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What Social Media?

Recently I was talking with one of the owners at a favorite restaurant about Social Media.  She told me she does not pay attention to what people put on websites like Yelp and this concerned me a bit. So I inquired as to why she does not pay attention.  Her response was simply “There is nothing I can do about what people write”; but is this really true?

I have thought a lot about the conversation over the last few weeks, because to a point I do not agree.  As a former restaurant and retail manager any feedback from customers can improve processes and service.  There is an old adage that says if a person has a bad experience they will tell five people and those five people will tell another five people and so on.  On the flip side, if a delighted customer tells five people those people may not spread the good news; they may only tell one or two people. Chances are those one or two people will not tell others.

Now think about social media…if I have a bad experience at a store and I post it on Facebook then all of my friends will see the message.  Depending on the message, some of those friends may go on to share the note.  The same thing can be said about Twitter; what if the person who had the bad experience had 100,000 followers.  Once the message is out there it can’t be taken back; you never know how many people will re-post the message.

I agree you can’t control what people write but you can get people talking about you in a different manner.  Instead of putting blinders on to what people say you need to be part of the conversation.  Author Liana Evans wrote a great book called Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media where in Chapter 4 she talks about something she calls “Return on Conversation”.  The point of the discussion is companies need to be involved with social media: reading what is said, responding, re-posting, etc.

As an owner/manager you can talk to your customers about going out to Social Media sites and encourage them to write about their experiences.  If you happen to notice a bad experience, take action respond to an unhappy customer either by direct message or private message.   Find out what the problem was and fix it!  If it was slow service, find out when they were in the store and see if you happened to be short staffed…if so increase staffing.  If it was poor quality find out why and figure out a way to improve the quality; maybe you need to find a new vendor or maybe the staff needs to be retrained. Whatever the problem was you need to find a solution.

Mobile Web Development

This week we are taking a look at developing applications or widgets for mobile devices. There are a few things to keep in mind when developing for mobile devices:

  • Custom style sheets (CSS) for mobile phones putting links first, then content – this allows mobile users to get to the content faster
  • Minimize text entry required – ease of entry is different for various devices and often difficult
  • Avoid image maps – due to the required clicks on a specific part of the image and it may not be possible on all devices
  • Implement location based services if needed to assist the user in locating you

Another good resource for creating pages for mobile use is called “Consider these design issues when developing mobile applications”. This pages offers advice to developers about items such as content, screen size, etc.

Google provides a page called “Android Developers” which describes the various articles, tutorials, etc. needed to make an app for the Android device. Windows has a similar site called “Windows Mobile Developer Center” which has all of the information you need to develop apps for the Windows Phone. Similarly Apple offers the site “iOS Developer” with similar information. I am sure that other phone manufactures like Blackberry have the same type of pages. What about those users who do not have these devices?

When developing for .mobi there are a bunch of resources out there for the web developer to follow. One such tool MyMobileWeb, offers an easy to follow guide when creating mobile based applications. “MyMobileWeb is a low-cost, modular, open-standards-based, open source software platform that simplifies the development of top-quality .mobi applications and portals, providing an advanced content adaptation environment. It includes different modules which cover all the basic requirements that must fulfill a complete and integrated mobile web site, hiding applications all the complexity related to dealing with multiple delivery contexts” (mobiForge). Google provides a great resource page for development of .mobi pages called “Developing mobile sites”. This Google site has links to validation tools which will validate your page to ensure it will work on mobile devices.

As a result, developers need to take a look at the cost/benefit when developing a page for mobile devices. If your page will likely not be viewed on mobile devices, the cost of development will outweigh the benefits. Similarly, if your site is heavily used by mobile users you need to invest in creating a usable and accessible site for mobile devices.
Works Cited
mobiForge. MyMobileWeb – An open source platform for developing .mobi-compliant applications. March 2007. 2 November 2010 <http://mobiforge.com/developing/story/mymobileweb-an-open-source-platform-developing-mobi-compliant-applications>.

Web Accessibility

This week I want to take a further look at accessibility guidelines.  In the United States, there are two guidelines agencies may have to go by where web accessibility is concerned, Section 508, which in most cases are the same as the general WCAG guidelines.  What I found most interesting is the government decided that they needed to have a separate set of guidelines for government agencies.  Instead, the government should have worked with the WAI to make their guidelines more understandable to the general public.

Upon reading about the WCAG guidelines, the most surprising thing to me is some of the content is very vague.  For example, Guideline 1.1 states “Provide text alternatives for all non-text content” (Thatcher); what does that mean?  A person could interpret Guideline 1.1 in two ways; more is better or less is best.  If I put an image on my web page showing the Officers Club on Alcatraz Island should I describe in detail the image or should I simply name the building?  In my opinion, a description of the building would be of no use to people who do not rely on screen readers unless they have images turned off.  I would suggest as an alternative to make the alt-tag simply state Officers Club on Alcatraz Island and then add a D-link tag to describe the image for the person needing a screen reader.  The WCAG needs to address the Guidelines to make them less generic and more useful.

From reading the Guidelines and Section 508 standards, I have decided the Section 508 Standards provide more valuable guidance for web developers.  One tool that I found is the site Web Accessibility Made Easy as posted by NASA.  The chart provides users with understandable information in an easy to use format.  WCAG has a similar page called How to Meet WCAG 2.0 which is a much easier to read document than the original posting.  It seems the WAI realized the massive amount of information provided was to great and many developers would simply ignore the information or claim they did not understand the guidelines.

Works Cited
Thatcher, Jim. Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance. New York: friends of ed, 2006.

Universal Design

What is Universal Design?  In a general sense “Universal Design is trying to make products & environments easily used by everyone. With this use of approach it will help people with handicaps, disabled and/or small children” (Expert).  However, for our purposes we are strictly talking about the virtual world and according to the text Universal Design is “Designing for the largest audience possible, regardless of disability or ability to speak the native language”  (Thatcher).

I started learning about Universal Design while taking a course in Web Accessibility and Usability I thought this totally makes since; a few key things I learned were the length of links, testing with experienced users, and fixing an existing site.  According to Mark DuBois, web links should be more than four characters long because “people may not be able to click on a link smaller than four characters” (DuBois).   The book by Jim Thatcher  provides sound logic as to why you should use people with disabilities when testing your site.   By including people with disabilities in the testing phase you can learn from them to improve your site to make it more accessible and more usable.  Furthermore, the text explains how to fix an existing site; one of the key things I learned was prioritizing the repairs, by area or barrier.  If there are a few areas on your site that are highly impactful you should fix those first.  Then you can turn your attention to the guidelines put forth by the WCAG, using the WCAG 1.0 Checkpoints.

Works Cited
DuBois, Mark. CMWEB 150 – Topic 2. 13 August 2010. 19 August 2010 <http://www.screencast.com/users/MarkDuBois/folders/CMWEB150/media/c5100e6a-caaa-4670-8e7a-042a7819e36a>.
Expert, Rheada Answers. Ask Answers. 2010. 30 August 2010 <http://answers.ask.com/Society/Other/what_is_universal_design>.
Thatcher, Jim. Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance. New York: Friends of Ed, 2006.

Social Media: Laggard or Looser

Are you a Laggard?

Anytime a business enters a market with a product there is an adoption cycle.  This cycle goes through different phases from Innovators to Laggards.  Innovators jump at the chance to try something new and Laggards wait until the end to adopt the product.

product life cycle

Example of the product life cycle

Has your company adopted Social Media?

If your company has not yet adopted social media then you are behind the curve.  If you go on Facebook, Yelp, or any other of the networks and look up your competitors chances are you will find them.  Social Media is the Mid- to Late Majority Phase of the product life cycle.

Do you have a Social Media Strategy?

Chances are when you opened Facebook and jumped on the social media train you did not think about a strategy.  You need to have a strategy to know how to handle issues that may arise.  Things like:

  • Who is Responsible for:
    • Tweeting company news
    • Commenting on user comments on your wall
    • Reading discussion board entries
    • Monitoring blogs
  • What to do when negative press hits; remember negative press does not have to be a CNN story it could be a blog post.

Don’t be a Laggard!