their phones. This, my friends, is the state of the mobile phone user.

Mobile use is ticking up, are you thinking about how your website fits in?

Mobile use is ticking up, are you thinking about how your website fits in?

Mobile users are spending time on their phones.

The most frequent thing I hear (usually from older people while I meet with them face-to-face): “It’s only you young people who care about mobile phones.” They have clearly never watched my mom and her friends on their iPhones and iPads. Some facts:

The average user spends 3.3 hours a day on their phone.

85% of people (this is all people, all ages) say that mobile devices are a central part of their everyday life.

60% of social media time is spent on smartphones and tablets. 

Mobile-Apps-2014-comScore-1-e1407115434294

Mobile users are making purchases.

This is clearly the thing businesses care the most about and as much as I don’t want to hit people in the wallets, sometimes that is the way to get people thinking about their website on a mobile phone:

The more consumers are considering a purchase, the more likely they are to use their smartphones to find product information and reviews.

67% of shoppers were more likely to buy from a mobile-compatible website.

37% of consumers are more likely to buy from mobile-optimized websites.

67% are shopping online and 43% are planning a trip on their mobile phone.

stateofmobile2014featureimage

Most websites fall short for the mobile user.

So if up until now, you’ve kept your head down and pretended that mobile users don’t exist, for awhile that was fine… but now, it’s giving people not only a reason not to make a purchase but to have a bad taste in their mouth about your brand:

73% of users accessed websites on mobile devices (only 20% of companies have mobile optimized websites).

88% of online consumers won’t return to a website after a bad mobile experience.

55% of companies are currently conducting user experience testing. (85% of user experience problems can be solved by testing with 5 users.)

87% of Fortune 500 companies have an easy to find search field on the homepage of their website.

27% of consumers will leave if you don’t have a mobile-optimized website. 

Am I saying this because I am a jerk who wants to scare you? Of course not! I just want you to think about your mobile user, who wants to buy things from you and like you!

So do yourself a favor and get five people to try out the mobile version of your website and get feedback from them. According to the stat above, that’ll fix 85% of your problems and it’s a relatively simple thing to do. 

Sources:

25 User Experience Facts and Stats (SkyhookWireless.com)

73 Smartphone and Tablet Facts Every Marketer Needs (Heidi Cohen)

Social Media Engagement: The Surprising Facts About How Much Time People Spend On The Major Social Networks (Business Insider)

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