Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

3 Must-Haves for Creating Content That Counts

4 reasons why content mattersI love content in all its forms and formats: Video, audio, animation, news articles, op-ed pieces, how-to columns, tweets, Facebook Messenger, and so on. And I love working with clients to help them surface the best of their content, from the newest publications to trusty standbys that members always need to access.

Along with Matrix Group CEO and Chief Troublemaker Joanna Pineda, I recently co-presented a webinar about content marketing. Content is so crucial to connecting people to your organization and brand that we wanted to share a quick-hits list for those who didn’t attend the webinar.

  1. Insight sets you apart.We talk to a lot of website and mobile-app users across industries, from longtime association members to disgruntled former members. These users keep telling us that they want insight: Insight into the future of their particular industry, into how the industry interacts with consumers, and into trends currently affecting your organization and industry, including legislative and market forces. You can best serve your members if you provide them with regular, thoughtful analysis to help them learn, grow their businesses, and stay out of trouble.
  2. Video gets people’s, and platforms’, attention. Inc. reports that people are 85% more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video about the product, and posts with images get 650% higher engagement than text-only posts. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are on Facebook, where image- and video-focused posts appear more prominently. So there’s no excuse not to incorporate more video into your content strategy. It’s as simple as shooting a 30- to 60-second how-to video or interview with a conference attendee on your smartphone. Also make sure to post plenty of member photos on Facebook, and tag the people in them.
  3. Plan it out. You need an editorial calendar to produce and publish content throughout the year. You can establish content themes by month or by quarter, depending on how much content your organization is able to create. If your industry or organization publishes a trade magazine, you can follow that editorial calendar.The content schedule also depends on what I call “the best talkers”: These are employees and members within your organization, along with your industry’s leaders, who are knowledgeable, opinionated, and skilled at explaining things in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. Get those people to blog, shoot video, or record podcasts for you. If they don’t have time to do so, interview them and ghost-write a piece for them.

When interacting with your organization, members want to know: “What’s in it for me?” Your website content answers that question by showcasing what you know and why it matters. It reinforces your mission to members, and to the search engines they rely on to find your site. Content allows you to demonstrate why your organization helps members and the industry do better and be better.

What tips and tricks do you have for creating content? Where do you feel you need help with your content strategy? Tell us here or talk to us on Twitter (@matrixgroup).

Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

World Usability Day 2016 is All About Sustainability

World Usability Day logo

www.worldusabilityday.org

The intersection of sustainability and user experience (UX) is where you’ll find the theme for 2016’s World Usability Day: Sustainable, or green, UX. Green UX involves creating the best experience for people in ways that make the most efficient, environmentally friendly use of products, services, and processes.

The WUD 2016 sustainability theme dovetails with the public and private sectors’ work on 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Established last year, those SDGs include benchmarks to be met by the year 2030 “to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

Regardless of scale, any kind of UX work has to be rooted in user-centered design. This means getting into your users’ environment, daily routines, and thought processes in order to provide practical, viable solutions to their problems. Effective green UX should make eco-friendly behavior easier and more affordable to incorporate into your life. It’s better living through recycling, reuse, and redesign.

So how do we unite these UX principles with these green/sustainable ideals? It’s a complex question, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Make it easy for the disadvantaged to get a seat at the table of policy decisions, especially when outsiders are tempted to prescribe their own remedies. Those living in the communities of need know what they need best and have a greater understanding of their communities’ habits, knowledge, and biases. This insider knowledge about problems on the ground lets these populations determine what solutions and ideas are possible – and sustainable.
  2. Make it easy for those affected to be informed. This could mean mobile campaigns that engage the Opera-only users in Central Africa, for instance, or campaigns based on SMS technology or messaging apps. Focusing on available and commonly used technology makes it easier to educate communities about the policy decisions that affect them. What about ways for those users to speak up? They need to know about public meetings and online surveys, as well as ballot measures and pilot programs, that give them a voice.
  3. See how far you can push ideas and technology in a green or sustainable direction that, in turn, doesn’t make it harder for people to use what you create. This is crucial among populations that, say, rely on fossil fuels or mining for their livelihoods and to provide energy to their communities.

These three points only scratch the surface, and that’s what WUD2016 is about – discovering the meaning of sustainable UX and learning how stakeholders and makers can work together on real-world applications of sustainable UX practices.

Check out this database for global World Usability Day events and other info about how to get involved in bringing usability practices into your work.

Have any ideas of how the user experience can go green? Share here or mention us on Twitter (@matrixgroup) and be sure to use #wud2016.

No-Cost Tools for the UX Pro (Who Wants to Save a Buck)

Man with headphones on using computer inside at standing deskOur user experience (UX) team has weekly meetings, and each of us takes a turn sharing something useful. Since I came from a freelancing background, and because some of our clients like to get more involved in their websites, I thought I’d share some free resources that are hanging around on the internet.

Typography

Don’t know how to choose fonts? Do all those fonts start looking the same after while? Finding the right font can be a hassle. Why scroll through a long list of fonts when you can use any of these three sites to help find the right font for you?

  • Wordmark takes the fonts on your device and displays them all in a word of your choosing, allowing you to preview fonts quickly and easily.
  • Finding one font is hard enough; with Typegenius, you can find the right accompaniment to your current font in just seconds.
  • Don’t know jack about typographic hierarchy? Use Type Scale to make you look the part without missing a beat.

Mockups

Maybe you have a client or a stakeholder (hi, Board of Directors!) who need to see how the website will look on their giant monitor or their phone but the site isn’t fully built. Use these professional-grade photos to make your site comp pop. With more than 100 free mockups (smartmockups), you can’t go wrong.

Image editing

  • These are for the light Photoshop user who doesn’t want to pay a subscription to crop some photos or edit some vector graphics every now and then. These apps will cover most of what you need.
  • Have you tried your hand at using the pen tool in Photoshop or Illustrator and made a mess? Learn how to use the pen tool like a pro while having fun! With the Bezier Game, feel the hours melt away as you master the pen tool in this thrill ride of a game.

Sounds

Is dead silence driving you bonkers? Is your playlist distracting you from achieving an optimal productivity level? Use Noisili to get you in the zone.

Images

Many times stock photos look like a bunch of actors smiling at something off camera, here’s a list of free, high quality photos to avoid that.

What are some free or low-cost tools you use? If we haven’t heard of it before, we’d love to give it a shot!

Leah Monica

Director of Marketing

Using UTM Codes for Better Google Analytics Reporting

URL-smIt’s no secret that we’ve been seriously geeking out about everything Google Analytics here at Matrix Group. We’ve been endlessly exploring, experimenting and testing and have been blown away by the amount of invaluable data we’ve been able to collect for our clients, down to the granular who/what/when/where/how/why. We’ve said it before, and we’ll keeping saying it until we’re blue in the face: you simply can’t afford to ignore your analytics reporting!

Want to start digging deeper but not sure where to start? You’re not alone! Our clients frequently ask us for one or two simple things they can do to get started, and our No. 1 answer is: start with UTM codes.

UTM codes are code snippets that you can attach to custom URLs that track a source, medium, and campaign name. This information gets passed to Google Analytics and identifies where your traffic is coming from and what campaigns are driving the traffic. Invaluable data!

Here are a few of our top tips for using UTM codes:

    • Create a spreadsheet to track codes and campaigns. Having everything planned out and stored in one place will not only help you visualize your whole campaign, but it will also ensure more accurate reporting, especially if you have multiple staff members working on one campaign.
    • Keep your tags consistent. UTM codes are case sensitive, so make sure you stick to the same permutations of upper and lower case!
    • Use dashes, not spaces, to separate words. While a UTM URL builder will allow you to use spaces, it makes the URL look a lot less clean. Example: “CEO blog post” will become CEO%20blog%20post. Instead, try CEO-blog-post. Doesn’t that look better?
    • Use a URL Builder to create links. These tools are very easy to use and will save you time and heartburn over building the URLs yourself.
    • Use a URL shortener, where appropriate. When you use UTM codes, the URLs can get quite lengthy and ugly. Use URL shorteners to make the links more visually appealing. There are tons of easy-to-use URL shortener tools out there (we like goo.gl), so make use of them!
    • Never send out a link to your site without a UTM code in place!

Looking for other Google Analytics tips and tricks? Check out CEO Joanna Pineda’s recent blog posts on Google Analytics. There’s some great info there! If you want a little more hands-on guidance and assistance, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d love to help you in any way we can.

Have any other tips for getting started with Google Analytics? What are your favorite reports and hacks?

Web Accessibility and Keeping Others in Mind

Refreshable_Braille_displayWebsite accessibility has been on my mind recently. A few years back, one of the biggest trends on the web was subtlety. Medium gray text on light gray backgrounds, super-thin fonts, etc. all looked quite elegant to designers, but in hindsight they were pretty unfair to the average user. At Matrix Group, we try to be as inclusive as possible, and that means paying attention to accessibility and designing our sites to be as usable by the widest range of people as humanly possible.

Our CEO, Joanna, sits in on site reviews, and she sometimes sends us back with edits because the contrast is way too low. She freely admits that her vision’s getting less sharp as the years go by, and if she’s got problems with contrast, other people will, too.

The biggest eye-opening moment for me was when another Matrix employee, Sarah, and I were quibbling over a design element that was misaligned on a site we were building. As a designer, I could see it clear as day, but as a front-end developer with some visual impairments, she simply could not see what I was talking about. She then flapped her hands – her go-to “stop stop stop!” gesture – and told me to put her glasses on to see what the world looked like with her eyes. And WOW did that change my perspective on things! It got me thinking, if Sarah couldn’t see that, what else can’t other people see on the sites I’m designing?

And it’s not just visual barriers we need to keep in mind, though those are the most obvious to a designer. Accessibility also needs to account for a wide range of challenges. These are just some of the main things we think about on the long list of W3C’s Accessibility guidelines:

  • Those who can’t use a mouse with precision due to conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, cerebral palsy or even a temporary condition like a broken arm, require sites that have much larger click targets.
  • Transcripts for podcasts or videos will be needed for people with auditory conditions.
  • People who suffer from photosensitivity-triggered epileptic seizures have problems with flashing objects and must be so relieved that blinking, spinning, over-animated text is a thing of the past.
  • Buttons should be specifically named instead of simply “click here” to help provide people using refreshable braille displays with more context.
  • Contrast is one of our biggest culprits. So much so that I’ve been running everything through a trusty contrast checker to make sure everything I design is now legible to all.
  • Attention disorders, dyslexia, learning and cognitive disabilities all benefit from visual clues such as icons paired with text, or different font and spacing decisions.
  • We also need to keep the paragraph line length in check for this audience. As desktop sites get wider and wider, this is easily forgotten because there’s so much room! We don’t need to fill the available space. We need to keep this in check at 80 characters, otherwise it becomes very hard to keep your place while reading.

Luckily, all these things also help simply distracted, impatient people. We all know a few of those, right? Which really is kind of the point of all this: making websites more accessible for users with impairments ultimately enhances the user experience for our audience as a whole and simply benefits everyone.

Except for me. These things make my job as a designer substantially more challenging.

It’s a good thing I like challenges.

What’s the biggest accessibility challenge you face, day-to-day?