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The Millennium Matters… was born November, 1994; the MMList has been ongoing in various forms since April, 1995; this web-site launched in September, 1995.

How is the New Millenium Going for You so Far?

So it’s been fifteen year in the new millenium and we have seen a lot of things go down during the years. The wonderful 2000’s, then the economic crash in 2008. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the rise of terrorism. An anti-trust investigation against Google in the US, but found to be compliant with the laws. And just a couple months ago a similar investigation in the EU, but with a different result.

I am not going to go into all details, I will mostly look at the tech world and trends that happened so fast, we can’t even believe it.

The Rise of Apple aka the Era of iPads and iPhones

The iconic leader of Apple, Steve Jobs has passed away but what a legacy he left behind. Under his guidance Apple has grown into the biggest company in the world. They have driven trends in technology and the rest of the world just followed.

That’s right, before Apple, Samsung and the now well-known tech companies didn’t have the clear direction they have today. Heck, even Android did not exist then.

Hello Cloud!

Much has happened in the hosting industry as well. With cloud entering the market, it’s cheaper and more stable to run any web based service. Apple has it’s own cloud, Google and Microsoft has too. IBM is making a big bet on cloud, and every somewhat respectable Silicon Valley company has it’s own cloud.

It’s not that hard actually. With Linux builds tailored for servers and cloud hosting, it’s in reach for midsize companies as well.

Many such companies take advantage of the cloud, like iPage in the retail hosting business (has nothing to do with Apple in spite of it’s name).

Better Speeds

We not only have small computers that have many times the performance of the computers we had at the time of the millernium, we have also made a leap just these last few years. I am talking about SSD-s. It’s well known that processing power increased a lot, but without SSDs, any computer would be limited by the speeds of the HDDs.

It has a big impact in a wide range of areas. In phones and tablets, it’s not a big impact since we have been using flash drives from the beginning. A battery wouldn’t be able to keep a tablet with an HDD long alive.

But putting an HDD in your laptop or desktop is a completely different expeience than an HDD. It’s also a whole other level when applied in the field of web hosting. Files are read faster, databases are read faster. Don’t forget that you SQL databases are also stored on disks.

Talking of speeds, internet speeds are soaring. My home internet speed is higher then any Fortune 500 company could afford in the 2000’s. Not bad, if you ask me.

What brings tomorrow? It’s hard to tell. But judging from the fast-pace changes in the last fifteen years, we are up for a tough ride. Let’s try to keep up with the changes! I personally would like to see some groundbraking ideas for saving our planet and curing major chronic diseases. Let’s hope some changes are coming in those areas as well.


Promoting a Specific Title or Series

Every book or series of books has something to convey, some coherent theme or idea to communicate, something that is the center of the disparate parts. Even if a writing series has a different theme for each book, there is something that is consistent throughout, e.g., characters, location, milieu, time, subject, and so forth.

The overriding consistency in a series should be the underlying anchor for promoting the series.This seems obvious, but sometimes emotional appeal overrides logic. And the design theme should emphasize the books, not overwhelm them. Check out the Step-by-Step article this week on the four keys to a professional web design or see Examples 1 & 2.

But what about the author who has a number of totally different books? If the writer has written a number of independent books, that is books not in an obvious series (such as Alan Lightman or Mark Salzman), then each book may have a unique page for promotion — but with an over-arcing navigation and dominant visual layout that ties the pages together and reinforces the author’s branding identity. Or the layout and style of pages used to promote the author may be used consistently for all titles. See Examples 3 & 4.

Basic Content

The basic content for a page promoting a book is: Title of the book, author’s name as it appears on the book, book publisher, isbn number, list price and sales outlets. This information should be placed clearly and prominently. On loading the page, the visitor should not have to scroll or click anything to see this information. This may sound obvious, but I’ve actually come across book promotional sites that either didn’t include all of the information or buried and scattered the information throughout the site. If promoting multiple titles, particularly a series, this information should be placed in the same location in the same format for all of the books.See Examples 5 & 6.

Beyond the Basics

How much additional content and how complex it is depends upon your available time, available resources and subject. Any additional material, to be successful in building traffic and identity, must provide a meaningful benefit to your visitors. In other words, it must provide them with a solution to their problem or desire, it must meet the visitor’s needs before it can meet your needs.

Expand Your Site With Specialized or In Depth Information

Use all of that extra specialized or in depth information you posses on a topic related to your book to add depth to your web site and reinforce your book’s own identity. Here are ideas to start your own brainstorming:

  • Historical writers — use “left over” research to post regular in depth articles such as 14th Century gardening techniques and designs; siege weapons of the Medici’s; a glossary of idiom’s and terms from the period and their meaning. Just take some of that left over material that would be of interest to your readers and expand the information.
  • Romance writers — collect uplifting stories of true romances that overcame the odds; provide periodic articles of romantic tips or products (or myths and legends); take a tip from Showtime and provide character profiles of your regulars (foods, drinks, books, music, etc.); the rest of the story — periodic romantic postcards from the characters like the popular series of illustrated books in the 90’s. Try imagining how you’d like to interact or continue your involvement with one of your favorite books, characters or authors.
  • SF writers — add a regular “Science News” column with links and commentary to new findings in your subject area; go out on a limb and do a periodic extrapolation of some recent scientific or technological breakthrough — just be prepared to laugh at yourself; or take a look at past extrapolations by other writers in your subject area; start a movement (Hey, it worked for Sterling and Hubbard!)
  • Non-fiction — everybody loves to be on the inside so if you have the contacts, consider a news, gossip or rumor site with regular updates in the area your book or series
  • and much more — this looks like it’s turning into a series of articles unto itself so if you’ve got genre or category that you want covered, send us a message.

Contests, Incentives or Competitions

Develope a contest, incentive or competition that hits the right tone and interests of your audience. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive if you read your audience correctly. Think of all of those bad writing or humorous headline contests where the prize is nothing more than the fame and glory of it. Non-fiction authors, for example, might produce a small bookmark or information reference card. If humor’s your brand identity, generate a small humor list and invite your visitors to add to it. David Letterman does this to generate material for his “Top 10 List” and thousands of people visit daily to enter. Contests, incentives and competitions are often promotional “stunts”, but can turn into traffic builders if consistent and entertaining.

E-zines and Newsletters

E-zines are electronic magazines. Elements of Web Style is an e-zine. They can be delivered via the web or e-mail. The zine should include actual information and not be just a sales pitch. An e-zine can be very effective in establishing an author’s identity if targeted correctly and the information contained is highly useful to the recipient and presented well. In a future issue ofElements, we’ll cover e-zines in more depth and provide resources that can help you get started.

Electronic newsletters can be in either plain text or HTML (which most of the email programs support). If you are going to offer an HTML newsletter, you should also plan on offering the option of a plain text version. Many people either can’t receive files in the HTML format or prefer not to receive these files because of their larger size and slower loading.

In whatever method of promotion you choose, you should plan on eventually building a mailing list. While avid marketers are often highly aggressive in demanding visitor information, others have found the growing resistance by web users concerned about privacy issues and choose a more low key approach. I leave the choice up to you, although I usually advise clients to examine how they feel about their personal privacy and spam. I strongly recommend including a privacy policy statement on any site collecting visitor information. It will provide concerned visitors with the information they need and protect you from any potential legal ramifications down road.

Have you seen or developed interesting promotional content for your site? Send it to us and you might win a free consultation, a web design book, some software or whatever else we find under all the overflowing paper! Has anyone seen that Ming cup lately?

This was longer than I expected and we’ve only scratched the surface. Look for more features on each of these points downroad. Next week, we’ll continue with a look at “Community Building enhancements.”

Creating your Website with Promotion in Mind

  1. Use your three, main keyword phrases in the text of your home page.

And make text links to the deeper pages using those keyword phrases and any of the other keywords or phrases you’ve made pages for.

The first page, also known as the “Home” or “Index” page, of your site should have at least 25 words of text and shouldn’t have redirects or Flash. If you want to offer Flash or Shockwave or Quicktime, allow your viewers a choice of whether to view such things or not.

No matter what kind of graphical navigation you have at the top of your pages, you should have text links at the bottom of your pages. Search engines, as well as visitors with older browsers or slower connections, will be able to follow the text links, even if they can’t follow the graphical or multimedia methods. All graphical navigation should have defining “alt” attributes.

Before Going Live

  1. For every page, create a description and keyword meta tagthat specifically applies to the material on that page.

The description tag should be about 20-25 words and should use two or three of your most important keywords phrases in sentences that would attract people to your site.

The keyword tag should contain about 15 misspellings or alternate spellings viewers might make and some synonyms that you can’t get into the text for some reason.

  1. Make sure your web site address (url) and your email address are on all company materials.

All printed matter, including business cards, stationary, advertisements need to carry this information.

Email coming out of your company needs to have signature lines with your company’s name, roughly 3 words identifying the type of company and your web site address (URL). Link your web address (URL) to your site (i.e., include the “http://” before the URL which should make it clickable in most email programs — except AOL).

Four Keys to a Professional Website

A well-designed, professional web site is clean, clear, consistent and compelling. The appearance is should be neat and not cluttered. Everything should be clear; the visual layout, the writing, the navigation, the graphics and the message. If an ambiguity is designed into the site, it should be clear that this is on purpose and not a mistake. The basic layout, look, feel and tone of the site should be consistent, both within the site and with the subject matter. And the navigation should be especially consistent both within the site and with the conventions of the web. But most important of all, the site shold be compelling to the target audience; there should be content that is useful to the target visitor and the material should be presented in an appealing way.

A good web design is clear. Like good journalism, each web page should tell the visitor who is represented by the site, what the purpose of the page is, when they should take some action (including scrolling), where they are and where they might want to go next and how they can get around the site. There should be no ambiguities, either in the writing or the design, of the pages.

An portion of an actual web page. It is not clean, clear or consistent. And the only thing compelling is figuring it out. The text is lost by the background and the confusing font mismatches. The visitor can’t tell what’s a link, a header or important. The images are inconsistent and don’t even match the background. I literally could not have made this up if I tried. But somebody did. And it’s promoting an actual business!

A great deal of visual clarity comes from keeping the page clean and consistent. Cluttered, crowded pages give the impression of a cheap, possibly disreputable business. It’s the visual equivalent of talking too fast and too loud to try and make a pitch. A good web design gives a sense of space, space for the words and space for the graphics. A good web design gives a sense of direction, images and words line up to direct the eye vertically and horizontally instead of having the eye roam randomly over the page.

Clarity and consistency improve recognition. Recognition is created through repetition; images and text have a consistent alignment, a consistent font, a consistent design and color palette. Repetition also builds “brand recognition” and product identity.

A better web site. While this is a constructed example, it’s based on an actual site layout. The single, dramatic image captures the eye and sets the tone. The critical information is logically placed and a great deal of detailed information can be presented in a visually comfortable format. Nothing fancy, but a couple of good graphics and clean, consistent layout.

Clarity, cleanliness and consistancy sound dull, but a whisper can be much more compelling than a shout. We move away from someone who shouts; we lean in to listen to someone who whispers.

And someone who is saying something we want to hear is always compelling.

A good web design presents the target visitor with useful information. Estimates give a web page less than 15 seconds on average to convince the visitor there’s something worthwhile on the page. A compelling web page is focused on a single topic or purpose from the beginning of the download. Eliminate anything that isn’t critical to your subject for that page. Keep the page brief and on topic. Better one single, good, telling visual instead of several smaller, inconsistent, loosely-related ones.

Keep the page clear, clean, and consistent to communicate your compelling message.

The Art of Writing About the Science of Web Design

The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen should be required reading by any and every executive, web developer and marketing staff member in every company in the U.S. Okay, maybe I exaggeratre — but only a little. Veen “gets it.” Filled with commonsense arguments (like the initial quote) for function over form and form’s impact on additional function, the book presents the necessary marriage of the practical, the commercial and the possible of web site development. And it is presented clearly and comfortably. The Art & Science of Web Design is for anyone wanting to fully understand the practical purpose and potential of the web. If you’re considering a sizeable expenditure on your web site (i.e., hiring a web design agency and allocating several thousands of dollars), then you — everyone else involved — really should read this book before anyone steps into the first meeting.

The first chapter on the history and development of the web may be a bit daunting to the technophobic, but you can come back to it later if you wish. I agree with his thesis that good design comes from a deep understanding of the technologies it’s built upon. An artist must understand his or her materials to get the most from them. But it’s when Veen moves directly into the issues of development — interface, structure, behavior, browsers, performance — that he shines. He methodically takes the reader from the very core of web page development through the steps of adding additional functionality and efficiency by adding the skills of the engineers (the coders) to the vision of the designers (artists) to meet the goals of the architects (developers and copywriters).

Veen is persuasive in each of his arguments. He’s even convinced me of the advantages of using relative measurements in my style sheets. Although he didn’t convince me to use javascript to give my pages relational layout. If I had a large coding staff, yes, but many of his extrapolations on site enhancements require considerable additional time or backend development. But the book isn’t targeting the single person shop. It’s targeting the corporation or the corporate executive who is responsible for overseeing teh several thousands of dollars investment his company if about to make in their web presence.

And that’s my only caveat about The Art & Science of Web Design. It gives an excellent overview of how a web presence should and can work, however, Veen assumes a larger budget than most small organizations can allocate initially. I do, however,highly recommend any business person preparing to develop a web site read the The Art & Science of Web Design to get a thorough grounding and understanding of professional web site development and maintenance. Just don’t let the book discourage you. It is possible to build a professional, functional web site for considerably less, but this title will help you know where you may be heading as you grow and let’s you start with “the end in mind.”

Don’t Make Me Think

If you have or are planning a web site, you should read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Oh, you want to tell you more.

Don’t Make Me Think is subtitled “A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” and that’s exactly what it is, written in a clear, lighthearted, easy-to-understand tone with plenty of illustrative examples. Krug admits he’s designed to book to be read by an executive on a long plane flight, so it’s brief and direct.

It’s not about HTML coding or snazzy interfaces or frontends for dynamic pages. It’s about making a web site that real people (like your customers and clients) can — and will — use. And it’s about the avoiding poor decisions because no one paid attention to how the decisions were being made.

The book covers how people use the web and how to design sites that match people’s actual behavior. Starting with the first law, don’t make me think!”, Krug moves on to the way people initially scan a web page then delve deeper and the need to design pages for scanning. He delves deeper himself in the issue of navigation, particularly “signage” and “breadcrumbs” (those little textual lists of where you are in the structure of the site). And he devotes a whole chapter to one of my ongoing struggles when working with many designers — the fact that the page, particularly the home page, is out of our control. I confess I don’t keep my pages as tight or my text as brief as Krug recommends, but we all have our faults and I like to give more complete information to my visitors.

There’s considerable excellent information on low-budget (I mean really cheap) useability testing, how to interpret the results, and how to fix what needs to be fixed in the most cost effective manner.

This is one of those books that pays for itself in project savings. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is a book I wish I’d had on the last 3 large web startup projects I worked on. It would have saved hours in pointless meetings and tens of thousands in wasted dollars. Even if you are planning a simple “brochure” site of a few pages, this book would be worth reading to avoid making major design blunders.

So don’t think about it, buy it.

How to Get your Website Setup Free

Are you planning to start your blog, a website or an ecommerce venture? A big issue might be that you don’t know how to set up your website for success.

Website SetupThere are services out there with wich you can build a website easily. Those are called drag & drop site builders. I don’t like them for numerous reasons. They are not flexible to name one. You are very limited with what you can do on those sites. Wix.com, Yola.com, Weebly and the others are examples to this.

Now if you need a more flexible and scalable solution you should choose WordPress. It’s awesome. There is a free website setup service by Hostingmanual.net. They will set up your WP website on your webhost. They will optimize it for SEO and Speed and show you how to use WordPress. Awesome service if you ask me! Give them a try!