Website Activation

Where’s Waldo? How to activate a website with a contest!

I’d like to share a technique once used to activate a new website and get 100% of existing clients to happily switch over to a completely new version of the website.

  1. First we launched the new website and kept the old site running.
  2. Next we promoted the new website from the old one using a “Where’s Waldo?” contest.
  3. If you found an image of Waldo on the new site you could enter a drawing for prizes.
  4. Every day we would give hints about where to find Waldo – and over a period of time directed everyone to the major areas of the new website.
  5. Once a week we would announce the latest contest winners, which would bring more clients over to the new site.
  6. After users found their way around the new site, they didn’t bother to go back to the old one.
  7. We also discovered that our particular client base loved contests and awards.

I can’t take credit for this idea. My friend (and he paid me to add this: creative genius, wine connoisseur, dog lover, philanthropist, master of irony and all around trend-setter) David Pearson came up with this idea that we used for a large insurance agency portal implementation in 2004. In 2005, the website was awarded recognition by A.M. Best as the top Insurance Agency Portal website in the U.S. Our Where’s Waldo website launch technique was part of the presentation leading to the award.


“Sales reps are coin operated.”
~Mark Vayda




Whose Generation

Every generation is labeled. Each generation is a product of their culture, disciplines, education and shared experiences, just like every generation before. The current generation always gets a bad rap. Let’s not condemn it if we don’t seek to understand it. Here are some of the comments I’m hearing:

  • Time has more consideration than money
  • Some are uncertain of the American work-ethic after parent’s corporate experience
  • Instant communication is a given – so are instant decisions
  • Email is one of the slowest forms of communication
  • An abundance of knowledge and entertainment, 24 x 7
  • The current generation actually do multitask
  • Typing is learned along the way – not a class you take
  • Being digital is just normal
  • Most processes are born digital – not automated after-the-fact
  • Some question the corporate employment model; 1 in 3 U.S. workers now freelance (2014 stat)
  • Work -> Save -> Retire is no longer an option
  • Quality of life has value over quantity of stuff


“Being rich is not about having a lot of money, being rich is about having lots of options.”
~Chris Rock




Ground Hog’s Day 2.0

The hallmark of a true professional is the ability to treat each person and situation with the same enthusiasm and interest as you did the very first time. This means that you will repeat yourself any number of times on the same or similar topics with the same or new clients. This is especially difficult for developers, who are trained to get to end point as efficiently as possible and, specifically, don’t repeat yourself (DRY principle).

I’ve recently put myself in someone else’s shoes – practicing patience and empathy. All I asked was that they do their job at the same quality level that I do my job. Is that too much to ask? It may in fact be too much to ask if the other person is put into an untenable situation, with no support from the company they represent. Imagine if you lacked the wherewithal to make a difference and had no control over your time or schedule and did not have the tools and resources to get things done. This person is responsible for delivery and installation of expensive equipment. However, the very company that stands to lose from a bad customer experience almost guarantees failure upon final delivery. Why so much emphasis on selling instead of delivery and service?

If you don’t support your team all the way to delivery of the end product you may in fact have a broken process. What kind of feedback loop do you have in place to find out what the customer experience is really like? I highly recommend that you follow your service or product to the end delivery point to see the results from your customers perspective. If you use 3rd-party sales, delivery or service reps then it is even more important to monitor final delivery results and follow up after the sale and delivery. A “Voice of the Customer” survey is not nearly enough to ensure customer satisfaction and good word-of-mouth referrals.

Repeating a broken process on a daily basis will not eventually fix the process.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
~Sir Winston Churchill




Real World Responsive Web Redesign – Jonathan Stark

Breaking Development Conference – Nashville – July 2014
Conference Session: Real World Responsive Web Redesign
Jonathan Stark

This session discussed the RWD/redesign of Entertainment Weekly. I took away more about about project management than RWD but I was more so looking for PM tips.

My Notes:

  • RWD Guiding Principles: speed is a feature; progressive enhancement from low device to high; assume low; easier to progressively add features than to degrade gracefully.
  • Design: No Big Reveal – Constant feedback during design. Final design is 1 week from last review.
  • Big Pieces From Client: we knew all photos, videos, etc. from current site, and challenges before we started design process.
  • Advertising is a big challenge for mobile.
  • Prioritize Design with typical sticky note voting. Allow 20 seconds for +/- reactions to similar sites or comps/mood boards.
  • Set Initial design decisions: e.g. no carousels, progressive content, etc. Now you have a roadmap.
  • Did not use Agile or Waterfall but a hybrid, with information architecture, visual, and development in parallel.
  • Weekly build and push to dev site. Weekly all hands review with client. Weekly freeze.
  • Throw out elements client doesn’t like (e.g. which callout do you not like). Thereby weekly not a sign off.
  • Always design and demo in the browser, not comps.
  • Emphasize phone view in weeklies.
  • Start with small scale elements for review (e.g. and build to footer, then pages).
  • JavaScript: “Every script has a cost”
  • Consider starting with a site that works without JavaScript.
  • Create your own JavaScript library is better for minimum footprint. Don’t go to extremes with JavaScript.
  • Help yourself out: Use a common/single bug tracker; lots of screen shots for bug documentation with re-creating; we used multiple trackers – should have learned GIT better; automate deployment.


“Communication Trumps Process!”
~Jonathan Stark




Content First UX
Steph Hay

Breaking Development Conference – Nashville – July 2014
Conference Session: Content First UX
Steph Hay

Steph Hay presented a fresh approach to web site design by way of defining all of the content and information architecture up front, before you make the first wireframe or comp. The result is an outline of the site’s IA, which resembles a sitemap but is a complete definition of the site and actual copy. This reverses the typical process of adding content after design.

The process follows a user journey/dialog that is approached as a conversation. Elements of gamification are used to help the user seek goals and reinforce the learning experience along the way. Hay spent time in her presentation on this aspect of the process, which I cannot do justice here – but it’s important to the process. My main takeaway is her rethinking of the site development process. Putting content first makes absolute sense if we believe that content is the foundation of website experience.

My Notes:

  • Content First: Create the content and information architecture first, without tradition wireframes and other design techniques. This is a design-agnostic methodology.
  • Feels like a conversation. Promote user engagement.
  • Write all the content and structure in an outline [yields sitemap byproduct].
  • Greatly speeds up the overall a development process by improving front-end definition time.
  • Note: more than one speaker stated a ratio of ~3-to-2 | definition-to-build/activate.
  • Content First is inherently low risk, low res, and low cost. Promotes greater collaboration and helps define the end result more quickly without getting bogged down in design (speculative) considerations. Will result in faster overall development and launch.
  • Use with analytics to determine audience and solve the right problem.
  • Make a content workbook.
  • Language Boards: Core messaging; Choose Your Own Adventure style.
  • Ben &Jerry’s content written from a single statement/tag line.
  • User is Hero; Iterate until you win.
  • Conversation rather than structure. Hero journey; next steps…

Book reference: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (not Made to Stick) – some degree of difficulty in learning improves retention; applies to user journey as well.

Other conference notes on Steph Hay at BDCONF can be found at: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1899

Steph Hay on YouTube | How Two Startups Used a Google Doc to Plan Their User Interface


“Content Defines Structure, not the other way around.”
~Steph Hay




Mobile Design Now
Luke Wroblewski

Breaking Development Conference – Nashville – July 2014
Conference Session: Mobile Design Now
Luke Wroblewski

Luke Wroblewski is synonymous with Mobile First. He set the mobile design tone for the 2-day Breaking Development Conference.

My Notes:

  • Lots to learn but more to unlearn about mobile.
  • Above the fold: Scrolling is a continuation. Clicking is a decision.
  • We’re trying to fit large screen to small.
  • Hamburger Menu is a case of follow the leader imitation. The word menu, outlined to appear as a clickable object, was interpreted as a menu 21%+ more than the Hamburger Menu in A-B testing.
  • It takes big changes to go small.
  • Compared hotel sites with +/- 50% difference in process steps. [the difficulty of any extra field or step is magnified in mobile]
  • Startup: Release/Refine/Repeat; Learn Faster

Luke Wroblewski conference notes can be found at: http://www.lukew.com/ff/

[On Mobile] “It takes big changes to go small.”
~Luke Wroblewski




Promoting Projects to Success

Yea Team!

The first step in a successful project, other than how it supports strategy, is to sell the project throughout your organization – up front and often. Once it’s fully supported and underway you’ll want to continuously promote progress and keep the team inspired.

Here are a few ideas to create awareness of your project and keep momentum.

  1. Get on the agenda of departmental meetings and talk up your project.
  2. Give the project an unfamiliar or catchy name that piques curiosity.
  3. Put a large project chart somewhere visible, near the team, and mark it up to show progress.
  4. Have team offsite meetings where you can focus only on the project (phones off!).
  5. Create a project logo.
  6. Get items printed with the Project Logo – like coffee mugs or tee shirts.
  7. Have a Project Launch! – but not too soon – and only one.
  8. Get logo stickers printed for the team’s laptops.
  9. Make 4 Dummies book covers and use for in-progress team awards.
  10. Celebrate early failures as learning experiences. Don’t be punitive.
  11. Use any excuse for food and beverages – often.
  12. Make progress updates in a company newsletter or blog. Start a project blog.
  13. Speak about the project at a conference (great for recruiting, too).
  14. Promote the fact that team members got some time off after the project crunch. Then – everyone will want to join your next project.

If you promote your project enough and recognize your team’s contributions you will have a line of people wanting to join your team.

Please let me know what ideas have worked for you for promoting projects and getting the best people on your team. Thanks!


“Focus on appreciation as much as achievement.”
~Tim Ferriss