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The Future of Search: 7 Search Engines You Should Try

Ms DeweyThe most popular search engines, Google, Yahoo, Live and Ask, continuously tweak the user interface to provide more useful and relevant details. But essentially the user still has to scan a lot of text before reacting. According to some sources, 80-85% of users don’t navigate past the first page of search results. Read more

Worthwhile Reading – Week Ending 01/20/2008

Here are some topics of interest I’ve read in the past week. Definitely worth your time to read. Read more

Worthwhile Reading – Week Ending 01/13/2008

Here are some topics of interest I’ve read in the past week. Definitely worth your time to read. Read more

Make Great PowerPoint Decks Not PowerPoint Dreck

I write many PowerPoint decks each year. When I start a new one, I shut the office door, light candles, draw a pentagram on the floor then summon the Beast to glide my mouse and guide my fingers across the keyboard.

When the smoke clears, I emerge with a twenty-slide document of digital dreck.

Feeling frustrated, I dug out something I remembered by Seth Godin. (Seth is a marketing subject matter expert that I’ve followed since the 90’s.)

Here are Seth’s five rules you need to remember to create amazing PowerPoint presentations:

  • No more than six words on a slide. EVER.
  • No cheesy images. Use professional images from corbis.com instead. They cost $3 each, or a little more if they’re for ‘professional use’.
  • No dissolves, spins or other transitions. None.
  • Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never (ever) use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have.
  • Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They’re emotional, and they won’t work without you there. If someone wants your slides to show “the boss,” tell them that the slides go if you go.

I used to have this mentality that as a document, it needed to act like documentation – citing every detail for historical reference. Truth be told, I’ve improved, but I know I can do much better.

In real world practice, I realize that the clients I present to are so overwhelmed that they never open the document again. Sometimes never at all to begin with.

So here are my PowerPoint writing tips:

  • Write, re-write and re-write again. Brevity is key. Be ruthless to distill down your thoughts to a simple sound bite. Embellish with spoken word.
  • Come up with creative ways to display your ideas graphically instead of as bullets — A chart, graph, funnel, Venn Diagram — whatever it takes. Edward Tufte is an excellent source of inspiration for expressing details in a visually comprehensive way.
  • Have a cover sheet with a title, date and name of the person(s) it’s for. It drives me crazy looking at old decks and not having a clue who they were for.
  • Include a Next Steps slide with specific action items, dates and responsibilities.
  • Include all the contact information for the relevant team on the last slide. That makes it easier for the client to figure out who to talk to.

Please add your suggestions and let me know if you find this useful.
Thanks.
-Roland

Visualization example

Here’s another interesting example of visualizing information for users. In this example, News.com fits top 15 headlines into a square area. The color of the box demonstrates how recent the article is, while the size demonstrates the popularity of the article.

Visualization boxes

Article: Consumers Punishing Physical Stores for Sins of Online Counterparts

eWeek reports: Consumers Punishing Physical Stores for Sins of Online Counterparts

“Nordstrom, for example, has a reputation for delivering extremely personalized and attentive customer service for people visiting their stores. That high-touch attribute is quite difficult to replicate online, setting the company up to disappoint online visitors. Those disappointed online visitors could then potentially punish the brick-and-mortar locations.”

“Retailers have been very slow to understand that, to the consumer, it’s one brand.”

“The retail brand today transcends the channel. When [customers] have a poor Web experience, as in poor page loads [or] unsuccessful transactions, it’s taken out on the storefronts, too. Consumers don’t understand the complexity of delivering an optimal Web experience.”

Key take away: A company must work hard in both the physical and online worlds to deliver a consistent message and high user experience. Failing in one environment will discourage the consumer to interact with the brand in the other.

-Roland

Article: Reasons to not create a Splash Page

This is a must read article: How to Convince a Client They Don’t Need a Splash Page

I’ve had this arguement many times. Plain and simple, putting a barrier between your visitor and the Web site creates a bad user experience and impacts your ability to index properly for natural search.

-Roland

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