David Clarke is CEO and Co-Founder of BGT Partners, a 2011 and 2010 Ad Age Best Place to Work in the U.S. BGT creates interactive marketing and technology solutions for global corporations that strengthen brands, develop more engaging relationships and transform businesses.

It’s time to take tablet design seriously and evaluate how your brand’s web presence caters to tablet consumers. As usual, Apple is the primary driver behind tablet growth, and the new iPad is yet again redefining the tablet experience and pushing the boundaries of how we use the web.

But what does it mean for your web presence? Below are three ways for your brand to excel in the tablet revolution so you don’t get left behind.


1. Prepare Your Site to Go “Beyond HD”


Just as the demand for high-definition technology forced broadcasters to convert their shows, the new iPad may force brands to make their websites retina display-friendly. With the new iPad, your site is not going to look the same as it did before. The original and second-generation iPads both have a screen resolution of 1024 x 768, but the new iPad’s resolution of 2048 x 1536 is double that in both directions.

The retina display’s pixel density is so high that your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels. And with a 44% better color saturation than before, coupled with A5X quad-core graphics, images on your site will pop off the screen and be crisper and sharper at any size. Existing apps will be updated automatically, and they will look better, but as Tim Cook stated during the unveiling, “If a developer takes a little bit of time, they can do little things that are mind-blowing.”

What does this mean for your brand?

To really take advantage of the retina display, brands need to put more emphasis on high-quality imagery, colors and overall attention to design details. Let’s face it — a poor design will make you look even worse in HD, while high-resolution imagery and a broader range of colors will ensure your site stands out.


2. Prepare for Voice- and Gesture-Controlled Interfaces


New iPad
Do you remember the movie Minority Report? It featured Tom Cruise swinging his hands and using his voice to control a computer screen. This was fiction 10 years ago, but voice- and gesture-controlled interactions are rapidly moving from fantasy to reality. Gesture-controlled video game systems like Nintendo’s Wii and the Xbox Kinect have been hugely successful, and LG recently came out with a voice- and gesture-controlled TV. That’s not to mention the splash that Siri made in the mobile world.

Although the new iPad doesn’t include Siri, it does include a voice dictation feature. However, voice- and gesture-enabled websites are bound to be a key part of the future web experience. In fact, Apple recently filed for a patent called the “Three-Dimensional Imaging and Display System,” hinting that the company is exploring gesture-controlled interactions.

What does this mean for your brand?

Well for now, Siri only works with a few of the iPhone’s built-in apps (email, search, calendar, etc.), but just imagine what will happen when Apple opens Siri up to third-party developers. Brands will be able to create Siri-friendly apps (for mobile and tablet) to allow customers to use their voices to carry out mundane tasks, such as paying your electric bill or transferring money from one account to another. To prepare yourself, focus on your key customers and their most important tasks and consider how your current apps can be improved through voice-controlled interactions.


3. The New iPad Is a Tipping Point for Tablets


New iPad Resolution
With the explosive growth of tablets and mobile, people are accessing the web on an increasing array of devices, and your consumers are now expecting your site to work equally well on their desktop, smartphone and tablet. But how do you accommodate for this when there are hundreds of different devices and screen resolutions? Creating separate sites for each device on the market can be expensive and difficult to manage, as the landscape is constantly changing.

What does this mean for your brand?

A smart approach to this challenge is implementing responsive web design, which utilizes one set of code to display content effectively across all devices. Gone are the days of creating entirely separate websites in parallel desktop and mobile versions. Now you can construct an extremely flexible website to handle multiple environments.

A responsive design responds to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. As the user switches from a laptop to iPad, the website will automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. Essentially, your site will scale to whatever device your customer is using.


In Summary


Before you do anything, start with a thorough audit of how your current website performs on the new iPad. Look at imagery, colors, fonts and overall opportunities to improve the visual experience. Next, start the planning process to integrate voice and gesture-controlled interactions into your site — this is the future of tablets. Finally, convert your site design to one that’s responsive so it can be viewed optimally on every device in the market, starting with a tablet.

Follow these steps and your brand will not only be “beyond HD,” but will also excel in the tablet revolution.

 

The New iPad Details Hit Apple.com

The new 9.7-inch iPad has 2048 x 1536-pixel retina display, 5-megapixel camera (with the same optics sensor from the iPhone 4S) and 1080p video recording. It is available March 16 in black and white, powered by A5X chip (with quad-core graphics) and supports 4G LTE networks. It’s 9.4 millimeters thick and 1.4 pounds.

Wi-Fi only iPads cost $499 for 16 GB, $599 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB, while 4G versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. Pre-orders start today, and the devices will be in stores March 16 in these 10 countries: U.S., UK, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

Credit: Apple.com

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David Tucker is a principal architect at Universal Mind. As the resident Apple and Adobe expert, he works closely with Universal Mind’s clients to develop rich user experiences that leverage many of today’s exciting new development platforms. Follow David on Twitter @mindmillmedia.

Many companies have mobile apps at the top of their to-do lists, but while churning out a quick app is fairly straightforward, developing a strategic application or digital “solution” is considerably more complex. Smart planning is essential.

Here are 10 things to consider before developing your app.


1. Agree on goals for the program.


When developing a digital solution strategy, first examine your organization’s goals for the program. Are you looking to be seen as innovator, or fend off competition by showing progress in the space? Simply showing initial momentum and previewing the future roadmap can often place you ahead of the competition. Should your digital solutions help build customer loyalty and enable greater customer self-service, or is your highest priority to create new revenue streams? Once you’ve agreed on the goals, prioritize them so you’ll know where to start.


2. Understand your target users.


The next step is to understand who your target users are, their goals and requirements, and the technologies they use. This process includes researching the platforms your users are most likely utilizing, then gaining an understanding of each user experience. Every device is different, and every user has multiple needs. For example, a person might typically use an online banking application to pay a bill, but he might use the bank’s mobile application to find the closest ATM.


3. Build a user testing focus group.


Spending time with your target users is the only way to ensure you really understand what they are looking for in a mobile application. As you move through the process of discovery, you can discuss ideas with this group on a daily basis. Focus groups can provide value from the far beyond the initial discovery phase.


4. Identify a minimally viable solution set.


Don’t try to tackle the whole problem at once. Instead, companies should identify a minimally viable solution and start there. In other words, release a basic but functional app as a foundation, then take advantage of the efficient upgrade paths most devices offer to provide regular updates. This enables you to enter the market more quickly and refine as needed. Plus, periodically giving your users access to new developments ensures your organization stays top-of-mind.


5. Plan for multiple releases.


With mobile applications, releasing the initial version is only the beginning. Statistics show that many users will re-engage with your application when new features are added. Spread key functionality across the first handful of releases to keep your users engaged. Be careful not to release too often, lest users feel bombarded. In many cases, a 2-3 month window between major releases will keep your users engaged over a longer period of time.


6. Balance your users and your business.


Balancing business drivers with real user needs can be difficult. In many cases, the two are at odds with one another. Therefore, arm yourself with the right information to make smart tradeoffs. Collect research such as user studies, expert opinions, and business viability and technical feasibility studies. This body of data can then be weighed to achieve the best balance between user-centric solutions and business-value gains.


7. Know what is out there.


Spend time exploring apps in each of the platforms you plan to support. Each platform offers different interface paradigms and a different collection of applications. Experimenting with the most popular applications will help you understand not only what is possible on the platform, but also the user’s expectations. If possible, use a different mobile platform device during the exploration process.


8. Bring your IT team into the discussions early.


The far greater technical challenge is tying your backend business processes to a digital solution that encompasses smartphones and kiosks, for example. The technology infrastructure for a multichannel solution goes well beyond the platform you choose for front-end development. In order to be successful, companies must consider how to architect data delivery and API management as well as security, scalability, content aggregation, device optimization, API translation, etc. Bring your IT team into the discussion before you get too far down the planning path.


9. Decide on a technology you can live (and grow) with.


As the mobile space matures, there will be many more application develop choices. In many cases, your goals will help determine what you choose here. For example, if your goal is to reach as many users as possible across all platforms, you may choose an HTML framework with little hardware integration. If your goal is to provide deep hardware integration for augmented reality technology, then you’ll probably develop a native application. Decisions around technology can directly affect your app’s functionality.


10. Plan to analyze.


The final step in the process is determining how to measure success. With a morass of potential features, devices, platforms and technologies, success can be challenging to define, but it will affect your ultimate strategy. Consider the following questions.

  • Will this increase our transaction volume and, therefore, revenue?
  • Will this increase customer adoption and retention?
  • Will this increase our brand recognition and loyalty?
  • Will this decrease our costs?
  • How many people do we want using our app?
  • How do we want to integrate the solution with our social media program?
  • How will we integrate with our existing analytics tools?

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, TommyL, Nikada

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Dallas Lawrence is the chief global digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s leading public relations and communications firms. He is a Mashable contributor on emerging media trends, online reputation management and digital issue advocacy. You can connect with him on Twitter @dallaslawrence.

If an individual or activist group broke into an organization’s office, raided confidential materials and then burned the building to the ground, local, state and federal officials would have swarmed the crime scene in an all out effort to bring the perpetrators to justice for an act of terrorism. Meanwhile, savvy online audiences and members of the media almost dismissively refer to the online versions of these raiders as “hacktivists,” conjuring up images of harmless school kids having fun pushing the boundaries of online security.

As we saw this morning with the Susan G. Komen Foundation website hack -– and again as “Anonymous Brazil” signaled they had successfully “taken down” the website of Brazil’s largest state bank — these groups are anything but harmless. One study from 2011 identified the average financial impact of these types of breaches to be just north of $7 million per incident.

SEE ALSO: 6 Tips for Handling Breaking Crises on Twitter

Whether you are a respected non-profit with a decades-long track record, or a state-owned financial institution in Latin America, organizations must diligently prepare for inevitable online intrusions and the challenging communications demands that result. There are four key considerations for organizations seeking to retain credibility and confidence as trusted stewards of information before and after a breach.


1. Think Ahead and Anticipate


The best offense is often the best defense — and this is certainly true in the online security game. Every organization involved in any form of data (online contributions, email petitions, online sales, social gaming, employee data, etc) is vulnerable to attack. Smart organizations are using their pre-hack peacetime wisely to invest in a forensics security assessment and to address identified weaknesses. In addition to the technical diligence, organizations must ensure their corporate communications, IT and legal teams understand who will be responsible for managing breaches and have a well planned rapid response crisis program in place.


2. Say Something


In the immediate aftermath of an attack, the lack of information can cause severe organizational paralysis. This paralysis hampers communications efforts, ultimately allowing external forces to shape the lens through which a response is viewed.

Identifying immediately what you know for certain and what you don’t know is critical. For example, organizations need to be prepared to address questions and concerns about the security of the system. Even though an activist may hijack a site to make a political point, it highlights a deeper potential for vulnerability that must be addressed.

Importantly, saying something does not mean saying everything. The rush to respond can have equally devastating consequences for the ill-informed and unprepared. Communicating what you know for certain and what you are doing to investigate — and even what you are still trying to determine — demonstrates responsiveness and transparency to stakeholders that rightly feel equally violated by the breach. Creating a direct response channel for those exposed — via an online registration system or a 24/7 call center — is another important sign of responsiveness. Total silence creates a vacuum of frustration that antagonists are only too happy to fill.


3. Know the Law


Every single state in the Union has separate reporting rules and regulations for what constitutes personally identifiable information (PII). These rules also govern when organizations that have been the victim of a breach must notify the public. Attempting to unravel this multi-state patchwork for the first time with your stakeholders, the media and law enforcement officials all demanding answers can be crippling.

Ensure that your team understands the regulations in each state — and country — you operate in, and make sure your compliance team is fully integrated with your communications team. Often, you will not be the arbiter of when to go public with news of your breach. The worst thing an organization can do from a reputational standpoint is to allow the narrative to shift from being the victim of an attack to the villain who failed to notify and protect those individuals whose data may have been compromised.


4. Remember, You’re Not Alone


In almost every case of online breaches, the “victims” number in the thousands — if not millions. It is not just the organization that has been violated, it is every employee whose social security number may have been exposed, every charitable donor who supported a cause, every business partner that shared data and every consumer who purchased a product. Keep these important groups informed and at the forefront of your communications efforts. They can be powerful advocates. Engaging quickly with local and federal law enforcement officials shows transparency and responsiveness — don’t be afraid to tell that story of cooperation.


In 2012, data will continue to emerge as the new form of global currency, and hacking will continue its evolution as the new face of popular protest. The fundamental reality for every business or organization is that everyone is now in the business of data — and its protection.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tomhoryn

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The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

QuipolName: Quipol

Quick Pitch: Quipol is a web application that makes creating and embedding polls on blogs easy.

Genius Idea: Quipol allows bloggers to get feedback from their audiences with a super simple and customizable polling template.


If Quipol were an ice cream flavor, it would be vanilla. It’s delicious by itself, but meant to be individualized by each person. Instead of sprinkles, nuts and hot fudge, however, Quipol customization allows for video, pictures and comments.

Think of Quipols as quick polls — extremely pared down versions of online polls (see right). Each poll displays one question with thumbs-up and thumbs-down options. A comments section encourages chatter.

The idea behind Quipol is to make customizable polls as simple and elegant as possible, Max Yoder, the 23-year-old entrepreneur behind the new web application, tells Mashable.

“I think of traditional polls as a hunched-over half ape,” Yoder said.

Yoder believes Quipol’s two answer options aren’t as limiting as you would think because they encourage bloggers to be creative with their question wording. Plus, they force readers to go with their gut and not be wishy-washy with their answers.

Yoder started developing the poll application eight months ago and tested the prototype with the groups that Quipol was meant for — fashion bloggers, avid Tumblr users, political bloggers, entertainment bloggers and tech bloggers. Forbes Magazine was one of the biggest early adopters. But Quipol was made for anyone to use — the average blogger who wants to get feedback about issues they care about.

Looking ahead, the goal for Quipol as a company is to keep the partnerships coming. Quipol is viewed by many as a company that does one thing very well, and big companies and small businesses use its product so they don’t have to write out and upkeep a polling dock.

“Building kind of a pared down poll will guide the ship,” Yoder said. “We will be here for you for all development, resources and upkeep.”

SEE ALSO: HOW TO: Poll Consumers on Facebook

There are many polling software products for online audiences. Toluna also lets users add videos and pictures to polls; Micropoll doesn’t require registration to create polls and PollDaddy gives users access to surveys, polls and quizzes on various platforms including e-mail and Twitter.

Yoder’s goal for the end of the year is to gain 25,000 users and really improve the product based on continued user feedback. People can already sign in for free with their Facebook or Twitter to embed their own polls. There is also a new video element where they can add a YouTube video directly into a poll (see video below). They can be as creative with the pared-down poll as they want.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark


Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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Paul Baldwin is the chief marketing officer of Outfit7 Inc., a subsidiary of Out Fit 7 Ltd, the leading entertainment app developer. Paul has more than 17 years of experience developing, marketing and monetizing digital entertainment content.

Spend a few minutes browsing through both the Android and Apple app stores and it’s easy to see the fierce competition for user attention. The number of apps has grown to more than 1 million, each vying for downloads and market share.

The app development world is still very top-heavy, with a very small percentage of developers controlling the majority of downloads and revenue. But that in no way means that a newcomer can’t build a successful app that captures the hearts and minds of consumers, and becomes the next big thing.

Since the app stores themselves control which apps are elevated and highlighted, how can you ensure your app gets time in the spotlight and the attention it deserves? Here are six tips drawn from experience.


1. Focus on Product


The best way to get your app noticed is to build a unique and engaging product. Although that’s an article all on its own, let’s sum it up in a few key points.

Know your exact market and who you’re competing against. This will help you understand your target user — what he expects and likes and who else is offering apps to him.  

Great apps are also usually the first in their category, or apps that completely reinvent existing categories. A big sign that you have a great app is when you start seeing copycat apps. Embrace them and use them as motivation to continue.

Another element that great apps have in common is fun. You want to make your app something that users will come back to again and again, rather than a one-time, disposable thrill. Whether that means creating lovable characters or tapping into the human desire to compete, remember to deliver fun the first time and every time after.

Also, great apps are simple. No user guides should be necessary to participate, and there should be nothing to “figure out” from a user standpoint. They are intuitive and immediately easy to grasp.

Finally, the last big hallmark of a phenomenal app product is the ability for users to make the app personal through customization features. Today’s app audience is constantly wondering what’s in it for them. Allow them to make it theirs and they’ll more likely become instantly enamored.


2. Allow Users to Engage Others with Your App


These days, more developers are using social media as part of the app as a major key to its success. Your customers’ word-of-mouth multiplies your network a hundred times over without costing you a dime, so be sure to put mechanisms in place that allow users to talk about the app and share experiences with friends.

For example, if your app enables users to create fun videos, make sure they can share those videos with others. This type of direct experience sharing will go a long way in spreading the word about your app.  

Caveat: Don’t “over-viralize” your app with too many social features that don’t make sense.


3. Get Media and Blogger Attention: Make It Simple


Media attention and especially reviews of your app can really help to spread recognition. To get that kind of attention, though, you have to have a solid app to begin with, a great story around your app, and it absolutely must be easy to talk about.

The tendency is to come up with the most ingenious, compelling app, filled with loads of features but none that really stand out. This is called “feature creep” and usually spells disaster. Remember, the launch is just the beginning. Successful apps are always adding new content months after launch. If reporters and bloggers (and users for that matter) have a hard time explaining what your app is, what it does or why they like it, they’re less likely to talk about your app. Keep version one simple.

To make your app easier for media to cover, provide materials like press kits, beta codes (if necessary) and reviewer guides. It also helps to identify technology and pop culture trend stories that your app can fit into.


4. Continue Your Marketing Efforts


When your app launches, you’ll definitely want to have a marketing strategy in place to seize your launch window of opportunity, but it’s also important to continue marketing long after launch.

Many developers find pre-launch strategies helpful for grabbing attention. This includes creating a “coming soon” page that teases your app a bit, collecting emails for those interested in the first look, and even extending first invites to target publication audiences.

Make sure you exhaust every “co-marketing” opportunity out there with other app developers. Some major publishers will trade their app installs for your app installs. Everybody is in the same boat, in the same huge ocean of apps. You might be surprised to find that other developers are more than happy to participate in reciprocal marketing.

The important thing to remember is that app marketing windows are perpetual, meaning you should establish marketing vehicles that you can trigger at your discretion over long periods of time. That means plan, plan, plan.


5. Use Analytics 


When developing apps, you have all kinds of data at your fingertips to evaluate how your app is being received. Use analytics to monitor your ranking and as a marketing tool.

Become a student of the Android and iOS category rankings (e.g., entertainment vs. games). Each category has its own nuances for determining “top” rankings, so be sure to evaluate each one. Understand why the app moved up in the rankings in order to iterate and improve your own ranking over time. Additionally, if you have a good sense of what is moving the bar for your app, you can also learn from what the top developers are doing.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that you leverage the wealth of analytics available from your app to make your app better over time. Not only will the data help you iterate and improve your app from a technical standpoint, but it will also allow you to create the right content to which users connect. Once the app is live, analyze the data to update your release schedule and product roadmap.

You can also learn when your customers are willing to “rate your app” or be pitched another app in your portfolio. Analytics can shed light on how frequently you should attempt to cross-sale or suggest another item for purchase.


6. Prepare for Success


This tip may seem a little strange at first — who wouldn’t be thinking about success? But in reality, many apps start strong then fade and fizzle. Preparing for success is as much about your product as it is about the team behind it.

It’s crucial to structure your team in a way that supports hyper growth. It’s good to rely on a more fluid and dynamic network of expertise and project teams than a rigid structure.

Think of your app as a brand that will enable you to leverage brand extension opportunities. Build your apps to welcome future cross-promotion opportunities, rather than intrusions on the user experience.

The best way to prepare for app success is to constantly focus on keeping your users engaged. Give them more than just product updates once they’ve downloaded and become fans of your app. Give them instant fun, addictive experiences that they will want to share with friends.

Whatever your secret sauce is or has been, be sure to nurture it to keep your users wanting more — and deliver your app in a way that surpasses user expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, ItzaFineDay

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If you have ever wanted to tell Twitter how you feel about its 200 million-member social network, now is the time to do it. Twitter’s Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey tweeted questions Wednesday to attract feedback on the five-year-old service.

A lot has changed since Twitter launched in 2006. To put things into perspective — within the past two months alone — Twitter has:

Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a new version of its homepage with a sleeker design and revamped pitch to potential users; expanded its Local Trends feature to 70 more cities and countries; and updated its search tool to make it easier to find new people to follow.

SEE ALSO: Explore Twitter’s Evolution | A Visual History of Twitter [INFOGRAPHIC]

Dorsey’s all ears (or shall we say, Twears?) now. What praise, gripes or suggestions do you have for Twitter’s inventor?

If you tweet him, leave us a link to your tweet in the comments. We’ll put your best responses in the collection already assembled below.

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The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off.

Writing content for web users has its challenges. Chief among them is the ease with which your content is read and understood by your visitors (i.e. its readability).

When your content is highly readable, your audience is able to quickly digest the information you share with them — a worthy goal to have for your website, whether you run a blog, an e-store or your company’s domain.

Below are a handful of dead-simple tips and techniques for enhancing the usability and readability of your website’s content.

These tips are based on research findings and suggestions by well-regarded usability experts such as Jakob Nielsen.

This list is not exhaustive, and is meant merely to arm you with a few ideas that you can implement right away. If you have additional tips to add, please share them in the comments.


General Goals of User-Friendly Web Content


Usable, readable web content is a marriage of efforts between web designers and web content writers.

Web pages must be designed to facilitate the ease of reading content through the effective use of colors, typography, spacing, etc.

In turn, the content writer must be aware of writing strategies that enable readers to quickly identify, read and internalize information.

As we go through the seven tips below, keep these three general guidelines in mind:

  • Text and typography have to be easy and pleasant to read (i.e. they must legible).
  • Content should be easy to understand.
  • Content should be skimmable because web users don’t read a lot. Studies show that in a best-case scenario, we only read 28% of the text on a web page.

What simple things can we do to achieve these goals? Read on to see.


1. Keep Content as Concise as Possible


It’s pretty well known that web users have very short attention spans and that we don’t read articles thoroughly and in their entirety. A study investigating the changes in our reading habits behaviors in the digital age concluded that we tend to skim webpages to find the information we want.

We search for keywords, read in a non-linear fashion (i.e. we skip around a webpage instead of reading it from top to bottom) and have lowered attention spans.

This idea that we’re frugal when it comes to reading stuff on the web is reinforced by a usability study conducted by Jakob Nielsen. The study claims a that a 58% increase in usability can be achieved simply by cutting roughly half the words on the webpages being studied.

Shorter articles enhance readability, so much so that many popular readability measurement formulas use the length of sentences and words as factors that influence ease of reading and comprehension.

What you can do:

  • Get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • Cut out unnecessary information.
  • Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases.
  • Avoid long paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use “1,000″ as opposed to “one thousand,” which facilitates scanning and skimming.
  • Test your writing style using readability formulas that gauge how easy it is to get through your prose. The Readability Test Tool allows you to plug in a URL, then gives you scores based on popular readability formulas such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease.


2. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles


A usability study described in an article by web content management expert Gerry McGovern led him to the conclusion that Internet readers inspect webpages in blocks and sections, or what he calls “block reading.”

That is, when we look at a webpage, we tend to see it not as a whole, but rather as compartmentalized chunks of information. We tend to read in blocks, going directly to items that seem to match what we’re actively looking for.

An eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen revealed an eye-movement pattern that could further support this idea that web users do indeed read in chunks: We swipe our eyes from left to right, then continue on down the page in an F-shaped pattern, skipping a lot of text in between.

We can do several things to accommodate these reading patterns. One strategy is to break up long articles into sections so that users can easily skim down the page. This applies to block reading (because blocks of text are denoted by headings) as well as the F-shaped pattern, because we’re attracted to the headings as we move down the page.

Below, you’ll see the same set of text formatted without headings (version 1) and with headings (version 2). See which one helps readers quickly skip to the sections that interest them the most.

What you can do:

  • Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you’ll write.
  • Use simple and concise headings.
  • Use keyword-rich headings to aid skimming, as well as those that use their browser’s search feature (Ctrl + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac).

3. Help Readers Scan Your Webpages Quickly


As indicated in the usability study by Nielsen referenced earlier, as well as the other supporting evidence that web users tend to skim content, designing and structuring your webpages with skimming in mind can improve usability (as much as 47% according to the research mentioned above).

What you can do:

  • Make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they’re scanning a webpage.
  • Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device.
  • Use the inverted pyramid writing style to place important information at the top of your articles.


4. Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting


According to an eye-tracking study by ClickTale, users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding and italics).

These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases.

What you can do:

  • Consider breaking up a paragraph into bulleted points.
  • Highlight important information in bold and italics.

5. Give Text Blocks Sufficient Spacing


The spacing between characters, words, lines and paragraphs is important. How type is set on your webpages can drastically affect the legibility (and thus, reading speeds) of readers.

In a study called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts,” the researchers discovered that manipulating the amount of margins of a passage affected reading comprehension and speed.

What you can do:

  • Evaluate your webpages’ typography for spacing issues and then modify your site’s CSS as needed.
  • Get to know CSS properties that affect spacing in your text. The ones that will give you the most bang for your buck are margin, padding, line-height, word-spacing, letter-spacing and text-indent.

6. Make Hyperlinked Text User-Friendly


One big advantage of web-based content is our ability to use hyperlinks. The proper use of hyperlinks can aid readability.

What you can do:


7. Use Visuals Strategically


Photos, charts and graphs are worth a thousand words. Using visuals effectively can enhance readability when they replace or reinforce long blocks of textual content.

In fact, an eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen suggests that users pay “close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information.”

Users, however, also ignore certain images, particularly stock photos merely included as decorative artwork. Another eye-tracking study reported a 34% increase in memory retention when unnecessary images were removed in conjunction with other content revisions.

What you can do:

  • Make sure images you use aid or support textual content.
  • Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals.

Series Supported by join.me


The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off. The possibilities are endless. How will you use join.me? Try it today.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Kontrec

More About: web design, Web Design Usability Series





If you’re seeking a job in social media, we’d like to help out. For starters, Mashable‘s Job Lists section gathers together all of our resource lists, how-tos and expert guides to help you get hired. In particular, you might want to see our articles on How to Leverage Social Media for Career Success and How to Find a Job on Twitter.

But we’d like to help in a more direct way, too. Mashable‘s job boards are a place for socially savvy companies to find people like you. This week and every week, Mashable features its coveted job board listings for a variety of positions in the web, social media space and beyond. Have a look at what’s good and new on our job boards:


Mashable Job Postings


Community Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Graphic Design Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Editorial Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.


Editorial Assistant at Mashable in New York, NY.


Mashable Job Board Listings


Multi-Channel Merchandising Assistant at The National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, MD.


Social Media Manager at LivingSocial in Washington, D.C.


Interactive Producer/ Daring Truth Seeker at SANBORN MEDIA FACTORY in New York, NY.


Digital Marketing Designer/Editor at xMatters, Inc. in Dublin, CA.


SEO Manager at Leading Online News Destination in Los Angeles, CA.


Senior Web Developer (Ruby on Rails) at Memory Reel in Dallas, TX.


Director, Product Marketing at New Relic in San Francisco, CA.


Jr. Interactive Digital Artist at CP+B in Boulder, CO.


Social Media Officer at Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C.


ColdFusion Application Developer at Fusionapps in Secaucus, NJ.


Associate SEO Strategist at Morpheus Media in New York, NY.


Interactive Savvy Graphic Designer/Art Director at Bill Young Productions Inc. in Houston, TX.


Paid Online Innovation Internships with MoveOn Labs at MoveOn.org in Berkeley, CA.


Developer Advocate at Atlassian in San Francisco, CA.


Online Communications Manager – South Asia Region at The World Bank in Washington, D.C.


Email Marketing Manager at Inman News in Alameda, CA.


Content and Community Development Manager at Loehmann’s in Bronx, NY.


Product Manager – Local Business Products at Yelp Inc. in San Francisco, CA.


Associate Digital Producer (emphasis on social media and gaming) at roundhouse in Seattle, WA.


Mashable‘s Job Board has a variety of web 2.0, application development, business development and social networking job opportunities available. Check them out here.

Find a Web 2.0 Job with Mashable

Got a job posting to share with our readers? Post a job to Mashable today ($99 for a 30 day listing) and get it highlighted every week on Mashable.com (in addition to exposure all day every day in the Mashable marketplace).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: COMMUNICATIONS, design, jobs, List, Social Media





Christian Olsen is the head of Levick Strategic Communications’ social and digital media practice. Follow him on Twitter @cfolsendc.

Recently, online properties like Hulu, MSN and Flixster have been caught using a tougher version of the common cookie. These “supercookies” (aka “Flash cookies” and “zombie cookies”) serve the same purpose as regular cookies by tracking user preferences and browsing histories. Unlike their popular cousins, however, this breed is difficult to detect and subsequently remove. These cookies secretly collect user data beyond the limitations of common industry practice, and thus raise serious privacy concerns.

Supercookies are similar to the standard browser cookies most folks are familiar with, but are stored in different locations on a user’s machine, for example, in a file used by a plug-in (Flash is the most common). This makes them harder to find and delete, especially since a browser’s built-in cookie detection process won’t remove them either. Furthermore, some supercookies have additional capabilities, like regenerating regular cookies to prevent their removal by the user.

To make matters worse, removing master supercookies is much more difficult. It requires the user to dig through the file system and delete them manually, an inconvenient task even for advanced users. The novice, on the other hand, likely won’t even realize supercookies exist, let alone be able to find them.

SEE ALSO: 10 Travel Tips for Protecting Your Privacy

The kind of data supercookies track isn’t typical cookie material. A browser limits the typical cookie to be written, read and ultimately removed by the site that created it. The supercookie, on the other hand, operates outside of established safeguards. It can track and record user behavior across multiple sites. While it’s easy to understand that a site would want to track a user’s activity while she navigates its turf, it’s ethically questionable that site operators are able to record a user’s actions beyond site parameters.

In several cases, a company’s supercookie is the result its partnership with a digital marketing firm that places a high value on user behavior. In response to FTC pressure, the Internet ad and marketing industry responded by publishing “self-regulatory” policies, although it restricts itself from little else than a user’s medical records.

To the majority of the public, this type Internet tracking is outside of the bounds of acceptable conduct. While the “right to track” may be written into a terms of use or user agreement contract, it is often not fully disclosed or within the realm of industry standards, rendering its legal defense moot. Furthermore, tracking provokes a breach of trust between user and site — and consumers have historically exhibited intolerance to brand betrayal.

While many companies that had been challenged on their use of supercookies were quick to cease, some choose to continue the practice. Many web marketing firms, advertisers and less-than-scrupulous websites still refuse to follow industry best practices — they continue to practice knowingly. And many more sites don’t even realize they’re utilizing supercookies in the first place.

Whether it has decided to cease web tracking or not, the company at risk needs to beware of losing control of already collected data. A data breach would result in catastrophic — and perhaps incurable — brand distrust. A user’s discovery of a company’s surreptitious data collection and the subsequent vulnerability of that data could easily spell the end of a brand’s reputation.

Companies that care about reputation and user trust should audit their sites and properties to ensure that data collection and the use of supercookies parallel user expectations. This analysis applies to the site, its advertisers and any third party tools or plug-ins. Companies need to ensure that all data collection has been thoroughly disclosed in order to avoid legal liability.

Companies should not wait for a problem to arise before initiating a comprehensive data security overview. A regular screening of all user data and its safeguards is good practice. The cost a company suffers for securing its data and customer trust is small compared to the business and public relations fallouts that would result from a security breach.

A successful company will always make a comprehensive attempt at transparency by handling data responsibly. The use of data tracking tools like supercookies does not rank highly in consumer acceptance, whether its application is technically “legal” or not. Regardless of the manner in which information is collected, know that negligent data handling will not be excused by claims that a company was in the dark about its collection practices. In the eyes of the consumer, the more data collected, the more of an obligation that company has to keep it safe.

Images courtesy of Flickr, ssoosay, Jeremy Brooks

More About: Business, cookies, data collection, privacy, trending

Dan Dao is a Reporter at Fueled, an iPhone & Android app development agency based in New York City, where he writes about the tech industry. You can follow him on Twitter @da0_o and read the blog on Fueled.

Employers who hire designers are often not designers themselves. That reality can cause a disconnect between what designers display in their portfolios and what employers are actually looking for.

If you’re curious about the types of design portfolios that shine at job interviews, why not learn from the employers who loved them? Below, three employers share useful tips about maximizing the appeal of your online portfolio.

1. Choose the Right Hosting




Make sure you choose the right hosting and content management system (CMS) to feature your work. Whether you’ve built your own website or plan to use a portfolio service (like Carbonmade above), make sure your site will translate identically across all web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).

Image courtesy of Veronica Pisano

2. Simple, but Professional Presentation

The goal of your portfolio is to make your work accessible. Fancy, animated designs may look interesting, but they can distract from the actual work you’re attempting to showcase. Simplicity will translate as professionalism more often than fancy, overdone graphics. As far as aesthetic and visual presentation, keep it simple and neat, and let the work speak for itself.

  • David Lifson, CEO of Postling: “Oftentimes, designers will have brochure websites, and I find that those are not helpful. I look for data-dense examples, something where there’s more usability than visual design. That’s what I would say highly functional websites are built on.”

  • Merill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser, co-founders of Food52: “Whatever you’re shown, whether it be a website or a specific presentation…[it] should be very professional.”

  • Carter Cleveland, CEO of Art.sy: “Although it is an opportunity to show your chops and do something fancy, I’ve seen more examples of people failing to pull it off…I’ve seen more ‘fancy’ websites done badly than done well.”

Image courtesy of Alastaire Allday

3. Make it User-Friendly

Stubbs and Hesser warn that although employers may like a designer’s visual work, the designer “might not understand the user experience implications of their designs.” By making your design portfolio user-friendly, you’re displaying an understanding of navigability and user experience. If your portfolio is user-friendly, chances are the product you design will be user-friendly as well.

Start by reducing the number of clicks and links, as well as the amount of scrolling needed to access all of your content, suggests Cleveland.

Image courtesy of We Are Sofa

4. Know Your Audience

Determine the specific skills your potential employers are looking for. For instance, bonus expertise in product management, web development (HTML, Javascript, and CSS) or marketing adds bonus points to the portfolio of a clearly talented designer.

Each employer will have different hiring needs, and you need to adapt accordingly. Food52’s Hesser and Stubbs needed a designer with experience in building social sites due to the strong social aspect of the company, while Lifson and Cleveland were looking for someone with experience in product management as well as design. Smaller companies in particular will seek designers with versatile experience, which can include knowledge of different programs like Photoshop and Fireworks.

Seen above, designer Jordan Fretz provides a full list of tools with which he is familiar alongside a detailed description of his background.

Image courtesy of Jordan Fretz

5. Have a Varied Portfolio

Hesser and Stubbs say, “A portfolio that is varied is important so you can work with as many different types of clients as possible.” Food52’s designer Camillia Benbassat features works in her portfolio that use different types of media. Dragging your mouse over each photo in her showcase reveals the name of the company, the type of media, and a few essential details about the project. Each is clearly labeled and categorized, whether by web design, mobile app, user experience, identity, print or packaging.

Image courtesy of Camillia BenBassat

6. Be Organized

While including many examples is a plus, you still need to clearly sort and organize your work in the porfolio. On Elliot Jay Stocks’ website, the top header showcases featured work, but the remainder of the showcase is organized by client and project type.

Image courtesy of Elliot Jay Stocks

7. Be Accessible

Your contact information should be the easiest thing to find on your site. Include multiple forms of contact, if possible. Designer Jared Christensen nicely presents his LinkedIn profile next to his resume, in addition to other social networking sites under his About Me page.

Image courtesy of Jareditigal

8. Keep it Current

Frequently updated portfolios show that you take enough pride in your work to actively produce more. Even if your portfolio contains a few unfinished projects, provide samples alongside a “work in progress” note, as designer Matt Bango does on his portfolio.

Image courtesy of Matt Bango’s Portfolio

9. Credibility

It’s important to build and maintain credibility. This means you should be able to reproduce and tweak everything in your portfolio. Part of Postling’s hiring process involves contracting the applicant to complete a small (paid) work assignment. “I want to see that [the designers] can actually produce what their portfolio says they can produce,” Lifson says, “because you never know if sometimes they get some help.”

Hesser and Stubbs look more at past experience. They believe a designer’s former employment indicates whether she is accustomed to deadlines and memos, and maintains a level of professionalism.

Cleveland also looks for what he calls “social proof,” in other words, past work credentials or testimonials. Providing links to these things on your site makes it easier for the employer to get an immediate sense of your professionalism.

Image courtesy of Jamie Kim

10. Share Your Portfolio

Once you’ve created a stunning portfolio, share and advertise across multiple platforms. Postling says designers need to “get their work out in the open, whether on Forrst, Dribbble or Tumblr. Provide links to your portfolio from various social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as in the signature of your work email. You’ll get more views of your showcase, which can lead to more interviews.

Image courtesy of Postling

More About: design, jobs, MARKETING, web design

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