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Why Two New Trends in Web Design Aren't New At All

As we celebrate the sixteenth anniversary of our founding as a Milwaukee web design company, I thought about what I could write besides the typical "we look back on another year" stuff. A couple articles I stumbled upon teamed up to lob me a softball.

The first was from Inc. Magazine. The article praised the value of "the designer who codes" as a "new breed of tech experts." I had to re-read the piece several times to see if it actually said what I thought it did. The premise is that the best user experience comes from team members that understand what it takes to create both the intuitive design and the robust back end technology to make it happen. My beef isn't with the concept. That's dead on. It's the fact that somehow it's the coolest new thing to roll down the highway, when it's been at the core of what Trivera has been doing for 16 years.

From the very beginning everyone on our team has understood that results-producing web sites are about creating relationships that build trust and result in a transaction. A critical component is to make sure that the technology doesn't get in the way, but rather, transparently re-enforces the brand experience between the company and the customer. That kind of interactivity requires the "smart design" and "creative technology" that have actually been our tagline all along.

The other article trumpeted a "new" idea called a responsive web design, which it defined as an approach that proposes that a web site's design should respond to a user's environment and behavior, based on the platform, orientation and screen size.

New? Really?

For some reason, now that there are iPads and Smartphones, we suddenly must now pay unique and individual attention to what visitors should see and experience when they come to a site. And while Web developers are playing "stupid HTML tricks" now to make sure the design looks perfect in every device possible, again, they're missing a bigger point. Truly responsive web design is based on more than just the device being used to view the site.

Over 16 years, I've met with hundreds of prospects and clients to discuss what they need to do take meaningful advantage of the Web. As I talk about our approach, I recite the mantra that I've used from day 1:

Every single web-based contact point needs to be created with the following 5 considerations:

1.) Who is coming? 2.) How did they get there? 3.) What did they expect to find? 4.) What did they use to access it? 5.) What does it need to do to encourage and facilitate a transaction as quickly and easily as possible?

I've said it a million times. Even though it's at the heart of our unique selling proposition, it sometimes becomes just recitation. But the other day as I went through the list, a prospect stopped me. He grabbed a pen, took out a piece of paper and said: "Can you repeat those, please?"

It's not rocket science, so why does it seem so revolutionary? Because so much of the web over the past 16 years has been "about the art.' Pretty pictures. Built in Flash. Incompatible with many browsers and devices. Limited in functionality due to lack of technical expertise. It's been created by agencies who view index.html as a new canvas that can't wait to be the vehicle for their next wonderfully creative expression. Who needs concepts like usability, intuitive navigation, conversion funnels when it's really all about the art?

I'm not diminishing the power of great graphical presentation, but a tepid economy is forcing businesses to demand measurable results for their marketing. For too many years businesses have laughed at the axiom: "Half my marketing money is well spent, the other half is totally wasted, but I just can't figure which is which," and then went on to pay marketing firms and advertising agencies huge sums of money for campaigns that favored creativity over measurability, and art over ROI.

The fact that everything that happens on the web is measurable is causing marketing gurus finally to see the light. But those of us who have been shining that light for over a decade and a half are saying it's about time. Since that January day in 1996 when we opened our doors as one of Milwaukee's very first web development companies and introduced "web sites with vision," we have focused on delivering demonstrable, measurable, and improvable value for our clients. It is…and always has been…about knowing exactly what the client's goals and visitor expectations are, and making sure that the design and technology work together intelligently to meet them both.

From our first e-commerce-enabled web site in 1997 and our first mobile website in 1999, "responsive web" has been at the core of what we do. What's now being called responsive design isn't just the next shiny object. It's "Smart Design and Creative Technology" that has differentiated us from our competition these past sixteen years, and is what will keep us leading the pack for the next sixteen.

Trivera's Tom Snyder One of Several Authors in New Business E-Book

100-ways-to-build-your-business-in-2012

Milwaukee's Clear Verve Marketing has released “100 Ways to Build Your Business in 2012, "  a collaborative effort between Clear Verve,  and 20 Milwaukee area firms who all contributed ideas to the book.

Trivera Founder and President Tom Snyder's contribution to the book is "5 Procedures to Resuscitate your Website."  Other sections of the book deal with topics from marketing to management.

“I was honored to be considered one of the smart Milwaukee business people chosen to contribute to the project," said Snyder. "We've always been a fan and partner of Clear Verve founder and president Christina Steder. To be a part of this project with her and so many other local business heroes was a no brainer. "

The e-book is full of ideas for businesses to implement over the coming year, and the site where the e-book can be downloaded also provides readers with the opportunity to receive monthly emails with tips to help maintain their momentum.

The e-book is available for download for free at www.100Ways2012.com. Sign up for the email tips is also available by clicking on the Continued Success tab.

Trivera's Tom Snyder Maintains Busy Speaking Schedule

The new year is shaping up to be as busy as the old one for Trivera Founder and CEO Tom Snyder who will be speaking at several Midwest events.

On February 2, 2012, Tom will be presenting "Managing Social Marketing" at the Metropolitan Builders Association Business Management Symposium at their headquarters in Waukesha. The event is open to members and non-members. Details and registration information can be found on the MBA Site.

The following week, on February 9th, Tom will be presenting "Twitter: Fun and Games or Powerful Business Tool?" at the Sales Progress 2012 Kickoff held at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. The event also includes other seminars, followed by a large networking session, and free soda and food.  The event is free, but registration is required. Details are here.

Later in the month, Tom will be presenting "Getting to the Top in Google – Your Blueprint for Search Engine Success" at the Wisconsin Association of Home Builders 2012 Builders' Conference, at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. The event runs February 22-24, 2012, with Tom's presentation kicking things off first thing on the morning of the 22nd. The event is open to members and non-members. Details and registration can be found at the WHBA site.

Watch for more opportunities to hear Tom and other Trivera team members to speak and present at events throughout the Midwest in 2012. Or contact us to have a Trivera team member speak at your event.

 

9 Questions Your IT Guys Need to Answer Before You Host Your Own Website

16 years ago when I started our web development firm, I had to decide where we were going to host our client sites. At the time there were really only a couple places in Milwaukee that offered website hosting, and none of them offered up-time guarantees or provided much in the way of service or support, even for companies like ours that would be sending them dozens of clients.  But we had to choose one. So we did, and hosted all our client websites there.

After 2 years of frequent and extended down times, poor support and clients calling us to solve problems we couldn’t fix, we decided to set up our own hosting operation. We’ve been hosting our client sites ever since.

Occasionally, we have a new client who wants to host with a large, cheap, national commodity hosting company. We explain to them why it’s unwise to put their website somewhere with slow load times, poor (or non-existent) support, chronic downtime and/or a value proposition of being the hosting provider whose commercials tease you with a chance to see Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels naked. They usually see the light and let us host it.

But, lately, we’ve been seeing another growing trend. Clients who proudly tell us they’re going to host the site themselves. The effort is always driven by an internal IT person with one of several predictable motives, none of which include an objective decision to put the site on the best hosting service possible.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own corporate web presence, and have your IT guys insisting  that you can, or even should, host it internally, you’ll want to ask them these 8 questions to determine whether that’s the direction to go:

1.) Does your internal hosting solution include guaranteed power backup capabilities?

We’re not talking about a little consumer level APC battery backup, but a system that automatically flips to batteries and/or generators with private fuel contracts that assure your site will remain up without any interruption, even in the event of a power failure that lasts for days. Or weeks.

2.) Are they willing, able and available to provide the service and support a website requires?

That doesn’t mean just 8am-5pm on weekdays. Real website support means someone who is available 24/7/365 to immediately respond to phone calls or emailed issues related to outages and other server problem. It means having those phone numbers and email addresses on every page of your website. It also means a commitment not to let those problems wait till it’s convenient to fix them, but a proficiency, willingness and dedication to restore a crashed server within 20 minutes, no matter when it happens.

3.) Do they understand everything necessary about making a hosting environment PCI-DSS compliant?

This means knowing when to update all the hosting infrastructure-specific packages (OS, Web server, Database, compilers and platforms, SSL handling, etc.) , and understanding what is necessary to protect credit card and other critical personal information.

4.) Are they so confident in their security expertise that they are comfortable providing a potential backdoor to your company’s entire internal network to the world? 

There are armies of hackers, crackers, pirates and other miscreants who pride themselves on being superior to your IT people when it comes to web security. They scour the web with bots and spiders to find vulnerable systems they know they can exploit, and when they find them, they tunnel in as far as they can go… not just stopping at your site, but also taking advantage of typical network infrastructure to gain access to your data. All of it. Are your guys absolutely certain that your systems would be safe?

5.) Do they know how to stop or, better yet, prevent a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS)?

The solution to having your site bombarded and overloaded with thousands or millions of hits from IP addresses all over the world is not doing an emergency Google search when it happens to figure out how to make it stop.  By the time you find your answer, your site, your server and your network may already be suffering damage from which it might not ever recover.

6.) Does your network connection provide redundancy in its connection to the web?

We’re not talking about dual T-1?s coming in through the same pipe, but rather redundant physical connections from multiple physical entry points to your building, each providing a different path to the Internet backbone to eliminate site outages to portions of the country in the event of a main trunk outage on any one of them.

7.) Does your connection provide the necessary dedicated bandwidth that websites need today?

With thousands of site visitors these days with broadband speeds of 20, 30 or 50 MBPS, one or even two T-1?s aren’t enough.

8.) Is it really worth it to make your company pay more for the development just so you can host it internally?

Your web developers are more efficient when they don’t have to develop your site in an unfamiliar, improperly equipped and potentially misconfigured environment, and have to deal with a server administrator that’s not familiar with their needs. Your cost to develop the site will be more if it’s hosted at your company.

So what if you ask your IT guys the above 8 questions, and they say “yes" or “yes, we can" to all of them? Ask them this one:

9.) Can you do all of this as a budget line item of less than a couple hundred bucks a month?

Even if your IT staff and internal hosting infrastructure is capable of the above, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth the expense. Add it all up. Can you really get all of this for anything close to the couple hundred dollars a month for a virtual dedicated server fully managed by your web development vendor, and even less for a site in a shared hosting environment in the same facility?

The logic is simple. Let your IT people focus on maintaining your internal network infrastructure and security and leave your website hosting to the guys who do it for a living, and have been for a long time. It’s too important to do anything less

Trivera's Tom Snyder Speaks at ISACA Event

Everyone is buzzing about Social Media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, blogs and other Web 2.0 sites and applications are the new face of the Internet.  Because Social Media is having a game-changing impact on how people make their buying decisions, businesses are rightly concerned. While Marketers view it as an amazing opportunity, others within most companies aren’t as enthusiastic.  Legal departments view it as a source of potential liability. For HR, it’s a ball of confusion. Accounting can’t figure out the return on the investment. Employees are unaware of its true impact on their career. And for IT, it’s just one huge pain in the rear.

Initiated as a consumer-oriented technology, social media is increasingly being leveraged as a powerful, low-cost tool for enterprises to drive business objectives such as enhanced customer interaction, greater brand recognition and more effective employee recruitment. While social media affords enterprises many potential benefits, information risk professionals are concerned about its inherent risks such as data leakage, malware propagation and privacy infringement. Enterprises seeking to integrate social media into their business strategy must adopt a cross-functional, strategic approach that addresses risks, impacts and mitigation steps, along with appropriate governance and assurance measures.

To educate professionals on the topic, Trivera president Tom Snyder presented The Risky Business of Social Media for the Kettle Moraine chapter of the The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) on Wednesday November 16, 2011.

Event was presented LIVE  in BROOKFIELD, broadcast remotely to MADISON and the FOX VALLEY and available virtually via WEBEX.

Tom is available to speak for your event. Contact us for details

Trivera Websites Win National Design Competition

Trivera Interactive, one of the Milwaukee area's most established digital agencies, has been recognized by New York-based Graphic Design USA for its excellence in website design.

Seven websites created by Trivera were recognized for outstanding work in internet and interactive design. They include:

. "The 2011 American Graphics Design Awards attracted a remarkable 8,000+ entries; a very select 15 percent are recognized with an Awards Certificate of Excellence," said editor/publisher Gordon Kaye.

'We are thrilled to have our work recognized as part of this national competition," said Tom Snyder, President/CEO of Trivera. "Our designers have been doing great work for clients since our founding in 1996, and it's great for them to be recognized on a national stage" Snyder added. Andy Frahm and Ian McDowell are Trivera's designers who will be listed, along with examples of the winning designs, on the Graphic Design USA website and in a full-color 300-page annual in the near future.

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Graphic Design USA has presented national design competitions that spotlight areas of excellence and opportunity for creative professionals For nearly five decades. The American Graphic Design Awards is the origi­nal and the flagship, open to everyone in the community: advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corpo­rations, institutions, publishers and more. It honors outstanding work across all media: print and collateral, advertising and sales promotion, corporate identity and logos, internet and interactive design, packaging and p-o-p, broadcast and motion graphics.

Trivera Interactive has been helping businesses re-enforce their brands by leveraging Web technology since 1996. As one of the Midwest's oldest and most respected digital firms, Trivera continues to lead the way in Web and application development, Search Engine Optimization and Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media and Mobile Web and Applications creation from their location in the historic Mill Building in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

For more information, contact Tom Snyder, 262-250-9400

Trivera's Tom Snyder speaks for Small Business Series

Join Trivera President and CEO as he presents an extensive 2 hour "Twitter for Small Business" seminar on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 as part of the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education Small Business Seminars in partnership with UWM Small Business Development Center.

Usually his Social Media Overview has about 20 minutes on Twitter. From time to time he does a one hour Twitter seminar, and always seems to run out of time. This time, Twitter gets 2 full hours. Everything from tools to tactics and beyond:

  • Creating your Profile
  • Monitoring your Space
  • Building your Flock
  • Engaging your Twibe
  • Establishing your Cred
  • Marketing your Stuff

If you own or manage a small business, or are responsible for your company's marketing, you can't afford to miss this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Continental Breakfast included at 7:30 a.m. Seminar: 8:00-10:00 a.m. Research Park/Wauwatosa Chamber 10437 Innovation Drive Classroom 121 Wauwatosa

Chamber Member Price: $20 Community Member Price: $30

YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER

Sign up here, or call call the UWM School of Continuing Education at 414-227-3098

Trivera Covered in Local Patch Article

Menomonee Falls Patch editor Carl Engelking stopped by recently to see what was going on in one of the oldest, and coolest spaces in his beat. What he discovered gave him material for a front page article on Trivera and its president, Tom Snyder. Carl talks about the process that brought Trivera from its founding as a small website firm 15 years ago to one of the major Social Media and digital services firm in 2011.

See the entire article and photos here

 

Lights, Camera, Actually Good Video.

There’s no doubt that from an informational, persuasive and viral standpoint, video can be an important part of your marketing strategy.  And just like your website, presenting your brand the best way possible in this medium requires a professional. But as a business owner, I do understand the need to sometimes be forced to do things on the cheap.  That however, does not give you an excuse to create videos of the awful quality I see so much of online. It takes more than just the cheap cameras available today to produce a decent video yourself.  I know that there’s a “prevailing conventional wisdom" coming from a lot of Social Media “gurus" these days that says that rough, home-made video makes you more “authentic."

I say “Hogwash! “

You may think the information contained in a bad video may be helpful enough to the viewer that they’ll overlook bad production. I say this over and over: your brand is not your logo, it’s the promise of an experience. Everything you do either reinforces or erodes that brand. And simply put, bad video erodes your brand.

If you MUST create your own video, make sure that it reinforces your brand with these pointers:

1. Length. Video should be no more than 15 minutes with opening and closing credits. You’ll likely be posting your videos to YouTube as a part of both a storage/delivery solution and a component of viral distribution and 15 minutes is the maximum length YouTube will accept. If the topic cannot be completely covered in 15 minutes, create a series with 15 minute parts. Remember the Chinese proverb that says “The truth can be told in few words."  Understand that attention spans are short and the longer the video is, the less likely that people will stay engaged all the way through.

2. Subject matter. The goal is not to cram as much information into 15 minutes as you can. Online video is more compelling if the idea is simple. People are easily distracted when watching a video, so you can’t try to put too much into one. Try to convey one or two ideas at the most. Begin by telling people what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them, ideally using 3 points. Finally, tell them what you told them. Remember, you may be the expert, but the focus of the message is not you, it’s the viewer. They have a situation, a question, a problem or a curiosity, and you have the solution. Communicate that solution to them clearly, genuinely and enthusiastically. You’ll keep their attention, earn their appreciation and potentially win their business.

3. Content. If it’s about your brand, content should always be family-friendly.  You never know when a prospective customer will have a little one on their lap or looking over their shoulder, so make sure your content and language is appropriate for viewers of any age.  Don't disparage other products, services, people or organizations, and don't make inappropriate comments about age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Don't advocate for any political organization or party or promote or recruit for any religious denomination. And don’t demean any of them either.

4. On-camera Presence. You are the authority. The way you come across needs to re-enforce that. If you’re not comfortable, it will show, and your viewers will be uncomfortable, too. You’ll undermine your own credibility. Practice to work on eliminating the “umms" and “uhhhs" so you sound confident and professional.

Then practice again, focusing on the camera. Unless you need to look at something you’re demonstrating, don't let your eyes wander anywhere else but directly into the lens. If you’re going to be sitting in the video, sit on a chair that doesn't swivel and practice to avoid squirming. If you’re standing,  practice to keep from rocking back and forth.

Practice enough times so that you’re not just reading copy, but actually communicating the information in a personal and conversational manner.

Practice, practice, practice.

5. Audio. Nothing screams “unprofessional" like a cheap microphone feet away from the speaker. Invest in a good clip-on microphone. Try to eliminate any distracting ambient room noise. If you’re shooting outside, make sure your microphone has a windscreen. If you'll have more than one person speaking, try to provide a microphone for each individual, and ensure that everyone's audio level is equal.

Your message is important. Do all you can to make it easy to hear so it can be understood.

6. Lighting. Lighting is everything. Digital video can’t have enough light. But if you’re shooting outside, try to do it on a slightly overcast day. Bright sunlight causes shadows and makes you squint.  Some cloudiness eliminates both.

If you’re shooting indoors, several lights aimed at the walls and ceiling will light you without blinding you, casting harsh shadows or reflecting off your face. Construction site lights actually work well if you’re on a budget.

7. Camera. Create your video in High Definition (720p or 1080i, ideally recorded at 29.97 or 24 frames per second). Even cheap video cameras (and even many still cameras) these days are capable of shooting video with that resolution. Don’t get cute with someone shooting while constantly moving around you, zooming in and out or circling you. This isn't MTV. Use a tripod, and put the camera close enough so you are the predominant image.

8. Stills slides and Edits. While not necessary, still pictures or slides with information  can be added. They are a good way to set a scene or help with transitions. But beware of video editing programs. If you don’t already know how to use them correctly, they can be a huge time suck. Keep your edits simple. Use edits primarily to remove extraneous and unnecessary footage, not to add wild transitions or effects. Less is more.

9. Music. Use background music only for scenes where you’ll be demonstrating something without narration or commentary. A music bed under the entire video will likely detract from your message and make it seem more like a commercial. You must have the author's and composer's permission to use any copy written music in your video. Don’t think that using your favorite smooth jazz instrumental won’t get you in trouble. Within minutes of your upload to YouTube, you’ll be getting a warning from them about copyright violation. Yeah, they find out almost immediately.

A big list, I know. But if your ultimate goal for creating a video is to position your brand as one based on quality and commitment to excellence, sweating the details on the production will be critical.  If the above list is overwhelming and intimidating, your limited time will be better spent maintaining your focus on your product or service and leaving the video to the pros.  But if you think you have an aptitude in this area, and are willing to heed the advice you may still be able to produce brand re-enforcing media yourself. While production values won't rival those you see on TV it may still be good enough.  If you're OK with your brand being represented by a happy medium it doesn’t take expensive equipment, just a little attention to detail. At least it won't be an embarrassment.

Jumpstarting Your Business with Social Media - Free Event

The leading Social Media firm in Southeastern Wisconsin is teaming up with the newest hotel in Menomonee Falls to help local businesses take advantage of the Social Media phenomenon. Trivera Interactive presents "Jump Starting Your Business with Social Media", Thursday, July 14th from 4 to 6pm at the new Radissson Hotel, Main Street and Hwy 45, in Menomonee Falls.

The two hour event, begins in the Radisson Ballroom with Trivera President and author Tom Snyder presenting: "Social Media - Fun and Games or Powerful Business Tool." Snyder is a regular speaker on the topic of Social Media and Web marketing at events like the Biz Times Biz Tech Expo, Metropolitan Builders Association, Social Media Breakfast, the Nonbox Winter Marketing Summit, and many other trade group and association events. The presentation will cover how to develop your strategy to determine which Social Media sites present the greatest chance for success, and then giving a brief overview of the most common uses of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube and more.

Following the presentation, Snyder and other local experts will be on hand in the RBG Bar and Grill Restaurant, also at the New Radisson, for an hour to provide hands-on training and one on one Q&A. Sign ups for upcoming lunch and learns will also be available.

Since 1996, Trivera Interactive has been helping businesses leverage the power of Web and Social Media. Clients include Mitchell International Airport, Usinger's, Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Regal Ware, Frabill, the Metropolitan Builders Association, ZBB Energy and dozens of others. In 2009 Trivera's Social Media University, Milwaukee's first large Social Media training event drew 400 attendees. Trivera President is also the author of The Complete Idiot's Mini Guide to Real-Time Marketing Using Foursquare, published by Penguin Books and available at Amazon.com

The brand-new Radisson Hotel in Menomonee Falls, WI offers a beautiful, urban-design. Hotel features an array of outstanding amenities and services including complimentary Wi-Fi access, a Business Center, on-site Fitness Center, heated indoor pool and whirlpool, meeting facilities, and on-site dining and room service. The Radisson is just minutes from downtown Menomonee Falls and only 14 miles from Milwaukee's city center.

The event is free and open to all local businesses. Cash bar, appetizers and food will be available for purchase. Seating is limited. Please Register at http://triverajumpstart.eventbrite.com/