James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
When it comes to investing, it is often recommended to “ride out the market” to achieve the most rewarding results. History has shown that patient investors are often the most profitable, not to mention the least stressed out.
Now think of SEO as an investment…for your business. But unlike mutual funds and other financial investments, an SEO marketing investment will require a significant amount of work - not just time. (the work can be done by yourself, your staff or an SEO marketing consultant). But before you get started on all that content, you need an SEO marketing strategy.
Your SEO marketing strategy will help you define:
- who you want to attract
- what web site goals you want to achieve
- which keyword phrases you need to work for
- which keyword phrases are easy wins
- how competitive your SEO landscape is
- what tactics you will need to achieve your results
- which baseline web analytics are important
- what kind of maintenance and support you'll need to retain your rankings
After your strategy has been refined, you are ready to work on marketing and refining your web site. Then you'll most likely find out that a few of the keyword phrases you felt were exactly the right fit, are actually driving traffic, but the wrong kind. It's funny how marketing works. Sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for.
The Client: National Association of REALTORS, Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC)
The Goal: Create a user-friendly web site that addresses the needs of multiple user groups.
The Solution: After conducting usability testing, user research, and establishing personas, we identified what type of information the different user groups required, and what features and functionality they were looking for. We designed a clean web site design and navigation that organized information by user group, and tested the navigation to ensure key tasks could be completed with ease. Important information and tasks were called to attention in the form of graphic callouts to engage users and ensure that they found what they were looking for. Cool blues and greens were added to round out their color palette, and subtle textures were incorporated throughout the design to add dimension. A coordinating advertising campaign, brochure, and tradeshow were launched in conjunction with the new site to drive traffic to the site and brand REBAC consistently across all mediums.
Oh, PowerPoint presentations can be so painful. And just for the record, they can be just as painful if not more so for us designers as well. We want to build a brand experience, convey a message, and shout to the audience that we are not boring!
So I heard a presentation about how people learn: kinesthetic learning, auditory learning and visual learning. (I am a kinesthetic and visual learner - go figure). While in the presentation, it dawned on me that powerpoint fails for most of us because it relies so heavily on an auditory learning style, and some ridiculous low percentage of people are auditory learners.
Ok. I admit it. I am stalling today. I have three proposals to write and I am blogging instead. I tell myself that blogging is marketing and it's part of our social media and SEO strategy so it's just as important, but I know in my gut that I should be writing those proposals. I should be grateful that I have proposals to write (and they are really cool ones from facebook application ideas to some web site interfaces utilizing our user-centered methodology) but I am struggling to actually write them. So how does one find inspiration in writing proposals? I already ate my bag of skittles.
How much effort goes into a brand name? Sometimes millions of dollars and hours of user research and analysis. Sometimes it's a random employee who comes up with the idea through a contest (think Accenture - accent on the future). We do a lot of naming for our clients whether it be for a new initiative, a new product, a renaming of a company, an internal program, and there really is no one way to go about it. From a brainstorm to all the legal intellectual property searches, I wonder how many hours really went into some of the most well known names out there?
Many people ask me where Sandstorm came from. I should come up with a highly conceptual meaning, but that's not how it happened. Sandstorm was a nickname of mine from college so I went with it because it was fun yet strong, spontaneous and energetic. Plus my maiden name was very difficult to pronounce, spell and remember. When I started the company in 1998 I had no idea that someday I would have an incredible agency filled with Sandstormers. Still wows me today.
So we're starting to play around with the idea of posting some videos of us around the office on any given work day. We tend to laugh a lot around here, we keep a random quote board, and it seems like there's always this energy unlike any place I've known.
The question I ask myself is if anyone wants to get a look into what our work life is like at Sandstorm? So keep posted as we explore a video diary concept of our lives at Sandstorm as a social medium.
Part of our user-centered web design process includes the development of personas through research and analysis. Personas have a noticeable advantage over traditional demographics because we (you, me, clients, etc) can relate to a person far more naturally than a list of stats and demographics. It's human nature to bucket information into a way that you can remember, that you can relate to, that you can engage with - and a persona literally puts a name with a face on a fictional character that we can all discuss and create an amazing experience around.
So my big question is how far to go with the persona? How much detail is necessary to tell the story and paint the picture?
I would like to personally offer a free user research opportunity here for website hosting companies - for those website hosting companies that question what their customers want, need and feel. For those website hosting companies that are serious about growing their hosting businesses by listening to their customers.
At the end of the day, what we value most, is the most simple of requests - that you please please please keep our websites up and running. What we fear the most, is that you are going to take our websites down for any number of reasons (fixing a bug, fixing a hack, server down for no particular reason, cold fusion crash, windows crash) and not let us know, and not have an answer to when it will be fixed, and quite frankly, move on with your day as if this is and should be expected. Many website hosting companies brag about their up time, but here's the catch. It's not the uptime of our websites, it's the uptime of your servers, which doesn't protect our websites enough. This makes us (your users) not trust your hosting company.
We are officially announcing our prediction for the new marketing buzz word for 2010: "intelligence". Intelligence is going to be the new way of describing a multitude of already existing words including but not limited to: web analytics, overall business experience, experience in a marketplace or segment of the market, market research, data aggregation and reporting, interactive data driven web tools... okay, basically anything that uses data will now be referred to as "intelligence".
Coming to our web site soon. :)
This past weekend was our 3rd annual "Sandstorm Guac-off!" and our guacamole contest results are in.
Congratulations to... ME! (OMG - this is my official first time winning and my staff now thinks I cheated). And here's why. It's all about my super secret ingredient where they think I swayed the judges and the user experience. My super secret ingredient I talked about for weeks, and tested up in Lake Geneva about a month ago with friends and family to perfect my recipe. My super secret ingredient that no one was worried about because last year it was dill and I lost miserably. My super secret ingredient was... tequila. (he he he).
The most fun thing about guacamole is that is really does taste so different depending on what you decide to put in. This year's samples included mayo and sour cream to apples and jalepenos. Zak even brought a dessert guacamole which was my personal favorite (I didn't vote for myself as I don't personally like tequila) - he added raspberries and raspberry jam to be eaten with cinnamon crisps. Yum! And Zachary made guacamole for the first time ever.
So for the next year I get to be the "Guacamole Queen at Sandstorm". A title I am most proud of considering I can't cook very well to start off with. Not sure what my super secret ingredient will be next year. Better watch out Zak.