How Social Media Impacts Your SEO

Nowadays, Social Media platforms have become essential to every marketer’s strategy and are used to effectively get your brand in front of your target audience; but do they directly impact your SEO and search ranking? Correlation is not causation, but there’s no doubt social media impacts search engine optimization.

Search engines like Google do not allow signals from social media sites to directly affect ranking. Yet social media gives marketing professionals many ways to put their businesses front and center on search engine results pages.

Consider these five ways social media impacts SEO:

1. Social sharing drives traffic to websites

Posting links to quality content can garner shares, likes and comments. It also encourages social media users to migrate to official business websites.

Links pointing to your content, even from social, make you lok good to search engines.

Engaging with prospective clients via social media helps you keep your brand top of mind. By driving social traffic back to official websites, you’re able to increase organic search ranking. This lends greater authority to your site in the eyes of search engines.

TIP: Regularly share links to website content on appropriate social media sites. Some platforms, such as LinkedIn, lend themselves to posting long-form content directly.

2. Social media profiles rank in search engines

If you type the name of a business in a search engine, its social media profiles will likely pop up along with its official website.

If a company is able to rank not only its website, but its social profiles as well, it will take up valuable real estate at the top of SERPs. This can help businesses beat out potential competitors in terms of visibility.

TIP: Make sure all pertinent social profiles are active and consistently engaging with audiences. What’s most important is targeting the platforms that resonate most with your prospective customers.

Even if only indirectly, the billions of users on social media impact SEO.

When your social profiles align with your site, you’ll be more visible in SERPs.

3. Capturing external links is easier with social media

External links, and the authority of the websites doing the linking, comprise the most important factor for achieving high rankings in Google, according to Moz.

You can use social media platforms to share and promote your content. This increases the likelihood of other websites referring and linking back to it.

TIP: Craft high-quality content to post on social media. People are more likely to link to content they want to read and share themselves.

4. Social media boosts brand awareness

Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly active users during the second quarter of 2016, and there were 317 million monthly active users on Twitter as of the third quarter. Both these figures, supplied by Statista, illustrate just how important social media has become for generating brand awareness.

It's hard for Google to ignore 1.71 billion Facebook users.

TIP: Consistently engage with social audiences by asking questions, starting discussions and commenting on news and trends.

5. Local SEO relies on social media

Google, Ipsos Media and Purchased reported 80 percent of smartphone users perform mobile searches to find businesses near them. In short, geography plays a major role in user experience, and search engines are paying attention.

Social websites such as Yelp make it simple for businesses to leverage locality. These sites offer an opportunity to show geographic placement and provide an arena for customers to discuss the business. The more people review or engage with your business online, the more likely it is search engines will take notice and incorporate you into local SERPs.

TIP: Ensure the geographic information for your business matches across all platforms and websites. Differences in address, phone number or other information could lead to a lower SERP ranking.

While social media may not have a direct connection to SEO, it certainly influences online marketing success. As the number of social media users continues to rise, it’s likely social signals will become more powerful in terms of ranking. By producing content worth sharing and taking advantage of the platforms available, you can maximize the benefits you receive from social media.

 

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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8 Dos and Don’ts for Creating Effective Infographics

Infographic_Creation

Data is everywhere around us, and yet, it is generally difficult for us to comprehend and remember isolated numbers.

When put into a story, however, data becomes much more relatable. (The human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than words.) For this reason, infographics have become increasingly popular among marketers around the world. But with this surge in usage, it’s important to make sure your infographic does the job it’s supposed to do: drive traffic, build awareness, and generate leads for your business.

Below we’ve compiled some of the best tips for creating effective infographics to help your brand devise a strategy that resonates with your audience.

The Dos and Don’ts of Infographic Creation

1) DO: Keep it simple and to the point.

Try to break down your message into one, strong sentence. From here, you can use data to support what you’re trying to say. But remember: Less is more.

Energy-recovery-desalination-1

This simple chart tells a big story. Thanks to the contrasting colors, it easy for the reader to immediately understand just how scarce fresh water is. This is an approach you’ll want to make note of if you want your readers to focus on a specific data point.

2) DON’T: Try to say too much with one chart.

Poorly formatted, unorganized data won’t get you very far. To create more effective charts, stay focused on categories that help you make your point. Arrange the data from those categories in a way that is easy to grasp to avoid something that looks like this:

what-really-fosters-innovation

3) DO: Surprise the reader with an unexpected twist.

Have some unusual information on your hands? Use surprise as a means of increasing alertness and focus.

If you can make the reader question their previous beliefs, open their minds to new ideas, and then fill the gap with your information, you’ll find that it’s much easier to hold their attention. Check out the chart below for an example of how to present uncommon knowledge that may surprise the reader.

12

4) DON’T: Use boring titles that tell everything in the first sentence.

In the image below, the headline leaves nothing to the imagination. The main argument of this chart is known to most people. That said, why would they want to read more?

infographic2

Instead, focus on creating an enticing headline that leads with the promise of new, valuable information.

columnfive

5) DO: Use concrete visual metaphors. 

Show data to support your point. Detailed, data-driven arguments convince the reader faster and are much more likely to be remembered, recognised, and shared.

The chart below visualizes the most popular pets in the US in a very clear way: Dogs make up 37%. Cats make up 31%, and so on. Thanks to the use of the animal icons and shading, it’s easy to understand this sequence with just a quick glance.

PetInfographic3

6) DON’T: Use weird formatting to visualize data. 

Be careful with funky data visualization formats, as they’re not as easy to read as traditional formats.

While the following chart is certainly creative, we’d argue that a simple bar chart would convey the information in a way that makes more sense to everyone.

22-death_probabilities

7) DO: Make your message believable.

Make your message believable by using customer quotes, testimonials, expert support, and of course, good data. The following quotes from happy customers serve as a great example of how social proof lends credibility to the infographic.

SocialProofGraphicv4

8) DON’T: Show dry numbers without context.

As we’ve mentioned before, good stories are emotional. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter what emotion your message arouses, as long as it makes them feel something.

Data can be used to start conversations and incite curiosity, when used correctly. However, the data in the following chart lacks both emotion and context. This leaves the reader wondering if the sales figures shown should be perceived in a positive or negative light.

wus-palm06-01001115

An effective use of charts and infographics can dramatically improve the performance of your marketing content, as well as the persuasive character of your business presentations.

pie

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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8 Effective Web Design Principles You Should Know

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The design of your website is more important for conversions than you think. You can implement any conversion boosting tactic in the world, but if it looks like crap, it won’t do you much good.

Design is not just something designers do. Design is marketing. Design is your product and how it works. The more I’ve learned about design, the better results I’ve gotten.

Here are 8 effective web design principles you should know and follow.

Effective Web Design Principle #1: Visual Hierarchy

Squeaky wheels get the grease and prominent visuals get the attention. Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind good web design. It’s the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.

Exercise. Please rank the circles in the order of importance:

Without knowing ANYTHING about these circles, you were easily able to rank them. That’s visual hierarchy.

Certain parts of your website are more important than others (forms, calls to action, value proposition etc), and you want those to get more attention than the less important parts. If you website menu has 10 items, are all of them equally important? Where do you want the user to click? Make important links more prominent.

Hierarchy does not only come from size. Amazon makes the ‘Add to cart’ call to action button more prominent by using color:

Start with the business objective

You should rank elements on your website based on your business objective. If you don’t have a specific goal, you can’t know what to prioritize.

Here’s an example, it’s a screenshot of the Williams Sonoma website. They want to sell outdoor cookware.

The biggest eye catcher is the huge piece of meat (make me want it), followed by the headline (say what it is) and call to action button (get it!). Fourth place goes to  a paragraph of text under the headline, fifth is the free shipping banner and the top navigation is last. This is visual hierarchy well done.

Exercise. Surf the web and consciously rank the elements in the visual hierarchy. Then go look at your own site. Is there something important (key information points that visitors are likely seeking) that is not high enough in the hierarchy? Change that.

Effective Web Design Principle #2: Divine Proportions

The golden ratio is a magical number 1.618 that makes all things proportioned to it aesthetically pleasing (or so it is believed).

Then there is also the Fibonacci sequence where each term is defined as the sum of the two previous terms: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on. The interesting thing is that we have two seemingly unrelated topics producing the same exact number.

Here’s what the golden ratio looks like:

Many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio. A famous example is Pantheon built in Ancient Greece:

Can it be used for web design? You betcha. Here’s Twitter:

Here’s a comment by Twitter’s creative director:

To anyone curious about #NewTwitter proportions, know that we didn’t leave those ratios to chance.

This, of course, only applies to the narrowest version of the UI. If your browser window is wider, your details pane will expand to provide greater utility, throwing off these proportions. But the narrowest width shows where we started, ratio-wise.

So, if your layout width is 960px, divide it by 1.618 (=593px). Now you know that the content area should be 593px and sidebar 367px. If the website height is 760px tall, you can split it into 470px and 290px chunks (760/1.618=~470).

Effective Web Design Principle #3: Hick’s Law

Hick’s law says that with every additional choice increases the time required to take a decision.

You’ve experienced this countless times at restaurants. Menus with huge options make it difficult to choose your dinner. If it just offered 2 options, taking a decision would take much less time. This is similar to Paradox of Choice – the more choice you give people, the easier it is to choose nothing.

The more options a user has when using your website, the more difficult it will be to use (or won’t be used at all). So in order to provide a more enjoyable experience, we need to eliminate choices. To make a better web design, the process of eliminating distracting options has to be continous throughout the design process.

In the era of infinite choice, people need better filters! If you sell a huge amount of products, add better filters for easier decision making.

Effective Web Design Principle #4: Fitt’s Law

Fitt’s Law stipulates that the time required to move to a target area (e.g. click a button) is a function of the distance to the target and the size of the target. In other words, the bigger an object and the closer it is to us, the easier it is to use it.

Spotify makes it easier to hit ‘Play’ than other buttons:

They also place it (on the fullscreen Desktop app) in the bottom left corner, which is considered the most valuable real estate since the corners are technically the most accessible. This does not, however, apply to web design (due to scrolling and the way operating systems are).

It doesn’t mean that bigger is always better. A button that takes up half the screen is not a good idea, and we don’t need a mathematical study to know this. Even so, Fitts’ law is a binary logarithm. This means that the predicted results of the usability of an object runs along a curve, not a straight line.

A tiny button will become much easier to click when given a 20% size increase, while a very large object will not share the same benefits in usability when given the same 20% boost in size.

This is similar to rule of target size.

The size of a button should be proportional to its expected frequency of use. You can check your stats for which buttons people use the most, and make popular buttons bigger (easier to hit).

Let’s imagine there’s a form you want people to fill. At the end of the form, there are two buttons: “Submit” and “Reset” (clear fields).

99.9999% want to hit ‘submit’. Hence the button should be much bigger than ‘reset’.

Effective Web Design Principle #5: Rule of Thirds

It’s a good idea to use images in your design. A visual communicates your ideas much faster than any text.

The best images follow the rule of thirds: an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.

Using beautiful, big images contributes to design as it is (not withstanding the growth of Pinterest), following this rule will make them more interesting and thus your website more appealing.

Effective Web Design Principle #6: Gestalt Design Laws

Gestalt psychology is a theory of mind and brain. Its principle is that the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts.

Here’s what I mean:

Notice how you could see the dog without focusing on each black spot that the dog consists of?

The key takeaway here is that people see the whole before they see the parts. People always see the whole of your website first, before they distinguish the header, menu, footer and so on. As one of the founders of gestaltism Kurt Koffka said: the whole exists independently from the parts.

There are 8 so-called gestalt design laws that allow us to predict how people will perceive something. Here they are:

1. Law of Proximity 

People group things together that are close together in space. They become a single perceived object.

With effective web design, you need to make sure things that do NOT go together, are not perceived as one. Similarly, you want to group certain design elements together (navigation menu, footer etc) to communicate that they form a whole.

Craigslist uses this law to make it easy to understand which sub-categories fall under “for sale”:

2. Law of Similarity

We group similar things together. This similarity can occur in the form of shape, colour, shading or other qualities.

Here we group black dots into one group and whites into another one, because – well, the black dots look kind of similar to each other.

3. Law of Closure

We seek completeness. With shapes that aren’t closed, when parts of a whole picture are missing, our perception fills in the visual gap. We see two squares overlaid on four circles even though none of these shapes actually exist in the graphic.

Without the law of closure we would just see different lines with different lengths, but with the law of closure, we combine the lines into whole shapes.

Using the law of closure can make logos or design elemets more interesting. A good example of this is the World Wide Fund For Nature designed by Sir Peter Scott in 1961:

4. Law of Symmetry

The mind perceives objects as being symmetrical and forming around a center point. It is perceptually pleasing to be able to divide objects into an even number of symmetrical parts.

When we see two symmetrical elements that are unconnected, the mind perceptually connects them to form a coherent shape.

When we look at the image above, we tend to observe three pairs of symmetrical brackets rather than six individual brackets.

5. Law of Common Fate

We tend to perceive objects as lines that move along a path. We group together of objects that have the same trend of motion and are therefore on the same path.

People mentally group together sticks or raised hands pointing somewhere, because they all point in the same direction. You can use this to guide the user’s attention to something (e.g. a signup form, value proposition etc).

For example, if there is an array of dots and half the dots are moving upward while the other half are moving downward, we would perceive the upward moving dots and the downward moving dots as two distinct units.

6. Law of Continuity

People have a tendency to perceive a line as continuing its established direction. In cases where there is an intersection between objects (e.g. lines), we tend to perceive the two lines as two single uninterrupted entities. Stimuli remains distinct even with overlap.

Effective Web Design Principle #7: White space and clean design

White space (also called ‘negative space’) is the portion of a page left “empty”. It’s the space between graphics, margins, gutters, space between columns, space between lines of type or visuals.

It should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space — it is an important element of design. It enables the objects in it to exist at all. White space is all about the use of hierarchy. The hierarchy of information, be it type, colour or images.

A page without white space, crammed full of text or graphics, runs the risk of appearing busy, cluttered, and is typically difficult to read (people won’t even bother). This is why simple websites are scientifically better.

Enough white space makes a website look ‘clean’. While clean design is crucial to communicating a clear message, it doesn’t just mean less content. Clean design means a design that makes the best use of the space it is in. To make a clean design, you have to know how to communicate clearly by using white space wisely.

Made.com does white space well:

The fine use of white space makes it easy to focus on the main message and visuals, and the body copy easy to read.

White spaces promotes elegance and sophistication, improves legibility and drives focus.

Effective Web Design Principle #8: Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a principle urging one to select among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions and thereby offers the simplest explanation of the effect. To put it in the design context, Occam’s Razor states that the simplest solution is usually best.

In a post about their Angelpad experience, Pipedrive guys say the following:

The Angelpad team and mentors challenged us in many ways. “You have too many things on your home page” was something we didn’t agree with at first, but we’re happy to test. And it turned out we had been wrong indeed. We removed 80% of the content, and left one sign-up button and one Learn More link on the home page. Conversion to sign up increased by 300%.

It’s not just about the looks, but also about ‘how it works’. Some companies – like 37Signals – have turned ‘simple’ into a business model.

Simple, minimal design does not automatically mean the design works, or is effective. But in my experience simple is always better than the opposite – and hence we should strive to simplify.

Conclusion

Effective web design and art are not the same.

You should design for the user and by having a business objective in mind. Using these web design principles you can get to aesthetically and financially rewarding results.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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Web design trends we can expect to see in 2017

It’s that time of year where we look at the year that was and the year that will be. We’ve seen a lot of amazing website designs this year, and I’m eager to see what 2017 has in store for website and website design.

2017 is sure to bring some amazing website designs, but if we look hard enough, we can already start seeing some trends that are sure to dominate websites in 2017.

Let’s take a look at the 10 website design trends we can expect to see in 2017.

Emphasis on the content

 

We’ve spent years adding things to our websites such as sidebars, headers, banner ads, sidebar ads, calls to action, comments, popups, social media buttons, signup boxes, etc. All of these things have ended up cluttering our websites and taking up more and more real estate, taking the attention away from the entire point of a web page: the content.

In 2017, websites are likely to start moving back to basics and placing more emphasis on content. Whether that means we remove all of the other distractions we’ve spent years adding, or just making them take up less real estate is yet to be determined. Getting back to the heart of a website — the content — will be prevalent moving forward.

The end of flat design

 

I think we’ve reached the point in flat web design where everything is starting to look the same, and we’ve lost our personality and creativity in design. When you strip everything away, you’re left with what everyone else has: the basics that look just like each other.

From my standpoint, flat design has turned from a modern update of skeuomorphic design to a set of design aesthetics that everyone applies (think Google’s Material). Because of this, sites are starting to look the same, and not much differentiates sites from one another. Designers feel that the creativity is gone, and with the desire to create something great, I see flat design ending for the most part in favor of layouts and designs that are more imaginative and unique.

Geometric shapes, lines, and patterns

It seems as though the use of geometric shapes, lines, and patterns have really taken off in the late part of 2016, and I anticipate this continuing through 2017. There are various ways in which geometric shapes have made their way into websites. Be it the use of circles around images, photos that are geometric heavy, or the overall design of the site relies heavily on the use of lines and patterns.

There is nearly infinite amount of ways in which you an integrate geometric shapes, lines, and patterns into your website, and this could be one way in which designers take fat design to a new level (and even add some personality, as mentioned above). Overall, expect to see these types of design styles more throughout 2017.

Imaginative heading styles

 

We’re starting to move away from the basic heading style seen on websites (san serif, all caps, centered heading) and moving more toward imaginative or creative headings. Changing up the heading style is a welcomed way to be unique in your design.

Changing up the justification and layout of the heading, adding unique elements to the heading, or even going without a heading (at least above the fold) are all ways in which designers are starting to experiment with changing up the typical heading style on websites.

Duotone gradient imagery

 

In the pursuit of staying more on brand, more brands are using duotone imagery and graphics for their websites. Even TNW has got the duotone down right, and it isn’t even 2017 yet.

Not strictly duotones, but some designs are even experimenting with two or three colors and using the duotone effect. Think Instagram. While flat design helped us get rid of (most) gradients, using duotone imagery that combines a couple of colors together has proven to be a nice update to the old and tired gradients and solid color areas.

Increased use of animations and GIFs

 

Animations are starting to be used more heavily on websites as they are often a great way to show how something works, how to do something, or otherwise reveal meaningful content. GIFs have been used for this purpose, but now we are seeng GIFs becoming more sophisticated and animations using SVG and CSS to achieve some pretty unique design elements.

I anticipate in 2017 the use of animations will become more prevalent, as more content types are shared and animation helps communicate things easier and quicker than text and video can. Plus, when done right, can often be even more lightweight than several images or even a video.

Navigation diets

 

As being a mobile society, I believe that because most of us access the web through our phones more than our computers, the overall trend to make things easier to navigate has taken over and reformed our navigation on websites.

Instead of overly complicated and long navigations, more and more sites are starting to simplify their navigation down to about four to five items. Keeping navigation to a minimum also helps visitors to focus on the intent at hand, instead of trying to find a way off the page.

Microinteractions


Microinteractions are the subtle, but powerful ways to interact with a website. They are often found in hovers, click animations, scrolling effects, etc. While we’ve always had these types of design elements, designers are spending more time on them, making them are informative and more refined.

Probably the most used integration is the hover/rollover, where a visitor can simply move their cursor over parts of the site to see these microinteractions and interact with the site in that way.

Increased use of hand-drawn elements


Perhaps a different type of web design trend is the increased use of hand drawn elements. These elements include fonts, icons, graphics, buttons and other elements that bring a nice unique touch to websites.

Websites have never been a medium that most would associate with drawing out, but the introduction and the subsequent takeoff of these hand drawn elements have been a nice change from using standard design elements.

More emphasis on landing pages, less on a home page

As we refine content and opt to market and share it more, in 2017 we will likely see a rise in landing page designs instead of a home page design. While every website needs a home page, I think that as content marketing spreads, marketers will want to direct traffic to dedicated landing pages to better target their visitors and their needs.

It makes sense: The idea of content marketing is to increase awareness and conversions, and what better way to increase conversions than to have visitors land on a page strictly made for them. These pages will be as well designed and thought out as others on the site, but target the visitor much more.

Conclusion

2017 is sure to see some great websites, and these design trends will most definitely be seen on some of the best website designs yet to come.

From hand drawn elements to duotone images, imaginative headings to more focused content layouts, to microinteractions to animations, these design trends will dominate web design in 2017.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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How to Create an Effective Brand Strategy

This article will define a high-level summary of the most important aspects of your brand: your brand vision, brand values, the identity of your audience, your brand promise, and your brand story

…….

A brand strategy is a plan to communicate the unique value you offer customers. It can be reflected in your logo, your customer experience, or your company culture. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments. The Brand Strategy Guide is a simple framework for creating and communicating your brand strategy.

Components of a brand strategy:

Your brand vision is the ultimate goal of your company.

Your brand values are the non-negotiable core beliefs you hold.

Your audience profile determines how you position your brand to the marketplace.

Your brand promise is the tagline you use to tell your customers what you promise you’ll do for them.

Your brand story is the sum of all of these parts.

Each component of the strategy process leads up to defining your brand narrative.

Vision, Mission and Values

Your Vision or “Why does your business exist?”

The vision describes the future your company is working to achieve. This is the reason for your existence as a company. It should be positive, motivating, and fun to talk about.

  • “Advancing man’s capability to explore the heavens”. (NASA)
  • “To live in a healthy, honest and supportive world”. (Core Foods)

Customers & Competition

Target Customers

Who are the people that will connect with your vision and values? Who will connect with the idea behind your business? Demographic based descriptions like “Females 18-30 in San Francisco” do not effectively describe target customers. Instead, focus on what specific needs your business solves, and the people who have those needs.

  • Traditional furniture retailers employ sales staff, but at Ikea, the customer experience is self service. Customers navigate huge showrooms with many products on display, pull items off warehouse shelves and assemble them at home. Ikea serves people who are happy to trade service for cost and are willing to complete some of the manufacturing steps themselves.
  • Southwest Airlines offers friendly service, and short, frequent, low-cost flights for customers traveling from midsize US cities and secondary airports in large US cities. They serve price sensitive customers who value convenience.

The Competition

When running your business it can be easy to forget about the context or landscape that it exists in and miss the external forces that affect it. Competitors can offer substitutes to your product or service. By learning more about who you competitors really are you can develop a brand strategy that is different and that only you can own, so customers have no choice but to come to you.

Your Competitive Advantages

Your competitive advantage is what makes you different and better than your competitors. Companies achieve competitive advantage by performing activities differently, or performing different activities than rivals.

  • Jiffy Lube specializes in automotive lubricants (oil changes) and does not offer other car repair or maintenance services. Their focus allows them to provide faster service at a lower cost.

Focus & Differentiation

The Big Idea or “What is the essence of your brand?”

A brand is a collection of thoughts and feelings based on your experiences. Thoughts and feelings are “intangibles” while your products and services are “tangible”. Tangibles you can touch, see, smell, hear, and taste, but intangibles you just feel.

  • Riding a Harley-Davidson Motorcyle feels liberating.
  • Sending and important package via FedEx feels safe.
  • Experiencing Disney World with your children feels magical.

What does it feel like to interact with your business? It’s easy to underestimate feelings and focus only on the tangibles, but people are emotional beings. We make decisions based on feelings, so you need to be able to express what you’re all about as concept or idea that is emotionally engaging. This is The Big Idea. It needs to be focused and it needs to be different.

  • Think Different (Apple)
  • Expect more. Pay less. (Target)
  • The world’s online marketplace. (eBay)
  • Adding vitality to life. (Unilever)
  • Safety. (Volvo)
  • The world on time. (FedEx)
  • Rider Passion. (Harley Davidson)

Brand Attributes or “What does your brand look and feel like?”

Really, brand attributes are just adjectives used to describe your brand. For example, IBM is seen as “older,” while Apple is perceived as “younger.” Apple is almost known entirely for its brand personality: innovative, stylish, intuitive, cool, casual, easy-going and friendly. Defining your brand attributes is important to help you differentiate yourself from competitors, as you would want to focus on those attributes that help you stick out. They also help make sure that your activities are inline with your brand. Together this group of adjectives gives you something to evaluate things like messaging and the look and feel of touchpoints.

Brand Promise or “What are you going to do for me.”

A brand promise is what the company promises to the people who interact with it. But it isn’t a literal description of what a company does. It’s a description of the company’s character. It’s the feeling the company conveys to its stakeholders. A brand promise can be explicitly articulated to the public, or it can be come to life more subtly in the delivery of the brand experience. A few years ago, FedEx declared that it was the only choice “when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”—an overt promise that still resonates today. The ultimate goal of branding is loyalty. A loyal audience seeks repeat brand experiences and recommends the brand to others. Brand Loyalty drives most purchasing decisions and loyal customers are willing to pay a premium for their choice. Branding is defining, promising and delivering. When you promise and then consistently deliver you generate loyalty.

  • Your package will get there overnight. Guaranteed. (FedEx)
  • You can own the coolest, easiest-to-use cutting-edge computers and electronics. (Apple)
  • You can hire the best minds in management consulting. (McKinsey & Company)
  • Empowering you to save the wilderness. (The Nature Conservancy)
  • To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other. (NFL)

Positioning

A well positioned brand clearly defines the category of the business and describes what makes it different. It borrows from the journalistic model of storytelling: WHAT, HOW, WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHY?

  • WHAT is your category?
  • HOW are you different?
  • WHO are your customers?
  • WHERE are they located?
  • WHEN do they need you?
  • WHY are you important?

Conclusion

Once these brand elements have been determined and applied towards your brand strategy you will be taking the first steps in creating true brand value for your business.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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11 Web Design Trends for 2016

Reposted from designmodo.com.

Are you ready for 2016? Let’s bring on the web design trends.

The new year will come with plenty of new techniques and trends, but the dominant theme is likely to be a continuation of things we have started to see at the end of 2015. More video, vertical patterns, Material Design-inspired interfaces and slide-style sites will grow in popularity.

And it’s not hard for you to make the most of these concepts. Here, we’ll ring in the new year with 11 web design trends (and plenty of great examples) that designers will be seeing a lot of in 2016. (Make sure to click the links as well and play around with some of these sites to really get a feel for them. Many of the trends are just as much in the user interface as the visuals.)

Vertical Patterns and Scrolling

A bigger leaning toward mobile – with some thinking mobile traffic could equal desktop traffic this year – means more sites are being designed with vertical user flows.

A few years ago, we were all debating the end of the scroll in web design only to find it roaring back as an important interaction tool. Smaller screens lead users to scroll more and designers to create user interfaces that are much more vertical in nature.

Web Design Trends for 2016
 Vertical Patterns and Scrolling

More Card-Style Interfaces

One of the biggest elements to spring from Material Design has been the emergence of card-style interfaces. They are in everything from apps to websites to printed pieces. Cards are fun to create, keep information organized in a user-friendly container and are engaging for users. The other bonus is that they work almost seamlessly across devices because cards can “stack” across or down the screen (or both).

Web Design Trends
Oyya

Hero Video Headers (Think Movie-Style Sites)

Websites design is going to the movies. Higher speed Internet connections and better video plugin integration is making it easier for more websites to include an immersive movie-style experience. Video clips are growing from small snippets to almost full-length preview clips. The images are sharp, crisp and in high definition, creating a video experience online that is new to users, but familiar from other devices, such as televisions.

Hero Video Headers
Christmas exp
Younusabdalla

Tiny Animations

Animation has been one of the “it” trends of 2015. From hero-style animations that lead off a site design to those tiny divots that you almost miss, moving elements are everywhere. And they will continue to grow in popularity, even as they decrease in size. Animated user interface elements are a fun way to help engage users, give them something while they wait for content to load and provide an element of surprise.

The most important factor when it comes to animation is to make sure it serves a purpose: Why are you creating the effect and what exactly is it supposed to do?

Tiny Animations
True digital

Focus on Interactions

Going hand-in-hand with animation is interaction. As the staple of apps and mobile interfaces, interactions create links between users and devices. Good interactions are often small – even micro in nature – and provide value to the user. From the simplest of alarms to a text message to a blip that it is your turn in a game, these small interactions shape how people interact with devices (and how loyal they are to associated websites and apps).

Focus on Interactions
My united

Even More Beautiful Typography

Streamlined interfaces have paved the way for the emergence of beautiful typography. (As has the addition of more usable web type tools such as Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit as mainstream options for creating expansive type libraries online.)

Big, bold typefaces will continue to rule because they work well with other trendy elements. This simple concept of lettering gives more room to other elements, while communicating the message with a highly readable display. The must-try trick is a simple pairing of a readable typeface and fun novelty option.

Even More Beautiful Typography
Haw

Illustrations and Sketches

Illustrations and sketches bring a fun element of whimsy to a site design. They can work for sites of all types and aren’t just for children anymore. The illustration style has also started to grow in popularity when it comes to some of the smaller pieces of website design as well, such as icons and other user interface elements. What’s nice about this trend is that illustrations make a site feel a little more personal. Because an illustration or sketch style icon appears to be hand-drawn, it looks and feels personal for users. That can go a long way into creating a connection with them.

Illustrations and Sketches
Climate under pressure

Bolder, Brighter Color (With an 80s Vibe)

Big, bright color really started to emerge with the flat design trend and has continued to gain momentum. Google’s Material Design documentation furthers that conversation. And just take a look around Dribbble, where color is everywhere. These are key indicators that color will stay big in the coming year. Some of the change to the big color trend is in the type of colors used. While 2015 used more monotone big color designs, usage is starting to shift to larger and brighter color palettes with an almost 1980s vibe to them.

Bolder, Brighter Color (With an 80s Vibe)
Inlayinsights
Rightcolours

More Hamburgers and Iconography

Icons, icons, icons! From the debated hamburger icon to divots through design projects, iconography is big. More designers are releasing fun UI and icon kits that are easy to use, making icons easier than ever to work with. (And pretty affordable.) One of the other big things designers are experimenting with is oversized icons thanks to SVG formats.

More Hamburgers and Iconography
Iqor

Reality-Imagination Blur

Is that site real or animated? Is the path predetermined or can I make choices along the way? The next step of gamification and design is emerging with a blurred line between what’s real and what’s created (or imaginary) in web design projects. And the results are pretty stunning.

From virtual reality to websites that let you make choices to find new content, this type of customization is personal and users seem to really like it. This trend also includes creating imagery that looks real, but you know that it is not.

Reality-Imagination Blur
Coleman

Websites with Slides

First there were sliders, so that websites could move images within a frame to showcase content. The next part of that evolution includes full-screen slides. Each slide refreshes the entire screen with new content; it can work with a click, scroll or timed effect. Users can navigate forward and backward for an experience that is almost physical. Expect to see plenty – and we mean a lot – of sites using this concept in the coming months.

 Websites with Slides
Apple
Crisis

Conclusion

Looking through the examples above it’s easy to see that there’s not just one web design trend that designers will focus on in the coming year. It’s a combination (and culmination) of multiple trends from the past few years. Look even closer and you’ll see that many of these sites use multiple trending elements from this list to create interactive and engaging websites.

What trends are you most excited about in 2016? Are there any we missed on this list? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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How to Convert a Non-Responsive Website into a Responsive Website

Author’s note: There are many articles and blogs floating around the InterWeb today that provide a technical response to this matter. These postings deal heavily with grid-based frameworks, breakpoints, media queries, CSS3, HTML5, etc. and are intended for a professional web industry audience. I will attempt to explain the process from a more practical, customer-centric and non-technical perspective. If you are a marketing manager or small business owner and find yourself tasked with taking your existing website and making it responsive I hope that this article will be useful.

The Coming of Responsive Web Design.

In 2013, Responsive Web Design became the defacto industry standard in web development. Responsive Web Design represents a new approach to building websites that optimizes the user experience across all platforms and mobile devices. If you own or manage a website it is imperative that you invest in the mobile user experience, and Responsive Web Design is the most complete solution to this complex problem. A typical business updates its web presence on a fairly predictable cycle. On average, a corporate website will last between 2-5 years before it’s time for an overhaul. In the market now? No problem. Any web developer worth its salt will propose that the new site be built using a responsive framework. If you are currently in discussions with a web agency and this is not the case I have only one thing to say to you: RUN, Forrest! RUN!

Houston, we have a problem.

All is well for site managers that fit within this cycle and are ready to build their new site from scratch using Responsive Web Design. Ideally, a responsive site should be built from scratch as the design and the framework both strongly influence how well the site adapts to different devices and screen sizes. But what about those poor unfortunate souls that somehow missed out on the responsive coronation? You have a shiny, new  (and most likely expensive) website that you took great pride in – at least prior to hearing about this new ‘responsive thingy’. You find yourself stuck with a web presence that was outdated and uncompetitive prior to it ever going live. And, perhaps worst of all, you did not plan for budgeting to fix the problem. What to do, what to do?

First off, DO NOT PANIC. Take solace in the fact that you are not alone. I receive several requests each week from managers in organizations large and small that are in this spot. There is a timely and cost-effective solution.

Transitioning into Responsive Design.

Let’s begin with the basic question that defines the problem: How can we convert an existing, non-responsive website into a responsive website?

Before we can begin to answer this question, we must determine what kind of website you currently have. Is your website driven dynamically by a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, or is it a compilation of static, HTML pages? If you do not know the answer you will need to check with your IT staff or the original site developer as this is critical to the conversion process.

Now, to transition to a responsive design, we must:

    1. Assessment. To begin with the conversion process, we must first review the site design, layout and structure to ensure that it can fit within the responsive framework. This may require some tweaking of the original designs and layout, and not all sites are compatible for conversion.
    2. Information Architecture. Once we can confirm compatibility we will create interactive HTML wireframes that will demonstrate how the existing content will display for desktop, tablet and smartphones. The number of wireframes will vary by project and an understanding of user behavior via analytics will help us determine the types of mobile devices current site visitors are using. If, for whatever reason, you have a lot of users on Kindle Fire coming to your site (not that THIS will ever happen), we will need to ensure that the conversion takes this particular device into account.
    3. Design for Responsive. Next, we will rebuild the original design PSD’s templates to demonstrate the updated designs (based upon content and layout modifications required fro responsive conversion). As with the wireframes that precedes this step, we will provide design mockups for desktop, tablet and smartphone views. At this point, you will truly begin to see how your site will look and feel as a responsive website.
    4. HTML Prototypes. Once the design templates are approved, we go through the process of PSD2HTML, built upon a responsive framework (such as Bootstrap or Foundation).
    5. Convert the Code. We will then go through the tedious task of converting everything that was once fixed-with into a fluid, responsive layout. When moving from fixed layout to responsive design, we must establish “break points” that will trigger CSS style rules for different devices and screen sizes. Text is only one component of responsiveness. Due to the ever-increasing use of infographics, photos, and videos, images are also significant aspects of the responsive experience.
    6. Template Integration. As I have stated previously in this post, we must determine whether the existing site is static or dynamic. If the site is static, we will create responsive HTML template pages, which can be used in HTML editors such as Dreamweaver. Once these responsive templates have been introduced, the task of manually copying and pasting the existing content from each individual static page will begin. Based upon the number of pages the site has, this can either be a quick fix or a major headache. For dynamic sites, however, the solution is much more elegant. For website that use a CMS we need only replace the existing non-responsive HTML templates with the responsive HTML templates.
    7. Site Testing & QA. Finally, we will then test the converted site on multiple devices to ensure that everything is responding accordingly. The more you test your responsive site, the better the user experience will be in the end.

Although the solution is technical, the process of converting an existing non-responsive website to a responsive website, in practice, is more art than science. Each website is different and has its own unique challenges during the conversion process. For site owners like you, however, this means you no longer have to create a separate site for mobile users or make them suffer through an inferior mobile experience.

Have something to say? Leave A Comment Below.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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Does Responsive Web Design Slow Down the Mobile Experience?

I am often asked whether or not responsive web design can slow down or sometimes simply degrade the user experience on mobile devices due to image file sizes and other technical challenges. The short answer is no, at least not if the website was built correctly. Let me explain…

For RWD Optimization we employ a “Progressive Enhancement” technique. Most companies that are not familiar with the inner workings of RWD tend to think that it’s a one size fits all approach. What we do is focus on enhancing the experience based on the capabilities of the browser/device. For example a small device would have a smaller/more optimized image presented vs a larger version that a desktop user will see. The way other companies do this is they will serve up the same image for desktop that they do on mobile. This kills both bandwidth and performance. To them Responsive is just about scaling content down. To us its about optimizing the experience for all users.

In general responsive web design, if applied correctly, can actually reduce load times.

Here are some optimization rules we may apply:

1. Images Optimization
The final aspect of Responsive Web Design is flexible images and media. Basically, this feature allows you to adapt your images or other media to load differently depending on the device, either by scaling or by using the CSS overflow properties. Scaling in CSS is pretty simple to implement for both images and video.

2. Media queries
Media queries are one of the cornerstones of Responsive Web Design. By adding some filter criteria around CSS definitions, we can control under which conditions those rules are applied to web pages. There are two places to define these criteria: using the media attribute of a link tag that references a CSS file or inline on a CSS file.

3. RWD Framework
We may use top RWD frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, Gumby Framework or HTML KickStart to organize the page structure.

4. Grid-Based Layouts
The grid layout helps define the size of content on any screen and can be used to define layout on different screen sizes. The Bootstrap, Foundation, Telerik Page Layout and other frameworks provide various sizes for their grid columns based on the size of the browser.

5. Minimizing HTTP requests
HTTP requests are sent to every device unless you tell it not to. JavaScript and CSS resources can help with this, such as Compass.
This is an open source CSS authoring framework that allows developers to create clean markup and create sprites and extensions simply and easily.

4 Enable Compression
We may apply JavaScript and CSS as compressed formats to speed up the loading.

5. Showing and Hiding Content / Conditional loading:
Not all content is intended for all browsers. In Responsive Web Design, this is the least technical design decision. What elements should appear on each of the page sizes? Not all devices need to display the entire website, nor should they. So we may apply some areas to hide on mobile devices that are not of significance to the mobile user.

 

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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Responsive Web Design and the Acceptability Threshold: What You Should Know

2012 will be remembered as the year the mobile web emerged. In support of this bold proclamation, a recent survey found that the share of smartphones has surpassed the 50% mark in the US. If you own or manage a website for your business or organization it is imperative that you invest in the mobile user experience. Enter Responsive Web Design, a new approach to building websites that optimizes the user experience across all platforms and devices. RWD truly is an elegant solution to a complex problem in that it addresses the need for accessibility using a single-source of data. The concept and drudgery of having to create multiple versions of a website is now as dated as the VHS.

Responsive-web-design

But before making the decision to go all out RWD be forewarned – although indeed an elegant solution it does not imply that it is a perfect one. In order to embrace RWD you must accept the concept of Acceptability Threshold.

Acceptability Threshold

This concept acknowledges the reality that RWD comes with certain inherent headaches.  Although RWD enhances the user experience across multiple mobile devices, thereby greatly increasing usability and visitor satisfaction, it can also lead to imperfections, particularly in regards to what we call the ‘in-between’ views. The concept of ‘pixel-perfect’ must be thrown out the window – the days of Flash-based control of display are gone forever. Instead, site owners must first understand and then embrace the acceptability threshold.

OK, so what exactly is the acceptability threshold? Let’s define it:

Acceptability Threshold: The minimum level of acceptance of imperfection a website owner will tolerate in order to market the site with maximum confidence.

Not making sense? Think about acceptability threshold as a percentage. We all desire the things we buy to be 100% perfection at the time of the purchase. After all, it is common sense that we will not drive off the car lot with the doors missing (unless you are into that kind of thing) or move into a new home while the roof is still under construction. But would you accept that car if the satellite radio was not yet activated? Would you go ahead and move your family into that house if the landscaping crew was still laying sod in the backyard? The question is, what will you accept? What is your acceptability threshold for making such decisions?

A Website by perception is no different. Yet it is completely different. Often times, we see the unfounded belief that a website cannot launch until everything is 100% completed. Again, this makes sense in regards to obvious concerns. Does it function? Do the pages load? Do the images display? Are there obvious errors or typos. From a traditional desktop-only viewpoint, the acceptability threshold was fairly straightforward – a website is either done or it is not. A solid QA process was the solution. Do a little cross-browser compatibility testing, content review, load testing, W3C and 508 compliance testing and you’re good to go. But with RWD, things are not so black and white.

For starters, the fact that RWD sites are built using a grid ensures that that the website will display differently on different devices. Although this is the greatest benefit of RWD it can also be its biggest weakness. The layouts of responsive web designs are mostly fluid which is why designers do not have much control on how the ‘in-between’ design will look like. Also, it is quite time consuming for the designers to display all the replicas in advance.  Designers do their best to show both wireframes and mock-ups for multiple layouts i.e., smartphone, tablet and desktop. If the layouts are approved, only then is the responsive web designing strategy is implemented.

disadvantages of responsive web design

Secondly, the constant updates to browsers, API’s and operating systems, pose a particular challenge for designers and developers working with RWD. Your new RWD site might look awesome on most browsers when it launches, but ignore version updates and before you know it you will be hearing from Sally in sales that the site is not looking too hot on her Blackberry.

Third, factor in the staggering proliferation of mobile devices entering the marketplace created by several manufacturers using competing operating systems and you can begin to see how quality assurance can become an ongoing challenge. Here at DeepBlue, we have multiple devices that we use to test RWD – everything from an 80″ HDTV, Mac desktops & laptops, a few pc’s, iPads (iPad 1 & 3), Nook, Kindle Fire, and of course, iPhones (4, 4s and 5) and other Android based phones. RWD is every bit an art as it is a science. We literally test all of the afore-mentioned devices to ensure that the experience is optimal for each device. Sometimes we miss things (yes, we are human). I got a call recently from a client irate about discovering that their new RWD site was not displaying properly on the iPhone 5 in landscape mode using Chrome mobile browser v2.0. Although the fix was simple it required somebody to actually visit the site using an iPhone 5 under those specific conditions to discover the issue in the first place (reminds me of the tree falling in the forrest and making a sound story). The fact is, no one thought about it until somebody stumbled upon it. This occurrence made me ponder projections into the future. What will happen when somebody visits the website using the new iPad mini and there are some display issues? Despite the fact that the site was launched well ahead of the iPad mini’s announcement, it is not inconceivable – nay, it is almost predictable – that I will get that call in the weeks to come. After all, the promise of RWD is that it creates the ideal user experience for ALL devices. Right? Yes. No. Maybe.

RWD is an exciting evolution in web development in the mobile era, but it is not perfect. The solution for website managers is to ensure that their site is consistently tested ongoing and that their acceptability threshold remains consistent. A rule of thumb I like to use is 95%, meaning that the website displays optimally on at least 95% of all devices and view modes. To insist on 100% is simply not practical, and in a way it defeats the purpose of RWD in the first place. Understand the acceptability threshold.  Live it, love it, earn it.

reality

 Responsive Web Design requires acceptance of imperfection. The acceptability threshold manages the degree of imperfection.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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Responsive Web Design and Search Engine Optimization: All the cool search engines are doing it.

If Google jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? The answer, in terms of search engine optimization, is yes. For those of you unfamiliar with the dark arts of search engine optimization, or SEO for short, it is the process in which a website is systematically tuned to most efficiently match the criteria that the algorithms Google, Bing, and other search engines use to determine the relevance of your website to keywords in user searches. This is how search engines determine the display rank for websites based on each search query; and they have endorsed Responsive Web Design as the best way to make sure your website is king of the keywords.

I’ll start with a little background, since this is such a hot, albeit confusing, topic. Originally, these algorithms were not intended to be catered to. However, enterprising individuals discovered the potential that search engine optimization held, and began to wield this power for great evil. The world of SEO fell into darkness…until recently. Thankfully for those of us who hate our results being populated by irrelevant advertisement websites, Google and other search engines have begun taking a very active role in cleaning up their results. They are carefully monitoring SEO practices to make sure only the most relevant and useful information is displayed.

seo diagram

Search engine tree

All the cheap tricks, (link farming, keyword spamming, cloaking, etc.) that were being used to circumvent the original purpose of the search engine (locating useful and relevant content), have been debunked. The websites who succumbed to the cheap thrills of the dark side of SEO have lost their ill-gotten ranking, and all the capital their marketing team had invested in it.

These changes have ushered in the dawn of the Golden Age for legitimate search engine optimization. Google and Bing have begun defining best practices and distributing recommendations and guidelines to help aid us in our goals to develop proper SEO while building the best websites in the world; and it all begins with the foundation. This is where Responsive Web Design comes in.

In recent articles, Google and Bing have tapped Responsive Web Design as their preferred method for building a website that will be visited by any source of mobile traffic; which is any website that exists in today’s world. Google has chosen Responsive Web Design for many reasons, but a few major ones include:

  • A single URL is easier for users to interact with, share, and link to
  • Single URLs are much easier for search engine algorithms to process
  • A singular source of HTML makes crawling the website much easier, and avoids the need to reconcile findings from different bots searching multiple HTML sources
  • Content is contained in one source, enhancing keyword saturation without filler, and allowing search engines to index the content more efficiently and accurately

But what does it all mean?! Basically, the easier it is for search engines to read, analyze, and index the content on your website, the more precisely and confidently they can display that website with a high ranking when a consumer searches their engine using a related keyword.

Non responsive websites force search engines to try and reconcile content from multiple sources, and across a host of redirects, which clogs the algorithm. It’s similar to when those amazing customer service centers transfer you around for 45 minutes trying to find the “right person” to handle your problem. You don’t like it, and apparently algorithms don’t either.

All in all, SEO will still remain a moving target, and not everyone will follow the new rules, but any organization who wants to protect their web investments should do their homework when developing their SEO strategies. The major search engines have laid out their preferences for building effective long-term search optimization, and it begins with flawlessly executed Responsive Web Design.

Frank Farris

Frank Farris is Founder and CEO of DeepBlue. He has been an active thought leader in the application of emerging web technologies since 1998 and is a champion of the movement to make the Responsive Web Design approach the new industry standard.

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