Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vacation Expectations: Six Tips to Help You Manage a Pleasant Time Away

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Summer months tend to be a time of vacations for many. The weather is better in most parts of the country and those who have children find it easier to travel while school is out. Several newer studies suggest that employees who take vacation are less likely to be stressed and more productive. In fact, some companies are even paying employees to take vacation. While that seems a little extreme, it does make sense that when planned properly, most people will return from a break with renewed energy.

Vacations are needed to relax and decompress, but what happens to office workload while employees are out? With a little planning, companies both large and small can keep productivity up and even increase it as employees return from time off full of vigor and new ideas. When preparing to be out, don’t wait until your last day in the office to get everything ready. Assign yourself tasks such as checking in with each client during the week prior to being out so that the last day in the office can be spent on work, status updates with colleagues and tying up loose ends.

Planning ahead can be the key to leaving for vacation stress free. Here are some ideas on how to prepare for and enjoy your vacation - most can be done in advance:
  • Schedule ahead. Most companies have policies around the number of people allowed out each week so there is coverage; look at the schedule and plan to take vacation when there is plenty of coverage in the office.  
  • Assign tasks. Make a list of current projects, status and contact information and then assign each to a team member to handle. Begin this well in advance and you will only need to quickly update the list before you walk out the door.
  • Alert clients. Let your clients know your schedule and give them ample opportunity to address any questions before your leave. Most will respect your time off and either push through a project early or be content waiting until you return.
  • Use your out-of-office. Be sure to set your out-of-office for email, giving exact dates and most importantly contact information for urgent questions. If possible, change your voicemail as well for those clients who may call after hours or if you have a direct dial telephone.
  • Let technology help. Set your email so that external and internal messages are automatically saved in specific folders. Begin copying colleagues who are covering your work on any email correspondence the week before and request that clients do the same. This will allow a much smoother return after vacation.
  • Try to unplug. If at all possible, don’t check emails while out of the office. For those who need to check emails, assign yourself a time to check in and only check at that time each day. When you absolutely must do some work while away, be sure to set aside a limited amount of time and check Wi-Fi or accessibility before travelling to save yourself time once you are on vacation.

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into work after vacation and know that things were taken care of while you were out? When planning ahead, you may actually be able to enjoy every moment of your vacation.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Websites: Intentional Design vs. Purely Responsive Design

By Laura Powers

Furia Rubel develops websites for many companies including law firms, financial service companies, legal industry providers, service providers and government / municipal agencies. All of these entities have audiences that are viewing their sites on various devices. Each audience needs to be provided with the information they are seeking clearly communicated on each device. All of these websites must consider the visual presentation, the user experience and the delivery of content.

Responsive Website Design

The website design industry is buzzing about responsive design. There are many references, blogs and testaments touting it as the next best thing, but responsive design is not a new idea, nor is it a new technology. Providers are just fully realizing that, yes, all of the various devices that website visitors use, need to properly display content to a site’s target audiences.

Website visitors today use the device that is most convenient to them at the time – a traditional desktop computer, a tablet, a phone - often whatever is in closest physical proximity. In many instances, and for mobile phones in particular, websites do not need to display all images and the all of the content of a company’s full desktop website to a visitor.

Cumbersome mobile websites are often the result of a purely responsive design process that lacks a strategic and deliberate plan. Slow load times, unsuitable content display and poor navigation on a company’s mobile site result from lack of pre-planning and strategy in the design and development phase.

Intentional Website Design

Furia Rubel takes an intentional design approach that strategically considers audiences, devices and content and therefore, is a better option than a purely responsive design approach.

Intentional design is an approach to website design and development that is created for each user within the respective media. It is both responsive, in that the site responds to the user’s media, and it is strategic, in that it intelligently considers what information must be served to users on each platform. It is a disservice to a website’s audience to assume that their phone needs to display all the images and every piece of content that their desktop computer displays for the same site. It is analogous to showing a person every television station’s program when choosing what to watch instead of using quick menus to find the program they want.

From our experience in designing, developing, writing and launching websites, we know there are critical pieces of information that users want to see across all devices – phone numbers, main services or products offered, locations, team member profiles and other top-level information. Typically, a purely responsive design is simply a full website tailored to display all site content in a different view on a particular device. Why burden the device with cumbersome menus, images and content in a purely responsive design?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chartbeat and Visual Revenue: Analytics Reporting Apps that Can Help Grow Your Small Business or Publication

By Liz Jenei

Big businesses and publications have entire backend analytics departments to help decipher real-time data. Now there’s an app for that. In this blog post we will discuss two analytic services that can help your small business grow by getting to know your readers and consumers better, what sections of your website are most appealing and what areas of your website need to be updated.

Chartbeat is a company that provides real-time analytics to websites and blogs that don’t have the bandwidth or know-how to capture backend analytics specs. These real-time statistics include: load-times, how many pixels the page reader has scrolled, where users are logged in from and if the reader is actively reading the website page, idle or even typing on their keyboard. This type of information, gathered from the second the viewer is on your website, can show which areas of your website are engaging and which need work.

For example: if you have a website that has a contact form and you are noticing in the analytics that users are idling on that page for a long time before they start typing, you can deduce that perhaps you need to re-word the directions. If you see them typing immediately, then idling five minutes on the page when they scroll to submit, perhaps the Captcha is too difficult to decipher.  Through Chartbeat, finding out these problems in real-time can help you to solve problems much sooner than looking back through weekly or monthly analytics reports.

Stats given by the second can help you maximize engagement and bring potential clients to your website. Now, you not only have the ability to address site issues immediately, but you can also start to understand your page viewers more concisely. Are people in the Midwest going to your webpage more often before work? Are people on the East Coast most likely to fill out contact forms in the evening? Chartbeat can help decipher that information for you and connect you to your users on a more personal level.

Visual Revenue
When you have a website that is publishing upwards of 20+ articles a day, sometimes getting the content that will get the most reads in the right spot on the homepage is the hardest decision you may have as an editor-- Visual Revenue helps take out that guess work.

Visual Revenue is geared towards online publications. Instead of giving analytics statistics in number form, Visual Revenue gives real-time suggestions on which stories should be placed on your publication’s homepage and for how long. These suggestions are based on predictive technology and your publications’s lead editorial direction and vision.

When you have a new story or content to upload to your homepage, the Visual Revenue app makes a suggestion on where that article will get the most readership, based on predictive real-time data and your company settings. Once the suggestion is made, the editor can make a final decision for the placement and longevity of that article before making it live.

Sometimes the backend involved with your small business website or online publication can feel like you’re running a Fortune 500. As technology advances, however, some tasks (especially website analytics) can be delegated almost completely to apps. Chartbeat and Visual Revenue are two of these useful tools that companies such as USA Today, Forbes and Starbucks are taking advantage of to help maximize their website potential. The good news is, now even your small business can take advantage of these stats.