Web Design

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Thinking about working with a UX agency for the first time? Great! Welcome! You’ve probably heard about user experience, user-centered design, usability and a host of other names for following a customer-centric approach to designing products. There is a wealth of nuance here, but these are the key things you need to know.

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IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

It may seem pretty straight-forward, but the user experience (UX) design process is frequently confused or misrepresented. Let’s talk about what it’s not first. In the past, I’ve been asked to spend two hours to “UX some wireframes.” While I wish there was a magic UX wand to allow me to do that, creating a great user experience does not equal “doing some wireframes,” and it’s certainly not something that happens with the snap of a finger.

There is also a big difference between expert-led best practice design and user-centered design. There are many excellent designers out there who have a great grasp of best practices in design, but every product is different, and without focusing on UX from the outset, the output you’ll get is likely to be akin to a flashy but generic, ill-fitting suit. A great user experience is tailored. It’s important that you know what you’re asking for and what impact that has on your outcomes.

UX also is not market research. Market research often looks at demographics and attitudes. While that detail can be helpful to an organization, it is not nearly as helpful as understanding behaviors, needs and goals for solving design problems.

IT’S A PROCESS

Fifteen years ago, the field of usability emerged to fix the pain points of the nascent user interfaces of the digital age. Today, having an interface that is merely “usable” is table stakes. UX design encompases consideration of culture, emotion, context and behavioral models, and it looks for results that summon emotions like empathy, surprise and delight. UX is so much more than just usable.

To get there, it’s key to understand that UX design is a process. It is an iterative process which lays a groundwork through customer insight research, best practices, competitive landscapes, metrics analysis, business analysis and a variety of other activities to create an understanding of both the business and the behaviors, needs and goals of customers. Like a pyramid, every phase and activity provides a solid foundation for prioritizing and design decision-making in the next phase.

User experience design is not just about making something shiny. The outcome is a rational and justifiable final product that sets your business up for success.

ARE YOU READY?

If you’re considering working with a UX agency, there is one important question you need to ask: is your organization ready to collaborate? Working with a UX design agency is transformative for many organizations and requires collaboration not just with the agency but across your own company with stakeholders you may not have worked with before. Your customers don’t care if organization is siloed. They expect a cohesive and integrated experience. The goal of the UX design process is to help you get there.

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Outlook will let you manage your work and personal email on your phone and tablet as efficiently as you do on your computer.

Microsoft today launched Outlook for Android and iOS. The former is available (in preview) for download now on Google Play and the latter will arrive on Apple’s App Store later today.

The debut comes less than two months after Microsoft acquired email startup Acompli for $200 million. In fact, Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office, tells VentureBeat the Acompli team has already been integrated into the Outlook team, and today’s launch is a direct result of that.

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The pitch is simple: Outlook will let you manage your work and personal email on your phone and tablet as efficiently as you do on your computer. The app also offers calendar features and attachment integration (with OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and iCloud), along with customizable swipes and actions so you can tailor it to how you specifically use email.

Outlook for Android will be in preview for a few months, unlike its iOS counterpart. This is a strategy Microsoft has adopted for its various cross-platform apps: There are simply more types of Android devices out there, and the company wants user feedback to work out any potential kinks.

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 The Outlook app for Google’s and Apple’s mobile platforms is free for consumers. It supports Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, iCloud, and other major email services.

 We say “free for consumers,” but it is technically free for businesses users as well. That said, Microsoft does plan to offer business-specific features for the app that will require an Office 365 subscription.

 White tells us these premium features are currently slated “for the first half of this calendar year.” While we don’t know everything that’s coming, she confirmed data protection, rights management, and encryption are all in the pipeline.

 Microsoft says Acompli users will find the Outlook app a familiar experience because it was built from the Accompli code base. The company also promised to “rapidly update the Outlook app” — aside from pay-for premium features, however, it didn’t discuss what’s next.

 “Since the acquisition, we’ve been working hard on integrating our team and development processes to ensure we’re able to continue rapidly delivering new features and functionality to our customers,” Javier Soltero, Outlook general manager and former CEO of Acompli, said in a statement. “Our mission is to bring the best mobile email experience across platforms, in a way that is as familiar and functional as Outlook itself.”

 Soltero also threw out some interesting numbers: The average business user today sends and receives 121 emails per day, and users spent an average of 24 seconds inside Acompli’s app every time they opened it, which happened dozens of times per day. He believes those 24 seconds need to be “as productive as they can be,” and today’s Outlook app is supposed to deliver just that.

 Will the real Outlook app please stand up?

Microsoft already offers the Outlook Web App (OWA) for business users on iPad,iPhone, and Android. None of these apps can access other email providers outside of Microsoft’s.

 As such, they have never really properly represented Outlook, and when we asked, White confirmed that they are going away. Going forward, they will all be merged into the main Outlook app released today.

 These apps will remain in their respective app stores for the time being, although Microsoft plans to move users over “as quickly as possible.” That said, White noted Microsoft doesn’t have “a specific timeline” nor “a hard deadline” and aims to make the transition a “gradual one” for users.

 All of the above is for Android and iOS. Windows Phone, you might remember, is the only mobile platform that has a “proper” Outlook app. With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is planning a touch-optimized version of Office that includes Outlook as a universal Windows app. That means this new Outlook, when it arrives along with Windows 10, will work on PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

In short, Microsoft appears to be cleaning up its email act for those on the go. If all goes according to plan, this is the year Outlook will finally get an experience on mobile that is comparable to the desktop.

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Google is bringing Fiber to Charlotte.

 

Every mile of this super-fast network has to be planned and diagramed—we can’t just put it anywhere. Google uses the data  shared with them to create a map of where we can build (such as existing utility poles) and areas we should avoid.10543640_10204351055110170_4041609465634863272_nWith their plan in place, they start the hard work of stringing and laying thousands of miles of brand new, state-of-the-art fiber optic cable. They will lay enough new fiber in the area to reach from here to Canada and back, and we will see their engineers and crews in the streets for a long time.

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Amazon leaps into mobile payments

Amazon goes after mobile point-of-sale payment systems from Square and eBay’s PayPal. As it has in the past, Amazon is undercutting rivals on price as it seeks to gain a foothold in the mobile payments arena.

It’s one small step for mobile payments, and one giant leap into the mobile payments game for Amazon.com Inc. The online retail giant today announced Amazon Local Register, a point-of-sale payment system that works with tablets and smartphones.

The system goes after similar systems by payment processor Square and eBay.com Inc.’s PayPal. The rate businesses have to pay to Amazon to use its service is 2.5% of the purchase amount—Square and PayPal’s rates are both 2.7%. And Amazon is offering a promotional rate for businesses that sign up before Oct. 31, 2014: 1.75% of the transaction value for purchases completed before Jan. 1, 2016.

“We understand that every penny and every minute counts, so we want to make accepting payments so easy and inexpensive that it no longer gets in the way of a business owner doing what they love—serving their customers and growing their business,” says Matt Swann, vice president of Amazon Local Commerce.

It’s nothing new for Amazon to use low prices to help it break into a new business. The e-retailer undercut competitors on prices for electronic books when it introduced the Kindle e-reader, aiming to drive sales by making e-books far cheaper than printed volumes. It’s also priced aggressively its Amazon Web Services cloud computing business, which Internet Retailer estimates now generates some $4 billion in annual revenue for the company.

Amazon is making it easy for businesses to jump on its payment bandwagon. In a new section on its site, Amazon is selling the card reader along with other hardware customers might need such as the Kindle Fire tablet, the Fire smartphone, receipt printers and cash register drawers.

To get started, customers must create an account on localregister.amazon.com, purchase a $10 card reader and download the free mobile app from the Amazon Appstore, the Apple App Store or Google Play. The card reader costs $10 and ships free. Amazon says it will credit the first $10 in processing fees, which essentially makes the reader free. Starting Aug. 19, customers can also purchase a card reader at Staples retail locations.

It’s been expected that Amazon would unveil a mobile payment system since the retailer bought mobile point-of-sale service provider GoPago late last year.

Reaction from consumers and possible customers seemed mixed this morning. Of the dozen or so reviews already on Amazon.com for the card reader, the average rating was just 1.5 stars. Reviewers cited the limited number of compatible devices and the need to create a new Amazon account as complaints about the just-released system.

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Ecommerce Strategy Practice

Keep Your Online Store Healthy and Profitable

After launch, what comes next? It’s not enough to simply keep your online store running. To stay competitive, you need to keep it humming. Global2net’s Ecommerce Strategy service gives you the insights and actionable intelligence to do just that.

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An in-depth, 10-part review of your ecommerce channel, our ecommerce strategy service covers everything from design and content issues, to search marketing and hosting. Each service is performed by Gorilla’s in-house subject matter experts, in partnership with industry leaders in SEO and email marketing. It’s like a top-to-bottom check-up for your online store.

Ecommerce Strategy Service Includes:

  • Heuristic Analysis – Comparing your site against industry best practices, we’ll analyze the complete shopping funnel from homepage to checkout, review the sitemap and hierarchical navigation, and (as applicable) content that influences the shopping funnel.
  • Brand Analysis – We’ll assess where your brand stands by reviewing the competitive landscape and taking stock of your current brand assets and practices.
  • Photography Review – A deep-dive review of existing photographic assets, promotional elements (e.g. banners) and artistic direction.
  • Content Audit – A qualitative assessment of a subset of branded content and product detail information with regards to overall quality, SEO effectiveness, and brand adherence.
  • Site Analytics Audit – A comprehensive site audit focusing on key metrics (top performing keywords, traffic sources, etc.) related to attracting, retaining, and converting customers.
  • Email Marketing Assessment – Our partner Bronto will evaluate your current email strategy to help you better address cart abandonment, signup optimization, loyalty campaigns, post-purchase messaging, and customer reach-back programs.
  • Search Marketing Review – To get the most out of your SEO, PPC and SMO efforts, Gorilla partner Wpromote will analyze your on site and offsite activities to identify errors and areas for improvement, and measure performance to select competitors.
  • Marketing & Promotions Analysis – We’ll evaluate onsite and 3rd party marketing channel opportunities to identify additional channel revenue opportunities and assess site merchandising in relation to platform capabilities.
  • Hosting Review – An in-depth assessment of your hosting infrastructure in relation to your current traffic volume to identify potential areas of improvement.
  • Technology Assessment – A front and back-end code audit to verify your site adheres to best practices and industry standards, and ensure the upgrade path isn’t broken. We’ll also perform technical discovery on 1-2 desired site features for future implementation.

For each step in the process, we’ll provide detailed recommendations and related documentation to provide you with actionable information you can use immediately. The result is a healthier, more profitable ecommerce channel.

Our Ecommerce Strategy Service is available to any merchant looking to make their online store better.

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