Iowa Web Developers and Designers Meetup

Picture from Karl Becker

Last week I had the great honor of joining my friend and app developer Karl Becker for the Iowa Web Developers and Designers Meetup in Coralville, IA. I was humbled by the amount of talent and passion that surrounded me in the room, but that talent and passion only inspired me to do better work in my own life. Here are some of my takeaways from the evening.

There were two presenters in the evening. Dan Sweeny of ActiveGrade presented on Web Design Principles, while Josh Krakauer of Sculpt talked about building a social media strategy. I tried taking some photos, but please forgive me for the dark projector room! Next time I'll use HDR!

I'm only going to be addressing Dan's presentation today, so come back later for more on my experience that evening!

Dan Sweeney of ActiveGrade addressing web design
Discussing hierarchy of design.

Web Design Principles

Probably a lot of common sense for an art major, or a design major, but for someone like myself who was wrapped in history, philosophy, and film, Dan's presentation was a home run. I've long struggled with creating something with good design, even though I pride myself on recognizing good design when I see it. Dan helped me understand some of the underlying reasons of what makes "good design," and how that applies in today's web design world.

I believe the biggest take home for me was Dan's point that a website should have a goal; whatever that goal may be, good design strives to guide a visitor towards that goal. While that has been a key point in my work, it was very beneficial to hear it from a design perspective an how good design drives decisions and behaviors as much as the content (if not more).

Example of using contrast in website design.
Example of poor web design. What's the goal? Where's the focus?


Spreading a Brand through Email Marketing

Make sure your marketing emails get to your customer's inbox!

In my day job, I spend a significant amount of time educating others on the best practices for email marketing. One of the most frequent situations I run into is the idea of sending a one-off message to a huge mailing list. Specifically, a mailing list that has been purchased, dug up, or otherwise not grown organically. These addresses are typically not current customers for us either.

If I get a 1% response rate on this, I’m happy!

The above quote is what I’m trying to avoid. Educated our sales team as to why we should avoid the “mass emailing” idea. The problem we run into is communicating the necessity of not using our email marketing for these “brand awareness” or “spreading the brand” mailings.

Target those prospects that have previously shown interest.

What you really should focus on instead of email as a “shotgun” approach, is to instead aim  our email marketing towards the prospects that have previously shown interest or reached out to your company in some manner or another (tradeshow, call, white paper download, etc). Through a properly directed email campaign, we can garner that prospects interest in our company’s offerings. When you take the “blast” approach, there are usually consequences that affect all of your future email marketing:

  1. When your emails are marked as spam by the recipient, you’re increasing the chance of all emails being marked as spam. This reduces the likelihood of all future emails reaching the inboxes of our prospects.
  2. And once a recipient marks an email from your marketing campaign as spam, your company’s reputation and image is reduced to “just another spammer.” Not something that we want to happen!

And these two consequences usually go hand-in-hand, and also are greatly multiplied when left unchecked.

So, the take-home lesson is this: Don’t use email marketing as a brand awareness tool, or spreading your brand name. Email marketing is better utilized for measuring the interest in your company and your company’s offerings.