FRESH DIGITAL INSIGHTS, ON EVERY DEVICE
Reshape Digital Podcast
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What can the Pope teach us about user personas? How does the location of supermarkets relate to digital advertising? What is an anti-trend? These are just a sample of the questions we tackle in Reshape Digital, a new podcast powered by OPIN.
At the intersection of vision, technology, and strategy, you will find the secrets to unlocking the world's most ambitious digital experiences. Join us on Reshape Digital, as we seek out the groundbreaking ideas that are reshaping the digital landscape.
#1 & 2 Intros
#3: Digital Anti-Trends
#4: Are Websites a Commodity
#5: Life After Ads
#6: Digital Design Fiction
#7: Is Marketing Creative or Technical
#8: Why do Website Projects Fail
#9: Digital Ecosystems and API-First Design
#10: Impatient Marketing
#11: Perpetual Website Redesign
#12: Web Accessibility to Innovation
#13: Breaking Your Brand
#14: Good Web Design is Physical
#15: Evolving Your Website (feat. SiteImprove)
#16: Career Building and the Challenge Mindset (feat. JP Michel of SparkPath)
#17: Dark Patterns vs Light Patterns
#18: Artificial Intelligence and Usability
From automation and artificial intelligence to blockchain, many digital trends aren’t what they seem. Here’s what you need to know.
See the whole episode overview here.
Are Websites a Commodity?
This is a popular topic of discussion in the web design and development industry. Agencies that once developed simple websites as their main line of business are being threatened by SaaS website builders like Wix and Squarespace. In today’s episode of Reshape Digital, we discuss whether websites have truly become a commodity.
Website Development: A History
The web development industry grew significantly in the past 20 years as businesses migrated to the internet. Once upon a time, a simple page would suffice for your business website. Still, development expertise was hard to find, and businesses shelled out for this type of work. Naturally, many agencies and technologies began cropping up around this type of work. The platforms that we know today haven’t been at the forefront for very long. Drupal, for example, was created in the early 2000s but came to notoriety around 2013 as a premier open source CMS.
In the many years since web development became its own industry, the demands of consumers have grown, and so have the needs of businesses. Many aspects of website design were once value-adds, but have now become the standard. Think of mobile responsiveness, e-commerce or massive multisite projects as examples. Naturally, agencies have adapted to include all of these considerations. With additional demands, though, come additional costs. The work that once cost 5 figures to build now costs 6 figures or more, because of all the work that has to go into building a website the right way. This brings us to today’s digital climate.
Website Builders vs. Content Management Systems
Anything that can be used to build a website can be considered a content management system. The most popular ones include Drupal, Wordpress, and Joomla. With that being said, there are new players entering the CMS market, calling themselves “website builders.” The key difference here is that a traditional CMS expects you to build a site on your own. A website builder functions as a SaaS product that builds the website for you.
There is no question that platforms like Wix and Squarespace are democratizing access to websites. You can build your own website with mobile responsiveness, elegant design, and SEO in 5 minutes...for free. This is an excellent tool for individuals and small businesses that have simple needs when it comes to their website. But has it truly turned websites into a commodity?
Websites are a Commodity...Sort Of
The simple answer is yes. Websites are a commodity, simply because anyone can have one for free. Website builders have eliminated the barriers to creating your own site that once existed. You no longer have to be a developer or pay someone to have a website. However, within the statement that websites are a commodity, there lies a more complex reality. As website builders have moved to the mainstream, so too have enterprise websites become more complex. The demands of consumers are higher than ever, so enterprises have to shell out on a flawless website in order to compete.
This has created a shift in the spectrum of website development. Once upon a time, the industry was fairly homogenous. Many websites fell somewhere in the middle as far as complexity and cost were concerned. The shift we are seeing is moving many projects away from the middle. Today’s websites are more likely to be simple enough to build in Wix or Squarespace, while complex websites are more suited to custom development by a team that specializes in a CMS like Drupal.
Today's digital landscape for websites is a lot more polarized. Rather than websites outright becoming a commodity, we are seeing that simple websites are easy to come by, while the work that an agency does for an enterprise or government is increasing in complexity and cost. Fewer websites fall in the middle because these types of websites are no longer hotly demanded. Agencies are adapting to this shift by providing a more diverse set of services to meet these growing needs. Growing needs = growing costs, but if you want to compete, you have to build your website the right way.
Life After Ads
How overinflated expectations for digital advertising are misleading digital marketers, why some companies are divesting from digital advertising, and what to expect after the digital advertising bubble pops.
Learn about the entire episode #5 here.
Digital Design Fiction
Design fiction allows us to push the envelope and design for the possible (and impossible) future. Can web developers and designers capitalize on this method to stay ahead of the curve, or even design the curve? Design fiction is a method for conceptualizing the possibilities of our future, then designing for what could be. While this tool has been leveraged by eccentric individuals for seemingly pointless purposes, design fiction has actual use cases. In this episode of Reshape Digital, we address the logic behind design fiction, and discuss how it could be applied to our digital world in a web design and development context. Can designers break the rules and stay ahead of the curve by designing it?
Is Marketing Creative or Technical?
In today's episode of the Reshape Digital podcast, we discuss the dichotomy of creativity and technology in modern digital marketing. With the advent of digital marketing, public perception of the field has shifted. Many people feel that we have moved away from the Mad Men era of advertising, towards a more technical style of marketing. While there's no question that technology drives modern marketing, is there still a place for creatives in this industry?
- The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist by Scott Brinker and Laura McLellan (HBR)
- Technology hasn't changed creativity's need for the big idea by Husani Oakley (The Drum)
- Marketers Don't Need to Be More Creative by Michael Schrage (HBR)
- Check out the First Ad from McCann Japan's 'AI Creative Director' by Angela Doland (AdAge)
- Deep Work by Cal Newport (2016)
Why Do Website Projects Fail?
Why do enterprise website projects fail? Today on the Reshape Digital podcast, we tell the story of two global brands, failing to complete a massive enterprise website project. Tune in to find out why large website projects fail and what you can do to prevent disaster!
Learn about the entire podcast episode here!
Digital Ecosystems and API-First Design
In this episode, we discuss the technology behind creating interconnected digital ecosystems: APIs. Learn how different companies and technologies, like Drupal, are using API-first design to push engaging content to customers.
Good, fast, cheap, pick two. Good marketing takes patience. But what if marketing could move fast? Is there a way to go back to the fundamentals and circumvent patience in marketing? In this episode of the Reshape Digital podcast, we discuss Impatient Marketing.
There is an old saying in the tech world that sometimes crosses over to marketing. It goes something like this: good, fast, cheap, pick two. The saying isn’t necessarily wrong. Do a google search for the words “marketing” and “patience” - you will get dozens of results where marketers highlight a number of reasons why you need patience to do good marketing. A lot of these articles read like letters to their bosses. Still, these people are not wrong. Developing a digital project can take months or even years. Building SEO equity for a site or even for a page can take weeks to months. Generating traffic to your best blog post ever! can be a slow burn. And creating well-researched, well-written content is not an instantaneous process.
We get it - marketing takes patience. But today we unpack whether that statement has to be true. What if marketing could move fast? Is there a way to go back to the fundamentals to circumvent patience in marketing? Here are the key points we discuss in this episode:
Understand Your Customers
The value of human interaction with your prospects and customers. Reach out to understand the needs and wants of your audience. This information can be an invaluable asset and is one of the best ways to get a quick win.
Minimum Viable Product
Testing is a marketer’s bread and butter. In order to test, you need to have something to test. Instead of taking weeks or months to ship a finished product, why not launch an MVP and run some tests so you can get valuable data to improve upon?
Marketers often tout the merit of recycling and refreshing content rather than starting from scratch. This is one of the best ways to move fast in marketing. You take an existing blog and share it across new channels or upcycle the content into a whitepaper.
Many marketing projects are delayed because of a new site launch or missing pieces needed to publish content. Taking a digital-last approach to content can accelerate your time to market. Don’t wait for the website to launch before preparing content. If you have everything you need, you can pull the trigger as soon as the tools are available to you.
Over the Fence
A lot of organizations have friction between marketing and sales. How is a Marketing Qualified Lead defined? When is the right time to toss it over the fence? It’s important to remember that every lead is different and that you won’t be able to define an MQL or SQL on the first try. Start throwing some highly engaged leads over the fence and see what sticks. Leverage a collaborative approach between departments and close the feedback loop to perfect your pipeline.
Perpetual Website Redesign
Your website should be in a perpetual state of redesign. That doesn't mean you need to overhaul it every month. It means you need to test every assumption you make in your marketing strategy and pivot every time you learn something new. Listen to find out what it takes to keep your marketing strategy and website fresh!If you run a Google search for “reasons why you should redesign your website,” you’ll see a bunch of boring, canned content. Articles listing reasons like “your website is not mobile-responsive” and “your loading time is too slow.” Nowadays, if your website is lacking in these types of functionalities, you’re way behind the curve. In today's episode, we make an argument for why your website should always be in a state of redesign
Marketing Strategy Pivots
A good marketing strategy is always in flux. Good digital marketers are paying attention to their metrics and trying to understand what their audience is telling them. This means that you should always be ready to adapt your marketing strategy to better serve your audience. For most marketers, their website is their bread and butter.
When you change your marketing strategy, you need to change the way you present your marketing as well. Whether you are revising your content, presenting a new brand or updating your colour scheme, your audience has to feel that there is a difference. A changing marketing strategy shouldn’t be subtle. You want to let your audience know that you are listening to them and making changes. A difference in marketing strategy should feel different in the customer experience.
Hit them in the Web Experience
Your customer journey is well and truly an experience. More importantly, it’s a branded experience, meaning that you control the way it feels to interact with your brand. For many marketers, the centrepiece of that experience is the website.
Whether you are making a small or a large pivot in your marketing strategy, you want your audience to know about it. It could be as simple as promoting your new white paper, or as complex as a rebrand with new logo, mission statement and colours. Either way you’re going to announce it.
It’s easy to just say “always redesign your website,” but what does that actually mean? For a marketer, it means capitalizing on lessons learned. Let’s say you don’t get enough engagement on your white papers, but you have a really exciting one you just published and you are hoping that your audience gets to see it. This is an opportunity to introduce a new component to your site to announce the white paper at the top of your blog posts. This is a new experience for your avid blog readers, and requires applying the new component across all of your blog pages. Redesigning your blog pages presents you with an opportunity to capitalize on a new and exciting piece of content.
The idea of constantly redesigning your website comes from an “always testing” mentality. Let’s say you changed the content on your landing page and went from 1000 daily visitors to 2000 on that page. Any marketer would be thrilled to see this kind of improvement, but what if they are missing out on another 2000 visitors because they didn’t restructure the CTAs on the page.
A great story about testing is the Obama campaign in 2008. Obama was trailing Hillary by double digits for the Democratic nomination. But one thing he had on his side was his digital strategy team. They ran an elaborate A/B test to increase the number of email signups. The test involved four different buttons and six different media types, meaning that there were twenty-four total combinations.
What are the takeaways from this? First, you want to test early. Many people wait until they gather data before running tests and pivoting their strategy. In the Obama example, the tests ran from the start, and they were able to capitalize on the results much sooner.
The other thing is to never stop testing. Your audience’s interests and behaviours can always change. You never want to assume you’ve figured out the perfect marketing formula because that formula is always changing.
Finally, challenge your assumptions. Your assumption might pertain to the type of content that will perform best. That can be challenged via A/B testing. What’s more important, though is that you don’t make assumptions about the rationale for your audience’s behaviour. Many marketers fall into the trap of believing they understand why a piece of content performed better in an A/B test. This assumption can lead to faulty decisions about future content and strategy.
Web Accessibility to Innovation
Why should companies design for accessibility? Today, we discuss some of the innovations that have resulted from designing a more inclusive web, and how your organization can do the same. Today, we discuss some of the innovations that have resulted from designing a more inclusive web, and how your organization can do the same. In this special episode of Reshape Digital, hosts Stephen Boucher and Chris Liko recognize National Accessibility Week by discussing how companies can innovate through accessible web design.
Benefits of Designing for Accessibility
There is a myriad of benefits to optimizing accessibility on your website. From a customer experience perspective, it is important that the 6 million Canadians and 1.5 billion people worldwide with disabilities can engage with your brand and enjoy a barrier-free digital experience.
Between alienating customers and advocacy groups, having an inaccessible website can weaken your brand reputation significantly, as well as your search engine optimization. There are also legal and regulatory consequences of not complying with existing standards. These are arguments we hear frequently regarding compliance, but what are the benefits of going beyond compliance?
Beyond Compliance and WCAG 2.1
A lot of companies go to great lengths to ensure their websites meet all accessibility guidelines, like WCAG 2.1. But what happens when you design for accessibility? Leading the charge and setting new standards for accessibility is always important from a brand reputation perspective, but there's so much more to it than that. As it turns out, designing for accessibility can lead to unexpected innovations.
Innovative features originally intended as accessibility tools
VOICE-TO-TEXT AND DICTATION
Voice-to-text software was originally intended to help blind users write messages without the use of a keyboard. Today, dictation software is commonly used as a general productivity tool. When users are driving and their eyes are occupied on the road, they can still send and receive messages from others using dictation software.
Even more commonly, the technology has been used extensively for voice search applications, such as Google Home and Amazon's Alexa.
PREDICTIVE TEXT AND KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS
While more efficient and time-saving for everyone (especially compared to multi-tap character selection on mobile phones), predictive text and keyboard shortcuts were originally intended to assist those with arthritis or tremors, as well as those with learning disabilities.
While captions were originally designed for those who are hearing impaired, they've received far more widespread use in recent years. Autoplay of videos is very common on the web nowadays, but as everyone is extremely aware, they have a tendency to autoplay at the absolute worst times. This creates a poor user experience. This has been mitigated by companies like Facebook defaulting to captions on videos in their feeds. This mainstream adoption has also led to a general improvement in captioning technology.
Final thoughts on accessible design
The first step will always be compliance, and it's important to be proactive. At OPIN, we recommend enterprise tools with automated accessibility checks like Siteimprove to make sure every corner of your site is meeting all current standards. Once those standards have been met, the sky's the limit. It's important to think about as many different perspectives and levels of ability when designing for human beings. Doing so might just reveal something you would never have discovered otherwise!
Breaking Your Brand
As enterprises become established, their brand perception is cemented. Companies can have difficulty controlling their brand in the digital landscape. Listen to this episode of Reshape Digital to find out how to break your brand and direct the digital narrative.
An excellent example of an enterprise's attempt at breaking their brand is McDonald's. With the Our food. Your questions. campaign, the company wanted to undo decades of urban myths, negative publicity and assumptions about their brand and products. In doing so, McDonald's sought to control the narrative surrounding their brand, and prevent false stories from spreading across the internet like wildfire.
Many of today's companies tackle digital transformation projects with specific objectives in mind. Oftentimes, the focus is efficiency, communication, revenue or even branding. Many of these projects present a unique opportunity to break the brand, but few organizations seize it. When launching a new look and feel for your company, you have the opportunity to reposition yourself among your biggest skeptics. This goes far beyond a new logo, new colours or a new website. This is an opportunity to decide on the narrative surrounding your business, and dictate that narrative using digital platforms. Rather than continually shoehorning your company into an outdated notion of who you are, take the opportunity to decide who you want to be, and leverage your digital projects to make that a reality.
Good Web Design is Physical
What do automatic doors in grocery stores have to do with web design? This week we discuss how design friction exists in both the physical and digital worlds. Learn how organizations are taking inspiration from their physical surroundings to create more user-centric digital experiences.
Designing for Humans
In this episode of Reshape Digital, we deal with ways web designers emulate the physical world to build these intuitive experiences. Our physical world and the objects we interact with every day have been shaped over millennia to be used by human beings, and it is painfully obvious when websites don’t draw from this knowledge - in other words, they design for web in a vacuum.
This occurs when designers map out web pages in a way that reflects how they organize thoughts in their mind or what they perceive as logical, instead of considering the physical world and the physical limitations of human beings. Essentially, they design for digital as if it is completely unconnected to the physical world. A website could be designed in an extremely logical manner, say alphabetically, but that doesn’t make it intuitive for others.
As an example, let’s look at push and pull doors. Push doors typically have a flat, rectangular plate that serves no purpose but to indicate to the user that the door is meant to be pushed. Conversely, pull doors tend to have long bar handles that provide a grip to users, indicating they are meant to be pulled:
Looking at good web design, we see something similar: buttons are designed in certain ways that indicate to the user they are meant to be clicked:
Google is known for popularizing Material Design, which is the company’s take on digital design based on paper and ink. As a part of Material Design, Google also popularized the use of “cards” on web pages - almost like having business cards and post-it notes laid out along your desk.
BOOK MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:
Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books, 2013.
Evolving Your Website (feat. Siteimprove)
Today's episode features Blake Robson and Coady McCormick of Siteimprove. In this follow up to our recent event Web Accessibility and the Digital Journey, we discuss techniques for evolving your website. In order to optimize your website and sustain the value of your digital investments, you need to evolve. Accessibility is a crucial part of your digital process. As we highlighted in our recent event, there is an ethical case as well as a business case for ensuring accessibility. This is only one aspect of your larger digital strategy. In today's episode, we discuss the evolution of your website in greater detail. Evolving your website on an ongoing basis is fundamental to executing on your digital strategy. Listen now on your favourite platform!
Career Building and the Challenge Mindset (feat. JP Michel of SparkPath)
Today's guest on Reshape Digital is JP Michel, founder of SparkPath and inventor of the Challenge Cards who believes the Challenge Mindset is the key to unlocking human potential. JP’s mission is to inspire and guide young people to build extraordinary careers using the challenge mindset. Learn how the challenge mindset can be used to inspire a new generation of workers, and how it can be applied within the current workforce. To support his mission, JP founded SparkPath, an organization that provides resources to employers, educators, students, and parents to help guide the next generation of workers in their careers.
To facilitate this process, JP invented the Challenge Cards to help people discover what they are passionate about. Last year JP sold over 3,000 decks of Challenge Cards and is on pace to beat that number in 2019. Many universities are now using SparkPath's career tools, including but not limited to: Queen's University, McGill University, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Toronto.
Dark Patterns vs. Light Patterns
Today on Reshape Digital we dive deep into Dark Patterns - deceptive UX techniques used by online businesses to trick users into doing things that they did not intend on doing. You’ll learn exactly what dark patterns are, some examples of dark patterns (from auto-recurring purchases to meaningless countdown clocks), and what exactly the difference is between a light pattern and a dark pattern: it’s not as clear as you’d think.
A dark pattern is defined as "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills." In today's episode of Reshape Digital, we discuss dark patterns and light patterns. What are dark patterns? How are they used? How common are they? We discuss a number of examples of dark patterns, and what people are doing to combat them. One such way is a light pattern.
A light pattern is the opposite of a dark pattern in every way. Where dark patterns are subtle, deceptive and often malicious, light patterns are obvious, transparent and well-intentioned. Light patterns are designed to put the power back in the user’s hands, operating under the assumption that the user knows what is best for them and can make their own purchase decisions without coercion.
Finally, we highlight the grey area between dark patterns and light patterns. Many dark patterns are unintentional or not-quite-deceptive. The grey area creates a unique problem for people attempting to combat dark patterns, which means that light patterns are even more important. Let the users decide. We believe in a democratic internet, which means that the power should be in your hands.
Artificial Intelligence and Usability
Today on Reshape Digital we discuss how artificial intelligence can be used to make usability testing on the web more accurate, more objective, and more cost-effective at scale. But can it completely replace human processes? Usability is the most important aspect of a website. It dictates how easily users can access information and complete tasks on your website, contributing directly to the company's business objectives.
Traditionally, usability testing for websites involves significant human capital: human evaluators and human test subjects. While necessary to an extent, there are two core problems with this approach that artificial intelligence will soon address:
- A lack of objectivity and internal biases
- It is not cost-effective at scale and consumes significant resources
We explore the latest research on usability testing with AI, and venture deeper into what other web design and development processes AI may one day replace.