Parallax Scrolling Websites: What are they and why are they useful?

January 29th, 2014 by Vincent Lai

Parallax Design is set to be one of the biggest trends in web development in 2014. But what is it exactly? And why should we bother? Long story short, its all about impact.

You may not know exactly what “parallax scrolling” means, but if you have been surfing around the web lately, chances are you have experienced it, and it has probably made an impression on you whether positive or negative. The term “parallax scrolling” refers to the technique used in websites where elements on the page move and shift at different rates, giving a sense of depth and interactivity to the page itself. It can be used in many different ways, and can bring a different approach to presenting your website.

Product Innovation and Communication Websites are the most likely candidates for using the Parallax Design technique.

Let’s say you are putting together a product, something that is new in the industry, or revolutionises an existing product.  You will want to show this product off, give the customers and clients something that they can visualise and drool over a little. Until recently, a detailed image gallery or annoyingly expensive short video were your only options.  A couple of images supplied too little information, and an extensive video sometimes felt too arduous. Organisations have recently used the new Parallax technique in very creative ways, to bring their products to life.

In the Saucony website (http://community.saucony.com/kinvara3/) they use parallax design to show the construction and science of how their shoes are crafted and constructed. As you scroll down the page, the shoe moves and rotates, adding parts and informing the user of the science behind each piece of the product. Added to this is the dynamically shifting background which subtlety follows the movement of the mouse. All in all, this design is very creative and an effective way to showcase their product.

In the Bagigia website (http://www.bagigia.com/), the creators of the leather bag have used the parallax technique to give viewers a 360 degree view of their unique design. This method allows them to show off their special product, and explain the thought process behind the design. It leaves nothing hidden, so that the customer has a better grasp of what it truly looks like, instead of a couple of still photographs against a stagnant white backdrop.

The other use, as mentioned above, is for communication websites. In my previous blog post, I discussed the use of full bleed images for higher visual impact. This technique coupled with Parallax design can take the impact of your website to new levels, and help you outshine your competitors. The best application of this is for websites that exist purely to impart your company information, where you don’t need more complex functionality or design elements.

A communication website that has used Parallax to very well is http://unfold.no/.  They have cleverly used the layering effect combined with a looping scroll to create what feels like an endless website.

For Contact Point we have created a Parallax micro-website for our design portfolio (http://www.contactpoint.com.au/CreativeDesignPortfolio/) which showcases some of our work. We have incorporated the dynamic page scrolling links and a layered approach to our imagery whilst using horizontal image scrollers to present our work.

Next time you are contemplating refreshing your website, consider the Parallax technique and whether it can enhance your website visitor’s experience.  I’d love to help create the design!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Social is now Normal Media

January 21st, 2014 by Heather Maloney

An article written by Brian Solis just over a year ago described social media being the new normal. I’ve been banging on about social media for a few years now, but in the last 6 months or so, I’ve noticed a change in Australia… people (media and the general public, young and old) now include social media in their conversations as a matter of fact, rather than as if it’s the latest cool thing, or as if to say “we’re on it too, but we don’t know how to use it”.

There are definitely areas, and segments, where social media proliferates more than others. We’re seeing it feature heavily in:

commerce – research for products and services, reviews, recommendations, complaints
promoting causes – both in the not for profit sector, and grass roots causes such as in response to tragedies
news - both personal updates about life, as well as discussion about historical events as they happen
events - promotion of events and then during events the audience / attendees engage in deeper involvement in live events, TV and radio programs using social media tools
education and innovation – information sharing and collaboration / discussion around specific topics
leisure / games – my mother who is 30+ years older than me recently relented and signed up for Facebook in order to participate in the online game, Candy Crush, with her sisters and she now shares more on Facebook than I do.

An interesting example has occurred recently in the estate where I live. The estate has a body corporate with a moderated online forum. The moderation takes days sometimes to allow posts on the forum to appear after submission… and if there’s any concern about the content of the posts (i.e. they don’t say the “right” types of things) then the posts may not make it, or be delayed for weeks. So residents have taken matters into their own hands, and setup a group on Facebook where they discuss issues. It’s of course not moderated, and therefore posts are instant and engagement is arguably deeper.

I know some of you are still sceptical about social media. No matter what your business is, you need to be thinking about where and how you can get engaged in the [not so] new place where the relevant conversation is happening. It has the added potential benefit of boosting your search engine optimisation.

We’ve recently added a relatively new Facebook feature to the Note Couture ecommerce website, which allows comments to be added by visitors alongside a product (in this case an illustration which you can add to personalise stationery) within the website. These comments will also simultaneously appear in their Facebook timeline, and are therefore not anonymous, giving them greater credibility. Of course, we’ve configured the Facebook Comments integration to include a thumbnail of the product into the Facebook timeline, which will encourage the commenter’s friends to click through and visit the website. To close the loop, Note Couture can moderate the comments that are added using this mechanism, to deal quickly with inappropriate content. You can see an example here: I love this illustration!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Your Business on the Big Screen!

November 20th, 2013 by Vincent Lai

Computer technology has come a long way over the years, and with each generation of increasing screen sizes, web designers everywhere have taken up the challenge to best take advantage and utilise this new screen real estate.
With some screen dimensions now topping out at 2560 pixels wide, it’s no wonder that the old 1024 pixel websites now look dated and unprofessional. An easy and aesthetically pleasing way to combat this issue without compromising on content is to introduce full screen or full bleed imagery.

Full bleed imagery has been used in the past by print designers, in magazines, brochures and newspapers. However, with the rising popularity of responsive websites, full bleed imagery is now being used on screens, and with great effect. Two great ways to use full bleed imagery include a full bleed background, or using a full screen width rotating banner.

The full bleed image background is useful for websites that wish to have an overarching image that sums up the feel of their whole website. With this concept, content would usually scroll back and forth over the background, leaving the image static and unmoving. To best use this style, the image must be uncluttered and have a definite theme, whether that be a panoramic photo, or a person modelling the latest product. Secondly, the image must allow for content. In some cases, if an inappropriate image is used, it will disturb the readability of the content, and you will subsequently lose users on the website. Make sure you have a defined contrast between the background and the foreground. This can be achieved in many ways; by changing the image to black and white, blurring the image, adding or decreasing the brightness of the image or even using box between the content and the background. Here’s an example of a website that uses the background element as the full bleed image: www.enudge.com.au

enudge

The second option of using full width imagery for rotating banners is more suited to corporate websites that want impact without being too flashy. The use of a full width rotating banner allows the website to showcase a variety of things as opposed to one singular theme. Whether it be your company values, or special deals that are available, a full width rotating banner never fails to grab the attention of your audience. The other advantage of using this method is that it allows the rest of your website to sit within the 1024 space without it looking old fashioned. Using a straight 1024 pixel layout will make your website look blocky, and less engaging. A wide spread image at the top draws the eye and attention of your audience, breaking the rigid structure, which then follows through, making the rest of the content easier to absorb. A good use of this style should give impact and simplicity to your website’s main message. A good idea for image selection for this purpose are images that have a wider angle, and preferably a space for a short message. Using portrait photos limits the amount of what is visible, and using something too cluttered will compete with the impact of the text you choose to place on top. Here’s an example of a website that uses the scroller as the full bleed image: toll transitions Defence Website

toll

Either way, applying large scale, full screen imagery now has a place on the internet, as screens get larger and wider. Using up that screen real estate has never been more important in sending your message to your consumers and clients.

Vincent Lai

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Google testing in US, large banner ads at the top of search results

October 26th, 2013 by Heather Maloney

Recently Google has been seen testing the display large banner ads (images) across the top of search results in the US for just particular big brands including South West Airlines.

You can read about this further, and see an example of the banner ad in this article in The Age newspaper.

It will be interesting to see if this change is made widely accessible in the near future, and of course, whether it comes to Australia – this is the usual path of tests of new Google functionality. I expect these banner ads to have strict requirements regarding their look and feel, and to be very expensive, given that Google is being accused of going back on a promise to keep the search engine free of large, flashing ads, ever.

Would you welcome banner ads like the one shown in the top of your search results?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Making your Holiday Images worthy of your website

July 8th, 2013 by Vincent Lai

Holidays are great.  They’re a fantastic way to relax, explore new places, spend time with the people you love and we all want to immortalise those great moments in our holiday snaps.  However, as great as those photos are to us as individuals, how often have you looked at another person’s holiday photos and found them genuinely interesting?  More often than not it’s taken with a quick fire digital camera (or worse, your smart phone) with a cheesy generic pose in front of a cliché tourist attraction.  The colour in the photo is never great, and a surprising amount of times, you will find a non-descript passer-by doing something unseemly in the background to ruin what should have been a great memory.

An easy way to spruce up photos and give them a bit more life is to simply switch up the way you see photos.  Instead of a mundane slide show of photos that your facebook friends are most likely NOT going to scroll through one by one, take a couple of varying shots of the same moment, and put them into a collage, each moment being defined by a few different photos of the people you are with, the place you have come to visit and maybe even some candid shots of the scenery or the locals.  Play with the layout, maybe make it into a simple grid, or layer the photos on top of each other to give yourself that artsy appeal.  You don’t need fancy programs and photography skills to turn a couple of boring photos, into an art board that truly tells a story.  One of the best online tools to edit your photos is pixlr (www.pixlr.com).  It’s free to use, easy to master and can help you get the most out of your photos.  Another good tool is the all too famous Instagram.  With its myriad of image filters and effects, it’s not hard to give a boring flat image, a bit of life that it sorely needs.

So the next time you go on holiday, change the way you think about taking those happy snaps and instead of a mundane collection of photos, you can come away with something spectacular.

Here’s a couple of examples of banners created using our client’s holiday pics:

And here’s an example inside the website: www.travelinsure.net.au

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Have you noticed how easy Google makes it to search?

July 7th, 2013 by Heather Maloney

If you have you ever tried searches in Google like this:

  • ‘definition of altruism’
  • ‘convert 7 feet to metres’
  • or typed in an address you’re looking for

you’ll know that Google has been doing a lot of work to make search so much faster and easier for everyone. This is particularly important for people who are using smart phones to carry out their searches.

One of the more recently added features in the smart phone Google Search app is a set of “search cards” – or standard searches – that Google executes when you open the app. You can choose which ones you want, and they range from “time it will take me to get home” through to flight information (shown for a flight you have searched on before).

The only thing that I worry about with all this ease, and answers to readily at your fingertips, is that we’ll start (or maybe that started a long time before) using Google as the full and only source of truth. Your thoughts?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Online Stores – should you be sending an automated request for a review?

April 12th, 2013 by Heather Maloney

I recently received an email from an online store from which I purchased some clothing (I’ve been their customer for many years), providing me with a set of thumbnails for the items I had purchased a couple of weeks ago, and asking me to provide a review. The email was interesting because:

  • it came from an actual person at the company from whom I’d purchased (rather than the usual generic email address of sales type emails).
  • it encouraged me to provide customer reviews to help other customers make the right choices – appealing to altruism.
  • it displayed in stars, the average usual rating that the particular products I had purchased received.
  • it gave me links through for each particular product, to make it quick for me to rate particular items.
  • it provided me with instructions and a link to login and change my preferences so that I no longer receive product review emails.

The email also provided at the bottom some links and images for new arrivals, and top rated styles.

This email has a great feel about it – more like a value-add than a sales tool. Of course, if I click through and provide my review, I’m going to be bang in the middle of the store, and highly likely to start browsing through items again, and possibly make another purchase. Overall, it’s a great way to continue the engagement with your customers, and it’s all automated based on a previous purchase.

How would you feel about receiving the email I’ve described? Please share your thoughts by adding your comment below.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Should I build an HTML5, iOS or Android native app?

September 8th, 2012 by Heather Maloney

This is a question I frequently hear from our clients, particularly those for whom we are building mobile apps.

The answer we give depends on the desired results, and the targest audience. My biggest concern is when I get a response of “we want to use HTML5 because that’s where everyone is heading”.

This article in The Age gives a good picture of the pros and cons of app development in the various platforms… the most insightful section is posted below:

“HTML5 is appropriate for forms-based apps, or information-driven apps. Apps that require social interactivity or features on the device, whether it’s the camera or software features like Siri or facial recognition – we just see our developers over and over leaning towards native.”

And this is where it gets tricky: cross-platform tools are just another point in the spectrum between HTML5 and native.

CardFlick’s Anjaria opted not to use a cross-platform tool, which he says are more commonly used by design agencies that are not building the kind of apps that are “life changing or industry shattering”.

The midway point for Anjaria was, like Facebook previously, embedded HTML5 with a trade-off.

“In CardFlick, everything is native except for one main feature: the cards that you see are an HTML5 webpage. I can change my card a million times and I don’t have to write a new rendering engine to display the card,” he explains.

“One of the negatives of that is that it is a little slower than native – I have to load a web page every time I want to show you your updated card.”

So, you can see my answer to the question is that it depends on your objectives, what trade offs you are willing to accept, and what your app is going to do. An online survey app is most likely suited to HTML5, whereas an app requiring the use of GPS or a camera is most likely suited to a native app, and which platform you choose (or if you choose both) will depend on your likely audience (and budget).

At Contact Point we build apps in either native iOS, native Android, or HTML5 & Javascript (using a 3rd party tool to build for all platforms). Feel free to chat to us about your app requirements.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Using email as part of your Inbound Marketing Strategy

August 28th, 2012 by Heather Maloney

Inbound Marketing is one of the newer marketing buzz words that I’m sure you have heard about from time-time. But with the marketing landscape moving at ever increasing speeds, many business owners miss the definition of these new marketing strategies for their business.

Inbound marketing isn’t complicated, however, and can be easily applied to your business.

At its essence, inbound marketing is about giving your customers the opportunity to engage with you; it is bringing them to you rather than you going to them. The term has come from the premise of “permission marketing” that was made famous by marketing guru Seth Godin and ties in with the move away from telling clients what to do via fliers, print advertising and TV advertising (outbound marketing) and, instead, speaking with your customers, not at them, and allowing them to grant permission for you to market to them.

A good example of inbound marketing is rather than using the traditional marketing technique of direct mail to sell your services to unknown contacts, you develop a regular Blog on your website that discuss topics within your business services, highlighting your knowledge-base as a leader in your industry. Your Blog posts will give you more qualified leads from prospects wanting to contact you due to your expertise.

Much of inbound marketing is related to the use of Social Media, which goes beyond the platforms of Facebook and Twitter and includes such things as adding your details to online directories that allow for customer feedback, and the writing of BLOGs, articles and email marketing campaigns. Also consider e-books, videos, whitepapers and podcasts.

A quick test of your inbound marketing is to Google yourself and your business name. If you are using the technique well, then a number of links from different sites will appear in the search result, all leading back to your business website and contact details. For an example, see the image below.

Example Inbound Marketing Links from web search

How does email marketing work within your inbound marketing strategy?
Email marketing is a critical component within your business’ inbound marketing strategy. As your target audience (after reading your articles, blogs and other social posts) opt in to hear more, your organisation has the opportunity to take each subscriber through a series of messages to help them solve a particular problem, or understand your organisation better. Alternatively, if the subscriber signed up to receive updates / news from you, these types of messages can provide valuable and practical examples of how your products / services can benefit the subscriber. An eNudge Email marketing message also gives you and your readers the opportunity to share your message in various platforms, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, allowing for new prospects to find you and learn about your industry knowledge.

Inbound marketing allows you to start building a customer relationship before a person has had any telephone or physical contact with you.

In addition, a good inbound marketing strategy will organically work on your Search Engine Optimisation!

To discuss how eNudge and our Message Series (systemizing a series of communications) can assist with your inbound marketing strategy, contact us via 1300 137 628 or info@eNudge.com.au.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Online Technologies to consider for your business

May 30th, 2012 by Heather Maloney

The following online technologies have broad application across many industries, to help you increase awareness of your brand, products and services, strengthen relationships with existing customers, build community around your brand, position you as a thought leader in your industry or area of expertise, increase sales, and generate more leads.

Do a mental stocktake on how many of these technologies you are successfully employing:

  1. website - there are some businesses that still don’t have a website, or have a site that presents their organisation in a poor light, so I can’t leave that off the list. Your website may have more than one objective – make sure that it’s achieving your goal/s, whether that’s to generate leads, automate distribution of valuable information, build your credibility, facilitate sales…
  2. email marketing – despite the scourge of spam, and how long this medium has been used, it’s still the greatest tool of many of our clients for generating sales and enquiry, increasing customer retention and providing better service. You should encourage visitors to your website to register for your regular emails, but also promote this through offline channels (think business cards, brochures, invoices…).
  3. SMS marketing – a well executed SMS campaign can generate an immediate response. Of course, as per email marketing, you’re going to be obeying the Australian Spam Act to the letter, so an SMS won’t be a surprise to your customers.
  4. blog - pointing your readers to your website’s blog will drive traffic to your site (where hopefully they will explore more than your blog, or read related posts and add their comments), and allow them to interact with you and others on your chosen topic. It has the added advantage of being great for your rank in the search engines, especially if you choose your topic heading well and utilise social media and SEO friendly URLs.
  5. social media – dubbed “the personalisation of business”, the astute use of social media can help your organisation connect on deeper levels with your customers, understand your customers better, build community around your brand, and establish you as a thought leader within your industry or area of expertise. And it doesn’t have to take up vast amounts of your precious time.
  6. pay per click online advertisements – for the right category, a well written online ad linking through to a strategically written landing page, can be very productive for generating sales and enquiries. Social media and the proliferation of rich information about the website visitor’s preferences and behaviours, now provides the opportunity for very targeted ads.
  7. video – a powerful medium for connecting with a wider audience. Video allows you to convey your message much more richly than text and imagery.
  8. mobile applications – the use of mobile devices to browse the web and carry out web based activites has increased exponentially over the past few years. Every B2C website should strongly consider having at least a mobile friendly version of their website. Apps provide a unique opportunity to deliver market leading tools, build loyalty, and increase customer retention.
  9. online surveys – don’t groan! These used a strategic points in the delivery of customer service, or customer enquiry, can allow you to deliver the right clients to your sales team, and gather rich information about your customer’s desires.
  10. QR codes – a smart phone readable bar code allowing you to quickly take a customer to your web page after they scan the code you’ve placed in your email, on your printed poster, on a billboard…

When employing these technologies, you should endeavour to link them together to gain cost effectiveness, richer engagement and provide a consistent message across all fronts. They should also reflect your offline marketing.

If you would like to discuss the appropriateness of any of the above technologies for your business, and exactly how it could be used for your benefit, feel free to get in touch.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather