I want to be A Chief Awesome Officer…

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference with some fantastic speakers. It was a really great exchange of ideas and views, and in the spectacular setting of the Hand Picked Buxted Hotel to boot.

The thorny issue of skills shortages in the UK, especially digital skills was one hot topic of the day. It was commented upon that students are being taught skills that are already out of date by the time they leave education and the roles they had in mind that informed their study subjects were already redundant.

From my own experience tutoring Digital Apprentices some of the requirements of the assessment framework were a bit old fashioned, however we still were able to contextualize the concepts with real work place examples. Mostly.

So should we be worried that the next generation are coming out of our great educational institutions with already outmoded digital skills?

I am not so sure.

Job functions have always changed, and shifted according to need. My nine year old can’t quite get his head round that there were Milkmen that would deliver actual real live bottles of milk to your front door before you woke up. And not bought from the supermarket in bulk and stuffed in the freezer.

What about the human alarm clocks in the northern mining towns. They would rap on windows at the crack of dawn to make sure the men got to the mines on time. Again they didn’t fully disappear until the mining towns were disaffected by smashing of the trade unions. That’s not that long ago.

The pace and velocity of change now means that job roles, especially in digital, are shifting month by month not decade by decade. Consumer expectation and changes in consumer behaviours is driving much of that.

However digital is still a nascent part of business, vital, but nascent , and as such roles and responsibilities will flux and pivot accordingly. We mustn’t shy away from saying we’re not sure what this role looks like yet, however this is what the function needs to deliver for us as a business.

For me, and from our experience running our own business it’s not about current digital trends that we want to see from our employees. It’s more about adaptability. The love of learning new things, and jumping in feet first, and figuring it out with a commitment to get results. Rather than the ‘right’ skillset for the here and now.

Roles in digital will continue to shift and reshape and it’s absolutely right that they do.

Kevin Green from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation noted yesterday that in the last year the role of Chief Awesome Officer has appeared on LinkedIn. There are now more than 400 people with that job title.

I have no idea what the job does, but I want it!

Posted in Millennial, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Channel 4, Marketing & Me…

I am fuming. The Pringles advert off the telly at the moment was the straw that broke this camel’s back.

When I was a new Mum 9 years ago, I was marketed to like I was in my twenties, wanting to hang out with other new mums boring for Britain on how much sleep we weren’t getting and drinking coffee. I don’t like coffee.

I didn’t go down the NCT route either, or join Mumsnet, you wouldn’t have known it from how I was targeted however.

I am fifty. I don’t have much tummy fat and I am not menopausal. Yet.

I kid you not, the second I turned 50, I was marketed to differently. I now get served adverts for menopausal face creams, how to reduce my ‘ugly belly fat’, and the best one, an invitation to ‘The Bright Minds’ club, (a group for keeping active for the over 50’s – bloody cheek).

So back to the Pringles ad; It is marketing about me in another role, as a wife. Apparently I don’t like football, and not only that I will get in the way of our good men watching it. Cue Heavy sigh.

Interestingly, marketing to me as an ambitious working woman is failing to reach me. A quick search with the phrase ‘marketing to the over 50’s woman’ brought back results like, Turning Silver into Gold, Seniors dating – dating for the over 50’s , Promoting Preventative Services for the over 50’s, and my personal favourite ‘The Wild Elderly’.

Last week I was invited to the Media Summit where David Abraham, Chief Exec’ of Channel 4, impressively spoke about how they are using data to market to different audience clusters, or passion centres in old money. They are basing their marketing and advertising strategy on how, where, what, and when people are viewing before laying over other data. It seems they really are committed to understanding their audience beyond the traditional demographics.

Last year Channel 4 also announced “pioneer group” of brands – Microsoft, Nokia, O2, Bulmers, Unilever, B&Q and McDonald’s – that have signed up to its new commercial data initiative. It allows the advertisers to blend their own databases with Channel 4’s registered user base (which according to Abraham is 22 million strong). I’d love to hear how that is going.

Of course, other broadcasters – such as Sky with AdSmart and ITV with its various VoD ad trials are experimenting in this space too, but none are being as confident in this approach as Channel 4.

Channel 4 are betting that a surge in positive audience perception will increase their brand loyalty and increased advertiser spend.

So, when I eventually do get served smart relevant ads on my smart TV, or wherever I choose to watch the telly, I sincerely hope that the industry is able to understand that not all 20 year olds are created equal, and neither are all 50 year old working wives and mothers.

Now will someone pass the Pringles.

Posted in Channel 4, Digital Observation, Digital Product Innovation, Generation Y, Marketing | Leave a comment

Digital Product Innovation – Product Communication

I was just at a conference at Earls Court, awful venue, but I did buy some boots down the road in Kensington High St so all was not lost.

Whist there, I was listening to an interesting chap talk about what makes a social learning environment successful. So far so interesting, then my heart sank. Not only did the chap presenting refer to his technologists as ‘the dreaded IT guys’ (for the record I think being referred to as IT is worse than being referred to as dreaded. Such a regressive description when technology is front and centre of most businesses I find.) He also said ‘you have to learn to talk in IT’s language as there is no way they will meet you half way and talk in your language’. As I said, my heart sank…

The eagle eyed amongst you will know this is a perennial theme of mine. IE how we all find ways of speaking each others language regardless of who we are or what we do.

It’s not just an issue between technologists and their customers. It’s an issue for all of us. I had a lovely work chat with a visionary big picture communicator yesterday, when in that instance all I wanted was the detail of what my delivery was going to be. I have to say I had to go quite a lot more than half way in changing my communication style to get what I needed to enable us both.

It’s the same when we are communicating and delivering new projects. Firstly we all need to be really clear about the perceived need of a project. I’ve known both small and big projects go belly up because the need was perceived rather than actually wanted.

Once the value of what is being proposed is confirmed, then people should flock to your product in their droves right?

Wrong.

Getting people to engage, use and adopt new behaviours, even if they say they want something is hard. (More on that in the next blog).

So I thought I would put the top 3 tips together to help with rolling out a new bit of technology. This really works, whether it’s a small website for a new business or an enterprise wide solution.

1. Test with the audience you intend to roll out to, rather than your peers. It’s better to test with a wireframe and some wonky fonts to get the customer journey right, rather than a full on design led front end. You’ll be far too committed by that stage both emotionally and financially to make any changes.

2. Make sure your customers know about your efforts. One burst of a communication initiative at launch is not enough. It needs to be a sustained campaign to really continue to deliver results.

The more personalised to your different customer segments the better.

You can even start with just one customer segment. And get them really onboard and engaged before you then turn your attention to your next customer segment.

If you take this approach, make sure you target your influencers first. Not the die hard change resistant folk.

I know it’s not sexy, and I know you will give me a 101 reasons not to do this….BUT use email to communicate some of your messages. If you get a generic email from IT (there I said the IT word too…) you’re going to hit delete right?

Well maybe not. Not if you create a visually slick, branded, valuable piece of content for your audience.

There’s a reason Facebook email the updates everyday to you. Even Twitter, who ensue email preferring 140 characters instead, have started to email us a weekly digest.

They’ve spent millions on research. And it has shown them that emailing works as a communication channel.

It needs to be valuable and useful however. So personalise a much as you can without ramping up the cost.

3. Make the password creation and retrieval process as easy as ABC. And if you haven’t got single sign on (SSO) then do not introduce another password into your customers world unless you need their transactions to be secure.

Really however it’s all about communication, communication communication which is where we started this blog.

If you want more help on this then do drop me a note.

As I am almost over saying, I’m always up for a cuppa to chat about these things. Especially if you’re buying…

Posted in Business Communication, Business Relationship Management, Digital Media for Start-Ups, Digital Observation, Digital Product Innovation, ITIL, Start a New Business, Usage and Adoption of Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Generation Y & Their No Website, Website Look…

Whilst tutoring at Ravensbourne this week, we were looking at essential design principals, and using the language of design to evaluate some very well known brands in their digital guise.

Bulmars.com was voted the best, and worst, offering by them, with a single page comprised of an organic-egg-yolk-yellow coloured background, an image of a glass of cider and two links off to Twitter and Facebook. That’s it. Nothing else.

Brave? Perhaps.

We discussed the pro’s and cons of such a simple site (Let’s forget for a second that there is a full on version of the site sitting on their Irish domain). Then the whole discussion traversed off into really exciting territory…

One of my students piped up with ‘Now the Paralympics are over, I don’t see the point of all the content on Channel 4’s website’. He used Channel 4 as his example, however he meant any telly destination site. The entire tutor group agreed with him, and they are not a group that are easily led. They are very clear about their opinions and energetic in their pursuit of them.

The only content they deemed relevant were Games, News, and Video. Not even the TV Schedule Listings are relevant to them. Male and female, Between 19 to 24 years old, incase you’re wondering. Ah yes, the tricky Millennial Generation Y.

Ever since I can remember there has been passionate debate between TV marketers and content makers around whether of not their digital destinations should be marketing led or standalone authored content. The pendulum has swung back and forth between the two since 1997. She who holds the budget generally wins, until its wrestled back from them again that is.

You can bet your whole year’s salary however that none of the management teams swanning around the telly corridors of power would even dare to think along the lines of a single landing page shooting off to Twitter and Facebook, like Bulmers.com

Just chatting round the table at work, it seems we’ve all had to banish thoughts around why on earth we’re creating certain digital products. Other than being paid for it. I can think back to some real turkeys, and when a doing a ‘Bulmers’ would have been the right thing to do.

That said when content creators generate destination content like this Redbull video , (12m 145, 713 views and counting in less than a month), it creates a perfect storm of both marketing and editorially led content. Aside from telling us all the extreme sports RedBull sponsor, the video isn’t actually for anything other than to entertain us.

Maybe that’s the trick. Downscaling editorial seems to be the fashion across many brands in favour of social media, where the brands don’t really own their audiences. I’m still not convinced about this strategy, one change in an Edge-Rank algorithm and half your audience disintegrate.

Call me old (fashioned), but I would still argue that Content is Queen, however perhaps Context is now King…

 

Posted in Digital Observation, Second Screen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter Been Hacked? A Nasty Rumour About You?

The other day, I had a very impassioned and panicked call from a lovely old mate while I was doing the triple multitasking of getting my son to half term football academy. You know the drill; work calling, packed lunch being sorted, football kit still drying, getting mascara actually on my lashes…

So, I had sent my friend a text earlier informing her Twitter account had been hacked after I had a direct mail (DM) from her with the immortal words ‘Someone’s spreading nasty rumours about you’. I thought no more about it, however she rang me immediately. You see she had recently split from her long-term boyfriend, who is very tech savvy. So she had put 2 & 2 together and made a right old state.

She’s not the only one. A well-known actor mate of mine got one saying ‘How did they get that video of you…’ which of course sent him into a paranoiac catatonic state. Bless.

So here’s what to do if you get one of these DM’s.

  1. Don’t panic. They aren’t from sadistic ex-boyfriends or ex New-of-the-World Journalists; they are simply a hackers calling card.
  2. Don’t open the message, no matter how tempting it is. If you do, it sends the same message out to all your direct followers.
  3. Go in and change your password. Do this regularly anyway. Do it using the official Twitter.com application.
  4. Check what apps are connected to your account (Settings > Apps) and turn off access to any that you are no longer using. They can be a weak link.
  5. Let your friends know. They can then send out an apology (especially if it’s a work account). And change their passwords along with a cleanse of their unused apps.

Bottom line, we are so used to logging in to new accounts and giving our data away for nothing, this kind of thing is bound to happen. This hack is relatively innocuous. However do think twice, and verify the source of any application that is asking you to sign into their app’ using your Twitter or Facebook credentials.

Need any more help on this, drop me an email.

 

 

Posted in Digital Media for Start-Ups, Usage and Adoption of Technology | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Tale of Two Screens

In 1956 a new kind of technology was invented in Latin America. The telly-box. It was a giant bulky black and white box that revolutionised the way families lived, communicated and even ate. Hard to imagine, but TV dinners didn’t even exist before 1956.

Internet Technology has come along and just about changed all of our lives, becoming front and centre of almost everything we do, especially video across a multitude of devices. Not quite usurping the telly-box, but certainly disrupting the commercial models and schedules.

Speaking ahead of Mipcom, Simon Cowell Syco founder told Broadcast that “it won’t be long” before YouTube is a serious alternative to traditional channels.

You can’t argue with that, however the way he is using 2nd screen viewing to shape his formats, is in my opinion, a little misguided.

Cisco predict that by 2015, 85% of all traffic across the network will be video. That’s huge. YouTube reckon that 72 hours of video is currently uploaded onto their platform every single minute. Anyone else think that’s just insane? Imagine what that number will become by 2015.

Everyone it seems is ‘broadcasting themselves’. I did however think that theatre was the last bastion of our culture that remained untouched by the insatiable need to film and share almost everything for re-viewing again and again at a later date.

I was wrong.

Despite the warnings not to film or record at every theatre or gig you go to, people do. And not surreptitiously either. At a performance of ‘Wicked’ recently, huge swathes of the audience were filming it on their smart phones. There is even a very grainy film on YouTube of yours truly at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1991. Even with the excellent offering from Digital Theatre people still want to share their own experiences of an event.   

At our Turkish ‘all inclusive’ holiday extravaganza the animation team did a show for our viewing pleasure every single night. They totally got that their audience (about 85%) would be filming the show, and themselves watching the show, then uploading it to YouTube.

They created a show to be viewed through a lens and repeatedly on YouTube at a later date. They categorically did not create a live theatre event, and were very clear about that at when we talked.

So every night we watched the cast mime to a backing track including all the dialogue. I kid you not. The Turkish cast now ‘spoke and sang’ in Disney-American-English.

Online you can’t tell the show is mimed. So no ropey English with a heavy Turkish accent, no singing out of tune, no missed ques. The lighting looks fabulous, and frankly the (really dreadful) show looks amazing on the many versions posted on YouTube. Essentially because you can’t tell it’s all performed courtesy of a click track. (Go and Google, Sorgun Voyage, Turkey).

The ability to record and upload to the Internet for free means two things: the infinite possibility of enjoyment of the said experience, over and over again, and a potentially infinite audience to enjoy it with you. After all, everything sounds, looks and feels better when it’s delivered as a fully orchestrated memory for you.

There is much research around 2nd screen showing passive viewing is a thing of the past. Google published a really interesting paper on this. Check it out here.

I’m not so sure it’s all about being interactive with brands however. I think we are missing a trick. Our devices, other than the telly box, are very, very personal to us. They are our very own private screens for viewing, sharing, and curating versions of ourselves.

We describe and articulate ourselves now through sharing our personal experiences socially. In my day it was looking through someone’s LP collection.

My colleague Maria Lia Malandrino (When she pronounces her name grown men swoon) thinks the point is that ‘shows, entertainment, and experiences in general are not created to be enjoyed on the spot anymore, but are already projected in the future, looking to the future enjoyment we will get from watching them on youtube, or the self esteem boost we get from sharing the video on Facebook, twitter and tumblr’.

Google is right, there is no doubt that we have become a nation of multi-screeners, using our devices sequentially or simultaneously. And that traditional media isn’t generally consumed in the same way anymore, whether it’s video, prose or live events.

If content is King, then context is definitely Queen, and I can’t help thinking that the way we perceive entertainment, is actually in relation to we how we want others to perceive us and not the other way round, Simon Cowell.

Posted in Digital Observation, Second Screen | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Enterprise Architecture – A Thought…

I think I may have mentioned a few times that currently my 7 year old’s only purpose in life is to watch and play football. Surprisingly, for all who know me, I have found myself at Wembley, the Emirates and the hallowed ground that is Old Trafford in recent months. Clearly not interested in football at all, I have found myself musing on the whole business of crowd control. Yes, I know. But a gal needs to keep herself entertained for 90 minutes.

Wembley has 90 thousand seats, making it the largest capacity stadium in Europe. That’s 90 thousand people getting in and out all at the very same time. And it happens within the blink of an eye. It’s totally incredible.

It occurred to me that the crowds are actually controlled not by the handsome mounted police standing sentinel outside for my viewing pleasure, but by the actual architecture of the building.

I now know, courtesy of Google, that Architects really do use architecture to map and control the behavioural outcomes required by them and their customers.

It’s seems obvious, now I know. I guess I just haven’t thought about it before. From the ancient architects of the Coliseum in 72 AD, to the building of stadiums and even holiday hotels, all have used architecture to control how we behave.

At Wembley even the stairs are an intricate affair. They sort of reverse back on themselves so there are multiple layers of stairs shifting people in and out simultaneously. They also serve as a deterrent to hooliganism. As they go in opposite directions with one set of doors opening in and one set opening out. The architectural solution not only gets people in and out efficiently, it creates nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Impressive.

I could go on and on about how architecture shapes the way we behave and are controlled by it, especially as I have just got back from an all-inclusive hotel in Turkey that shifted in excess of 3 thousand people daily from restaurant to sun-bed to restaurant to bed. Without ever managing to look crowded. Bonkers but brilliant.

However I ought to get to the point.

My point is this. A lot of IT energy is taken up by their customers angst in refusing to use standard solutions, and replicable architectures because they claim their processes and the way they use solutions is unique to them.

That may be true, as there are exceptions to the rule. However it’s mostly not. So what generally happens is a legacy of multiple IT applications with overlapping purposes and capabilities. Then, to add insult to injury, that results in further misery of too many interfaces with too much redundant data, that’s been backed up daily anyway, and is therefore rendered useless because nobody knows which version is clean and which is not. So the whole vicious circle starts again as soon as there is a new business requirement.

The aforementioned hotel in Turkey we just stayed in was architected and built more than 30 years ago, and times have changed relentlessly since then. Their customer requirements are way different now. For example; there wasn’t the requirement for always-on network connectivity, or online booking facilities and even energy management / conservation has become a new customer requirement. All have impact on the architecture.

Or does it? The architecture hasn’t changed. It’s just been tweaked to accommodate new customer requirements, because the core of what they do, IE: eat, sunbathe, eat, sleep, is still the same. The architecture is dumbed down to aid the flow of people around those simple but core activities.

If we create technology architectures that really do understand the behaviour and needs of  their customers at the most fundamental level, then could we truly control their behaviour (like at Wembley)?  Might then our customers not cause our networks to fail and architecture to fall over? And more, actually buy-in to common policies & principles, services, solutions and the thorny issue of standardisation? So consensus is reached at the point of construct. So much so, that the customer responds almost peristaltically positively and needn’t rage against what they can’t do, because they don’t notice the need for it.

Further, without telling you how to suck eggs, a valid IT architecture will consolidate and centralise business resources (as well as technology resources) improving efficiencies creating a centrally managed, focused  groups based on need and skill sets. Thereby a robust architecture creates more business value and vice versa.

Seems easy right? Get the architecture right based on your complete understanding of your customers and you’ll be able to control and mould customer behaviours to give each other back the most value.

So here comes my question. Can we ever fully understand our customers and their comings and goings, even in simple terms, in a business that has dispersed teams and locations and constant changing business requirements?

I know, it’s a really difficult one. I’m really starting to think that we can’t ever get to a unilateral standardisation technology model.

Maybe we can. What do you think?

 

Posted in Business Relationship Management, IT Architecture & Standardisation, ITIL | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Agile Working

On Friday, as we gathered in the school playground to pick up our kids on the last day of term, there was a giant cloud hovering over the playground. For once I mean a metaphorical cloud, the sun was actually doing A* shining up in the sky that day.

The mood was bleak and sodden because parents were about to embark upon the dreaded summer break. For the working parents the triple-multi-tasking of job and childcare begins. Meanwhile for the stay-at-homers the relentlessness of entertaining their offspring for 6 weeks was about to seriously challenge their sanity.

For the last two Summers I have been an in-betweener, in so much as I broke with my long tradition of full time work to go freelance and part-time for a few years. So for us, the start of the Summer holidays is totally thrilling. Choc-Ices for breakfast, the french windows flung open revealing football on tap, me on a video conference chatting away, and all of us having a whale of a time.

The only thing missing is the Pimms.

That’s because while the boys play football and climb the dizzy heights of the wendy house roof to sit and talk tactics, I am actually working. Technology has made it possible for me to work anywhere. I have even worked on a contract while on board a friends yacht in the South of France (Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds) and my client didn’t know the difference. As long as I delivered, why should it matter where I work.

Therein lies the rub however. It seems that for most of us there is a culture of distrust prevailing in our workplaces, where working from home can only mean one thing. Shirking from home.

Even, London mayor, Boris Johnson capitulated on the whole WFH thing during the Olympics, calling it a ‘skivers paradise’ and that most people who worked from home would ‘sit and gorge on cheese from the fridge’. (I actually think that last quote says more about Boris then it does about what he calls ‘general malingerers’…).

Technology can allow us the possibility never to actually work in the same office as our peers. I have one colleague who works from home the entire time. The offices are in Old Street, London. His home is in Israel.

O2 introduced a trial flexi working day at its offices in Slough in preparation for the Olympics. On that day just 10% of staff showed up for work and then only because WFH wasn’t practical for their particular output. O2 surveyed staff to find out what they experienced on the day. Some 88% thought that they were as least as productive as normal and 36% felt they were more productive.

BT have also done some work in this space. Their report stated that an £87m saving was made in 2009 / 10 via home-working and conferencing, with a 20% increase in productivity. They also reduced absenteeism by 63%, saved £550 million on estate costs, and most tellingly achieved 96% of their new mums returning back to work. That’s twice the national average.

In my last corporate role, I managed a global team. There was no way I could lead or manage through presenteeism. Not unless I could do some serious teleporting to follow the sun every day. The working culture had to be based on trust, along with people understanding the impact to others if they didn’t deliver. It mostly worked too, with some learnings along the way. Interestingly, as a by-product our organisational structure (organically rather than by design) became flatter and less hierarchical. (I am also a passionate advocate of Collaborative Leadership, so this was a welcome addition).

It’s no surprise that it’s tech’ based companies that have lead the way in this space. If they can’t make it work then no one can. That said, and it’s born out in BT’s report, it’s a culture shift alongside technology alignment that really drives the benefits of mobile working forward.

So what are the elements we need to consider to drive greater adoption of mobile technologies:

1. People. Always start with your workforce, and those towards the frontline. As it is they that are often disconnected from the overarching strategic vision. Can productivity be measured positively by working away from the workplace? Understand their demographic, their psychographic (essentially their appetite and capacity for change). Work with them to identify opportunities for change. It is them that will help you drive the changes through, so make sure it’s devised for them, by them and truly enables what they do.

2. Strong Leaders. Leaders need to be visible and open about the degrees of flexibility they already enjoy and more vocal about a worker’s contribution to the value they bring to the business rather than the hours they work. Fundamentally focus needs to be outcome based and the leaders need to help their managers to understand the difference.

 3. The Team Rather than The Individual. Shifting the focus from individuals who ‘get flexible hours’ (usually working mothers) to what the team need to achieve and how they are to achieve it. This is quite a seismic shift culturally for most organisations, as it moves the focus towards a collective responsibility for more positive outcomes. Think of it like a virtual game of football all coming together for the common goal (pun intended) regardless of where they are playing.

4. Technology. It seems obvious to say it, however, the technology really needs utilisation capacity to support concurrent workers accessing the network. If internal systems cannot be accessed without giant delays, or home bandwidth is limited, then the ideal isn’t going to work. And that means partnering with the technologists to make sure that all scenarios are covered. I worked with an organisation recently where HR and senior management had worked with facilities on a flexible working initiative. Essentially to decrease real estate costs and work towards their sustainability agenda and CSR, only for them to be scuppered because they only had remote access capability in place for less that 5% of the workforce. (Read senior management).

So while some live and breathe agile or mobile working and the technology is definitely there to support it, there is still a long way to go culturally before it’s a sustainable and common working practice.

While Writing This Blog:
Cups of tea made = 3
Loads of Washing Completed  = 2
Goals Scored = 8
Work Calls = 6
Cheese Gorged on from the Fridge = 0
Posted in Agile Working, Business Relationship Management, ITIL, Usage and Adoption of Technology, Video Conferencing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Digital Media For Small to Medium Enterprises

It was really gratifying to read this week in Broadcast Magazine, Andy Taylor’s declaration that finally we might start to make money at this digital media malarky. And that investment into it, has finally reached the good old ‘tipping point’ Malcolm Gladwell wrote about all those years ago. We might all finally start getting a return on it, rather than it being a secret sunk cost. And that means SME’s too.

It seems like we’ve all being doing it for years now, and that just like more mature businesses, the cyclical nature of it has emerged. More on that in a later blog.

It has, in fact, only been 15 years since BBC Online launched. When I joined to head up the launch of the Drama and Entertainment ‘categories’ in early 1998 there was a smattering of small sites pre and post the December 1997 launch. Interestingly mainly in radio. However that was probably more to do Sheila Sang. Our esteemed editorial leader then.

Imagine a world without BBC Online…hard isn’t it? And yet it’s only 15 years.

I had no clue what I was doing then (probably still don’t – there, I said it before anyone else did), however we did launch a huge range of digital content. Some more groundbreaking than others – like E4.com. Some more commercially successful than others – not E4.com then! (That was 10 years ago, sigh!).

Although we can’t visualise life without the internet, it is still a nascent unchartered medium for a lot of folk who are using it to create commercial and / or marketing opportunities for themselves and their businesses. 

The subject is especially close to my heart, as I am tutoring a bunch of students all things digital at Ravensbourne CollegeThey are starting from scratch as creators of digital products (mainly websites) rather than consumers of it.  

They are just discovering the giant world of difference between consumption and creation of digital products.

They are not alone. There are a plethora of business websites out there commissioned by people who don’t have the expertise to differentiate between what is good or what isn’t. Or what will drive their business and what won’t. For them it’s an often opaque art, impenetrable, and full of language that is completely meaningless to them. And why would it be anything else.

 My lovely friends, who own a small yet very successful business have just come a cropper with their new site. It’s a shocker. Aside from it being barely functional, it has dummy text on the LIVE site for over a month now, and no one knows how to change it.

And don’t get me started on SEO. One of my neighbours, also an SME’er, was paying £200 a month for site analytics he could get free from Google.

I guess it’s a bit like getting quotes for replacing your boiler, in the end you are so blind-sided by the gaping chasm between the plumbers knowledge of boilers and yours that you go on personality and reviews in the end. And that, sadly, doesn’t mean you are going to get a good job. 

So back to my students at Ravensbourne, who are just starting their journey and will one day be pitching for our business; They have created a check list of what is really important to know before you contract.

Apologies that this is very top level. If you want to add to it, please do and feed back your additions. If you want to share it with your friends who are commissioning a website, then feel free to share.

So our top 5 recommendations are…

1. REALLY know what it is you want your website achieve for you. It can have multiple purposes, however you must be clear about the hierarchy of what you want / need it to do. For example if it is to sell your products, make sure your customers are not more than a click away from purchasing at all times. And never have that function below the fold. If it’s just a branding exercise (like my site) make sure the brand is visible, sharp, and tells you what it is.

2. I know it’s totally unsexy, and you really want to just see the beautiful designs. However a wire-frame of how the site hangs together is really important. The wireframes entire purpose is to accomplish your business objective. It does this by ensuring your customer is clearly signposted to where you want them to go. And just a teeny other thing to remember on this; Because of Google (and other search engines) people no longer start at your homepage and take a linear journey through your site. Another good reason to play with a wireframe before you start design.

3. Please, Please if you take no notice of the rest of these tips, take notice of this one. The rule of thirds is a guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as paintings or photographs. It’s a basic design principal which guides the points of interest on a page from where the eye is draw subconsciously.

Graphic courtesy of Pinterest.

So 41% of people look at the top left quadrant first, before they look anywhere else on your page. It’s obvious when you think about it because we read from left to right in the West.  So top left, or across the entire top centre, should be where all your important stuff should be.

Name any movie poster, the star of the vehicle has their name top left. Always. It’s always top left or right across the top, left to right. I challenge you to find a movie that has different billing. Please send it here.

Of course, always one to break a rule myself, there are reasons why you might want to deviate from the rule of thirds. For example BBC iPlayer is redesigning their homepage, because their top left ‘recommendations’ are being ignored by their audience. They want to recommend their own playlist, and not have those of an anonymous BBC iPlayer editor!

4. Don’t forget people will want to look at your site on their phones, tablets, and different web browsers to you. So make sure your site renders as you want it across a range of the most used platforms. There are quite a few fantastic device simulators freely available on the net which will mock up what your customer sees. Insist your designer does this. And don’t be fobbed off if they tell you it’s really hard to code. It isn’t. Hell, even Dreamweaver has the functionality to enable this. You can also do it yourself really easily by just dropping in your web address on this site. http://spoon.net

 5. Don’t be blinded by expensive Search Engine Optimisation strategies, and the need to embrace social media. Consider these elements really very carefully, especially social media. Once you are out there in the digital space, there’s no going back. Of course you want people to find you, however you want them to find you for the right reasons. If you don’t, you could have negative sentiment and brand perception whizzing around the world. Yes the World.

Most Marketeers will tell you a strong brand perception begins Online these days.  And you’ve got just 8 seconds to give your customers what they want when they land on your site. If they don’t get it, they’re either gone for good, or your brand’s golden halo is forever tarnished. 

I’m going to be running a series of workshops and Webinars on this for SME and Entrepreneurs after the Summer so if you’re interested please do get in contact.

Posted in Business Relationship Management, Digital Media for Start-Ups, Entrepreneurs | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Vintage Technology


Last week my guest blogged at Igetakickoutofyou, The favour has been returned by ‘kicks’ supremo Carolyn. Check it out below.

What to write on a Technology blog when your field is Vintage Fashion & Interiors? One at the cutting edge of modernity driving us through to the future, the other reminiscing about times gone by and reveling in all things “old”. Poles apart surely?

Perhaps not. Where would us vintage aficionados be without technology? And, how is technology being led by our desire to recreate the past?

This question came to the forefront of my mind when I was researching images from the Dolce & Gabbana Autumn Winter collection 1996, for a post I was doing entitled “Italians Do It Better”. I had an original copy of Vogue which had one image of the collection, but I needed to see more.

Did I think it would be a problem? Not at all, I immediately thought to call on my usual tools of reference - Vogue.co.uk or Style.com, they’ll have some great close up images.

Only there weren’t, they haven’t been uploaded yet by fashion enthusiasts.

Fashion shows on websites such as Vogue start from Autumn Winter 2001. The 90′s had gone to the elephant graveyard of show reportage because, of course, the internet was in it’s infancy and many images are still waiting to be uploaded.

Which begs the question, would we do without this tool of reference. How could I do my blog without Google imagesPinterest? I couldn’t.

How could amazing blogs likes the Retronaut function, which chronicles all sorts of info from the past – from Blade Runner polaroids from the 80s to the Ziegfield Follies girls of the 1920s?

Ziegfield Follies, The Retronaut

Blade Runner polaroids, Retronaut

Even cutting edge fashion blogs like The Sartorialist have a vintage photos category, where readers can post their own family style archives.

Technology, in the form of websites, blogs and picture reference sites are keeping the past alive and making up for the elephant graveyard of images gone by.

vintage photograph, The Sartorialist

So what if we turn the tables – how is our love of all things old influencing technology?

Well for starters we have Instagram, where you can select a different “age” of photograph – from today’s high-resolution, to the slightly glowing 1970′s shots, to the brighter than bright 1960s photos. Or take Photoshop, where your photos can time-travel to the 19th century with a sepia wash. (In fact where would we be without Photoshop full stop?)

We don’t just want access to vintage memorabilia we also want to recreate it for ourselves.

Hell, I can even download a 1912 ladies skirt pattern straight to my computer courtesy of the Vintage Lending Library. Now that’s what I call progress. Totally incredible!

Today there is a desire for all-singing, all-dancing technology incorporating retro style. Look at SMEG fridges, Roberts Radios, the endearing Mini and the Fiat 500, for example. (Do feel free to add to this list). We want the practicalities of the modern world but we still want the nostalgia of the past.

Smeg Fridges

Cath Kidston Roberts Radio

Fiat 500 Cabriolet

Initially thinking about these two topics, which I considered to be at completely different ends of the spectrum, I wondered where and what kind of relationship there would be.  And it seems to be a rather symbiotic one. Technology is not only influenced by vintage but also goes a long way in keeping it alive – and I say three cheers to that!

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