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In 2010, mobile websites were a luxury. In 2012, they are a necessity. Here's why:

  • 63% of US smartphone owners make purchases on their smartphones at least monthly [Source]
  • Smartphone owners outnumber standard phone devices [Source]
  • Presently HTML5 "can do 95 percent of what we want” [versus native apps] says Thom Cummings of Soundcloud [Source]
  • Online shopping spiked 16.4% last Christmas day with 7% of purchases made on iPads [Source]
  • iPad and iPhone shoppers account for 90% of all mobile purchases [Source]
  • Gap Inc. cites mobile shopping as a major reason why it has tripled its online conversions in the last year. [Source]
  • eBay mobile sales grew from $600 million in 2009 to $4 billion in 2011 [Source, Source]

Invest in tomorrow.
I read the NYTimes piece "How Companies Learn Your Secrets" and was fasincated by people's reactions to Target’s data mining practices. In our experience, businesses have the best intentions. They want to provide the best experience for their customers, and they don’t want to risk annoying people through irrelevant advertising.

Data mining lets businesses effectively target tailored ads to highly specific audiences. Where people become wary is when they realize that information is being used that they never explicitly told the advertiser. If I give an advertiser information about me, it’s as if I’m opting-in to the advertising and that gives me a sense of control. When I don’t know the source of an advertiser’s information about me, it’s an eerie feeling. Even if they just extrapolated the information based on people like me, so long as it was an accurate assumption, it will appear to me as an invasion of privacy. The difference between "helpful" and "creepy" in advertising is choice.

One way to not be creepy is to be very transparent about your practices. Target’s stone-walling of the NYTimes reporter isn’t transparent. If people understood that targeted marketing is about statistical probabilities, and not someone poking around in their garbage cans at night, then they may feel differently. In this case, transparency is the difference between looking like a statistician and looking like a stalker.
Our own lead developer, Paul Reda, recently had success "going viral." On Thursday, he uploaded a timeline biography of 1900's  Chicago private investigator Cora M. Strayer. By Friday it had received over 4,000 unique visitors.

How and why did Paul's Cora Strayer piece go viral? The initial promotion was simple, Paul tweeted to his 145 followers: "So over the [weekend] I researched the life of a woman who was a PI on the South Side in the early 1900s. She was awesome." And then fizzled out. It retweeted only eight times. One of those people did think it interesting enough to submit it to weblog BoingBoing.

That evening, Boing Boing published the article, calling it "a fascinating, and often tragic, timeline of extraordinary adventures." From there it spread to link aggregation site Reddit, and community blog Metafilter. Combined with sporadic blog referrals, it received an additional 2,000 views over the weekend.

It is interesting to note that the article itself was posted as a static webpage, and featured no social or interactive features at all. It was an incredibly simple execution. Its merit was entirely in its written content, not any gimmick.

Paul's Cora Strayer article went viral because it's an interesting story. It's historical truth with some salacious implications, and it had never been told before. People who read it were intrigued, and wanted to share that feeling with others. That's the core of why anything goes viral. It makes us feel something that we want others to feel too.

The inconvenient truth is that there's no way to predict what will go viral, and no way to make something go viral. In this instance, it took unique and engaging content, and a day's worth of work. There is never going to be easy way to do that.
I used to find Quality Scores on Google AdWords very frustrating. They never seemed to make sense. I got so frustrated that I suspended my Google AdWords campaign. When I did this, my AdWords rep called me up and tried to get me to spend my $10k budget again. I refused unless the rep taught me how to achieve high quality scores. Based on that information, and with some experimenting, I came up with a system that always works.

  1. Make a new ad group. Quality scores are historic, you must do this if you have a low score.

  2. Choose one phrase or exact match keyword.

  3. Use that keyword as the first part of your ad headline.

  4. Create a landing page using your keyword as the title.

  5. Wait three days for your click-through rates to be established before adjusting.


You'll start with a quality score of 7 like this. Over time, if you have a good click-through rate, and a low bounce rate, the quality score will go up.
You already know how to design a beautiful website, but can you design a website that works? You'll be doing yourself and your clients a great favor by adding these books to your team's library:

Make your users fall in love with your site via the precepts packed into this brief, charming book by MailChimp user experience design lead Aarron Walter. From classic psychology to case studies, highbrow concepts to common sense, Designing for Emotion demonstrates accessible strategies and memorable methods to help you make a human connection through design.

Forms make or break the most crucial online interactions: checkout, registration, and any task requiring information entry. In Web Form Design, Luke Wroblewski draws on original research, his considerable experience at Yahoo! and eBay, and the perspectives of many of the field's leading designers to show you everything you need to know about designing effective and engaging web forms.

People won't use your web site if they can't find their way around it. Whether you call it usability, ease-of-use, or just good design, companies staking their fortunes and their futures on their Web sites are starting to recognize that it's a bottom-line issue. In Don't Make Me Think, usability expert Steve Krug distills his years of experience and observation into clear, practical--and often amusing--common sense advice for the people in the trenches (the designers, programmers, writers, editors, and Webmasters), the people who tell them what to do (project managers, business planners, and marketing people), and even the people who sign the checks. Krug's clearly explained, easily absorbed principles will help you sleep better at night knowing that all the hard work going into your site is producing something that people will actually want to use.

If your website content is out of date, off-brand, and out of control, you're missing a huge opportunity to engage, convert, and retain customers online. Redesigning your home page won't help. Investing in a new content management system won't fix it, either. So, where do you start? Without meaningful content, your website isn't worth much to your key audiences. But creating (and caring for) "meaningful" content is far more complicated than we're often willing to acknowledge. Content Strategy for the Web explains how to create and deliver useful, usable content for your online audiences, when and where they need it most. It also shares content best practices so you can get your next website redesign right, on time and on budget.

These are all fast reads meant for busy professionals. Grab one, go to your local cafe, and read one on a Sunday afternoon.
Imagine that you're a car dealer. A man pulls onto your lot driving a '78 Yugo with unpainted fiberglass, replacing the metal that has succumbed to rust. Vinyl racing stripes have been hastily applied in an attempt to modernize the car.

The owner of the car steps out, revealing himself to be a modest businessman.  He says that he is ready to buy a new car.  He  knows exactly what he wants.

He's right, he has a very specific list. The car must be all wheel drive, mid-engine, and black. He wants a Lamborghini Murcielago. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the means or the resources to maintain a supercar.

"That's okay," you say, "We have a Porsche that fits within your budget, and requires far less maintenance, but it's rear engine, not mid engine. Slightly different."

"No, I know I need a Lamborghini, because I've seen one in my neighbor's garage," explains the buyer. "I will buy it right now for the price of the Porsche."

Unable to buy the car his neighbor has, the man leaves the dealership in his forgettable car.

We've seen this scenario play out with our own clients. Often a list of must-have features turns out to be an inventory of competitors' features. The client, believing imitation the key to success, refuses to give up any of their features. This greatly inflates the required budget.

Rather than choose a website that fits their business, they decide to wait until they have the budget for their "everything and the kitchen sink" web project. Of course that day never comes. The competition continues to outpace them, and as more players enter the market, the list of features continues to grow.

Competition research is important, but it isn't a replacement for genuine innovation. No business ever feature-creeped their way to success. Worse yet, you may just be copying the competition's mistakes.

Here's our best advice, regardless of the size of your budget: Just do one thing well. Find out what problem your competition hasn't solved, and provide your solution to your customers.
Plants vs. Zombies: A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home. Use your arsenal of 49 zombie-zapping plants — peashooters, wall-nuts, cherry bombs and more — to mulchify 26 types of zombies before they break down your door.

Tiny Wings: You have always dreamed of flying - but your wings are tiny. Luckily the world is full of beautiful hills. Use the hills as jumps - slide down, flap your wings and fly! At least for a moment - until this annoying gravity brings you back down to earth.

Cut the Rope: Help get the candy to Om Nom, the lovable star of the game, in this highly innovative and addictive puzzle game. Combining outstanding physics, devilishly tricky levels, and bright colorful High Definition visuals, Cut the Rope is one of the most original and fun-filled games on the App Store.

Harbor Master: Relax and let the sounds of the sea transport you far away. You are the Harbor Master in a busy harbor. Direct boats into the docks, watch them unload their cargo, and direct them off the screen. But be careful not to let the boats crash, and watch out for the pirates, monsters, and cyclones!

Where’s My Water?: A challenging physics-based puzzler complete with Retina display graphics, Multi-Touch controls, and a sensational soundtrack. To be successful, you need to be clever and keep an eye out for algae, toxic ooze, triggers, and traps.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261) and the Protect IP Act (S.968) threaten the Internet by forcing internet service providers to censor websites that don't do enough to police their users, essentially giving the government the power to create a U.S.-friendly version of the web. This legislation reads like a record company wish list. It is designed to protect the interests of old media companies, stifling innovation.

Join us and other opponents of these bills such as eBay, EFF, Etsy, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo to help protect your right to free speech online. You must tell your Members of Congress that you OPPOSE H.R. 3621 "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) and S. 968 "Protect IP Act" (PIPA).

Our Chief Software Engineer, Dave, was recently asked by a friend if she should choose Mac or PC for her next computer. He had this to say:

Mac if you have any work to do, PC if you want to game, do 3D animation/CAD, or code in .NET.

Forget buying brand new, I've always bought refurbished without issues, as it saves a few hundred dollars. Though Macs are fairly price-competitive if you match components and hardware specs.

Macs don't let you customize the interface nearly as much as Windows, but if you ever need to go "under the hood," OS X is far more powerful. (see: Terminal) Also, Adobe software is far snappier on my MacBook than my more powerful Windows desktop. (Adobe heavily optimizes for Apple, and vice versa.)

Our office is all Mac for one simple reason: support. If something goes wrong with a machine, and we can't fix it, we scuttle over to the local Apple Store. While most "Geniuses" aren't much better than Geek Squad, it's still the manufacturer's store, so getting a computer or part replaced is significantly easier than trying to go through a third party like Best Buy.
A lion met a tiger
As they drank beside a pool
Said the tiger, “tell me why…
You’re roaring like a fool.”

“That’s not foolish;” said the lion,
with a twinkle in his eyes,
“They call me king of all the beasts
because I advertise!”

A rabbit heard them talking,
and ran home like a streak.
He thought he’d try the lion’s plan,
but his roar was just a squeak.

A fox, who happened on the scene,
had a fine lunch in the woods.

The Moral? When you advertise,
just be sure you’ve got the goods.