Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sheraton NCAA Instant Social Network Case Study?

Want to witness the launch of a huge, corporate Social Network -building effort as it happens?

Social media maven Shiv Singh from Avenue A/Razorfish advises you to stayed tuned this week for Sheraton Hotel's massive promotion.

Their goal is to get involvment by letting the online community build a sports "wave" for the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. (You know, like "The Wave" at a real stadium).

A few of Singh's bullet points on Social Influence Marketing:

Become your consumer - get closer to them, be like them.

Aggregate information for your consumer.

Articulate product benefits better.

Amplify favorite business stories.

Participate where your comsumers are.

Don't do it all at once.

You can no longer leave the conversation to marketing!

Session: There will be blood.

Panel is a mix of guys from large traditional and non-traditional agencies. 

Discussion is revolving around the shift that traditional agencies are making towards becoming more and more adept in utilizing digital channels. That the demands of successful marketing are forcing a change.

Rough notes taken on the fly:
  • The future belongs to those groups that are nimble and tech saavy, since the internet and social media will soon be as valuable as any traditional media outlet
  • What does a traditional agency mean anymore? 
  • A powerful agency is one that can understand the digital front and how it affects the bigger picture of interacting with the consumer
  • Important point: The focus should not just be on the 'net'...it's about all the digital channels that the consumer is interacting with... not just the internet.. we are talking about games, cell phones, display advertising...etc..
  • IMPORTANT: A Brand can not just be forced into the realm of social media. Special understanding has to be had and care given to how you approach and try to opt into the 'socil media' world
  • Great speaker comment: "Media is the new creative" Response from panel: Media can inspire creative now in so many more ways that it couldn't in the past, doesn't replace it. Good ideas don't only have to come from creative
  • Biggest challenge the agency is facing today is keeping up with the skill sets necessary to meet the demand 
  • Social media: How do brands create TRUE conversations with consumers to drive the evolution of a brand or product.. and not just view it as another one way channel of communication : Example of good success: Levi / Project Runway Campaign, Facebook challenges, 
  • Crucial thing to remember, social media is not new.. it's just a hyper fast, souped up word of mouth deal
  • Re: Viral - All viral means is 'easy to share'. People have so much more power then they had in the past.
  • Question: What form of digital technology has proven to be most effective at acquiring customers - One of the panel members responded :  A combo of search and display
  • Less about one way communication and more about interactive conversations
  • Great example: Nike Plus - Inspired a shift in the runners world 
- will come clean up later

Form + Function

Digital design goes well beyond Web sites

March 10, 2008

-By Brian Morrissey

Advertisers want to build brand loyalty by providing utilities that both improve people's lives in some small way and directly pad corporate bottom lines.
NEW YORK It isn't a viral hit like Subservient Chicken, but Domino's pizza builder might be equally important. The application, built by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, lets users craft their own pizza online, name it, then have it delivered to their door.

For Jeff Benjamin, interactive cd at Crispin, the Web application that debuted early this year is a sign of where digital design is headed. Rather than craft a one-off Web site, he said, advertisers want to build brand loyalty by providing utilities that both improve people's lives in some small way -- even if it's simply a tool for customizing pizza -- and directly pad corporate bottom lines.

"The new 'viral' is going to be a business solution for clients," Benjamin said.

Funny microsites are giving way to useful, sometimes entertaining applications; the showing off of flashy technology is yielding to design geared towards generating sales; and crafting for social interaction is replacing one-way experiences. Now that digital points exist far outside the browser, designing for the Web is passe, with digital design chasing the elusive goal of designing experiences that wrap all of the above together.

"When you create a utility, you're creating something that gives people time back," said Nick Law, CCO for North America at R/GA. "It becomes less about information as pollution and more about information to help people get through life."

Interactive design used to be synonymous with Web site design. The objective was crafting a Web experience that reflected the overall brand message. Although brand consistency is a laudable goal, many interactive designers chafed at the role of "matching luggage" to offline campaigns, often resulting in shallow microsites that mimicked TV campaigns.

Even experts in those sites are rethinking their approach. Barbarian Group, which worked with Crispin to develop Subservient Chicken, is now concentrating more on useful, content-rich sites. That means starting the design practice with the customer in mind, helping them navigate quickly through an experience or to worthwhile content, said Benjamin Palmer, CEO of Barbarian.

"Five years ago, people would muck through a site with non-standard navigation that was confusing because the whole Internet was confusing," he said. "Now the Internet is so big you can't do anything that's annoying anymore."

Often that means scaling back the special effects, like Flash sites, which take a long time to load. For Kashi, Barbarian Group built a product site last summer that centered around community and included tools for visitors to improve their lives and encourage others. For instance, tools that let users participate in daily health challenges, such as taking 30-minute walks or skipping coffee, while interacting with each other. Product information is secondary to content about a healthy lifestyle and community interaction, a leap, Palmer said, from earlier Internet design.

"The thing that's more in the forefront is designing the experience of how people are going to interact with your content," he said.

Advertisers also see the opportunity to build brand applications that allow people to do everything from customizing pizza and matching their personality with products to the planning of trips.

"The days of making funny things that may or may not have an effect on the client's business are ending," Crispin's Benjamin said.

Epson took a new design approach with "Epsonality" last fall. In the past, the Web portion of the Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners campaign would have been a microsite with a few pages of content. Instead, Butler, Shine's experiential design team melded broadband video with a personality quiz to match users with the right Epson printer for their needs.

The creative approach is admittedly tongue-in-cheek, said David Blum, executive director of interactive services at Butler, Shine. But underneath the surface is a sales generator, built by interaction designers, information architects and decision trees. A lot of thinking went into getting people "through this experience [to purchase] without just being entertained by a bunch of videos," he explained.

Application design is also driving efforts to tap into the social Web, with utilities holding the promise of being able to build communities around brands. Take "My Vegas" from Critical Mass, part of the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" campaign. On the surface, the social networking tool seems like another attempt by a brand to draw people away from more natural social environments into artificial ones created by advertisers. But "My Vegas" actually provides a useful tool for visitors who want to get the most out of their trips, thanks to Critical Mass bringing the "stays in Vegas" promise to life with social functionality. Users can build profiles, upload photos, manage trip details, compare attractions and schedule events with friends (their "entourage," in "My Vegas" lingo). It's geared to typical Vegas vacationers, such as college buddies scattered in different cities who converge in Sin City for a weekend during March Madness.

"There's a big possibility to deliver on your brand through the tools or functionality you can give people that are positive," said David Armano, vp of creative at Critical Mass.

The next step: free the application from the confines of the site. The old build-it-and-make-them-come design strategy is being replaced by a fish-where-the-fish-are mind-set that's leading advertisers to not view their brand sites as the be-all and end-all. Garrick Schmidt, vp of user experience at Avenue A/Razorfish, part of Microsoft, said in building RedBull.com, the shop made sure to make site features like videos, games and social-networking skins work elsewhere.

"No digital property is an island anymore," said Schmidt. "Everything can be connected to everyone. You have to design for that. We think about how we can chunk up content, and make it viral and distributable."

It's not just sexy brands that need to design for distribution. Bank of America launched a site for its "No Fee Mortgage Plus" product in the fall that included useful applications like a mortgage calculator and a mortgage comparison tool. From the beginning, Bank of America agency Organic considered how the applications can be not just on the bank's microsite, but detach to live where consumers want. "We're trying to think from the beginning of how to syndicate them out to other platforms," said Conor Brady, ecd at Organic. "That's been a mind shift for us because a year and a half ago there wasn't that expectation."

The next stop for digital design is not just out of the site, but onto other screens and into real life. Firstborn Interactive, a shop that in the past has concentrated mostly on Web projects and is moving into out-of-home design, worked with Digital Kitchen last November to build a platform to promote Windows Live where visitors to a Microsoft event in New York City could upload photos that were then beamed onto a gigantic sphere in South Street Seaport. It's now looking to use information like body heat and speed to create real-life interactive installations.

"If you think we're just going to be making Web sites in the next five years, anyone with that business model isn't going to be a business," said Dan LaCivita, executive director at Firstborn.

Digital shops like R/GA are busy honing their skills in out-of-home venues. Last year, R/GA started a retail practice for its work in designing in-store experiences for Verizon and other clients. Law sees interactive design moving front-and-center in new areas because a brand like Apple has shown the power of the interface in influencing consumer perceptions. His guidepost to good design: the Apple operating system.

"The functionality is apparent immediately," Law said. "It's a different way of approaching marketing. The creative has always been about telling stories. It's obscuring a truth until a punch line. It's linear. Designers want to make the message or functionality apparent immediately. It's fundamental to what we're doing in marketing."

Book Reading: The Age of Engage: Reinventing Marketing for Today's Connected, Collaborative, and Hyperinteractive Culture

(Pardon my typos. These are my notes from this presentation)

During this presentation, the speaker talked about the “Rule of One”. Her basic hypothesis (which is not really anything new) is that as marketers we can only be about one thing. One single feature or benefit. One value. One thing that we choose to set or selves apart form the rest. Otherwise, we are making the consumer think too hard. For example, Apple is about style. And they continuously push that one core competency in everything they do and every communication they create. Everything Apple does is about style. They made style important where before it was not important.

Once you ask yourself what it is that one thing you can do best, you push that one core competency into people’s lives.

It has long been agreed that people purchase things with their emotions. Even after thinking about it rationally, they always make emotional purchases. So your core competency needs to rooted in an emotion. We purchase with our heart versus our brains. That includes B2B purchases. (We buy the safe choice and we’ll get to keep our jobs; look good to our friends/coworkers; or be more successful. Emotional messaging simply does better whether personal or business.

Don’t make your customers think about and analyze their purchase too much cause they’ll do the research and might not pick your product because there was not an emotional connection. Emotional connection is a lot stronger bond and motivator.

So, once you have your unique value defined, how do you get people’s attention?
1. Controversy gets people talking. Say something people do not agree with.
Think in terms of what people do not agree on. (Comcastmustdie.com)
2. Be the visionary. Always think about what’s next. Give your consumer the info that will get them hooked to you.
3. Try Contest/voting/commenting. Anything to get them to push a button.
Especially if you give them immediate results.
4. Create content and self with others. Wikis (Web based equalizing tools) that allows in a community to share in answering difficult or complex questions. It build credibility allowing people to know what the company is doing right and wrong.
5. Get customer on video saying what a great job your doing. (Word of mouth) Give away free ebooks. Let them redistribute your story (Viral)
Think user experience. (Nike Plus is a great example). They built a community around a shoe! Word of mouth: people will spread what is relevant and funny.
Don’t do new media just for new media sake.
Walked in a little late to this panel.. had to find parking in the rain GRRR.

Bloggers as part of an word of mouth campaign.

Word of Mouth Advertising:  

People's Definition of WOM

Know the reviewer

No Motive / No Bias


Open Opinion

Where sites F**k up.

1. Be transparent on all these dimensions. A lot of forgiveness lies in not lying.

2. Know where the line is for your users on these dimensions. Know your users. 

3. Only take advertisers who will play within those guidelines. Accepting others will endanger the life of your site. 

Where advertisers F***k up:

1. Make sure the site you're working with knows their audience.

2. Listen more than talk. Change your metrics (More important to see how they react to your message and product than just how many eyeballs see your message)

• Reviews from users have become more and more important. Advertisers should 'listen' to the community there are attempting to influence or engage in. Don't be afraid of negative feedback.. trying to sensor that will prove more negative in the long run. 

Daphne Kwon - co-founded ExpoTV, the largest video-based social commerce network specifically tailored for the consumer in control, offering a fast way for people to connect and share the products they are passionate about. 

Just Over 50 and Not Dead Yet

This panel talked about our aging population and how marketers need to adapt and understand this target if we are to talk to them.

Clearly, we are aging in the U.S. The baby boomers are hitting retirement age and they saying is that they are finding their “mid-life on line.”

The 50+ population are using the internet in three major ways:
1. As Portals (Eons.com is one of the preferred. It caters to this group with info on retirement and travel)
2. As a Social network
3. As Blogs (300 boomer blogs)

There are many bolgs that cater to this generation: Ageless project to find blogs, Life Two (portal), Savvy boomer (tech advise), Gen Between, Man-0-pause, Engaging the disquiet, Minding our elders, Mothering Mother and more, Guitar boomer, 45 year old six pack, sports geezer, It’s never to late for love, Fabulous after 40… just to name a few.

Some are personal blogs where this segment of the population talks about their experiences: Mid life mommy, Middle age martial artist, My gay nerve, My year turning 50, Self absorbed boomer, The boomer chronicles… just to name a few

Using the Internet as a social network:
TeeBeeDee.com is a great example of this type of network. It is a place where these individuals do not have to reveal who they really are and are free to interact with each other. It allows the opportunity for key content that is relevant to them. They can express their creativity. They can create and browse profiles. Share interests and experiences. Meet other people. They are connecting via their passions in life. Talking to people that share their same interests. Eventually there might meet in person, but that is not the number one objective. They are seeking an authentic experience via the Internet. This 50+ group is a savvy consumer. They have been “talked to” for many years so they want their info in a very straight forward and honest way. They want their content delivered in a fun, easy, safe, simple and valuable way.

The segmenting of this group is highly overrated. No single net can be thrown over this group to catch them all. There is a wide variance of interests. We can not think of one monolithic group just because of their age. They are very diverse in their way of thinking and in their life experiences. They are individuals. Targeting 25 to 54 year old makes no sense. We can not think of them as a age group.

One interesting psychographic analysis of this group is that they are referred to as “Sandwiches.” All that means is that they are taking care of their parents while they are also taking care of their kids. Their number one concern in life has become their finances. The other concern for this group is—and has always been—their health. Interesting enough, focusing on being healthier has lead to more sports injuries.

There are an estimated 60 million on line (8 out of 10 on line). Not surprisingly, one of the highest searched words on the web are Rheumatoid Arthritis. This group has always been antiestablishment, always trying to “bash” something or other and now they are trying to “reverse” aging. They are trying to figure out how they can “fix” themselves and the Internet has become their number one resource.

This age group is becoming more and more savvy when it comes to technology. For many years they have depended on their kids to help them “hook” up, but as these kids go off to college the aging parent now have to figure out how to do it on their own. One result of this is that they have created these communities online to help each other out.

AARP.org is a great example of an organization that is reinventing themselves to be more relevant to this aging population. It has a much more “rejuvenated” look and feel and has content that this group is looking for. Many will watch health related videos and click on healthcare ads.

Texas Oncology is an organization that created a viral campaign that allowed loved ones to send a Valentine’s card inviting them to get a breast and prostate cancer screening.

“SEND HER A HEALTHY VALENTINE: This Valentine's Day, why not give your special someone a gift that will last – good health. Texas Oncology makes it easy to show your love, with free built-for-two e-postcards that can be personalized to remind the man or woman in your life that a simple screening once a year is an easy and essential way to stay healthy.”
This turned out to be a very successful viral campaign.

Boomer Music
They’ve discovered that 50+ still keep in pace with their kid’s music. Better yet, this older demographic actually has the $300+ it cost to go to concerts now. So now, parents are sharing these moments with their kids. This group still wants to be “current” without working too hard at it. Rahpsody.com is a site that delivers music to them without requiring too much work.

We now live in a Attention Economy. Distribution is no longer the issue. How do I get through all this stuff to find what I need, is the big question.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mo' Better Mobile Blogging...MoBlogging

Mobile blogging...one of the fastest growing trends in social networking, well mobile social networking to be exact. Mobile blogging (or for those in the "know", moblogging) uses applications such as Twitter and Utterz to instantaneously post info to the web.

I'm not too familiar with Twitter (other than the fact that it has lost its steam since its inception a few years ago...but that's according to the trade mags and leaves much up for debate), so I won't really speak about it. What I will speak about is Utterz. Yes, Utterz...funny name (and yeah, can't help but think of a cow), but cool app!

What Utterz allows you to do is instantaneously update your connected blog from your mobile device. Plus! You are not limited to text updates...you can post pictures, audio, and text attached to either of the two without ever having to log on from a computer. So say I was out and about and I came across the Guitar Hero World Champion and because I'm a GH nerd, I decide to take a pic with him using my camera phone. I can take a pic and send it to one of my blogs or my MySpace page and it will instantaneously appear...how cool is that!? I don't have to log on to any website...just send a picture message from my phone to my destination site and it's there.

What I enjoyed about this panel was that it was truly interactive...the panel divided up the audience into small groups and we all either Twitter-ed or Utter-ed something so that we would know how it works and how to easy it is to use. So...hopefully I'll be able to get my account up and running so that I can update my blogs much easier. :)

Okay...on to the next speaker.

Note: The GH World Champ actually was here as part of the Screen Burn Arcade Showcase. But I'm not THAT big of a GH nerd to actually take a pic with him. My nerd-ness has its limits...sometimes. :p

How to reach teens via the Internet

This was a panel with 8 teenagers who answered questions from a moderator and the audience:

Although many of them said they could not live without their phones, they all agree that the still don’t use them to watch video. Their main use (other then for calling, of course) is to text so they are very conscious of the cost of texting.

They all talked about having avatars in a virtual world but they all agreed that the do not spend a lot of time in these room. One of the complaints is that it was a little boring after checking it out the first time and then that they felt like there were too many people trying to “pick them up” and that made them feel uneasy.
In addition, they were turned off by the cost of these sites. $15 a month is a lot more then they are willing to spend.

A few commented that the idea of role-playing was sort of fun but now that they are in high school, their more focused on their “real” life and getting ready for college.

When asked about “user generated content” they all agreed that they were very much into that. They loved shooting video or creating their own ads and uploading them to the web. They were very big on companies requesting people make their own ads or participating in contest to win prizes. The idea of having their ad actually air on TV was very cool. “It’s very cool because they’ll use it. Makes me feel like I have something important to say.”

“When a I see a brand asking for my creative… When they open the creative process up to the general market, it makes me respect them more. They respect my ideas. They are saying I am capable of making ads. It makes me feel good.”

Some kids talked about how they use YouTube as a source of information…including political info. They like to know what is going on in the world. The Onion is another site that has really caught he attention of the younger audience because of their irreverent and sarcastic voice. Things that really catch their attention tend to be funny or view issue from a different, unexpected angle. CNN.com for example is a sight they will not visit because they feel it is the same old story. “The news is so dead.”
They will use the internet a great deal to research things that are important to them. For example, on Hispanic teenager talked about her Quincianera party. She said that the Internet was her number one resource to get info on dresses, shoes, etc.

There were also a lot of comments on the “world issues” use of the Internet. They commented on the site where you answer questions and for every correct answer they will donate rice to Africa. They felt that this interactive participation really helps keep their interest and involvement high. Helping people face to face is still more important but doing it via the Internet can be fun and productive too. Some of them have friends that talk about social issues on their MySpace pages. Some have been influenced by “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaigns that have run on the Internet. Other visit NBC.family.com to catch shows they like. There seems to be less reliability on TV and more catching up with shows on the Internet.
They expressed a great dislike for ads (pop up banners) on the Internet. However, they are very conscious that advertising will always be there in order to “fund” the Internet. They do wish that marketers would keep ads relevant to what their interest are and appropriate for the site. Seeing ads on Google is okay. Seeing a bunch of ads on their MySpace page is “stupid” and disruptive.

Many of these kids are very website loyal. Disney came up as a web site they will visit a lot to catch up on show they missed on TV.

The teens love websites with flash games. It’s the type of thing they will keep coming back too and even tell other friends about. A lot of these kids love getting on different sites during their tech classes and have even figured out how to get around block that their school have created and get into sites they want to see.

When asked about “getting out side” and not being chained to their computers, many of the kids laughed. The idea that they were stuck on their computers was ridiculous. Many of them played team sports and were very active. They have found a comfortable balance between being indoors on the computer and being outdoors. Being technology savvy no longer means being a geek.

When asked about making plans to get together, the teens were asked what technology they use. The number one was simply calling them up. But high on the list was also texting. Many kids had jobs or would be in classes so texting was preferred. They do not post on bulletins or MySpace because there is no guarantee their friends will see it and they don’t feel comfortable having EVERYONE wee their messages. Asking over MySpace was seen as “lame.”

When asked about what marketers needed to know about them, they all clearly said that marketers needed to realize that they were not na├»ve consumers. They are not going to click on a banner just because it says, “You have won a prize!” Teens know that marketers are trying to get their info and email addresses.

10 Ways to Piss off a Blogger...

A round table: Topic the mistakes that marketers are doing when approaching and dealing with bloggers, how to avoid those situations.  

The moderator Rohit Bhargava, runs the Interactive Marketing team at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and has a great Blog... which i think might be good for our PR group. 

Noteworthy points of the convo: Do PR folks and marketers treat bloggers the way they'd treat traditional press. Dont' ask Bloggers for favors without knowing them. Always good to create relationships with bloggers, be honest, take time to know the content, don't spam, don't generalize, be sincere. TRANSPARENCY, TRANSPERANCY, TRANSPERANCY. Make it easy for a blogger to include content in their sites. Give more license to bloggers, vs. editing them to death. Are bloggers journalists? A lot of time was spent discussing this topic.. my takeaway is that they aren't, they currently not treated or viewed the same... but with the kind of attention they can generate this may not be the case in the future. 

Survey of the group revealed that: Not being fully transparent is the ultimate way to generate a groundswell of negativity. 

Recap from some of the host will be available later (I'll post later)

Social Marketing Strategies Metrics, Where are They?

This panel discussion tackled the topic of how to determine what metrics social marketing campaigns should be evaluated against and how to help those unfamiliar with social marketing campaigns overcome their hesitation/fear of putting their brand/service out there for all to see.

Questions that were addresses included; Does social media really matter? Who is using it? Is it just blogs? and How do you approach the issue of metrics knowing that there is not a clear measure of it? I found these questions very interesting as we (the agency) are asking pretty much these same questions.

A few key points that came out of the discussion include the how different CXOs have different perspectives of social media, they think about it differently and therefore, have different risks to consider when it comes to social media. And a brand/company should be ready AND willing to address any possible negative feedback that their product/service may receive AND use that negative feedback to reach a solution, to acheive improvement.

In regards to metrics, it was stressed that this is something that should not be done just for the sake of doing metrics...it's more important to know what motivates your audience to interact with your brand. For instance, don't focus all your attention on the impression level your brand receives, focus on how high (or low) the level of engagement your brand receives. Look at time spent with your brand and what people are commenting...these types of metrics will provide a better value of social media. So even though your brand may have seen a low level of impressions, if those that encounter your brand are engaged by it, then it is a higher success than what a high impression based campaign could provide.

As far as the general hesitation/fear of entering into the social media realm, especially when there's little to no experience with social media, it's important to have direction from the bottom up AND the top down. What that means is that those within the company implementing the social media elements need to be able to clearly communicate what it is they are doing and those at the higher level must be willing to participate in the efforts as well. The panel mentioned one great way to get the various company CXOs motivated to become involved in social media is to use peer pressure...show them what their competition is doing and get them motivated to do it to. ;)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Getting geeked up...

Spent a good chunk of time chatting to a few people about an up and coming CMS app that is making a splash, Expression Engine . I think this will be an obsession of mine for the next few months... good stuff. This designer i spoke with said it was worth the investment of time to learn and has been able to create some great solutions for his clients with a manageable amount of code. 

Oh.. on a side note: Was at an event hosted by Frog Design. If you aren't familiar with them.. they are impressive. 

The Age of Engage

Purchased an interesting book that may be a promising resource for our agency.. The Age of Engage, by Denise Shiffman. With a subhead like "Reinventing Marketing for Today's Connected, Collaborative, and Hyperinteractive Culture" I took a gamble that it maybe a topic that could be related to our 'shift' (ha). 

The author shared her blog / book site and a resource to understand the idea of a  Marketing Plan Wiki.

The next session is: Interactive Media Trends: Are You on Top of it? Let's see how it goes.. 

Accessibility Basics

I've heard the term "accessibility" pretty often (esp in regards to web and web applications), but never really knew what it was all about. I mean, I've seen the "Accessibility" icon in my Control Panels programs...but never had to use it. So, when I saw that there would be a presentation on the basics of accessibility, I decided to see what it was all about.

Yes, the term is pretty self explanatory...accessibility deals with how "accessible" something is. But in this regard...it's about how to make the internet more usable for people with disabilities. I mean, have you every really thought how/if a deaf person would be able to subscribe to a podcast? Or how a blind person could "see" the internet?

The presentation was brief overview of all that can be done to allow the blind to "see" and the deaf to "hear". Applications such as screen readers, literally read specific bits of information on a web page and podcast transcripts allow the deaf to read the info/programs that they can't hear. This may not seem as anything too new or different, but it's definitely important.

The seminar focused mainly on screen reader applications and the importance of "marking up" appropriate bits of information so as to provide a higher level of navigation. When headers and links are properly marked up, the navigation for the screen reader is much easier and allows the users to have a better experience on a site. The idea (or the application) of the reader jumping between marked links is actually not all that new, but it is relatively new to have the reader able to jump between headlines. Header mark ups are also used for search engine optimization (hmmm...higher organic search result position, maybe??)...a point that I wasn't aware of.

The main thing that I took away from the seminar is that the tools available to increase accessibility are so easy to implement and simple that there shouldn't be any reason for them to not be implemented...increased accessibility enhances the everyone's experience. So make sure you're doing the easy, simple things first and don't get hung up in the "gray" area.

Check out the Web Accessibility Initiative site to get more info on this topic and to get a feel for the standards and guidelines concerning accessibility...

Thursday, March 6, 2008


In case you don't know what SXSW is