The web is a vehicle

Metaphorically speaking, the web is often referred to as a vehicle.  A blog by Chora, an educational consulting firm, says it is “emerging as the major communication, education, and entertainment vehicle of our time.”  It is easy to see this analogy, as the Internet serves two key functions:

  • It delivers content.
  • It transports users. 

For example, my 3G connection (as antiquated as it may be) brings me news headlines and takes me to a place where I’m running through a temple, chased by ravenous “bird monkeys.”  And, that’s all before I leave home for the office.  

Looking deeper reveals that the comparison of the web to a vehicle is not a good analogy.  It’s a great one.  Consider the emphasis placed on aesthetic appeal.  From candy apple red Porsches to sleek black Landrovers, people are drawn to how their cars look.  The goal is for them to be clean, shiny, and down-right cool.  By the same token, websites should have clean lines, slick layouts, and appealing colors. 

 Yet, when it comes to vehicles, it isn’t enough to have a pristine paint job and shiny tires.  These aesthetic elements only go so far (literally) without the proper controls.  It’s also essential to be able to steer the car, change gears, and accelerate.  The same is true on the web.  The best-looking site is obsolete if users are unable to navigate. 

When it comes to crafting the usability experience, consider the users who are most likely to visit your site.  What is their comfort level with Internet functionality?  Have they demonstrated navigation preferences in the past?  Are you putting someone behind the wheel of a Manual transmission when they’re only comfortable with an automatic? 

Aesthetics and usability are commonly regarded as the necessary components of creating a well-rounded website.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  In our competitive digital age, websites must inspire and influence.  They must create emotion.  We’re talking the kind of emotion that overcomes people when they’re given a new car in a Christmas commercial.

At Off Forty, we want to help you create a website that dazzles on the showroom floor, has the right mechanics under the hood, and makes a difference in the lives of your consumers.

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January 30, 2012 · 6:39 pm

Prue Sain

“My turn signal taps out the rhythm of a CD I borrowed from a friend.

I should return it, but there’s no time now.  I’m off to a new place with new songs and new friends.

And there’s no looking back.  Except to check my blind spot as I drift across the yellow line.”

I’m not including this poem I wrote in college to show you there will be road themes throughout this blog.  Of course, there will be – but you probably already knew that.  Instead, I’m including it to confess that I’m a poetry geek.  I majored in writing, wrote my thesis on poetry, and try to keep one or two books of verses on the shelf at all times.

And, I learned much of what I know about life, fate, love, and marketing from a poet named Billy Collins.  Collins has a beautifully simple way of putting me in my place.  This is particularly the case in his poem, “Advice to Writers.”  It is as if he is peering at my desk, cluttered with pizza crumbs from late-night brainstorming sessions and napkins with hand-drawn layouts.  He is calling me out, telling me you have to clean up before you can create a masterpiece.

Collins’ poem could have easily been titled “Advice to Marketers.”  Let’s face it.  Companies, large and small, often have much to do in the cleaning department.  In this case, I don’t mean sweeping the crumbs and tossing the napkins.  I’m talking about de-cluttering any misconceptions about their target audiences.  This means taking the time to learn the ins and outs of the consumer population.

Of course, by avoiding the pitfall of slapping labels on customers, you risk offending those who would have otherwise bought your product.  But, it doesn’t stop there.  In our world of emerging media, sweeping away the misconceptions can lead to improved performance in the area of Search Engine Optimization.

  • If you know how your customers talk, you will know the keywords they search for.
  • If you know their schedules, you will know when they are most likely to be browsing the Internet.
  • If you know how they think, you will know what they want to find.

It all goes back to a key principle they teach you in writing poetry – or in writing anything else for that matter.  Write what you know.  As a college student, I knew the road that took me to my university like the back of my hand.  I knew it took me away from home and off to a place that was simultaneously frightening and exciting.  And, I knew halfway along the way, I would pass a small side-road called Prue Sain.

At Off Forty, we want to help you write what you know.  We want to help you achieve a tidy understanding of who you are attempting to reach.  That way, you can deliver the masterpiece that will make them spring to action.

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Missing the ride?

The last section of Interstate 40 was completed here in our home state of North Carolina, connecting Raleigh to Wilmington.  With this final stretch of road in place, Charles Kuralt reportedly said:

“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” 

In many ways, this quote is reminiscent of musings often uttered about emerging media.  New forms of media are constantly being introduced that can whisk users to far-off places; yet, many people assert that this is at the expense of the true human experience.

How often have we heard people say the following?

  • “Children talk to their friends via Skype. Yet, they are starved for true face-to-face interaction.”
  • “Search engines are replacing academic research.”
  • “My son and I used to play football.  Now he plays Angry Birds.”

Those who use emerging media can read a book before it hits the shelves.  They can discover new music without fighting concert crowds.  They can see Japan without ever getting a passport.  Yet, naysayers would contend that these users are travelling along without truly seeing anything out their windows.  They are getting there faster but are missing the ride.

Keeping with “the ride” analogy, consider last year’s Toyota Venza ad.  In this commercial, a young girl boasts about her 687 Facebook friends.  She compares this to her parents’ nineteen friends, and accuses them of not truly living.  Her rant is juxtaposed with footage of her parents enjoying life together – with actual friends. While she sits at the computer, they get out of their Venza and bike through the mountains.

To make matters worse, the girl looks like a zombie.  She appears to be hypnotized by new media, and she is self-admittedly unable to read an entire article.  She is a testament to those who think social media is killing all that is human about us.

It’s time to introduce a detour to this line of thinking.  Here at the Off Forty advertising agency, we are firm believers that emerging media does not detract from the human experience.  Rather, it helps shape it.  The new channels we all have at our disposal give us fresh and exciting ways to interact with one another.  They also give you powerful methods of connecting with clients and promoting a valuable brand experience.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) & Social Media Online reports how the instantaneous qualities of new media can help efficiently address consumer needs.  Along these same lines, small businesses like yours can use online surveys and polls to gain insight into clients and track their feedback.  And, you can make your customers feel special by providing “something extra” in the form of an interactive contest or innovative discount.  The list goes on.

Throughout the “Word on the Street” blog, we will be looking in-depth at how emerging media can help you shape meaningful relationships with the world of consumers.

The view out the window is beautiful.  Enjoy the ride.

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