A Change in Method (Marketing)

Every day, on my walk home, I think about things.  I let my mind wander to see what it will come up with.   I try my best to keep it productive, things that could actually be done, though my mind does wander off into the realm of the impractical from time to time.  Lately I have been thinking about marketing and ways to use social media for a variety of things.

Investor figure 3

Artists moving from traditional forms to digital forms can start to understand what business accountants have to deal with when it comes to intangibles. A painting is tangible, but a digital painting is not. When you put things online you are selling the digital representation of the painting.

As a part of my interest in Washington State’s Commute Trip Reduction requirements, my organization has to put forth a “good faith effort” to get our employees to and from work without driving alone.  I have been working on the marketing for the program for four or five years and I have pretty much run out of ways to do “traditional” marketing methods (flyers, promotions, word of mouth, electric reader boards etc.)  I have been working on using Facebook as a marketing platform to get information out.

I chose Facebook for one reason, I am not putting out content 3 to 6 times a day on a schedule.  Usually I will spend an hour or so in the morning reviewing posts from similar agencies or agencies that will effect CTR participants and repost their relevant posts.  My other goal is to have at minimum one original post.  Some days it is a inspirational or funny quote or a short FYI or blog post I discovered while researching for marketing materials.

I have been tinkering with some ideas about creating some survey’s geared towards helping people figure out if alternative commuting is worth looking at (crazy schedules can be a hindrance.)  I would also like to make a fun survey about what kind of commuter the person might be (grumpy bus rider, road rage driven carpool passenger, vanpool mom, etc.)  I know it can be done, I just need to sit down and come up with the Q&A paths.

One problem I have is getting the word out to our employee’s.  I think that I will be able to resolve that with support from our administration department, they have pull and maybe we can get information in the company newsletter.  I am surprised at the number of employees that have Facebook but refuse to become “friends” with people they work with (understandable) or do not know how to create and use the groups feature.  Maybe we need to hold a educational FB course.

It is difficult to make the transition from “traditional” marketing to online, tech savvy methods.  When I have a copy of the flyer or pamphlet I just have the feeling that I accomplished something and I have a physical object to show for it.  Uploading things directly online removes that feeling,  I do not have a hard copy, everything is intangible.  It is a strange feeling.

Things are easier to find, the internet is indexed very well (thank you search engines and Google.)  I use StumbleUpon on a regular basis and I find things I enjoy and am inspired by on a regular basis.  I still have an empty feeling because there is no tangible thing, sitting on a shelf making me look at it once a week when I dust.

I have been reading and researching on using FB for marketing.  I have not had the opportunity to practice much of what I have read.  Some of the ideas require monetary investments, the program does not have a spending account, other require more time than I am willing or able to invest.  More research is required to find a solution that has no cost and low time requirement.  Thankfully I am not in a rush.

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My Year of 300

I have spent the past few weeks trying to plan out a solid plan to reach my goals for the year.  It has been difficult, work has been busy, I have been avoiding spending extra time on the computer (waaay to much computer time at work,) and life gets in the way.

ImageI think I have a plan now.  I am calling it 300!

The idea is to get 300 hours of work (web dev and coding,) exercise, and art (computer and “fine”) completed by the end of the year.  It may not sound like much, but that is 900 hours total this year, and that is quite a bit.

So far the art has gone smoothly, I have completed 20 hours, half painting and half making icons and logos.  I have not fared so well on the work or exercise front.  I have no real excuses, I am just not motivated right now.  Plus I am kind of avoiding computers unless I HAVE to (I had to do the icons and every hour was a struggle.)

I am now trying to figure out a way to visually track my progress.  I was thinking about a finding a WP progress meter or maybe print out 300 Leonidas heads and color them in for each hour completed (sounds like fun right?!)

Why 300?

Well there is the Spartan Meme aspect to it.  I really did not think about that until after I did some math.  365 days in a year, about 251 workdays (http://www.workingdays.us/workingdays_holidays_2014.htm#)  a good median is 300.  That leaves me with a few rest days and some days where I can do “make-up” hours.

Now I just have to figure out what I want to paint/CG and what I want programing languages I want to study.

Getting it Together

The beginning of this month has been crazy.

I quit my internship.  It was not taking me where I wanted to go.  They also changed direction and I was not going to be able to do what I spent 3 years in university and many thousands of dollars and hours to do.  I started out as a web developer for their WordPress pages but quickly let myself get sidetracked with the graphic design component of the work.  I left because I was offered a SUPER AMAZING pro-bono gig for a non-profit. 

There are some things I need to do to take full advantage of the opportunity.  Get a business license is one of the first things I need to do.  Another is set up a formal meeting with them and find out exactly what they need and figure out how to provide it.  I have many, many ideas that will help them grow and prosper, but what I can do depends on what they want. 

A big part of the project gathering the basic information on Who, What, When, Where and How.

  • Who is going to do the blog, the FB, YouTube and Twitter and when?
  • What constitutes acceptable content? 
  • What cool stuff can we offer the variety of interested parties? 
  • Who are our stakeholders?
  • What do our stakeholders expect?
  • How do we give the stakeholders what they need and expect
  • When do the stakeholders expect the product?
  • Can we get it to them in a timely manner?
  • Where can information and content be found?
  • How do we market ourselves better?

There are so many other questions to ask, but those will get us started.

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Thank you yourownawesome.org for the image. It is AWESOME!

I learned a lot at my internship.  Some of the questions I will ask came from that.  It was a great experience but in the end I was not going to go in the direction I wanted to go. It was time for me to move on and use my skills and talents in another area.

I actually waited a bit to long to make this choice.  By the time I had, I was struggling to complete what little work I was given.  I dreaded going to “work” and events.  Once the direction changed and more staff was “hired” (more interns,) I realized that I did not have to stay around.  It was not in my best interest to stay around.  The dis-satisfaction was causing problems elsewhere and I needed to move on.  It was not an easy choice.  I am very loyal by nature.  There are times when it is better for everyone to just move on.  Sometimes it just takes time to realize it, or, as in my case, another opportunity to knock and be really awesome.

I am going to be working really hard to make my part successful and I am going to blog about the process.  I cannot wait to share my new work with everyone out there.  I will as soon as the ink dries on the plans.  Many of you that follow my blog are going to be interested in the organization and I hope that you will be able to offer me input to make things awesome.   

Maybe, just maybe, we will inspire others to take up the cause.  Or maybe someone who is starting a web based non-profit will succeed and make their dreams a reality based off the information I have shared.

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Giving Up

I really feel like I have given up on being a web designer/developer.  I would much rather spend my time doing graphics than reinforcing what I learned in web development.

I keep thinking that “I should …” work  on something related to web dev for a few hours a week.  I never do.  I play around in Photoshop or read Photoshop tutorials. 

I have so much invested in web development that I am angry with myself for not working harder on it.  Today I was wondering how I even passed some of the classes when I can’t even get a PHP contact sheet to send mail properly.  I just can not seem to get it to work.  Just thinking about this makes me want to go take a bath and go to bed.  I am tired of beating my head against that brick wall.

When do you know that you “wasted” you time and money on something?  I wasted so much time on something that I cannot seem to do.  Super depressing thought…  I want to give up and try something that I am good at.  I do not know why I did not spend that time and money getting a degree in marketing and communications.  That would have been much easier and more up my alley.  Nope.  I had to try something new and hard…

….

What a waste.

About this point in my blog I would normally say something like “there is no wasted experience” or something.  I hate to say that it is true, but I do not feel that way about this.  Even on a practical level I think it was a waste to do this.  After the first class I almost failed (c++) and when I started thinking about changing majors, I really should have.  Heck I am better at database design and programming than I am at web development.  I almost changed two or three times.

Now I am left with something that gives me headaches, and that I cannot do anywhere else but at my desk.  Argh!

Really a waste.

Now I am left to decide if I want to attempt to continue with web development or drop it and focus on graphic design and marketing.  If I stick with it, it is going to be long and hard work.  I am going to have to strap myself to my desk and learn from scratch.  Learn the basics of PHP, Java, JavaScript and even HTML and CSS again.  The way I should have done it the first time, on my own with books and how to vids.

I could just drop it and take some classes at a community college and get a bachelors in marketing and communication.  I have enough experience to be able to test out of a bunch of the basic and mid level classes.  Write it off.  I hate to do that though.

I am genuinely interested in making good multi-platform websites.  The thought just gets me all thoughtful and curious. 

*Sigh*

I do not think I am going to figure this out tonight or even this month.

I do need to decide soon though.

Stick with it or drop it?  I wish I knew.

Finished the Book, Part 2

Happy Friday!  I am so glad that I will have a few moments to think about one thing at a time for a few days.  Every weekday I cannot help but to attempt to process more large tasks than I would like.  Multitasking really just slows down the whole to do list and nothing gets done quite right.

Anyway.  First thing on my single task to-do-list was finish reviewing the book The real business of web design by John Waters.  I left off with the types of designers needed to make a site, Interaction Designers (the front end people,) Functional Designers (the coders or back end people,) and the Business Designers (people with the money.)  Each aspect of a site can be covered by  a team that contains someone from each category or discipline.  Of course the team can be as small as one member, or as large as needed.

Each website should be as different as the company that owns it, the team that created it and the people that interact with it.  This is where a bit of marketing can come in handy. 

Marketing has to had to change with the times.  We do not get our primary dose of product placement from magazines, TV, or news papers anymore.  We get it from banners, social media and super short  ads before our free videos.  We usually ignore the ads that do not interest us, making the ad agencies work harder to catch our attention and target the advertisements.

Funny enough the ads do not really change.  We know that a Big Mac does not look like the pictures in the ad.  We know that we will not attract countless women (or men) by using a specific type of deodorant.  Things really do need to change, and they are, very slowly.

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I really enjoy these “posters.” They are usually clever and show exactly how each of the different view points see something. Marketing is supposed to give us a new way to see things, but usually we just end up shouting at each other.

 

Ads are becoming much more interactive. shoot the duck, hit the boxer, they are animated, and getting more personal and sophisticated all the time.  You can get your ads personalized to you, your gender, location and all sorts of other things. They still rely on the same principles though.  People look at certain things, colors mean certain things, the rule of thirds, and you have to tell the customer what they want and need.

Thankfully companies are starting to learn that we customers know what we want.  They are giving us feedback forms and asking OPEN ENDED questions.  They are even listening to the customers and changing their sites to be more useful.  Again the changes are very slow.  We do not need brochures and flyers telling us about the product, we want to touch, taste, smell and experience the product (even virtually is better than a glossy image on a sheet of paper.)

Small companies are able to use free sites like WordPress to create a nice site with all kinds of interactive features.  Large companies are still paying for static online brochures.  But they are learning that customers want to interact and slowly budgeting for better, deeper sites.  One the people that handle the money realize that web development can improve their revenue they start to plan and budget.

In chapter 20 Mr. Waters goes over some really good points that make a good site. Things that we would think are self-evident.  Make your site interactive. Companies have seen crazy high returns by allowing customers to shop with friends, chat with a sales rep, and even things we take for granted like remembering what colors you like in your paintings, that you like fiction books, or that rap is your preferred music type.

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I am not sure what movie this is from, but we sure do love a good action movie. A website can contain some edge of the seat action points that will have the customers coming back to visit the site.

 

Provide a customer with multiple action points. Logical drop-down menus, hover tips, buy now or view now short cuts, and even contact pages are considered action points.  Lastly Mr. Waters recommends compiling data. This will help you understand your customers better and aid in the success of your business.

While all of this is important I think that the final chapter is where the real changes are going to happen.  Mr. Waters speaks out against the use of “proprietary language,” The use of acronyms and slang.  This leaves people out of the conversation and will hinder their understanding and will slow the growth of any industry that is growing.  If we change the way we speak about things, we will change the way we think about things and be able to improve the way we treat our customers, clients and even each other.  How deep is that!?  He says this in a lot more words and even pulls in some excellent examples. 

What summary did I reach?  This book is awesome.  There are so many key points that we (designers and developers) forget to look for, over look and just don’t think about once we reach a certain level of adeptness.  I had forgotten so many already and I am just starting!

I really hope that other designers, of all types, will check out this book.  My local library had a few copies, I am sure your library will.  If all else fails, Amazon had some copies.

So, What do you do?

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After my higher education, I interpret Web Developing to be more inclined to the back end development of websites. Back end usually includes databases and the code that makes the site work.  The code that processes payments, logs events and keeps track of your email address book.

I just graduated and am already stumped on how to answer this question.  What exactly do Web designers do?  I have looked up the definition a few times and there are quite a few different and often conflicting ideas about what we do.  To fill out my job search and help remove a lot of the back end development stuff I have even started using the term User Experience or User Interface Designer.  A much clearer term for what I enjoy doing.

It still leaves the question what is a Web Designer.  That really depends on what side of the server you are on.  Front end designers focus on the stuff the user sees and interacts with and back end designers focus on things like the databases and code that make the site actually function.  As John Waters puts it in his book The real business of web design (I posted about this amazing book in the previous post,) “…what designers do is the verb – the process, ‘the making,’ that results in the product. (pg113)” This totally makes sense! 

He goes on to say that we all design things all the time.  A lot of it is practical, like how to get to and from work, or what to wear that day, but there are people who take that to new levels and plan how to make furniture, images, and houses. Designers are the “Doers” and we are all “Doers” in certain areas of life.

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This is closer to how I interpret a Web designers job. We act all cool and creative, but in the end we usually use products that already exist and put them together in a way that is visually pleasing and easy to use. The interior designers of the internet! If you ask me we are sorely needed in some of the rooms and houses.

Some people are born seeing the world differently (talent) and some have trained (skill) to understand the world and how it can be changed to be more user friendly to people.  These people are going to have a different way they go about designing things (intuitive vs wrote).  This may be part of the reason why no one really understands what a designer does.  There are so many different methodologies for each specialty, we may never be able to get a set answer.  Mr. Waters does a really good job of simplifying what we designers do.  We do! 

 Even though design is the root of designer, it has a longer definition and explanation. “Design is about intent.  It is the plan, the method, the plot, the often wandering path that will be followed to accomplish something. ‘This is a great design.’ The reference is to the plan, not the product.  Design is all the planning activity that brings the product to life (Waters, J 2003, p114.)”  Design is still doing, but it is more about the path that you take.  Artists all have a “design” or path that they prefer to take when creating a piece (I will speak more to painters, since that is what I know.)  Some painters start with the foreground and move backwards, others start with a specific color and work with that then move to the next color, and still more start on one side and work across the canvas (board or paper.)  The path can change with the art piece and materials being used.  The path might change during the process, but it is still the design, the intent, you have to create the piece that allows you to create something amazing.

That was kind of long.  I will summarize.

Web Designer?  I am the person that makes websites usable by people.

Web developer?  I am the person that makes websites work the way users (and designers) expect.

What is Design? The path people take to accomplish something.

Many Thanks to Mr. Waters and his awesome book The real business of web design.  I am sure I will have a few more posts and revelations to share as I finish off the last third.  (I am totally buying a copy when I have some $$.)