Archive for January, 2010
Plenty more. Or a lot less.
It depends on the video. And the website.
If you’re an individual “citizen” blogger, you may be fine with something that has a homemade look. People will often give you a pass. They’ll accept that you’re not a big operation with deep pockets to invest in high-end video.
The quality of your video reflects on your entire company
If you’re a business, people may still give you a pass. Only in a different way. They’ll think, “Gee, how unprofessional. I wonder if the rest of the company is up to snuff.” So they pass you by and head to a competitor’s site.
A slapdash video is a poor reflection of your entire company.
Interview with video pro: Melissa Shusterman, director, D4 Digital
Melissa Shusterman, director of digital video and web communications at D4 Digital, a division of the Philadelphia-based D4 Creative agency, knows how to create professional internet videos that communicate your value proposition in engaging fashion. Formerly a producer who’s worked with MTV, VH1 and FX, she’s also noted as an innovator of episodic web video.
Melissa and I recently had a nice chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Use of video online is getting a lot more popular. How do you see that trend going forward?
Melissa: YouTube is the fastest growing audience online. And its audience is far beyond the under-21 age group… Yet YouTube is filled with crap. There’s a lot of nonsense. You’re seeing a dog sit, or a baby cry, or a person rant. It’s amazing because people watch it. The power of receiving your information through someone’s mouth, or moving pictures, is incredible.
Why is that?
Melissa: Because we are human and we like to feel like we are spoken to directly and that we’re connecting with someone’s body language. Their eyes. Their opinion. It almost feels like a conversation, even in a video that doesn’t have a person looking right at you. Take that guy who talks about wine but screams at you. He’s a prime example. Why would people want to listen to that? Because instead of reading a PDF about the top four wines with a picture of a wine bottle, which is highly impersonal; you suddenly got to connect with a person who is as passionate about wine as you are.
Many businesses don’t see the need for video. They have a website and they think that’s enough. How do you convince them otherwise?
Melissa: Well, one of our clients, a media company… I told them, “I just Googled your company and looked you up on YouTube, and … there was something that came up with someone cursing with your company name associated with it. It looks like you’re not thinking about that world. But other people are posting about you in that world. So do you want your company to be perceived like that? Because maybe you’re not Googling or YouTubing, but millions of other people are.
So they say… “We already have plenty of video. Why don’t we take the video we have now and stick that up on the web?” Well, that’s for broadcast. We need to film things specifically for internet use.
With certain clients you advocate the use webisodes; a series of short episodic videos. How does the impact of that differ from a TV commercial?
Melissa: With a commercial you have the constraints of 15, 30 or 60 seconds. It’s a more traditional medium to convey a very specific message. When you have webisodes, it’s organic. It can be a continual message that can be woven into something that’s entertaining and informative.
When you watch a commercial it’s an assault at you. They’re great and some are highly entertaining, but they’re very quick. Sometimes you don’t even really know what you are seeing.
When you have a personality, or a character, or a storyline, that’s in two-minute increments for 10 days; or a lifetime; you are getting to know the brand better, You are getting the added value of a longer format and the information that can unfold.
Companies often go with a “talking head” approach on their homepage. Do you think that can still be effective?
Melissa: In the past you would have a talking head and it was about two inches wide and one inch tall. The players are much broader today. So now maybe it’s taking up a third of the homepage and it’s taking away some the space you used to have for your messages. So instead of having the CEO speak, that video should encompass your messages.
The CEO could tell the messages. What’s the difference with what you’re referring to?
Melissa: Graphic pictures, voiceover and music can convey a compelling message and it can guide people further into your website. Video messaging is now multi-layered and engaging… I can talk about this for hours but the simple thing is, people Google your company. They land on your page. Do they understand what you do, or do they go to the competition?
It’s one of the components of integrated media that’s going to be essential for being current. People do not read. People watch… If it’s people’s first impression of your company, the message doesn’t have to be long. But there should be entertainment value and it needs to be authentic… Pick a genre that fits your company. Possibly documentary style. Or like a sitcom. Whatever fits your clientele.
Are there any common mistakes that you can identify with corporate videos?
Not being up-to-date. You’ve got to stay current. It’s like wearing a bad pair of jeans. When you’re current it shows you’re investing in the future and you’re moving forward as a company. So it’s not something that you just do once.
Things that are too long. People are busy. Keep it short. Even if it’s got humor, because after someone laughs they’re ready to move on.
It’s always about the consumer or the potential consumer. It’s not necessarily about the company. That’s true of all good marketing.
What if a company says they’ll just repurpose commercials? They’re short. What would you tell them?
Melissa: Don’t repackage what you do for broadcast for the internet. People are savvy. The minute they know it’s a commercial you’ve made a mistake. You’ve turned them off… You have a captive audience. If someone is sitting at their computer it’s different than watching TV where they may be on the phone. Walking around. Feeding the kids. Doing sit-ups. They’re half listening. When someone opens up something and it’s speaking directly to them and you haven’t captured the audience, shame on you.
- Deni Kasrel
What do YOU think of Melissa’s thoughts on what makes for an effective corporate video? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
This is a guest post by Ruben Reyes, President of Lyquix, Inc. a Philadelphia-based IT and web development company. Ruben works hard to help prevent poorly designed websites from ever seeing the light of day and I’m pleased he was kind enough to write this article outlining six important usability tips. Read up and learn from someone who deals with these types of matters on a daily basis.
This is the first thing you should acknowledge and embrace. Usually, designers, marketing managers, and business owners make design decisions based on their own taste and browsing style. The end result is a website that works well for the person that made the decisions but not necessarily for the audience at large.
The answer is testing. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or make it super scientific. Just find people that have absolutely no interest in your project, like your neighbor who doesn’t understand what your company does, or your aunt. If they look at your website and they don’t get it, you’ve got a sign that it is not evident enough. Ask questions about what people think and LISTEN, don’t be defensive or try to explain. Ask them to perform some simple task; like find out who is the Operations Manager, or how long has the company been in business or what is the phone number, and OBSERVE if the process is smooth or cumbersome.
2. Understand How Users Behave
Users don’t like to read. When presented with a crowded page, or a long article, people just scan it quickly looking for that tiny piece of information or the next link.
Users won’t even scan the whole page: as they read through text they are evaluating if a particular sentence or link seems good enough, and take it. What this means is that people don’t make optimal choices, they just pick the first “good enough” option they find along the way. So if there is a better option a few lines after one that is just “good enough,” they are not going to get to the better option (at least not on the first try).
Users don’t understand how things work or are intended to be used. They just stick to whatever works for them. When I said that they don’t like to read, that includes instructions. You might be surprised how people use your website in ways you never intended it. Have you seen people that type the address of a website in the Google or Yahoo search box? Or that double-click on links? Or that make 10 clicks to get to a page that they can reach in one click?
3. Make Things Obvious
Have you been to a website looking for the company office address and find a link that says “Global Presence”? It makes you wonder if that is the page you are looking for. When something is obvious you don’t have to think to understand it and decide if that is what you want or not. The more people have to think to understand your website, the higher the energy, frustration and time required for them. The principle is simple: if something is difficult to use people will avoid using it.
For this reason you should avoid using fancy terms to denote simple things. Avoid acronyms, especially the ones created by your company. Avoid technical terms that people outside of your profession will not understand. Make buttons look like buttons, and links look like links.
4. Visually Prioritize and Organize
In some cases you need to have pages with lots of information and options. Usually that’s the case for the Home page since it is the entry point of your website. Here is where a GOOD graphic designer can help. Use graphic elements to ensure that there are clear priorities: what is the most important, what is navigation, what is secondary information. Font size, colors, images and movement are tools that can be used to draw the attention of the user to an area of the page. But be aware: you don’t want to get too creative – after so many years people have grown accustomed to expect certain things to be placed in specific locations or look in certain ways. If you put your menu on the right and start underlining text just to be original you will confuse visitors.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Words
If users only scan, don’t want to think, don’t make optimal choices and have very little tolerance to anything that seems difficult or time consuming, then why would you present them with long and useless copy? Avoid unnecessary words in each sentence, avoid unnecessary sentences in each paragraph. Eliminate all the flashy and self-congratulatory language and get straight to the point.
Websites can be an ocean of pages and information. Unlike in the physical world, we cannot associate things that are located right or left, or 1 mile down the road. However, it is still possible to organize your website in a way that makes sense to the user and enables them to draw a mental map of connections that they can use to navigate easily.
For every single page, make sure that users can easily understand where they are standing. Show the title of the page, highlight in what section you are located, make links to parent pages or the sequence of pages you followed to get there (breadcrumbs), and of course, have links to related pages.
If you want to learn more about usability, here are some great resources:
Designing Web Usability, by Jakob Nielsen
AlertBox, www.useit.com/alertbox/, a newsletter on web usability by Jakob Nielsen
So what do you think of Ruben’s top 6 usability tips? Do you have tips of your own to share? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
I use WordPress — guess what my favorite is?
Seeing as there are currently in excess of 18 million WordPress bloggers, I’m in good company.
This bountiful user base makes for a nice target audience, so it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of websites devoted to all things WordPress. Some focus on a particular aspect, such as coding, while others are more broad-based.
Here are my favorites — and seeing as I’m a non-geek, most are geared to non-techies:
Might as well start at the source, right? Just Another... is the place for news from WordPress.com and the WordPress Community. You get info straight from the people responsible for this powerful platform, as well as from folks who make apps, and other interested parties.
Lorelle VanFossen calls herself a “blog evangelist” — here she spreads the good word on WordPress. She’s got the inside skinny, and in fact helped write and develop WordPress.org Codex. Aside from being a primo source for WordPress tips and techniques Lorelle offers general blogging advice, and she has her ear to the ground — if there’s a WP alert, Lorelle is on the case.
Looking for a free theme? Be sure to take a gander at this site, which has in excess of 100 selections to choose from. Should you prefer a one-of-a kind deal, the site offers a fee-based custom theme service. There’s also easy to digest step-by-step how-to articles.
We Love WP’s tagline is: “Showcasing WordPress powered sites.” That says it all. The site presents homepages with links to blogs built on the WordPress platform. A super source for design ideas and inspiration.
If you’re new to the game wpbeginner is a goldmine of information on everything you need to know to get up and running with WordPress. Once you’ve figure that out, dig into articles about plugins and peruse a stash of educational posts.
WPCandy contains a deep cache of information on the latest themes and plugins as well as plenty of useful tips and tutorials. The gents behind it have also launched two related sites: WPCoder for developers, and WPInspiration (which like We Love WP, showcases blogs from around the internet).
A design development blog by Alex Denning, who has created a number of WordPress themes. The content runs from beginner to advanced levels while the writing style is friendly and down-to-earth.
A bevy of of how-to advice, presentations, interviews, tutorials and support videos from WordPress.org.
- Deni Kasrel
Do you have a favorite blog devoted to WordPress? What’s missing? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )