R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

A Brand Research and Development Strategy Firm

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Major Digital Marketing Changes From The Last 12 Months, Are You Keeping Up?

Last year I wrote a Year in Review article that mainly focused on Facebook: 20 Changes Facebook Made In 2012 That Impacted Marketers. I mentioned, “Facebook was all about refinement in 2012.” If “refinement” was the word of 2012, “streamlined” was the word of 2013.

And this year I want to focus on the broader options that social marketers have at their disposable now.

An influx of new top tier social networks spread user attention thin in 2012 and required a renewed emphasis on key features and functionality.

In 2012, Facebook was on top of the mountain.

It was still the 800-pound gorilla in 2013, but a variety of other networks took their shots at prominence and deserve our attention as well.

Here are the top social media changes and trends introduced in 2013 and the last 12 months.

The Growth of Short Video


Twitter started the year off with the launch of Vine, a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos. Twitter noted on its blog that, “the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspired creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound.”

Vine saw 403% growth between the first and third quarters of 2013, making it the fastest-growing app of the year. And then Instagram launched video…

Instagram added fifteen-second video functionality on June 20. The number of Vine video links shared to Twitter dropped nearly 40 percent that day. Vine sharing on Twitter continued to drop over the following week, resulting in a roughly 70 percent drop from the nearly three million links shared on June 15. Instagram jumped on the video hype by announcing sponsored ads on October 3.

Facebook learned from the success of Instagram’s video ad integration by rolling out auto-play video ads on December 17, 2013. According to Facebook, the social network began testing auto-play video ads in September and the changes resulted in a more than 10 percent increase in video views, likes, shares and comments.


Twitter Jumpstarts Monetization


In 2012, Facebook’s IPO helped fuel an increased focus on revenue generation. Following a similar course in 2013 Twitter launched their IPO and subsequently increased advertising options.

On May 22, Twitter introduced Lead Generation Cards to help B2B brands drive highly qualified leads. According to Twitter, “These cards makes it easy for users to express interest in what your brand offers. Users can easily and securely share their email address with a business without leaving Twitter or having to fill out a cumbersome form. When someone expands your Tweet, they see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, @username, and email address are already pre-filled within the Card. The user simply clicks a button to send this information directly (and securely) to you.”

Twitter also integrated previews of photos and Vine videos directly into users’ streams on October 29. Users see more of the photo or play the video by tapping the preview.

As a result of Twitter’s focus on advertising, the platform saw a 22 percent increase in small business usage.

Pinterest Gets “Rich”


Pinterest helped marketers answer the question, “What are people pinning from my websites?” by launching Web Analytics for verified business accounts on March 12. The free Web Analytics platform helped marketers see Pinterest metrics in categories including Site Metrics, Most Recent, Most Pinned and Most Clicked.

Pinterest introduced Rich Pins on May 20. Instead of linking back to the pin’s origin, each new Rich Pin provides users additional information about that item aimed to better put them in a position to make a purchase. There are three different types of Rich Pins, each with its own unique set of characteristics and opportunities for brands: Product, Recipes, and Movies.

For items like clothes and furniture, the new Product pins offer real time pricing, availability, and where to buy the item. Recipe pins allow brands to provide information like cook time, ingredients, and servings to help foodies and food bloggers create new creations using branded pins. Movie pins contain content ratings, cast members, and more designed to provide a new layer of information about these movies.

On September 19, Pinterest announced it would roll out Promoted Pins as its first advertising product with select partners. Promoted Pins allow businesses to insert pins into search results and category feeds similar to sponsored advertising options offered by social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Promoted Pins started to appear in users’ feeds in early October.

LinkedIn Grows as a Content Portal


LinkedIn expanded its business offerings through the launch of Showcase Pages on November 18. Showcase Pages are dedicated content hubs enabling businesses to extend their Company Page presence, effectively segmenting audiences and enabling businesses to deliver the best message to the right audiences. Somewhat similar to LinkedIn s existing company pages, Showcase Pages are designed to give individual brands and business units within corporations the ability to create their own segmented marketing channels on LinkedIn.

In order to amplify the reach of its marketers messaging, LinkedIn continued 2013 2s sponsored advertising trend by rolling out Sponsored Updates on July 22. Sponsored Updates appear in a native format as a natural part of a target audience s feed and can be used to promote thought leadership content, to generate leads, or even as a PR tool.

Facebook Redesigns its News Feed


On March 7, Facebook revealed a News Feed redesign that featured larger visuals, a mobile-first user interface and more opportunities to filter by specific types of content.

The changes made good photos look even better in the News Feed, but also made lousy photos look even worse — reemphasizing a need for marketers to invest in quality imagery.

Facebook Focuses On Quality Images, Not Marketing Images

Facebook’s 20% Rule required text to appear on less than 20% of Cover Photos (and Promoted Posts), another attempt by Facebook at ensuring a quality visual experience for its users.

Not all features made it to December though. Facebook quickly backed away from automatically placing image captions and descriptions on top of photo page posts, preferring to keep text and image separate in the News Feed.

Facebook Page Tweaks

Facebook continued its redesign the following month with a new layout for Pages. The new Pages layout changes included a simplified look, easier ways to connect with businesses and streamlined page management.

Facebook Loosened Contest Rules

With a greater push for mobile and more real-time content, Facebook simplified its contest promotion guidelines. Its new set of rules allowed pages to run contests in the news feed without a third party application, ask people to submit answers in exchange for chances to win a prize, and to use Likes as a method of entrance into a contest.


Facebook Became A Mobile Social Network

In 2012, Sheryl Sandberg predicted a future of more ads in Facebook’s mobile News feed… and she was right. Facebook’s mobile-first emphasis in 2013 resulted in more users embracing the social network on the go. 54% more users logged into Facebook on a daily basis in Q3 2013 as did in Q3 2012, an increase from 329 million to 507 million in one year.

Mobile-only users doubled during that same time span, from 126 million in 2012 to 254 million in 2013. Significantly more user activity results in significantly more mobile advertising inventory available for marketers.


Confidence In The Newsfeed Wained

While mobile users swarmed to Facebook in droves, not all marketers were thrilled with the social network’s changes. A set of late 2013 News Feed algorithm changes resulted in an extreme drop in organic reach for many Pages, as much as 44 percent in many cases. The algorithm changes were intended to place more relevant news stories into the News Feed, especially from sites that Facebook deemed as “high quality” sources.

Facebook did little to quell marketer concerns when it put out an announcement recommending that they could make up the difference in reach with advertising.

Facebook Ads Got Simpler (Kind Of) And Better

To further emphasize this, Facebook rolled out a series of ad changes in 2013, eliminating at least 13 ad units and increasing ad-targeting opportunities.

Marketers told Facebook that its ad products were too complicated and redundant, which led to Sponsored Stories shifting from a stand-alone product to integration into most ads, which would “automatically add social context to boost performance.”

Facebook added Partner Categories to connect together online and offline user data. Partner categories use data from select third parties, including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, to target ads to more categories of people.

For example, a local car dealership could show ads to people likely in the market for a new car who live near their dealership. Facebook also simplified Interest Targeting by combining Precise Interest and Broad Categories into a single step, making it easier to select the audience most relevant to what’s being advertised.

Advertisers looking to target customers who considered a purchase on their site but didn’t complete the transaction gained a new Facebook alternative to FBX in October. The new retargeting tool, “website and mobile app custom audiences,” works when marketers affix tracking software to their websites and create corresponding custom audiences based on user activity data.

Search Got Easier on Facebook

Facebook started 2013 with a bang by announcing its long-awaited advanced search product, Graph Search.

Graph Search provided users the opportunity to easily search and examine trillions of relationships that live within Facebook’s ecosystem. Facebook also added support for searchable hashtags in June, thereby acting as a new connective thread for users to share their thoughts to a larger audience on social networks.

Graph Search has a lot of potential and is just the beginning of opening up the massive amount of social connection data that Facebook controls, and charges for. We can’t wait for LinkedIn to do the same.

Author / Ryan Cohn
Source / socialfresh.com


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Personalized products and content-led conversation will win in 2014

The global e-commerce industry is expected to generate $1.2 trillion in sales by the end of this year, driven largely by the changing shopping habits of consumers, as they increasingly browse and buy across mobile, tablet and even social networks. Despite this predicted growth, 2014 will not be a year for retailers to rest on their laurels.

human-head-with social-network-icons

Retailers will have access to more information about their customers’ preferences and shopping habits than ever before and retailers must take steps to better understand the purchase journey. This insight will give retailers the understanding they need to develop relevant content and personalize deals, and ultimately help to generate more sales. Shoppers are looking for a richer, more personal shopping experience and retailers must reassess both how they sell and what they sell if they are to thrive.

Here are 5 top tips for those retailers wanting to stand out from the crowd next year using personalization:

1.     Content shopping will be king
The lines between entertainment and shopping are blurring further and 2014 will see more retailers offer shoppers a richer, content-led shopping experience. Driven by the media, which have become retailers in their own right to bolster dwindling revenues from advertising and subscriptions, savvy retailers are using multimedia content to make the shopping experience more engaging. Retailers recognize that shoppers are no longer satisfied by the vending machine model of the last decade; they want to be entertained and informed as they browse the web and make purchasing decisions.

2.     Social will steer retailers’ stocking decisions
Social media’s power to influence what people buy is widely recognized and in 2014 it will also influence what retailers sell. The rapid growth of social curation communities like Pinterest, where consumers curate their own collections of products that they like, offers retailers access to invaluable insights in near real-time, something that traditional market research simply cannot compete with. Savvy retailers will use social shopping communities as a temperature check for popular product trends and use this insight to inform and refine stocking decisions.

3.     Omni-channel will require a single customer view
In any given day a shopper could interact with a brand on multiple devices and through multiple platforms, from mobile browsing in the morning, to lunchtime shopping on a work laptop. In 2014, a top priority for retailers will be to join-up the dots between these channels so that a more comprehensive customer profile can be developed. Insight garnered by analyzing the purchase journey of shoppers will help retailers to streamline the channels through which they sell and personalize the shopping experience, helping to boost bottom lines.

4.     Hyper targeting will take the online personalization in-store
The long-held dream of being able to target shoppers in real-time, with relevant and personalized location-based offers took a big step forward in 2013 with Apple’s launch of iBeacon, which allows precise, low-cost indoor tracking in stores. There has been much excitement about the prospect of hyper-targeting shoppers on the go and in 2014 retailers will begin to take this proposition more seriously. We expect to see a number of high profile trials of hyper-targeting technology as retailers grapple to deliver the highly personalized experience that shoppers now expect online in their high street stores.

5.     Mass customization will make products feel personal
Consumers today want something that’s unique and reflects their personality. Retailers understand this and we are seeing more companies offer personalized products, from custom engravings to the ability to select bag zip or pocket colour in advance. There is a huge opportunity for small to medium enterprises to carve out a market niche against bigger retailers, while adding value to existing products through customization. Furthermore, the concept of customization should extend beyond the product itself; retailers need to look at how they can offer a more customized shopping experiences online by using insights gathered in customer profiles.

by Shingo Murakam

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How MasterCard Enlists Employees in Social Media

Over the past year, MasterCard has been working hard on shifting its culture and public perception as a financial services company to that of a tech company. A big part of this process means making sure its employees are all digitally savvy.


Two or three yeas ago, MasterCard didn’t really have much of a social media strategy. Today the brand has a strong following on its main Twitter account and several other accounts for different topics and services. It has a content site, a blog and a “newsroom” that sits in the center of its headquarters in Purchase, N.Y. While all of this has enabled MasterCard to attract and interact with a larger audience –18 months ago MasterCard was exposed to more than 30 million people per month globally through social media, while today it is exposed to more than 40 million people per week globally, according to MasterCard’s data – the next phase is about getting its 7,500 employees company-wide comfortable with social media and, even more than that, turning them into social media brand advocates.

“We work hard to get third parties to advocate on our behalf, but it’s important that we don’t overlook our own employees and let them know it’s OK to tweet and comment and share,” explained Marcy Cohen, vp and senior business leader for worldwide communications at MasterCard. “Not only is it OK, it’s encouraged — that’s a big focus for us in 2014.”

MasterCard is one of many companies that have discovered that one of their strongest social media assets is their vast workforce. Like many companies, however, MasterCard has evolved from looking at employees sounding off in social as a risk to a big opportunity. The trick is how to do it right.

Learning the ropes
Before anyone could start tweeting, the first step in getting MasterCard employees more comfortable with social was updating the company guidelines. As Cohen explained, earlier this year, she and the communications team had found from asking around the office that people were intimidated by the company’s social media guidelines.

“The guidelines were fairly rigid, and people were scared about doing the wrong thing, so we felt there was a big opportunity to simplify the guidelines,” said Cohen.

The old guidelines were longer and needed to be pared down and also updated to include newer social platforms, as Cohen explained.

“The guidelines focus on using common sense, understanding the public nature of social channels and being transparent about your affiliation with the brand,” said Cohen. “In addition, we developed social media playbooks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn for our employees.”

Along with modifying the social media guidelines and providing real-world examples of employees doing a good job advocating the brand using social, Cohen and the communications team brought the company together for a meeting in the newsroom to have an open discussion about the guidelines so that people could ask questions and understand what isn’t and is allowed when it comes to social. The legal team was involved in the meeting too to help answer questions.

Once people were more aware of company policy on social and that it is encouraged at MasterCard to use social media in their personal lives, social media education became the next focus.

“A lot of agencies have turnkey solutions and these sorts of black-belt programs — and we did talk to some other companies about implementing some of these approaches — but in the end, it was just me and a couple of my colleagues raising our hands and saying, ‘We can teach this; we don’t really need to bring in somebody for the outside,’” explained Cohen.

Cohen and her team organized the first social media education session, which was held at the Purchase headquarters. It was a very basic introductory program that went over different social platforms — the usual suspects, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As Cohen explained, a lot of people across the organization just needed help with the first steps of getting into social media, as simple as how to set up an account. The session was recorded and turned into shorter videos that focus on each platform. MasterCard also created a special section on its intranet site called MC Mashup to house the social media tutorial videos for company-wide use and as a place for people to ask questions and share information.

Cohen and her team also shared this first social media education program with the global communications staff so that they could use it as a template for holding similar sessions at their offices around the world.

“Reverse” mentoring
This first initial social media education session inspired Victor Nordensen, senior analyst at MasterCard, to spearheaded another social media education initiative called YoPros (short for young professions). The program involves younger employees at MasterCard giving reverse-mentoring sessions to older MasterCard employees who may not be as familiar with social media. These sessions are meant to be casual one-on-one meetings where people can reach out and ask about getting some help with different social platforms, even if it is not related directly to work.

“They all come in with a very different level of knowledge. For some, it’s as simple as asking what a hashtag is and setting up a Twitter account; for some, it’s learning about retweeting MasterCard posts,” said Nordensen.

The YoPros program launched just this past October and has so far conducted about 30 one-on-one tutoring sessions with older execs. The YoPros reverse mentoring is now available at six of MaterCard’s global offices, and the plan is to continue expanding it globally.

Cohen herself and others on her team also participate in giving tutorial sessions. For example, Cohen was approached by a MasterCard employee who wanted to finally learn how to really use Facebook and Twitter after many promises for lessons from her kids went unfulfilled.

“Now every time I see her, she is bubbling over with excitement about how many followers she has,” said Cohen.

Still, there is work to be done.

“Has it happened at mass scale yet? No, but I think we are well on our way,” said Cohen. “We have a lot of support from senior management and being able to rely on and empower some of the people who are already doing social media well is like having a big extended team.”

MasterCard isn’t the only brand trying to make sure its older execs are up to speed on digital and social. Campbell’s Soup created a “digital fitness accelerator kit” earlier this year that included  devices like Roku and JawBone, recommended apps and suggested reading, including online news sources and books like “Six Pixels of Separation.”

In the coming year, MasterCard plans on continuing its internal social media education with more tutorial sessions that go beyond the basics.

“If our first session was social media 101,” said Cohen, “next year we are going to be doing 201 — more classes that go deeper.”

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Interview with “A List Apart” Founder Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffrey Zeldman is certainly one of the world’s most renowned personalities in Web. Guru of Web standards Zeldman is also an entrepreneur, web designer, author, podcaster and acclaimed speaker.

He has been blogging independent web content since 1995. He was one of the first pioneers of Web Standards, and is creator and editor-in-chief of A List Apart and founder of web design studio Happy Cog.

We were with him at the Future of Web Apps event that took place in London in October.

www.zeldman.com | Twitter: @zeldman


Awwwards Team: You’ve been involved in a lot of projects since 1995. The Web Standards Project, Happy Cog, A List Apart…How do you find the time?

Well, the Web Standards Project I’m not involved with anymore. It’s a pretty quiet thing now. Some friends and I started it in the ’90s, Steve Champeon, Jeff Veen, Dori Smith, Tim Bray…

When we started nobody cared about web standards. We made up the word, because there were no web standards, there were just some W3C recommendations that nobody paid attention to and there were four versions of scripting languages. One was Javascript. And so all that stuff has been taken care of. There’s a new group called Future Friendly that’s sort of picking up the ball and saying “Okay, now for the next generation of devices, how do we approach this again?”

There could be a new Web Standards Project tomorrow, say for TVs, I think. Phones tend to have Webkit or Opera browsers, or Chrome browsers, and it’s good, so though I’m simplifying, that’s not too much of a problem. But TVs have browsers now and people are going to want to navigate using a TV remote,and a TV browser isn’t necessarily a fully-fledged Webkit or Mozilla or Opera or IE browser, so you really don’t know what you’re getting. I think there’s always work to be done.


Then there’s A List Apart. We’re in the middle of a redesign, it’s launching at the beginning of the new year. It will continue in the vein that we started, but it will have more features. I started the magazine in 1998 and every 2 weeks a new issue would come out and usually there were 2 articles in the issue and that was the whole thing. It was always a magazine. I thought of it like a magazine, I ran it like a magazine and so it’s not a blog and it’s not constantly putting out content.

Our focus will continue to be very well-vetted, carefully-edited, carefully-researched articles that try to advance the craft of web design, focusing on content strategy or responsive design or some other aspect of the craft. But we’re going to have columns- we have some really brilliant people lined up as columnists- and we’re going to have a blog. We’re launching with those two additional content features just to get people used to the idea that there’s more frequent content. We don’t want to introduce everything new at once because we would lose our focus and also it would take a huge staff and we don’t have that. We’re going to roll out new features a bit at a time and see how our community responds, but we have a lot of other secret, wonderful features coming.

The design is already beautiful and the new design is really beautiful, impactful and very magazine-like. Jason Santamaria did the last design and it had sort of a literary quality. He was trying to evoke the feeling that this was a library for web designers and he did it very skilfully, and now Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh are redesigning and it’s going back to the magazine idea, a modern magazine like Esquire (which is actually an old magazine but always has modern art direction). I think it’ll be very interesting to see how the community responds.

We have an editorial staff and we’re constantly reviewing submissions. There’s a lot of stuff we send to other publications because it’s good, but it’s not quite right for us, or sometimes things feel like a rehash, like they’re not really new. We have a very high bar. That’s why we don’t publish all the time, because we’re really trying to advance the craft of web design and digital experience design generally and that means that we have to say no to a lot of content that gets submitted to us. There’s a good place for that content but we’re just not it.

Even though we have a wonderful acquisitions editor, a wonderful editor-in-chief, and a whole team of technical editors, I still write the blurbs when the issue is about to go live. I’ve always done that and it wouldn’t somehow feel like A List Apart if I stopped. If I ever stop doing that I’m sure it’ll be great, and I’m sure other writers would pick up where I left off, but there’s just something about doing it that feels right to me.

Happy Cog. Our editorial headquarters are in New York which is where I am, and we have client services headquarters in Austin and Philadelphia. They do wonderful work so I’m able to delegate a lot of that work. I don’t have to be hands on and I can focus on the editorial side. I meet the clients and I know what’s going on and it’s wonderful, but I don’t have to supervise the projects. I stopped doing client projects only about a year ago.

Do you mind not doing them?


It’s mixed. Is feels like a relief in some ways, after 20 years of doing client services. To not necessarily have to call a client on a given day is kind of a nice thing in a way. I love clients, I fall in love with our clients. I always have good relationships with them. We pick our clients carefully, so I miss it too. And then delegating is a strange thing because on the one hand, you trust the people that you’ve hired and they’re really good, they really know their job. But at the same time you’re not doing it, so there’s a sense of loss and fear of “Is it still Happy Cog if I’m not doing everything?”

The self-aggrandizing fantasy I have about it is it’s like Walt Disney. When he started he animated every frame, he did all the animation and all the drawing at first, and eventually he did none of it. So there’s some kind of arc there, I’m somewhere on that arc. I’m definitely not Walt Disney, but that’s how I’m able to feel comfortable with it. This is a natural evolution and this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I love the editorial stuff. I think I’ll do more client services again, but right now it’s just nice to have a break and focus on the magazine and the books and the conference.

Jason Santamaria, Mandy Brown and I founded A Book Apart, and we have new books every few months. Mandy is the editor, so I’m involved in acquisition and content but I don’t actually have to do the hard, in-depth manual work of reading each draft and revising the work with the author (though we have great authors so not much revision is needed). So that’s how I’m able to do all these different things. The conference has a great staff, An Event Apart, and we have 8 shows a year now.

Who’s in charge of looking for talent and trends and content for an Event Apart, and how do you go about it?

My partner Eric Meyer and I do that. I see what people are talking about on our stage, I see what we’re doing at Happy Cog and what my friends are doing at their studios and it’s kind of easy to see. You run up against a problem like “What do we do about responsive images?”, you read other people’s blogs to find out what they’re saying about it, you find the smartest people talking about the stuff, some of them I work with, some of them I speak with at An Event Apart or at other conferences.

We’re always looking for people who have made a difference in the industry. Luke Wroblewksi with mobile, Ethan Marcotte with responsive, Karen McGrane with adaptive content and Kristina Halvorson with content strategy. These are people who’ve made a huge difference and are great speakers. That’s really important because some people are gifted writers, but on stage they freeze up, they’re not natural, they’re not funny. We’re constantly looking for new people to bring along because we don’t eventually want to be a bunch of 70-year-olds: “You saw them for the last 10 years, come see them again!”. We’re not just going to keep bringing the same stuff out every year.

We structure the days like playlists and we’ll start with someone really strong on a particular topic and then we’ll make sure the next speaker has a related topic but a slightly different angle on it. Maybe the middle speaker is less experienced, so we’ll sandwich them between two really strong speakers. They may turn out to be the hit of the show. I really think of it like music, like making an ideal playlist. It’s not just how great is that song, but how great is that song after this other song? We try to make sure there’s an educational narrative running through the two-day conference and we really try to take a holistic approach. Are you going to get a pretty strong overview of the most important issues that we’re all wrestling with right now? What do I do about mobile? What do I do about content? How do I not design the whole website and then beg for the content the day it’s due? How do I deal with all these new devices? How do I avoid all these traps and problems?

I used to make a joke that there are 500 standard breakpoints in Android. Android is like Windows in a way, like Windows used to be. Apple was always “We make an operating system for our own computers, and here are the three models of our computer this year, and buy one of those because that’s what you’ve got to choose from”. Windows was always, “Hey, we don’t care if you’ve got a really new computer or an old one”, and by being compatible with all those different devices they offered a different experience. Windows meant you could basically have $5 and still have a PC, and that was wonderfully democratic but because they didn’t know the capabilities of each screen and everything else, it was a complicated operating system, and buggy, and you might not have a great experience. And I think that’s true with Android too. Android is along that line. The phone has all kinds of capabilities and features, depending who manufactures it.

Originally when the iPhone came out it really excited people in mobile. “Now I can really design a good thing for mobile”. But they were like, “Well, now I can design for this screen.” But when Android came out they were like “Oh, there’s too many screen sizes, now what will I do?”. Responsive is one answer to that, and there are other answers as well, but the idea that you can just design for one screen size is gone, I think.

Responsive is one answer to that, and there are other answers as well, but the idea that you can just design for one screen size is gone, I think.

Is everything you do at Happy Cog now responsive, or are there still projects that aren’t?

I would have to say just about everything is. I did a fixed-width responsive design for my site, which doesn’t make sense, except it does, it works. I have a hard time myself because I think we’re doing some really gorgeous stuff now with responsive, but it’s a challenge. If you buy into the hallucination that we have some control over the canvas, and you set up a fixed-width, it is easier to do a design that feels controlled and very elegant, very finished. Just like if you’re designing for a particular screen size you could go, “I’m going to fill this part of the screen with this”. We like that, we like our canvases. It’s harder thinking outside the canvas. I think there’s an explosion of new ideas in design, but then some responsive designs are absolutely gorgeous.

When clients come to Happy Cog, to what extent do you have to evangelize to them about content-first and accessibility and web standards?

The beauty of it is, most of the clients who come to us come to us because of our reputation and they often come having read A List Apart, and maybe reading A Book Apart books. So when they come to Happy Cog, we don’t generally have to sell them a content strategy, they come wanting it. We don’t have to sell them on web standards, they know that we do that. That’s why they’re coming.

I think, this is a generalization, but people in the same field tend to hire us. In other words, someone who read “Designing with Web Standards” and worked as a designer, and is now maybe a content director at a company, brings us in. Their boss may bring in another studio that’s more corporate, bigger, better-known in the corporate world, and so then we sort of compete for the job, but if we’re hired the people who hire us want what we have. That’s the marketing we do. A List Apart started before Happy Cog, so A List Apart is Happy Cog’s marketing but we don’t do the magazine for that reason. We do the magazine to try to advance the industry but then, because we happen to have a company that does stuff, people who care about the industry will go “Well, let’s give these people a shot, they seem to know what they’re doing.”

So you tend to get quite ideal clients in a way?

Yes, we tend to get really smart, wonderful clients. No job is ideal, and no client is ideal, we’re not ideal. We’re all people, so there’s always something unexpected that happens. Something needs to get done faster than we agreed, or the portion of the budget we thought we had for research dries up. There’s always some kind of negotiation, but we have really good Project Managers too. That makes a huge difference.

When I started Happy Cog it was originally just me freelancing, and I was putting together small teams of freelancers in the beginning and that was cool but we didn’t have Project Managers. I was like “I’m a Creative Director and I’m a Project Manager”. That doesn’t work so well. I mean, it worked well in that we did great projects, and I had nice relationships with the clients and we fought for good work and everything, but I wasn’t necessarily going to get up early in the morning and call the client and say “Here’s what we’re doing today”. Clients really like hand-holding, and the more money they’re spending the more they need that. And it makes sense. I can’t imagine taking $100,000, giving it to someone and waiting three weeks to see if they had something to say to me. Now we have these brilliant Project Managers who are constantly checking in with the clients and making sure everyone’s on the same page, everyone knows what’s expected that day and everyone knows what we’re working on, and if there’s a quibble about something that it gets back to the right people, it’s addressed. That makes a huge difference, it’s one of the most important things. Nobody talks about it.

What made you realize you needed that?

Having done without it, and then hiring people like Dave DeRuchie to do it in Philadelphia and seeing what a difference it makes to have really brilliant people at the top of their game handling that, so that designers can design and coders can code and everyone can relax and do their jobs and not worry about someone being angry because you forgot something.

We’ve almost never had an unhappy client, but once I had an unhappy relationship with a client. I thought we were speaking the same language and I thought from our contract and everything else that it was clear what we were and weren’t delivering, but the client somehow had in his mind that we were responsible for putting all the content on his website. We delivered these templates and style guides and content guides, and we gave him these “For instance” pages, and we had a content strategist and an editorial person on that project, more than design studios did back then. But it got to the point where he was never going to be happy, and he was never going to pay, and we were never going to finish so…not always ideal.

You learn from that, and I learned two things from that. One is I’m glad I incorporated because if I wasn’t incorporated and things had gone really wrong I could have lost my apartment, been selling pencils on the street. And the other thing I learned was that I needed a really good Project Manager. I shouldn’t assume my clients get it, I shouldn’t assume they’re so smart, they’re so cool, they get it. We’re very lucky that usually that’s the case. I mean, we work for it too, but we tend to have clients who get what we do and want what we do and understand what we do. But every once in awhile we’re not going to have that and so you just need someone who very clearly says “This is what the studio’s responsible for, here’s what we’re doing.”

Trends and Future in Web Design

What trends do you see coming in web design?

I think people are getting our content in different ways, they’re finding it in different ways and they’re using different devices and, for good or evil, web-capable TVs are the next thing. So I think we have to keep on thinking about mobile-first and content-first, I think we have to keep on figuring out what to do with tiny devices that have high-res screens and may have fast bandwidth but may have slow bandwidth. I think there’s a lot of stuff to figure out. How do we keep using standards? How do we develop new standards? I think given the wide range of devices and use-cases, one of my favorite imponderable questions is “I have a screen that wants high-res Retina images, but I’m on 3G”.

How do we keep using standards? How do we develop new standards? I think HTML5 is key.

What do you send me? And how do you know if I’m on 3G? 50% of the time people are using their mobile in their home or office, where they have fast bandwidth. I don’t know, I have no way of knowing what your bandwidth is so what do I send you? Whatever I send you I’m going to make somebody unhappy. Is there some other way to go about it? Can we just carefully choose our images, like, “I’m going to use watercolors where even if it’s medium resolution, it still looks cool”. Can we blur the background so that there’s less bandwidth even if it’s high-def? There’s lots of stuff to think about, there’s lots of new challenges. I think responding to all those new challenges now, when we’re moving kind of faster than reason, that’s a big challenge now.

And then taking better advantage of mobile. Taking better advantage of geo-location and built-in cameras and all that stuff, whether native or Web App. Taking better advantage of those things.

I think HTML5 is key, because it’s so semantic and has new content semantics like “article” and “section”. I think it’s made for the way we’re publishing now and I think we’re going to see big changes in how CMSs are designed to accommodate mobile and orbital content and I think we’re going to see an end of pages, in a way. We’re going to stop focusing so much on pages and start focusing on content chunks, and how we structure them and how we design them for different use-cases, different devices.

Which technologies are you focusing on right now?

Our front-end developers are using Less and Sass now, not just CSS. Less and Sass are CSS preprocessors that can speed up development, so our front-end people are using those. We’re studying the problem of Retina images and what to do about that. We’re looking into and working in native. But mainly we’re using good, structural HTML5.

Who’s leading the way into the future?


Luke Wroblewski is pretty brilliant on mobile. We have him speaking a lot at An Event Apart, he’s one of our favorite speakers, he’s really funny. This is a guy who when I first saw him was talking about web forms, the most boring subject you could possibly pick, and making it fascinating. I saw him at South by South-West five years ago. South by South-West is a festival. There aren’t many presentations by individual speakers but he was making one. It can be very crowded. It’s a really wonderful festival but it’s not necessarily the best environment to hear an individual speaker speak on a technical topic. But Luke had the whole room enthralled and I thought, “This guy can talk about anything, he’s amazing”. I think he’s really smart. He was a lead designer at Yahoo for 10 years, so he’s had a lot of experience. I think he’s leading the way.

My very humble friend Ethan Marcotte with responsive design, who worked at Happy Cog until recently, absolutely brilliant guy. Jeremy Keith from Brighton and his partners at Clearleft, Richard Rutter, Andy Budd, I think they’re really brilliant. Jeremy Keith is a really great thinker. Eric Meyer, my partner. I think Kristina Halvorson has been amazing with content strategy and it changing the whole industry. I think she’s done for content what I tried to do for web standards.

I think Karen McGrane, who’s talking about adaptive content now, just a really brilliant person. When she was very young she was basically the first information architect, at Razorfish. She trained so many people, she trained Liz Danzico who now runs the School of Visual Arts MFA in Interaction Design program in New York. She trained the people who trained the people who trained the people. Some people get 20 years into the business and they’re sort of burned out, but she’s still really young because she started young. Karen is really vital and she’s leading a whole new way of thinking about content management systems and content distribution. These are some of the people that I think are pointing the way. I’m leaving a lot out and I feel bad, I hope none of them are reading this. We try to publish at A Book Apart the people who we think really have something very important to say.

Well, thanks so much.

A pleasure!

BY Awwwards Team

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This Brain Part Decides What Goes Viral on Social Media



By Chris Taylor

Ever heard of the Temporo-Parietal Junction? No, it’s not a train station, nor is it a 60’s-style rock group. The TPJ, as it’s also known, is the area of the brain that gets activated when we’re thinking about how to share something and who to share it with.If you want to make something go viral on Facebook or Twitter, in other words, the TPJ is where you want to hit — because it lights up like a Christmas tree before we even know we’re going to share something. The more activated it is, the more persuasive the share. And it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what we think is cool ourselves.

SEE ALSO: This is How Your Brain Works [VIDEO]

That’s according to a study just published in the journal Psychological Science, where UCLA scientists put students in MRI machines and set them a test that involved deciding what to share with each other. This being L.A., the test had to do with entertainment: some of the students played production interns, the others producers, and they had to decide which TV pilot shows they were going to pitch or bank on.If the TPJ was particularly active when someone saw an idea for a pilot, it successfully predicted not only whether they would pitch a given show, but how persuasive they were when making that pitch later on. The psychologists behind the study called this “the salesperson effect.””We’re constantly being exposed to information on Facebook and Twitter,” said Matthew Lieberman, the study’s senior author, explaining its rationale in a UCLA release.”Some of it we pass on, and a lot of it we don’t. Is there something that happens in the moment we first see it — maybe before we even realize we might pass it on?”The answer was yes, and not in the way the scientists expected. The scientists expected the regions associated with memory would light up; the TPJ effect was a surprise.”Nobody had looked before at which brain regions are associated with the successful spread of ideas,” added Emily Falk, who conducted the research as a UCLA doctoral student in Lieberman’s lab. “

You might expect people to be most enthusiastic and opinionated about ideas that they themselves are excited about, but this research suggests that’s not the whole story.

You might expect people to be most enthusiastic and opinionated about ideas that they themselves are excited about, but this research suggests that’s not the whole story.”Thinking about what appeals to others may be even more important.”It’s one of those conclusions that makes a lot of intuitive sense: you know that feeling you get when you see something on Facebook that you have to share with a specific friend? That moment when you get an image of how they’re going to react when they see that news story or this kitten? That, apparently, is your TPJ working overtime.The TPJ is located around the center on both sides of the brain, just behind your ears. We know its job is to connect us to the thoughts and beliefs of others; the kind of empathy you get from watching a movie or reading a novel. Damage to the TPJ has been known to result in out-of-body experiences: literally stepping outside of yourself.Three years ago, an MIT team showed that stimulating the TPJ affected moral reasoning: subjects were less likely to care about the inherent morality of a situation (in this case, whether a man should let his girlfriend walk across a rickety bridge) and more about outcomes (did she get across safely?).So the next time you share a great tweet or a cute picture on Facebook and get exactly the “squee!” you were looking for, remember which brain part to thank.

Image via iStockphoto, Henrik5000


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Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die | Smashing Magazine

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

By   September 19th, 2013

When I started developing websites back in the day, I was lucky to have hundreds of valuable, practical articles that would help me become better at what I did. I could learn day and night, and whenever I discovered a new tool or technique, I would bookmark it on Delicious for future reference. I knew the value of each article and of each bookmark, and I kept revisiting and carefully tagging them for months and months  — almost every day.

Years have passed. The landscape has changed. Blogs have emerged and new publications have appeared. Some magazines were discontinued yet remained fully available online (Pingmag and good ol’ Digital-Web, for example). At that point, maintaining a backup of online articles obviously didn’t even cross my mind. For a year or so, I even stopped bookmarking articles since I could always find them via Google, of course. I was naive and stupid.

As the time was progressing, every now and again I kept revisiting my bookmarks just to realize that all this fantastic, valuable content was slowly fading away from me, leaving nothing but a breath of disappointment and sadness every time I wanted to quickly look something up and had to consult the fantastic Web.archive.org first to drag the living parts of the article from the incomplete cached version.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

Yesterday over 9,500 articles published throughout the years on .net magazine disappeared over night. Sadly, only the top 500 articles were moved to a new home while others just vanished from the Web within a couple of seconds. And so, another portion of my bookmarks died silently and abruptly.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

Over 9,500 .net mag articles disappeared over night; users are  redirected to the “Welcome”-post on Creative Bloq.

I loved how detailed and practical articles published on .net magazine used to be. I loved Dan Oliver’s and Oliver Lindberg’s fantastic editorial work on hundreds of articles I’ve bookmarked over the years — many of them now gone due to the simple fact that they didn’t get enough attention over the years. Those articles were good, very good in fact; valuable, helpful, worth reading and rereading, worth tweeting and sharing, worth keeping as PDFs in a special local folder.

The remainders of those articles still exist out there, in Google Cache or Web Archive cache. They are accessible and can be found if you know what you are looking for and know where to look for them. But what if you don’t? A couple of months from now, they will disappear from the Google index for good. The content that was thoroughly edited and skillfully prepared over years will not be there anymore. If I started developing websites today, I wouldn’t be able to find them anymore. That’s bad — very, very bad.

We know it because we’ve been there: Good content is time-consuming. It’s expensive, requires patience and damn hard work. Good content is very difficult to produce and hard to maintain, and it’s way too valuable to die like this. One thought keeps crossing my mind and that is: “This should not be happening.”

.net magazine has been working on fixing bugs in regard to their server move, and while they’ve been very responsive on Twitter, it looks like those articles aren’t going to be published again soon:


Unfortunately, Smashing Magazine has experienced this, too. We recently had to move thousands of articles to a new install and know how expensive and time consuming this challenge can be. I sincerely applaud .net magazine‘s developers for moving 500 articles to the new site, but why was removing the articles from the Web necessary in the first place? Why not provide an online backup with advertising and everything necessary to keep these articles online?

Today I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to me if I had started off in the Web design industry a couple of years later and those fantastic articles spread across CSS blogs and online magazines just didn’t exist any longer.

Today is the day when I start keeping PDF backups of valuable online articles because at the end of the day, the Web does forget. And way too often what it forgets is the quality content that is so difficult to create in the first place.

I hope from the very bottom of my heart that .net magazine articles will be brought back to life and will be available online; perhaps with pop-ups, numerous ads and blinking GIFs. That content is just too valuable to die. It should stay online.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die | Smashing Magazine.