8 Web Trends to Revitalize Your Site

Keeping up with web trends is a surefire way to make sure you’re not left behind in the digital world. Not every trend on this list is applicable to every website or situation, but by utilizing the ones that fit your specific strategy, you’ll keep a visitor’s attention and encourage them to keep coming back.

1. Be Responsive!

Without a doubt, responsive design is the most important on this list. This buzzword of 2015 has transcended “trendy” and solidified itself as the new standard for web design. With more and more users viewing websites on mobile devices and tablets, it is crucial websites across the board be designed to automatically adjust for different device sizes.

business-bank-wisconsin-responsive-desktop-website-design
By optimizing for both desktop and mobile, we helped The Business Bank give their customers much more user-friendly banking options.

2. Simple, Flat and Elegant

Since responsive design has to fit different sized screens, it begs the question – which design is best for which format? Simple, flat and elegant has become the solution overall, which our programmers helped implement as the prominent design theme for Solarus. Although flat design has been around for a few years, it’s growing up. The use of subtle gradients and layering to retain a sense of tangibility is also starting to emerge.

3. More Scrolling, Less Clicking

With the rise of mobile (seeing a pattern?), visitors are being trained to flick and scroll to view content. This action is now expected while using a desktop computer. Scrolling sites – like we created for Northern Concrete – have less load time overall, allow for more dynamic interaction, and create a more intuitive, easier-to-use website. The transitions are also smoother with no jarring refreshes, which keeps your content flowing.

4. Emphasize Typography

With type kits, such as Google Web Fonts, becoming more affordable and free, typography can now be fully utilized.

Mixing thick and thin with boxy and elegant typesetting is now appropriate for the web. Not sure how it would appear? Check out our work for Oh Snap Pickling Company!

5. Large and in Charge!

Large imagery, large text, large videos. With less bandwidth restrictions, large is now possible. It’s an easy way to display your content prominently and elegantly without feeling gimmicky, as seen on the website we created for Pella Windows and Doors of Wisconsin. Full-screen content also creates emotion and a better canvas on which to tell your story.

Parallaxing these large images and videos not only looks really cool, it’s a great way to utilize large graphics and create a sense of depth.

6. Make it Visual! – Use Illustrations and Infographics

Simple illustrations are a great way to add creativity to a site without adding clutter. They can be most useful in an infographic to explain complicated information since a visual representation of data is always easier to digest.

oh-snap-pickles-website-illustrations
Back to Oh Snap! Instead of a text-heavy list to explain why their pickles are extraordinary, we collaborated on illustrations instead.

7. Reinvent Your Navigation

With scrolling sites becoming more prevalent, floating and sticky navs have emerged. Navigation that slides down, slides up, pops up, and includes imagery and dynamic animations will start showing up. Along with new navigation, new button styles are also making headway.

“Ghost buttons” – buttons with no fill, and are transparent – have become popular because they are elegant and don’t block background imagery. Since Verhalen Commercial Interiors needed to showcase their product visually, we made sure their landing pages used this feature instead of a typical nav menu.

8. Tell Your Story!

Your company’s story becomes more compelling and vivid across all devices through the use of the above trends. When users interact with your content, they will be more engaged and feel a stronger connection with your brand. Check out how we helped Saverne Products use their “Field to You” story to emphasize how it impacts their consumers.

Staying ahead of the website game can be tough at first, but a sleek, user-friendly site is well worth the effort!

Here at Element, we work every day with businesses on maintaining websites and implementing state-of-the-art programming. We give our clients the stress-free and reliable option of providing all web services within one agency.

Have a web project you’d like us to tackle? Give us a call at 920-973-9700!

References
http://unmatchedstyle.com
http://www.elegantthemes.com
http://justcreative.com
http://designmodo.com
http://webdesignledger.com

Director of Account Services
Nikki Peroutka has handled account service duties at Element for more than a decade. She remembers pre-PDF days when every proof required a face-to-face client meeting, and the number of colors in an ad determined its price. This, of course, makes her feel like an old marketing-weary battle-ax. Yet, she brings a youthful, fresh perspective to overseeing all client relationships as well as managing her own accounts. When her daily Director of Account Services duties are done, she enjoys relaxing with a good magazine or book, chasing around her son Oakley, and doing DIY projects around the house.

How to Implement Content Marketing Software into Your Strategy

Some time ago, a bank president shared with me that his sales team was not using their new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. I asked him why not and he told me that the CRM had over 80 possible fields and was overwhelming to use.

It turns out the sales team simply did not have the time or computer access to use the CRM software correctly. They were only using about 10 percent of the software’s capabilities! Since no one took the time to consult with the team or understand their sales process beforehand, the bank was now locked into a lengthy, expensive CRM contract that was hard to break.

So, how do CRM software and other programs relate to successful content marketing? First, let me take a minute to define content marketing.

Wait… Isn’t Content Marketing Just a Program?
Easy answer? No, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable and engaging content with a target audience in order to acquire new audiences or deepen relationships with existing customers.

It’s the vital link between customer awareness, action and sales conversion.

From the conversations I’ve had, it’s a common misconception that content marketing is simply a software program. Although software is a valuable part of managing and tracking the results of content marketing efforts, it’s only one part of the process.

The key to content marketing is to have an ongoing, consistent strategy. When there’s a solid understanding of what makes your audiences tick, producing and delivering engaging content can easily complement your audiences’ natural buying cycles.

Consider this. A prospect has the potential to interact with your earned media (public relations efforts), owned media (blog, newsletters, videos), shared media (social media), and paid media (display ads, advertorials, Google AdWords). This interaction needs to be positive, consistent and well thought-out.

You also need to think about how you want to position your brand.

  • Who are your target audiences? Where do they look for information?
  • How do you integrate information about your products and services into engaging content?
  • What content format will have the most impact? When do you deliver this content?
  • How will your sales team interact with and leverage the content to amplify your sales process?
  • How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts?

You get the point.

You need to be smart about the content you’re producing to add value to your prospect’s decision-making process. And, it’s important to understand that great content can also exist in a variety of forms — videos, infographics, slide decks, press releases, product demos, e-books, games, case studies.

There is no shortcut to great content. It takes work, dedication, creativity and expertise. The challenge is to select formats that will resonate with your audiences.

By delivering outstanding, crafted content when your audiences are looking for it, you’re better able to address their needs and wants in a positive way at the right time.

It’s about creating a relationship, not a transaction so align your content to their buying cycle, don’t push your sales cycle on them.

When Does Software Come into Play?
There are hundreds of software programs to choose from that can ensure you receive relevant information to make right, ongoing adjustments to your content strategy.

Once you have your strategy and objectives in-hand, you can determine what software needs can be applied to specific tasks or measurements of an ongoing content marketing program. But before you decide if you even need software, you need to set your content marketing goals.

Similar to my earlier CRM example, you shouldn’t start a program without first planning your strategy. A strategy of any kind with only a software program, and no sense of strategy, will produce mediocre results.

Like selecting a CRM, you need to take the time to understand the situation, determine your goals, and what tactics and tools you need to get there.

Content marketing software can deliver and organize content, optimize conversations and measure results, but cannot take the place of a good strategy, relevant and engaging content, and understanding audience segments.

When you’re looking at content marketing for your business, research and strategy will ultimately help you create a roadmap to results. Have a process to develop meaningful content, use that content to enhance your existing marketing efforts, and then evaluate software programs that can help you deliver content and measure success.

This article originally appeared on page 17 in the Aug. 10, 2015 print issue of The Business News as “How is Buying CRM Software Like Content Marketing?”. This article has been modified for this blog.

Principal/Agency Director

How to Create a Marketing Budget

Let’s talk about the ‘b’ word everyone likes to avoid: Budgets. When it comes to putting together your marketing plan or next project, writing down that number next to each line item can be tricky. While you’re planning out how to create a marketing budget, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Look at previous plans and budgets. Past project costs will shed a lot of light on your budget and is a great place to start when planning.

Don’t forget the details. Make sure you fully understand what all needs to come out of your marketing budget (salaries, agency fees, printing, postage, media, etc.). Next, add as much detail next to each line item as possible. Understanding where expenses come from within each project will help you make a more accurate projection.

Be upfront and honest. If you work with an agency, talk candidly about your objectives and budget. There’s always multiple ways to skin the cat so perhaps they can find ways to shave off dollars without losing the impact. Even if the initial project estimate is out of your ballpark, it’s worth a conversation to explore the possibilities.

Prioritize based on your goals. Which projects will have the most impact and will directly affect your annual objectives? Move these to the top so that if you can’t stretch your budget to accommodate all your activities, you’re at least getting done the ones that will move the needle.

If you’ve got too much on your plate or are looking for a fresh perspective on your marketing plan, remember agencies have experience planning and budgeting for a variety of clients and can add valuable perspective to the budgeting and planning process.

Director of Account Services
Nikki Peroutka has handled account service duties at Element for more than a decade. She remembers pre-PDF days when every proof required a face-to-face client meeting, and the number of colors in an ad determined its price. This, of course, makes her feel like an old marketing-weary battle-ax. Yet, she brings a youthful, fresh perspective to overseeing all client relationships as well as managing her own accounts. When her daily Director of Account Services duties are done, she enjoys relaxing with a good magazine or book, chasing around her son Oakley, and doing DIY projects around the house.

Now Hiring: Art Director

Do you want to be part of a creative team that loves innovative design, cutting-edge concepts and integrated marketing strategies?  We have the position for you. We’re looking for someone who appreciates large Moose heads, laughs at our punny jokes, enjoys cold Wisconsin beer, and can cook a frozen pizza after a heated ping pong match. If you want to join a fun group of people that celebrates odd holidays, then we want you to be our new Art Director.Now_Hiring

 

Key Responsibilities / Performance Requirements:

  • Become an expert in our clients’ brands, products, and audiences.
  • Compose visually stunning, cutting-edge concepts for cross-channel, integrated campaigns.
  • Develop creative that is on-brand, emotionally compelling, and drives response.
  • Articulate and support rationale for creative decisions based on the goals of the project, the established creative strategy, the brand, and an understanding of the target audience.
  • Take direction, go beyond what is asked, and constantly challenge yourself.

Qualifications:

  • 5+ years agency experience
  • Ability to extend traditional campaigns into other channels, including social, mobile, and display
  • Experience being part of a collaborative creative environment
  • The ability to present and support creative concepts in a professional and engaging manner
  • A commitment to constantly improving one’s skills and staying current on developments and trends in the industry, and sharing this knowledge with others
  • Professional-level design software proficiency (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.)
  • An understanding of the capabilities of HTML, HTML5, CSS, and the capabilities of web and email browsers

The Art Director will be able to develop the creative strategy and take a campaign from start to finish, accurately communicating to a defined target audience. If you are interested in applying for the position, please send your resume and recent work samples or links to recent work samples to aldis@goelement.com.

Old People Candy Offered By Upper-Middle-Aged Business Manager

No wheelchair or blue hair required. Element’s Business Manager, Sue Barrett, is now set to offer the best selection of “old people candy” this side of the Fox River.shutterstock_42891820

Providing a delicious assortment of candy, set perfectly in a decorative lead crystal bowl, started as a way to entice coworkers to stop by her office as a distraction from her busy day. “I am so busy with opening each new project in two different computer programs that I hardly have time to interact with people,” stated Barrett. “It gets lonely sitting by myself with only my filing cabinets and the faint sound of Lance [Agency Principal] working quietly in the next office over.”

The idea came to Barrett one afternoon as she was randomly walking around her local Shopko trying to remember the reason why she needed to go there in the first place.

Barrett prides herself on the wide selection of her candy. “Werther’s Original is a classic, and who says those orange and black candies are just for Halloween?” She also rambled on, stating one cannot beat the delicious mouth-drying taste of a chalky after-dinner mint and that she makes sure a few Bit-O-Honey pieces are on hand at all times because people deserve something as sweet as they are. “Mary Janes are my absolute favorite though, there’s something about them that just makes me happy.”

Other options include butterscotch disks, unwrapped ribbon hard candy, and Necco Wafers. And if you look in her top desk drawer, you’ll find a hidden stash of candy cigarettes.

The Unofficial Element Spokes-Moose
Canuck is a surprisingly intelligent and humorous character that could talk your ear off. He loves life, learning new things and, most of all, sharing new insight with people. He’s adjusted well since emigrating to the U.S. from Canada and settling down at Element. In fact, he’s taken strongly to blogging about marketing, branding, social media, and the Element office happenings. He’s still very loyal to his homeland, insisting that hockey is the only real-man’s sport, pancakes are acceptable at any meal, and Canadian beer is superior to the swill made everywhere else.

Tips for Crafting Your Story

By: Kate Shropshire

Twitter started real-time conversations, now they have facilitated real-time video with their on-the-rise app, Periscope. We can do more than listen, we can watch things happen live. Periscope is a platform for users or brands to live stream video to the world where users are tuning in to see live broadcasts of the first appearance of the Royal baby or sunsets on mountains.

Similarly, Snapchat is bringing brands to the devices consumers are attached to. Snapchat users can see celebrities get ready for award shows or watch a video story of an international musical festival and its attendees.

So why do these platforms matter? They provide new ways for brands to showcase a story on social media. These platforms also require creativity to breakthrough the status update quo. Here are 4 tips for brands when crafting a storytelling strategy.

  1. Think Mobile. As more and more people rely on the Internet for news, entertainment, and communication, it’s no secret your consumers are on their phones. To reach consumers, brands need to participate on the platforms people use daily. Brands are using Snapchat to give an inside look to consumers. Taco Bell shows off new products in Snapchat stories and the NBA generates excitement around the playoffs. As a brand, you can be one click away to consumers on the platforms they already trust and love.taco bell snapchat (picture source)
  2. Offer True Engagement. Engagement comes naturally as users can comment on Periscope streaming videos while they are happening. As a brand, there are now opportunities to really connect with consumers instead of pushing one-way messages at them.periscope on phone(picture source)
  3. Keep It Short. Some users are watching 8-second Snapchats instead of 2-minute videos. People want quick content that costs them little time as they move on to the next thing. Consumers want behind the scenes, exclusive looks at the world around them, and they want it fast. For the Billboard Music Awards, brands showed red carpet updates to fans through quick stories that highlighted the popular stars.IMG_4546
  4. Channel Your Inner Artist. With Snapchat, brands can type, doodle, use emojis, and pick filters for video and pictures. Brands can create anything they want since custom content is easy. Use the opportunity to show case some personality and get creative.SnapChat_Scavenger_FB-300x300 (picture source)

Now go explore the story-telling possibilities. Try it out and showcase the personality of your brand.

Digital Marketing Specialist

Is “Mobile Friendly” Always Friendly?

By: Kevin Hamilton

This month Google made a significant change in how they will rank website results for searches you perform on your phone.  They call this initiative “Mobile Friendly,” and for sites they deem unfriendly, there is a good chance that the website will be displayed in the Google search results with a warning message, or not at all.

As a result, many website owners have been rushing to implement a “Mobile Friendly” experience for their website. The problem is, not all mobile website implementations are equal. And in fact, Google’s algorithms are not making a subjective judgment on the friendliness of the website at all; they only look at more objective metrics of mobile usability. Here are the factors that Google states they rely on when judging mobile websites:

  • A defined viewing area (or viewport) that adjusts to the device’s screen size.
  • Content that flows in the viewport, so that users don’t have to scroll horizontally or pinch the screen in order to see the entire page.
  • Fonts that scale for easier reading on small screens.
  • Easy-to-touch elements (e.g., buttons) that are well-spaced from other touch elements.

So, what is the low bar to be “Mobile Friendly” according to Google? Having a page that is readable without needing to pinch-zoom the screen and which does not overflow the viewport. But, is that friendly enough? Let’s take a look at a website that Google calls “Mobile Friendly” and compare it to the equivalent desktop website experience.

Here is a well-designed, professional e-commerce website for a national brand that has over 600 stores in 48 states:

Click to see full size
Click to view full size

Here is the same website as it looks on mobile:

Click to view full-size
Click to view full-size

While usable, I don’t consider this page very mobile friendly.

  1. Consider the lack of any site navigation aside from search;
  2. overlapping click targets (“Find a store” is half the size of the average finger and directly adjacent to three other click targets);
  3. misaligned text and images in the page layout;
  4. out-of-proportion images and text;
  5. positioning and format of the Mother’s Day promotion;
  6. and the unreadably small text in the feature image (remember, there is no pinch-zoom available).

This looks to me like a site which was shoe-horned into a mobile layout without the care and attention required to produce a positive mobile experience.

The fact is, you don’t have to sacrifice your brand engagement for mobile, nor should you. Let’s look at another example and see how an investment in mobile design can promote your brand and provide a truly friendly mobile experience.

Desktop:

laherenciabeef-desktop
Click to see full size

Mobile:

laherenciabeef-mobile
Click to view full-size

See the difference? Your customer will, too! Go beyond “Google Friendly” and make your responsive site truly friendly.

Element Welcomes Two New Team Members

We’ve had a lot of exciting changes over the last few months at Element, including capturing two new team members to add to our Wanted Wall of Talent.

Here is what you need to know about them – in case you should you ever meet them in a dark alley or at your next meeting at Element.

Joel Haase

Title: Art Director/DesignerJoel-Blog-Post

Specialties: Print and Web Design, Logo Design and Illustration

Background: Joel is a UW-Oshkosh graduate with a BA in Graphic Communications who has been working in the design community for the past 17 years. Most of that time was recently spent at Arketype in Green Bay and WM Design in Appleton, where he helped each advertising agency earn a few Addy awards along the way.

His Favorite Zoo Animal: The hiphop-opotamus. Because his lyrics are bottomless.

Wanted For:  K  erring under the influence.

 

Kate ShropshireKate-Blog-Post

Title: Digital Marketing Specialist

Specialties: Social Media Strategy, Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimization

Background: An Appleton Native, Kate holds a BA from the University of Minnesota. Her past experience includes working at small agencies and at Meet Minneapolis, Convention and Visitors Association.

Craziest Thing She Has Ever Done for a Job: As part of a social media strategy for a trip to London giveaway, she rented an 8-foot-tall red phone booth and moved it around Minneapolis for a month while live tweeting and engaging with visitors to enter to win.

Wanted For: Possession of Diet Coke

Welcome Joel and Kate!

Just Press Play – Tips for Video Storytelling

By: Tara Brzozowski

This month I had the privilege and honor to be a judge for the Public Relations Society of America’s National Bronze Anvil Awards. I judged the video programs category, and I saw firsthand the creative and impactful ways today’s marketers are using video in their marketing and communications strategies.

From national products looking to build brand awareness to nonprofits using high-emotion stories to inspire action, video is hot and it’s everywhere. Over 70% of B2B marketers today claim video performs better than any other form of content for engaging and producing conversions*. That’s because video has been proven to elicit emotion, build trust, and help influence behavior better than other forms of text-based communication.

I realize I don’t need to convince you on the merits of video communications. But, before you run off and press play on that iPhone, take a moment to make sure your strategy is on track for success.

  1. Identify your audience and be specific. Unless you are a big brand with a large target audience, your video does not need to have mass appeal. In fact, the more specific your audience is, the better your video will perform. It makes sense right? The more you can define your target audience, the more directly you can speak to their needs.
  2. Show some personality. Good videos have personality. Don’t just tell people about your product or company, but give them a feel for your culture and what you have to offer. That means your new product video should not feel dull or boring, like you are reading a set of stereo instructions. No one wants to watch that. You can be funny, excited, and yes, even passionate about your company. Marketers, this is your opportunity to break the mold, show some personality, and stand out in the marketplace.
  3. Understand your broadcast options. YouTube isn’t the only game in town anymore. Last week, Facebook announced that it is making a strong play to become the place people watch online video. Also, Instagram, Vine, and SnapChat all have native video options, and Twitter’s recently released Periscope App has us all talking about opportunities for live streaming. Before you start posting video online, it is important to understand the different options on each channel and what is the best approach to grab people’s attention.
  4. Measure your results. One of the greatest reasons to start using video in your content marketing strategy is that it’s trackable. Downloads, audience views, shares, likes, comments, and other call-to-action activities provide you with leads and insights for future video opportunities. Begin with the end in mind. Have your metrics for success in place before you start shooting.

*Demand Metric

 

Director of Public Relations
A self-decribed chatterbox, it’s rumored that Tara was born with a phone in her hand. It was only a natural that she ended up in the marketing communications industry. With more than 12 years of industry experience, Tara specializes in campaign strategy, planning, publicity, and content marketing. In addition to socializing with just about anyone, Tara enjoys running, yoga, and watching her beloved Wisconsin Badgers. She also appreciates the occasional quiet weekend at home cooking and relaxing with her husband Ryan and daughter Julia.

Marketing Yourself—Little ways to make a big impact.

By: Nikki Peroutka

When it comes to making a good impression, everything counts. From the second you walk in the door at an interview, to the way you respond to a follow up email, you want to be your best self. These tips and tricks are little ways to market yourself and make a positive impact at your next job interview. Take notes!

  • Make sure there’s nothing embarrassing on your social media pages. One of the first things a potential employer is going to do is an internet search of your name. You might want to make sure that profile picture of you doing a beer bong in college is deleted. Permanently. Make sure your social media pages reflect the image you are trying to portray.
  • Think about what you can offer the company, not what the company can offer you. Really think about how your resume and cover letter are positioned. Concentrate on explaining what you bring to the table more than what you are looking for in a potential employer. Most employers seek a ‘givers’ not ‘takers.’
  • Provide exactly what the company is asking for. If a job posting requests you send a cover letter, salary requirements and references, make sure you comply with their requests. It proves you can follow directions (even if they are simple) and makes things easier for the person collecting the applications.
  • Do a little research on the company and get a feel for their culture. Reference the company’s culture when it makes sense in your communications, but don’t overdo it. Spending a little time getting to know the company shows initiative.
  • Every communication is being judged. From the way you format your resume and cover letter, to emails you send to set up interviews, PROOF, PROOF, PROOF and then PROOF again! The only thing you’ll land with a typo or poor organization of your resume is at the top of the ‘no’ pile.
  • A handwritten note goes a long way. The handwritten note is a lost art. At the very least, you should be sending an email thanking the interviewee for their time and consideration (but I’m still a fan of getting mail!).
  • Watch the use of emojis in your communication. Some may see this form of communication as too casual in the initial stages of getting to know each other. Leave the LOLs and smileys for friends and family.
Director of Account Services
Nikki Peroutka has handled account service duties at Element for more than a decade. She remembers pre-PDF days when every proof required a face-to-face client meeting, and the number of colors in an ad determined its price. This, of course, makes her feel like an old marketing-weary battle-ax. Yet, she brings a youthful, fresh perspective to overseeing all client relationships as well as managing her own accounts. When her daily Director of Account Services duties are done, she enjoys relaxing with a good magazine or book, chasing around her son Oakley, and doing DIY projects around the house.