“Good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas.”
---Yves Behar (Swiss designer, entrepreneur and an educator)
Over the years, we’ve helped a good number of startup companies and non-profit organizations develop and implement long-term growth strategies. Without question, one of biggest challenges we typically face when working with their leadership teams is convincing them to invest aggressively in their brands.
We’ve found that entrepreneurs and non-profit executives often place branding on the lower end of the priority scale because it's difficult for them to see the tangible benefits. Oftentimes, they assume that money spent on branding diminishes their operational capacity. Such thinking tends to be a penny-wise but pound-foolish approach.
This is particularly true when it comes to web design. In today’s world, your website is typically one of the first points of contact between your organization and your target audience. Strong web design often propels your organization to success. Conversely, poor web design can completely subvert your mission.
First impressions matter. Make a bad impression, and you’ll likely lose potential conversions. Make a good one, and you’ll typically gain new customers. More importantly, you’ll potentially earn a customer for life if you make a great impression.
In other words, quality web design is crucial to your mission. A high-quality website greatly increases the value of your brand in the minds of your target audience. Furthermore, wise investments in your digital assets ultimately build brand equity for your organization. With this in mind, here are the twelve design rules we suggest you follow in order to squeeze the most out of your website.
of your design will be evaluated instantly by your visitors. Their first impressions will likely determine if, when and how they decide to interact with your site, brand or business. A visually pleasing design scheme will create a favorable first impression and increase visitor engagement.
Here are the design elements that attract your visitor’s attention first and foremost:
Tip: Effective visuals and a crisp, clean design add credibility and legitimacy to your website. Effective design also helps establish trust in your brand. This is especially important if you're trying to convert a sale or sway opinions. A visitor will associate the experience they have on your website with the experience they are likely to have with you in real life.
RULE #2 – Get to Know SEO
To make the most of your Internet real estate, you need to design and build a website that can be found on the major search engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.).
The art and science of ranking in search is commonly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). An effective content strategy accounts for the search terms your target audience uses on a day-to-day basis. An effective strategy also incorporates customized content (e.g. videos, blog articles, podcasts, e-books, etc.) based on your audience's demands and preferences.
Successful SEO requires patience and attention to detail. An extensive knowledge of how search engines work is helpful, and it generally takes time and practice to achieve sustainable success. That said, you’ll be off to a good start and probably gain an advantage over your competition once you get the basics down. After mastering the basics, you can always move on to advanced levels of SEO down the road.
Tip: If you’re just starting out with SEO, it’s a good idea to begin simple. For example, concentrate on improving your site in each of the following five areas:
RULE #3 – Responsive Websites Rank Better
Mobile search now accounts for over 60% of total search volume; and that figure is only expected to increase over the next few years.
Indeed, 80% of internet users own a smartphone, and Google indicates that “61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.” Therefore, the look, feel, form and function of your website on mobile devices is crucial to your long-term success.
based on the dimensions of the viewing device. For example, the look and feel of a site viewed on an over-sized desktop computer monitor, a laptop, or devices with small screens such as smartphones and tablets, is generally consistent across all devices.
Tip: Most of the major drag-and-drop website builders (e.g. Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) now include responsive design templates as part of their standard product offerings.
RULE #4 – Your Navigation Menu Matters
Navigation is a crucial component of effective website design. Your navigation menu is basically a map that displays the key places you want your visitors to explore. If your website’s navigation menu isn’t effective, visitors will overlook important content. Worse still, they may become frustrated and abandon your site altogether.
When examining the effectiveness of your website's navigation menu, it's important to ensure that it’s clear, concise and relatively simple. Common characteristics of an effective navigation menu include:
Tip: The bottom of your page isn’t necessarily the end of your site and the space for your copyright notice. An effective footer also allows visitors dig deeper into your site. Meaning, you shouldn't forget to include a secondary navigation menu in your website footer. As an added benefit, the additional internal links positively influence your page search rankings.
RULE #5 – Take Time When Crafting Your Content Headers
If you effectively utilize and optimize your h1, h2 and h3 header tags, you can greatly improve your website’s search rankings and thereby increase organic traffic. That said, designers all too often miss the mark when creating the header tags for their web pages.
Header tags are a critical on-page SEO factor because search engines use them to categorize your site’s content. Search engines prioritize the copy in your header tags above your text paragraph sections. The hierarchy begins with your h1 tag and moves down in importance to the h2, h3, etc. In other words, your header tags supplement the mission or purpose of your web pages.
It’s important to structure your header tags appropriately. To truly be effective, it’s important to include short-tail and long-tail keywords in your header tag content. When the search engines crawl your site, they read your header tags and recognize the keywords you’ve incorporated. They’re factored in to the algorithms the search engines use to prioritize and rank your pages in their search results.
Tip: Your h1 tag should contain keywords targeted toward your audience. Your keywords should relate directly to your page title as well as your body content. As a general rule, you should only use one h1 tag on each page.
Your h2 tags are subheadings. They should contain keywords related to your h1 tag. Subsequently, your h3 tags are subheadings for your h2 tags, etc. In short, order your header tags in a hierarchy based on importance.
Also, ensure that your header tags are grammatically correct and coherent. Packing your header tags with keywords may in-fact hurt your search rankings. Google and Bing’s algorithms are sophisticated – attempts to manipulate search rankings generally do more harm than good.
Most visitors are comfortable scrolling a web page these days. Consequently, design emphasis has shifted toward optimizing aesthetics and form styling in recent years. A longer home page is now acceptable and offers some strategic advantages as well. Including 3-5 sections on your home page helps point visitors to key areas of your site. It also creates a more seamless user experience for your visitors.
Tip: Here’s a list of the key elements you should consider including in the sections of your home page:
RULE #7 – Make Effective Use of White Space
Believe it or not, white space is a critical design element. The term refers to the areas around your page elements that are empty and lack content or visual items.
White space improves readability and helps you compartmentalize your content. It also tends to decrease the apprehension level of new visitors. A page stuffed full of text and/or graphics with minimal white space generally appears busy or cluttered. This diminishes your user experience (UX) and typically leads to a high bounce rate.
Tip: If your web page lacks white space, review the page and strip elements or content that aren't necessary to the purpose of the page. After that, make sure this content is properly grouped so users are able to distinguish correlations on the page.
RULE #8 – Invest Time In Social Media
Effective use of social media really drives website traffic. In fact, over 26% of all traffic now comes from social media sites vs. 35% from search. Given that 62% of people list social media as a primary news source, your organization can’t afford to be silent on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks if you wish to stay relevant.
Besides being a valuable traffic and lead source, social media offers a unique opportunity to strengthen your brand’s awareness and reach. While organic search and paid advertisements generate attention, social media tends to spark interest. For example, people can begin following you with a simple click of a button on most social media sites. This provides an opportunity to engage with an interested audience on a regular basis and likely generate additional revenues long-term.
If all this sounds new to you, then we suggest you begin by setting up branded social media accounts and then embed social sharing buttons on the key pages of your website. Social sharing buttons contain icons from your preferred social sites and allow your visitors to share your content directly on their social media feeds. In other words, engaged visitors amplify your brand within their social circles and ultimately drive new traffic to your website.
Tip: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are social media juggernauts. However, they aren't the only players in the game. Indeed, the social media landscape has changed considerably in recent years and the industry is becoming more and more competitive. A plethora of new “free speech” social media startups offer unique opportunities to quickly make a name for yourself. We suggest you check out up-and-coming players like Gab, InfinitySN, Minds and Free Talk which currently seem to be operating under the radar of most major brands.
RULE #9 – Leverage and Grow Your Brand Assets
Your website is your public persona. It creates a lasting image of who you are. Therefore, carefully consider what you want your local, domestic and international communities to know about you, your product or your services. Once you've identified your desired game plan, meticulously craft your image and effectively manage your message.
Therefore, consider the following as you define or re-evaluate your brand:
Tip: Start by defining your ideal target market before you do anything else. Identify common attribute characteristics like:
Once you’ve profiled your ideal customers, create content tailored to the audience. Use language and imagery relevant to your target audience and relate on their terms.
RULE #10 – Font and Color Palates Really Matter
One of the keys to effective web design is to remember that digital marketing is principally text communication. According to Ryan Shafer (Lead Digital Designer at MTV & VH1), “I encourage all budding web designers to embrace that the web is fundamentally about typography design.”
extremely important when it comes to creating a cohesive color palette for your website and your other mar-comm materials.
A three-color palate is a good rule of thumb. That said, adhere to basic best practices in color theory no matter what color scheme you choose for your brand.
Tip: If you’re a design novice, a number of free online tools and resources are available to point you in the right direction. For color palates, we recommend Adobe Creative Cloud’s Color Wheel and Paletton. For font type selection, check out: Adobe Fonts, Wordmark and Type Scale.
RULE #11 – Maintain Fresh Content
The expression, “content is king” is widely-used these days in digital marketing circles. So, what exactly does it mean?
For starters, it refers to the fact that the search engines place a premium on new content. Indeed, the quality and relevancy of your content is essential in determining your page's position in search query results.
Simply updating or refreshing your pages on a regular basis doesn’t make your site “fresh” and more likely to rank effectively within the search engines. Similarly, adding new pages just for the sake of increasing the size of your digital footprint won’t necessarily boost your site on the freshness meter.
Google employs a tool referred to as "Query Deserves Freshness" (QDF) to rank and prioritize new content. This tool monitors search query activities and identifies trending topics that stand out from normal activity. When QDF is triggered, Google looks to see if there’s any fresh content on the topic and then gives that content a boost in their search results.
In other words, if you have fresh content on a trending topic, you’ll likely enjoy a ride at the top of the search results for a period of time. Once the QDF boost wears off, your page generally shuffles back to its original position in the search results.
If you’re a savvy and nimble organization, the QDF algorithm provides opportunities to generate a significant competitive advantage. For example, if you create relevant and robust content in pulse with the hottest trends in your market, you can quickly establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry.
Tip: Follow these five simple guidelines if you struggle to create fresh content:
RULE #12 –Utilize High-Quality Images and Graphics
Eye-catching visual elements that complement your branding have a tremendous impact when used properly. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting graphics and images for your website:
customized graphics from a professional designer. That said, there are plenty of affordable stock image sites to choose from if you happen to have tight resource constraints (e.g. iStock, Adobe Stock, Wikimedia Commons, etc.)
If you do decide to use stock images instead of proprietary artwork, be careful to ensure that every image you select matches your brand persona and correlates with your written content. Also, you want to establish a unique brand identity and protect your site from having a generic look and feel, so be sure to avoid popular images if you can.
Tip: Remember that page load time factors in to your site’s search rankings. This is especially true for mobile. Therefore, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size of your image files. Familiarize yourself with Google’s “Image Optimization” guidelines if you want to completely optimize your images.
As we stated earlier, your website is often your organization’s primary public persona. It holds enormous influence over your target market’s perception of your products and/or services. More often than not, healthy and flourishing organizations tend to have effective websites; while struggling organizations often have ineffective websites.
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting
“The public library system of the United States is worth preserving.”
---Henry Rollins (American Musician)
Up front, we want to make one thing perfectly clear: we are NOT in favor of nationalizing our primary schools nor our secondary educational institutions. Under our Constitution, these matters reside with our state and local governments; and we believe that it should remain that way. Nevertheless, it would be foolish or naive to ignore that the fabric of American education is changing dramatically during the digital revolution.
Take a look at the numbers. The education market in the United States has grown dramatically since the advent of the Internet and it's only expected to grow more over the next several years. In short: the ED hasn't kept pace with the changes; and it’s time we recognize the cultural shift that's occurring as a result. In other words, we ought to re-engineer and re-tool our educational systems; and we ought to act quickly!
THE STARTING POINT
The amount of information available today to the public over the world wide web is unprecedented in our history. Concurrently, the information age has spawned a number of innovations in the field of education. Among the most sweeping changes in primary and secondary research:
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, it's evident that how and where we learn in this era is much different than it was before. This led us to ask the following questions:
These are the fundamental questions we’ll address in this article. We’ll argue that Americans need to fully understand and quickly accept the fact that educational tools like Google, Wikipedia, and the Dictionary.com’s of the world all serve the public interest and ought to be nationalized to some degree. In other words, a complete re-tooling of our Department of Education is long overdue.
AS SIMPLE AS 1,2,3
Here’s where we’d start:
The proposed system would re-tool the Department of Education; and also support crucial National Security and Defense initiatives. We’ll explain what we mean as you read on:
MOST OF US NOW CARRY A “POCKET LIBRARY”
Like 77% of all Americans, I own a smartphone; and I often download and access useful apps for personal education, writing and research purposes. The apps on my device include a couple of different Search Engines (Google and Bing), a global encyclopedia (Wikipedia), a dictionary and a thesaurus (my preferred version is Merriam-Webster), as well as a multitude of other small reference tools (e.g. area code lookups and zip code lookups, etc.).
If you were born after 1989, these things probably seem natural. However, for those of us who are older, the Internet revolutionized access to libraries of information as well as primary and secondary research tools. Imagine: before the 1990's, people actually had to travel (by automobile or by foot) to a library to access a wide body of research materials if they weren’t fortunate enough to own them themselves. Furthermore, if their research requirements were extensive, they often had to travel to multiple locations to complete their research!
Research tools and materials are vital necessities for individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset: people who wish to invest time and energy in determining their own futures. Nearly every entrepreneur and investor will tell you that if you want to gain advantages over your competition, you need to excel in school and continuously strive for personal growth. In other words, you spend a great deal of time in library facilities.
Any way you look at it, a public library is about education, growth. and learning. It’s a core extension of our public education system. As Campbell Brown of Facebook notes, “It comes down to what your priorities are, and if public education is about children and learning. It’s a core extension of the public education system. As kids, then every decision we make should be focused on the question of 'Is this good for a child?' And that should be the driving focus and the priority when we decide what our policies should be and what our laws should be.”
(Keep in mind that we are all considered children in eyes of our Creator to a certain degree regardless of our age...)
Currently, we have libraries in our public school systems for our children from grades K-12; and reference materials are of course vital to those systems. Ask any teacher, and they’ll definitively tell you that high-caliber tools facilitate quality education. So then, why aren't the tools in our "pocket library" considered an extension of our public education system, if public libraries in fact are?
It boils down to this: some of the tools within our aggregate pocket library must be integrated into the ED in order to effectively manage public education in the United States today. Otherwise, we may put the American way of life at risk as things currently stand.
A CASE FOR NATIONALIZING OUR POCKET LIBRARY
Is it in our best interests to have all our digital research tools developed, managed and updated by private corporations and select non-profits? The answer is unequivocally NO!
Of course, Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity are the driving factors behind the success of the corporations that maintain our "pocket library" (Google and Microsoft as well as the Wikimedia Foundation and others). For example, Google launched in 1996 as a research project by PhD students at Stanford University. Two years later, the company received a $100,000 angel investment; and away it went!
Nevertheless, Google has received a great deal of scrutiny and criticism recently from conservative & libertarian political pundits and conservative economists; as well as from radical leftist ideologues like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
on the right side of the political spectrum, Conservative and Libertarian political pundits accuse the tech monolith of down-ranking sites and pages that don’t align with corporate’s political positions, thereby suppressing free speech. The concerns of the conservative economists are largely geopolitical in nature. For example, Google has agreed to build a censored version of their search engine for communist China. Both sets of concerns suggest that Google deliberately stifles competition and suppresses the very principles that led to the company’s founding: entrepreneurship and innovation!
On the other hand, far-left zealots have seized upon these factors to push forth visions of an impossible socialist utopia. For example, Sanders (a self-proclaimed "Democratic Socialist” demagogue) contends: “You go to your public library, or you call your fire department or police department, what do you think you are calling? These are socialist institutions.”
To be blunt, Senator Sanders full of crap. The police, the fire department and the public library ARE NOT socialist institutions. Rather, they’re public resources; and there’s are HUGE differences between the two!
BERNIE SANDERS MAY BE MISGUIDED... BUT HE DOES HAVE A POINT
Several of the tools we've listed (i.e. search engines, dictionaries and encyclopedias) and are in-fact primary and secondary research staples used in libraries the world over. However, unlike brick and mortar libraries, the information available within our "Pocket Library" is decentralized, poorly curated and loosely maintained at the present time.
For example, a dictionary reference tool now often appears in Google's search results when you include the word “definition” with a search term. That said, the word inclusion criteria (and definitions) appear to be determined by Google itself!
This should concern anyone who believes in the American Dream. If you look under the surface, you'll find that terms like Fascism were completely omitted from Google's dictionary tool last year after the Daily Caller questioned the definition that Google supplied.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Google has now integrated a feedback tool to report “wrong and offensive” definitions; quite possibly modifying or altering definitions on a day-to-day basis in most extreme cases.
Google currently dominates the search industry. Coupling search with a dictionary and thesaurus in effect makes Google (and the semi-anonymous voting body that supplies feedback on word acceptance) the principle arbiters of English, Spanish and a multitude of other human languages!
We must question whether it’s reasonable and prudent to allow companies like Google and non-profits like Wikimedia such enormous sway over the literacy and education of the American public! It seems to us that leverage these monoliths have over our society could in-fact fuel Fascism; very word Google omitted from their dictionary back in 2017!
THIS IS A NO-BRAINER
Clearly, the "Pocket Library" we’ve discussed here is vital to our national interests. In-fact, you could say that it’s a national treasure of sorts: Young and old men and women of varying backgrounds and ethnic persuasions scour their "Pocket Libraries" daily seeking to educate themselves, better their lives and expand their horizons.
When it comes to the tools and resources in our "Pocket Library" we need to ensure there's a level playing field. We must ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information available to the public, preserve our national heritage and cultivate advancements that strengthen our society.
So, why not:
For the reasons we've described, both these ideas make clear sense to us.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's socialist ideals are in-fact Utopian fantasies. They're a means to an apocalyptic end for American free enterprise, free speech and free expression. We’re not proposing an end to the free market in the case we've presented. Instead, we’re talking about centralizing a core set of vital public services; just like the United States postal service does for mail and package delivery. Not the whole enchilada mind you; just the meaty part of it.
We also argue that setting up such a service will lead to a much fairer competitive environment and open the door for a wide array of entrepreneurial business ventures within the affected industry categories. You only need look at the success of shipping companies like Federal Express, UPS and DHL to realize that opportunity will eventually open up in this space if the federal government steps in and asserts a degree of authority.
Jesus, I hope more Americans soon realize the strategic importance of the research tools that comprise our aggregate "Pocket Library" and demand immediate action from our lawmakers. Otherwise, we’re headed toward a world where George Orwell’s "Doublespeak" becomes a real possibility.
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting
Thoughts On The Kavanaugh Hearings, Due Process, The Court Of Public Opinion, and What It All Means For America
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
---George Santayana (American Philosopher 1906)
So far, 2018 has been a very busy and productive year for our consulting firm. So much so, that we decided to put our blog articles on hiatus while we focused our attention on our clientele's priorities. We’ve also gone dark on our social media pages for much the same reason.
However, this past Saturday a client of ours posted a statement on his personal Facebook page which I happened to catch. His statement related to the allegations of sexual assault made against Supreme Court Justice Brett during his confirmation hearings. Frankly, the sentiments our client chose to share disturbed me greatly. So much so, that I felt they warranted a response.
Sadly, much of social media has become a thought ghetto in recent years. Rational debates and logical discussions have largely been silenced and replaced with emotional outbursts by angry mobs. Their comments are largely rooted in animus and in fear; and are oftentimes agenda driven. Consequently, I decided to write a personal letter to him expressing my concerns instead of posting my thoughts to his feed or sending him an instant message.
As I said, our client’s statements on this matter were deeply disconcerting on many levels. The responses he received troubled me even more. As a result, I've chosen to share my response letter publicly. His original comment is included near the opening of my very lengthy response which follows below:
OUR LETTER IN RESPONSE TO THE KAVANAUGH CONFIRMATION HEARINGS AND THE QUESTION OF DUE PROCESS
THE INEVITABLY DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF WE DEMOCRATICALLY FORGO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
I have yet to receive a response to my letter from our client. That said, I am hopeful that he will take the time to reflect on my arguments, recognize the extreme nature of his original statement and recant his position. That said, we are witnessing a rapid spread of absolutist rhetoric within our society today. It is a very real danger to anyone who disagrees with agenda-driven propaganda based on subjective truths and partial facts. That's why I felt compelled to come forward and speak out on this matter.
Radical leftist ideologues repeatedly ignore objective truths in order to push forward agendas premised on "equality of outcome". They fail to grasp the fundamentals of Natural Law. Additionally, they willfully or blissfully ignore the repeated failures of Marxist and Socialist ideology all throughout history. The fact of the matter is that "equality of outcome" is an impossible Utopian ideal. Humans are inherently flawed; and there are individuals among us who crave absolute and unlimited power over others. There always have been and always will be such individuals. All throughout history, they have risen within socialist regimes to impose authoritarian or totalitarian forms of rule.
Based on the circus we have witnessed on Capitol Hill in recent days, my hope is that more and more Americans are waking up to the fact that leftist rhetoric is becoming increasingly radical in our society. It's no wonder this is occurring when you take into account that authoritarian extremists permeate our educational institutions and our media outlets. In fact, journalistic standards have been all but been abandoned by a majority of prominent American media outlets that lean left of center.
To loosely paraphrase the Santayana quote I cited above: we will one day find ourselves in shackles if we forget the aggregate lessons world history teaches. Make no mistake, sowing distrust in our judicial system and chipping away at our Constitutional protections are but a means to an end. Evil in fact exists. There are individuals walking the planet today who would like nothing more than than to see an erosion of America's founding principles and the complete destruction of our Constitutional Republic. Doing so would open the gates for tyranny, injustice and oppression around the world.
the shadows of ignorance if more Americans who believe in MLK's Dream don't soon wake up to the fact that we are forgetting a fundamental chapter of world history. Indeed, we are starting to repeat mistakes that led to the the death of countless millions during the political upheavals of the 20th century. May God help us all.
For anyone interested:
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting
Many C-Level executives associate Demand Generation with technology solutions and/or digital content programs. While both are crucial components, it's important to remember that effective Demand Generation is a complete organizational discipline. It's been our experience that organizations that avoid or ignore one or more of Demand Generation's strategic pillars often doom their programs to failure.
Our 2018 white paper The 4 Strategic Pillars of Effective Demand Generation examines the discipline from a strategic standpoint. We look at the key factors which typically separate effective Demand Generation programs from their ineffective counterparts. We also address the foundations of an effective Demand Generation strategy and offer some tactical recommendations within each of the four strategic pillars:
Over the years, we've helped a number of startups and expansion stage companies establish successful Demand Generation programs based upon the tenants we outline in this white paper. We've also helped a handful of established companies retool their marketing and sales operations, integrate predictive analytics into their programs and refine their touch point communications strategies based on these principles we highlight.
The white paper includes an Executive Summary with key findings as well as our conclusions for companies looking to adopt Demand Generation strategies or optimize their current Demand Gen activities. Click on the picture below to download the white paper now:
If you're seeking to establish a Demand Generation program for your company in 2018, or if your organization didn't produce the results you projected for your Demand Gen campaigns last year, Chi Rho Consulting can help! There's no cost for an initial consultation and we typically structure performance-based fee arrangements with our clients.