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Archive for September, 2008

“What’s My Dog’s Breed?” Game Debuts

September 25, 2008 Leave a comment

One of the first questions a mixed-breed dog owner asks their vet is “what kind of dog do you think he/she is?” Typically, the vet eyeballs the dog and makes a guess. Today, a more scientific approach is available form Mars, Incorporated through their Wisdom Panel™ Mixed Breed Analysis test — a genetic analysis of the dog through a simple blood test that identifies more than 130 AKC recognized dog breeds to provide the owner with fairly accurate results.

To help promote the Wisdom Panel MX test, DigitalDay created the “What’s My Dog’s Breed?” Game. The game is based on the old way of breed identification — eyeballing a dog, looking at its ears, tail and muzzle, and then making guesses as to what the breed mix might be. Our goal with the game was to show how difficult it is to guess correctly and that the only way to know for sure is with a genetic test — driving consumers to the website where they can buy the test online and then take to their vet for the blood work.

"What's My Dog's Breed?" Game at www.WhatsMyDog.com

We developed the game by leveraging existing assets from the Wisdom Panel website and the test result reports. The site went live today thanks to the hard work by Heather, Adam, Dave, Ganbold, Will and everyone else at DigitalDay who helped tweak and test.

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Adobe Creative Suite 4 – Updated design tools

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Word has spread that Adobe released the latest version of its flagship design software, the Creative Suite today. CS4 brings a slew of new features and enhancements to ubiquitous applications like Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver. For many agencies, DigitalDay included, these are the applications we use for building creative work.

Designers will be clamoring to get their hands on a copy, and we’ll see a ton of new work highlighting the latest gadgets and features. There’s nothing wrong with staying current with software, but it’s easy to get caught up in the hype with any software release.

For those on the client side of agency work, examine what your marketing goals and brand standards are, and see if any of the new features or functionality really benefit you. Sure you can now have your logo in 3d, or with a cool animation…but does it really help your brand? Some of the best work has been done with outdated tools or simple shapes and techniques.

For designers, keep in mind the basics of good design, and don’t jump on bandwagons. There might be fancy new filters and fun brushes, but just dropping these in to every design will give you an almost instantly outdated and clichéd look. Keep in mind the goals of your brands and your projects, and be mindful that good design is not based on effects or trendy features. Be confident in your skills and your designs, and let thoughtful beautiful design do its job for you and the client.

Ads that defy convention can generate more buzz than traditional ads ever could

September 23, 2008 Leave a comment

As a copywriter at a full-service web design and online marketing agency in Northeast Ohio, I can appreciate a good ad when I see one. It doesn’t matter if the ad is printed, filmed or published online–a good piece of advertising will stick with you. Who can forget the Geico caveman or the Budweiser frogs? Such campaigns can leave a lasting effect on their audiences. This can mean big sales when the consumer is ready to buy and thinks favorably of a certain brand or product.

There are plenty of clever ads out there—here’s one that I read about recently.

A campaign in San Francisco for a new video game called “Spore” (ad pictures and discussion here) features a tiny billboard so small that it requires a telescope to see. People were drawn to look through the fixed telescope and see the 14” x 7” advertisement, mounted on a building far away.

The ad is effective because it’s out of the ordinary. People will go out of their way to look through the telescope to see the ad. Had it been a conventional billboard, people might have passed it without thinking twice. By defying convention, the agency behind the ad successfully managed to have people take notice of the ad and talk about it. By getting people to discuss the advertisement, the agency successfully generated more buzz for the product than a normal billboard ever could.

While this is just one example of an outdoor ad, Web agencies like ours can challenge the norm of online advertising with creative ways of informing consumers of our clients’ products and services. By utilizing the latest Web technologies, we can create new and interesting ways of conveying information.

Google Chrome browser – a boost to web designers and developers

September 4, 2008 3 comments

Google recently released their Chrome browser, to mixed reviews. In short, Chrome is an open source browser promising performance improvements, new features, and better integration with Google services like Gmail and Docs. There are many more details and reviews available, but regardless of how it performs or how people like it, it’s great news to those of us creating websites everyday.

What’s exciting to me as a web designer and (occasional) developer is that it gives users everywhere another viable, free, and well publicized alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer, especially version 6 (IE 6).

Quite a few users still use IE 6, and most of them are probably content with it. For any company creating websites or web marketing however, IE6 is a monster that brings with it wasted time and resources, multiple versions of code, and severe limitations from both a technical and creative standpoint.

IE6 is an old, outdated browser. IE6 was released in 2001, and many of its shortcomings stem directly from the fact that it is simply outdated when compared to modern browsers like IE7, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple’s Safari. There are too many problems to list here, but security concerns, lack of PNG 24 alpha support, CSS layout inconsistencies and web standards compatibility issues are all sources of endless headaches for designers and developers here at DigitalDay and beyond. Additionally, there are interesting new techniques and creative approaches being discovered every day in the world of web design, but many of them are limited to newer browsers.

Some companies have officially just decided to stop supporting IE6 entirely, while others continue to plea their case to clients, etc. What ultimately matters though, is whether or not users can access the information and brands we work with. We don’t design for the brands, we design for the users. Unfortunately right now, approximately 25% of all users we measure are still using IE6. So, we have to keep them in mind with everything we do.

The exciting thing about Google Chrome is that it is a modern browser supporting web standards, with none of the headaches IE6 brings to the table. It is such a media darling that more than a few IE6 users who had never heard of Mozilla might give it a try. Every user who takes a step forward and downloads a modern browser will see what they’ve been missing, and the creativity and efficiency of web design and development across the board will grow.

What the Target Accessibility Lawsuit Ruling Means to Online Marketers

September 2, 2008 Leave a comment

Last week, Target and the National Federation for the Blind (NFB), came to a settlement over Target’s failure to make it’s retail site, www.target.com, fully accessible to vision impaired users — particularly  people who use screen readers to navigate the world wide web. According to the initial complaint, the biggest problem with the site was its lack of alt-tags for images.

The August 27, 2008 settlement requires Target to not only fix their site, but to also pay a hefty annual monitoring fee as well as $6 million is damages to members of the class action (most likely $1 million to the members, $5 million to the attorneys).

Here’s a summary of the settlement along with some of my editorial . . .

The website will be brought into compliance with the Target 508 Compliance Guidelines (2MB Word Doc) and will be certified by NFB as compliant with these guidelines.

  • Almost everything detailed in the Compliance Guidelines are good practices for any website. If you replace “Target.com” with your company’s website, this Compliance Guidelines provide a great checklist and road map that will not only put you in compliance with Section 508, but will also improve everyone’s usability, positively impact organic search and make site maintenance more efficient. Obviously, the best way to meet these standards is to plan for them at the beginning of your site’s development. If you have an existing site, the effort involved in retrofitting it will vary depending on the shape it’s in but its an effort that ought to be taken in light of this recent settlement.

Target will pay NFB $90,000 for the certification and first year of monitoring and then $40,000 per year thereafter.

  • It costs $90,000 to be certified by the NFB? Even at $200 per hour, that’s 450 hours worth of work.  Sounds like a for-profit scheme to me. The lawyers must be getting a cut of this, too.

Target’s web developers will receive at least one day of accessibility training, to be provided by NFB at a cost of up to $15,000 per session.

  • For an 8-hour day, that comes out to $1,875 per hour — that’s a nice rate. If anyone out there is from Target, contact me — we’ll come to your office and do it for half that, no problem.

Target will pay damages of $6,000,000 to the class action claimants, or at most $7000 per claimant, and will pay $20,000 to the California Center for the Blind on behalf of the primary claimant, Bruce Sexton, Jr.

  • Ouch. This seems like a lot. It must have been intended to send a message. Any smart marketer should be listening (no doubt the smart attorneys are).

Payment of legal fees is yet to be determined.

  • My guess is that it won’t be cheap. I foresee the makings of a cottage industry going after website owners because the blood’s in the water now.

What this means for Marketers.
Obviously, marketers should have their sites analyzed to see what steps, if any, they need to take towards compliance with section 508 — and then begin implementing those changes. Usually there are small things you can do to make a large impact, like adding in good, descriptive alt-tags.

Depending on your site, complete compliance may be more complex and might need to be done in phases. This could include updating all of your input fields on forms or overhauling the page mark-up. Anything you do will help not only move towards compliance, but should also improve overall usability and make your site more effective.

The Target 508 Compliance Guidelines document provides a detailed map as to how Target will be evaluated — and should also be a guide to reviewing your website’s level of accessibility and the steps required to be in compliance.

And, while I’m no attorney, I’ve got to believe that taking positive steps now will help mitigate any potential legal action.

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