Seattle Interactive Conference 2011

December 19, 2020 archive

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SIC 2011 just wrapped up yesterday, and I spent the day going to talks by speakers from the worlds of UX, SEO, marketing, and branding. Like any convention, there were a lot of great talks going on simultaneously–it was hard to choose which ones to go to!

I’ve summarized some of what was talked about below, spanning mobile, design, SEO, and networking. Hopefully you get something out of it!

Great Mobile Apps Do These Five Things.

First up was a talk from Shannon Carter at Zumobi, a mobile app development company. According to Shannon, great mobile apps have five qualities (six, if you count the very first thing she said: lots and lots of metrics):

  1. They are personal. Personalization should be prominently displayed on the homepage, not hidden away behind configuration.
  2. They are focused. Keep it simple and do one thing well.
  3. They are fresh. As with blogs, frequent content updates are essential to keep users coming back. App updates can also remind users about the app, but the updates have to be substantive. This also means that you must provide a feedback loop and listen; there should be an in-app feedback mechanism and you should read every App Store review.
  4. They are lucrative. Shannon spent a good deal of time on this, and tied it in a bit to other points (for example, the more lucrative an app is, the more incentivized you are to update it frequently). Lucrative and free is ideal, but that’s difficult, so consider monetization early in the design process.You have several options here: charging for the app itself, in-app purchases, integrated merchandising, ad networks, or sponsorships. She discussed the differences between ad networks and sponsorships, coming in heavily in favor of sponsorships. In fact, Zumobi is so in favor of sponsored apps that they have never charged for the app itself. However, this requires excellent metrics to prove that users will spend time on sponsored areas (in a Zumobi Xbox app, she said users spent an average of 8 minutes in the Mountain Dew sponsor pages!).
  5. They are flexible. This means designing for an adaptive resolution, not just iPhone. You have a lot of screens out there: iPhone, Android phones, iPad, Android tablets, etc. A phone resolution is great, but having a special experience for tablets is really important, too, because people use tablets differently than phones (for example, they do more collaboration on tablets).Zumobi uses an “adaptive” approach: a combination of native code, HTML5, and cloud storage. Zumobi’s secret? Where possible, serve content in web views. They also store most information remotely rather than on the device itself.Data portability also falls in here. Data should be shareable with Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail, but don’t take people out of the app to do that.

How Small Marketing Tweaks Lead to Massive Business Results

Next was Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers on how you can leverage human behavior to improve conversion. Derek had a lot of fantastic information that was backed by experience and studies (too much for this blog article, in fact). He calls these social triggers, and divides them between foundational and implementational triggers.

Foundational triggers:

  • No one cares about you or your business.
  • People want instant results (“Here’s how you can save one hour today by using this one feature”).
  • You need to focus. Portray yourself as an expert in one area and people will assume you are an expert in related areas; you don’t need to sell yourself as an expert in 15 different areas, because no one will remember that.

Implementational triggers:

  • Give people fewer options and you’ll make more sales. Cut everything down to 3-5 choices.
  • Always back up your claims with proof. These can come from research from experts, case studies, or even your own results (although in that case, don’t cite it as the main proof).
  • Use the “feared self”; paint a picture of your target customer in the worst possible situation, then say your product can help him avert that.

Derek also noted that most visitors to your site hit an interior content page before visiting your homepage (that usually comes second or third). So focus on conversions on the homepage, because your visitors aren’t coming in cold.

The Golden Rule of Typography and Web Design

Afterward, Chris Pearson of Thesis Theme took the stage to talk about typography as it relates to web design.

Chris was after the Golden Ratio of typography: the most mathematically pleasing text size, leading, and text width possible. He talked about different examples of the Golden Ratio in nature–sunflowers, galaxies, DNA–and wanted to find the same ratio for text on a web page.

Chris talked about Tschichold’s Golden Page Section, a proposed “perfect arrangement” of a block of text as it relates to the printed page, and explained why it didn’t solve the fundamental problem. Text defines a layout, so any solution must include how text is arranged. After searching for an equation, Chris identified what he believes is the Golden Ratio for typography and demonstrated a typography tool he created based on these equations to give the optimal text size, leading, and and text width (a text tool he unfortunately asked we not link to because he has not officially announced it yet).

This blog has 12px font size and 18px line height in a 655px width space. According to his calculator, the ideal typography is actually 16px font size and 26px line height, and looking at that typography, it does seem easier to read. If we really wanted to stick with 12px font size, it says, we should open up the line height a bit, to 22px.

He also gave some tips (well, personal opinions) for encouraging readership:

  • Keep the beginning of your article thinner than the rest; for example, by floating an image.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and easy to read.
  • Convey key points in image captions.
  • Don’t clutter up your sidebar with stuff that doesn’t matter; it distracts your readers. If possible, don’t even have a sidebar.
  • Don’t use any main fonts under 14pt–if possible, 16pt.

SEO and User Experience: Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

Next I went to a panel on SEO and UX chaired by Jonathon Colman (ROI) with John Goad (Add Three), Mike Pantoliano (Distilled), Michael King (Publicis Modem), and Ben Lloyd (Amplify Interactive). Lot of good information here–some key points by speaker:

John Good:

  • Treat robots just like another user profile, but don’t do anything special for them; humans come first.
  • Don’t create irrelevant content. Your organic traffic will suffer.
  • Don’t buy links. Your page authority will suffer.

Mike Pantoliano:

  • Ajax-loaded faceted drill-downs do not create new pages, and therefore aren’t indexable. This is terrible. Fall back to static HTML when no JavaScript is detected, giving static links with their own canonical URLs for drilling into content.

Michael King:

  • Building a site without SEO is like building a car without an engine. You can buy traffic to climb the hill, but once you stop buying the car will roll back down.
  • UX is only compromised when SEO is retrofitted to the design process. It should be an active driver of the design.
  • Use expandable divs–you can create a user experience with a lot of content without compromising the page design.

Ben Lloyd:

  • Reduce choice. Too many links on a page dillutes the authority of a page.

A few other points came up during the question and answer section:

  • All five panelists agreed that meta keywords were useless, but Jonathon said they were actually worse an useless, as Bing only uses them to penalize spam sites.
  • For sites with multiple languages, link to other versions of the page with rel=”alternate” (see

Your Friends Don’t Trust You–Nor Should They

Lara Feltin talked about building your business-to-business network, something that a small firm like Urban Influence depends on. Her five main points were:

  1. Know thyself.
  2. Be human. Refer people to other businesses if they’re a better fit.
  3. Show up. Show up at an event before it begins and do your homework. Know who is there, who you have ething in common with. After the event, follow up. For example, you might leave a thoughtful ment on their blog.
  4. Be helpful.
  5. Feed the machine. Make someone’s client happy, someone’s job easy, show acknowledgement, and reciprocate.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People

Basically, her main point is do things for people without necessarily the expectation of reciprocation and you will find that you can gain new business in unexpected ways.

So, did you go to SIC this year? If so, which talks were your favorite?

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