July 2017 - millermedia7
10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital Landscape

10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital Landscape

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Having a professional business presence online isn’t optional anymore for most businesses, even if they rely heavily on referrals. A consistent, strong digital brand that clearly gets your purpose across while also presenting the business in the best way possible will help grow your sales and influence, no matter the industry.

Below are 10 areas to focus on to build up your digital branding landscape and make sure it’s useful and professional.

10 Things Brands Need to do to Own Their Digital LandscapeFix The Easy Stuff

If your brand already has a digital presence, it is easy to overlook what has already been done, thinking that it doesn’t need to monitored. However, changes over the years to logos, phone numbers, addresses, and even team members need to be updated online as soon as they happen. Your first priority should always be the goal of customers getting ahold of your company easily, so set reminders to check all profile information, contact forms, and lead generation sequences. Many times, updates in third-party tools (especially if they are using APIs) can lead to something breaking, and if those little things aren’t checked regularly, no one knows they happened.

Post Regularly

Even if your customers aren’t on social media in a business sense, they are likely using at least Facebook in a personal sense. According to Pew Research Center, 79 percent of all adults in the United States use Facebook. If you think your business won’t cater to social media, think of it as a yellow page listing that people may end up looking for online.

Post at least once a month (ideally, you’d want to post every day) so your last update isn’t something from years ago. For many users, even subconsciously, that is a sign that the business doesn’t care about their online presence. This could be a reflection of how they care about their customers.

In addition, there are targeted ad campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin that allow you to target audiences by age, interests, and location. Think past where your audience is at during business hours and look to where they may be spending their free time online.

Use Consistent Branding

Good branding is more important than ever for a digital presence, because that’s all your customers have to go by. A terrible, outdated logo could reflect negatively on a business, even if it’s not a true indication of quality. Look for graphic designers through networking groups or ask your colleagues or friends for referrals.

Many graphic designers charge $800-$3000 for a branding page with logo, color scheme, and a few other materials (like letterhead and business cards). This may be a significant investment for a business, but it is always well worth it when you find the right designer. Shop around until you find a designer that could work with you on updated branding that reflects your business well.

Go Beyond Blog Posts

Think regular blog posts are enough for your brand? For many industries, content marketing has gotten so competitive that regular 600-800 word blog posts just isn’t enough. Come up with a content strategy that offers a buzz piece, like a free ebook or online course, that you can build additional content around. Getting users to download your buzz piece can help you grow your email list, which in turn can produce more revenue. After all, according to eMarketer, email beats almost every other marketing tactic when it comes to return on investment (ROI).

Think of The Target Audience

Working inside a company may give you an unfair view into what you think customers actually want. Something that your team finds interesting may not be of interest at all to the actual target customer. Create personas that you can build content for, with their needs and interests in mind.

Link to Your Other Content

Many marketers are great about developing content, but when it comes to cross-promoting it with other things they have created, it falls flat. Make sure you are always linking to applicable related blog posts in content and always end your content with a call-to-action when it makes sense. After all, content should be created to turn traffic into revenue, and without enough knowledge or a push to engage, customers will simply leave a page without making any kind of purchase on your website.

Look to Where You Can Expand

Most brands feel safe using Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, but if you find yourself stagnating on these platforms, consider where you could expand. This could mean trying new features of the platforms you already have a good following on, such as Facebook live video or Twitter polls. Or, it could mean checking out new platforms to grow your online community. Many brands still haven’t used Reddit or Snapchat to do campaigns or engage with customers. If your target demographic uses these platforms, consider trying them as well.

Have a Unique Voice

Online users of all ages and demographics are online enough to know when a brand is trying too hard. It can come off as callous, disingenuous, or just out of touch. This can often backfire tremendously. The meme How do you do, fellow kids? is now used by users as a way to call out brands that are trying to seem cool but don’t really belong.

Before engaging with your online community, make sure you know each specific platform’s slang, features, and use and you respect users’ time. Logging on to Reddit and recommending your line of bras for every woman with a bra question isn’t going to win you any new customers. Demonstrate value in a unique voice that acknowledges you are a brand without trying too hard.

Use Media Purposely

Just like with blog posts mentioned above, it used to be enough to use basic stock photography for images in content and calling it good. While this is still better than content with no images, using bad stock photos that are cheesy or don’t make sense for the actual content (e.g. they are vague or misleading), can turn users off.  Try to create custom graphics for content using tools like Pablo by Buffer, Canva, PicMonkey, or Piktochart. Even just adding your logo and content title to images goes a long way (and is better for social media).

Think Digital First

Whenever you are building a new campaign or introducing a new product or service, think of your digital strategy first, because it has the largest potential to spread. Deciding budget for paid campaigns, graphics for the promotion, and messaging can help ensure the new offering has a consistent message. This is important because online is likely where customers of most businesses are going to find out about it.

 

When it comes to a better digital branding landscape, make sure all your company’s presence online is consistent, engaging, informative, and easy-to-navigate. Focus on what you’re best at but try new things to be innovative in your industry, when it makes sense. Being proactive about a better online presence will lead to more engagement and traffic from your target audience.

What You Should Know About Internet of Things

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The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the addition of internet connectivity and other sensors to physical objects. Broadband Internet becomes more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, and more devices are being created with built-in network adapters. This movement creates a “perfect storm” for the IoT. That’s why IoT begins to move from ‘next big thing’ to something more and more of us are living with and it’s going to grow even more in coming years and eventually, most of us will use IoT technologies.

Gartner forecasts 21 billion connected things by 2020. That’s approximately four devices for every human being on the planet.

By 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT. And we, as designers, should be ready for this moment. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the increasingly connected world.

Where Can We Find IoT?

IoT isn’t just one group of devices, the term is used for a big range of connected tools, devices, and services. Technologies are infiltrating the everyday life and things around us are becoming smarter. Common categories of IoT today include:

  • Connected home technology (these are products and services that make home life easier or more pleasant, such as smart thermostats, lighting, and energy monitoring)
  • Nest smart thermostat
    Nest smart thermostat
  • Wearables (such as activity/fitness trackers and smartwatches)
  • Apple watch
    Apple Watch
  • Connected cars
  • Tesla Model S embedded system
    Tesla embedded system
  • Urban systems (such as city rental bikes and parking meters/sensors)
  • Citibike in New York
    Citibike in New York

On a broader scale, the IoT can be used to create “smart cities” which can help us reduce waste and improve efficiency for our environments (e.g. energy use). Take a look at the visual below to see what something like that can look like.
Smart cities

5 Principles To Remember When Designing for IoT

Design is the critical component that bridges IoT technology’s potential with meeting real human needs. And it’s not surprise that IoT is a hot topic for designers today – it opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges. While there are a huge array of things to consider while developing a IoT product, you’ll be more likely to gain traction if you keep following 5 principles in mind:

1. Design IoT Only If It Enhance User Experience

Just because something can be connected to the internet doesn’t mean it should be. IoT design requires a sharp focus on user needs because IOT products succeed only when they solve real problems and make users’ lives easier. Thus, if you want to connect something to the internet, you should have a clear answer on the question “Why do I want to do it?” User research should be a critical early step in any solid IoT UX project. Using insights gained from your research can help you explore the interaction contexts well before your team is burning hours designing or developing.

Making the ‘thing’ an IoT make sense only if it solves a real problem for the user. If connecting a product to the internet doesn’t enhance the experience, then don’t do it.

2. Create Good Onboarding

In the world of IoT getting your users up and running isn’t as simple as in a world of web or mobile apps. In addition to account creation, IoT devices usually require a proper configuration. Without a good onboarding experience, the setup phase might be really hard for the first-time users and there is a great possibility of user frustration or failure. That’s successful IoT product (like Nest) have set a relatively high bar for onboarding.

3. Prevent Glitching

Everyone experience occasional glitches in digital products. One common example is slow loading time on websites. Of course, it’s definitely frustrating when loading takes ages, but we are used to this. By contrast, we won’t expect real-world objects respond to us with glitches. When we turn off the lights in our room, we expect an immediate response. However, when we interact with a physical device over the internet (e.g. smart lighting system), that interaction might have the same latency issues as the website. So there’s the potential for delays in response. This could make the real world start to feel broken. Just imagine if you turned your lights off and they took two minutes to respond or failed to come on at all. As a designer, you should prevent all possible situations that can lead to glitch.

4. Make Sure It Works Locally

When designing for IoT, don’t assume always-on internet connectivity. In real life, IoT devices are often intermittently connected. Thus, it’s good to design for no internet connectivity at first, and see how much functionality can be done locally. Also, UX designers have to ensure that important functions (e.g. home security alarms for IoT Smart home system) continue to work properly when some devices go offline.

5. Design For Security and Data Privacy From the Outset

Security is a big issue. Recent high-profile hacks have raised the spectre of IoT-related security risks. More and more users are examining IoT devices for information about security. These consumers may be increasingly cautious about exposing personal information, especially when it is connected to physical spaces (such a local Wifi network) in their homes. Users might have questions like “Will someone be able to hack into my fridge and thereby get access to my entire network?” It’s your job, as a designer, to alleviate such fears. Always help users understand the security of your service by providing this information upfront.

Conclusion

A new generation of IoT is going to enhance our lives dramatically. We will spend less time on monotonous, boring tasks and will have more time to do what’s really important – like spending more time with our family or friends. I really hope the principles mentioned above help get your IoT effort aimed in the right direction.

What You Should Know About VR

By | user experience, user interface | No Comments

In the last few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion in virtual reality (VR) devices and apps for them. VR is emerging as a new medium with the potential of having as strong an impact as radio or television did in the past century. According to the Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs:
“We expect virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today”

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift is the first high-end virtual reality headset sold on the retail market.

With the increasing popularity of VR, a design is evolving to incorporate its requirements and new capabilities.

Where Can We Use VR

VR is giving birth to an entirely new arena for entertainment, education, collaboration, communication and marketing. The following are some general categories that will merge with VR:

Gaming

All types of entertainment activities can be amplified with the integration of VR. VR makes it possible to put your users into a 100% designed space with predetermined tasks while giving the user total control of moving, exploring and learning within this space.
VR for gaming

Learning

VR can have tremendous implications for education — education can be both more engaging and effective. VR can be used for educational classes, labs and demonstrations. To make education experience truly immersive, designers should consider how users may interact with objects.

VR for learning
Microsoft Hololens for medical education

Training

Using VR, training simulations for professionals like drivers, pilots, doctors and police officers can become more accurate, complex and cost-effective.

VR for training
Image credit: Wareable

Big companies like Toyota see the educational potential of VR. The latest training simulator from Toyota – TeenDrive365 system – is focussed on teaching new drivers about the risks associated with distracted driving.

VR for training
Toyota driving simulator.The driver is in a fully immersive virtual environment – and that includes passengers, traffic, buildings and roadway obstacles.

Prototyping

VR can greatly enhance prototyping and testing phases for engineers, with all types of projects from a handstick design to new car designs.

VR for training
The hologram and the object on the screen are synchronized and this makes spatial application part of the production pipeline, not just an isolated island. Image credit: Solidsmack

Communication

Communicating will drastically change with the help of VR. VR makes it possible to create a brand new experience for video conferencing services, such as Skype.

VR for communication
Remote collaboration using avatars.

Shopping

VR makes it possible to blend the online and offline shopping together. Instead of looking at a 2D image of an object online, shoppers in VR will have the ability to pick up an object and look at it in detail. Alibaba Group, Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, divided into virtual reality later last year.

VR for training
Alibaba’s VR shopping. Buy+ technology allows customers to browse 3D images of products and make real-time payment in a virtual mall as if they were shopping in the real store.

Creating VR Experience

Creating a VR experience is much more complex than traditional 2D experiences, which presents designers with a whole new set of challenges. There are currently 4 core considerations for the design of virtual reality experiences:

1. Make Sure Users Don’t Get Motion Sickness

The most important quality to creating any successful UX design is ensuring that users are comfortable throughout the experience. This is especially true in the context of VR experience. Motion sickness (when physical and visual motion cues give a user adverse information) is one of the most common problems of VR experiences. Humans evolved to be very sensitive to vestibular ocular disparities (disparity between the movement and what we’re seeing). So reducing motion sickness is very important for VR systems. The keys to preventing users from getting motion sick while using VR are

  • Always maintain head tracking. VR software should constantly track the user’s head and eye movements, allowing the images to change with every new perspective.
  • Prevent performance degradation. If the system freezes even for a split second that’s going to trigger a lot of motion sickness.

2. Develop Easy-To-Use Controls And Menus

Same as for traditional UI interfaces navigational menus and other controls should be easily accessible and user-friendly. Unfortunately, there’s no universally accepted way to designing menus for VR interfaces. This is a challenge that designers are still working on. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t transfer existing (2D) practices to 3D. It’s absolutely possible to place the menus on the user’s VR hands. One of such menu interfaces is Hovercast. All menu actions – including navigation between levels – are controlled by simple hand movements and reliable gestures.

VR navigation menu
Hovercast is 2D menu interface for VR environment. Hovercast radiates from the palm of your hand and you can interact with menu items using the index finger of your opposite hand.

3. Ensure Text Is Readable

All text elements should be clear and easily legible, preventing eye strain. The resolution of the VR headset is pretty bad. Because of the display’s resolution, all UI elements in VR will look pixelated. This means that text will be difficult to read. But you can avoid this by using big text blocks.

VR text
Consider the readability for different text section in this VR game. Instructions are almost unreadable. Image credit: Mozilla

4. Use Sound To Create Immersive Experience

As designers, we often don’t think about sound and audio. When we do that we miss an opportunity to communicate more information through a different set of senses. When we have audio sources attached to the objects we create much more realistic environment — if you’re telling a brain that it can see the object and it can hear the object then the object must be real. Try to build a mental image of the environment via sound:

  • Introducing the user to the environment via soundscapes. The audio can be used to give the user the illusion of being in the middle of a particular environment.
  • Guiding the user with sound. By applying positional audio and 3D audio effects to VR, the user will know the direction in which certain sounds originated in relation to where they are.
VR sound
Music and high-quality sound effects are a pivotal feature to encourage experience immersion. Image credit: Google

Conclusion

The possibilities for VR are endless. Soon, all types of companies will be seeking to extend their brand presences into this space. I hope I’ve made the VR space a bit less scary with this article and inspired you to start designing for VR your project.