I contributed an entry to the Pingup blog regarding the online booking of appointments (web and mobile). Read the full article here…
OK, I admit it, I wrote this primarily so I could write the caption above. Overall, I’m taking a neutral-to-skeptical view on Bitcoin. However, Tibanne Co.’s launch of Bitcoins.com as an attempt to popularize its adoption, is quite notable. Many publications have already covered this in detail. I’m more interested in what it represents for technology marketing.
Popularizing nascent “invisible” technologies
Educating the broader population, about brand new technologies that catch on after they incubate among ‘early adopters’, is no small feat. For technologists and marketers, there’s a lot to learn from these recent efforts. What’s challenging about platform-type technologies like Bitcoin or Twitter, just to name a few, is their ethereal quality. You can’t put a Bitcoin in your wallet.
I’ve been marketing software for many years, and I’ve always envied companies that create physical products. Apple can simply place a perfectly photographed iDevice on their homepage, and that’s almost all that’s needed to produce a pavlovian response in gadget lovers. Selling software and services requires different tactics, and I think we’ve yet to find a predictable framework for doing so. Mobility and expanding options in “channels” only increases the complexity (and opportunity) of this task.
Teaching to the Trend
Twitter is another recent example of “how to” marketing techniques. They have been embracing their role in a the burgeoning multi-screen entertainment trend, and appear to be making a number of structured efforts to promote the use of its service via old-media channels. I happened to be watching the “The Voice” with my daughter, and couldn’t help but feel I was part of nerd history when Carson Daly came on screen and urged younger viewers to go set their parents up on Twitter for the sole purpose of voting for contestants. This was then followed by fairly detailed instructions on how to user Twitter and hashtags. That takes some creative thinking and impressive media coordination.
As you can see, I’m personally entertained by seeing these new technologies go mainstream. I think we should all be paying very close attention to the techniques that succeed and fail. I look forward to reading detailed case studies, on these types of efforts, in future marketing (#FutureOf) ‘rule books’.
OK, bear with me for a minute on this one. So, if you’ve ever watched “Project Runway”, you will probably recall Heidi Klum’s matra of “(in Fashion) One Day You’re In & the Next Day You’re Out” – this coming from a woman who’s managed to remain a model for 20+ years on a show that’s in it’s 12th season. Ironies aside, she’s basically right.
In design, especially any kind of digital design, the trend of ‘what’s in’ is churning at an ever-increasing clip. In addition to this, there’s a growing emphasis on trends being driven by what I’m inclined to describe as a ‘swinging the pendulum’ principle. It has become vogue to swing wildly in the exact opposite direction of any trend on ascension, as if this, is in and of itself, is an aesthetic vision worthy of utmost respect. For example ‘design above the fold’ turns into ‘There is no fold.’
This article was basically touched off after spotting a new extreme swing, as represented by these two sites: “This is a motherfucking website.” and “Words“. These sites are actually very interesting and useful, because they are stand-outs abuzz on twitter – for the moment. They are created by intelligent folks as sign posts or warnings – don’t blindly worship at the altar of design fad X, and lose sight of principles Y and Z. They are extreme aesthetic reactions to the perceived negative side-effects of well intentioned, but increasingly popular design trends, spawning a wake of crap in their hapless application by folks who may have temporarily lost sight of what’s important.
But that’s about it, because otherwise these two sites kind of stink as holistic examples of engaging ‘design’ (be honest). So please, don’t embrace them as a trend or framework of their own. They look like the draft designs I was previewing in Mosaic for Unix back in 1993. People don’t want the web of 1993, any more than they want a responsive site to take 2+ min to load on their smartphone. It’s our job to deliver something “new” without regressing to antiquated kitsch.
If you are a designer (visual, UX, CX, whatever), it’s never been more important to hold true to foundational values of user-centered design. This challenge isn’t new, but we are facing a rather unique type of perfect storm that involves fickle end-users, highly competitive market segments, and ‘revolutionary’ design frameworks coming on the scene looking for converts.
You can’t just be trendy, you have to nail the entire customer experience. Yup, you are of course expected to “do it all” – perfect responsive site design (app/whatever), with fantastic content, unique look and feel, and it must score perfectly on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. You know, “the usual”.
So, when it comes to design trends that swing wildly & quickly from one extreme to the next, be The Hand. Sit above it all, looking down on the pendulum, gleaning from ‘the now’, that which is interesting and effective, while holding true to timeless user-centered design principles that have become ingrained with experience.
Optimize your pictures for best display within new Twitter image previews
Twitter has updated it’s various feeds (on the web, and in its mobile and desktop apps) to allow for displaying a partial preview of images. While the value of this is being debated by some, this particular article is aimed at folks who wish to take advantage of this new feature by optimizing the initial preview of their inline images.
Twitter inline images display as a landscape-oriented ‘preview’ of your attached picture right in the main feed, regardless of whether or not your full size image is in a landscape or portrait orientation. If you tap or click on an image, it ‘opens’ for viewing at full size. Twitter has confirmed that they are using a simple 2:1 fixed ratio to create uniform sized previews:
Tip: If you want your entire image to be visible in the Tweet preview, use a horizontal image w/ a 2:1 aspect ratio (e.g. 1024 X 512 pixels)
— Twitter Small Biz (@TwitterSmallBiz) November 22, 2013
While they have shared the above details, I’ve yet to track down specifics regarding the vertical positioning of cropped images and if they are simply centered, or if their position is random. Test on various devices, so far, seem to point more to a random Y-axis positioning.
What does this mean for savvy Twitter marketers?
Well, if your followers are going to see these images, you may wish to control what appears within the initial preview area. If your goal is to present a coherent message right in the preview, without requiring a user to ‘open’ it to full view, you can simply produce horizontal artwork at the fixed 2:1 landscape ratio. This will ensure that any text copy, or significant aspects of your image, will appear immediately – and not get cropped out of view in the preview. Don’t assume that people will tap on your image preview to see the entire thing – if you have a written message to communicate, you are best off using a fixed-size picture at this ratio.
To help design an exact size image or layout, I’ve created a PSD template with a smart object at 1024×512 (proof shown above, not at actual size). Make sure you have the Layer Comps window open. Double-click to open the “EDIT ME…” layer, and design your master artwork in this smart object. Then close and save the smart object file to immediately see a preview of how your image will look at various sizes on different devices. When your final image is ready, simply use the “File/Save for Web…” feature and it will create a PNG of your final 1024×512 image.
The goal is to help you craft a design that will display OK in all situations (screen sizes). For example, don’t put too much text in general and watch your font sizes for readability. If you don’t have Photoshop, just make sure to use a 2:1 ratio. Let me know if you have any other suggestions.
We’ve been working away on a number of efforts at Pingup and are now able to start sharing some of our high-level thinking in some recent blog posts. I wrote one that briefly describes our work toward creating a common UX for multiple types of ‘Scheduling’ activities. Here’s a snippet:
In looking at the challenge, we have been exploring how scheduling and transactional flows can be broken down into a series of similar high-level steps. While we realize that there will be nuances to the flows of different types of venues, our aim is to provide a consistent UX within our app for a variety of booking scenarios. Consistency doesn’t have to equal one-size-fits all, but the re-use of common UI patterns provides the benefit of familiarity. When our users open the Pingup app, scheduling a haircut, a dinner reservation or a mixed martial arts class should all have the same easy “feel”.
We are constantly refining our approach to helping users take immediate action, but here’s our current take. There are essentially 5 major steps as illustrated in this early App flow diagram.
- Sharing computer and iOS device screens in conference rooms
- Sharing an app, or test versions of an app, during a screen share session on Skype or JoinMe
- Recording screen activity to demonstrate a feature, or bug