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22 February 2008

Help Them S.E.E. the Truth

A few years ago a co-worker and I were talking about childhood and what happened when we really did something wrong. I'll never forget what she said about being spanked by her father:

My dad used to help me S.E.E. my mistakes.
In this case S.E.E. stood for a Significant Emotional Event. And the girls knew that if their father ever said, "Do you need to S.E.E. the consequences of your behavior?" a spank was soon to follow - unless quick behavioral change was self evident...

Now this specific Significant Emotional Event is a negative consequence. It would be like Pavlov shocking his dogs every time the bell rang. Eventually the dogs would flinch just by hearing the bell. Lucky for the dogs Pavlov was kind and chose positive reinforcement instead. He fed the dogs each time the bell rang, and eventually they salivated just by hearing the bell.

This got me thinking. A Significant Emotional Event can either be positive or negative depending on the event itself and the way it is perceived by the person. So I tried to apply it to web design by asking the following:
Could someone visit and experience a positive Significant Emotional Event?
I think the typical page on any website has a greater potential to turn people off than it does to inspire. Think about it. All it takes is for a page to have layout problems, broken links, incorrect dates or irrelevant copy and it can easily be a negative Significant Emotional Event for someone.

But can we create content that elicits a positive Significant Emotional Event for people? A page or component that creates a positive feeling on the same that a spank is negative?

I think so. In fact we've already identified one: Online streaming services

I think people are coming to, watching the message online and being changed. It could be that some are moved to tears. Or it could be that others are taking their next step in their spiritual journey.

Whatever it is we should work hard to provide online experiences that become (positive) Significant Emotional Events for those that show up.

How Kule Are You?

KulerIf you have been around the web world for more than a month you know how important color is in the design process. In fact there are designers that spend their entire careers dedicated to researching and championing the 'appropriate' use of color when designing for print and the web.
If you are like me, you don't have an entire career to devote to color, but you'd love some quick and easy ways to use color well in your design work.

Here is one such tool: Kuler

It's a dumping ground for sweet color combinations. Look around, you just might find a cool palette for your next project.

Easy Favicon Solution

For those of you that need a quick 'up to speed' lesson on what a favicon is, look at the image to the left.

The Blogger logo (White 'B' on orange background) is seen three times. The bottom one is simply an image, but the top two are 'favicons.' A favicon (short for 'favorites icon') is an image saved in a specific format (yourLogo.ico) to be used dynamically in specific ways. Three of the most common are:

  1. In the address bar next to your URL
  2. On browser tabs (now a big part of Firefox and IE7 functionality)
  3. Next to the favorites link in your browser (when you add it as a favorite)

This used to be a more difficult process - requiring software to create the icon and save it in the right format. But thanks to a new online site you can do it in no time. And there is no reason (but laziness) not to add this to your site.

Favikon is a site that allows you to upload a graphic and save it as a favicon. You simply follow the steps, save the finished version to your desktop and upload it to the root folder of your website (the same folder that your home page lives in).

Finally, go into each page of your site and add the code provided in the last step into the 'head' section.

If you have thousands of individual pages (not dynamically generated from a template) this might be difficult. But one option is to just add it to your home page and top level pages that are right off the main navigation.

It's so easy there's no real reason to skip this step in the development process...

16 February 2008

Mission Completion (at least 2 of 3)

My last post was 10 days ago - right about the time I (we) got knee deep into three projects with fairly short timelines. But that's the nature of things in this position. You pull hard for a while then back off to clear your head.

Yesterday, things reached a feverish pace right up until it was time to go home, but before we left we were able to check two things off the big list:

  1. Not completed - More info soon to follow...
  2. Online Giving Project
  3. Weekend Experience Page Project

Online Giving Project
Starting this weekend we're doing a 4-week series on giving - which typically happens once a year. But this year we decided to really dust off the online giving process to make sure we weren't creating barriers for people. After finding more than one pain point we decided to make the following changes:

People let us know that the process was difficult from the beginning because online giving was hard to find. It's in the main navigation under 'More Next Steps' but it wasn't visible. So to accomplish this we added both Online Giving and My Account links under the search box on the right sidebar of every page. This makes it easy to find but doesn't elevate it to the point where it sticks out like a sore thumb. Next, we added 'Give Online' as a quick link option on the Weekend Experience Page - currently the most visited page on the site other than the home page. It's a place people go to watch the services so it fit in nicely there too.

The online giving page itself got a makeover. Gone is the pledge link for the My Life building campaign. New to the page is one large button to launch the online giving application and a heart theme (icons, quick links and the main graphic). For those of you that attend the church you'll understand. Our senior pastor typically uses the "Where your money is, your heart will also be" analogy when talking about giving.

A sidebar was added with the following information and/or links: how to give online, frequently asked questions, a link to change scheduled giving and a link to view giving history.
Hopefully these changes will make online giving a quick and easy process for people that may not have known it was even available a week ago.

Weekend Experience Page Project
Ever since we added streaming video to the site our main series page has been the number two visited page on the website. However, it lacked the functionality it needed and wasn't built to accommodate this crowd with it's specific interests. So we split it into two pages.

Now, there is the main series page which lets people know what is coming next week, and the Weekend Experience Page where you get the following:

  • Last weeks message. Streams at the top of the page with the series graphic visible prior to starting.
  • The ability to watch the messages in full screen mode.
  • Archived messages from the last two full message series.
  • Quick links to important areas of the site for those 'attending' church on this page.
  • Access to service elements like the program, granger notes and MP3s of the messages.

It's been a fun week - but I'm also glad it's over...

06 February 2008

Don't Leave Me Hangin'

SXSW This year I get the amazing opportunity to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. I hear it's one of a handful of annual conferences that designers and developers have to experience at least once.

I was all set to go, had a friend willing to make the trek with me and then the unexpected happened - something came up and he was unable to attend. So I'll be there on my own unless I can do some innovative online networking prior to going...

I'll be there on an Interactive Badge from the 7-11th of March.

Don't leave me hangin'
Anyone else going? Let me know!