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Good Design Can Make the Everyday Better

Kudos to IKEA for this guerrilla marketing campaign that canvased the streets of Manhattan. We’re living in a time when good design matters to more people. Bad design is quickly dismissed or ignored… good design earns people’s respect and attention. Great concept and execution from IKEA. Empower good design.

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recommended app of the week: Dropbox

Dropbox Logo

Apps are great, especially when they help to accomplish a task with ease and efficiency. Apps come in all shapes and sizes and run on any number of platforms: Mac, PC, Android, iPad, iPhone. I am especially fond of those that work across multiple platforms. There are a number of apps I use on a regular basis that are so good, I feel they must be shared. Over the next few weeks, I will unpack those that I like and use the most.

Though each of these apps perform a distinct function or serve a specific purpose, they all have common attributes.

  • Most are cross platform, which mean they will run on a variety of machines and devices.
  • All are very well done, performing their specific function with excellence.
  • Most important of all, they are all FREE.

One app I use every day is Dropbox. This tool is amazing. Dropbox is essentially a file storage/sharing app that allows you to save files to one location (computer, mobile device or web) and it automatically syncs that file across all of your other machines/devices. This is a must have app for anyone with multiple devices. Need to move a document from your computer to your mobile device, but want to make sure you don’t have multiple copies floating around, Dropbox does it without a hiccup.

The process is simple:

  • Sign up for a free account at Dropbox.com (you get 2GB of online storage, but can earn more by inviting your friends to join).
  • Install the small app on all your machines/devices.
  • Start adding documents and let Dropbox do it’s magic.

This little app is great and one I just had to share. Check it out, I think you will find it useful.

Understanding Mobile User Mindsets

Mashable.com recently had a post that explored the latest trends in mobile development and design. The post cited author Josh Clark’s conclusion that mobile user mindsets fall into three simple buckets:

Microtasking: Using the phone for short bursts of activity.
Local: Finding out what’s around the user.
Bored: Utilizing the phone for distraction/entertainment.

Can’t speak for all of you, but I think Josh nailed it. The challenge to all organizations desiring connection with mobile users is how your organization will become more relevant within these three mindset areas.

Ask yourself…is your organization mobile accessible and is your content and functionality efficient enough that it fits into the preferences and attention of mobile users? Corporate America is placing a high priority on engaging mobile users, what’s your plan?

How iPad and Tablet Devices are Changing Publication Readership

A recent post at Mashable.com spotlights publishing companies that are closely watching the success of iPads/tablets and digital readership. The article cites Wired magazine’s success story, keying in on the early adopter audience to the digital magazine concept. “The first issue of Wired on the iPad sold 105,000 copies, according to Ad Age. That was significantly higher than the print sales for the same issue. Since then, Wired for iPad has sold an average of 30,000 copies per month, or about 37% of the newsstand sales.”

Keep in mind the infancy of the iPad (a little over a year old) in relationship to the numbers above. This, along with phenomenal sales growth of the iPad and other tablet devices, should be a hint of what’s on the horizon: publication readership on these devices will continue to grow in popularity and preference.

How does this impact your communications strategy?

Reality: New digital devices continue to replace the need for print. Many have scaled back publication printing or are looking at the feasibility of doing so in the interests of cost savings. The challenge is to be aware of emerging trends driven by the iPad and the implications for how you need to communicate in the future. Look around and survey your constituents to check the pulse: how many have smartphones or iPads/tablets? How can you embrace the digital publication movement and make changes for iPad/tablet fans, and, consequently, save time and money? Will you be an early adopter to the developing digital revolution we are in?

How the iPhone and iPad Are Significantly Changing the Future of Your Web Experience

Apple iCons

The sales growth statistics of the iPhone and iPad are staggering:

+ iPad sales have reached over 19 million units in just 12 months.
+ iPhone sales for the first quarter of 2011 topped 18.7 million units.
+ iOS device (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) sales are nearing 200 million.

Apple’s MO behind their iOS devices come down to this: Simple. Amazing. Revolutionary.

These relatively new devices are redefining the quality of experience and expectations we have in the web world. Consequently, Apple’s influence has significant implications on the current and future picture of your web site.

NO FLASH PLEASE. iPhone and iPad don’t process FLASH. Steve Jobs and the Apple team have made a strategic decision to omit FLASH applications for a number of reasons, spanning from highly technical reasoning to personal preferences. Whatever the actually reasoning for the FLASH departure, one thing is for sure, it impacts you and your website. If you have FLASH on your current site, you can count on iOS device users not getting the content they want and need, essentially cutting the communication line with this rapidly growing audience. Many web developers, including the DC team, are implementing iOS compliant solutions that still offer motion and animation, without the use of FLASH.

THEY WANT MORE. Mobile friendly web sites may suffice for the iPhone, but iPad users expect more than a light, mobile experience. Some organizations have countered the omission of FLASH from iOS by creating a simple, “Mobile Friendly” version of their web site. Though this may prove to be an option for the iPhone, the iPad’s function and user’s expectation are much higher. Because of it’s size, the iPad is capable and expected to display fully-functioning sites. Forcing a user to view a stripped down version of your site causes an immediate disconnect. Also, in many cases, the iPad is not just a peripheral to the notebook computer, but a replacement for it. The overall functions and use of the iPad has caused its users to simply expect more. Once again, we have to design and build web experiences that respect and embrace iPad audiences.

GOING HIGHER. One universal reality of the iPhone and iPad phenomenon is that Apple is creating richer, more interactive experiences for users. With the rapid rise in powerful and engaging experiences with websites and apps alike, users have significantly increased their expectations. Interactive content attracts users while less relevant, static content is likely to repel them. The iOS devices are empowering their users to find and do just about anything, many times with just a few touches. As communicators, we must respect this massive shift in user device preferences and design web experiences that match the iPhone and iPad user’s desires.

One constant for the foreseeable future: expect Apple to continue to lead the charge and the direction of devices and web trends.

The Problem with my Web Site is… By You

The DC team has completed a whirl-wind tour of four different conferences in the month of February in which we spoke to groups on the future role and impact of web and social media for mission-led organizations. We heard many of you talk about the challenges and concerns you faced.

HERE’S WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY:

+ The problem with my web site is… I have no idea how to strategically utilize social media platforms, specifically Facebook and Twitter to create conversation. Build online community? Reach more people?

+ The problem with my web site is… I’m not aware what Content Management System we need to be using that allows us to be current technology, utilize the best tools, and better manage content from multiple staffers or volunteers. How can we make it easier on everyone involved?

+ The problem with my web site is… I don’t know how we stay knowledgeable of all the changing technologies and platforms when our time is already stretched so thin.

+ The problem with my web site is… I know there are smarter ways to incorporate blogs, podcasts, video, giving, and registration, but how can we sort through the multitude of options when we barely have enough time for week-to-week communication and ministry tasks?

We are hearing these needs, questions, and frustrations surface from organizations of all sizes including entities with competent staff and plentiful resources. No matter the size the end goal is the same.

THE UNIVERSAL WEB DESIRE…

Here’s what everyone wants… most everyone we talk to simply wants and expects more from their web site. People realize that the web is changing so fast and that a web strategy that was created just 24 months ago can be dated and lag behind new advances and audience expectations. Leaders understand that they have to be more strategic and intentional with their web ministry than ever before. There’s too much to gain and too much to lose. Here’s the real rub.  Mapping web vision, determining the right tools and platforms, creating the right interface design, and then developing with the latest programming standards is a huge and daunting task. For one person to get their arms around this monster and then drive it forward in a timely and competent fashion can be an overwhelming initiative for anyone. So what do you do?

CRITICAL STEPS TO SOLVING THE WEB PROBLEM

1. Find the right development specialists. Turn this into a strategic initiative in which you bring in mind power and expertise to support your own. It’s time for mission-led organizations to think about hiring a web development team that can provide proven, integrated solutions to solve today’s web problems. Your web ministry requires strategic investment. It’s a mission-critical piece to your organizational success.

2. Find the smartest Content Management System that fits your skill sets and expectations. Having the right CMS can create so many efficiencies for connecting your message with more people. You can easily find yourself in a CMS that is super-easy but limited on features. In addition, there are mega-rich CMS solutions that can be overwhelming with too many layers of complexity. Finding the right CMS is critical to your web management success. Your CMS should fit your skills and the way you want and need to communicate.

3. Find the right third party solutions to integrate into your site for greater impact. A new trend is to utilize “industry best” solutions for obvious reasons. Is it Vimeo or YouTube or both? What’s the right blog platform and how does it interact with our web site? What’s our strategy with Facebook and Twitter? How can we make registration and commerce easy and an end-user benefit. Should our enews use Constant Contact or Mail Chimp… or something else?

4. Expect more power with greater simplicity. Remember just three years ago how limiting and clunky “smartphones” seemed to be. We were content being able to receive email, get online and synch our calendars to our computer. Fast forward to today and think about the advancements of apps for Smartphones. Undeniably, we can do more with Smartphones today, and it seems easier than ever. Expect the same for your future web site. There are smarter CMS’s and tools that allow you to do more with greater ease and efficiency.

It’s time to become web empowered instead of web inept. It’s an exciting time for mission-lead leaders and communicators. The shift towards digital continues to happen in significant ways.  What’s your plan for boldly and confidently getting in the web shift?

Striking a chord: 4 recent launches

We thought it time to unveil a few sites we’ve helped launch over the last several months. Though our part in each project was strategic, instrumental, and highly visible, our client partners are the real heroes and winners. They’ve spent countless hours managing, maintaining, and safeguarding their sites and the results are worth noting.

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The Mission Book.


When Caleb Crider and Larry McCrary from the Upstream Collective came to DC and told us about their plans for the Mission Book, we couldn’t wait to get started. The concept is basically this. Build a web site where missionaries (really anyone who’s mission is to make the Gospel accessible for others) can go and share their stories. The stories are aggregated on the site. Once enough stories are entered, they will be published into an ebook. That’s basically it.

We developed an interface for the Mission Book that is simple, but visually rich. The entries are dynamically generated and are made to look like book spines, which the reader can scroll through. For those wanting to participate in the conversation, we made it really easy. Story-tellers can personalize their entry by choosing from dozens of icons and picking their own spine color. They can even see a preview before posting their story.

Visit the site. Join the conversation.

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Bluefield College.


Bluefield College is one of our favorite clients. We’ve been working with them since 1997 on everything from recruitment campaigns (4 to be exact) to institutional branding to a new athletic logo. When Kris Hardy and Chris Shoemaker asked us to help develop their new web site, we knew this would be a large undertaking.

Bluefield came to us having a good idea of what they were looking for. We developed an interface design that made sense for their varied audiences and reflected the quality and sophistication they were aiming for. We also focused on a content design and styling plan that would allow both consistency and flexibility within the Monk CMS they chose to serve as their back end.

Check out the results.

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Chelsea Creek Community Church.

As a brand new church plant, Chelsea Creek is taking an approach that is drawing a lot of excitement and interest. Pastor Matthew Roskam and the leadership are building their church around the idea of conversation. Conversation with God, each other, and self. Besides capturing their goals for an aesthetic that matched their casual, conversational approach, we connected them to the Moja CMS. For a brand new start up, they’ve had an amazing response to the ministry they’re doing through conversation groups. The new web site plays a key role in facilitating preparation and participation of this vital ministry.

Here it is.

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The Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

After meeting Carol Barnwell at the Consortium for Endowed Episcopal Parishes Conference in Austin last February, we knew right away this influential Diocese was doing some amazing things in their Episcopalian circles. For the web site project, our charge was to help them make sense of the large amounts of content, ministries, parishes, and partner organizations that  warranted priority real estate on their site. We created a home page interface with a strong visual and navigational hierarchy to help accomplish this and other objectives. The aesthetic reflects the level of taste and quality you’d expect from this influential organization. Interactivity flows from this design sensibility and takes on a more utilitarian role in the site. Users are finding it easier to get the information they need and the Diocese is getting rave reviews.

Judge for yourself.