• A Primer for Progressive Web Design

    Progressive Web Design (PWD), or Progressive Enhancement, is a way of designing web pages so that they will work for 100% of users, no matter what browser they are using or in what manner they are interacting with the page. It’s a contentious topic for some people – usually designers. For marketers, it’s an important method for ensuring every possible audience encounters an experience that leads to conversions.

    Progressive Versus Responsive

    Progressive Web Design is not the same thing as Responsive Web Design.

    It is a core fundamental of web development that the design must be elastic and be appealing at all viewport aspect ratios. However, it’s not an either or decision between Progressive and Responsive. Both standards should be used together to ensure an optimal experience for all users.

    Responsive Web Design uses design elements that respond to changes in the size of the viewport – desktop, tablet or mobile phone. This is done by rearranging the components of the page, changing the top nav into a “hamburger menu,” and other techniques. The motto of Responsive Web Design is “mobile-first”, meaning that if a site works on mobile, it will work on desktop but not vice-versa.

    Progressive Web Design takes this same elastic approach toward browser functionality and context. However, the Progressive Web Design workflow is based on the idea of layering. At first pass, a page is designed for the least common denominator, i.e., a small screen with no CSS, no JavaScript and HTML4. Then, the enhanced features are layered on. Consequently, this also enhances the SEO performance of the website since the underlying content is easier to crawl by search engines. 

    Why Is This Important for Designing Websites?

    From the beginning, the Web was designed to be platform-agnostic, which is a fancy way to say that a page will work on any computer and in any browser that implements the HTML standard. Progressive Web Design embraces this goal of accessibility by ensuring that a page is functional in any context.

    Modern web browsers provide powerful styling and scripting abilities for web designers and developers using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. However, only a certain percentage of users interact with a design with all these features enabled.

    Some common contexts in which a user may be interacting with a site are:

    The Whole Enchilada – Using the latest desktop version of Chrome, Edge or Safari with all features enabled.

    The Smart Phone – Using a touch interface on a modern smartphone with the latest version of a major browser and fully enabled.

    The Old Browser – There are still a sizable number of users who use outdated browsers like Internet Explorer that do not implement the newest features of CSS and JavaScript. This often happens in large corporations or organizations with strict IT policies.

    The Snail – A user is in a rural setting where broadband is not available.

    Reader Mode – There are a number of applications in which a user may read a version of a page that has all CSS and JavaScript stripped away such as when subscribing via RSS, using sites like InstaPaper and Pocket, or reading a page in offline mode.

    Speech Mode – Screen readers for the visually-impaired and voice-interactive devices like Alexa, Google Home, etc.

    What Design Features Are Actually Used?

    Current analysis shows that the following features are available for the percentage of audience shown. This is only a small portion of features listed as an example. A full reference for the use of features can be found at https://CanIUse.com.

    CSS

    • Grid Layout: 91.54%
    • Sticky (prefixed) – Header stays at top: 90.36%
    • Sticky (not-prefixed): 76.74%
    • Shapes: 89.23%
    • Filter Effects: 93.19%
    • Scroll Positioning: 86.73%
    • CSS Calc: 95.83%
    • Rounded Corners: 96.48%

    HTML5

    • Audio: 96.46%
    • Canvas Blend Modes: 92.86%
    • Custom Tags: 86.59%
    • Dialog Element: 72.22%
    • HTML Imports: 72.17%
    • PNG Favicons: 85.07%

    JavaScript

    • Accelerometer: 62.22%
    • Promises: 92.74%
    • Push API: 78.06%
    • ECMAScript6 Classes: 90.83%

    Other

    • WAI-ARIA Accessibility: 94.20%
    • WebP Image Format: 78.13%
    • Ogg Audio Format: 79.79%
    • FLAC Audio Format: 89.97%
    • WebAssembly (wasm): 84.62%
    • Animated PNG: 84.42%
    • theme-color Meta Tag: 36.42%

    Basic Techniques

    Know your user. Site audiences will skew toward more or less feature availability depending on the site’s user base. A site made for techies will likely have The Whole Enchilada, whereas less technical users who tend to live in rural areas will have less functionality.

    Check usage. Each property should be checked for usage. Many firms elect to consider 98% and above as global and ignore those users who don’t have the feature. Although that seems to cover most or all of the bases, it could very well leave out important segments of your customer base.

    CSS overrides. This is a simple technique of writing CSS code that is geared toward all browsers and then adding on code for more sophisticated browsers to the end of the CSS. This method replaces the previously declared code if the browser supports the new feature. Otherwise, it’s ignored.

    CSS feature queries. This is a tool in CSS to check to see if a feature is available and only parse the designated code if it is.

    Fail gracefully. Manage feature failures proactively.

    Write for tests. Design code with functionality to easily test the site in less-advanced contexts.

    Test by touch and by click. Interaction on touchscreens may be very different for the user than by clicking with a mouse. Be sure the page works easily for both contexts.

    Think about content-only. Knowing that your page may be read by a screen-reader or in reader mode, layout the code with the intention of feeding content to these readers in a logical order and omitting elements that do not apply in that context.

    Test without JavaScript. Make sure nothing breaks when JavaScript is turned off. For example, employ post-back methods for when AJAX is not available.

    Need a full-service team to take your business to the next level? Contact us today. We’re here to help.

  • The Artistic Puppy Joins Divining Point

    We are excited to announce that Jon Taylor, the “Artistic Puppy”, has joined Divining Point as Creative Director. Jon brings his creative eye and visual storytelling talents to our full service agency, thereby giving our clients more options for engaging design, photography and videography.

    Prior to joining Divining Point, Jon was the CEO of Artistic Puppy, a photography and marketing agency based in the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. For 11 years, Jon and his team provided world class creative and marketing strategy for businesses across multiple industries. His clients included companies in fashion, outdoor apparel, tourism, hospitality, oil and gas, and public sector agencies. Artistic Puppy has a reputation for great service and dramatic media, and we are thrilled to incorporate his high standards into our firm.

    Prior to running Artistic Puppy, Jon held positions as the Director of Marketing and Development for Alaska Christian College, the co-founder of the comedy series “The Doug and Jon Show”, and Director of Creative Development for RHM Inc. He earned his chops in various other creative roles that challenged him to capture stunning photography and video in harsh environments. Over time he broadened his skills to include graphic design, ad copy, and front-end web design.

    His philosophy for marketing fits firmly into Divining Point’s core values. The power of brand and a mandate for excellence are the foundations for a successful business that generates loyal clients. He approaches every creative project with the goal to evoke emotion in the heart of the observer. To Jon, it’s not enough to create a “good design”. He seeks to motivate people to respond with passion, which in turn produces results.

    Jon currently divides his time between Austin, TX and back home in Kenai, Alaska, which extends the reach of Divining Point’s services. When he’s not behind the camera or editing video, he can be found playing the drums, exploring new travel adventures, and cracking corny jokes.

    Need a full-service team to take your business to the next level? Contact us today. We’re here to help.

  • Why Service Companies Need to Invest in Branding

    Branding is more than just big words and fancy logos. It’s an investment in your company’s future. It is the first step in reassuring your customers that you will fulfill the promises you make. Your brand tells a story and defines how your clients will experience your company. That begins with the very first impression they form when seeing your logo and hearing your name, and it continues with every interaction they have with your company.

    Some people think branding is hokey. We get it. Many people underestimate the value of a reputable, authentic brand until they have one for themselves.  Your brand is your most valuable asset and remains constant as your company changes – team members come and go, clients come and go, you expand your service line, etc. As such, it is the foundation of your company.

    The only constant is change…and your brand.

    The best brands understand they can’t be everything to everybody. They define exactly what they’re offering and exactly who it will benefit. With such clarity, their messaging is laser-focused on their target market and they position themselves as leaders. A strong brand is not only authoritative, but also authentic, and this combo draws customers in to learn more. Even though your business may revolve around “handshakes” and relationships, your brand is the glue that makes your customers stick with you.

    To establish their authenticity, a brand must separate themselves from the competition by highlighting their “why.” In a market where competitors fight on price, poach talent or build knockoff products, a unique brand is a differentiator that keeps existing clients engaged and attracts future customers.

    Your brand tells a story.

    Here’s an example of engineering companies telling different stories with their brands:

    With Austin’s hot market, local architects and developers are teaming up with engineering firms to knock out projects fast. Let’s say an architect is designing a hotel and needs an engineering firm to help with the parking lot. He runs a Google search and clicks on a few of the organic search results. The first clicked link leads to the site for ABC Engineers.

    ABC: The ABC logo is a blocky, black-and-white, “ABC.” Their website isn’t that interesting either, with just one generic picture of a blueprint and an uninspiring promise of, “we provide innovative solutions for your projects.” The About Us page isn’t much better:

    ABC was founded in 2001 on the premise of providing excellent engineering and communication with our clients. We are a family-owned business and treat our clients like family. At ABC, we’re engineering the future.

    There’s no info on the types of projects ABC does, or where they practice. The architect isn’t wowed by ABC Engineers, so he clicks on another link for a company called Zeus Engineering.

    Zeus: The Zeus homepage loads a 3D-cartoon Greek-styled city rising up through shrouds of graphic clouds. An animated lightning flash strikes their logo onto the page and it’s a mythological Greek god wearing a hardhat and raising his fists with a lightning bolt in one palm and a ruler in the other. The architect visiting the site chuckles because the site is creative and original, unlike ABC Engineers.

    The architect clicks on a page called, “The Legend of Zeus,” and finds their brand promise and firm story: “We summon our Texas engineering powers to provide a hotel project quote within 3 days, phone call updates every 2 days and check-in emails EVERY day.”

    The architect reads on to find their story:

    In 2001, two young engineers by the names of Andy and Paul were working late at an ancient Austin engineering firm. Tired and hungry, Andy exclaimed, “Enough! We’ve been here for 10 hours today and we’re still behind. Clients keep calling and no one is happy. I want to build an engineering firm based on pro-active client communication – I’ll call them before they call me. Let’s use customer service to overthrow our competitors because we both know that communication is next to godliness.” And that was how Zeus Engineering was founded. Two nascent engineers determined to rewrite the process for client experience.

    Game over. The architect poked around on the Zeus site some more, reading client testimonials and watching aerial videos of their projects, but he was already sold. Their brand was confident and measurable. The focused messaging and unique website design demonstrated the signs of a company who works hard to get it right. Zeus is accountable and yet personable. A branding story well told.

    How you can learn from Zeus Engineering

    Your brand doesn’t have to be cute to get the job done. But it does need to speak clearly to the prospects you seek to convert into paying clients. To nail down your brand strategy, think about the following things.  

    People don’t buy things, they buy brands. A strong brand commands premium prices. Think about Harley Davidson and their household name. The company is, perhaps, the most well-known motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and that’s come from years of marketing that positions them as an industry leader for their consumer. They have a recognizable name that lets you know what to expect shelling out top dollar for one of their luxury motorcycles. The Harley Davidson name is more than just a product. It is a culture. It is an icon.

    Your story is built into your brand identity. Building your story into your brand is all about producing a cohesive message and identity that speaks volumes about your company. Colors, taglines, and typefaces evoke different feelings and contribute to how customers experience your brand before, during, and after the sale. As such, your brand lowers the hurdles to closing a sale. It keeps your clients bound to you, thereby making future sales easier. It positions you as the best in the industry – or the cheapest, or the oldest, or the most experienced, etc. Whatever your unique value, your brand will convey that message so you don’t have to do it yourself.

    Branding minimizes chaotic messaging, thus saving time and money on marketing. A defined brand will lead to marketing campaigns that are relevant to your customers. Instead of trying a mixed-bag approach until something sticks, your brand strategy ensures that all messaging reinforces your unique value proposition, and prevents any contradictory efforts. An example of a company with a strong brand focus is Whole Foods. They’ve narrowed down their target market to focus on customers who care about health, want to buy quality food and don’t mind spending a little more on groceries. Their messaging speaks to this audience and strengthens a brand promise of quality, not necessarily affordability. Whole Foods also uses social media and email marketing, because they know that their audience is more likely to research online, versus reading newspapers or clipping paper coupons.

    Brand strategy is an investment that should not be taken lightly or with a haphazard approach. Your brand is your first chance to tell your story and make an impression on future customers. Do it well and you’ll establish your firm as an industry leader. We’ve helped services companies, tech companies and more, and we’ve learned that the most profitable companies, no matter their size, have a single thing in common – a strong brand.

     

     

     

     

  • 6 Steps To An Effective Brand

    Think of the most successful brands you know. Coca-Cola. Disney. FedEx. Shell.

    They make an impact on you. They survive cultural shifts and changes in the market. They consistently tell a story that resonates with customers. The time and work that went into developing these long-lasting brands cannot be underestimated.

    It’s well understood that customers embrace brands that connect with them on a deeper level. They also turn away from brands that appear flat, stagnant, or disorganized. In a competitive market, you can’t risk being overlooked by a customer who chooses your competitor’s brand instead of yours.

    Bottom line considerations and quick turnarounds are top of mind concerns for every client. We strongly advise you reconsider the urge to rush the branding process or (even worse) use any service that claims to give you “high quality logos” for a fraction of the cost. Even if your company engages in quick transactions of low price widgets, your company’s brand is not a commodity. So don’t cheapen it. The long-term risk of getting it wrong will always exceed the upfront investment of doing it right.

    The best process for branding involves a series of steps that fully defines your company. It is a discovery for a strategy to build brand equity. In subsequent blog posts we’ll dig deeper into the topics of messaging, positioning, and strategy. But with some exception, the process for designing a powerful brand follows these six steps.

    1. Why, How, What & Who

    In 2009 Simon Sinek challenged the business community to rethink the way they inspire their customers and companies to take action. His book Start With Why flipped the conventional approach to defining a company’s purpose. Instead of leading with the obvious exercise of what a company does, Sinek proposed that it’s more important to tell people why you do what you do.

    People don’t buy what you do or even how you do it. In a crowded marketplace where competitors quickly adopt all of your company’s unique features and benefits, your Why inspires greater loyalty from everyone that comes in contact with your brand. The process of building an effective brand begins with a discovery process that starts with Why.

    The team you enlist to help define your brand will continue to dig into questions about process (How), products and services (What), and the clients your serve (Who). Research into these critical components will give you a solid foundation to develop your positioning, messaging, brand identity, and business strategies.

    To use a straightforward analogy, your company won’t successfully attract others until it has a strong understanding of self.

    2. Survey the Terrain

    Every client is unique. Every brand is distinct. But the market in which you do business is a cohesive tapestry of competing brands, messages, and standards that cumulatively define your industry. Customers have expectations, and so do your vendors and suppliers. In this case, even your own employees have a voice in what passes as “acceptable”. [nbsp_tc]

    Whether or not your brand seeks to stand out as an incomparable innovator, it’s still important to understand the space in which it will perform. Your brand strategy team must get to know your company and how it relates to the rest of the market. They should take time to decipher where your company fits into the overall business ecosystem.

    On a more granular level, this part of the process questions the finer details. For example:

    How does our color palette and shapes affect our customers?

    If everyone is using blue, why are we using red?

    How does our mission statement inspire the employees of the company to deliver the service our customers deserve?

    If the branding process is analogous to a journey, this step is the Exploration Phase.

    3. Where Will The Brand Be On Display?

    As we dive further into the process of developing a brand, questions arise about how to consolidate the company vision across the various channels. Specifically, where will consumers witness the brand in action? As a logo on a shoe? On a can? On a piece of heavy machinery? Furthermore, how does it translate to your promotional products? Can it be easily embroidered?

    Your advertising and marketing collateral are also important considerations at this juncture. Since each industry – and even each business – operates differently across traditional and digital mediums, it is strategically important to have an understanding of these display opportunities. If your product requires packaging, will the brand perform as well on plastic wrappers as it does in online imagery?

    The design team takes into account not only static representation of the brand but also how the brand performs in motion. Whether it’s an animated trade show display or graphics in commercials, the team will consider the strategies for branding the company as they dig into the hard work of imagining your new mark and messaging.

    4. Take Time For Concepting

    In the show Mad Men the world witnessed a glamorized view of the creative process. We watched the protagonist, Don Draper, seek inspiration in the arms of women and countless bottles of booze while juggling the stresses of a dispiriting suburban existence. Was it an accurate representation of the design process? Not exactly. But it effectively conveyed the truth that “Creativity is an art form, not a science”.

    One memorable and heavily discussed quote from Draper states:

    “Just think about it, deeply, and then forget it. An idea will…jump up in your face.”

    Clients have deadlines and demands. Companies are eager to make sales. Even the operations team wants to turn the wheels of production and push forward to meet demand. Everyone is excited to use the new brand to get back to work. Unfortunately, creativity doesn’t work like that. Big ideas are not simply created by mixing together all of the elements of the creative brief.[nbsp_tc] All too often it requires time to explore… and yes, sometimes that exploration doesn’t look like work.

    This is the point when everyone involved needs to calibrate their expectations. The time and effort that goes into developing a powerful brand cannot be underestimated.

    5. Present & Iterate

    Everyone loves it when they hit a homerun on the first bat, but games are won in innings. Your design team may prefer to skip the revision process and give you a final product (what we call “The One”). Other teams are more collaborative and prefer to iterate towards a final conclusion. Whatever the model, the presentation process is a serious affair.

    Everyone is busy, and synching up the schedules of multiple decision makers is difficult. However, we urge you to make time to meet (in person or via video) to review each presentation from your branding team. They are the storytellers that narrate the tale of your brand. Without the opportunity to share their perception of your brand, you may come away feeling disconnected and unsatisfied. Additionally, you will lose the opportunity to provide real time feedback.

    But wait; shouldn’t the mark be able to stand on its own? Absolutely. And it will. Your customers experience the brand differently than you do. No one is quite as critical and no one will overthink the final product quite like the people that oversee the company on a daily basis. You as the business owner are too close to the brand to witness it objectively. It’s best to work closely with your branding team at every step so that a concordant vision can be achieved.

    6. Deliverables

    We’ve added this component purely as a reminder of the things you should expect from this process. If you’ve invested in “just a logo”, then perhaps that’s all you’ll get. Brands are bigger than the icons that represent them. Mission statements, taglines, typeface, and colors are just a few of the other deliverables in which you should invest.

    A style guide is a worthwhile endeavor (and precious deliverable) to which you should devote money and time. It is a document that defines all the standards for communicating and displaying your brand. This file is easily transferred to anyone who seeks to use, share, or transmit your brand in any possible way. It also keeps everyone within your company in alignment. Anytime a question arises about how to properly market the brand, the style guide steps in to keep everyone focused.

    Shortcuts Are Not Always Easier

    The stages described above are only a snapshot of a potentially larger process. Some companies simply need a logo and a tagline. Others require a complete overhaul of their company’s direction, messaging, and identity. The more you define your brand the greater the likelihood it will be welcomed by your customers.

    Think big. There are very few rewards for cutting corners and taking shortcuts. To use backpacking parlance, bushwhacking across switchbacks in search of a shortcut is a guaranteed way to get scratched up, step on snakes, and fall backwards into the canyon. Don’t do it.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • Branding Is More Than Just Pictures And Words

    If you own a business or have built a company from the ground up you’ve been told you need a logo and messaging. After that came a color palette, typeface, a slogan, a style guide, and more, and more, and more. It’s dizzying.

    You’ve been told that your brand should make an indelible mark in the minds of your customers and speak to them on an intimate level. Your brand is the personality, identity, and voice of your company. It conveys the values and perceived benefits of your products and services. When done correctly your brand will build a bond with a customer that produces long-term loyalty.

    Sounds really exciting, right? Maybe not. Unless you have a background in psychology and human behavior, which we do, this probably sounds like psychobabble.

    Most business owners are so intensely focused on operations, delivery, and customer service they have no time to dig into the “touchy feely” world of branding. They know they want a logo. They may even have an idea about company values. But for many business owners, brand identity and strategy seems like a difficult task without a clear, immediate ROI.

    Frankly, that’s true.

    Your Brand Is Everywhere

    An investment in branding doesn’t translate to revenue the way that, perhaps, two additional delivery trucks do. It doesn’t bring in new sales opportunities like an outside sales team or automated lead generation. It doesn’t process orders, it doesn’t make widgets, and it doesn’t answer customer service calls.

    Instead, branding is the first impression your business makes when a customer discovers your products or services. It’s also the second impression, the third impression, and the fourth, and so on in perpetuity. Every time your customer engages your product your brand makes an impact. Every phone call, every visit to your website, and every packaged good conveys your company’s value to the client.

    Branding builds the trust your client feels when they see your product on the shelf versus your competitors’.

    Branding is the difference between printed brochures that actually engage the customer versus ones that gets tossed in the trash.

    Instead of seeing a mysterious white van outside of a customer’s house, they see a professional service vehicle with your brand on it and suddenly feel at ease.

    The customer’s decision-making process begins with your brand. For companies that don’t invest wisely, it’s also your brand that pushes customers away.

    Branding Is Insurance

    In essence, branding is a tactical method to reach and retain customers. Think of it as a sophisticated net that keeps the customer engaged. Your company’s brand identity, messaging, and underlying strategy have as much of an effect on keeping customers as it does on why, when, and how they buy.

    Your brand also affects employees and company stakeholders on a deep emotional level. Your company’s mission and values should permeate throughout the organization as much as it radiates away from it. As executors of the company’s service, your brand must motivate and resonate with your employees. It is the glue that binds them together as well as to your company and to the customer. History is full of legendary companies whose brands lost their soul and in turn lost their employees. Equally, there are companies who changed the world by staying true to their brand.

    Our advice is to think beyond the logo and the slogan. Don’t get hung up on the cost. The cost of developing your brand is relative to the magnitude of the losses from getting it wrong. The risk of losing your customers to a swift competitor should be reason alone to invest wisely. If your brand could sink the ship why would you try to cut corners? It’s also your brand that keeps it afloat.

     

    Want to move your business forward?[nbsp_tc]Let’s talk.