Two good things happened this morning, the wind has dropped below 10mph here in Fife and at last Google+ has opened it’s doors to everyone.
Archive for September, 2011
Is it your right to be anonymous online? Google+ doesn’t think so.
Anonymity online is a sensitive subject. In my view anonymity allows people to take actions without any sense of consequences or responsibility, generally never a good thing.
Online you never know who you are really dealing with unless you know the person offline. Google+ has started to roll out a verification program for their users and I for one am glad. LinkedIn is hugely successful and a great model for knowing who you are talking to.
I understand that sometimes remaining anonymous can be life or death. Where regimes control countries where democracy is just a dream being verified could be a death sentence.
There is no right answer. Anarchy or verification is perhaps over dramatic, but as people we gravitate towards “people like us” so perhaps having different social channels for people who think in the same way isn’t a bad thing. Remember forums and newsgroups?
Social Media is in its infancy; 5 years ago it barely existed. Perhaps we are seeing Social Media mature. Nothing can be all things to all people and as we grow as human beings different beliefs and needs will take us down different paths. If you need to be anonymous don’t use Google+, there are lots of other choices.
It might be that Google decide to allow non verified Google+ users (as is the case at the moment) but the fact that the user is not verified (doesn’t have a verification icon) gives others the choice as to whether they allow them into their circles.
It’s VERY early days for Google+ and they are many years behind Facebook so let’s see how they develop this service.
To find out more about Google+ verification watch this short video by Wen-Ai Yu of the Google+ team.
One of the biggest hurdles that my customers or anyone creating new site content face, is getting the job done. It’s a daunting task with areas like readability, SEO friendliness, attractive layout, interesting and informative content, all being very important.
Here’s my simple step by step advice for anyone struggling in this area.
Keep it short
You know you never read all a web page if any of it. You want what you want as quickly as possible so…
- Get to the point, fast.
- Don’t use a sentence when a few words will do.
- Keep you words simple and easy to read unless you’re in a niche area that requires greater depth.
- Avoid long sentences and paragraphs.
- Use numbers not words e.g. 5000 not five thousand, it’s easier to skim.
- Consider using a readability tool to check your page. Try the readability Test Tool here.
- Make sure there are NO spelling mistakes, it’s unforgivable.
Split up your page logically
- Use headings (h1, h2, h3, h4) to split up your paragraphs, it helps SEO and skim reading, a win win.
- Try and think in blocks on the page as you are writing and use heading to define blocks.
- Keep headings simple.
Help your readers scan the page, they are going to anyway
- When people scan a page they read the headings, bold text, numbers, and a few words at the beginning of a line. Make all these count.
- Put the important stuff at the top.
- Use text formatting to highlight points that are important.
- Remember not everyone has great eyesight so don’t fix the size of your text, use a % value so it can be zoomed more easily.
- Use white space, specifically around images and text blocks like “quotes”. It makes the page feel more open and easier to read.
- You are an expert in the subject matter, remember most of the users aren’t, so keep it high level.
- If you want to get into more detail create a separate page for more educated users. Also great for SEO!
Linking your content
You might have other pages that drill down on a subject in more detail so you’ll want to link to these from your page text.
- Don’t use “click here” as your link text. Use the text itself and make sure your site design makes it clear this is a link, by using colour or underlining. Some designers hate this but from a usability point of view an underline means a link.
- Use the “title” field for the link reference so when it’s hovered over a “tooltip” appears with your chosen information. Also good for SEO.
- Where possible avoid opening a link in a new window. They can always use the back button and your site navigation should be good enough to allow them to find their way back.
- Unless the image is relevant to the content don’t use it. It’s been proven that we just ignore stock images and they are taking up valuable space.
- An image does tell a thousand words to make it relevant.
- Use actual images of your company and products if you can. If your staff are happy to be featured (always ask first) then it’s a great way to personalise the site and make a better connection with the user. We all like to see who we are talking to.
- Use diagrams to depict your point if possible. You’ve probably got a few in PowerPoint presentations kicking around already. If your stuck try using Microsoft Smart Shapes in Office, they make even the most boring data look much more interesting.
- Always put an ALT tag on the image so if images are turned off in the users browser they can see what it is. For example a chart of sales growth in a niche market should be labelled as exactly that. If they are then interested they can download images.
Keywords and phrases
This isn’t really a content point but needs to be mentioned.
- research your keywords and phrases BEFORE creating your content.
- Try to keep the number of keywords to 5.
- Make sure they are in your page content and especially your page title and headings. Give them a mention in the first and last 25 words.
- If you can get them in your URL as well as the page content then all the better.
- Don’t force them in, human readability is more important than search engines.
There’s a lot of common sense involved in writing content and if you think about how you read web pages you could do a lot worse than designing it for yourself to read. Don’t forget to design from the outside in, looking at your pages as a user would, not how you would with all your insider knowledge.
It’s not hard once you’ve got stuck in, like many things the idea is harder than actually doing it so what are you waiting for, go and create some compelling content!
It really pains me to see others making basic mistakes when dealing with people online. Our reputation is everything!
I met someone last week who said “I don’t really care what people think of me”. REALLY! You may get away with this attitude if you have a very rare talent or pots of cash, but you probably won’t have too many friends.
Have you ever received an email and looked at the way the wording is phrased then thought immediately “I don’t want to do business with this person”?
Have you gone onto a web site and thought the site was so poor you wouldn’t bother making the call and gone somewhere else
The bottom line is that you can tell an enormous amount about a person (or a company, but it’s basically still a person) from the simple things like how they address others, how much care they take with their online properties, how they respond to your inquiry, how they deal with complaints and compliments, basically any interaction.
How’s your online reputation? Check out “Me on the web” in your Google dashboard, it’s free and you might find something interesting…
Before the internet, and in particular the social revolution that was “Web 2.0” post 2005, one error of judgement was easily forgotten. Now that one person can have a serious impact on your business by telling millions about their experience.
So why should you care?
At this very moment your clients are interacting with you. They are reading your emails, looking at your web site, thumbing a brochure (yes it matters offline and online), following your blog, etc. so you have an opportunity to leave a good or a bad impression.
On the internet almost everything you do stays online forever. If you’re doing good work this is terrific news, if not its very bad news indeed.
Think about every integration you have and how you would want to be treated. To quote a cliché “you reap what you sow”, so get sowing but just use the good stuff!
I’d just like to mention two exceptional customer service experiences I’ve recently had:
Thanks you Gavin at Govan Optometrists in St Andrews and Scott at Livelines Tackle in Armadale. Well done to you both, it was a pleasure and I will be back!