By James Ellis
A website can be and do just about anything. It can be a brochure, a greeting card, a catalog, a conversation space, an announcement, a research tool, a library, a photo gallery, a way to spark ideas, build connections, engage people and speak about your corner of the world.
But it can’t really do all those things (unless you are Google or maybe Facebook, in which case, “hi!”). It can do one or two of those things well. It can do three or four of those things well with an exponential increase in resources, but that’s it.
So instead of spending millions on a legion of developers, creative directors, content managers and the staff to populate their respective armies, maybe you should focus your intention down to one thing.
What is your website supposed to be or do? Boil it down to a phrase a five-year-old could understand.
Amazon was a bookstore. Now it is an everything store. Google is a search engine. Those are easy, mostly because they have smart marketers and leadership who knows that you need to excel at one thing before you expand to something else.
But what about the website for your favorite coffee shop? It could be a brochure: hours and location with a pic of a cute barista. It could be a branding peice: pictures and animations that are warm and inviting about the idea of coffee and scones. It could be a business development peice: Get you excited about the idea of hand-roasted select gourmet coffee and how it will make your life better. It could be a store: place your coffee order and schedule a pick-up time or delivery. It could be a research tool: Everything you could want to know about coffee from different regions of the world, how it should be roasted, what the types of roasting levels mean and how they affect taste.
One coffee shop, four intentions. Each intention shapes the nature of the website, who uses it and why. Intention therefore determines the site’s success
For example, will more people come to your coffee shop because they know more about all the different coffee varieties? If your goal is to sell more coffee, then maybe that intention doesn’t align with that objective. If you spend 3,000 words talking about thirty different coffee varieties, and you only sell two, what was the good in that? You may have just gotten them excited to go to another coffee shop.
Nailing down the intention of your site, especially in relation to your total marketing strategy and your business strategy, increases your likelihood of success. Now I’m going to go drink some coffee.
By Elaine Love
The media is buzzing about the “newest kid on the printing block.” What marvelous potential exists for this new technology! Just think what 3D printing can accomplish for the medical community, the automobile industry, architecture and even the toy industry. Will 3D printing ever reach the widespread popularity of the print industry as we know and use it currently?
Pause and hit Rewind
How does 3D Printing Work?
Three-dimensional printing is a process by which layers of material are stacked creating a physical object. Materials such as plastics, fabric fibers and even human tissue are fed into the machine to create the designs. Depending upon the machine, those layers could be created through stacking layers of light (FTI- film transfer imaging), fusing heated plastic filament or metal wire (FDM – fused deposition modeling) or laser technology with at least seven different types of metals (SLS – Selective laser sintering).
Sound complicated? Relax. I don’t pretend to understand exactly how the technology works. Do you know all of the exact technology behind how your smart phone works? Neither do I, but we still use our phones constantly.
What Benefit does 3D Provide?
Imagine being able to create an intricate architectural design to visualize exactly how your building or sculpture will look prior to construction. Imagine being able to create artificial limbs for accident victims or to correct birth defects. Imagine being able to create a spare part for a machine long after the model had been discontinued.
Through contour crafting it is possible to build an entire home: concrete foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring and all of the furnishings. A 2500 square foot house could be built in 20 hours. Imagine the benefit in restoring homes for victims of natural disasters.
Artificial limbs, prosthesis, can be created to assist accident victims and correct birth defects. 3D printing can produce medical devices such as those used in my spinal fusions. It is scary to think what could be created from human tissue as this technology advances.
Prototypes of automobiles, planes, boats and other mobile devices can be created and tested; design adjustments can be made prior to the expensive final production stage.
Can you imagine giving a child a 3D computer to create their own toys? At least it would be more engaging and positive for their mind than watching violence on TV. A few decades ago a child was given an erector set; next came Legos. Imagine telling a child to go to their room and create their own toy. At this point the complexity of programming the machine prevents this scenario, but will that change in the future?
How would a blogger utilize the services of a 3D printer? Imagine bringing your concept to life? The familiar quotation is “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Adding an image to your text enhances the visual appeal and engages the reader. Granted, becoming an excellent photographer to capture the 3D image to include in your post could present a challenge, but then you are up for a challenge. Tap your incredible imagination. Let me hear from you.
The possibilities are endless
What’s the Catch?
Three-dimensional printing is not new; 3D has existed for three decades. 3D printing has been too expensive, non-accessible, inefficient and too slow. Times are changing. According to Lisa Harouni of Digital Forming, detail and quality are improving; the price has been reduced to about $300 and the machine will now fit on a desktop.
What’s the problem?
The programming complexity makes the machine very difficult to use. At this point 3D Printing machines are not user friendly; however with rapidly advancing technology, this could change in the next few years. Three-dimensional printing has the potential to create a manufacturing revolution. Some are touting 3D printing as the answer to ending “made in China.” When manufacturing is cost effective, time efficient to produce, inexpensive to ship and accurate (machines eliminate the human error factor), 3D has the potential to bring the manufacturing industry back to America.
Will 3D Printing Replace Traditional Printing Companies?
No. 3D and traditional printing as we know it now serve two totally different purposes. It’s like asking if an exotic alcoholic drink will replace green tea. Both have their value, but they fill entirely different purposes.
The current fiercely competitive printing industry is expanding. A new online printing company will be challenged to the max to go head to head with the printing giants like Vista Print, PrintPlace.com, or PsPrint. The printing industry is not declining but thriving. Competition in the printing industry is intensifying. UPS and FedEx are trying to capture their own piece of the printing industry market.
A business card created with 3D printing shaped as an exact replica of an entire set of golf clubs may be fun and unique, but imagine attempting to place 20 of them in your wallet.
3D Printer in Every Home?
Does the possibility exist for 3D printers to be in most homes and offices? It’s possible. Is it probable? It was only a few decades ago when Ken Olsen, founder of the legendary minicomputer company DEC said, “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Now we all have at least one computer and probably several when you include our smart phones.
As the volume of information increases and more and more records must be created and retained, does it really make logical sense to create three-dimensional contracts, three-dimensional business cards, three-dimensional letters or postcards and three dimensional grocery lists? No. Will the marketplace still need business cards, legal documents, restaurant guest checks, and printed marketing materials? Yes. The majority of printed materials as we know them will continue to be of significance.
There is a greater likelihood of electronic media replacing some paper documents than 3D printing replacing traditional printed materials. Three-dimensional printing serves an entirely different function in the marketplace than traditional printed materials.
So did we spark your creative juices? How could you potentially take advantage of 3D printing in your online business?
By Rob James
If you own an online business and want to optimise your website, itâ€™s important to consider the many benefits of using images to encourage interaction from users. Images can add an emotional connection to websites, and when combined with excellent layout, typography, and animation, can help to build a compelling website for your business. How do images engage users, then, and what are some of the more specific actions you can take to use images as part of your own site?
The building blocks of images on a site can range from anything from an effective logo to icons and animation, as well as images in side bars and articles – in most cases, these graphics and images serve a functional purpose – they grab the attention, and they provide a complement to the copy on your site. A basic page layout can consequently use images as sparingly as possible, and can rely on stock pictures tailored to your business, or ones that youâ€™ve taken yourself.
However, images on a site should be more than just functional – they should be able to provoke an emotional response from users in the shortest period of time. One way in which this becomes more effective comes when images are animated, or when they can be navigated like a game, and broken down to include click throughs and pop ups that produce videos – some examples of where images can become more animated can be found here. Producing interactive image maps, where information for a business is spread across a whole image with different clickable sections – a map of an office or a city with separate sections activated by clicking on different parts of the screen represent examples – can also make a site more engaging.
Chuck Longanecker has emphasised the importance of â€˜emotionally intelligent interactionsâ€™ for encouraging conversions on sites; this involves using professionally created graphic design and high quality photographs to make a site look more like a glossy magazine lay out than a traditional web page. Longanecker cites examples from error message screens that use rich graphics and images as good examples of how even the most mundane parts of a site can be made more effective.
Remember User Experience
What this adds up to are sites that are tailored to your business, but that take the process of web design further by using HMTL5 and Flash coding to make a site rely on intuitive graphics, where drop down menus, sliding bars, and videos embedded into the site, rather than loading separately, promote a clean user experience. One good example of this in practice are sites that use full size backgrounds, and the minimum of copy, on their landing pages – fashion and car brands are particularly effective at this approach.
What can you do, then, to boost your own site? The first step to take is to either find or commission high definition images to use on your site, which can ideally be blown up to act as a full screen background – sites that take this approach look particularly great on HD tablets. Alternatively, look to a web design company that can take your existing site and rethink its graphic design – so much of whatâ€™s important now about a site is looking less and less like a simply laid out set of information, and more like an interactive puzzle that users can navigate.
Going forward, itâ€™s also important to remember not to overload your site with different images, and to always make sure that you have the rights to use an image or graphic; Creative Commons images are available through sites like Flickr, while you can also license images from the Getty and other collections for a small amount of money. In addition, you can test out the success of new images and image layouts for your site through Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) – this involves running tests where users see different versions of the same site, and then checking to see which had the highest rate of conversions or click throughs.
Are you integrating compelling images in your site design? What’s your favorite resource?keep looking »