Archive for the ‘websites’ Category

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Since its invention, we have been enamored with the photograph. Why do we respond so strongly to images? And how has this penchant for images been changing the social media landscape.

Photography allows us to capture life’s most important events. We can immortalize famous moments in history, beloved relatives, young children before they grow up, our holidays, vacations, and much more. Images connect with us – instantly – on an emotional level that the written word simply cannot compete with.

The rapidly burgeoning smartphone market means that practically everyone has a camera in their pocket. In addition to holidays and birthdays, we can now visually document nearly every facet of our lives. People post pictures on Facebook of their meal at a fancy restaurant. Parents instantly upload photos of their newborn from the hospital. Those who are oppressed in corrupt countries can post pictures of war crimes and human rights abuses to hold their leaders accountable. As the influence of the internet increases, visual media has exploded as a huge trend. Anyone can be an amateur photographer.

Why do we respond so strongly to images? For one thing, our eyes are the most developed of the sensory organs. We are hardwired to take in tons of visual information every second, process it, and make sense of it. It’s simply faster for us to look at a picture than it is for us to read a paragraph. Information designer Tom Wujec described in a TED Talk how our brains create meaning through images. Wujec says that our brain doesn’t actually see the world exactly as it is, but instead creates mental models based on the information our eyes take in and deliver to the brain. The primary visual cortex, which can only see basic geometric shapes, takes this information and sends it to centers around the brain, including the limbic system. Very old evolutionarily, the limbic system is deep inside the brain and supports our emotional functioning. It also pays attention to color. This is why we have such an emotional reaction to photographs, especially color ones.

European brain researchers found out that our visual sense dominates our experiences. The researchers put red dye in white wine, and asked professional wine tasters to describe the win. Every one of them described the wine using vocabulary prescribed for red wines, demonstrating that we believe what we see.

In an article called “The Rise of Visual Social Media”, Ekaterina Walter calls online visual marketing “the breakout trend for 2012.” Websites like Instagram, Pinterest, Flikr, and PhotoBucket are doing very well. People are more likely to click on a link if it has an eye-catching picture, even if it’s something simple. We used to think it was all about content, which is still important, but it seems that visually-appealing images are the key to getting people’s attention.

A 2012 study by ROI Research found that people enjoy looking at pictures their friends post on social networks more than they like viewing status updates, links, etc. Women in particular are drawn to images, perhaps explaining why so many women are on Pinterest.

How can you take advantage of our fondness for photographs? Include eye-catching photographs in your presentations, flyers, and brochures. Frame a beautiful or sentimental photograph and give it as a gift to a friend or loved one. Be aware how your emotions may be manipulated when you see an advertisement with appealing images. Don’t underestimate the power of pleasing images and colors when you are trying to persuade someone.

Visual media is continuing to grow alongside advances in the internet and technology. Better and cheaper cameras allow practically anyone to document their lives, and smartphones are at the front of the movement. Is there such a thing as image overload? Will we eventually tire of the onslaught of images? Not so far.

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

© Copyright 2013

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Is Your Password Hacker-Proof? Monday, February 18th, 2013

Managing countless passwords for multiple accounts across the internet can feel exhausting.  In an attempt to keep things simple, many people rely on passwords that are simple and easy to remember – but also easy for a hacker to crack.  SplashData released some of the worst passwords, compiled from a list posted by hackers online.  Some of the worst include, “password”, “123456”, “qwerty”, “11111”, “baseball”, “jesus”, and “iloveyou”.  The trick is to find the balance between easy to remember and hard to guess.  While it may take some extra effort, it is worth it to know your information is secure.

Want to decrease the chances of getting hacked?  Here are tips to create safe passwords:

  • Go for length and complexity. Use upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  Don’t use simple combinations like “123” or “abc”.  A good rule of thumb is 6 to 8 characters, but the longer the better!
  • Avoid using personal information. Don’t use your birthdate, nickname, children or pets’ names, address, etc.
  • Use different passwords for different websites/accounts. Avoid the temptation to use the same password for multiple accounts, especially for bank accounts and other important accounts.
  • Change your passwords often. You don’t know where you online information could be stored.  Don’t re-use old passwords.
  • Consider using a password manager service. These programs generate complex passwords across multiple sites, and then manage these passwords with a single master password.
  • Use a sentence, catchphrase, or quote and abbreviate to make it harder to crack. An example would be taking “take me out to the ball game” and turning it into “tmo2tbg”.
  • Keep your passwords secure. Don’t save them in a email account that can get hacked or in a Word document that isn’t encrypted.  If you write the passwords down, be very careful where you store this information.  Don’t send passwords through email.
  • Don’t share your password. Be wary of anyone asking for your password, either online or in person.  Be cautious and don’t release your password to just anyone.
    • Be creative. Use multiple strategies and techniques to create a hacker-proof password.  Example: Take a phrase you can remember, like “My favorite movie is ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’” and change spellings, add other characters, and vary upper and lower-case: “**!Myfav’MovieisIndianaJonez2!**”


John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

© Copyright 2013

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More than Half of Americans Own Smartphones Monday, September 3rd, 2012

The LA Times reported this August that for the first time, more than half of Americans own smartphones.  The news outlet cited a report by Chetan Sharma Consulting, which also revealed that smartphones comprised about 70% of all phones sold in the United States.  Both facts have significant implications.

The fact that most Americans today have smartphones means that business and culture at large are changing.  Employees are often expected to be on-call to answer emails at night and on weekends.  Without sitting down to a laptop, people can now Google anything they want, anytime they want.  Need directions to an unfamiliar?  Easy, use the GPS built into your smartphone.  Out with friends and want to find a top-rated restaurant in the vicinity?  No problem.

If you don’t have a website for your business that is formatted for these mobile devices, then you are missing out.  If you do have a mobile website, make sure that it is user-friendly and easy to read.  It is not particularly expensive or difficult to contract someone to set up or improve your mobile website.

The fact that smartphones are being sold more often than regular cell phones means that this trend is set to continue.  Smartphone prices are dropping as more customers begin to buy them.  People who were in contracts are switching to smartphone as soon as they can, and people are more likely to “trade up” than to return to a regular phone.

According to Business News Daily online, people aged 25-34 are the largest consumers of smartphones.  However, smartphone ownership has increased markedly in both younger and older age groups, as well as people who make less than $30,000 a year.

It may seem like everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone these days, but keep in mind that a large segment of the U.S. population still does not own a smartphone.  Beware of sounding condescending or elitist when discussing the ubiquity of smartphones, depending on your audience.

But for many people, smartphones mean instant internet access 24-7.  People check Facebook in their cars while idling at a red stoplight, order items off Amazon while out to dinner, and update their Twitter accounts during staff meetings.  This obsessive-compulsive web-browsing can have serious consequences.  Distracted drivers can kill or injure themselves and others.  Emailing and texting (rather than calling or visiting in person) can be less effective and rather impersonal.

Smartphone use is widespread, and will only become more pervasive as prices continue to drop. Why does matter you ask? If you own a website, you must offer a mobile version —- do it now!


John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group


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6 Tips for Writing Excellent Web Copy Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

There are countless folks posting web copy on the internet these days, and it may seem daunting to create unique, compelling content that’s truly readable.  The following tips will help jumpstart your web copy pursuits.  These tips will help you create web copy that captures your target audience’s attention and gives them what they want

  1. Know your goals.

What are you trying to communicate?  Are you writing to inform?  Persuade?  Your purpose in writing will affect the tone and style of your web copy.  What do you hope occurs as a result of someone reading your web copy?  For example, if you want people to check out your main webpage, make sure you include a link.  If you want people to learn more about a particular topic, post a recommended reading list.

  1. Make it personal.

Know your audience.  Write to that demographic, or at least don’t offend anyone.  You are writing for your audience; you are not writing for yourself.  Write about what your target audience wants to read about, not necessarily what you feel like writing about.  Try to appeal to peoples’ emotions.  If you can connect with someone emotionally, you’ve already won half the battle.

  1. Keep it simple.

Your web copy must be utterly readable.  Spend some time and create a catchy title and equally compelling sub-headings for the rest of the content.  Most people scan articles without reading them all the way through, so treat those sub-headings as last-ditch efforts to reel them in.  Keep your sentences simple and straightforward.  Read it out loud to make sure it makes sense.  Avoid run-on sentences, and (overly) pretentious vocabulary or industry jargon that will alienate some readers.

  1. Make it visually appealing.

We’ve all stumbled onto those horrifying websites with terrible color schemes and illegible fonts.  You know, where they use a childish-looking yellow font on a hot pink background (or something to that effect).  Don’t do this to your readers.  Use color, but strategically.  Leave lots of white spaces, and use bold/underline to highlight titles and headings.  In short, make it look nice.  Add graphics and links.

  1. Use keywords.

Since you know the value of SEO, think about how you would Google the topic you are writing about, and then use those words when you write your web copy.

  1. Edit.

Typos and misspellings make you look bad and undermine the strength of your arguments.  Have someone else proofread, since they have fresh eyes.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing fantastic web copy!


John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group


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