Monthly Archives: June 2011

10 Must Have Mobile Apps

Courtesy of PRNewser

It’s been a little while since PRNewser updated our list of favorite mobile apps for PR professionals. At the rapid speed at which the mobile app industry evolves, much has changed since our last update, and yet several apps made the list this time around as well.

We’re skipping the consumer apps that many of us already use: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. This is a focus on some apps that frequently come in handy when in a bind.

1) Pulse – Pulse is a well-designed news aggregator app commonly compared to Flipboard, the wildly popular iPad app that has not yet made it the iPhone. It lets you add all of your top news sources and displays them in a visually appealing manner.

2) Instapaper – Save articles and content that you know you’ll want to read later. The app saves these articles in a clean format perfect for mobile reading.

3) Tripit – This one didn’t make it in last time, but makes it in this time after a recommendation from Jeremy Pepper. Aggregate all of your travel information in one place, including those must have confirmation numbers. Also, plan out all of your trips. Perfect for the PR pro on the go.

4) Open Table – The best app for booking restaurant reservations on the go. Because you don’t want to get stuck with your big client at a fast food joint.

5) Recorder – This one may be more popular for reporters, but PR pros should also have a recorder app handy when you really want record an interview, a chat with a colleague or client, etc.

6) WordPress – If you do a lot of work on WordPress, this is a must have. Beat others to the punch by having info on your company or client’s blog before anyone else. Or save images and content ideas when you’re on the go.

7) Analytics Agent – Google Analytics on the go. What else do you need to know?

Group texting (GroupMe, Beluga, etc.) – Very useful for teams on the go. We won’t get into making specific recommendations on any one app, but setting up a group texting app for different teams you often work with can speed up communications.

Repeats from last time (these are too good for us to leave out):

9) Evernote — “From creating text and ink notes, to snapshots of whiteboards and wine labels, to clips of webpages, Evernote users can capture anything from their real and digital lives and find it all anytime,” reads Evernote’s description. This is incredibly useful for capturing, researching and organizing content on the go.

10) Dropbox — Never email yourself or lose a file again. Dropbox is an “impressive file sharing service which makes it easy to sync your files across multiple computers and the web,” writes TechCrunch. Great for handling those PowerPoint presentations and other docs while on the road.

3 Simple Steps to Increase Time on Your Website

Courtesy of Website Magazine

Most online marketers and website owners tend to measure the success of their online business by the amount of traffic they are able to generate (and, of course, revenue).

While increasing the number of unique visitors is most definitely important (and something that everyone should be concerned with), it is arguably only half the battle. Unique visitors and visits alone should not be the only means by which you are measuring success.

It is easy to understand that there is little in the way of benefit from attracting a visitor to your website that quickly clicks the back button and leaves. Often, website owners and online marketers spend more time thinking about how to attract people to a site and less on how to encourage those visitors to spend considerably more time on your website. Take heed – there is a a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on a website and its success. So how can you increase time on site (and profits)? Follow these three simple strategies.

- Design Smarter (and Write Longer) -

Of all the different site types, it is the content marketers that either have the best or the worst time-on-site averages. While one suggestion might be to simply write longer-form content, another option would be to take the longer-form content you have or will develop in the future and commit to splitting it into multiple sections. This is a common approach that has been used on sites like About.com and many newspaper sites for years. For example, a 1,000 word article could be split into four sections of 250 words each. Some content management systems have this functionality built in, so explore that feature if available to you. Another benefit of splitting content is that it gives publishers the ability to generate more advertising impressions – a big draw particularly for those selling on a CPM basis.

- Create More Relevant Jump Points for Content Showcasing -

Would you rather feature content that is timely or timeless? There are arguments for and against both, but those publishers that concentrate on identifying areas where they can showcase their best information are those that often have the highest time-on-site averages. These jump points are areas where publishers can profile/push the most popular pages, the most heavily commented upon content items or most linked-to items. There are, of course, many places to do this, including at the end of articles/posts, within sidebars, and within the content itself. There is actually some SEO benefit to creating links to this type of content on your site as the number and relevance of links to internal pages is (arguably) an important factor in search engine ranking.

- Introduce Supplemental Formats: Multimedia & Applications -

Many content publishers, to their own detriment, opt to stay with the content format most familiar to them – whatever that may be. Consumers, however, often have very different demands when it comes to their consumption preferences – offering just one only gives you one chance for one type of visitor. Start introducing supplemental formats and you’ll be surprised about the positive effect it has on time on site. For example, if you’ve got a long-form article, why not fire up the webcam and produce a short-form video about that article’s key points or takeaways. If you publish a list of events, why not introduce a calendar application which is a terrific way to increase the number of clicks on your site as well.

When it comes to increasing time on site, remember the following: your website visitors are willing to be engaged with your site (and spend more time on it), but content publishers absolutely must commit to repurposing content into new design formats, providing jump points wherever necessary to expose them to content that should be showcased, and they should introduce supplemental formats to satisfy the Web’s diverse content consumption needs and wants.

Make no mistake – increasing time on site is no easy task. Keep these three simple strategies in mind and you will not only see significant percentage increases in time on site, but revenue as well.

Most online marketers and website owners tend to measure the success of their online business by the amount of traffic they are able to generate (and, of course, revenue).

While increasing the number of unique visitors is most definitely important (and something that everyone should be concerned with), it is arguably only half the battle. Unique visitors and visits alone should not be the only means by which you are measuring success.

It is easy to understand that there is little in the way of benefit from attracting a visitor to your website that quickly clicks the back button and leaves. Often, website owners and online marketers spend more time thinking about how to attract people to a site and less on how to encourage those visitors to spend considerably more time on your website. Take heed – there is a a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on a website and its success. So how can you increase time on site (and profits)? Follow these three simple strategies.

- Design Smarter (and Write Longer) -

Of all the different site types, it is the content marketers that either have the best or the worst time-on-site averages. While one suggestion might be to simply write longer-form content, another option would be to take the longer-form content you have or will develop in the future and commit to splitting it into multiple sections. This is a common approach that has been used on sites like About.com and many newspaper sites for years. For example, a 1,000 word article could be split into four sections of 250 words each. Some content management systems have this functionality built in, so explore that feature if available to you. Another benefit of splitting content is that it gives publishers the ability to generate more advertising impressions – a big draw particularly for those selling on a CPM basis.

- Create More Relevant Jump Points for Content Showcasing -

Would you rather feature content that is timely or timeless? There are arguments for and against both, but those publishers that concentrate on identifying areas where they can showcase their best information are those that often have the highest time-on-site averages. These jump points are areas where publishers can profile/push the most popular pages, the most heavily commented upon content items or most linked-to items. There are, of course, many places to do this, including at the end of articles/posts, within sidebars, and within the content itself. There is actually some SEO benefit to creating links to this type of content on your site as the number and relevance of links to internal pages is (arguably) an important factor in search engine ranking.

- Introduce Supplemental Formats: Multimedia & Applications -

Many content publishers, to their own detriment, opt to stay with the content format most familiar to them – whatever that may be. Consumers, however, often have very different demands when it comes to their consumption preferences – offering just one only gives you one chance for one type of visitor. Start introducing supplemental formats and you’ll be surprised about the positive effect it has on time on site. For example, if you’ve got a long-form article, why not fire up the webcam and produce a short-form video about that article’s key points or takeaways. If you publish a list of events, why not introduce a calendar application which is a terrific way to increase the number of clicks on your site as well.

When it comes to increasing time on site, remember the following: your website visitors are willing to be engaged with your site (and spend more time on it), but content publishers absolutely must commit to repurposing content into new design formats, providing jump points wherever necessary to expose them to content that should be showcased, and they should introduce supplemental formats to satisfy the Web’s diverse content consumption needs and wants.

Make no mistake – increasing time on site is no easy task. Keep these three simple strategies in mind and you will not only see significant percentage increases in time on site, but revenue as well.

Web Design and the Rule of Thirds

Courtesy of WEB DESIGN magazine.

Grid-based design provides designers a formal way to assess the communicative expression power of the UI thanks to the rule of thirds – a topic Website Magazine addresses in our July 2011 issue. But what is the rule of thirds and how can you use it to improve interaction on your own site?

Originally used in the visual arts field, the rule of thirds is adapted well to any design and any design format or device thanks to its simplicity. The rule of thirds identifies four focal points within compositions to where the human eye is naturally attracted. By aligning elements on dividing lines or placing elements at these focal points, a maximum amount of interest and energy can be directed to the most important elements of the page. While eye tracking and heat maps provide meaningful, empirical data on how the site was used in the past by users, applying the rule of thirds can be useful as the design takes shape to ensure you are meeting the underlying objectives initially set forth and within the boundaries of standard design practices.

To really understand how the rule of thirds can be used it is necessary to compare and review various websites to see what are they doing right and what are they doing wrong. WM reviewed homepages/index pages of three sites in the “Music/Entertainment” category including Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine and our very own WM Senior Editor Mike Phillips’ Chicago Music Blog, Sound Citizen. We’re looking beyond the homepage as well with an analysis of content pages on these websites and how the rule of thirds applies to their layout/structure.

Rules of Thirds on Homepages
When applying the rule of thirds to home or index pages, having site-wide objectives prioritized is of vital importance. In the case of the three sites reviewed, exposing content, profiling advertising, and encouraging “social” are the apparent core objectives of these sites when the rule of thirds is applied.

So how do the sites stack up? All things considered, pretty well. Some things that stand out at the outset are the predominance of advertising on Rolling Stone and Spin and how well they have done to balance advertising with featured editorial content. Sound Citizen’s focal points mainly target content and community features. Sound Citizen is also the only one of the three sites to employ a two column layout as opposed to three column layouts used by the others. The use of a two-column layout has different restrictions than that of a three-column. Rolling Stone and Spin are able to feature more content over the fold than Sound Citizen without losing site of the primary ad’s importance. Also, notice how much more linear (and in-line with grid based design) Rolling Stone and Spin are compared to Sound Citizen.

Rules of Third on Content Pages
When it comes to content pages, the rule of thirds once again proves useful. Keep in mind that the intersections of our “thirds” (represented by the blue dots) are not actually intended to be the the exclusive focus of our readers but also what is immediately around them.

So how do these pages stack up? Not very well, in our estimation. But there are some instances of abiding by the rule of thirds. Rolling Stone once again puts the ad in plain sight and Spin further exposes its most popular content to the lower right of the fourth focal point. Both, however, put the burden on the viewer to locate and consume the page’s content. Unlike Rolling Stone and Spin, Sound Citizen maintains its structure well. The design supports the primary objectives of the site (content and community) and it is carried over from previous pages visited by the user, such as the homepage. However, based on our evaluation, there is a great deal of room for improvement on all three sites.