Thinking for Clarity

Most of our competitors push the theory that the more clicks a person has to take, the greater the chance they will get frustrated and leave. Out of frustration and bad experience, a lot of our customers believe it too.

We see it very differently. It has nothing to do with the number of clicks. It has everything to do with the content that’s available after the next click.

Don’t believe us? Check this out.

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

They’re marketing bullshit not worth the paper they’re printed on.

It doesn’t matter if you win an award or become certified in a product. Awards are for the press and corporate gloating. Anyone who can read a book can become certified by Microsoft, Oracle or any other organization. It’s ridiculous how easy it is.

The only time it means anything is when the person has the experience to back it up. It’s people who make the difference not, marketing bs.

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

Why is it that marketing over the last 100 years has sounded like a drill seargent?

Campaigns. Market Penetration. Target Audiences. What we consider traditional marketing techniques sound as brash as they really are. It’s more like target practice if you ask me. Just fire as fast as you can and hope we hit something. Nevermind the negative side effects or wasted resources, just do it!

Marketing didn’t used to be this way. Before the industrial revolution, it was about people and the conversations they had. True 1:1 situations with people talking to each other about something interesting.

During the revolution, innovations made production and transportation more efficient and cost effective. It brought products to the masses they never could afford, but now could. Companies looked at this success and tried to copy it. Afterall, it’s easier to copy than it is to innovate.

After the turn of the 20th century those effeciencies were applied to making products for war. Following along as they always do, those miliatry terms slipped in.

It’s also when the goodness of markets became an evil verb – marketing.

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

I was in Starbucks in Bloomington this morning and overheard an interesting conversation. A customer asked a barista what the difference between a red eye and a black eye coffee was. Not knowing the answer, they said give me a few minutes and I’ll find out for you.

The customer was reading the paper while a conversation ensued. The barista talked to the shift manager about it who said “Why not throw it up for the coffee guru?”. Coffee guru?!? Who is that? It turns out they have an internal website of experts who’s sole job is to know everything about coffee. They don’t serve it, they don’t make money from it. They just love it.

It’s conversations like this that make them an exceptional value and not overpriced. It’s why they can open 4 stores in a one block radius and be profitable at each store.

In case you’re wondering the answer, it’s a coffee with one shot of espresso (red eye) or two (black eye).

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

While I’m not typically found quoting the leaders of socialist movements, this one struck a chord with me when I read it.

Nothing can have value without being an object of utility. – Karl Marx

Next time you are working on your website, keep this in mind. It might just keep you from making a political decision…

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

Not much to add this last week… busy working on some new .NET/ajax stuff, which I am pretty excited about. But now it’s time to write the contracts. I wish I had some friends in law school who need practice at this stuff…

At the end of the day, I would love if I could just write “I will build what the document says, with reasonable changes allowed, for $zyx amount of money.” Of course, we all know where that gets us….

So, off to finish another dead document. At least this one (somewhat) guarantees us payment. :)

by Greg Benedict · almost 18 years ago

The typical process in creating a website goes something similar to the following:

  1. Determine what information is important and organize it (IA)
  2. Create one or more designs and choose the best
  3. Layout the website in HTML, CSS, etc.
  4. Program any interactive parts to the site
  5. Fill the page templates with content
  6. Rinse and repeat

Notice any thing wrong with this approach? That’s right. The most important information is left until the end.

It is traditional for designers to use fill like Lorem Ipsum or dummy data to show how a design will look when viewed. The problem with this approach is that it’s not realistic. You’re forced to cut down on copy or stretch it to fit, all to satisfy the needs of a designer.

The best approach that we have found is somewhat of a hybrid method allowing for change. While you are going through the IA stage, start working on the content for those pages. You’ll be amazed at how the importance and order of information changes once you start working through what you have to say. The designer can insert that content into designs and let you view it early in the process. It will also influence the designer’s emotional side in how they design your site.

We used this approach on our recent redesign and it absolutely worked out the best for us. We started with core ideas and put them into Writeboard to mull over several times. As we began plugging the content into the designs (all 8 of them), we could see very quickly what was working and what wasn’t.

The site and content changed during the process in a way that was somewhat unexpected. It really started to reflect who we are and I’m rather proud of it. It wasn’t marketing BS thrown on a site for search engine ratings. I learned more about Josh’s motivations during the process than in the three years of working together and more than ten years of friendship. It really was fascinating.

So where am I going with all of this? The world has a lot to say, but getting it out is the toughest part. There’s a great 10 part series on copywriting over on entitled Copywriting 101. It’s a simple read that will get you going in the right direction.

by Greg Benedict · about 18 years ago

We love the products from 37signals. Specifically, Campfire is becoming a great asset for us, and we use a pay version of Basecamp. Finally, we even attended the 37signals conference on ‘Getting Real’ in Chicago a few weeks ago – great stuff.

So, to 37signals – keep up the good work, and hopefully our own internal efforts to bring forth a product will be found equally useful.

by Greg Benedict · about 18 years ago

We generate a lot of documents… which is both good, because it’s something we get paid for, and bad, because a lot of them quickly become dead documents. There is, I am sure, a happy medium, and we do constantly strive to get our clients to only request stuff which they will actively use.

That all being said – documents are generally labeled, e.g. we add the TGFI logo to the top. It does quickly become interesting how strong of opinions our clients have about whether this logo be on the left or right side of the header (we currently choose the right side, for no other reason than to have made a choice).

Just the daily rant…

by Greg Benedict · about 18 years ago

Driving to the office today (the lovely Majestic Plaza), I found myself behind an oversize vehicle. It was a semi carrying a giant tractor with wheels hanging 4 feet off of either side. The driver was doing an excellent job staying all the way to the right, so as to let traffic through in the middle lane… and then it just slowed down to a crawl. Turns out that someone was parked in the side lane to make a cell phone call (or to take one?) The oversize vehicle couldn’t get past without going to the middle lane.

While I do applaud someone taking the initiaitve to ‘be safe’ and pull over for a call – especially if an important one – I just couldn’t help but thinking that they had no clue that what they had done was a) dangerous, and b) causing traffic to come to a halt. So, to anyone reading this, just remember that there is a valid reason the interstate has ‘no parking’ as one of its primary rules.

by Greg Benedict · about 18 years ago