Author: adminmiden

For business to win in the coronavirus crisis, head to the bottom of the pyramid

coronavirus crisis

The only discussion in business circles these days is, “how do we survive in this coronavirus crisis?”

Understandably, this is a confusing and unprecedented time. But the answer to the question is actually fairly straight-forward (not to be confused with easy!). Let’s use my blog as a very simple example of a coronavirus pivot.

I put a ton of work into my blog. Every week I create content that is timely, relevant, and entertaining. Here is a list of the posts I had scheduled to publish in the coming weeks:

  • The best way to jump-start your speaking career
  • An updated formula for content that stands out
  • Top 5 reasons why marketing leaders won’t change with the times
  • Social media essentials for your next event

These are really interesting and helpful posts. My audience will love them.

Someday. But not now.

This content is no longer as relevant as it once was due to the consumer psychology of the coronavirus crisis.

Let’s look at what’s happening, and what you and I need to do about it.

Upside-down psychology

You’re probably familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Some psychologists suggest we need to tweak this model, but for today, let’s use the tried-and-true Pyramid for our discussion:

coronavirus crisis

Think about your own business in the context of this model. Where would you place the type of products you’re trying to sell right now? Are they at the top of the Pyramid?

But where is the psychology of our world right now? At the bottom.

Everybody I know is locked-in at home and concerned about running out of food or essential living supplies. Many have had a dramatic loss of income — millions are without employment. Many others are sick, or fearful of getting sick. I have friends who are isolated, bored, and lonely.

This is where most of the world is psychologically residing today. We’re trying to attend to our basic human needs.

Unless you’re David Geffen. Then all bets are off …

coronavirus crisis

 

So if you’re still in the business of yachts and caviar, you’re good with David Geffen.

Me? I’m locked-down with illness and I’ve run out of fresh fruit and vegetables. Like most people all over the world, I’m dwelling at the bottom of the Maslow Pyramid.

The psychology of marketing now

I see a disconnect among my marketing friends right now. They seem to be in stubborn denial about our current situation. An actual quote:

“People are still buying like always. Content and social media marketing is more important than ever.”

Buying like always?

Obviously this is a quote from somebody who SELLS content and social media marketing services!  And of course, in some circumstances, that might be true. But in general, in this moment, people are trying to STAY SANE after the 150th game of Chutes and Ladders with the kids.

Is your social media and content marketing relevant right now?

This is an easy question to answer. If you’re marketing products that serve the top of the Maslow Pyramid, the answer is probably no.

If you’re marketing products for the bottom of the Pyramid, the answer is probably yes. In fact, double down on your marketing.

The content pivot

So let’s get back to my problem. What do I do with all this content I had prepared to publish on my blog?

Again, a simple answer. Becoming a better leader or event manager is important, but probably not right now. I applied the brakes and I shifted to topics relevant to the bottom of the Pyramid.

For example, here are five recent bottom-of-the-Pyramid posts that I published:

I’ve also been creating a series of Facebook posts called Embracing the Chaos (also on YouTube) where I try to provide sympathetic, rational advice that is relevant to this moment in time.

On one level, you might be wondering … why would I do this? I don’t sell psychological consulting services. I’m not selling courses in motivational speaking.

Right now, the long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales. Read that again, please.

Almost every business needs to send their social media and content marketing to the bottom of the Pyramid … immediately.

I made a pivot to my content because my mission is to teach, and the subject matter I need to teach about has suddenly changed in a dramatic fashion. I need to be relevant at the bottom.

The good news

Watch what the biggest brands are doing with their marketing and messaging. With breathtaking speed, all the best-managed companies have stopped in their tracks, ended the “normal” selling, and re-directed their advertising to the bottom of the Pyramid.

coronavirus crisis

We’re seeing this pivot occur with almost every television and digital ad. This is especially impressive since almost all advertising production shoots have been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. Nevertheless, the best brands are using simple stock images or words over music to tell people that they care and they’re relevant at this moment.

Why are we seeing this dramatic change? You guessed it.

The long-term relevance of the brand is more important than short-term sales.

I could have kept on publishing my blog posts as planned. That would have been the easy thing to do!

But when I adjusted the theme of my content to focus on my near-term customer needs, the traffic on my site increased by 50 percent over the normal level. How will that impact me in the long-term? Who knows. All I can do right now is be relevant and helpful. We are in uncharted territory.

I totally understand why some small businesses are desperate right now and might feel compelled to sell, sell, sell … even if it’s not relevant. Our dreams have been dashed by an invisible enemy.

But no amount of advertising, discounting, or content marketing will matter if your audience is at the bottom of the Pyramid and you’re still selling at the top. You’re irrelevant. You need to stop.

Winning in the coronavirus crisis

I have a friend who has a real estate company. Buying a house right now is a top-of-the-pyramid aspirational activity when you’re locked-in and laid-off. Sales are way down. There is no Sunday open house right now.

During this time, she has started an effort to rally people in the community to sew masks to meet hospital shortages. Her coronavirus mask group now numbers 800 people.

Now, when we get to the other side of this coronavirus crisis, nobody is going to remember her for any house she sold. But nobody will ever forget her (and her brand) for what she doing for our community right now.

A local cattle rancher who provides steaks to high-end restaurants is offering to deliver his meat to our homes. He is moving from the top of the pyramid to serving the un-met needs at the bottom of the pyramid.

There are probably hundreds of examples like this in your community, too.

One other observation: Several marketing gurus have pointed out that the explosive increase in web traffic is evidence that this is the very best time to pump up the content marketing jams on whatever product you’re selling. Again, this advice is wrong and misleading.

What are people using the Internet for right now? Bottom of the Pyramid activities. And Netflix, of course!

This crisis will pass. The world will come back. But for now, tune your marketing to the power of the Pyramid. Head to the bottom to survive.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post For business to win in the coronavirus crisis, head to the bottom of the pyramid appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

10 Content Marketing Statistics for 2020

Content Marketing Statistics

Content marketing continues to generate buzz and can be an amazing way to generate new leads and convert those leads into customers. No matter what form the content takes, it can help establish a brand as an authority in its field. The state of content marketing in the last few years has been one of great change.

The latest State of Content Marketing Report from SEMrush analyzed more than 450,000 tweets, 700,000 blog posts, hundreds of thousands of Google search queries and surveyed more than 1,200 marketing professionals around the world.

The report uncovered a number of content marketing trends that ruled the marketing world over the past year.

Here are ten content marketing statistics from the report that highlight the trends most likely to continue over the next several years.

Longer Articles Over 3,000 Words Received 3X More Traffic


Longer articles over 3,000 words receive 3X more traffic, according to a report by @SEMrush #contentmarketing
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In a few years, articles went from short pieces to lengthy, detailed pieces chock full of information. Pieces of 3,000 words or more got about three times the traffic and four times the shares as articles between 900 to 1,200 words. They also got more backlinks than shorter pieces.

While there is still a place for shorter pieces, a mix of long-form articles helps drive traffic and keeps site visitors engaged. The longer articles may also rank better in search engine results throughout 2020 (until the algorithms change yet again, anyway.

Anatomy of Top-Performing Content – Key Stats from the SEMrush State of Content Marketing Report

Around 37% of Americans Use Mobile Platforms to Go Online


Around 37% of Americans use mobile platforms to go online
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For the last few years, there has been a huge push to go mobile-first and to really make online content smartphone-friendly.
While there is evidence that more and more people use their phones to access the internet, the results in the State of Content Marketing Report highlight that many still access websites via desktop.

Traffic to Industry Blogs by Device

SEMrush looked at the devices people use to browse different industry blogs across the globe between April and September 2019 and split their traffic into desktop and mobile.

Pew Internet Research found that about 37% of Americans use their mobile devices to go online and the overall number of people owning a smartphone went from 35% in 2011 to 81% in 2019. Mobile usage continues to rise in 2020.

However, many still use their desktops to research information. In a look at over 1,000 blogs, researchers discovered that around 63% of the traffic to automotive dealerships is via desktop. The numbers reach as high as 80% and above for online education and marketing topics.

The key takeaway here is to write for the audience rather than a device and make sure your website adapts to whatever screen size the user has at a given moment.

content marketing - screen size

Successful Blogs Use a Mix of 13.8% Lists, 10.8% Q&As and 5.10% How-Tos

The report also looked at the different types of articles posted on blogs and found that most blogs benefited from a mix of different topics. For example, online education blogs had a mix of traffic that looked something like this: 3.6% guides, 5.10% how-to pieces, 10.8% Q&A articles and 13.8% lists.

Industry Blogs Top-performing Articles by Type

Industry Blogs Top-performing Articles by Type

Finding the right mix for each website is a matter of digging into site analytics and analyzing not only the popular topics on that blog but also competitor blogs. Many blogs even offer a look at the most popular articles, making it easy to do a bit of research and uncover which topics are popular with a given target audience.

There Are 2.96 Billion People on Social Media

One thing the report uncovered is that most businesses aren’t using social media as much as they should be, based on the number of users. There are approximately 2.96 billion people on social media.

The only categories using social media frequently enough were the fitness and health, home and garden and pharmaceutical categories. Each business is unique, so some marketers did a better job at social media promotions than others. However, it is a real weakness in the industry that must be addressed.

Headlines of 14 Words or More Got 5X More Backlinks


Headlines of 14 words or more get 5X more backlinks #contentmarketing
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The report also uncovered an increase in headline length. The reason writers should use longer headlines of 14 words or more is because they get twice as much traffic, two times as many shares and five times more backlinks.

The traditional advice was to keep headline length between seven and 10 words, but that seems to be changing. People want to know they are getting the specific information they’re seeking.

Listicles Get Double the Traffic of Other Types of Posts

Listicles seem to be everywhere. People are busy and they like information they can absorb in quick chunks. The ability to skim over subheadings in a listicle helps the user zero in on the exact advice they need.

The State of Content Marketing Report 2019 by SEMrush also uncovered that listicles get the most shares and traffic — as much as double what other types of posts receive.

36% of Articles With Both H2 and H3 Headings Got More Traffic and Shares

The study also uncovered that the use of both H2 and H3 headings resulted in higher performances.

About 36% of articles with both headings had more traffic, shares and backlinks than similar articles without. The reason likely comes back to the need for people to skim and find the exact material needed. Descriptive headings save the reader time and frustration.


36% of articles With both H2 and H3 headings get more traffic and shares #contentmarketing
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2020 Is About Ranking Higher Than Position #1

Search engines such as Google now use position zero to highlight quick snippets of content. While rich snippets have been around for a while, the way Google pulls information from content changed a bit in the last two years.

A rich snippet can appear anywhere in the text, so utilizing bullets helps Google see what content readers need most. Bulleted lists also make content more skimmable for readers.

The Word ‘Strategy’ Appeared in 29% of Tweets About Content Marketing

For years, top marketers have turned to well-organized plans in order to gain the most traction possible. The keyword phrase “content marketing strategy” was the most popular keyword in the category of content marketing and appeared in 29% of tweets. Content marketing strategy also appeared in the top 20 questions asked on Google about the topic.

Topics Discussed with the #ContentMarketing hashtag

SEMrush used a mixture of machine learning and human expertise to analyze the topics (key themes) that were discussed in the most popular tweets (20+ retweets) that were published between January and September 2019 and contained the #ContentMarketing hashtag.

In the last year, most people noticed more and more campaigns geared toward a specific holiday or event. Promoters have learned that people want highly personalized material that speaks directly to them and their needs. At the same time, consistency is the key to brand name recognition. Planned-out programs offer variety while still tying everything together with an underlying theme.

The Majority of Marketing Agencies Expanded Their Product Offerings

Another trend in the past year is a shift in the way marketing agencies package their products. Some agencies turned to proprietary software to increase the advantages of working with them over another agency. There is a lot of competition in the digital marketing space, so anything a company does to stand out increases potential profits.

Agencies should look at services already offered and find ways to expand into a full-service agency, so clients get all their exposure from one place. For example, add an event-planning service complete with logo-imprinted giveaway items. Any work that is farmed out or covered by another company is an opportunity for growth in 2020.

Conclusion

If you haven’t already, I urge you to download the State of Content Marketing Report from SEMrush. It’s filled with even more useful data to help guide your content marketing strategy this year.

The post 10 Content Marketing Statistics for 2020 appeared first on Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy.

How Should Designers Learn To Code? Git, HTML/CSS, Engineering Principles (Part 2)

How Should Designers Learn To Code? Git, HTML/CSS, Engineering Principles (Part 2)

How Should Designers Learn To Code? Git, HTML/CSS, Engineering Principles (Part 2)

Paul Hanaoka

Literally, tomes have been written on version control. Nevertheless, I will start by sharing a brief explanation and other introductory content to whet your appetite for further study.

Version control (not to be confused with version history) is basically a way for people to collaborate in their own environments on a single project, with a single main source of truth (often called the “master” branch).

I’ll go over today is the bare minimum you’ll need to know in order to download a project, make a change, and then send it to master.

There are many types of version control software and many tools for managing and hosting your source code (you may have heard of GitLab or Bitbucket). Git and GitHub are one of the more common pairs, my examples will reference GitHub but the principles will apply to most other source code managers.

Aside:

Collecting Data, The Powerful Way

Did you know that CSS can be used for collecting statistics? Indeed, there’s even a CSS-only approach for tracking UI interactions using Google Analytics. Read a related article →

Your First Contribution

Before doing these steps, you’ll need a few things set up:

  1. A GitHub account,
  2. Node and NPM installed on your computer,
  3. A high tolerance for pain or a low threshold for asking others for help.

Step 1: Fork (Get A Copy Of The Code On Your GitHub Account)

On GitHub, you will fork (fork = create a copy of the code in your account; in the following illustration, the blue, orange, red, and green lines show forks) the repository (repo) in question.

By creating branches off of the master, it’s possible for multiple people to contribute to different areas of a project and then merge their work together. (Large preview)

You do this by navigating to the repo in GitHub and clicking the “Fork” button, currently at the top right-hand corner of a repo. This will be the “origin” — your fork on your GitHub account.

As an example, navigating to https://github.com/yourGitHubUsername/liferay.design should show your fork of the Liferay.Design repo.

This is victorvalle’s GitHub fork. (Large preview)

Step 2: Clone (Download The Code To Your Computer)

In your terminal, navigate to where you’d like to store the code. Personally, I have a /github folder in my /user folder — it makes it easier for me to organize it this way. If you’d like to do that, here are the steps — after typing these commands into your terminal window, press the key to execute:

cd ~/ ## you'll usually start in your root directory, but just in case you don't this will take you there
mkdir github ## this creates a "github" folder — on OSX it will now be located at users/your-username/github
cd github ## this command navigates you inside the github folder

Now that you’re in the /github folder, you will clone (download a copy of the code onto your computer) the repo.

clone https://github.com/yourGitHubUsername/liferay.design

Once you enter this command, you’ll see a bunch of activity in the terminal — something like this:

Cloning into 'liferay.design'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 380, done.
remote: Total 380 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 380
Receiving objects: 100% (380/380), 789.24 KiB | 2.78 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (189/189), done.

Step 3: Install (Get It Running On Your Machine)

Navigate into the /project folder. In this case, we’ll enter cd liferay.design. Most projects will include a README.md file in the /root folder, this is typically the starting place for installing and running the project. For our purposes, to install, enter npm install. Once it’s installed, enter npm run dev.

Congratulations! You now have the site available on your local computer — typically projects will tell you where it’s running. In this case, open up a browser and go to localhost:7777.

Step 4: Commit (Make Some Changes And Save Them)

A commit is a collection of changes that you make; I’ve heard it described as saving your progress in a game. There are many opinions on how commits should be structured: mine is that you should create a commit when you’ve achieved one thing, and if you were to remove the commit, it wouldn’t completely break the project (within reason).

If you aren’t coming to a repo with a change in mind, a good place to go is the ‘Issues’ tab. This is where you can see what needs to be done in the project.

If you do have an idea for some change, go ahead and make it. Once you’ve saved the file(s), here are the steps required to create a commit:

git status ## this will print out a list of files that you've made changes in
git add path/to/folder/or/file.ext ## this will add the file or folder to the commit
git commit -m 'Summarize the changes you've made' ## this command creates a commit and a commit message

Tip: The best recommendation I’ve ever seen for commit messages is from Chris Breams’s “How To Write A Git Commit Message”. A properly formed Git commit subject line should always be able to complete the following sentence: “If applied, this commit will [your subject line here].” For more info on commits, check “Why I Create Atomic Commits In Git” by Clarice Bouwer.

Step 5: Push (Send Your Changes To Your Origin)

Once you’ve made some changes on your computer, before they can be merged into the master branch (added to the project), they need to be moved from your local to your remote repo. To do this, enter git push origin in the command line.

Step 6: Pull Request (Ask For Your Changes To Be Merged Into Upstream)

Now that your changes have gone from your fingers to your computer, to your remote repository — it’s now time to ask for them to be merged into the project via a pull request (PR).

The easiest way to do this is by going to your repo’s page in GitHub. There will be a small message right above the file window that says “This branch is X commits ahead repo-name:branch” and then options to “Pull request” or “Compare”.

Clicking the “Pull request” option here will take you to a page where you can compare the changes and a button that says “Create pull request” will then take you to the “Open a pull request” page where you’ll add a title and include a comment. Being brief, but detailed enough in the comment, will help project maintainers understand your proposed changes.

There are CLI tools like Node GH (GitHub also recently released a beta of their CLI tool) that allow you to initiate and manage pull requests in the terminal. At this point you may prefer to use the web interface, and that’s great! So do I.

The ‘Pull request’ and ‘Compare’ options will appear once your fork has diverged from the upstream repo. (Large preview)

At this point, we have three repository references:

  1. upstream: the main repo that you’re tracking, often it’s the repo that you forked;
  2. origin: the default name of the remote that you clone;
  3. local: the code that is currently on your computer.

So far, you have #2 and #3 — but #1 is important because it’s the primary source. Keeping these three things in-line with each other is going to help the commit history stay clean. This helps project maintainers as it eliminates (or at least minimizes) merge conflicts when you send pull requests (PR’s) and it helps you get the latest code and keep your local and origin repositories up-to-date.

Set An Upstream Remote

To track the upstream remote, in your terminal enter the following:

git remote add upstream https://github.com/liferay-design/liferay.design

Now, check to see what remotes you have available — enter git remote -v into your terminal, you should see something like:

origin and upstream are the most common labels for remotes — ‘origin’ is your fork, ‘upstream’ is the source. (Large preview)
origin https://github.com/yourGitHubUsername/liferay.design (fetch)
origin https://github.com/yourGitHubUsername/liferay.design (push)
upstream https://github.com/liferay-design/liferay.design (fetch)
upstream https://github.com/liferay-design/liferay.design (push)

This will allow you to quickly get the latest version of what is upstream — if you haven’t worked in a repo in a long time and don’t have any local changes that you want to keep, this is a handy command that I use:

git pull upstream master && git reset --hard upstream/master

GitHub Help is a great resource for this and many other questions you might have.

HTML And CSS: Starting With Semantics

On the web, there is an endless supply of resources for learning HTML and CSS. For the purposes of this article, I’m sharing what I would recommend based on the mistakes I made how I first learned to write HTML and CSS.

What Are HTML And CSS?

Before we get any further, let’s define HTML and CSS.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language.

Hypertext:

“Hypertext is text displayed on a computer display or other electronic devices with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access.”

— “Hypertext” on Wikipedia

Markup Language:

“…a system for annotating a document in a way that is syntactically distinguishable from the text.”

— “Markup Language” on Wikipedia

In case you also don’t know what a lot of those words mean — briefly put, HTML is the combination of references (links) between documents on the web, and tags that you use to give structure to those documents.

There’s an HTML5 tag for pretty much any basic element — otherwise you can always use a div! (Large preview)

For a thorough introduction to HTML and CSS, I highly recommend the Introduction to HTML and CSS first steps, both on the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) web docs. That, along with the excellent articles that websites such as CSS Tricks, 24 Ways and countless of others provide, contain basically everything you’ll ever need to reference with regards to HTML/CSS.

There are two main parts of an HTML document: the <head> and the <body>.
– The <head> contains things that aren’t displayed by the browser — metadata and links to imported stylesheets and scripts.
– The <body> contains the actual content that will be rendered by the browser. To render the content, the browser reads the HTML, provides a base layer of styles depending on the types of tags used, adds additional layers of styles provided by the website itself (the styles are included in/referenced from the <head>, or are inline), and that is what we see in the end. (Note: There is often also the additional layer of JavaScript but it’s outside of the scope of this article.)

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets — it is used to extend the HTML by making it easier to give documents a custom look and feel. A style sheet is a document that tells the HTML what elements should look like (and how they should be positioned) by setting rules based on tags, classes, IDs, and other selectors. Cascading refers to the method for determining which rules in a sheet take priority in the inevitable event of a rule conflict.

“‘Cascading’ means that styles can fall (or cascade) from one style sheet to another, enabling multiple style sheets to be used on one HTML document.”

Cascade — Max Design

CSS often gets a bad reputation — in sites with lots of style sheets it can quickly become unwieldy, especially if there aren’t documented, consistent methods used (more on that later) — but if you use it in an organized fashion and following all the best practices, CSS can be your best friend. Especially with the layout capabilities that are now available in most modern browsers, CSS is not nearly as necessary to hack and fight as it once was.

Rachel Andrew wrote a great guide, How To Learn CSS — and one of the best things to know before you start is that:

“You don’t need to commit to memorizing every CSS Property and Value.”

— Rachel Andrew

Instead, it’s far more vital to learn the fundamentalsselectors, inheritance, the box model, and most importantly, how to debug your CSS code (hint: you will need the browser developer tools).

Don’t worry about memorizing the syntax for the background property, and don’t worry if you forget about how exactly to align stuff in Flexbox (the CSS Tricks Guide to Flexbox is possibly one of my top-10 most visited pages, ever!); Google and Stack Overflow are your friends when it comes to CSS properties and values.

Some code editors even have built-in autocomplete so you don’t even need to search on the web in order to be able to figure out all the possible properties of a border, for example.

One of my favorite new features in Firefox 70 is the inactive CSS rules indicator. It will save you hours of time trying to figure out why a style isn’t being applied.

Kids these days have it so easy! (Large preview)

Semantics

Let’s start with semantic code. Semantics refers to the meanings of words, semantic code refers to the idea that there is meaning to the markup in any given language.

There are many reasons why semantics are important. If I could summarize this, I would say that if you learn and use semantic code, it will make your life a lot easier because you will get a lot of things for free — and who doesn’t like free stuff?

For a more complete introduction to semantic code, see Paul Boag’s brief blog post on the topic.

Semantics gives you many benefits:

  1. Default styles
    For example, using a headline tag <h1> for the title of your document will make it stand out from the rest of the document’s contents, much like a headline would.
  2. Accessible content
    Your code will be accessible by default, meaning it will work with screen readers and will be easier to navigate with a keyboard.
  3. SEO benefits
    Semantic markup is easier for a machine to read, which makes it more accessible to search engines.
  4. Performance benefits
    Clean HTML is the foundation for a high-performing site. And clean HTML will also likely lead to cleaner CSS which means less code overall, making your site or app faster.

Note: For a more in-depth look into semantics and HTML, Heydon Pickering wrote “Structural Semantics: The Importance Of HTML5 Sectioning Elements” which I highly recommend reading.

Engineering Principles And Paradigms: The Basics

Abstraction

There are tons of applications, tangents, and levels we could explore over the concept of abstraction — too many for this article which is intended to give you a brief introduction into concepts so that you are aware of them as you continue to learn.

Abstraction is a foundational engineering paradigm with a wide variety of applications — for the purposes of this article, abstraction is separating form from function. We’ll apply this in three areas: tokens, components, and the Don’t Repeat Yourself principle.

Tokens

If you’ve used a modern design tool for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered the idea of a token. Even Photoshop and Illustrator now have this idea of shared styles in a centralized library — instead of hard-coding values into a design, you use a token. If you’re familiar with the concept of CSS or SASS variables, you’re already familiar with tokens.

One layer of abstraction with tokens is to assign a name to a color — for example, $blue-00 can be mapped to a hex value (or an HSL value, or whatever you want) — let’s say #0B5FFF. Now, instead of using the hex value in your stylesheets, you use the token value — that way if you decide that blue-00 is actually #0B36CE, then you only have to change it in a single place. This is a nice concept.

Tokens for colors in the Lexicon Alerts component helps keep things DRY. (Large preview)

If you take this same paradigm of abstraction and go a layer further, you can token-ception — and assign a variable to a functional value. This is particularly useful if you have a robust system and want to have different themes within the system. A functional example of this would be assigning a variable like $primary-color and map that to $blue-00 — so now you can create markup and instead of referencing blue, you’re referencing a functional variable. If you ever want to use the same markup, but with a different style (theme), then you only need to map $primary-color to a new color, and your markup doesn’t need to change at all! Magic!

Components

In the past 3-4 years, the idea of components and componentization has become more relevant and accessible to designers. The concept of symbols (pioneered by Macromedia/Adobe Fireworks, later expanded by Sketch, and then taken to the next level by Figma and Framer), is now more widely available in most design tools (Adobe XD, InVision Studio, Webflow, and many others). Componentization, even more than tokens, can separate the form of something from the function of it — which helps to improve both the form and the function.

One of the more notable early examples is Nicole Sullivan’s media object component. At first glance you might not realize that a whole page is essentially composed of a single component, rendered in different ways. In this way, we can re-use the same markup (form), modifying it slightly by passing in options or parameters, and styles — and have it provide a variety of value (function).

Don’t Repeat Yourself

DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) is one of my favorite principles — creating things that can be reused over and over is one of the small victories you can have when coding.

While you often can’t (and arguably shouldn’t) strive to apply the DRY principle 100% of the time, every time — it’s at least beneficial to be aware of this so that as you’re working, you can consider how you can make whatever you’re working on more reusable.

A note on the Rule of Three: A corollary to the DRY principle is the rule of three — essentially, once you re-use (copy/paste) something three times, you should rewrite it into a reusable component. Like the Pirate’s Code, it’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, and can vary from component to component and from project to project.

CSS And Styling Methodologies: Atomic vs. BEM

There are a lot of different ways to organize and write CSS code — Atomic and BEM are only two of the many that you’re likely to come across. You don’t have to “pick” a single one, nor do you have to follow them exactly. Most of the teams I’ve worked with usually have their own unique blend, based on the project or technology. It is helpful to be familiar with them so that over time, you can learn which approach to take depending on the situation.

All of these approaches go beyond “just” CSS and styling, and can often influence the tooling you use, the way you organize your files, and potentially the markup.

Atomic CSS

Not to be confused with Atomic Web Design — atomic (perhaps more aptly referred to as “functional”) CSS, is a methodology that essentially favors using small, single-purpose classes to define visual functions. A few notable libraries:

  1. Atomic CSS by Steve Carlson;
  2. Tachyons by Adam Morse;
  3. Tailwind CSS by Adam Wathan.

What I like about this method is that it allows you to quickly style and theme things — one of the biggest drawbacks is that your markup can get pretty cluttered, pretty fast.

Check John Polacek’s article on CSS-tricks for a full introduction to Atomic CSS.

BEM

The BEM philosophy is a great precursor to a lot of the modern JavaScript frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue.

“BEM (Block, Element, Modifier) is a component-based approach to web development.”

BEM: Quick Start

Basically, everything that can be reused is a block. Blocks are comprised of elements, something that can’t be used outside of a block, and potentially other blocks. Modifiers are things that describe the status of something or the way it looks or behaves.

Personally, I like the theory and philosophy of BEM. What I do not like is the way that things are named. Way too many underscores, hyphens, and it can feel unnecessarily repetitive (.menu, .menu__item, etc).

Recommended reading: BEM For Beginners written by Inna Belaya

Thank U, Next(.js)

After you have sufficiently mastered these topics, don’t worry, there is still plenty to learn. Some suggestions:

  1. Functional and object-oriented programming
    We touched on it lightly, but there’s plenty more to learn beyond CSS.
  2. Higher-level languages and frameworks
    Typescript, Ruby, React, Vue are the next things you’ll tackle once you have a strong grasp of HTML and CSS.
  3. Querying languages and using data
    Learning about GraphQL, MySQL, REST APIs will take your coding ability to the next level.

Conclusion: Designers Who Code != Software Engineers

Hopefully, this article has shown you that learning to code isn’t as difficult as you may have previously thought. It can take a lot of time, but the amount of resources available on the internet is astounding, and they’re not decreasing — quite the opposite!

One significant point that I want to emphasize is that “coding” is not the same as “software engineering” — being able to fork a repo and copy/paste in code from Stack Overflow can get you a long way, and while most, if not all, software engineers that I know have done that — you must use your new-found skills with wisdom and humility. For everything you can now access with some engineering prowess, there is that much more that you don’t know. While you may think that a feature or style is easy to accomplish because — “Hey, I got it working in devtools!” or “I made it work in Codepen.” — there are many engineering processes, dependencies, and methods that you probably don’t know that you don’t know.

All of that is to say — don’t forget that we are still designers. Our primary function is to add business value through the lens of understanding customer or user problems and synthesizing them with our knowledge of design patterns, methods, and processes. Yes, being a “designer who writes code” can be very useful and will expand your ability to add this value — but we still need to let engineers make the engineering decisions.

Anything Amiss?

There’s a good chance that something in this post was obscure, obtuse, and/or obsolete and I’d love the opportunity to make it better! Please leave a comment below, DM me, or @mention me on Twitter so I can improve.

Further Reading

  1. Coding Bootcamps vs. Computer Science Degrees: What Employers Want and Other Perspectives (Kyle Thayer)
  2. How To Start Using Sketch And Framer X (by Martina Pérez, Smashing Magazine)
  3. Introduction To Linux Commands (by Paul Tero, Smashing Magazine)
  4. Become A Command-Line Power User With Oh My ZSH And Z (by Wes Bos, Smashing Magazine)
  5. A list of the common cmd.exe and Unix commands that you can use in PowerShell (Microsoft Docs)
  6. regular-expressions.info (by Jan Goyvaerts)
  7. regexone.com (learn regular expressions with simple interactive exercises)
  8. Batch Resizing Using Command Line and ImageMagick (by Vlad Gerasimov, Smashing Magazine)
  9. Shortcuts And Tips For Improving Your Productivity With Sublime Text (by Jai Pandya, Smashing Magazine)
  10. Visual Studio Code Can Do That? (by Burke Holland, Smashing Magazine)
  11. Why version history is not version control (by Josh Brewer)
  12. Modern Version Control With Git (by Tobias Günther, Smashing Magazine)
  13. Hello World” (a GitHub step-by-step guide)
  14. How to Install Node.js and NPM on a Mac (by Dave McFarland)
  15. How to Install Node.js and NPM on Windows (by Dejan Tucakov)
  16. Why I Create Atomic Commits In Git (by Clarice Bouwer)
  17. How to Write a Git Commit Message (by Chris Breams)
  18. Semantic code: What? Why? How? (by Paul Boag)
  19. Structural Semantics: The Importance Of HTML5 Sectioning Elements (by Heydon Pickering, Smashing Magazine)
  20. Designing for Performance: Chapter 4. Optimizing Markup and Styles (by Lara C. Hogan, O’Reilly Media)
  21. The media object saves hundreds of lines of code (by Nicole Sullivan)
  22. Let’s Define Exactly What Atomic CSS is (by John Polacek, CSS Tricks)
  23. BEM For Beginners: Why You Need BEM (by Inna Belaya, Smashing Magazine)
  24. Javascript for Cats: An Introduction for New Programmers
  25. Roadmap.sh: Frontend Developer
  26. Functional Programming vs OOPS : Explain Like I’m Five
  27. Why, How, and When to Use Semantic HTML and ARIA (by Adam Silver, CSS Tricks)
  28. HTML Semantics (an eBook by Smashing Magazine)
  29. The Fundamentals – HTML + CSS (on Syntax.fm)
  30. Cascade and inheritance (westciv.com)
  31. CSS Tricks (by Chris Coyier)
  32. Getting Started With CSS Layout (by Rachel Andrew, Smashing Magazine)
  33. Introduction to HTML (MDN web docs)
  34. CSS first steps (MDN web docs)
  35. JavaScript First Steps (MDN web docs)
  36. 24 Ways (by Drew McLellan)
Smashing Editorial (mb, yk, il)

Stay Creative, Stay Inspired (April 2020 Wallpapers Edition)

Stay Creative, Stay Inspired (April 2020 Wallpapers Edition)

Stay Creative, Stay Inspired (April 2020 Wallpapers Edition)

Cosima Mielke

In times like these where our everyday life is pausing and we’re trying to find strategies to cope with this situation we all find ourselves in at the moment, little routines can help give us a sense of security and familiarity — no matter if it’s having a cup of coffee in the midday sun on your balcony, calling an old friend in the evenings, or trying out a new recipe every day.

One of our routines here at Smashing that has been going on for more than nine years already and that we’re continuing now, too, of course, is to provide you with new wallpapers every month. So if you need a little bit of colorful inspiration or something to cheer you up this April, we’ve got you covered.

Designed with love by artists and designers from across the globe, the wallpapers in this collection come in versions with and without a calendar for April 2020. As a little bonus goodie, we also compiled some wallpaper favorites from the past at the end of this post — after all, some things are just too good to be forgotten. A big thank you to everyone who shared their artworks with us this month! Enjoy and take care!

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • We respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience through their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

Submit your wallpaper

Did you know that you could get featured in one of our upcoming wallpapers posts, too? We are always looking for creative talent, so if you have an idea for a wallpaper design, please don’t hesitate to submit it. Join in! →

Spring Awakens

“Despite the threat that has befallen us all, we all look forward to the awakening of a life that spreads its wings after every dormant winter and opens its petals to greet us. Long live spring, long live life.” — Designed by LibraFire from Serbia.

Spring Awakens

April Flowers

“While April showers usually bring May flowers, we thought we all deserved flowers a little early this year. During a stressful time in the world, spending time thinking about others is an antidote to some of the uncertainty. We thought this message, Lift Others Up, reflected the energy the world needs.” — Designed by Mad Fish Digital from Portland, Oregon.

April Flowers

An Era Of Metals With Sense Of Touch

“In the future we can expect that machines will have emotions and they will start loving nature and flowers.” — Designed by Themesvillage from London.

An Era Of Metals With Sense Of Touch

April Fox

Designed by MasterBundles from the United States.

April Fox

Celebrating the Genius

“‘Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.’ These are the words of no other than the ‘Universal Genius’. Leonardo da Vinci’s unprecedented talents, exemplary imagination, and an unquenchable wonder shaped not solely the Renaissance era but the future of humankind. On April 15, we mark the birthday of one of the world’s greatest painters, most prolific inventors, and the father of paleontology and architecture.” — Designed by PopArt Studio from Serbia.

Celebrating the Genius

You’re Smashing

Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Sweden.

You’re Smashing

National Submarine Day

Designed by Nicolas van der Straten Ponthoz from Belgium.

National Submarine Day

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day

“The day revolves around parents taking their children to work to expose them to future job possibilities and the value of education. It’s been an annual event since 1992 and helps expose children to the possibilities of careers at a young age.” — Designed by Ever Increasing Circles from the United Kingdom.

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day

Stay Home And Smash Covid-19

“Inspired by the current situation of Corona virus affecting the world.” — Designed by WrapPixel from India.

Stay Home And Smash Covid-19

Everything Will Be Alright

“This month we don’t need more words. Just these.” — Designed by Joana Vicente from Portugal.

Everything Will Be Alright

Oldies But Goodies

A lot of wallpaper goodies have seen the light of day in the nine years that we’ve been running our monthly wallpapers challenge. Here’s a selection of favorites from past April editions. Maybe you’ll rediscover one of your almost-forgotten favorites, too? (Please note that these wallpapers don’t come with a calendar.)

A Time For Reflection

“‘We’re all equal before a wave.’ (Laird Hamilton)” — Designed by Shawna Armstrong from the United States.

A Time for Reflection

Dreaming

“The moment when you just walk and your imagination fills up your mind with thoughts.” — Designed by Gal Shir from Israel.

Dreaming

Inspiring Blossom

“‘Sweet spring is your time is my time is our time for springtime is lovetime and viva sweet love’, wrote E. E. Cummings. And we have a question for you. Is there anything more refreshing, reviving, and recharging than nature in blossom? Let it inspire us all to rise up, hold our heads high, and show the world what we are made of.” — Designed by PopArt Studio from Serbia.

Inspiring Blossom

Spring Fever

“I created that mouse character for a series of illustrations about a poem my mom often told me when I was a child. In that poem the mouse goes on an adventure. Here it is after the adventure, ready for new ones.” — Designed by Anja Sturm from Germany.

Spring Fever

Yellow Submarine

“The Beatles — ‘Yellow Submarine’: This song is fun and at the same time there is a lot of interesting text that changes your thinking. Like everything that makes The Beatles.” — Designed by WebToffee from India.

Yellow Submarine

Clover Field

Designed by Nathalie Ouederni from France.

Clover Field

Wonderful Life

“My favorite song is ‘Wonderful Life’ from Black from my childhood. This picture that was taken in a very beautiful dock in Belgrade evokes a calm feeling from that song, a peacefulness of soul and mind. Each of us has a gift, but what is truly wonderful is to embrace a flair toward life in small things because, no need to run and hide, it’s a wonderful, Wonderful Life. Cheers!” — Designed by Marija Zaric from Belgrade, Serbia.

Wonderful Life

Happy Easter

Designed by Tazi Design from Australia.

Happy Easter

Fairytale

“A tribute to Hans Christian Andersen. Happy Birthday!” — Designed by Roxi Nastase from Romania.

Fairytale

Be Happy Bee

Designed by Kiraly Tamas from Romania.

Be Happy Bee

Spring Infographics

“Spring comes for everyone, for big and for small. How spring is arranged? I suggest us to understand this question.” — Designed by Ilya Denisenko from Russia.

Spring Infographics

Without The Rain There Would Be No Rainbows

“I love April showers and the spring blooms they bring!” — Designed by Denise Johnson from Chicago.

Without The Rain There Would Be No Rainbows.

Sakura

“Spring is finally here with its sweet Sakura’s flowers, which remind me of my trip to Japan.” Designed by Laurence Vagner from France.

Smashing Wallpaper - April 2011

Good Day

“Some pretty flowers and spring time always make for a good day.” — Designed by Amalia Van Bloom from the United States.

good day

April Cosmos

“I was inspired by a non-fiction book The Living Cosmos written by University of Arizona professor of astronomy Chris Impey. It’s a research of scientists trying to address the questions we ask about nature. Is there life in the universe beyond the Earth?” — Designed by Paul Ranosa from the Philippines.

April Cosmos

Spring

“I love spring and handmade typography.” — Designed by Raluca Dragos from Romania.

Spring

Vector Saraswathi

“Saraswathi, Goddess of Creativity (Indian mythology).” Designed by Atma Creative Team from India.

Smashing Wallpaper - April 2011

Egg Hunt In Wonderland

“April is Easter time and I wanted to remind us that there’s a child inside all of us. My illustration is based on the story that fills our imagination since childhood, Alice in Wonderland, and joined to one of the most traditional customs in America at this time of year, the egg hunt. That’s how we get an ‘egg hunt in wonderland’.” — Designed by Patrícia Garcia from Portugal.

Egg Hunt In Wonderland

Skateboarding Bunny

Designed by Lew Su-ann from Brunei Darussalam.

Skateboarding Bunny

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

Thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month!

Apple has sourced over 20 million protective masks, now building and shipping face shields

As it mobilizes its supply chain, employees, and partners to provide personal protective equipment to medical workers and others working to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, Apple has sourced over 20 million face masks and is now building and shipping face shields, according to a statement from chief executive Tim Cook.

The company is working with governments around the world to distribute its supply of face masks to where it’s needed most.

Meanwhile, the first delivery of the company’s Apple face shields went out to Kaiser hospital facilities in the Santa Clara valley earlier this week, according to Cook.

As Cook noted, the masks pack flat and ship 100 to a box. They can be assembled in less than two minutes and are fully adjustable. Cook said that the company would ship 1 million by the end of the week and will expect to ship an additional 1 million face shields weekly, with a goal to expand distribution beyond the U.S. 

“For Apple this is a labor of love and gratitude and we will share more of our efforts over time,” Cook said. 

Apple is joining an effort that several 3D printing startups and maker facilities have already spent time working on.

In Canada, INKSmith, a startup that was making design and tech tools accessible for kids, has now moved to making face shields and is hiring up to 100 new employees to meet demand.

“I think in the short term, we’re going to scale up to meet the needs of the province soon. After that, we’re going to meet the demands of Canada,” INKSmith CEO Jeremy Hedges told the Canadian news outlet Global News.

3D-printing companies like Massachusetts-based Markforged and Formlabs and Brooklyn’s Voodoo Manufacturing are all making personal protective equipment like face shields in the US.

 

Original Content podcast: ‘The Platform’ offers a gruesome metaphor for capitalism

“The Platform” is not a subtle movie.

That’s true of its approach to horror, with intense, bloody scenes that prompted plenty of screaming and pausing from your hosts at the Original Content podcast. It’s also true of its thematic material — right around the time one of the characters accuses another of being communist, you’ll slap yourself on the forehead and say, “Oh, it’s about capitalism.”

The new Netflix film takes place in a mysterious prison, with two prisoners on each level (they’re randomly rotated each month). Once each day, a platform laden with delicious food is lowered through the prison. If you’re on one of the top levels, you feast. If you’re further down, things are considerably more grim, and can become downright gruesome as the month wears on.

“The Platform” is a hard movie to sit through, and it has other faults, like an irritatingly mystical ending. But it’s certainly memorable, and even admirable in its dedication to fully exploring both the logistical and moral dimensions of its premise.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:27 “The Platform” review
17:29 “The Platform” spoilers

Zoom admits some calls were routed through China by mistake

Hours after security researchers at Citizen Lab reported that some Zoom calls were routed through China, the video conferencing platform has offered an apology and a partial explanation.

To recap, Zoom has faced a barrage of headlines this week over its security policies and privacy practices, as hundreds of millions forced to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic still need to communicate with each other.

The latest findings landed earlier today when Citizen Lab researchers said that some calls made in North America were routed through China — as were the encryption keys used to secure those calls. But as was noted this week, Zoom isn’t end-to-end encrypted at all, despite the company’s earlier claims, meaning that Zoom controls the encryption keys and can therefore access the contents of its customers’ calls. Zoom said in an earlier blog post that it has “implemented robust and validated internal controls to prevent unauthorized access to any content that users share during meetings.” The same can’t be said for Chinese authorities, however, which could demand Zoom turn over any encryption keys on its servers in China to facilitate decryption of the contents of encrypted calls.

Zoom now says that during its efforts to ramp up its server capacity to accommodate the massive influx of users over the past few weeks, it “mistakenly” allowed two of its Chinese datacenters to accept calls as a backup in the event of network congestion.

From Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan:

During normal operations, Zoom clients attempt to connect to a series of primary datacenters in or near a user’s region, and if those multiple connection attempts fail due to network congestion or other issues, clients will reach out to two secondary datacenters off of a list of several secondary datacenters as a potential backup bridge to the Zoom platform. In all instances, Zoom clients are provided with a list of datacenters appropriate to their region. This system is critical to Zoom’s trademark reliability, particularly during times of massive internet stress.”

In other words, North American calls are supposed to stay in North America, just as European calls are supposed to stay in Europe. This is what Zoom calls its datacenter “geofencing.” But when traffic spikes, the network shifts traffic to the nearest datacenter with the most available capacity.

China, however, is supposed to be an exception, largely due to privacy concerns among Western companies. But China’s own laws and regulations mandate that companies operating on the mainland must keep citizens’ data within its borders.

Zoom said in February that “rapidly added capacity” to its Chinese regions to handle demand was also put on an international whitelist of backup datacenters, which meant non-Chinese users were in some cases connected to Chinese servers when datacenters in other regions were unavailable.

Zoom said this happened in “extremely limited circumstances.” When reached, a Zoom spokesperson did not quantify the number of users affected.

Zoom said that it has now reversed that incorrect whitelisting. The company also said users on the company’s dedicated government plan were not affected by the accidental rerouting.

But some questions remain. The blog post only briefly addresses its encryption design. Citizen Lab criticized the company for “rolling its own” encryption — otherwise known as building its own encryption scheme. Experts have long rejected efforts by companies to build their own encryption, because it doesn’t undergo the same scrutiny and peer review as the decades-old encryption standards we all use today.

Zoom said in its defense that it can “do better” on its encryption scheme, which it says covers a “large range of use cases.” Zoom also said it was consulting with outside experts, but when asked a spokesperson declined to name any.

Bill Marczak, one of the Citizen Lab researchers that authored today’s report, told TechCrunch he was “cautiously optimistic” about Zoom’s response.

“The bigger issue here is that Zoom has apparently written their own scheme for encrypting and securing calls,” he said, and that “there are Zoom servers in Beijing that have access to the meeting encryption keys.”

“If you’re a well-resourced entity, obtaining a copy of the Internet traffic containing some particularly high-value encrypted Zoom call is perhaps not that hard,” said Marcak.

“The huge shift to platforms like Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic makes platforms like Zoom attractive targets for many different types of intelligence agencies, not just China,” he said. “Fortunately, the company has (so far) hit all the right notes in responding to this new wave of scrutiny from security researchers, and have committed themselves to make improvements in their app.”

Zoom’s blog post gets points for transparency. But the company is still facing pressure from New York’s attorney general and from two class-action lawsuits. Just today, several lawmakers demanded to know what it’s doing to protect users’ privacy.

Will Zoom’s mea culpas be enough?

Coronavirus in the house

coronavirus

One of my favorite urban legends involves author Ernest Hemingway who bet his friends over lunch that he could write a novel in six words. After penning these words on a napkin and passing it around the table, he collected his $10 bet:

For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.

Today, I think I can beat Hemingway. I can write just two words that will evoke just as much drama and emotion:

Tested positive.

Makes you shiver, right?

Six months ago that phrase did not possess the universal and evil power it evokes today. It is a phrase every person dreads. And, unfortunately, it is now my story.

In some ways, it is weird to be revealing a personal illness on a blog post, but covid-19 is the world’s illness right now, I suppose … a public conversation. I tested positive after my wife struggled through, and overcame, the virus over a period of about three weeks.

I decided to let you know because most of you follow me across the social media streams and I’m grateful for your attention and support. But content needs context and I’ll probably be showing up in a different way over the next few weeks.

I’ve been writing a lot about the ways we need to be dealing with the current economic, marketing, and personal challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis. It’s probably fair for you to know that the content is coming from a guy who is currently dealing with the illness in his family, and now in himself.

I also wanted to post this because I’m taking a step back from most business activities at least for a week or two so I can devote my full body and mind to healing. I’ll probably be on social media to pass the time, but that will depend on how the next days unfold.

Right now, my symptoms are annoying but manageable:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Pressure on my chest (this is weird and unnerving)

My doctor told me the typical pattern to expect is 3-4 days of mild symptoms and then probably worsening symptoms. Since there is no treatment for the disease, the idea is to address the symptoms as best you can and let it roll through your body until you fight through it.

I’ve cleared my schedule with the help of some very understanding business partners and I’m preparing for total bedrest, which is something I have probably never done in my life.

I am in a positive mental state. I have a lot of good things to focus on:

  • I’m so fortunate that my wife got through this before it hit me so we weren’t both sick at the same time.
  • I am strong and healthy
  • I’m not alone
  • I can delay work activities to focus on rest
  • Chances of recovery are high
  • We have supportive family and neighbors (one just dropped off a box of food unannounced!)
  • We have a loving Christian church community behind us

So that’s the story.

Stay home. Wash your hands. Spread love. Be patient. Dispense hope.

See you on the other side.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post Coronavirus in the house appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Marketing in Times of Uncertainty – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Our work as marketers has transformed drastically in the space of a month. Today, we’re grateful to welcome our good friend Rand to talk about a topic that’s been on the forefront of our minds lately: how to do our jobs empathetically and effectively through one of the most difficult trials in modern memory.

We hope you’ve got a cozy seat in your home office, a hot mug of coffee from your own kitchen Keurig, and your cat in your lap as you join us for this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

Video Transcription

Howdy, folks. I’m Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and co-founder of Sparktoro. And I’m here today with a very special edition of Whiteboard Friday. 

I think that now is the right time to talk about marketing in uncertain epochs like the one we’re living through. We obviously have a global crisis. It’s very serious. But most of you watch Whiteboard Friday. Know that here at Moz, right, they’re trying to help. They want to help people through this crisis. And that means doing marketing. And I don’t think that now is the right time for us to stop our marketing activities. In fact, I think it’s time to probably crunch down and do some hard work. 

So let’s talk about what’s going on. And then I’ll give some tactics that I hope will be helpful to you and your teams, your clients, your bosses, everyone at your organizations as we’re going through this together. 

The business world is experiencing widespread repercussions

First off, we are in this cycle of trying to prevent massive amounts of death, which is absolutely the right thing to do. But because of that, I think a lot of us in the business world, in the marketing world, are experiencing pain, particularly in certain industries. In some industries obviously demand is spiking, it’s skyrocketing for, you know, coronavirus-related reasons. And in other cases, demand is down. That’s because we sort of have this inability to go out.

We can’t go to bars and restaurants and movies and bowling alleys and go do all the things we would normally do. So we don’t need fancy clothes to go do it and we don’t need haircuts — this is probably the last Whiteboard Friday I would want to record before needing a cut. And all of that spending, right, that consumer spending affects business-to-business spending as well

Lower spending → cost-cutting → lower investment/layoffs → environment of fear…

It leads to cost cutting by businesses because they know there’s not as much demand. It leads to lower investment and oftentimes layoffs as we saw in the United States, where nearly 10 million workers are are out of work, according to the latest stats from the federal government. And that builds this environment of fear, right. None of us have faced anything like this. This is much bigger and worse, at least this spike of it is, than the Great Recession of 2008. And, of course, all of these things contribute to lower spending across the board. 

However, what’s interesting about this moment in time is that it is a compressed moment. Right. It’s not a long-term fear of of what will happen. I think there’s fears about whether the recession will take a long time to recover from. But we know that eventually, sometime between 3 and 18 months from now, spending will resume and there will be this new normal. I think of now as a time when marketing needs to change its tone and attitude.

Businesses need to change their tone and attitude and in three ways. And that’s what I want to talk through. 

Three crucial points

1. Cut with a scalpel, not with a chainsaw

First off, as you are looking to save money and if you’re an agency, if you’re a consultant, your clients are almost certainly saying, “Hey, where can we pull back and still get returns on investment?” And I think one of the important points is not to cut with a chainsaw. Right. Not to take a big whack to, “Oh, let’s just look at all of our Google and Facebook ad spending and cut it out entirely.” Or “Let’s look at all of our content marketing investments and drop them completely.” That’s not probably not the right way to go. 

Instead, we should be looking to cut with a scalpel, and that means examining each channel and the individual contributors inside channels as individuals and looking at whether they are ROI-positive. I would urge against looking at a say, one-week, two-week, three-week trend. The last three weeks spending is very frozen and I believe that it will open up more again. I think most economists agree. You can see that’s why the the public stock markets have not crashed nearly as hard. We’ve had some bouncing around.

And I think that’s because people know that we will get to this point where people are ordering online. They are using businesses online. They are getting deliveries. They are doing activities through the Internet over the course of however long we’re quarantined or there is fear about going out and then it will return to a new normal. 

And so because of that, you should probably be looking something like six to twelve weeks in the past and trying to sort out, OK, where are the trends, where are their lifelines and opportunities and points of light? And let’s look at those ROI-positive channels and not cut them too soon. 

Likewise, you can look inside a channel. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend Seer Interactive’s guide to cutting with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, and they look at how you can analyze your Google Ads accounts to find keywords that are probably still sending you valuable traffic that you should not pull back on. I would also caution — I’ve talked to a bunch of folks recently who’s seen Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and YouTube and Google ad inventory at historically low prices. So if you have ROI-positive channels right now or your clients do, now is an awesome time to be to potentially be putting some dollars into that. 

2. Invest now for the second & third waves in the future

Second thing, I would invest now for the second and third waves. I think that’s a really smart way to go. You can look at Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg and a bunch of folks have written about investing during times of recession, times of fear, and seeing how. Basically when we when we go through wave one, which I think will be still another two to six weeks, of sort of nothing but virus-related news, nothing but COVID-19, and get to a point where we’re transitioning to this life online. It’s becoming our new every day. And then getting to a post-crisis new normal, you know, after we have robust testing and quarantining has hopefully worked out well. The hospital systems aren’t overwhelmed and maybe a vaccine as is near development or done.

When those things start to come, we will want to have now messaging and content and keyword demands serving. Right. And ads and webinars. Anything that is in our marketing inventory that can be helpful to people, not just during this time, but over the course of these, because if we make these investments now, we will be better set up than our competitors who are pulling back to execute on this. And that is what that research shows, right, that essentially folks who invest in marketing, in sales during a recession tend to outperform and more quickly outperform their competition as markets resume. You don’t even have to wait for them to get good — just as they start to pick up. 

3. Read the room

The third and possibly most important thing right now is, I think, to read the room. People are paying attention online like never before. And if you’re doing web marketing, they’re paying attention to your work. To our work. That means we need to be more empathetic than we have been historically, right? They are. Our audiences are not thinking about the same things they were weeks ago. They’re in a very new mindset. It doesn’t matter if they’re business-to-business or business-to-consumer. You are dealing with everyone on the planet basically obsessed with the conditions that we’re all in right now. That means assuming that everyone is thinking about this.



I really think the best type of content you create, the best type of marketing you can create right now across any channel, any platform is stuff that helps first. Helps other people. It could be in big ways. It could be in small ways. 

The Getty Museum, I don’t know if you saw Avinash Kaushik’s great post about the Getty Museum. They did this fun thing where they took pictures from their museum, famous paintings and they put them online and said, “Hey, go around your home and try and recreate these and we’ll post them.” Is it helping health care workers get masks? No. But is it helping people at home with their kids, with their families, with their loved ones have a little fun, take their mind off the crisis, engage with art in a way that maybe they can’t because they can’t go to museums right now? Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s fine. It’s okay to help in little ways, too, but help first. 

I also think it’s okay to talk about content or subjects that are not necessarily related to the virus. Look, web marketing right now is not directly related to the coronavirus. It’s not even directly related to some of the follow-on effects of that. But I’m hoping that it’s helpful. And I’m hoping that we can talk about it in empathetic and thoughtful ways. We’d just have to have to read the room. 

It is okay to recognize that this crisis is affecting your customers and to talk about things that aren’t directly related but are still useful to them. 

And if you can, I would try not to ignore this, right? Not not to create things that are completely unrelated, that feel like, “Gosh, this could have been launched at any time in the last six months, sort of feels tone deaf.” I think everything that we do is viewed through the lens of what’s happening right now. And certainly I have that experience as I go through online content. 

Do not dismiss the scenario. I think that that history will reflect very poorly. History is moving so fast right now that it is already reflecting poorly on people who are doing this. 

Don’t exploit the crisis in a shameless way. I’ve seen a few marketing companies and agencies. I won’t point them out because I don’t think shaming is the right thing to do right now, but show how you’re helping. Don’t exploit by saying “It’s coronavirus times. We have a sale.” All right? Say, “Oh, we are offering a discount on our products because we know that money is tight right now and we are helping this crisis by donating 10 percent of whatever.” Or, “We are helping by offering you something that you can do at home with your family or something that will help you with remote work or something that will help you through whatever you’re going through,” whatever your customers are going through. 

Don’t keep your tone and tactics the same right now. Oh, yes, I think that’s kind of madness as well. I would urge you, as you’re creating all this potentially good stuff, new stuff, stuff that plans for the future and that speaks to right now, go ahead and audit your marketing. Look at the e-mail newsletters you’re sending out. Look at the sequential emails that are in your site onboarding cycles. Look at the overlay messaging, look at your home page, look at your About page

Make sure that you’re either not ignoring the crisis or speaking effectively to it. Right. I don’t think every page on a website needs to change right now. I don’t think every marketing message has to change. But I think that in many cases it’s the right thing to do to conduct an audit and to make sure that you are not being insensitive or perceived as insincere. 

All right, everyone, I hope that you are staying safe, that you’re staying at home, that you’re washing your hands. And I promise you, together, we’re going to get through this.

Thanks. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Marketing During COVID-19: 4 Essential Copywriting Guidelines

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all aspects of our lives, including marketing. Even if your business is not health-related, you are most likely incorporating the pandemic into your content and messaging. Yet you are also most likely trying to figure out exactly how to stay relevant while also appropriate during such an unprecedented time. This guide was written to help you with that. It includes:

  • Guidelines for staying sensitive
  • Resources for ensuring accuracy
  • Suggestions for modifying your offers
  • Tips for keeping track of it all
marketing copywriting during COVID-19

COVID-19 has not only shifted business trends, but also consumer priorities and the entire marketing landscape. The goal of this guide is to help you adapt your messaging accordingly so you can continue purposeful, quality communication with your audience and stand strong with your customers. Let’s start with the most important one:

Being sensitive

COVID-19 has impacted individuals on a personal level world-wide, so the risk of inadvertently coming off as insensitive or even exploitative is higher than ever right now. And with social media communication at a peak, one small mistake could mean far-reaching and long-term consequences for you. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re communicating appropriately during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Better too serious than sorry

While it’s normally common and effective for brands to keep a conversational tone, it’s best to steer clear of using humor or wit to accomplish that right now. Even being overly casual can be off-putting. Your content may not be as colorful or aligned with your brand personality, but it’s far better to be more serious than you want to be than to be more sorry than you can express. 

We recommend keeping a positive, inspirational, and helpful tone. Avoid being humorous, witty, or casual.

marketing copywriting during COVID 19 dennys

Denny’s provides a good example of deviating from their normally playful
 and pun-filled tone (see left) to a more serious one (right).

There’s a right way to make light of the situation

Being more serious doesn’t mean somber. You can still stress the bright side; just know the difference between positivity and humor, and between being uplifting vs dismissive of the situation.

marketing copywriting during COVID 19 stitcher

An appropriately uplifting email relevant to COVID-19.

Check for insensitive words

You know not to use overt puns, but keep in mind that there are several words and phrases that prior to COVID-19 were completely harmless. For example:

  • Killer (as in a “killer deal”)
  • Contagious (“how to create contagious content”)
  • Health or checkup-related terms (“give your budget a pulse check”)
  • Spread
  • Contagious
  • Infectious
  • Viral
  • Gather
  • Event

Take a neutral or supportive stance

If your business is still operating and relevant, be careful with your positioning. For example, among the Federal government’s COVID-19 measures is a steep interest rate cut. For mortgage brokers, “Take advantage of the low interest rate now!” conveys an inappropriately exciting message. On the other hand, “Let us help you navigate the unstable economy” offers security and respects the gravity of the situation.

Similarly, marketing and advertising agencies reaching out to these businesses should take a position not of helping businesses to “capitalize” on the current times, but rather of helping them to make themselves as visible/accessible as possible right now to those who need them.

  • Use: “contribute,” “connect,” “play a role,” “navigate,” “cope,” “respond”
  • Do not use: “capitalize,” “advantage,” “offer,” “gain,” “profit”
  • Be careful with: “opportunity,” “make the most”

Think contribution, not conversion

If you’re one of the less or non-essential businesses with respect to COVID-19, there are still ways to stay relevant. However, your motive here should not be to get more business but to continue offering value to your audience. People are just trying to say afloat right now, so think contribution, not conversion.

I recently received an email from CodeAcademy that embodies the contribution approach. Here is a snippet from their email:

marketing copywriting covid 19 example codeacademy

This is not the time to convert customers but to contribute to the COVID-19 response.

Ensuring accuracy

Now more than ever, taking the extra steps to stay accurate will help you to maintain the trust you’ve worked so hard to build with your audience. It will also help you to keep up with changing search trends and even filter out any unreliable COVID-19 resources of your own. Here are some guidelines and resources to help you stay accurate.

Use credible COVID-19 sources

Effective copywriting provides information while simultaneously delivering a greater message. Your intended message may be “I am here to help you,” but if your information is inaccurate, this is not the message that will come through. At best it will say “I’m careless,” and at worst, “I can’t be trusted.”

Inaccurate information about the coronavirus is everywhere, so make sure you get your facts straight when copywriting—especially for social media captions or ads that can get shared. The best places for reliable information are: 

In an effort to minimize the spread of inaccurate information, Canva came up with a range of free print and social media templates using information from the World Health Organization. You can access their Coronavirus Awareness Collection hereTheir messaging around providing these templates is also on par with the suggestions in this guide:

marketing copywriting COVID19-conscious copywriting canva message

Canva demonstrates sensitive messaging, contribution-focused positioning, and accuracy of information.

Employ proper grammar

Checking for grammar is a no-brainer when it comes to copywriting, but it’s especially important when it comes to COVID-19. Improper grammar can undermine the validity of your facts, and even alter your message. For example, “the governor put a shelter in place for the city” actually means a shelter was put into place and even implies a gathering. Small details matter. To clarify, for this example:

  • Shelter in place is a verb (action): “We advise you to shelter in place.”
  • Shelter-in-place is an adjective (description): “We’ve instated a shelter-in-place policy.”

And for your coronavirus-related copywriting in general, there are two great tools that we can suggest:

  • Topical Guide on COVID-19: This simple yet super-helpful guide was created by the Associated Press to help with coverage of the coronavirus.
  • Grammarly: This is a contextual editor that catches important fixes that slip past regular spell check. It’s a free plugin you can download and use across all applications.

Checking up on details like this takes some extra time, and maybe your audience will know what you meant, but better to be safe than sorry. Plus, COVID-19 isn’t a trending topic; its effects are going to be long-lasting, so your content is likely to stay relevant for a while. Make sure it’s as up to standard as the rest of your copywriting.

Stay optimistic, but don’t overpromise

It’s important to inspire hope and forward-thinking through your copywriting, but remember that this is an unprecedented situation; even expert predictions have questionable accuracy. All that you can promise your audience is that you’ll stay committed to handling the situation and serving them the best way you can. Ensuring anything else, even if to keep up morale, could backfire on you.

Modifying your offers

Google has banned advertising on travel-related services, but there are still a lot of businesses that can, and should, advertise relevant services during COVID-19. Just make sure to modify your copywriting so that calls to action are appropriate. Also, keep in mind that things are evolving fast, so keep your messaging as versatile as possible so you don’t have to be constantly updating your copy. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for CTAs with respect to COVID-19.

Ease up on urgency

“Call now” or “Book now” buttons are fine; but excitement- or scarcity-driven copywriting, like “Don’t miss out!” or “Grab your spot before it’s too late!” is not going to resonate with consumers or businesses right now. Nothing is as urgent as COVID-19, and this type of tone is more likely to cause you to come off as unaware or ignorant.

marketing copywriting covid fantastic sams

A nice example of adjusting messaging away “book now” urgency

Adjust for relevance

Check your offerings and make sure your copy is aligned with COVID-19 safety measures and lifestyle changes For example:

  • Change irrelevant value propositions like “more dog walks” or “more diners in your doors” to something more neutral, like “more leads,” or more timely, like “more online orders.”
  • Reword inapplicable CTAs, like “join now” for facilities that are closed. “Learn more” could work here.
  • Use words to reinforce the safety of your audience, such as “contact-free,” “virtual,” “remote,” “in-home,” “downloadable,” “delivery,” “online.”
marketing copywriting during COVID 19 sweetgreen

Sweetgreen has modified #sghacks to #sghacks from home

 

marketing copywriting during COVID 19 coolidge yoga

Coolidge Yoga has made appropriate COVID-19 adjustments with a virtual offering. 

Check your scheduled content

Don’t forget to check your automated emails or scheduled posts for relevance and appropriateness. This may include:

  • April Fools humor
  • Easter gathering-related content
  • Birthday or anniversary offers
  • Automated nurture campaigns

Staying on track

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of the changes you need to make to your copy, just remember that you’re not alone. Everyone is having to make adjustments right now and settling into new rhythms. Here are some tips to help you through.

  • Prioritize. You won’t (and shouldn’t) make the above changes to all of your copy. Start with top-trafficked content and new content moving forward.
  • Track your changes: Create a spreadsheet of the changes you make so you can keep track of what to change back when things start to settle out.
  • Don’t delete anything: Save your good ideas and well-performing campaigns for reinstatement in the future when they will be more effective. Things will return to normal someday. A new normal, but a normal nonetheless.

Maintain your copywriting standards while marketing during COVID-19

COVID-19 may be a new era, and your messaging and offers may change, but your copywriting standards should be the same. At the end of the day, you are still supplying information, adding value, and conveying to your audience that you are in tune with their needs.