Missed connections at INTIX Convention at Disneyland

I attended INTIX in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center with my Dream Warrior Group colleagues Nami our CTO and LaMae our Bossy Pants /CEO. INTIX focuses on bringing ticketing companies, CRM providers and the venues that need them, together.

As a digital website agency, Dream Warrior Group was one of the few developers at the event which I thought was strange. Without a developer to connect all the pieces, from website to CRM / Database to ticketing software, you are not selling any tickets online.

Even the keynote speaker Martin Clarkson (link goes to a similar talk not the INTIX keynote) partner of MC LTD mentioned repeatedly the need for integration in the industry around issues of primary versus secondary sellers, adapting to disruptive influence and accommodating new markets (see Beijing pop. 28.5 million) and embracing the technology to get to 2020. The website is the partner to ecommerce (mobile optimized please) but a silent partner only noticed when it goes down.

With the proliferation of sites anyone can build a website but can any website build your ticketing business?
Spoiler alert, I work for a website company that caters to performing arts and live event producers and
shockingly my answer is no.

Here’s my case:

A self-built website is typically not:

1) Search Engine Optimized
2) Designed to get patrons to purchase in a minimum of clicks and scrolls
3) Supported by a team that can make adjustments (including coding) as needed in real time.
4) Easy to use on the back end. The ARTdynamix Content Management System is optimized for the user.

So, we spent our week talking to great live-event, ticketing companies and CRM providers that need to connect and also hanging out with anthropomorphic animals. If we didn’t connect at the conference and you have a question reach out at john@dreamwarrior.com or 310-341-3930.

Look for LaMae and Nami in NYC in for Arts Reach March 17-19, 2016

 

To Do’s For A Successful Nonprofit Website – Part 2

Part 2  Essential Tools

Some of you may find it hard to believe, but some nonprofits we have worked with are unfamiliar with the essential tools used to promote and monitor the well-being of their site or where to find them.

So here is the run down:

You must own your own domain name:

While that may seem obvious, some nonprofits (and for profits)? that we work with don’t have this information – or at least readily accessible. They have relied on the good will of others to make sure their site is pointing to the right server – and most importantly to make sure they will be able to regain control should it be needed.

Whether it is GoDaddy, Network Solutions, or Hover (among others), you should have immediate access to your DNS. Recommended practice is to make sure that all the detailed name service routing is done on the DNS provider?s server and that your IT support people have access to it.? It is fine and often necessary to ensure that your trusted web partners can access this also.

Always keep a screenshot of the latest version of the DNS page of your site on file (and even back a few).

You must own your own analytic/social properties:

One of the best practices we adopted in the mid 2000?s was to setup a default Gmail address for our clients, and whenever there was a new social media service out, we would use that account as the default email, so our clients have a common mailbox for their social properties. Your marketing director should have immediate access to that account, and the password to that account should be VERY STRONG (8 to 12 characters minimum, with numbers, lower and upper case letters, and if the service allows, use special characters such as @, !, or #).

The same practice applies to your Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and other analytics accounts (e.g.: Marketo) ? we create a separate email just for our client?s analytics and webmaster tools (or an email they prefer) and then use that to permit our default user to grant full access to their analytics.

Is the software behind your site appropriate for your needs:

This subject is one that I can write quite a bit about and in the near future probably will again. But in short, the type of content management system (CMS) that you use to manage your content will affect your site?s ranking and your traffic (not to mention ease of use).

-The First option is No CMS, with a side of code. That is a workable option no matter what kind of site you have, but depending on how large your site is, the site maintenance, edits and SEO can get quite expensive. Out of some 40 nonprofit organizations that we work with regularly, only one is currently running a static HTML site.

-The Second option is WordPress. WordPress is a good software. If your site is informational only or is a blog, WordPress will be as good as any CMS for managing your content. There are situations, however, where WordPress is not ideal – and many of those can have a significant impact.

-A Third option is Joomla/Drupal. Both these CMS’ are robust and they are more appropriate if you have a content heavy site with a lot of events, shows or similar data. At the end of the day, WordPress, due to its inherent coding, is unable to present your DATA as data and thus hurts your Google ranking if you are relying on your show data to improve your site ranking.

-Magento, X-Cart, and OpenCart are all robust environments for e-commerce and are extremely good tools for setting up a shop.

Every week, at least one person is asking me, ?So why shouldn?t I use one of these free content management sites like Squarespace?? The answer is simple: you get what you pay for. These sites are made simple-to-use by removing back end functionality that is essential to your success. In addition, even when you get the paid version, the tools have been modified to accommodate everyone, thus not truly effective for anyone.

Get yourself some proper instruments:

There are some things that you will be using over and over on your site. Newsletters, forms, image storage/video & audio streaming, site security (SSL or Secure Socket Layer), and Social Media are some of those.

There are dozens and dozens of newsletter creation and distribution sites. You should research them and decide on the one that is appropriate for you. Some of the ones that we happen to prefer are Mail Chimp and Constant Contact.

Using forms on your site will improve your visitors’ user experience. Allowing a customer to fill out an online form, instead of printing and hand filling a PDF, may keep a customer/visitor that would otherwise have found another site to get the same thing.

Forms are valuable marketing tools. They allow you to gather information about your visitors and identify potential leads:

– Subscription
– Registration
– Payment
– Contact form
– Giveaway forms

It would be great if you could keep that data somewhere off of the website where you could easily manage it and have it interact with your other software such as your newsletter software.

As with Newsletters, there are many form generation and management sites, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. It is important that you research them. We happen to prefer Formstack for the needs of our customers.

Your site getting hacked is a real and constant threat, which is why it’s so important to protect your website.

If you are conducting any transaction on your site, you have to be sure you have an SSL Certificate installed on your website to keep your data secure.

You also need to be sure that you have daily backup of your site and that your provider and/or? IT department is running a daily Trojan and virus scan on your site.

Another essential item is displaying your social media. There are two ways that you must utilize the social media: one, to provide interaction for the end user and the other to display that you are interacting with the end user.

So what do I mean by that?

First, you must help your visitors help you by providing social media share buttons on your blog and other shareable website content. It is best not to use commercial share tools such as the “Share This” button for this purpose since you cannot guarantee your visitors? privacy. In fact, almost all governmental sites (city and state) that we have worked with do not allow the use of commercial share buttons due to the very same concern.? There are dozens of code snippets, both free and for 5 to 6 dollars, which can provide the exact same functionality, but give you complete control.

Second, you must show your visitors that your social media is active. This is easily achievable by displaying your Facebook and Twitter feeds on your social media or home page. More importantly, Google bots will like you better if you have these on your site.

As a final step, it is best to include social media icons that link to your organization’s profile pages. These buttons can be placed in the header or footer of the site if you are running an informational site, but if your site is transactional (events, shows, e-commerce, etc.) then it is best to have the icons only in the footer. It is a given that you should only display the icons of the social media that you use.

To Do’s For A Successful Nonprofit Website

As our work with nonprofit organizations increases, we are frequently sharing information on the same key elements. In this article we will review four of these leading principles; responsive design, user-friendly navigation, colors, and high quality photography.

Part 1 Design Essentials

Responsive Design

Responsive design refers to your site’s ability adjust to fit any screen size, whether the site is being viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone. Responsive design is one of the highest priorities for any website today. The importance of mobile search means that your site must be available in an easily accessible, size appropriate form on mobile devices, and tablets.

If the site isn’t responsive, mobile users will have a hard time viewing and navigating, which can result in Google lowering your ranking in search engines.

Google’s recent updates (search algorithm) indicate ?mobile friendly? prioritization

Intuitive, User-Friendly Navigation

Well-thought-out navigation is crucial. It is imperative that visitors can find what they are seeking. Some of the more common to do’s in navigation is to use familiar, logical names and avoiding long drop down menus. (No more than 7 items).

One reason the role of thought out and simple navigation is so fundamental is to allow for easy monetization on your site. When clients visit your site their primary goal is to take action, so the menu items that monetize your site, such as shows, tickets, and donate should come first.

Call-to-Action Buttons

Call-to-action buttons are an important component of your website’s navigation. The purpose of a call-to-action button is to encourage visitors to click to do something (donate, become a member, buy a ticket, make an appointment, subscribe to your blog).

Call-to-action button best practices:

  • Use action-oriented language, such as Donate, Register, Buy Ticket, Download,
  • Sign Up
  • Keep text short – 2 to 3 words max.
  • Choose a contrasting but complimentary color for your button. It should stand out, but not deter from the web design.
  • The most important call to action buttons re-emphasize the monetization path, and are placed visibly above the menu or above the fold in the side bar. If you have more than one call-to-action, create a hierarchy.

Colors

Please remember that you are building the site for your customers based on your branding, and not simply for your enjoyment 🙂

Make sure you select the colors for your site based on sound design and branding principles.

Color best practices:

  • Select one or two colors from your brand that are appealing
  • With the help of your designer, select the appropriate color scheme for your site.

High-quality photography

We are all susceptible to visual communication, and the right imagery can have a powerful impact on our behavior. By using high quality photography on your website, you can grab people’s interest and connect your cause/vision/mission with theirs. If you have a show make sure your ?Hero image? (top image above the fold) communicates the eminence of the show

Photography best practices:

  • Use real photos as much as possible (minimize or eliminate the use of stock photography models)
  • If you don’t have the budget for custom photography and you must use stock photography, stick to images of landscapes, city skylines and objects.
  • Experiment with filters and overlays to create different looks and moods.
  • Avoid pixelated or blurry images at all cost.
  • Always obey the licensing/copyright rules!

Deep Linking for Ticket Sales

According to Techopedia, Deep linking is the process of pointing a visitor to a specific page in a website through the use of that page?s link instead of that homepage.? We all know that it is imperative to make sure your patrons get to the point of ticketing for their specific date and time on the first try. It allows visitors to get the information that they are seeking quickly rather than a list of options that might be distracting.

Deep linking minimizes the click to purchase to increase online sales, helps raise more funds and simplifies the subscription process. For example, if a visitor wants to buy a ticket for a particular show and they search for the title of the show in your area online, they will find a direct link to buy tickets for that specific show instead of clicking on a link to your main page and having to do multiple clicks to find the checkout page. (I?ve heard estimates that you lose 18% of your traffic per click ? that certainly matches our experience)

So, some informal ticketing deep link rules are:

Always link them to a specific event purchase page
When sending email blasts or social media, make sure you link them to a specific appropriate page on your web site (not ticketing site) and then send them to the ticketing deep link.
Include direct links in your email signature regarding any shows you are currently promoting (rather than a link to your main homepage).

As LaMae always says – We are happy that folks get to the web site — they can land on any page they like or find. Then, it’s our job to quickly get them to where they need to be.

 

Website Design in 2016

Web design moves quickly, especially with Google pushing it along, and customers looking to ROI parameters from their designers. In the past year, we had emphasis on responsiveness, code security, and optimization, and flat design. In the coming year we may well see these trends take hold:

1) There will be much more attention to information design than ever before. Your User Interface, how it is coded, it’s accessibility and logical flow will become of paramount importance.

2) Losing hard earned eyeballs to unnecessary scroll or click is no fun. Optimizing scrolls and clicks will become as necessary as the images being used on?the site. The ROI for design is on top of everyone’s mind now a days, as a result we expect to see even more emphasis on coherent UX, optimized click throughs, and scrolls.

3) About a decade ago, many of us began the quest for creating a modular yet object oriented environment for design based on a grid system. With the success of Wix, commander and the like, it seems this may be the year that everyone will accept modular design in a grid system as the bedrock responsive design.

4) Flat design is all the rage now, and we don’t see that changing for a while.

5) We have forever recommended the use of better quality imagery and iconography and following the expansion of personalized photography in the past year, the trend toward quality should continue.

6) The influence of app design on web design will be even more pronounced, with form factors (e.g. full screen forms), and movement (horizontal scrolling – ONLY) that more closely resembles the app users’ experience.

7) The new applications such as JustinMind or Axure for Rapid prototyping, and Sketch for design and their online cousins such as inVision have become very popular, and we see even a bigger trend towards the use of these new tools for rapid prototyping and design of sites in 2016.

Overall everything will get faster, flatter, more streamlined, and more secure.

Don’t think you need a new Performing Arts website? … Think Again

Important meeting with V.I.M.

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, right? I got to spend 4 days and nights at Disneyland. I had multiple touch points with the brand while?there for a work conference. I spent most of my time in the Disneyland Convention Center. Here the Disney touch was in evidence all around. The convention space was convenient, well designed, easy to navigate and I even got to take a photo with Mickey and Minnie during one of the breaks. It was a great experience all around.

My second touch point was the hotel. I stayed at the Grand Californian, the overflow hotel. The room was nice, quiet but a little worn in ways that I had not seen before at a Disney property. But, there was also turndown service that put mints on my bed so I am still calling it good.

Once the conference was over, I met my wife and went to Disneyland – the happiest place on earth…and everyone on earth was there. We went to a few of our favorite rides but left before we had spent 5 hours there. According to staff it was not close to a maximum capacity day. It was just an uncomfortable experience at a theme park.

If ever there was a need for dynamic pricing for a better patron experience, this was it. I would have paid nearly double to be able to have only half as many people in the park that day.

Even a great entertainment brand has trouble maintaining service levels as the traffic increases.

Which brings me to your website?

We tell clients that after 2 years your site probably needs a refreshed look, feel and functionality. And yes, we sell web services. But, there are a whole host of reasons your website may need an upgrade: Mobile responsiveness is a need not a want. SEO is necessary if you want to be found in this Google-dominated digitalscape we live in. And making sure you are as few clicks away as possible from conversion is just best practice. So, when you think to yourself that my five-year old website is bulletproof ?because it is still functional; check your traffic, conversions and purchase path and then rethink because chances are your status quo can be catapulted.

If you have that hot ticket that everyone wants, you may find that your bulletproof website can?t direct the traffic or optimize conversions.

Re-think your site from you visitor? perspective and it will be a happy place.

-John Olchak