June 12, 2013

Visualize media coverage


At VOXUS, we work with a great number of technology companies that have compelling stories to tell but often have a difficult time conveying the true nature of the problem they solve or the burden they ease. When this happens, a very effective tool in getting their message out is an infographic. An infographic is a visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information clearly and quickly, so says Wikipedia.

Presenting data in an infographic has been utilized for decades. Think about when you read the weather forecast in the newspaper or online. That information is usually presented in an infographic. Why? Because it cuts to the heart of the matter and gives you the information you care most about.

We use infographics for the very same reason. Reporters and editors are bombarded daily with new technologies and don’t always have time for a half-hour briefing explaining why they should pay attention to our clients. With an infographic, journalists get the core information in an easy to read, compelling manner that more immediately gets to the story they will care about. And many times, the infographic is included in the story or will become the story all on its own. This is an excellent way to help reporters and editors convey your message to their readers in a very efficient manner where they don’t have to invest hours of time conducting research and writing.

June 10, 2013

Five steps to a meaningful infographic

Infographics are becoming even more prevalent in today’s fast-paced, short-attention-span marketplace. That’s a good thing, because computers and networks have created more data than even the NSA can analyze. Your marketing program, no matter what you’re selling and no matter to whom, will benefit from an infographic program.

Design can’t rescue content
Infographic (IG) design takes a lot more than a few pastel colors and silhouette icons and trendy fonts. A successful IG design partner will participate in the research, sometimes more than you might expect (or desire) to deliver a valuable “a-ha” insight to the reader. Without strong, valid data content, design is just lipstick.

Do the diligence
Read everything. Make sure the facts support your story and connect all the dots. Existing data from your files, along with research from new sources, will form the basis for well-presented insight into complex data. Like all useful communication, your infographic needs a strong narrative supporting a single and unique intent, a main message. We’ve all seen enough PowerPoint decks to prove this point.

Truth wins out
What if some of the data points diverge from your sales message? What if the topic turns out to be boring or lacking relevant data support? It’s important to find truth in the information before the design process begins. Work with your designer to find the true story, even if it’s in a hidden connection, known as a confounding variable. For example, aggressive personality types prefer the color red. Therefore, their behavior, not the color of paint, is the reason accident rates are affected.

Spotlight on the hero
There’s one piece of data that’s a jaw-dropper for almost every topic. Your hero will grab and focus your reader’s attention as it leads the hierarchy of supporting elements in the story. Organize your outline into a framework for a motivating narrative and the opportunity for your reader to “see to learn,” as graphics guru Edward Tufte puts it.

Spend seven minutes with the masters in The Art of Data Visualization.

May 6, 2013

Is your website issuing a strong call to action?

Generating leads or sales from your website? The first thing you need is an effective Call To Action (CTA).

Formulating a magic bullet CTA can be a challenge, especially when you have so many valuable features.  The sales challenge, as always, is to turn features into benefits. Thanks to conversion expert Joanna Wiebe, here are some tricks to improve your success.

imagesIf you have a truly unique value proposition, say so. If the average viewer doesn’t know who you are, so say your name in the headline. If you can solve a problem, make the promise to solve it. And if there is a pain that you can eliminate or an objection that you can answer, be specific with proof. There’s nothing better than hearing your customers talk about pains, needs and expectations. They know why they buy, often better than you.

  • Be specific…aim your message at those most likely to buy now
  • Be succinct
  • Focus on the ONE thing prospects want
  • Confirm the expectation of your visitor

Joanna offers five cookbook formulas to cover almost all marketing situations.

1. All gain—When your prospects have a clear pain that you can relieve

Get The(fresh but relevant adjective) Power Of(what your product does) Without(pain)” 

The Astonishing Power of Eye Tracking Technology…Without the High Costs

2. Promise-based SEO—A highly desirable outcome with an SEO boost

(Adjective) & (Adjective) (what you are/SEO keyword phrase) That Will (desirable promise of results)

Clean & Modern iPhone App Design Templates That Will Set You Apart In The App Store

3. Explicit promise— When you customers will believe a promise from you

We Promise: (highly desirable results)

We Promise Just One Thing: Get More Clients from Social Media

4. Comparison — When your customers are using or considering a competitor

(Known competitor) (does this undesirable thing), And (your brand name) (does this highly desirable or impressive thing)

Google Analytics Tells You What Happened, KISSMetrics Tells You Who Did It

5. The value prop — Something that’s both unique and highly desirable

The Only (SEO keyword phrase) Made Exclusively To (highly desirable outcome or benefit) 

The Only Web Copywriting Guides Made Exclusively To Improve Your Sales

Incidentally, like most direct-marketing copywriters, she recommends bold centered headline, capitalizing each word, avoiding periods, and breaking up long headlines with ellipses or em-dashes.

Once you have written a test set of headlines, it’s time to test.

There are a variety of tools out there for conducting and monitoring A/B tests. One of the best tools is Google’s free Content Experiments, a part of  Google Analytics in the Content section.

  • Test Early and Test Often. You should run tests as early as possible when considering a new promotional technique or when launching a new product. You want your site optimized as soon as possible, so you aren’t losing sales. And then keep testing.
  • Test Only A Few Elements. Limit the variables or you won’t know what worked. Start with headlines — they do the most work and create the strongest effects.
  • Run Tests on New Visitors Only. Don’t use your existing customers as guinea pigs for changes to your website. Their preconceptions can skew your results and cause inaccuracies.
  • Listen to the Results. Resist the temptation to listen to your instincts if the empirical data is telling you different. You’re running controlled tests for reason. If in doubt, re-test.
  • Allow the Test to Run for Sufficient Time. Stopping the test early just means there’s more room for error. The same can be said for letting it run too long. Try for a time period of a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on your site traffic (you want a minimum of a few hundred test results before drawing any conclusions, and preferably a few thousand).

Listen to your customers, formulate a short, sweet and resonant set of calls to action and test, test, test.

February 25, 2013

The miracle of responsive web design

With the popularity of mobile devices growing faster and faster, it’s no wonder that getting your website to look right and operate properly on a smartphone or tablet is urgent business. Most retail and B2B sites see about 30 percent mobile traffic, and that number’s growing.

Tablet sales exceed 100 million a year, mobile devices will soon outnumber humans. How can you make sure your website is serving this critical change?

Responsive web design uses media queries to figure out what device the user’s using. The layout and content are sized to fit the screen, from basic phone to high-res Retina iPad. It takes more than scaling to make the transition effective. Column layouts need to change, usually from three to two to one, depending on resolution and display size. Media queries can even detect device type and change the site’s behavior adaptively—like swiping between items or changing button actions.

Sound expensive? You’re in luck. Commercial template builders offer state of the art responsive products built on CMS foundations like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and other formats. Licensing a generic template is cheap, usually under $100, and can streamline adding mobile capabilities to your site.

Another path is to purpose-build a site dedicated to a mobile form factor. A media query invisibly shifts delivery from your main desktop-display site to your mobile site. Most web developers can accomplish this rebuild, or you can work with a specialist firm like Womp. They offer a dynamically linked mini version that plays well in the mobile space, at a great price.

If you don’t have mobile optimization in your roadmap, better get planning. New and old customers alike share an impatience with sites that don’t work properly. When your clients and customers are away from the traditional desktop or laptop, they’re using a small screen. So get responsive and carry your message through even the smallest window of opportunity.

January 9, 2013

Trends in logo design

Thinking about a new logo? Here’s an overview of what’s tired and what’s trending new, courtesy of Bill Gardner at logolounge.com

What’s old:

- Animals including birds, dinosaurs and monsters
- Transparency: flip books, pages, blossoms
- Fruit
- Xs in lines, words, or four quadrants

What’s coming:

- Little twixty interlinks suggesting connectivity
- Angry angles, discordant chords
- Leaves used to build cars, people, other shapes
- Text as texture
- Halos and spotlights
- Monolithic rectangles in perspective

Trends from 2012


Icon clusters, the merger of multiple transparent images to create a message with universal feeling, like a rebus.




Transparent linking to create a stronger union, bright colors add optimism.




Watercolor shading counters a tech feeling with a painterly richness implying humanity.





Potato chip, aka hyperbolic paraboloid, uses shading to create tension, depth and movement, mentally torqueing a two-sided view. Escher would be proud.




Anaglyphs based on old 3-d tech, now used to convey duality of choice, without the special glasses.




Selective focus: Now that blurry images are acceptable and digital technology allows subtlety never before seen, soft edges blur off into infinity, hopefully grabbing a little more attention as the consumer tries to focus.




Woven designs create a sense of strength, unity, order.




Twining connects and separates graphic elements with 3-D feeling in these somewhat whimsical treatments.




Sprouting suits sustainable themes, a fresher look on the leaf. Based in a spiral form, the sprout evokes birth, growth, opening.




Peel continues the trompe l’oeil graphics first seen in 2007 on “violator” stickers in the packaging industry. Now used as a reveal, the trick exposes an inner strength or underlying trait.




Sphere carving incises the design into an orb for a dimensional play of ground against foreground, what’s there against what’s gone.




App icons blur the line between buttons, icons and logos. When the design for an app button is used off-device, is it still a button?




Tesselation: The consultant’s word for pixelated. Multiple geometrics form a Bucky-like pattern, conveying strength in numbers with scientific precision and mathematical accuracy.




Arc twists add to the geometric standbys of circles, triangles and squares. This shape is a rectangle twisted 90 degrees and curved. Transparency and gradation add dimension to imply change.




Cousins are logo variants within a system, sometimes to add meaning, sometimes to add whimsy. Variation in color, texture or pattern allows flexibility for a variety of exposures.

November 5, 2012

Why website redesign? A list of factors

New technology and growing customer expectations put web design at or near the top of the list for marketers. Here are a few ways to tell when it’s time to overhaul your site.

  • Mobile viewing? Responsive design lets your site shine on phones, tablets, notebooks – all the way up to high-def desktop screens.
  • Quick, easy updates? No content management system (CMS)? Fresh content keeps visitors engaged, and the easier it is to update, the likelier it will happen.
  • Lost in the load? Old-style sites are heavy with backgrounds, textures, Flash animations and scripts. If your site takes more than five seconds to load, it’s time to streamline.
  • Delivering the clicks? Google Analytics-type tracking shows visitor behavior, and if they’re not getting past the home page, you have a problem. Structure, design and content (calls to action) can move, or turn off, potential customers.
  • Time for a trade-in? We’re post-Web 2.0, HTML5 and CSS3 are in play. Social media integration has grown beyond a Like button and SEO is more critical than ever. Three to five years is a reasonable upgrade cycle for a website, just to stay current.
  • Broken links? Error messages, missing images and 404 pages kill visitor interest. They’re as bad as a typo on your business card. Potential customers don’t complain, they just go elsewhere.
  • Talking to no one? Ask your sales team what questions potential customers ask over and over. Your site should have the answers. Does all your marketing include your site references, links or support.
  • Old goals? In the last five years, your business plan, product mix and targeting have probably changed. Your website needs to mirror your new sales and marketing goals – moving prospects closer to conversion.

If any of these rings a bell, call your web designer to start the process.  We’re already working on ours and may be able to help you with yours.

December 18, 2009

The future of e-readers

Assuming you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Apple’s rumored tablet device. Now, while this product does not yet exist, there’s certainly been a lot of speculation on its form factor, software, interface, and more. One of the most interesting questions, at least to me, is: what would this rumored tablet do? Why would it exist? Apple doesn’t – ever – develop products without the mass consumer in mind. And since Jobs returned, the expectation is that every product will be a unique experience. So niche consumers or specific vertical business applications are out. A scaled up iPhone is out. A simple e-reader (like the Kindle or Nook) is out. A Macbook without a keyboard is out. A re-baked Newton is out.

So what will this thing do?

Well, two groups have put together compelling design briefs on what a “next generation digital magazine” might be like. And interestingly, one of these, Time Inc., is rumored to be in talks with Apple. My guess? From a user experience standpoint, these are starting to get fairly close to what we’ll soon see. Think of the iTablet, or whatever it’s called, as a combination of an iPhone, with access to a similar (the same?) app store, and a dramatically improved e-reader. For the iPhone-esque portion, this tablet will do everything an iPhone does, except make phone calls, and will provide a significantly larger screen and more computing power, which should open up even more exciting applications, games, and more. For the e-reader, think of something completely new. Something that is not designed to put static content on a page, but rather will present a unique and immersive experience for the reader. And here’s the key: a unique experience that the reader will pay for. Want to read basic web copy for Sports Illustrated? That’s free. Want the physical magazine? Just subscribe. Would you like to get all our premium content, immersive experience and behind the scenes insight? That will cost you $0.99 and is available only through iTunes on Apple’s Tablet. And maybe it will look something like this:

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

-posted by Paul

December 2, 2009

For the font geeks

This video is all sorts of awesome.

-posted by Paul