Monthly Archives: January 2012

Day 6: People really still do that? On websites and standards.

Having freshly gone through a multimedia design education (ok, I’m not entirely finished with it) I have my head stuffed with lofty ideals. Or so I’ve been discovering for the past few days. In the course of my internship I had to visit 1000 or so websites belonging to all kinds of companies in Denmark. And it’s been a traumatizing experience.

Turns out that not only SEO, accessibility or usability are not standard in this, let’s face it, fairly digitally aware country. Turns out that using primary colors, Flash that loads for 2 minutes, poor graphics or an image of your worn out flyer is a perfectly adequate representation of your business in the digital world.

So I appeal to all you business owners out there, if you want a website do not do it yourself and don’t ask your nephew who knows computer games to do it either. It won’t do and you’ll harm your company. Invest in your image and get a proper professional (or at least a student) to do the work.

Here are a few particularly sad cases:

Herning Industry Lager gets first prize for an attempt at SEO. Just check the description meta tag: http://www.herningindustrilager.dk/

Midtjysk Frugtlager gets first prize for bringing the printed into the new digital era:
http://www.mj-frugtlager.dk/

And Selmer Transport gets the first prize in the category of webdesign:
http://www.selmertransport.dk/

Painful quick impression of today: some people still make their websites in Microsoft Word.

Day 5: Google Webmaster Tools

Google logoToday I had a chance to spend a portion of my day getting to know Google Webmaster Tools.

 

What are Google Webmaster Tools ?

They are an interface showing a set of data gathered and publish by Google for any website on the internet. Thanks to these tools you can see your website as Google sees it and take advantage of this knowledge to make your website more Google-friendly. Among other stats you’ll be able to see which of your pages are indexed, which user queries result in displaying your website in Google search, which other websites link to yours, what are your most successful landing pages and more.

 Why are Google Webmaster Tools useful?

They provide information as to how Google sees your pages and how users get to them. Which means that you can optimize your website in two ways:

  1. you can make it easier for Google to find and properly index it
  2. you can better optimize it for search queries to make sure users find it when searching for relevant information

Together with Google Analytics, webmaster tools give you a lot of control over how users find you and how your website looks to the crawlers. So don’t even think about SEO without having these information.

How to start using Google Webmaster Tools?

This is actually very simple and doesn’t take much time. From Google’s own help section:

To add and verify a site:

  1. Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Account.
  2. Click the Add a site button, and type the URL of the site you want to add. Make sure you type the entire URL, such as http://www.example.com/
  3. Click Continue. The Site verification page opens.
  4. (Optional) In the Name box, type a name for your site (for example, My Blog).
  5. Select the verification method you want, and follow the instructions.

The verification is designed to check if you are the website’s owner and you will basically have to add a snippet of code to your pages. Once you start, remember that some data will not appear straight away. In my case some data is still missing 2 days into using the tool. And do read Google’s help pages that appear in the lower, left corner and change according to which section of the tools you are currently viewing. The help pages explain not only what the data mean but also how they were collected and how you can use them to improve your website.

So in short, I wholeheartedly recommend Google Webmaster Tools to anyone even slightly interested in SEO.

Day 4: On Design Guides, Mostly.

I spent today working on two things. First of all I did a little bit of research regarding how software development companies communicate their competencies. It’s a complicated issue because you want to include all technical details and show yourself as an expert in “hardcore” programming. And at the same time you don’t want to bore your non-programming customers to death. You want to clearly explain to them why and how you will provide the solution they need, never mind the .NET, JAVA, PHP or other mysterious abbreviations. And let me tell you folks, I have not found one company that would do it well enough (if you disagree, feel free to post examples in the comments). Meanwhile, I am considering infographics.

The second thing, I was working on today had to do with my favorite topic: design. I was handed a large folder with ridiculous amount of various image files containing different versions of the logo, company’s name and design templates that accumulate over the years. I was asked to organize it and make sense out of it. I took the liberty of going a small step further and creating a complete design guide with all the visual identity information I was looking for when I started. I think the document and (now) organized folder with all the graphic design elements will serve the company well.

Below some very good online resources concerning writing design guides:

1. Two introductory articles:

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/21/designing-style-guidelines-for-brands-and-websites/

http://saatchidesign.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/20-top-tips-for-designing-effective-brand-guidelines/

2. InDesign template for a design guide:

http://imjustcreative.com/logo-identity-guideline-template-for-download/2010/04/15/

3. Selection of design guides from the web (the last link is to a directory with many, many guides):

http://www.citybrandaarhus.dk/~/media/Subsites/Citybrand-Aarhus/Dokumenter/297×210-aarhus-designguide-rettet.ashx

http://www.scribd.com/adville/d/201995-Good-Technology-Brand-Identity-Guide

http://www.easy.com/PDFs/easyGroup_Brand_Manual.pdf

http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/communications/services/identityguidelines/

http://www.designerstalk.com/corpid/

Days 3

So yesterday started with a meeting with ProCore’s boss, Morten. We mostly talked about the work I had done on Monday and Tuesday. The meeting went very well and most of my ideas were accepted. In the 2.5h meeting we also spent a considerable amount of time brainstorming on how best to communicate ProCore’s message to the company’s customers. This was also a very fruitful process.

Thanks to this meeting I have more ideas as to what I will be busy with next week and next month. I am especially excited to be allowed to experiment with ProCore’s visual identity and, possibly, be in charge of designing a website for one of the company’s products (but that in February).

Quick impression from Wednesday: There are many crappy pages on this internet of ours. And many, many tables, where divs should be…

 

Day Two

Umbraco logoToday was basically a continuation of my work from yesterday. More information architecture, more marketing strategy and a little bit of graphic design around the company’s website (for presentation of the new information architecture) and the logo.

My research today concentrated on Umbraco CMS and SEO, with special focus on keywords and meta tags.

And tomorrow I will present my work to the boss and we’ll take it from there. I am curious to see if my work brings value to the company.

Quick impression for today: When you sit in Incuba Science Park cafeteria you realize how few women there are in the IT and digital world.

Bibliography:

A great report about market share and brand strength of the 20 most popular  CMSs: http://www.waterandstone.com/sites/default/files/2010%20OSCMS%20Report.pdf

SEO tools:

http://www.google.com/trends

https://adwords.google.com/

http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist2010/

Great complete guide to SEO for beginners (and may I also add that it’s graphically brilliant?):

http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo/

 

Day One

ProCore LogoSo, today was also the first day of my internship (you can read more about it in the previous post). It was really good, actually better than I expected.

To begin with, everyone at ProCore, my host company, is very friendly, helpful and communicative.  We began the day with some buns and a introduction to the company and my tasks. We laid down plans for the next few weeks of work and I was given a detailed tour of the company’s products and services.

For the next week my work will mostly include research and production of marketing strategy to help the company secure more fixed income as well as consulting jobs. And today I started on researching the professional networks around .NET, Umbraco CMS and JAVA programming. I have also spend some time jutting down some marketing ideas.

I also had a chance to brainstorm with my new boss on the company’s website and my suggestion to spend time analyzing the website and proposing new information architecture, was given a go. This task also took a large chunk of my work day today and will definitely continue tomorrow.

And as a bonus, a quick impression: Incuba Science Park is the place to be if you are starting or innovating in the IT or digital world. Great place to work and even better to network.

Today’s Bibliography:

1. Web Monkey – Information Architecture Tutorial

2. InDeziner – 50 Creative Web Agencies

3. Smashing Magazine – Starting Out Organized: Website Content Planning The Right Way

4. Jesse James Garrett – The Elements of User Experience

Setting the Stage

Business Academy Aarhus logpTo set this blog in motion, a few words of introduction about the internship that I am currently taking.

The internship is part of my studies in Multimedia Design at Business Academy Aarhus a.k.a. Erhvervsakademi Aarhus. I am to complete a 10-week internship in one (or more) of the 4 fields taught at Multimedia Design course: Business, Communication, Visualization or Interaction in any media-related company.

In my case the company is called ProCore and is located in Incuba Science Park in Aarhus. It provides a wide variety of services from custom-made software solutions, through software products to providing complete webdesign and development projects and CMS systems. In its 10-years of existence it has also consulted in the fields of .NET development, JAVA development and project management.

My role in the company will be centered around marketing and communication tasks but it will also (hopefully) include some graphic design and web analysis.

The internship plans that were agreed upon by the 3 interested parties (me, ProCore and my internship supervisor) look more or less like this:

Knowledge – the student obtains knowledge about:

  • The inner workings of a company
  • Planning and preparing a marketing campaign for a new product on a new market

Skills – the student works with:

  • Preparing a marketing campaign
  • Online and printed material for the campaign
  • Graphic design, various Adobe programs

Competence – the student works on and develops:

  • Website analysis (call to action for the company’s products)
  • Marketing
  • Segmentation
  • Social media

With the stage thus set we can move on to the first day of my internship (see next post).