How to Incorporate Storytelling Into Your Web Design

We all love a good story. Have you ever considered incorporating one into your web design? No? Well, you should, because it’s become an incredible communications tool in addition to a core component of content marketing.

We’d like you to do something. Close your eyes, just for a moment, and think about all the different brands you know and interact with. Think about their stories. What premise or plotline do they use to reach out to customers, enthusiasts, supporters and even rivals? How has that story evolved since the inception of the brand?

This may all seem like a bunch of nonsense to you now, but you should quickly do away with that mindset if it’s how you feel. You see, humans are emotional creatures, and stories — personal or otherwise — are the way we interact with the world and one another. Think about it! Every time you converse, discuss or reach out to friends and family, one thing you’ll do for one another is share stories.

This is the same outlook modern brands and organizations have about their relationship with their customers, especially through digital platforms and channels. Social media, for instance, allows brands and company representatives to have much more personal and influential interactions with specific customers. The same can be said of modern customer support tools like one-to-one messaging or IM solutions, and even discussion forums.

Why Use a Story at All?

Because stories help carry a message, they are far more memorable, and that’s the idea — a story is not only more engaging but it also remains in a customer’s brain, sometimes even influencing how they react or what decision they make.

But stories can also be used to placate the emotions of the viewer, pushing them closer to a product or service you are peddling. They may have had absolutely no clue they needed what you’re offering, but your story, the journey, and experience you subjected them to changed their outlook.

For example, wearables tend to have a reputation for being impractical to some people, which has helped slow adoption of the market. These people feel they already own a smartphone, so there’s no need to own a smaller device on their wrist that can do the same things. Keep in mind, we’re strictly talking about smartwatches and smart wearables here — not fitness trackers.

By delivering a story or personalized experience to those customers, wearable makers can help potential customers not just understand but also desire to have this type of product experience. They can show adverts, content, and media that portrays how practical these wearables actually are, specifically by showing some problems they can fix.

A good story plays to a customer’s emotions, opinions, and past experiences and shows them what the product or service can do in their life.

1. Create Characters That Resonate With Your Audience

Whether you use the real-world experiences of customers and personnel on your team or you make up characters, be sure the focus is on someone your general audience can relate to. For example, Progressive uses Flo, the infamous insurance agent, to tell stories about their company and products. She resonates with a lot of folks because of her bubbly personality, desire to help and overall friendliness. But you don’t have to make up a fictional character to facilitate your stories.

Airbnb, for example, uses stories from real customers to share their experiences renting properties through the app and platform. You can browse this section, find someone that best matches you and your family and see how they fared. It’s a genius approach to onboarding new customers, really.

One company ascertained that parents are 52% less likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day after they have kids. This information was used to create a more compelling and engaging story for that particular audience, and by using relatable situations and characters, it turned out to be effective, too.

2. Remain True to Your Personality and Brand Mission

If you’re strictly professional, try to put together an experience or story that remains just as professional. If your brand is a little quirkier, you can be fun-loving and whimsical instead. The foundation, or the core concept of your brand and personality, should remain the same throughout, however. That’s true no matter what story you tell, what platform or channel you tell it on and how it evolves over time.

The Burt’s Bees philosophy to products, for instance, is that what you put on your body “should always be the best nature has to offer.” This idea permeates nearly every element of their brand from the creation of their products to the distribution and fulfilment of them. You can read all about how they make this possible on their story page.

3. Embrace Change

Your website, your customers and the world around you do not have to be static. You don’t have to spend a vast amount of resources every few years to update the content, stories and experiences. Instead, just keep everything consistent and regular. Embrace change over time and continue telling new stories and providing new experiences to your customers, all using the same basic plot or foundation.

The best way to make this happen — and make the most of it — is through analytics and customer data. If something isn’t working like you expected, change it. If a campaign isn’t going well or is received poorly, drop it and find another. Just because you are focused on one coherent and seamless story doesn’t mean you can’t invite change.

Nike is an amazing example of this idea. They’ve been telling stories to their customers for years, decades even. This can be traced all the way back to 1999, when they released a commercial dedicated to the retirement and career of Michael Jordan. You’ll notice that since then, a lot of their stories have been similar but fresh enough to be considered new and different. The FlyEase journey, for example, is a more recent story of a new product they offer.

4. Have a Clear Beginning, Middle and End

Like any good book, your story needs to have a beginning, middle and end that is easily definable for all your customers. They know exactly when the journey has begun, when they’re close to being done and when things have completely wrapped up.

The beginning should introduce your characters and players, establishing the main plot and setting. The middle should present the problems or issues your characters are having. In the end, you should be able to see that conflict resolved. This entire process is called the story arc of your story’s main character.

The end of the story, for instance, could be an incredibly effective call to action. Spotify’s landing page embodies this idea in full. You land there, see what you can do with the service, how it can help you, what kinds of people rely on it and go from there.

5. Keep Them Hooked

The poker player saying “don’t lay all your cards on the table” is a great one to live by, especially when sharing and developing stories. Your stories need to be both compelling and engaging, but you don’t want to reveal absolutely everything. You want your customers to be hooked, enticed and interested in coming back.

In other words, keep them hooked and leave them wanting more, but in a good way. This can be achieved through teasers and media releases, viral marketing campaigns, customer sharing and even social media events.

Netflix is an awesome example of this. Even for those who unsubscribe and or never are active customers, Netflix releases plenty of information about new content and new media available through the service. This keeps customers engaged, interested — and most importantly — coming back for more.

Go Forth and Create!

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of room for stories to be created, maintained, shared and bolstered, and all of them contribute to the way an audience sees and engages with a brand. It’s your goal to come up with a compelling story, but also one that resonates with your target audience. More importantly, you need to ensure the story you’re telling — and the goal you’re trying to achieve — is efficient and possible. You can do this by deploying and making use of the tips discussed here.
Good luck! Now go forth and create! Tell a revered story that all will love to experience!

How to Promote a Positive Work Environment and Increase Revenue

The concept of positive thinking has been a popular practice for decades. Commonly used to treat depression and reduce stress, this seemingly debatable mentality actually has some scientific value behind it. Although individuals have been applying it to their personal lives in ever-increasing numbers, business leaders have begun introducing the strategy to their workforce.

Engaging in Team Building and Development

How to Promote a Positive Work Environment

Meant to encourage consistency and productivity across the board, team building is critical to those who want their company to reach its fullest potential. As this has become a popular method of introducing co-workers, strengthening collaboration and heightening profitability, there are a plethora of proven exercises that focus on building teams and instilling a positive mindset.

The desert island survival game is one of the most basic and straightforward brainteasers. Ask your staff members to create a list of 10 or 12 items that they’d want to have if they were stranded on a desert island with their fellow co-workers or teammates. Afterward, ask each employee why they chose their specific items. You can take this exercise one step further by having them rank each item in order of its importance, as well as those of their peers.

If you have access to an empty room or large outdoor clearing, the minefield exercise can be used to develop stronger relationships and enhance communications amongst teammates. The premise is simple: one blindfolded teammate has to traverse a minefield that is littered with (harmless) objects using only the words, suggestions and guidance of their team. Playable with teams of two or more, this is an incredibly fun exercise that is quite useful at building positivity and increasing revenue.

Those who are working with larger teams of 10 or 20 members can use a fun concentration game to renew their energy levels, boost their memory and show them the importance of paying attention to details.

After dividing the team into two equally sized groups, have both lines face each other. Employees in the first line then turn around, which gives those in the remaining line a chance to change several features of their own appearance. At the completion of 30 – 60 seconds, the two lines once again face each other. Those who just turned around now have to identify as many changes as they can before the timer runs out.

Feel free to get creative with your games. Remember, they don’t necessarily have to relate directly to the job. As long as these exercises promote team building and positive thinking, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a positive work environment and increased company revenue.  

Integrating Corporate Culture

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Business leaders who want to maintain an even greater focus on positive thinking can integrate their company’s culture into the new way of thinking. This process begins during the initial recruitment and hiring process, where you’ll need to filter out any applicants that don’t match your standards, expectations or mindset. Remember: a great leader needs great people to lead in order to be successful.

According to experts on the subject, a company’s culture revolves around their organization’s beliefs and core mission, internal controls and power structures, rituals such as regularly scheduled meetings and special events, overall workflow and even the brand’s logo or likeness. Maintaining consistency across all these areas is the key to establishing a positive corporate culture has the potential to impact long-term revenue.

You’ll also want to ensure that your culture is fully scalable to match a growing staff, increased workflow and any forecasted profits. By ensuring the framework is already in place to accommodate the greater revenue that comes with a stronger corporate culture, you’ll be better equipped to handle the growth as soon as it occurs.

Developing a culture that revolves around positive thinking can also boost employee engagement. Some companies are able to utilize an open work environment to ensure their organizational leaders and figureheads are accessible by every employee. Not only does this ensure quick and thorough communication, but it can even lead to an increased sense of solidarity amongst staff members.  

Tackling Issues Head-On

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A number of issues need to be addressed when considering the impact of positive thinking on your workplace. While those who pressure their employees into the performing better will often see improved productivity, studies show that healthcare costs can be 50 percent higher for these companies when compared to those who assume a laidback, stress-free approach.

Undue stress, pressure and a negative company culture can even lead to increased disengagement amongst your employees. According to the Queens School of Business, disengaged staff members experience higher rates of absenteeism, workplace accidents and lower profitability. Considering the fact that 7 out of 10 people across the U.S. report physical or emotional stress, we could be talking about millions of employees throughout all industries.

Workplace stress can also lead to a lack of employee loyalty. As approximately 40 percent of all U.S. workers consider their job to be extremely stressful, it’s easy to see how an otherwise dedicated staff member could be lured away by the promise of higher wages, greater benefits or a friendlier work environment.

Reaping the Benefits for All

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Those who embrace the power of positive thinking in and around the workplace are bound to see changes that benefit themselves as well as others. We can look at the recent actions of other companies to find evidence of the effects that positive thinking can have on corporate culture, teamwork and even customer service.  

Increased sustainability in productivity and, as a result, organizational revenue, is one of the biggest and most obvious advantages of a motivated and positive-minded workforce. Employees who are happy with their roles are far more likely to meet production quotas and maintain standards in quality as opposed to those who are overworked, burned out or otherwise unmotivated.

Your company’s standards in customer service are also likely to improve in the wake of a successful positive thinking campaign. With renewed motivation, desire and enthusiasm, your public-facing staff members will find their daily interactions are easier than ever before. Moreover, their newfound methods of stress management and mitigation will help them overcome even the most difficult of customers.

Maintaining Your New Corporate Culture and Profitability Into the Future

Instilling a positive mindset amongst your workforce and increasing your company’s revenue is only half the battle. Once you have a strong corporate culture in place, the challenge only intensifies as you’re tasked with maintaining your momentum in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

8 Tips for Helping Your Business Go Mobile

Why Your Business Should Go Mobile with 8 Tips

Waiting for the subway. Procrastinating at work. Going to the bathroom. Relaxing on the couch. Sitting on a bench at the park.

What do all these events have in common? You’re on your phone for all of them.

It’s 2016, and people live their lives through the screen on their smartphone. Everything from social interactions to business transactions take place in the palm of your hand. The world now runs through mobile devices, which means your business should as well.

If your business hasn’t made the transition to mobile, then now is definitely the time to do it. Here are eight tips for helping your business go mobile:

1. Serve Your Customers

why your business should go mobile

Simply having an app or mobile website isn’t beneficial for your business if it isn’t useful to your customers. Make sure you focus on your customer’s needs when designing your new mobile platform.

Why do customers visit your website or call your business? Do they want to set up a reservation? Do they need a quote for a project? Maybe they want to be informed? Figure out the reason people visit your company’s website and feature that on your mobile platform.

For example, restaurants could provide the ability to make a reservation at the top of their home page. Just be sure it’s clear and easy to use. If it’s not, your customer may get frustrated and go elsewhere.

Make sure you keep the customer in mind when you make your business go mobile.

2. Responsive Website Design

There’s nothing worse than going to a website on a tablet, only to find it’s really small because it’s designed for a phone. This problem will turn away customers because your design isn’t aesthetically appealing.

You don’t know which device your users will be using to access your website, so your company’s mobile website should have a responsive design that changes size based on the device being used. If someone is viewing your website on a tablet, the site’s size and orientation will automatically adjust based on the user’s screen. If the user in on their phone, then your website will shrink and be just as readable.

Your website should be able to function on any device. A responsive website design is the best way to accomplish this.

3. Create an App

Apps dominate the mobile landscape. There are apps for games, social media, online shopping and much more. It’s possible your company might need an app instead of a responsive website.

An app can be your company’s hub to make orders, provide content, create a community and become more in touch with your audience. Having an app will entice more users to interact with your company, because the icon on their phone will act as a constant reminder. Your business will always be in the back of their mind.

You also have more freedom of designing an app than you do with a website. Apps can be a creative way for your business to truly connect with customers.

4. Outsource the App Development and Maintenance

Don’t worry about learning code or different design styles. Instead, outsource the job of designing your app and leave it up to the experts.

In fact, making an app is easier than ever. There are many companies that can easily create a basic app that gives you every feature you need. However, the best route might be to find a freelance designer on a site like Upwork and hire them to design an app that’s best for your company.

Maintaining your app is simple as well. There are companies that will test your app for bugs and fix them for you. You only have to pay for the bugs that were found and fixed.

By outsourcing the job of app or website creation, you’re making sure you have the best finished product. It also gives you more time to focus on your business.

5. Embrace the Mobile World

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Going mobile doesn’t mean you can just create a website, publish it and then completely forget about the Internet. Your business has to be completely active in the mobile realm. This means being active on social media and continually interacting with customers.

Create social media accounts so your business can interact with customers. You can also update your audience on any news about your business.

Also, becoming mobile means you should be more available. Users can visit your website at any time within a split second, so you should be able to respond instantly at any time. Have an instant messaging option for your customer support page. Your business can’t truly go mobile if it ignores the other mobile platforms and features available to it.

6. Advertise Your New Platform

Some companies use apps or innovative web designs as a way to attract new customers. In a way, your app is a marketing attribute. However, your app or mobile site can do much more than get new eyes on your business. It can be an extension of your business’ service.

Advertise your new platform to your existing customers. Put up posters in your store or send a mass email to anyone who has made a purchase. Your mobile platform can become an integral part of your customers’ lives. It can create brand loyalty because your app is always there for your customers. Make sure people know about your business going mobile.

7. Simple Is Better

Simplicity is key for any design. If blocks of text are popping up, and letters are scrolling by in bright, flashing colors, then all you’re doing is distracting your user from the purpose of your website or app.

Your mobile website or app should be as simple as possible — plain colors, easy-to-read fonts and no movement. The user isn’t interested in your company because you know how to code a text box that flashes a yellow color. Your users want to learn more about your business or take part in a transaction. Make this easier for them by having a simple platform.

8. Focus on Usability

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The most important aspect of your new mobile platform is that people can actually use it. When creating this platform, make sure you focus on usability.

The key to successful usability is easy navigation. The user should be able to find the information they want to find. This is why it’s important to understand your audience and know what they’re looking for. That way, you can feature this information and make it easy for your customers. You should also make sure your website runs smoothly and quickly.

Test different pages and get feedback from your users. Find out what they like, what they don’t like and how they feel your website can be improved. Look for problems they might come across when using your website or app. Then do everything you can to fix these problems and make sure visitors have no issues with using your platform.

Time to Get Mobile

Now is the best time for your business to go mobile. Make it a reality so your business can reap the benefits.

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

How CTAs Boost Your Revenue and Increase Business

The Importance of Calls to Action

An effective call to action, or CTA, can have a resounding impact on revenue while also expanding customer reach.

CTAs are common throughout the web, from social media to blog posts, but the most successful speak for themselves with profitable results.

CTAs also possess an enjoyable versatility, both in regard to platform usage and actual content, that makes their usage recommended for business in all niches. When digging deeper into why and how successful calls to action work, while also looking at examples of poor calls to action, several things become clear:

1. CTAs Can Exist Anywhere

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The early age of the internet saw a fairly limited number of areas ripe for calls to action. Since CTAs can exist anywhere content can, today presents a wider range of opportunities than ever for businesses to take full advantage of CTAs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other platforms all present ample opportunity for calls to action, whether in the form of conventional text or even a video or photo making the call to action. As the example above shows, platforms like Instagram even provide accessible call to action options.

This versatility aids in increased revenue because it allows for more creative opportunities. Audiences vary between the platforms. Viewers of a blog, for instance, are fully expecting to digest content, making lengthier calls to action appropriate. Meanwhile, viewers of Instagram are more in the mode of quick digestion. In this case, a quick video or photo with a concise call to action seems more appropriate.

Using the versatility of CTAs, while analyzing which CTAs are a fit for the particular medium, can result in a business seeing extreme increases in revenue. Reaching out to the entire user base via blogs and social media can ensure a wider net is cast than ever before.

2. They Serve as the Finishing Touch

One could convey a brilliant marketing pitch and be faultless in their delivery and content delivery, yet still fail to capture business if they don’t finish well. Summarizing all the benefits of joining a service or purchasing an item at the end of the pitch is integral to closing things up. Calls to action have the power to do this.

Aligning CTAs correctly is part of the art. Ideally, for a blog post, successful CTAs are placed at the end, with the preceding content leading into it and the CTA summarizing the beneficial points. A question like, “So what are you waiting for?” or “Ready to join?” is commonly included.

Prematurely placing a CTA can cause readers to forget to undertake the action entirely. They may get so swept up in your beautiful content that the CTA can be forgotten. That’s why placing it at the end is a better strategy — it can leave a more resounding impact and result in more conversions.

3. CTAs Can Reinforce Established Expertise

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Users are unlikely to respond to a call to action if they’re skeptical about you or what you’re offering. As a result, great calls to action are preceded by content that establishes a legitimate reputation and knowledge on the topic. For example, this guide to better landing pages from Hubspot includes eleven great tips. By the article’s conclusion, there is no question as to whether Hubspot is an expert on the subject.

At the article’s conclusion, they ask users: “What other landing page tips would you share with marketers taking an interest in landing page optimization?” This causes users to stop and think, reflecting on what they’ve read so far. With many at a loss for what to respond with, Hubspot cleverly includes right below that a very effective CTA: “Want more lead generation tips and tricks? Download your copy of The 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas today.”

Asking readers a concluding question and then following that question up with a relevant call to action can work wonders in terms of increasing revenue and grabbing a reader’s attention. It’s generally a three-step process that entails capturing the reader’s interest, immersing their newly learned knowledge with an applicable question and using that question within the CTA.

4. Non-Specific CTAs Can Work, When Incorporated Intelligently

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Content-tailored calls to action can work wonderfully, though the power of CTAs is also evident in their ability to be placed anywhere regardless of topic. An entirely irrelevant CTA won’t work well, such as pitching an eBook about aviation in an article about pest control, but more general CTA tasks — like subscribing to the entire site’s newsletter or following them on social media — can be pushed regardless of the topic being presented in the blog or social media post.

Hubspot does this well, too, placing a call to action box at the bottom of many blog articles that give viewers an option to subscribe to their newsletter. After some time on their page, a pop-up also appears with the option to “Get expert marketing tips straight to your inbox, and become a better marketer” above a box where you can enter your email address.

The box only pops up after a minute or two on a page, with the site assuming you’re reading and interested enough in the content to consider subscribing. Using time-based pop-ups like these, as opposed to just popping up immediately, can be the difference between being perceived as a nuisance and a helpful suggestion.

5. Harness the Power of Testimonials

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In addition to strong content, testimonials can be a difference-maker when people are wondering whether to go through with a presented CTA. LinkedIn knows this well, dedicating an entire page to endorsements and testimonials from respectable figures. On their various product pages, where CTAs are used to get people to sign up, these testimonials are visible on the page.

This is a particularly wise method for businesses not as dependent on substantive blog content. If users aren’t going to gain good judgment of your reputability or success from content alone, have others reinforce that notion. CopyBlogger uses endorsements nicely in their call to action, with various endorsement quotes evident right below their “Take the Tour” CTA.

6. Establish Urgency! CTAs Love It!

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Effective calls to actions can vary in their content and tone, though they generally all do possess a relatively urgent quality. Creating the impression that something is limited or very timely can prompt users to make the action, as opposed to simply telling themselves “I’ll do it later” before forgetting about it entirely. The call to action on Leadpages’ weekly webinar is a great example of this, telling users to “Click Here to Claim Your Spot,” with a countdown timer below that. While the timer may be a bit much for some sites, it’s certainly an effective tool to tell potential leads “this won’t be here forever!”

CJ Pony Parts’ homepage CTA also successfully uses urgency. They offer a 10% off sale, while noting “this is your only chance all year to purchase select Cobb items on sale!”. Again, this informs users how much time they have can create a productive anxiety of sorts, with them opting to take care of it now before forgetting later.

Calls to action clearly possess a great ability to generate revenue and expand a business’ reach, as long as they show urgency, are implemented appropriately on a platform-specific basis and are uplifted by shrewd placement and copy. All businesses should be taking advantage of CTAs in our very social media and blog-active climate.

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.