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.
So I struggle with web awards. Are they more for the creative team, the client, or the ego? Or are they a great way to celebrate innovative design work and share creative uses of technology and social media? The answer is most likely yes to all, but for some reason they still kind of sit funny with me. I am proud when we win, and I know our clients are proud too - but I know inside that I feel more pride when our marketing efforts really help grow our clients' businesses. That's my own personal mini award. :)
I'm in Colorado this week, on a 'working vacation'. Living an oxymoron. So who came up with this idea of a working vacation anyway? USATODAY wrote an article on top 5 destinations for a working vacation, yet CNN wrote 5 ways to stop working on your vacation.
So do we or don't we work while on vacation? Is it to stay ahead, or is it to survive? Is this a U.S. Phenomenon? Either way, it's a personal choice, and I often have to remind myself that I make the choice every time I open up my laptop or answer my cell phone. I am choosing to let my work life enter my vacation. And this week I'm good with it. My next vacation I might not answer that cell, nor that email, and I'm comfortable with that as well.
One company may beg to differ. We beg to write.
I'm talking website copy for the clients of our marketing and web design firm. We'll beg, we'll plead, we'll keep our fingers crossed - just for the opportunity to write the content. And here is the number one reason why... so we can hit our deadlines. When we meet with a new client and they ask "What do you see that will hold up our deadline?" I'll respond, start writing your content.
To help with this, we're starting to put together content templates to help mitigate the random copywriting we get when multiple SME's write for the same company. Erin Kissane wrote a great blog entry on content templates that goes into detail on how to use them. Thanks Erin!
I know it feels like no marketing and design firms are hiring right now. And when you go to careerbuilder.com (one of our fav clients we've had for over 6 years now) and do a search for web design, web development, graphic design, marketing and copywriting positions it seems like the opportunities are pretty slim. But here's the reality. Most marketing, interactive and web design firms are boutique, and boutique firms generally don't have HR departments, and they often don't post on the large job boards because they often can't manage the masses of resumes. So what do they do? (we are hiring despite what the media conveys).
I can't speak for all, but I can tell you a little about our marketing agency. We always go to referral sources first. We ask our employees if they have any friends. We utilize our social media connections to see if they have any friends or family that would be a great fit. We go to Craigslist. And we give Creative Circle a call. You know we always mean to post our open positions on our web site, but we often don't get to it. I think mostly because we're always looking for a blended position - someone who has a few primary skills with secondary skills that compliment others on our team, and it's tough to write a job description that is always fluid and in motion... kind of like our company.
The Sandstorm staff just can't stop going on vacations! It's like we're all playing tag around the office - but heck, it's the summer and we all love a vacation. I'm not sure when it started, I think it was Janna going on a long birthday weekend, then Lisa just got back from her week away in Door County, Holly went to a music festival, Alma is hitting the Harry Potter museum and movie (she calls it a Harry Potter Holiday), and I am heading out to Keystone Colorado with the family. Our marketing firm sure knows how to use our PTO days :)
I have written about how we are using social media as a lead generation tool (with modest success), and I've been dying to try out social media as a recruiting tool, so when we finally had the opportunity to grow our staff we gave it a try and... SUCCESS! Thanks to a combination of twitter and facebook, social media was THE tool that uncovered our latest and greatest staff member! But we didn't use social media alone. We used recruiters, craig's list, and other job posting sites for this particular position.
In the past, we've had success with recruiters and craig's list - so like integrated marketing, we will continue to recruit in multiple ways, but I have to say for our web design firm, it's really most fulfilling using social media. For all the job seekers out there, I would recommend following the companies you most want to work for... and post your success stories here!
It feels like we're always behind when updating our web design portfolio on the Sandstorm website. Does anyone have any feelings on how often we should be updating our creative work - monthly, weekly, quarterly, whenever we have time to? It's great that fresh work is always being produced, and I'm proud of the quality of award winning work we do, and want to give ample time showering our clients with pride and love by showcasing them on our web site... but right now our timing is pretty random. We're always working on content in our web site and changing that almost daily (as part of our SEO and keeping the site fresh), but those portfolio pieces tend to lag a bit. Maybe I should assign the portfolio update task to the new guy at our web design firm (he he he).
At our web design company, we often become friends with our clients, and some of our clients are referred to us by our friends. So the whole business client/friend relationship becomes one. Just yesterday I heard our client/my friend say - 'hey at Sandstorm, you buy a web site and get a free BBQ'. (she was coming over to my place for a BBQ after our brainstorm as we haven't seen each other for awhile and I was interested in catching up, and the weather was just so nice we just had to eat outside). So I was thinking, would the call to action "buy a web site, get a free BBQ" create buzz?
So I don't usually write about pop culture, nor about tragedies in the news. But the Michael Jackson brand has just exploded. The PR, the news, the talk shows, the memories, the brand. As I am writing this, there are 404,210 memories from Michael Jackson fans worldwide on the Michael Jackson web site (and growing by the minute!). Web sites are popping up everywhere selling memorabilia. I predict the Michael Jackson brand will only get stronger. And the name 'Michael' will now make it back to the #1 boy's name for 2010 (it was slipping a few years ago after the Michael Jordan days).
We are having way too much fun with our newest web design and development project - traveling Broadway shows like Wicked, Stomp, Annie, etc. brought to smaller cities across America and in Canada. We are creating this amazing, theatrical user experience on the web utilizing almost everyone on staff from usability experience and message development, to information architecture, creative execution, web development and of course - project management.
Stay tuned for our web site launch date for city #1 coming in July. (Our web design company is so excited we can hardly resist showing you the web design comps!)