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Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.
The human brain is a most flexible tool, and if you’re not using it in ways you haven’t thought of before, Lateral Thinking should prove to be an interesting and potentially process-changing concept. Have you ever wondered why a certain smell can bring back a childhood memory? Or why a song will remind you of a certain place and time, even though the lyrics, artist, melody and genre have little to do with that place? That’s because you are equipped with the most powerful and strange computer ever devised: Your mind.
The idea that something mundane and apparently irrelevant can inspire memories and creativity is called Fuzzy Logic, and it’s a major component in the way your brain processes stimuli and can lead to solutions your desktop PC and its software will never come up with.
You can apply Lateral Thinking to any problem solving procedure. Try using some of the following methods.
Random Entry Idea Generating Tool: The thinker chooses an object at random, or a noun from a dictionary, and associates it with the area they are thinking about.
Provocation Idea Generating Tool: The use of any of the provocation techniques—wishful thinking, exaggeration, reversal, escape, distortion, or arising. The thinker creates a list of provocations and then uses the most outlandish ones to move their thinking forward to new ideas.
Movement Techniques: The thinker develops provocation operations by the following methods: extract a principle, focus on the difference, moment to moment, positive aspects, special circumstances.
Challenge Idea Generating Tool: A tool which is designed to ask the question “Why?” in a non-threatening way: why something exists, why it is done the way it is. The result is a very clear understanding of “Why?” which naturally leads to fresh new ideas. The goal is to be able to challenge anything at all, not just items which are problems. For example, one could challenge the handles on coffee cups. The reason for the handle seems to be that the cup is often too hot to hold directly. Perhaps coffee cups could be made with insulated finger grips, or there could be separate coffee-cup holders similar to beer holders.
Concept Fan Idea Generating Tool: Ideas carry out concepts. This tool systematically expands the range and number of concepts in order to end up with a very broad range of ideas to consider.
Disproving: Based on the idea that the majority is always wrong (as suggested by Henrik Ibsen and by John Kenneth Galbraith), take anything that is obvious and generally accepted as “goes without saying”, question it, take an opposite view, and try to convincingly disprove it. This technique is similar to de Bono’s “Black Hat” of Six Thinking Hats, which looks at the ways in which something will not work.
The short answer is no. You are free to hold your phone any way you choose. The long answer is a resounding yes. We are fortunate enough to live in a time when huge amounts of bandwidth are available to 90% of the homes in America. To take advantage of that, entertainment producers decided to add huge swaths of real estate to the left and right sides of your TVs, computer monitors and handheld devices. TVs are no longer square, thus, devices that take photographs and record video no longer record square media. The most common aspect ratio one can expect a TV or monitor to display is 16:9, which can be thought of as 16 units wide by 9 units tall.
Why not take advantage of all that extra space? Turn your handheld device on it’s side. It won’t mind. (does not apply to dedicated cameras!)
Yes, it’s been years since I’ve been even remotely interested in Pacman. He and Mrs. Paman had their day in the limelight, and it was good. But now he’s come back, and on a platform I would never have guessed – Google Maps. Oh yes, it’s true.
This does, of course, beg the question – how much free time do the good people and Google have on their hands? I mean, I’m running from sunrise to sunset and can still barely manage my responsibilities, but these guys – Hah!
In this incarnation, Pacman collects dots and hunts ghosts on your favorite suburban street. Just go to Google Maps, find your favorite address (for this purpose I used my work address) and click the Pacman button at the bottom left corner of the screen. The same thing goes for mobile devices, although only in certain locations – use the clue list Google provided below to find where.
Before discussing why your website should be redesigned, we should discuss why your website is important. Why have a website in the first place? It doesn’t provide a direct line to additional income for you or your business. It doesn’t make your life simpler. It doesn’t cook you breakfast. So why? Stand back, and let me explain.
1. Let’s start with advertising
Your website provides far more advertising for far less money. Yes, it’s less committal advertising. Yes, it’s more abstract than a billboard. But it’s advertising nonetheless, and it costs less. Compare one month of advertising on a busy roadside billboard, which is going to cost about $3,000-ish, and the cost of building and hosting a website indefinitely: Say, $1,000 to $2,000 for a good website, plus $10-$20 a month for hosting. The billboard just cost you $36,000, whereas the website cost you about $2,200 for the first year, and $120 -$240 for every year after that, and the billboard is limited in the number of people who are going to see it whereas your website has a literally unlimited number of potential customers who can see it.
2. You must establish a Web presence
More and more people everyday are looking for services online, and later generations don’t sneeze without looking it up online first. It’s easy to tell my customers “don’t get left behind” or “it’s the only way your business can compete”, and while statements that sound like doom and gloom, it’s actually true. There are companies and businesses that don’t have a physical storefront, never have and never will, and attract huge percentages of the market. Ever hear of Amazon.com?
3. Customer education, referrals, and FAQs
You know when you call your local cable company, and the first thing the automated voice on the other end of the phone asks is if you’re having a common problem like resetting your modem, programming your TV or paying your bill, then it sends you to an automated line that walks you through those activities? Yeah, it’s annoying and I can’t stand it, but the difference between the cable company and your website is that your customers have CHOSEN to be there, whereas the cable company’s customers have been hijacked from their original reason for calling. Your customers and potential conversions are on your website looking for information, and instead of calling your office and burning time, their answers are already right there, in plain text, on your website. Why are you not funding this?
Now, on to why your website just might need to a rebrand. We’ve already established that your website is a shortcut to information about you and your product, but what if your customers aren’t getting the information they need? What if your website isn’t inspiring the type of confidence that causes people to pick up the phone and call, or drive down to your storefront? What if the information they’re looking for is there, but is presented in such a way that distracts or confuses them into looking elsewhere? If your website doesn’t fall into any of these categories, then don’t bother continuing. But if it does, you might want to keep reading.
Your website literally reflects who you are. It puts on display the type of quality you are willing to either settle for, or how far you’re willing to reach. The following are some questions you should ask yourself when considering a site redesign:
1. What’s my goal, and why am I not meeting it?
The clear and simple goal of most business websites is to create customers, and in order to do that you must set yourself apart from your competitors. You need to tell your ideal client what their problem is, how you’re addressing it and how your solution is superior to solutions offered by others. It must reflect who you are, and I’m afraid it’s a superficial matter: What kind of professionalism are you willing to accept when soliciting services? Are you doing business with a suit and tie, or flip flops? The state of your website will give potential customers the answers to these questions.
2. Who is accessing my website?
To know this, you have to know to what type of demographic your services are most relevant. The image that your website cultivates will bring a certain type of demographic.
- Do you own law firm? Your customers are expecting courtroom-bred professionalism and bulldog-like tenacity.
- Are you in a grunge band? Your fans are there for the experience. They want to see skilled musicians and social irreverence.
It’s as simple as that.
3. Analyze your competition
Understanding how your competition works is a critical step in helping you find your competitive sweet spot. If your online presence sends your competition running for the trees, then you’re doing it right. But if not, we’ve got work to do. We have to know what isn’t working right, why it’s not working right, how to fix what isn’t working right and form that and a bunch of other factors into a redesign gameplan.
4. Updated graphics (yeah, duh, but it’s important)
This is a subtle but important junction in this conversation, and I’ll give you the most prevalent example that comes up over and over: Deep graphics versus flat graphics. Since navigating the Internet has become a comparatively complex process over the last years, (oh, let’s say five years) web designers have moved toward a simpler graphics format than was previously used. It’s called Flat web design, and what can I say about it? Flat, flat, flat! Take a look at these two logos:
On the left is JPMicro’s old logo, and on the right is the new logo. Notice any differences? The old logo has drop shadows, uses an odd font and doesn’t contrast well with the background. This design philosophy was prevalent years ago, so it’s not bad, but the design is simply out of date. While rebranding and updating the graphics on our site, we decided on a flat, masculine and higher contrast logo.
This is simply one of many rebranding strategies we’ve taken over the years, and incorporating this and many, many other elements into your redesign strategy can help you sew the type of confidence in your product you’ve always wanted, and wondered why you haven’t gotten.
Bad web design is a matter of perspective. While Google has created the UXA Material Design, and that seems definitive, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, the Google UXA is my go-to design bible for good design practices, but it’s only relevant in that Google has a really good idea of what they’re talking about, and it’s probably a good idea to trust their experience. But as the old adage goes – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am here to tell you what I think is beautiful, and what I think are bad decisions. Clean, simple design is what we’re looking for. Subdued but occasionally rich colors. A dash of technical wizardry is good, but don’t overdo it.
The following is a list of my web design pet peeves. Feel free to take what you read here with a giant grain of salt, but also know that I have a 15 year background in web design. I’ve created gorgeous, clean, well designed web pages, but I’ve also created some horrendous monstrosities (not recently) so I’ve seen both sides of the coin.
Web design No-Nos:
1. Busy, low contrast image backgrounds. these background makes it difficult to read text and washes your webpage into a swirl of colors.
2. Small or non-relevantly sized text. Keep in mind that your text will be read on both high-def computer monitors and smalls screen smart devices.
3. Text that isn’t padding, and butts up against elements on your page. This can be addressed using the CSS Margin and Padding rules.
4. Poorly optimized graphics that cause your web page to load slowly and don’t ad to the overall user experience.
5. Tables used as design elements. As much as I hate it, tables are still necessary when displaying repetitive information, but if you’re using tables to lay your page out, you’re doing it wrong. (Ever hear of CSS?)
6. Animations – yick. Unless you are operating a meme or animated gif site, this technique is well out of date. It was great back in the olden days when see a moving picture in a web site was a technical feat, but it’s about a decade and a half out of date.
7. Sound: No. Just no. It’s generally a given in the social circles I operate within that sound on a webpage, unless specifically asked for by the user, is a gigantic no-no – but just in case it’s not clear: No!
8. “Mystery Meat”. Yes, that’s what it’s called. Mystery meat is a type of navigation that leaves the user at a loss for where a link goes, and the only way to find out is to interact with the links either by mousing over them or actually clicking on them. I’m not that bored. I know what I want.
9. Poorly implemented cross browser compatibility. It’s great that your website looks awesome in Chrome (assuming you’ve followed just a few of these rules), but what about Firefox? Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari? You must standardize your code, find the CSS and HTML elements that work in ALL browsers.
And now for the fun part. It’s easy to criticize another person’s work, but remember – the pendulum swings both directions. I’d like to think that 100% of my work is bulletproof, but the fact is when it comes down to finishing a website on a timeline with management standing over your shoulder, sometimes it becomes necessary to use shortcuts. It’s up to you to minimized ill-formed elements for the web pages that you make. And if you’re just starting out, just now dipping your toes into this wonderful, creative world – you’ll have to make these design mistakes to understand that they don’t work.
You can find bad design all over the Internet, but for these purposes I have chosen websites that have been updated recently, ruling out the possibility that they are just well out of date. Oh no, these sites are current. Here’s a few gems just for you:
The Slide Rule Universe:
Oh God, please let me fix your website. I’ll do it for free.
Burlington National UFO Center
Center For Advanced Studies
(and bad web design)
(Caution: may cause vertigo)
Goetz Theatre Showtimes
(Caution: may cause seizures)
With the extremely high security offered, often for free, by software providers for home computers, the term “virus” has largely become a misnomer. Software with malicious intent rarely or no longer carries out the defining activity every true virus exhibits: self replication. Instead, software producers who want their software installed on your computer have only one choice left – they will “trick” you into allowing your computer to install their software, using one of two methods:
- The vaporware will be “piggybacked” on legitimate software’s installation, often deceptively
- The vaporware will be disguised as software you want
Legitimate software providers will be paid to run one or more separate inline installations. The additional installation may not be disguised, exactly, but often it will not be entirely obvious that additional software will be installed. You must read each screen before clicking the next button. See the picture below. The AVG Free installer indicates that the “advanced” feature is for advanced users, when in fact this is a basic feature usable by advanced users and laypeople alike. This is a despicable and deceptive tactic and it makes my blood boil and red blinders come over my eyes. These people are manipulating you and taking advantage of this widespread ignorance. Worse – you, me, and anyone with access to the Internet have no excuse for allowing this to happen.
Software claiming to speed up your pc, fix registry errors, install drivers, find coupons or save you money are, in most cases, disguised deceptively as something that will benefit the user, but instead will hijack your browser, redirect the user to unwanted services, inject ads into legitimate web pages and eat up system resources that would otherwise be used for the users’ benefit. The worst cases of this type of software will use keyloggers in an attempt to retrieve your passwords, track your movements on the Internet and will force you to visit web pages you have no interest in. It’s all very shiny and attractive, but ultimately only benefits the companies that distribute it, not the end user.
How To Avoid Vaporware
- Read everything on your screen. These software developers are counting on your inability to parse onscreen messages and make correct decisions when it comes to beneficial software.
- Do not click next until you are confident you want this software.
- Research this software. With the power of Google, there is no excuse for not putting in five minutes to find out whether you want this software or not.
What To Do Once You Have Vaporware Installed
- Use the Windows Control Panel to uninstall unwanted software (Research before uninstalling, or face the consequences when you uninstalling something important!)
- Use third party removal tools – Careful with this! Sometimes this software is disguised as removal tools, but is in fact vaporware as well!
- Use your browser’s extension manager to remove unwanted toolbars and browser hijackers
Ultimately it is your responsibility to understand what is being installed on your computer. Vaporware creators are counting on apathy, lack of interest, the need for quick fixes and your own inclination toward shiny, “free” loot, but 99% of anything that’s free comes with an asterisk and a considerable amount of small print. That being said, there are many free & legitimate programs that add functionality to your computer and come with few or no drawbacks. However, even legitimate software like AVG will piggyback browser toolbars and hijackers; you will have the option, during the installation process, the select what you want installed.
This type of vaporware can be extremely destructive, will eat up already strapped system resources, and will burn up your time clicking through unwanted pop up ads and web pages. It also makes computer manufacturers look bad after selling a perfectly good computer, as it will cause said computer become laggy and unresponsive.
Ever get Designer’s Block? I do. When I run into a brick wall while designing or writing for websites I tend to go wandering off in different directions looking for inspiration. Fortunately, while using the internet I rarely have to look far. The following is a list of solid, go-to resources that I use regularly.
1. Pinterest – Visit
Yes, believe it or not, I use Pinterest. It’s a whole world of creative and interesting ideas, not just for web design but for pretty much anything you can think of.
2. Webby Awards – Visit
While I think some of what the Webby Awards has to offer is a bit of a put-on, sometimes I do find occasion to go see what the “latest and greatest” web design awards have to offer. Just don’t compare what you have going on with these guys – chances are good you’re just a tad more pragmatic.
3. Dribble – Visit
Like Pinterest, Dribble is a huge resources for designers but focuses on web and graphic design. No Life Hacks here, but instead you’ll find pure web design genius on open display.
4. Smashing Magazine – Visit
While I generally don’t take part in for-profit online magazines, Smashing Magazine simply has too many professional writers, developers and coders posting articles that I love.
5. W3 Schools – Visit
W3 Schools is my go-to reference for all things CSS, JQuery and PHP. Literally any reference I’ve needed over the past five years has been here.
Designing, blogging and coding is a sort of obsession for me. It’s like creating a self-aware thing that has the potential to entertain millions of people, and occasionally I’m rewarded with feedback or admiration for what I’ve created.
Creating you website, then sitting back and waiting for things to happen doesn’t cut it when it comes to you website’s Google rankings. Pushing for your site to be ranked highly on Google is a perpetually proactive endeavor, so take note and flex your typing fingers, because you’ve got work to do.
1. Domain history
Google will see volatile domain ownership as sign that the site is in flux and reset the history for your domain, forcing you to build your site rankings back up. Keep in mind that this is via WhoIs information. If you site’s ownership changes, but the WhoIs doesn’t, Google remains passive. In addition, maintaining private WhoIs may impact your site negatively. It’s seen as something along the lines of “This site owner has something to hide”. While it’s probably not hyper critical to display site ownership to anyone on the Internet, be prepared to take ownership both privately and publicly.
2. Content length and keyword density
It’s easy enough to create a pretty website with lots of bells and whistles, but without in depth and relevant content, Google isn’t going to know what to make of it. If you’re selling a product or service and conducting business for the company in question, then you should know plenty about the product and be able to hack out tons of content for your website – and if not, I, people visiting your site and Google are going to question the validity of your Internet presence.
3. Image Optimization
Yes, and I don’t mean just image compression and download speed – your images need to be meta tagged and titles in order to become relevant on Google. That means going through your site and adding title tags to everything.
4. Recent Content Changes
Your site should be updated. Often. In the virtual world that is the Internet, where viral content takes minutes to become relevant, Google wants to see a stable site whose content is updated frequently – that means creating new content regularly, preferably on a daily basis. Don’t allow your site to become stagnant. Remember with whom you are competing: In order to get a leg up on their competition, your competitors are going to be using every arrow in their quiver, and if they are half and driven as you are, they’ll win.
5. Quality, Grammar & Broken Links
I had an opportunity to sit down one day with a Google engineer. Over a beer he allowed me to hit him with back-to-back questions about Google’s search engine appliances, and the algorithm Google uses to rank your site. There are literally thousands of factors, and trying to fulfill every little requirement is kind of the same thing as your golf pro giving you a bunch of ways to improve your swing, then expecting you to be able to do it perfectly on the first try. So here are just a few of many items:
- Quality: Indications of content quality are text that is accompanied by meta-tagged images, videos and highly ranked internal and external links.
- Grammar: While I have no indication that the quality of your grammar effects your search engine rankings, I’m mean, c’mon – don’t let bad grammar and spelling effect the way your company is perceived by someone reading your website.
- Broken Links: These are an indication of an old, out of date and dilapidated site. There are many tools, some found here, (not the least of which is Google Webmaster Tools) you can use find broken links on your website.
Yes, you could spend an eternity adjusting, maintaining and creating content for your website. It can be a real pain in the neck, but if you’re truly willing and want to stay in the race, these are just a few examples of the type of things you’re going to want to look into doing.