4 Tips to overcome template mania

How many times have we changed our site template?

Screenshot of the current Nudge Village site template

Nudge Village – December 2012 theme – how long will it last?

I’ve tried Posterous, Blogger, Squarespace, WordPress, Squarespace, WordPress, Squarespace.

It may even get changed before you have a chance to see the template in the screenshot above!

Sigh.

After spending hours and hours and hours this week, I finally have a template that I think I can live with for a while and perhaps even grow with over time.

Want some of my lessons learned?

Tip #1 – Stick to your requirements!

There are so many awesome designs out there. It is easy to get caught up in the different options available. But, just like buying a house or a car, it is important to keep a list of the functionality you know you need next to you while you search. Otherwise it is easy to leave out something that you at first thought was highly important. The mind can’t handle too much information at once. So, don’t make it memorize. (Note: when I bought my condo, it was late at night. I forgot to check to see if it had a deck. It doesn’t. Big miss.)

No need for anything fancy. Just write your requirements down.

Create a checklist.

I even put mine on my desktop sticky note.

photo of a list of requirements

Nudge Village Requirements List on computer sticky notes

Tip #2 – Experiment with content, categories, and tags

Sometimes you can’t see the full capabilities that a template has available because you are testing with no content. If possible, import some content into a test account and start previewing templates. I’ve discarded many a template only to come back and test it with content and happily found out  that the template did have the functionality that I needed.

Note – some of the newer templates available for free are starting to have the “less is more” or “white space” approach to design. That is ok, but be sure you check out widget/gadget options in templates to make sure that they are enabled for those particular templates. It may be too simplified for what you are trying to accomplish.

Tip #3 – WordPress is popular – which one are you using?

WordPress is really popular. Make sure that you know the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. WordPress.com is completely online and allows you to use FREE templates or purchased templates without downloading the site to your own computer. WordPress.org allows you to download a WordPress site to your computer and there are a lot of companies that build templates for this option. However, you’ve gotta know some stuff to attempt this option. Or, you need to get someone to take care of your web presence for you.

I purchased Elegant Themes (awesome site by the way) last year only to find out that it supported the wordpress.org site and I have wordpress.com

Tip #4 – Try a few FREE options before you buy

You may be anxious to have the most awesome site out there, but design can be a bit finicky. Oh, and so can you! Most templates cost substantially over $20. So, why not spend some time leveraging free templates before you break out the pocket book.

It’s easy to switch out free templates as much as you want, but what if you fall out of love with your current purchased template after a month?

Best to use a few free options until you are sure what kind of look and feel and functionality you really need.

Good luck! Let’s see how long our new free template from WordPress lasts!

Mobile – tips every entrepreneur should know

It’s 2012 and smart phones and tablets are taking over the world!

Well, not quite, but according to whichever facts you read (yesterdays are already out of date), there are more devices than people in the United States! Many organizations are already employing a “Mobile First” strategy whenever they deliver content for the web. It’s all about design and user-experience and less about “shiny new objects.”

A few of my devices – Ipod and blackberry are missing!

That’s a big deal.

So, what does this mean for your business?

Should you jump on the bandwagon and create an app? Should you invest in a “mobile-ready” website? Is this really expensive? Do I need to hire a programmer?

All great questions, but feel free to take a deep breath. “Mobile” has been around for years. In fact, one of my expert friends, Judy Brown, has been pursuing mobile learning studies for over 15 years. It’s not new, but the ways we can use the capabilities of the new devices are and continue to progress.

Before you go and spend $100k on a robust app (I know some who have done this in the corporate/government world), take some time to think on a few thoughts and learn more about the following:

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop.

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop. Bank of America – desktop versionThat’s because they’ve (usability experts and interface designers) determined that you are most likely to perform certain banking actions on the phone compared to actions you would have taken on your desktop. They arrive at this from beta tests, usability studies, and customer feedback. Plus, they see the backend and know where you click…every.single.time. So, they want to create the best user experience possible while not creating more work for themselves.

  • Who is your target audience? – Perhaps your target audience doesn’t use devices that much OR maybe they just won’t be using them for the purpose your product or service. Or, maybe they don’t live or work in an area that has great reception for mobile access.
  • Are you already mobile?– Chances are you didn’t know that your very own website is already mobile friendly. In some cases you need to modify the settings in the administrative section, but most are making mobile-read formats a default option. In fact, you’ll notice some websites looking more simple and elegant now to ensure that they easily translate into the many different browers available on devices. Online options that already have templates that serve up your content differently when people access your website from a mobile device:
  • What are downloadable apps vs. web-based apps?
    • Downloadable apps (typically through app stores) are often based upon a particular activity that the user is going to perform (e.g. play a game, draw something, calculate using built in equations, etc.) The programming involved and the amount of interaction the user has with the screen often makes the “app” a pretty big file size. We all know how difficult it is for the web to handle really large movies, games, etc. A downloadable app allows you to download that huge file to your device and play it “offline.” Now, some apps we like to call “blended apps” because you download them, but they still pull pieces and parts live from the web while you are using it. Of course all downloadable apps aren’t Angry Birds in complexity. Some use simple HTML templates (e.g. jquerymobile) that create a look and feel of an app, but they could technically just be offered through a normal web-page…which leads me to web-based apps.
    • Web-based apps (mobile apps)– sometimes the terms get all intertwined, but many of you probably have experience with web-based apps. For example, if you want to pay a bill from your phone, you may go to your bank website and it looks different on your phone than it does on the desktop. Bank of America – desktop versionThat’s because they’ve (usability experts and interface designers) determined that you are most likely to perform certain banking actions on the phone compared to actions you would have taken on your desktop. They arrive at this from beta tests, usability studies, and customer feedback. Plus, they see the backend and know where you click…every.single.time. So, they want to create the best user experience possible while not creating more work for themselves. Bank of America – mobile browser versionOn the backend they put certain tags in the code that pulls content from one page and displays it on another in a mobile-ready format. That way, if they change content on the main site, it will automatically be updated on the mobile-ready pages. Other coders just put pieces of code in their pages to tell them which pieces of content do/don’t show when the page shows on a device and when/if it should show on the desktop. This is becoming fairly normal and many organizations now have a “Mobile First” strategy for presenting content on the web. Here’s an example of a site I’m very familiar with where the programmers “pull” content from the main website to display in this web app so they update content in one spot and it populates to this site. http://www.dau.mil – Check it out on your device? We’ve even set it up for tablets to display the mobile version.
  • How do I know if I need any kind of app for my business?
    • First of all, if you have a website created in the last couple of years it is most likely already mobile-friendly …or the provider is in the process of making it so. After all, they are competing for your business.
    • Secondly, you might not need one if all you are doing is presenting content, sharing typical info through typical online mediums (e.g. video, blog entries, discussion boards, etc.).
    • But, you might need one if you want to provide any of the following:
      • Personal Support Tools – need to track miles run, weight loss, calories consumed?
      • Reference Information – glossary, dictionary, tips and tricks.
      • Process Flow – step-by-step process to help remind people how to perform a task.
  • Is mobile here to stay? Yes. Need I say more? No, but I will. It is here to stay and it continues to be an innovative powerhouse for delivering content.
  • What “counts” as mobile?This is really important. A lot more “counts” as mobile than you might think. Smart phones and tablets have blown it wide open. In Africa most people don’t have a computer, but they have a cell phone. Text messaging has been huge there for years. Asia too. The U.S. has actually been somewhat behind. Text messaging can be a powerful way to deliver messages, spaced learning and drip marketing. Now that we are beyond cell phone into the smart phone and tablet era, there are so many options – email, phone, text messaging, video, web-apps, native apps (from the app stores), regular websites, cameras, recording options, etc. Mind blowing to actually have all of these capabilities at your fingertips!

Stay tuned for more!

Full Disclosure: Part of my day job is leading a Mobile Learning Initiative. So, these are thoughts off the top of my head, but I promise to follow up this post with well thought out info and more examples.

Meetings

If you’ve ever worked in a corporate or government environment, you know full well the impact of meetings on your ability to use time wisely.

Graphic with jokes about holding meetings

Even the Microsoft Outlook calendar defaults to one hour when you set up calendar invites.

There are a ton of resources out there about meetings – agendas, what to dos and what not to dos, etc. Yet, meetings continue to suck the time and inspiration out of people.

Just a few tips if you are planning a meeting this week:

  • Agenda – make one. Search Google for “agenda templates” and you will find plenty of examples.
  • Try 30 minutes – instead of defaulting to an hour, plan for 30 minutes.
  • Read Ahead and Action Ahead– give the attendees the notes, slides, action items, etc. before the meeting and make them deliverables for the meeting. Cancel the meeting if you find out ahead of time that people won’t be prepared.
  • Post action items and notes in a shared space– whether it is Google Docs, a Facebook Group, SocialText or something else – get what was discussed and agreed to out there for all to see. Plus, this assumes that you took the steps during the meeting to assign action and follow-up dates.

More meeting ideas?

Reverse Brainstorming

So, on one of my telework days, I had to take a required security training. While in the learning management system I also found another little tutorial on a different topic – reverse brainstorming.

Interesting concept – start the brainstorm with the problem and start finding ways to make the problem worse. Somehow through that process of thinking through the problem in this way, the opposites (the way to make the problem better) emerge.

Reverse engineering, reverse thinking, reverse approach to problem resolution…

Sometimes little changes in our work approaches can reverse the typical results – in a good way.

Elegance – may be something missing

Book cover of the In Pursuit of Elegance book

I’m just halfway through this book and am so excited about it that I have to post this right now!

This is a must for anyone that wants to convey a message, catch people off guard, make something truly remarkable – all of us, right?

He talks at length (but in an engaging way) about what he conveys in the tagline – “why the best ideas have something missing.” There is something about minimizing, removing, and simplifying that sometimes brings the most amazing results. Unexpected results. He calls this elegance.

As an example, he shares the Laweiplein experiment. Dratchen, a Dutch city, has a junction/busy intersection referred to as Laweiplein. Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic investigator turned engineeer, designed this intersection. Basically, he took away all the signs, stoplights and sidewalks.

What…..

Yep, took them all away. And, in taking them away created what Matthew May (the author) states “great safety in danger.”

The awareness of the drivers went up. The awareness of the walkers went up. The awareness of the bikers went up.

Did anything go down?

Yes. Accidents!

There was something about having less, that forced drivers, walkers, and bikers to be more aware. They couldn’t rely on all the usual suspects (signs, lights and lines on the road). They had to rely on their own mind and judgement. They had to act smart and use their brain!

He shares another example where participants in a study were given a new camera ad in three forms:

  • Picture with no words
  • Picture with a few key pieces of info
  • Picture with lots of detailed information

What did people respond to best? The middle option – the one with just enough information. Many people call this the “goldilocks effect.” Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Do I dare share one more example?

Did you watch the last episode of The Sopranos? I didn’t, but apparently it caught everyone off guard. The screen went blank at the end of the hour and everyone assumed it was a temporary blackout or other issue. It wasn’t. It was just an unexpected ending. At first people were mad, but then they started talking about it, trying to find the meaning and starting online discussions about all the implications.

What does this mean for you – a producer of ideas, products and services?

The psychology of elegance is an interesting thing. You must appeal to people. You must get them to select you over someone else, or in addition to another product. You must stimulate their interest.

So, here are three points made by Soman and Menon (researchers that performed the picture test above):

  1. Arouse curiosity by demonstrating a moderate gap in the observer’s knowledge.
  2. Provide just enough information to make them want to resolve their curiosity.
  3. Give them time to try to resolve their curiosity on their own.

This book goes into all kinds of topics related to elegance, psychology, marketing, engineering, painting, fractals, etc. Like I’m not even done with the book yet and so I’m sure that there are far more topics.

My summary isn’t elegant, but I’m hoping that I’ve accomplished #1 and #2 above and that you’ll go read the rest of the book – or at least go off and read a better review. (-:

Follow-Up

Just finished the book! The four main principles are:

  • Symetry
  • Seduction
  • Subtraction
  • Sustainability

Check out the book to learn the details!

Followers – you need them and we do too

We could write a lot about leading and following. We could write a lot about the importance of joining in the conversation at Nudge Village or how much we value comments from our readers.

And, we will.

But, for now, just wanted to share a popular YouTube video that shows that being a leader isn’t the only thing that is important.

The followers make a HUGE difference in how ideas spread.

Take a few minutes to watch it and you’ll see why we really didn’t need to add any words to this post.

Spontaneous followership.

Just a reminder to take care of “your followers” because they will make all the difference.

Thank you for “following” us at Nudge Village. We need you to move forward!