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All Posts tagged Web development

Stephanie Senechal Trivera's Newest Team Member

Stephanie SenechalStephanie Senchal has joined Team Trivera as a web designer/front end developer. Her role at Trivera is to help identify our client's ideal target customer, then create a digital experience that guides them to a positive outcome. Whether it's a responsive website, a compelling email piece, a banner ad or app, Stephanie specializes in creating clean, brand-focused UI/UX based on usability and solid analytics.

Stephanie comes to us with over 7 years of agency experience, most recently at PowerSports Network. In all of her previous roles, Stephanie has collaborated with sales, marketing, editorial, creative, and web development teams to create visually pleasing designs and digital media for multiple platforms. Her credentials include web design, front-end development, UI, UX and analytics while working with national brands like Harley-Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Arctic Cat and others.

Stephanie's graphic design educational foundation comes from the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she majored in Graphic Design and minored in Digital Photography. During her time at Stout, she was also the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts Stout Student Chapter. Stephanie also studied Painting & Drawing at Goldsmiths College at the University of London.

When she's not busy doing great work for Trivera clients, she loves to sketch, chill with her cat Merle and explore the great outdoors.

Trivera turns 21!

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Having been in business 21 years has allowed us to celebrate several birthdays with a look back at how far we've come. But 21 is symbolic of the entry into of adulthood and typically marks the beginning of a new level of maturity and accountability. And so, we're using this milestone to look forward.

The year ahead will be marked by the successful transformation of the ideal Trivera client relationships, as they evolve from exclusively website-based project work to deeper, more strategic ongoing digital marketing partnerships. That change began last year with the addition of new team members with skill sets in branding, integrated digital and inbound marketing strategies. It has continued with the development of a new, transformational 12 month process, one that begins with brand discovery and strategy development, and continues with tactical plans to strengthen every aspect of our clients' digital marketing efforts with constant monitoring, analysis and improvement. That new process is appropriately named "Evolve."

In addition to the new process, we've also deepened the strengths we've been known for for the past 21 years. Trivera's team now has greater depth in the areas of organic SEO, PPC and Social Media. We've also added Magento and Concrete5 certification to our credentials to back up our significant experience developing websites in both platforms.

While we're growing by addition, we are also maturing by subtraction. Over the next year, we'll be continuing our efforts to transition much of our hosting operation from our own data center to fully managed third party operations that specialize in Magento and Concrete5 hosting and 24/7 support. That effort will allow us to focus our own internal resources on the quality and management of the sites and applications we've developed, and less on the equipment, environment and security necessary for their operation.

Our client list will also continue its shift from smaller limited "website-only" engagements to one of fewer, but larger, deeper, long term ones that take advantage of all Trivera has to offer.

Watch for our own new trivera.com website to launch in February. The site will communicate our new direction and highlight more of our new client success stories while still preserving the archival information resources we've developed over decades of digital marketing leadership.

Over the past 21 years, how we've used the internet to support our businesses and organizations has evolved. What was once referred to as "Cyberspace," "the world wide web," the "CB radio of the 90's," the "information superhighway," the "dotcom boom"...and crash...the "new economy," have all evolved to become simply an integral part of every person's...and every business'...daily life. We're proud that we've been able to evolve with it and help hundreds of businesses leverage the power of digital marketing we knew existed when we opened for business on January 16, 1996.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 20 year old strategic digital marketing firm, with offices in suburban Milwaukee.  Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations re-inforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and Web technology as powerful tactics in their marketing and communications strategy.

 

5 Reasons Why Sliders Suck (and 4 Things To Do Instead)

by Serene Mireles, Web Design/Front-end Development Specialist

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There’s been a lot of debate in the world of web design about using a slider/carousel (see the study by usability expert, Jakob Nielsen).  They look nice, but as a lover of modern design and architecture, I’m a firm believer in form following function. Sliders aren’t functional. (We're in the process of redesigning Trivera's website, and we're not including one!)

Here are five reasons why sliders don’t convert (and can hurt your SEO):

  1. They slow down your site
  2. They look like ads, so users scroll right past them (banner blindness)
  3. They dilute your marketing message—there’s no focal point
  4. Sliders that automatically advance take control away from the user
  5. Research shows that only about 1% of users click on sliders


Slider Alternatives


So what should you use instead? We recommend creating simple content that clearly communicates your company's message. You can achieve that with one of the approaches below.

Use a hero image. A static hero image (a large full-width image) with a strong marketing message and a call to action can achieve a similar look to a slider. It provides visual interest to grab a user’s attention, and creates hierarchy on the page. This approach has been proven to convert. Here are some examples of sites that use a hero image with a call to action: Moz , Starbucks, Netflix and  Hello Fresh.

Use a video. Videos engage users. They tell a story, create human interest, and can quickly deliver your message. Here are some examples of successful sites that use a video: IBM , Blue Apron, Airbnb and HP.

Use a lead generation form or a search form with a hero image. This approach is similar to the hero image approach, but adds a conversion point to a prime area of your site (above the fold.) Here are some examples: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Uber, Evernote and Epicurious.

Use a grid approach. Using a grid approach allows you to feature more than once message without overwhelming a user or slowing down your site. This layout also works really well on mobile devices. Here are some examples: Apartment Therapy, Lifehacker and Twitter.

Even though visitors are used to scrolling past the fold to view engaging, compelling content, the spot typically occupied by sliders is too valuable to waste with anything that doesn't provide measurable value. By using your Google Analytics or heat mapping, you can find the element that best facilitates a user journey that leads to conversion. 

 

About Serene Mireles

serene01.jpgSerene Mireles is one of Team Trivera's Web design/Front End Development specialists. In her role, Serene uses her 18 years of digital design experience to build websites focused on user journeys to create ROI for our clients. Serene was the first developer in the world to be certified for Concrete5 version 7. 

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock 

Omelio Hopwood Joins Team Trivera

Omelio Hopwood

Omelio Hopwood has joined Team Trivera as a PHP wizard, with a specialty in Magento development. While developing robust functionality for client websites may not seem exciting, "Oh" (as we call him) has already experienced a more amazing life than most of us will ever live.

Omelio came to the US from Jamaica as a child. Since his arrival, he has always had a passion for all aspects of technology. But, starting in high school, he decided to focus his passion on the web and software development. After graduating high school and spending a year in college, he took a detour and joined the US Air Force. His tour of duty took him to Japan for 3 years. With a new sense of self confidence and worth following his time in the service, he came back and got his Bachelors of Science from UW-M, majoring in Information Science & Technology. Following a stint at the Milwaukee veterans accelerator program VETransfer where he developed an app that got him covered in the Milwaukee Business Journal, his focus of late has been to take his programming expertise, turn himself into an accomplished, certified Magento developer, and become a valuable member of Team Trivera.melio Hopwood has joined our team as a PHP wizard, with a specialty in Magento development. While developing robust functionality for client websites may not seem exciting, "Oh" (as we call him) has already experienced a more amazing life than most of us will ever live.

Previously, Omelio was a Magento Developer at Sitesquad and a PHP programmer at Gross Automation. 

A brand new dad, and new Menomonee Falls resident, Omelio is grateful to have a gig within walking distance of his home so, when he's not working, he can spend all his time with his family.

Why I (and Our Clients) Love the Concrete5 CMS

by Serene Mireles, Web Design/Front-end Development Specialist

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Concrete5 is a powerful open source content management system (CMS). I started using concrete5 (C5) when I first came to Trivera a year ago. Previously, I worked with proprietary CMSs and other open source platforms that have a steep learning curve. Not C5. Concrete5 is user friendly for content editors, developers, and designers. I’m not the only designer who loves concrete5—it was the winner of the CMS Critic Award for Best CMS for Designers of 2015.

Here are a few of its many features:

  • In-context editing and a Microsoft Word-like content editor. All page edits are done on the page itself once you are logged in and in edit mode. No more filling out web forms and guessing where the information will end up on the page. 
     
  • Mobile Optimized & Responsive. Your website will look good on any screen size or device. 
     
  • Easy to set up and use right out of the box. You don’t need to purchase any extensions to achieve the look or functionality you want. 
     
  • Forms and Surveys. Easily created in few simple steps without any code. 
     
  • Developer Community. There is an active concrete5 community where you can get support from hundreds of other developers in the forums. 
     
  • Scalability and Extendability. Hundreds of add-ons (eCommerce, inventory management, customer management, fulfillment, the list goes on and on) make it possible for your site to do nearly anything you can think of.


Our clients love it too! Here’s what some of them have to say about concrete5:

“As a developer I've worked with numerous CMS solutions. Some have been cumbersome to manage, others are limited by a simplistic client interface. Concrete5 accomplishes the best balance between the two: it is both powerful and simple. A user-friendly interface lets editors manage site content with ease and minimal training. Developers can easily create themes, blocks, and add-ons to create a powerful, custom-tailored platform.” — Sean McMahon, MMSD

“We really like the flexibility and ease of changing evergreen content blocks with the stacks option. Certain aspects of our organization can change at a moment's notice, and we need to be able to update site-wide content in the fastest way possible. Stacks allow us to do that in the blink of an eye!” — Erik Bergstrom and Erin Donegan, Dental Associates

“Concrete5 allows me to turn a unique design into a dynamic, customizable site in a short amount of time and with no fuss. Unlike other CMS options, my designs are not bound by anything other than my own limitations or goals.” — Bilan Hockers, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino


If you’re not satisfied with your CMS, or if your website isn’t built with a CMS and you can’t update it yourself, it’s time to check out concrete5! Visit concrete5.org to learn more.
 

About Serene Mireles

serene01.jpgSerene Mireles is one of Team Trivera's Web design/Front End Development specialists. In her role, Serene uses her 18 years of digital design experience to build websites focused on user journeys to create ROI for our clients. Serene was the first developer in the world to be certified for Concrete5 version 7. 

Two Web Design Trends That Are Here To Stay

responsstrat.jpgBy Craig Schneider, Designer/Front End Deeveloper

Web design trends come and go faster than political posts in Facebook, so it's important to weigh their potential against their impact on your site. Sometimes these elements benefit the user experience and become common user interface patterns. But often these experiences fail to deliver any tangible results.

These two "trends" have proven their worth and become mainstays in today's web design.

Hero images (not the Marvel or DC kind)

We've all seen multi-image sliders or carousels at the top of website home pages. Although they're very common, studies have shown that the use of multiple images can lead to mixed messaging and confusion from a marketing standpoint. In addition, image sliders increase load time because multiple images and scripts need to load in order to run these elements. Instead, we recommend pairing a hero image with elements that move a user down the page (users do scroll, and the lingering myth to the contrary has been debunked). This eliminates the need for confusing carousels and reduces load time.

By reducing the clutter on a page and presenting a singular image tied to your marketing message, you reduce the potential for information overload and allow a user to focus and settle into your site. If you want something more visually exciting, using subtle animation or video elements can enhance the visibility of the area, furthering the potential of discovery.

Responsive design

Responsive design is no longer just a trend, it is best practice. With ever-rising mobile traffic and the cross-pollination of site traffic from social media, it is imperative to deliver a site tailored to the user's specific device. Responsive sites use percentage-based widths and responsive images to adjust layouts as they scale down to mobile devices. This fluidity, along with the ability to turn off elements to reduce clutter, leads to increased site performance.

Not only is the visual user interface important from a branding standpoint, but it also impacts SEO. Google released a search algorithm update in the Spring of 2015 which penalizes sites that aren't mobile friendly. As our main man Tom Snyder has pointed out, "Companies that have responsive, search optimized sites are now getting 60 - 70% of their traffic from mobile devices, achieving lower bounce rates, garnering higher mobile conversion rates, and getting even better rank for non-mobile searches."

The bottom line is that if your site isn't responsive, it will hurt your bottom line!

Of course we're always looking for design inspiration and working to understand how current technology is impacting your website visitors' expectations. By integrating these two best practices into the creative ideas for improving user experience on your site, your website can support your other marketing channels and help you achieve your business goals.
 

About Craig Schneider

Criag Schneider.jpgCraig Schneider is one of Team Trivera's Web design/Front End Development specialists. In his role, Craig uses his 10 years of digital design experience to build websites focused on user journeys to create ROI for our clients. Craig also assisted Concrete5 in development of their certification program. 

Meet Todd Zimmerman, the Newest Member of Team Trivera

todd01.jpgTodd Zimmerman has joined Trivera as Project Manager.  

A former English major and UWM film student, Todd fell into IT as a profession and discovered a drive to use technology to make work life more productive and enjoyable. Over his 20 year career, he has also held titles including Response Center Engineer, Webmaster, Interactive Manager, and PR & Marketing Director.

Todd brings his organizational experience to bear on Trivera's roster of complex activities, working with all staff to make sure projects progress smoothly and on schedule. Todd has developed intranets and public web sites for several manufacturing and technology companies, at times handling everything from server configuration to copywriting. This variety of experience provides him with the knowledge and vocabulary to work with both technical and creative staff, synchronizing efforts towards shared goals.

He comes most recently from Versant Solutions, where as Interactive Manager he managed site administration and development for clients including Thomson Reuters, Barnes & Noble, and the Milwaukee County Transit System.

In his free time Todd enjoys racing sailboats, motorcyling, science fiction, his wondermutt Luna, and endlessly troubleshooting his home internet connection with Time Warner tech support. A former President and Marketing Director of Skydive Milwaukee, he spent ten years on their Board of Directors and still serves as public spokesman when called upon.

Back To School! What Our Clients Learned About Digital Marketing Last Year!

by Jamie Rinehart,  Digital Marketing Strategist

backtoschool.jpgEvery morning I walk my Boxer, Bella, before work. Any season, any weather. I particularly relish the Summer walks for the obvious reasons, it's light and warm outside. Thus the past several months have been amazing! Yesterday, as I set out on my morning jaunt, I noticed a slight change in the air, a little fall bite. As I continued, my senses now keen to seasonal changes, I observed some other signs of fall; a stray orange leaf or two on the ground and the sun was taking its sweet time to peek it's face over Lake Michigan in the east. Then, I was smacked in the face with reality, as I saw a big yellow school bus rolling down the road.

FALL IS COMING! BACK TO SCHOOL!

Overcome with the nostalgia of back-to-school, I started thinking about how Digital Marketing and Web Development is a constant cycle of learning. Team Trivera and our clients are always striving to stay cutting edge. Whether we are getting a Digital Marketing Certificate from UWM, completing a Master's Degree or gaining the latest Google certifications, we are always learning and sharing that knowledge with clients.
Now, completely in the Back-to-school spirit, I asked some of our clients what THEY have learned about Digital marketing in the past year! Here is what they shared!

Bill McCormick - Natural Look Salon and Wigs

"As a sales and marketing professional with 25 years' experience, I've used traditional marketing venues such as brochures, trade publications, trade shows and newsletters to communicate to our customers or potential customers. Prior to our meeting with the Trivera team I viewed the idea of having a website about the same as having to have a sign outside our building. In other words I felt it was a necessary part of doing business, however I did not put much thought into how the website can be used to bring in new customers.
The Trivera team has opened our eyes to the digital marketing world. They have shown us how important it is to set up and structure our website to optimize our marketing efforts through the search engines of Google, Bing and others. We are excited about the aspects of SEO and what it can do for our business in attracting new customers to our store front and e-commerce business."


Erik Bergstrom - Dental Associates

"This photo was in a case study I presented at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network member meeting this summer. It shows a parking spot in the deck Dental Associates uses in downtown Milwaukee. I walked by this parking space one day and laughed at how many times they have altered the parking configuration. Then I thought to myself, "that reminds me of the typical social media strategy over the past decade!" Start in one direction, completely pivot to another direction, move back toward the original direction, then settle for something in the middle.

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While I was speaking about social strategy at the time, it really applies to any aspect of digital marketing. Change is constant, and you must be willing to adapt and innovate if you want to continue to succeed."


Haley Kloss - Rogers Behavioral Health

"In the past year as de facto database admin, I've been working on using data to really segment our email campaigns. When we can determine the nature of a client's relationship with our brand, we can make sure they are getting content they want. We've seen success when we make our messages more and more tailored.

I think the next step in this is going to be working on what kind of content we're putting out in our email campaigns. We certainly know what we want to tell people: new programs opening, this great thing one of our docs did, etc. But that's not necessarily what people care about. Relevant content is important. I feel like a lot of people forget that, especially in digital channels. It's easy to feel like we did our work because we sent an email, put it on social, posted it on the web. But, there are still times where the metrics say our message is falling flat. So, something for us to work on for the next year!"
 

This Fall as the weather changes, leaves fall and school busses fill the roads, get "back-to-school" and learn something new about Digital Marketing!

About Jamie Rinehart

Jamie Rinehart

Jamie leverages his 10+ years of Digital Marketing and Advertising account management experience to help new Trivera clients develop strategic digital marketing plans that will help them acheive their business and brand goals.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock 

A Shout-out to Trivera Client MMSD During Water Quality Month

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August is water quality month. Here at Trivera, we're observing the month by kicking off a new project for one of our newest clients, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. We've actually been working with MMSD since earlier this year, migrating all their web properties from an expensive proprietary Content Management System to Concrete5. We're well into the migration of milorganite.com, and are just now beginning to migrate the remaining MMSD brands: mmsd.com, Huntgreen, Basement Connection and Fresh Coast 740.

At Trivera, we start every client engagement with a brand discovery process. During MMSD's brand discovery, we learned some really interesting things about them and their commitment to the environment.
Did you know that MMSD:

  • Is responsible for water reclamation and flood management for about 1.1 million people
  • Serves 28 communities in the Greater Milwaukee area
  • Allows licensed hunters to use MMSD land during hunting season
  • Has been recycling nutrient-rich microbes from the city's water reclamation process into Milorganite, a natural fertilizer, since 1926
  • Is committed to meeting a goal of having a net 100 percent of its energy supplied from renewable resources 

Trivera's efforts are focused on making MMSD's digital marketing efforts both more successful and more efficient. Greater results for less money means MMSD can continue to be great stewards of our natural resources while also making them more efficient with their financial resources.

Trivera is honored to be partners with this high profile agency, working to support their efforts to improve the quality of our water. You can learn more about MMSD and milorganite in this video: 

6 Ways That Neglecting Your Website is Killing Your Brand

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By Tom Snyder, President and CEO of Trivera

Over our 20 years in business, we have seen most of our customers fall into one of two categories. The first is the type that make their web presence a focus of a digital Marketing Stratgey, constantly updating, supporting, measuring, analyzing, improving and investing in it. The other type are the ones who contracted us to build their site, and despite our recommendations that digital marketing needs to be an ongoing process, and not just an event, still treated their launch like a drive-by.  The very vehicle that was supposed to help their business flourish in the growing digital economy now stands as a testimony to four, nine and even thirteen year old technology.  What may have been state of the art brand re-reinforcement at one time, is now the brand killing equivalent of a dilapidated building in a bad neighborhood.

When pressed to consider an update, a new focus, or additional inbound marketing efforts, the typical response is "we just don't have the money."  While that might seem like a justifiable and economical approach, it's short sighted. Your neglect is actually costing you money.

Here's why:

1.) Not regularly updating your website's content causes it to drop in ranking in search engines. Lower ranking means less traffic, resulting in fewer sales.

2.) Not executing a sound inbound marketing plan reduces the number of potential visitors who even know your site exists. That means less traffic, resulting in fewer sales.

3.) Not having an organic search engine optimization plan puts you behind all of your competitors who do. That not only means less traffic and fewer sales for you, but also more traffic and more sales for them.

4.) Not keeping up with the current best practices for navigation and visitor expectations for functionality reduces the number of site visitors who become customers. That means traffic is coming, but leaving without buying, resulting in fewer sales.

5.) Not keeping your Content Management System and operating environment up to date leaves it vulnerable to hacks and hijacks, causing things to not work in your site that you may not even be aware of. Sometimes it means your site is offline entirely. That means traffic is coming, getting frustrated because your site doesn't work properly...or at all...resulting in fewer sales (and maybe even thinking you've gone out of business).

6.) Not having a responsive site built around user journeys  loses the growing number of customers who use smartphones and tablets as their preferred web device. That means less traffic and more visitor frustration, both of which result in fewer leads/sales/conversions.

I've said before...ad naseum...that your brand is not your logo, it's the promise of an experience, and everything you do either reinforces or erodes that brand. And a crappy old website erodes your brand just as badly as letting your building get run down, not being able to provide the product or service your customer expects or making them put up with a  poor salesman or CSR.

With your website, you're either moving ahead or you're falling behind. Thinking that doing nothing keeps you where you are is a delusion.  The time to begin getting serious is long past, but before you start executing a hodgepodge of tactical efforts, the better plan for long term success is to take a strategic approach. 

Trivera Affiliate Program Creates Opportunity

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Over the years, Trivera has formed informal partnerships with other companies to fill competency and skill gaps.  However, the affiliate program formalizes the relationships to create a more permanent partnership, and also to provide financial incentives for bringing each other into projects and existing vendor relationships. Two of our affiliates have already deepened the partnership to the point of moving into Trivera's offices.

Companies and individuals being chosen and invited into the program meet the following qualifications:

1.) They provide best-in-market services that are complementary, but non-compettitve, to Trivera's core competencies.

2.) They work primarily with the same size and type of businesses and organizations that represent Trivera's target customers (Manufacturing, service, healthcare and/or ecommerce businesses, with $10-$100 million in annual revenue, and the appropriate budgets for companies that size).

3.) Their primary contact within those companies, and the person to whom they will refer us, is the CMO, VP of Marketing or Brand manager.

4.) They understand the importance of "wins" for every party in the relationship.

Under the terms of the program, Trivera pays a referral fee for any new client we acquire that was referred to us by an affiliate. If the affiliate doesn't want to accept a fee, a contribution will be made in their name to the charity of their choice.

The goal of the program is to build an affiliate network that will provide the opportunty for the region's best Digital Marketing service providers to collaborate with us, create new opportunities for each other and produce success for our clients. 

For more information, or to inquire about becoming an affiliate, contact Trivera CEO Tom Snyder ( tom@trivera.com )

Jamie Rinehart Joins Team Trivera

Jamie RinehartJamie Rinehart has joined Team Trivera as Digital Marketing Strategist. Jamie comes to Trivera with 10 years of Digital Marketing and Advertising account management experience, most recently, the Advertising Sales manager at Kalmbach Publishing Company. At Kalmbach, Jamie managed successful sales teams for Discover, Astronomy, Cabin Life, American Snowmobiler, and Art Jewelry magazines. His experience with high level national accounts helped him create and execute successful advertising and marketing strategies in partnership with global companies such as Allstate, Arctic Cat, BASF and Citgo. Jamie was instrumental recognizing and understanding the need for these publications to move from being print focused toward digital focused.

Jamie holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Mass Communications with a focus on Advertising where he still is an active member of the Alumni Association.

When not working, Jamie is an avid rec league volleyball and softball player. In addition, he enjoys running, from Marathons (has ran 5) to a jog in the neighborhood with his wife and dog. Jamie is also a huge Brewer, Packer and Bucks fan. Whether it’s going to the game, or watching at home or streaming it on his phone, Jamie will always find a way to keep up with the local Milwaukee sports teams!

Open Source: The Clear Choice for CMS Development

by Tom Snyder

My digital agency opened its doors in January of 1996. Back then, there were no proprietary Content Management Systems. Microsoft was still dismissing the notion of the web as a viable platform for business or e-commerce activity. If a website needed functionality, unless we could find something at Matt's Script Archive to accomplish the task, we built most of it from the ground up in Perl.slideshow01.jpg

As time went on, we simply continued to ride the open source path. We assembled a huge collection of functional applications we had built for client sites that could be added to and modified for new ones. Shopping carts, contact forms, opt-in email list managers, employment opportunity listings, content editors, slide shows, all built as open source using PHP.

A few years later came the emergence of Content Management Systems, which contained—as a package—many of the functional elements we previously had relied upon our own resources to create. Drupal, Joomla!, Wordpress, and others were emerging as the default new development platforms for most digital agencies who had followed the same path as ours.

Then came platforms like Magento and Concrete5, which began with a view to eventually evolve into enterprise solutions with a price tag designed to achieve profit motives. But the initial efforts of their foundational community editions were still fueled by the passion of development communities who helped to develop the core functionality. Along with them came a huge array of $5, $50, and $100 plugins and extensions to add custom functionality to meet almost any client needs. And because the open source model extended to those plug-ins and extensions, individual developers could make further modifications to meet even more demanding client requirements.

And all of this was designed to run on license-fee-free Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP operating systems running on low-overhead hardware.

The common thread was that all of these were—and still are—tools developed by people with a common purpose. That purpose was a desire to help the internet achieve its potential by providing individuals, businesses, and organizations with amazingly robust and fully functional, but still cost-effective, web presences.

During this same time, several software companies used investment money to create expensive proprietary content management and e-commerce systems designed to run on operating systems and databases with enormous licensing fees, and requiring lots of expensive hardware. Total cost of implementation and ownership ran five to 10 times that of their open source counterparts.

For the mega-corporations with huge budgets that are used to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on just about everything they do, and that believe no credible solution comes without an equally huge price tag, it provides the opportunity for lots of money to change hands.

That's fine if that's your business model. However, for a smaller digital agency, it's hard to start every web development project watching tens of thousands of dollars pass through from the client to the software companies just to create the development platform. That takes a lot of money off the table that could have been used to create more functionality, or pay for a year of post-launch support for inbound marketing and other enhancements.

Additionally, the open source model has always provided us with the flexibility and customization possibilities to always provide the client with a user experience and backend functionality that adapts to their specific needs and business model. Many closed source proprietary systems do just the opposite, forcing the business to accept the rules and functionality limits built into the system.

Smart digital agencies know that if providing value, return on investment, and total customization are all key components to their brand and value proposition, the open source model is, and has always been, the far better choice.

This article originally appeared at Opensoruce.com

Think Your Website is Mobile? Think Again!

Man-frustrated-with-phone.jpgAs a web marketing pioneer since 1995, my life has been in a constant state of frustration with marketers who have never been as eager to embrace the power of new possibilities as quickly as I thought they should.   It began with a survey taken the year I opened my agency that said 87% of all business owners believed they would never have a need for the web… EVER! It has taken a path through resistance to search engine optimization (which we began doing in 1996), e–commerce (which we began doing in 1997), email marketing (which we began doing in 1998), online Social communities (which we first did in 1999) and social media marketing (which we began doing in 2009). Eventually, universal best practices caught up to include each of those, and we were able to use the several years of experience our competition didn’t have to meet the needs of clients now willing to explore each “new” tactic, method or technology.


Frustrations of a Mobile Early Adopter

We created our first mobile websites 14 years ago for ourselves and Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport. With the Kyocera Smart Phone being the only mobile device in existence back in 2001, we were admittedly way ahead of the curve. But we knew that mobile’s amazing proliferation in Japan foreshadowed a similar explosion in the US. It wasn’t until the 2007 debut of the first iPhone, and emergence of Android phones in 2008 that it actually began to happen here. That was the beginning of our push, via our recommendations and our blog, to urge all businesses to create a web experience for their customers who preferred to interact with them via mobile devices. A handful jumped onboard immediately, and more followed.  However, 8 years later, still less than half of those clients have a website that is mobile-friendly.  And only our newest clients and a handful of fellow-visionaries have a site that is fully responsive to be viewed intuitively on any device or display size.

Introducing the “Mobile-First” Best Practice

While some would say we should be happy that we’re making progress, the sad fact is that we’re falling even further behind. The call to accommodate a mobile experience actually ended several years ago when it was replaced with a new best practice: designing your web presence with a mobile FIRST experience.

A design process that just accommodated mobile began first with a desktop user experience. Then, using a practice called graceful degradation, it removed the elements and formatting that prevented the desktop experience from displaying satisfactorily on tablets and smart phones.  Mobile first is just what it says. The first user experience, wireframe and design comp is the smartphone portrait mode.  Then, using progressive enhancement, features and design elements are added as the larger platforms and displays allow.  That approach is more difficult, and as you’d expect more expensive. But wise site owners who embraced that approach early on had their sites ready to capitalize on the shift that happened in mid-2014 when the number of website visits via mobile devices permanently surpassed that of the number via the conventional desktop machines.

That change in mobile first focus is causing a whole new analytic: users who begin their desired transaction with you on their smartphone, but frustrated with the functional or UX limitations you’re imposing on them had to go to a tablet or desktop to complete the transaction or desired task, or even decided not to do business with you at all.

What Comes Next?

As a result of those statistics, the next step in UX is emerging: The Mobile-ONLY approach. A recent report from the Altimeter Group demonstrates how fast the paradigm is shifting, and how quickly website owners and other developers are falling behind.  In my next blog, I’ll share some of the alarming statistics from that report and tell you how developers like Trivera are adapting.

How Much Should You Invest in Digital Marketing for 2015?

website-development-budget1.jpgAlthough most companies planned their 2015 marketing budgets in the last months of 2014, a new Gartner report will give you some guidance as to whether your planned investment will match that of your competitors.

According to the report, most companies plan to allocate a little more than 10% of their topline revenue for marketing in 2015, with 50% planning to increase their spend over 2014 levels.

Two thirds of companies these days still separate digital marketing as a separate category out of their overall marketing budget, with the average amount allocated to the digital efforts at a quarter of that budget.

Most companies plan to make Customer Experience their highest priority for the upcoming year, allocating 18% of their marketing budget on improving that.

The typical company will allocate 13% of their budget for Digital Advertising, with content marketing and website development just behind at 12% each.

The following chart shows how those numbers break out in dollars for various size companies:

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Those numbers may seem large to some. But there is plenty to spend it on. Our own observations confirm dozens of other studies that show how far many businesses have fallen behind in their digital marketing efforts. Few companies have responded to the shift in paradigm from desktop to mobile as the preferred customer experience. Most companies still fall behind when it comes to the latest best practices for SEO, PPC and content marketing. With email marketing and Social Media competing as the tool that creates greater results, and new transactional functionality emerging all the time, there is no shortage of digital initiatives to add to a company’s arsenal of marketing tools. 

Smart marketing decision-makers already know what they need to do to take full advantage of digital marketing to build their brand awareness, generate leads, and serve existing clients. But many have had difficulty convincing their CEOs, and CFOs to invest enough to drive efforts that will produce meaningful results.

These numbers will provide them with the evidence they need to argue their case and make sure they have the necessary dollars allocated to stay ahead of their competition.

 

Craig Schneider Joins Team Trivera

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Craig Schneider has joined TeamTrivera as a designer/front-end developer.

Craig is one of those guys who possesses the unique talent of being able to create awesome, intuitive, user-friendly website designs and then using frameworks and content management systems to turn them into fully functional websites. 
 
Craig comes aboard after a long tenure at Kalmbach publishing where most recently he was Interactive Art Director. In that role, he had been overseeing all of Kalmbach's digital properties including their 20 web sites and a team of 2 designers.  He has also been part of their Internet Strategic Development group and participated in the ideation and planning of their web-based products.
 
Craig was instrumental in leading Kalmbach into the Digital realm. On top of building the layouts and interactivity, he also worked with their in-house development team to build custom storefronts for 3 of their publications that had in-app purchases. And most recently, Craig helped lead them into responsive web design, moving 10 of their sites in that direction.  All of that experience has combined make him the perfect fit for our team.
 
When not working, Craig is an avid golfer, loves playing softball, outdoor recreation. Like the rest of the members of TeamTrivera he enjoys spending time with his family. He is also a loyal cheesehead who loves going to Packer, Badger, and Brewer games.
 
 

Scott Zsori Becomes Team Trivera's Newest Member

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Scott Zsori has joined Team Trivera as our newest back end developer.    

Scott first talked to us about coming here in 2002, but the stars weren't correctly aligned at the time. 12 years later, things finally worked out for him to come aboard as our newest back-end developer.

Scott has been working in the web as long as Trivera has, doing all of the same things, in the same languages and platforms as we do it. If it is needed for web development, he knows it, and knows it very well. But he also knows how to communicate highly technical concepts to non-technical people, making him perfect for his position at Trivera.
 
An example of just how smart Scott is: In his spare time, he created and is currently the president of TheTVDB.com, a site that contains an open database of television metadata used by thousands of websites and apps, including Plex, Kodi and some of the world's largest search engines.  While you might not be familiar with the site, you're probably actually a user of the data housed in it. The site's API is used by hundreds of thousands of people, gets 6 billion hits (yes, that billion with a B) and consumes 120TB of bandwidth monthly.
 
Even with all that he has free time! He enjoys spending time with his son and wife, playing video games like Dota 2 and Minecraft, cooking, debating politics, camping, swimming, and playing volleyball.  He loves the Green Bay Packers, his Kindle, his two dogs, a multitude of pond and aquarium fish, and dad jokes.  In high school he placed first in Wisconsin in his division in Academic Decathlon and was ranked in the top 50 Quake players in the world.  He's considered the best dad in the world by at least one first grader.

 

Yikes! What's Up With Your Website?

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The amount of stuff wrong with the average company website is flabbergasting. And I'm not just talking about those free DIY websites. Or the ones designed by low cost, low talent developers. Or even the ones that some agencies pretending to understand digital best practices charged way too much for.

As someone whose job it is to stay on top of current industry best practices, I can tell you that the rate at which the criteria changes is often overwhelming. And so, I'm even talking about the sites that solid firms like Trivera may have built for you a year or two ago.

Thus the need for regular, in depth site audits. If done correctly, those audits take a look at the following barometers of website health:

1.) SEO. The algorithms that search engines use to determine whether a site comes up on page 1, 10, or not at all, change weekly. While Google uses dozens of specific criteria to determine where your site comes up in searches, the overarching consideration that it uses now is whether or not people "like" your site. A significant number of people who come to your website may not.

A professional site audit will help identify the things that may be preventing you from getting the SEO rank you deserve. Correcting those issues will be the key to appearing above the fold on page one, the only place where meaningful click-throughs happen.

2.) Content. Your website communicates specific things to specific site visitors. To human visitors, it provides the necessary information to reinforce your brand's value proposition, spoken in a voice that reflects your brand personality. To the indexing spiders the search engines send to your site, it gives them information they need to determine whether or not your site will come up when certain keywords are searched for. The trick is crafting content that will do both.

A professional site audit will evaluate the effectiveness, readability, clarity, necessity, depth and formatting of all your content (text, graphics, tags, video, and supporting files).

3.) Page Design and Layout. People have conscious and subconscious expectations of what every website needs to have, and where...and how...it needs to be displayed. If it’s not right, they won't like it. It's bad enough that Google will penalize you for that, but even worse, if people do find your website, they'll be less likely to do business with you.

A professional site audit will help identify whether your site measures up and what needs to be done to build and strengthen your brand relationships.

4.) Device-Dependent User Experience. With mobile device web usage predicted to surpass desktop/laptop usage, it's critical to have a user experience that is equally rewarding and easy to use for all your visitors regardless of device. Just scaling your desktop site to display on a smartphone with navigation too small to read on tiny displays and buttons designed for mouse clicks, not fat fingers, drives mobile visitors away.

A professional site audit will tell you if you're getting, and capitalizing on, the amount of mobile traffic that you should be.

5.) Conversions. The goal of your website is to attract and convince potential customers to do business with you, and if possible even facilitate the transaction. A website that makes your brand hard to identify, your message unclear and transactions hard to execute prevents that.

A professional site audit identifies those barriers and obstacles so they can be removed, allowing your website to be a revenue generator, and not just an expense.

6.) Security Vulnerabilities. The web is teaming with hackers and crackers who find their identities (and their fortunes) in locating and taking advantage of websites they can exploit. Their methods include creating fake login screens to steal credit card, bank and personal info, and even using those hijacked sites to send the thousands of spam emails that send the unwitting there to be fooled

A professional site audit will be able to gauge how likely your site is to be used to trick people into using your site to give their money to crooks.

These are just some of the items that a professional site audit does for your digital presence. Just like it's impossible to effectively proof-read your own copy, it's also impossible to perform a complete and effective audit on your own site. Site audits are one of Trivera's core competencies. Virtually every site can use a talented set of eyes like ours to take a look at it through the above lenses, say "yikes," and get it on the road to success.

Let us know when we can take a peek at yours.

Trivera's Tom Snyder to Speak at 2014 BizExpo

tom-snyder1.jpgOn May 21, 2104, hundreds of Milwaukee area business owners and professionals will descend upon Potawatomi Bingo Casino to learn about the latest trends and best practices at the BizExpo, presented by BizTimes Media.  The event consists of dozens of booths, several award events and an impressive list of  seminars led by some of the area's most knowledgeable business leaders and experts.

Among them are Trivera President and CEO Tom Snyder who will be presenting  "The 5 Digital Marketing Mistakes You're Probably Making." at 2:45 in seminar Room C.  

In the 18 years he's been in the digital marketing field, Tom has watched thousands of owners, agencies and marketers struggle to figure out how to use web technology to help their businesses. As the parade of almost universally misunderstood shiny objects...websites, email marketing, search engine optimization, Social Media and mobile...marched on, he has seen a lot of those businesses succeed, but he's seen even more fail. Ultimately, the challenge is effectively integrating proven marketing tactics with the newest technologies. Tom will identify five of the most common digital marketing mistakes most businesses and organizations make, why those mistakes are preventing them from acheving the results they’re looking for, and what they should be doing instead. 

The session will also help them avoid a sixth digital marketing mistake they're also probably making by encouraging them to attend Trivera's upcoming Social Media University - Milwaukee on June 11th, also being held at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

Admission to the event and all sessions is free, but requires pre-registration.

Trivera Turns 18!

happy18thbirthday.jpgRegardless of our age, we all celebrate our birthdays every year. But, there are a few birthdays that mark milestones.  Sweet 16 marks a passage to the age where one can drive a car. 21 is when one is legally allowed to consume alcohol. 30, 40 and 50 are often marked with black balloons and taunts of being over the hill. I'm facing...gasp...my big 6-0 in February (or as I've chosen to call it, my second 30th birthday), but I digress.

One of the most special birthdays is the 18th. It marks the passage from youth to adulthood. You're reckoned by society as wise and mature enough to vote, get married without parental consent, and serve your country in the military. 

Today, Trivera celebrates our 18th birthday.  Back on January 16th, 1996, we became one of the very first...and one of only a handful of...web design and development agencies in Wisconsin.

At the time, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari didn't exist, just Mosaic and Firefox's predecessor Netscape. There was neither a Google nor a Bing  - the top search engines were Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, Webcrawler and Infoseek. There was no eBay, Netflix or Wikipedia.  Joomla!, Drupal, Wordpress and Concrete5 were all years from being born. Email marketing and Social Media didn't exist. Nor did Digg, Tumblr or even RSS. Smartphones, mobile devices, tablets, iPhones and iPads hadn't been invented. Pinterest, Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or even MySpace? Not even on the drawing board! There was no broadband or wifi - internet connections came via a slow dial-up modem.  And 87% of all businesses polled in a survey said that the web was a fad, and they would never have a need for it. Ever. 

Our name back then was Websight Solutions, and our tagline was "web sites with vision." Fitting because back then, anyone who was doing anything on the web had to be visionary. Jeff Bezos had just started Amazon.com. Jerry Yang and David Filo had just incorporated Yahoo!. Craig Newmark had just launched Craig's List.

And there was us.

But we convinced Usinger's, Mitchell Airport, and FrankMayer and Associates to take their first leap onto the web. In those early years, our other early adopters inlcuded Aurora and Ministry Health Care, Holy Hill, the Marcus Center, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson and Mustela. Since then, we've been proud to have also helped other noteworthy locally-based brands like Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Strattec Security Corporation, Simplicity, Perlick and Dental Associates, as well as national brands like Motorola, Lotus, Frabill, and Panasonic.  We just started working on Frank Mayer and Associates' 43rd project, and are just wrapping up Mitchell Airport's 30th. In a few weeks, InvestorsBank becomes the most recent member of the Trivera story with the launch of their new site

Despite the fact that over 18 years we've seen the web go from infancy to youthful exuberance and on to a mature and necessary component of every business' marketing arsenal, for most marketers, how to make it work is still is a mystery. So we've been honored to have hundreds of other clients ask us to help them figure it out. Some big,  some small, some household names, others obscure to all but their niche customers.  But the one thing they all have in common is that they needed someone to help them navigate through the rapidly evolving, and quite confusing world of digital marketing, web design, e-commerce, email marketing, search engine marketing, Social Media and mobile, and they chose to trust us, originally as Websight Solutions, then as wirestone, and now for the last dozen years as Trivera.  

2014 will be a year of bold new plans: new customers, new partners, continued expansion, and the 5 year reunion edition of 2009's Social Media University. So Happy Birthday to us! Thanks to our awesome clients for their years of support, and our awesome team members who helped us earn that support. As we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, our wish is for another 18 years of success for us, but more importantly for all our clients because they've given us the opportunity to help them succeed.

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