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Website Launch: Community Development Society

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cdsmobileviewWhen a website is meant to serve a lot of people, you have to balance the needs of everyone.

The Community Development Society has hundreds of members worldwide. Many are involved in committees within the organization (so they need access to info regular members wouldn’t get). And, just like any membership organization, CDS has to attract new members and provide enough public information that people understand what the organization does and want to join.

The new CDS website is not only responsively designed but accommodates these separate audiences.

Created in Joomla 3.0, this website not only serves as a resource to thousands of visitors a month but shows what an open source CMS like Joomla is capable of in terms of function and customization.

Member Only Area

All members receive log in information when they join the organization. Once logged in, members see a special sidebar of content only they can access.

Members who want to blog are assigned permissions to do so and they can add and edit their posts on the website without accessing more sensitive areas.

As per the organization’s request, the profiles are connected to an internal social network, allowing logged in members not only to post to forums, create blogs, or see specific content but also create and maintain a profile that others can see and connect with… you know, once logged in. (We’ll be working with CDS this winter on further refining this feature with the help of member feedback.)

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Tagged Content

The homepage of the website displays the organization’s most important information for members and non-members alike but since the organization does publish content on social issues and about a variety of locations, it was important for this website to be able to have tagged content.

Tagging ensures people can move around the website and browse easily on topics most of interest. (The search feature is great if you know exactly what you’re looking for but tags can let you stumble upon cool content.)

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cdsresponsivegoogleform-mobileviewGoogle Apps Integration

The organization wanted the ability to have forms on their site but, rather than submissions getting sent via email, wanted them in a spreadsheet committees could edit and access easily.

Since they have been using Google Apps over the last year, this seemed like an opportunity to use them to handle conference submissions in a way that would cut down back and forth emails (they are all stored in a spreadsheet) and allow people to access/edit them while keeping a copy of each revision.

Not sure why anyone would want to fill out an in-depth form like this on a phone but it’s responsive too.

Training Videos

Because members are in many locations (and more than a handful of people needed to be trained on website updates), it made sense to make video tutorials on how to do things on the site (in 5 minute increments or less).

Every time someone asks about something, we make a video and put it on CDS’s own private Vimeo channel, in addition to the videos we thought necessary to have at site launch. This way, if someone forgets or a new person takes over, they are a short, fun video away from being able to do something on their website.

Though we launched this site back in May (!), we have only just now had time to write about it. So congratulations to CDS on their site and here’s hoping it inspires not only membership but activism in community development, a worthy cause indeed.

Marketing Monday: Casper Mattress

Casper-Mattress-boxtoscaleYou know what I appreciate? Someone who looks at something that works well enough, then changes the way it’s done.

Like haven’t all of us did the awkward 5 minute (ok 2 minute) mattress test in a furniture store then spent several hundred dollars (or more) on a bed, hoping it was going to work out?

Casper is an interesting company, for many reasons. Let’s look at it from the product, service, and marketing points of view.

Product

A high quality product packaged in such a way that it’s an experience to get.

So these beds come in a box. They warn you to open the box in whatever room your bed will live in. If you go on Youtube and look up ‘Casper mattress’ there are literally hundreds of videos of people opening the box and unpackaging the mattress, you know like this one:

The reviews to back up the claim.

While it is one thing to let people leave reviews, it’s another thing to collect ages, how they sleep, how long they sleep, and who they sleep with as part of the experience.

casperreviews

It makes the reviews left on this site seem more real and believable than they otherwise would be.

Not a ton of offerings.

Do they have 9 different mattresses? Nope, you just pick your size (twin, double, queen, or king). Too many choices is paralyzing and Casper has chosen to carry one good kind of bed and sell it.  They also eliminate a lot of the reasons why people don’t chose to buy online (yes this is one chart but if you look at others, you’ll see they are all pretty similar):

LivePerson-Top-Reasons-Abandoning-Online-Purchase-Jan2013

 

Offering free shipping, clear offerings, a simple but responsively designed website, and one step checkout means customers are less likely to navigate away… plus it helps that they are pretty much the only online mattress game in town.

Service

The trial period is 100 nights.

It’s one thing to try on a pair of jeans and send them back and it’s another thing to take back a PITA item like a bed back. But these guys do it. Pretty cool. (It seems like a courier from the company picks it up and either donates it to charity or recycles it, just FYI.)

They include a hand written note and tools to help you open the bed.

It’s kind of like when you send in your Mac to get repaired and they send you three pieces of precut tape to close your box. Do they need to? Of course not. Is it a classy touch? Sure is.

It looks like getting a Casper bed is a pretty custom experience.

Marketing

They are using email.

No one thinks email marketing is sexy anymore. Trust me, I actually try to sell it to people.



But Casper gets it. The only way you can follow up with someone after they come to your website is via email (social media posts can get lost in the shuffle or even sometimes not even appear for the person who ‘likes’ your page in the case of Facebook). They ever have a fun way of asking.

casperemailmarketing

 

They are still a little corporate though.

Do they have an Instagram account with user generated photos. Do they have a Pinterest board of bedroom decorating ideas? Nope, these guys are sticking to Facebook and Twitter, which is fine. They still seem a bit corporate though (using the same well taken photos regularly). I kind of want them to bust out a little!

So if you are in the market for a Made In The USA bed with good reviews that doesn’t involve an awkward exchange with a salesman, this may be for you. Here’s hoping you like us were inspired by Casper today.

 

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. 

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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.

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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)

Website Launch: Brunswick Downtown Association

Website Launch: Brunswick Downtown Association Tour from Nicole Ouellette on Vimeo.

What would you do if you had a website software you loved but it wasn’t mobile friendly and didn’t seem like it was going to become so anytime soon?

The Brunswick Downtown Association was faced with this very dilemma. They loved the Wild Apricot system for the reports it generated and the time it saved tracking members but the design was limiting and cumbersome.

The BDA wanted to appeal to an increasing population of mobile users… and this system they were paying $100/month to use was beginning to seem outdated. Deborah, Patti, and Alexis were ready to make a move to open source software and we were ready to help.

First off, we wanted to keep what they loved so we took Wordpress and made a Wild Apricot style dashboard in the backend. Sure it was some custom programming but it performs the needed functions so the switch was less painful. Alexis can now easily generate reports and track membership with numbers that match up from previous years’ data generated by Wild Apricot.

Patti wanted a way for members to submit events and all she’d have to do was click ‘approve’. We ‘hid’ the event submission under a login (members only!) and now, Patti gets an email when a member wants to post an event, saving her hours of data entry.

For the website visitors, we made a responsive layout using a modern color scheme; showcasing photos; and using buttons to get visitors to highly trafficked areas on the site. Visitors can find content by clicking on anything in the menu, slideshow items, buttons, hot links, or by typing what they are looking for in the ‘search’ box, which appears on every page.

For the members, we have a responsive business directory with customizable listings. Refreshing the page puts different members on top, making sure everyone has an equal shot of being seen. Instead of the business name clicking on a detailed listing, the BDA wanted the click to take website visitors directly to member websites (or in some cases, Facebook pages or other online properties). This makes sure members get the most bang for their buck, getting users to websites sooner rather than later. We also made easy to see/use buttons to get users to ‘Contact’ (to email the business owner) and ‘Website’ (in case they don’t know to click on the business name to get to the business website).

As a member upsell, we also have custom ad space on the sidebar of the desktop and tablet version of the business directory pages, allowing members who want more visibility to purchase advertising and further support the BDA.

Special thanks to Alice, Matt, and Ashley who made very significant contributions to this project, pleasure to have you on the team!

And congratulations to Brunswick Downtown Association who has been using their website the past two months and helped us work out the bugs post launch. You’ve got a great organization and we’re excited to come visit this summer and see some of the fun events you have planned.

 

 

Website Launch: Seaside Cottages

When Jay and Kathy asked us to redesign their site, we took a look at the site they had going. The Seaside Cottages homepage has great, relevant information, but the images were not a prominent feature. We came in to give the page a bit of a virtual facelift, and design it to work harder for Jay and Kathy.

"Before"

“Before”

One of our goals was to give users powerful visuals to correspond with the information on the website. Visitors usually want to get a lay of the land before spending a vacation anywhere, and the new Seaside Cottages website delivers. The majority of content is now images, which are large and high quality. Users can also now “pin” images they like, since we integrated Pinterest on the site. Due to the emphasis on imagery, Pinterest made the most sense as a social media choice. (Just because Jay and Kathy don’t use social media themselves, doesn’t mean their target demographic isn’t using social media to plan their next Maine vacation!)

Images that are easy to pin.

Images that are easy to pin.

We put a lot of time into generating the footer, which is a hard working tool. For instance, the Seaside Spring icon leads visitors to a page that features spring-related content. Maine is blessed with four distinct seasons, and we thought it would be nice to share images of this with potential customers. We also wrote all original content for these seasonal pages.         

 

The hard working footer.

The hard working footer.

 

Like any business, Seaside Cottages relies on customer satisfaction, so the footer also features a “visual guestbook.” This particular page is a source of pride for Kathy and Jay, as it uses notes people have left them on scraps of paper after a stay in one of the cottages. This is a creative way to incorporate testimonials into the website, and allows Seaside Cottages to showcase their reviews. It also acts as a ‘trust’ symbol- potential customers can view these notes and know that they are in good hands at Seaside Cottages.

seasidevisualguestbook

In terms of the more nitty-gritty technical changes, the new Seaside Cottages site has a responsive design, which is great in terms of accessibility and functionality. Responsive design means no matter what type of device people are using (phone, tablet, PC, etc.), the site automatically adjusts so that they can view and access all the features.

The new site also has custom forms for each rental. This form does the heavy lifting in terms of booking, and makes it easier for Kathy to follow up with people. A form makes the booking process easier for customers as well- rather than sending an open-ended e-mail, they can now simply fill in the information requested on the form and feel that they’ve taken action towards booking that vacation.

Best of luck to Jay and Kathy with their new site, and we hope that they get a record number of bookings in the upcoming season!

"After"!

“After”!

 

New Site Launch: Camel Brook Camps

It’s always interesting working for people you grew up with. Mr. Leblanc (as I used to call him) was our industrial arts teacher in school. I worked as a lifeguard with their daughter. They have known me a long time and live in the beautiful town of Fort Kent, Maine, where I grew up and where most of my family still lives.

Camel Brook Camps responsive website layout.So when Anne and Jean contacted us for a website for their rental business Camel Brook Camps, I was excited to prove that Nicole had grown up… and wasn’t going to going to be known as the only industrial arts accident of the year (true story, I drill pressed part of my finger, though that was not on Mr. Leblanc’s watch, he had gone onto other things by the time I took his class).

Alice created a responsive template that felt outdoorsy but sophisticated. Well, she created two (we always do that) and they picked their favorite which we tweaked until it was what they wanted.

Now with each design we want things to look different. In this case, Alice worked with the wood background (we normally do solid backgrounds) and created a way to highlight the business name with it.

camelbrookcampsmobileWith responsive design, the website adjusts to the screensize its on, meaning it looks great not only for those visiting on a computer but a tablet or mobile phone as well.

Camel Brook Camps has several cabins to rent but we wanted to intersperse photos of the area. We contacted Brent Stroliker Photography who had some great multi-season shots of the area. We negotiated a rate for the photos to be able to use them in the slideshow on the homepage and on various pages of the site.

While I’d love to be able to do (and be good at everything) myself, it’s important to be able to pair with professionals and be able to help each other out. I think you can also see how photographs people have of their businesses mixed in with professional photographs gives a clean inviting look. (Very important to use photos with permission as we did!)

So what else did we do in creating this site?

  • Created separate inquiry forms for each of the four camps
  • Kept their guest book entries and allowed new ones to be created
  • Installed a weather widget that automatically updates with the day’s conditions
  • Made sure there was a way to access ‘Camps and Rates’ on every page
  • Put the phone number in the footer on every page
  • Created how-to update documents complete with screenshots to be able to give Anne and Jean so they officially don’t need us (unless they want us of course)

Anne and Jean didn’t need the world’s fanciest website; they just needed something visually appealing, information rich, and user friendly in a platform they could easily update as they take new photos or change prices.

In case you were wondering, here’s the before picture of the site:

cbcbefore

So whether you love this design or not, I think we can all agree this is a definite improvement!

We thank the LeBlancs for letting us work on their site and here’s hoping they get lots of new business from it.

 

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