Designing Compassion, Part 2: Legos, Locks and Land Mines

K-16, by Peter Engelmann

(If you get bored by anecdotal introductions, just skip-scroll to the TAKIS AND CHAI TEAS section down below.)

I just finished a text conversation with my business partner regarding the Apple music player, which for some reason won’t allow songs on her playlists to play in sequence, like a jukebox, and instead repeats the same song. Yes, there’s a solution to this, but one shouldn’t have to do any detective work to find the solution for this simple feature.

The main headline font for one of my WordPress sites all of a sudden changed from a sans serif font to a disco-looking typeface, simply because I updated the theme, because WordPress recommended that I do. Of course there’s a hack to fix this, and I did, but I shouldn’t have had to.

My octogenarian mom decided she wants a Facebook page, and so I tried to set her up with one. Because her last name, San Diego, has a space in between, Facebook’s algorithms (I think) decided that it may be a business account trying to disguise itself as a human being, and disabled her account. I don’t remember Facebook doing this back when I set up my account ten years ago. When I have more time and more patience, I’ll try again, and probably experiment with different ways to type her name so that Facebook doesn’t red flag it. Again, I shouldn’t have to. Life shouldn’t be this difficult.

Now, imagine being a business owner who’s basically new to this online thing, but who heard from one of your buddies that you should have a more updated website, even have a shopping cart for your products, and while you’re at it, you should also have social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for your business. And then you see the commercials on TV that make everything look easy, like GoDaddy or Wix or Squarespace. Or even Fedex/Kinkos and the UPS store, because it seems like IT’S EASY TO BE ONLINE! LET’S GET YOU STARTED!

I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve talked to that called those 800 numbers and wound up abandoning their projects a few weeks into it, but continued to pay for a year’s worth of hosting because they had no choice. (Or had their nephew set them up initially, but the nephew goes to college and doesn’t answer his phone calls anymore, because kids these days would rather text than talk to the elders, you know how it is…)

The bottom line is THIS STUFF IS NOT EASY, unless you’re doing it simply for fun, like kids on Snapchat or Instagram. They don’t have to worry about customers like business owners do. They don’t have to worry about losing a sale because they couldn’t login to Facebook to answer a customer question. They don’t have to worry about setting up 2-step verification so it’s safer to access online receipts.

So what do you do?

If you’re one of the smart and/or lucky ones, then you did your proper research (and you’re a little lucky finding the right people to help you.) You Googled “web developers” or “designers”, looked at their portfolios, then checked out their reviews on Yelp, or looked at their work on Behance. You joined moderated Facebook groups, or subreddits, and asked for advice there. You went on LinkedIn, and are now reading this article:)

Oh yeah, why is this article titled “Legos, Locks and Land Mines?” Because some of the problems you’ll run into are like walking barefoot on a Lego block—it’ll hurt for a minute but it’s easily fixable and you’ll be walking again soon enough. Locks, because too many locks (safeguards, verifications, tedious ID checks on contact forms) can hurt your business more than they help, so you have to have a balance. And Land Mines, because you can wind up in a really bad situation, like getting your whole ecommerce site hacked because you’ve installed a nefarious WordPress plugin, and don’t have protocols set up, like a backup website that you can redirect your customers to in case of emergency.

I’m not gonna get into the nitty gritty details but here are some reasons you need help from people that specialize in this stuff. Regarding social media, here’s something to think about:

TAKIS AND CHAI TEAS

Social media experts eat, live, and breathe this stuff. If you’re away from social media or not downloading the latest updates for the two dozen apps on your mobile, then you aren’t as plugged in as that dude (let’s call him Trevor) that just graduated with a computer science degree, who plays video games with one eye and watches the Twitch channel with the other eye, all the while checking out his Twitter and Instagram feeds on his dual-screen Android. While you’re “running your actual business”, Trevor has been swiping through hundreds of trendy memes, knows what the President had for lunch, has subconsciously seen hundreds of pop up ads (and is aware of corporate branding AND what works and what doesn’t), while searching for ways to make his 2010 Craigslist laptop run faster without spending any money. During all of this, Trevor has managed to study WHY he likes doing what he’s doing, has more than 3,000 hardcore followers on his Instagram page and posts something new every time he enters a new zipcode on his commute to work every day.

His female counterpart, let’s call her Cecile, has watched hundreds of how-to videos and has an excellent sense of what gadgets and hardware tools the younger generation (your target demographic) are into, can navigate the Dollar Tree blindfolded, and has set up her own YouTube channel, produces and stars in her own videos, and has managed to get a handful of corporate sponsors while attracting 35,000 subscribers on her DIY channel, The Fixit Chick (I didn’t check to see if someone is already doing it, but if not, you’re welcome, Internet.)

These social influencers have literally spent THOUSANDS of hours absorbing this subculture into their heartbeats. And you think, dear business owner, that you’re gonna buy a book and pay GoDaddy a hundred bucks a year so that you can do what they do?

DIVI UP, PLUG IN, AND GIRD YOUR CHILD THEMES

Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with WordPress. I get a couple hours sleep a night, which means I’m nowhere near the best at wrangling it, but I try. Oh WordPress, how do I love-hate thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. Everybody uses WordPress, so I gotta use WordPress, and you gotta use WordPress, and Oprah’s gotta use WordPress.
  2. You should update WordPress and its plugins whenever there’s a new version, but doing so may result in your site looking mightily different when you wake up in the morning. Which means you (or that person you pay what you think is too much money) have to babysit it weekly, and even daily, to make sure that child theme is still behaving itself in relation to the parent theme, which just got an update. If this doesn’t scare you, here’s a verbatim result from Google if you search for “updating parent theme”, a legit question from a dear pilgrim: 

    If I create a child theme, then Activate the child theme, then at a later date an update is released for the parent theme. Do I activate the parent themeupdate the parent theme, then activate the child theme?

     

  3. You need to know what plugins to use, and how stable each of these plugins is in relation to the theme that you’re going to use it in. Meaning, some plugins play better with certain themes than others.
  4. Everything is a moving target and nothing is ever set in stone, because plugins and themes and your content are continually being updated. The heart of WordPress ENCOURAGES content creation and growth, and the Internet gets bored easily, so you always have to stay fresh. I know, ouch wallet, but if you convert those expenses into sales, then you still come out on top.
  5. As of July 24, 2017 there are 14,864 WordPress themes to choose from, each of them with their own idiosyncracies and predilections. Imagine going on a field trip in a really big elementary school bus that holds 14,864 kids. There ya go.
  6. In terms of options, you can build your site using the basic WordPress control panel, or you can use third-party plugins to make the job easier (where “easier” is a relative term). Divi, Elementor, and Beaver Builder are three of the most popular, and there are people that specialize in those as well.
  7. Okay, the list is much longer than this, but I’m tired so I’m gonna wrap it up now.

This is the truth:

YOU WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF COOL STUFF TO USE ON YOUR WEBSITE.

YOU WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF COOL STUFF TO POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

IF IT’S COOL, YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL BE ATTRACTED TO IT.

Your biggest problem will be trying to keep everything together and working efficiently once you begin. And if you can get somebody else to do the keeping it together for you, then you can just concentrate on your business. Yes, you will still step on Legos from time to time, and during those times you’ll have colorfully-worded conversations with your web developer and social media contractors. But at least you won’t accidentally lock yourself inside your own house, and you won’t have to worry about stepping on a virtual land mine.

*This article also appears on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/designing-compassion-part-2-legos-locks-land-mines-gerardo-san-diego/

Designing Compassion, Part 1: How Are You?

Untitled, Pablo Picasso

 

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

The lead mechanic for one of my clients died from a heart attack last week. My client owns a manufacturing shop selling refurbished but very expensive machinery, and has a dozen orders that need to be finished before any new money will come in. Two months before, his nephew, head of sales, had a stroke, and is still in the hospital.

Throughout these setbacks, my client has had to do the job of four other people (his admin assistant also took an unexpected leave of absence the week before), working twelve-hour days, at least six days a week, except when his wife forces him to spend a Sunday with her. He exhausted his six-figure emergency savings to keep the company running, to pay his employees, who also have families to feed and bills to pay.

This went on for two excruciating months. And here I was, the consultant, the outsider, trying to get paid. Trying to figure out a way to continue to work for him, but also trying to figure how I’m going to pay my own bills. Because the more work I did, the more likely he will sell his products, but at the same time, I cannot work for free, and he knew that.

Once enough money arrived, he did pay me, and we continue to work together. I did not find a solution to get paid earlier, because when there’s no money, there’s no money. Sometimes there is no solution. Sometimes things just go bad. And the only thing left is patience and compassion.

HOW ARE YOU?

These three words are too often said without a conscious pause soon after saying them, to actually listen to a response. After I shake hands with the client, it’s too easy to go straight to the business of business. But that’s when I look at the client’s eyes, and do my best to read if they would rather take the next few seconds to just stop thinking about work, and talk about themselves, their families, their favorite football team.

I like to schedule meetings right after lunch, especially during follow-up sessions, because I’ve discovered that that’s when clients have the most free time and the best attitude—their bellies are happy from lunch (hopefully), their morning stresses are taken care of (hopefully), and everyone else in the office is either still at lunch, or back from it, also taking that extra half hour for the blood to redirect from their stomachs and back into their too-often stressed out brains. The middle of the day is a good halftime reset, and usually a good time for me to make my pitches.

When they tell me how they are, I listen, and I add to my mental inventory of the things that I know about my client. If they’re unsure what color they would like to use, sometimes the subconscious answer comes through their stories, the car they drive, the clothes they wear, their Facebook background image, the wall hangings and shelf items in their office, what their spouse bought for them that now take up valuable real estate on their desk. One of my clients’ children painted a portrait of his dad, full of blue, gray and purples. Another client’s brother-in-law made a found object art piece that he hangs on the wall next to his desk. From these, I learn about them–are they more conservative in their style, or are they willing to take chances? Are they more into words or images? Do they want Dodger blue as part of their headline letters? (And yes, this actually happened:)

And if you’re wondering, do my clients know that I’m doing this, profiling them during every meeting? Yes, because I tell them that I do, because I want them to know that what I’m designing will absolutely have a piece of their style in it, even if it isn’t obvious. And if nobody else in the world notices it, at least they will know, and I will know. It’ll be our little secret.

There’s still a lot for me to write, but I’m gonna stop here for now. The next section will be called Collecting Content, discussing how I go about getting information from my client, with as little work on their part because I did a lot of preparatory work on my part. Thank you for reading, more soon.

P.S. I write “More soon” a lot when writing emails, because I want the client to know that I continue to think about their project, and, well, because there will be more, and very soon.

 

*This article also appears on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/designing-compassion-gerardo-san-diego/?published=t

Facebook is Not Just for Food Porn

Some people say that Facebook isn’t trendy anymore. They say that kids have now switched over to Instagram, or Snapchat, or YouTube. They say that Facebook is only for old people.

What I say to that: Good.

Because that’s not what I use Facebook for anyway.

True story: My business partner and I were waiting to be seated at Hof’s Hut, when she looked over and jokingly said, “I can’t believe how much you’re on Facebook…”

An older gentleman, who was also waiting to be seated, heard what she said and looked up from his newspaper and smiled at the both of us, then looked at the smartphone in my hand, with my thumb in scrolling position.

I turned the phone around to show them what I was looking at, which was basically my newsfeed from Facebook:

Facebook screencaps

I don’t remember the last time I saw any of my friend’s food on Facebook. Maybe I just don’t pay attention anymore. I don’t remember the last time I clicked on a “share this if you are a true friend” thread. Maybe I just don’t pay attention anymore. I do remember unfollowing friends that purposely add me to their Candy Crush group, or friends that post thirty inspirational memes an hour, or entertainment pages that post 40-year old photos of Linda Blair throwing up chunks of pea soup in The Exorcist just to shock you into clicking the article. That was then.

This is now: AP News, New York Times, Reuters, Scientific American, Bloomberg, CNBC, Public Relations Daily, Technobuffalo, The Washington Post, CNN, Internet Architects, InfoWorld, Film Riot, Book Riot, Nova/PBS, City of Hope, Cleveland Clinic, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the list goes on and on…

Facebook, at least to me, is INFORMATION. It is an endless newsfeed of everything that you want to know, about topics that you care about that will increase your knowledge in business, in life, in productivity. Because of Facebook, I know how the stock market is doing and WHY it’s reacting that way. I can check the local news as well as what’s going on in the nation, and not just in a general way but much more specific, more targeted–many times a news entity will have a subdivision, and that subdivision will have its own Facebook newsfeed. Huffington Post Finance is very different from Huffington Post Food, is very different from Huffington Post Technology.

Facebook isn’t just a newsfeed, it’s also an event organizer. The New York Times FB page includes an Events section that lists local conferences, concerts, art installations, and other social gatherings. Within each listing is a calendar and RSVP feature that you can tick off so Facebook reminds you when it’s about to happen. It has a map of the venue that clicks to your phone’s Google Maps or Waze app to help you get there. If attendees take photos and tag them during the event, those photos are linked to that event’s page, so you can see it from other people’s points of view.

Facebook isn’t just a bunch of selfies, it’s also your online portfolio. If you’re an artist or designer, you owe it to yourself to have a Facebook page that features photos of your work. Your fans and customers can comment on your creations, can buy your products directly from Facebook (YES, Facebook has a store!), can ask you questions directly as well as engage others in conversation about your work, and when you have an exhibit, you can invite all your Facebook fans to that event with one posting, AND keep track of who wants to go!

Facebook fan pages isn’t just for celebrities, it’s also for people that aspire to be like one. You can easily do a Live Video with your smartphone (at least the relatively new ones can do it), and anyone can snoop in on your business meeting, or while you’re making linguini with clam sauce in the kitchen, or doing a reaction video that supplements your monetized vlog on YouTube.

So for anyone in business, YES, Facebook is absolutely useful, you just have to tweak the settings accordingly. To begin, you can use Facebook to read industry news and check the weather to prepare you for the long drive/flight to your business meeting. You can organize your colleagues with one notification of that event, with time, place and map, within Facebook Events. You can message your business connections through FB Messaging, AND send them Word files, Excel files, and other presentation files directly through Facebook. (Note that some mobile devices require that you download a separate FB Message app to handle the messaging, but it’s directly linked to your Facebook app, so the experience is basically seamless.)

The bottom line is you can plan, organize, conduct, and chronicle a whole day using just Facebook.

So don’t be too upset when your kids make fun of you for being on Facebook. While they’re taking selfies and posting on Instagram, or gossiping about Taylor Swift on Snapchat, you’re on that old fuddy-duddy of an app, and you’re getting down to business.

Why YouTube?

YouTube logoA client just asked me if it’s possible to keep their company videos within their own website, running it off their own web servers, instead of posting it on YouTube. He didn’t want to involve YouTube but was open to Vimeo.

I told him that anything is possible with enough resources, but I highly recommend we go with YouTube. Keep in mind that this is MY opinion, and I do my best to know as much as I can but I don’t know everything, so take it with a grain of salt. My reasons:

1. YouTube is a division of Google, and we all Google. Google is the most popular search engine, used by the most people. When Google acquired YouTube, it benefited the both of them; Google brought its cachet (number of eyeballs, trust, ubiquity) to YouTube, and YouTube brought its content creators to make Google even more powerful. So content meets marketing.

2. YouTube is the fastest growing search engine, and it’s not slowing down. One of the big reasons is technology has made it affordable and accessible to make your own YouTube videos (you can make videos using your smartphone then instantly upload it to YouTube), so there’s much more video content out there, on all topics, which means the average person on their mobile devices will more and more likely turn to YouTube to find answers. If you can’t find it on Google, look on YouTube. Which is owned by Google. See the pattern here?

3. YouTube is a more accessible and adaptable platform than Vimeo or most other video services–you can easily share a YouTube video, embed it onto your website without messing around with hidden codes, you can post it in a Facebook page or post, you can link to it in an email, and you can even resize the video to fit whatever platform you’re serving to. These aspects have their pros and cons of course, but the accessibility and versatility of a YouTube video, again in my opinion, is unmatched.

4. YouTube’s server farms continue to grow and evolve, backed up by Google’s resources–their expansion is basically UNLIMITED. If you try to stream your company’s videos off your own server, once those videos become very popular and you get tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of eyeballs watching, sooner or later you’ll have to upgrade your equipment to allow for more people to access your content. By going with YouTube, yes, you’ll have to put your corporate videos on their servers, but they will have the burden of maintenance and eating the cost of upgrades.

5. If YouTube’s servers get hacked, it’s better than your own company’s servers getting hacked. Your company’s security isn’t compromised, and your data is still safe since you still have the original videos on your company’s machines, hopefully backed up to other devices and your corporate cloud account. Even if all your videos on YouTube get wiped out because of a YouTube server malfunction (and from my knowledge this has never happened), you can simply re-upload your videos back onto YouTube when their machines are back online.

6. YouTube has an app for pretty much every platform out there. If you try to serve videos from your own server, you’d have to spend that extra time to test your videos on different browsers, different computers with different configurations, cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc.

7. YouTube is OPEN-ENDED, meaning that the experience doesn’t have to end after viewing the current video. Because of YouTube’s Autoplay feature, where a related video will automatically play after the current one has finished, as well as its Playlist feature that can “play all” within that playlist, if your company has, let’s say, a collection of 50+ videos, you can configure YouTube to allow the viewer to play ALL your videos back-to-back until they’ve seen everything you have to offer. In terms of “stickiness”, the ability to make your audience spend all day with you, watching your videos…well, think about how valuable that is to your marketing strategy and bottom line.

This is just the tip of the YouTube iceberg. In the near future, I’ll talk about monetization methods, using YouTube in tandem with other social media, using YouTube for fundraising events, and using the right video and audio equipment to make YouTube videos, among other things.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Gerardo San Diego

Keck USC Department of Surgery

Keck USC Dept. of Surgery

www.surgery.usc.edu
As of September 2016, the site annually receives more than 2.27 million page views from more than 1.37 million unique visitors, and has increased traffic by 25% every year. Working directly with surgeons and administrators, I created the architecture for a 2000-page site, including 15 divisional subsites. Researched, wrote and proofread text content, created and edited photos, diagrams, and illustrations, and promoted the site through SEO and social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

To see how I devote a whole day working on this project, please read A Day in the Life.

A Day in the Life

I usually begin the day at 8am with a new idea for a surgery web page or area, either promoting one, creating a new one, or embellishing an existing one. I’ll jot down that idea, then begin to research on how best to implement it.

Social Media

I’ll scan the newsfeeds that I follow on Twitter for useful surgery news and information that I can post on USC Surgery’s Facebook page and Twitter account. I follow 100 medical news accounts but these are the most notable:

  • L.A. Times Health
  • Reuters Health
  • OnSurg @GetOnSurg
  • American College of Surgeons
  • Association of Women Surgeons
  • General Surgery News @gensurgnews
  • American Heart Assoc
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School
  • The Lancet
  • Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Kaiser Health News
  • WSJ Health News
  • UCLA Health (because they have an amazingly prodigious twitter team and constant feeds)
  • Cleveland Clinic (same as above)

I’ll usually pick 2-3 notable news and retweet them, or quote them and create an original tweet. Then I’ll research USC-specific news by visiting the Keck Medicine website, doing Google searches for terms such as “Dr. Starnes news”, “Dr. Weaver USC”, “usc surgery”, “LAC USC surgery”, etc. I usually find at least 1 good article, and I’ll post a link to the article as an original tweet. I’ll also post the same USC article on USC Surgery’s Facebook page.

While I’m on USC’s Facebook page, I’ll post 1-2 other links from the Dept. of Surgery website, usually a “Surgeon Spotlight” that links to a surgeon’s bio, and a web page of a procedure such as Congenital Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). If there’s a good Dept. of Surgery web page that doesn’t have a nice-looking supportive graphic, I will go to Photoshop and scan through my archive of medical illustrations and clipart to find the appropriate image, then edit the graphic, adding text and pointers, and editing the image if necessary to show a specific disease or anomaly, then add that graphic to the web page, then post that web page to Facebook.

Still on Facebook, I’ll scan the latest posts by Cleveland Clinic (they post at least a dozen interesting articles every day on Facebook), Adam Pick, CHLA, UCLA Health, and USC Keck.

Sometimes I will jump on YouTube to see the latest video postings of USC and USC Keck, and will like/repost any that pertain to surgery. While on YouTube, I will visit the USC Surgery YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/user/uscsurgery) and will share one of the video links on USC Surgery’s Facebook page and Twitter account.

I’ve also set up a Google+ account for USC Surgery and reposting links to that account. Since Google+ is fairly new, I focus more on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, at least for now.

Page Creation and Editing

By 9am, I’ll check my email for requests from Dept. of Surgery staff to update web pages or add new content. My step-by-step:

  1. Open any attachments (Word .doc, Excel, PDFs) and make copies.
  2. Make a backup of the web page(s) that I’m about to edit.
  3. Make changes.
  4. If the page has new content, I’ll edit the META tags and page titles to reflect the new content. If necessary, I’ll rewrite some passages to make the text more web friendly, but only if it doesn’t change the original meaning of the content.
  5. If the new content is related to any other web pages, either within the division site, or the department site, I will create links to those pages.
  6. If it’s a new physician bio, I will also add that new physician to the main department’s Physician Directory. Often I will check the Keck Medicine site to verify the physician bio information, and if there’s a discrepancy, I will notify a division contact.6b. If a physician bio page is to deleted, I will make a backup of that page, then create a new page with a redirect to the division’s home page, in case someone out there has already bookmarked the old page. I will also use each division’s search function to see if there are any rogue pages of that physician that also need to be deleted.

    * If there’s a new phone number listed, I will sometimes call that number on the weekend just to make sure someone’s on the other end to answer it. If no one answers it, I notify  the respective division’s contact person.

  7. When all the changes are finished, I will upload the files to the USC server, then check them through different web browsers, including MSIE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Android phone and iPad.
  8. If enough pages (more than 20 or a completely new section) are uploaded, I will submit the new pages to various search engines:
  • AOL search
  • Ask.com
  • Bing
  • Dogpile Web Search
  • Duckduckgo
  • Google
  • Lycos
  • Yahoo

After the new pages are uploaded, I will pick the most Twitter-worthy and will post that link to Twitter.

While editing new page content, I will inevitably run into other web pages that have outdated or misplaced content, because of changes over time. I will edit and reorganize the content in those pages.

During this time, sometimes I will remember some surgery/medical news that I read earlier on one of the news aggregators, and I’ll research that topic further, to see if it’s related to one of the areas of expertise topics that we cover on Dept. of Surgery site. If yes, I will research that topic specifically to its relationship to USC, and if any USC sites talk about that topic. If yes, then I will add that news to the respective division site and/or the main department site. If it’s a YouTube video (like the USC Norris Cancer Care video), I will embed it into the department home page, as well as “like” it on YouTube so it shows up on USC Surgery’s YouTube newsfeed.

After the most immediate webpage changes are made, I will backup the new files to a 2nd internal hard drive on my computer, as well as an external USB hard drive, then take that external hard drive and copy that data to a second computer.

Then comes a little spring cleaning. Often a new section in a division site will be created by adding raw content (text and images), and then reorganizing it after the initial text is reviewed by a division chief for accuracy. After it’s been reviewed, I will re-review the pages and look for:

  • Typographical errors.
  • Mentions of “USC University Hospital” that need to be switched to “Keck Hospital of USC” and other outdated content.
  • Grammatical errors.
  • Possible diseases, procedures and phrases that can be linked to other areas of the site.
  • A need to add a supportive graphic (diagram or photo) to help push the idea across.
  • SEO elements like META tags, page titles, and Featured Image (“Featured Image” is the default image that shows up as a thumbnail when a person links to that page in Facebook or any social media platform. The Featured Image tag has to be purposely coded within its respective web page.)

I will also check certain pages’ rankings with the same search engines that I’ve submitted to, using different browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Safari) and on different systems, to get a good cross-section of their actual rankings. Because Google and some other search engines embed cookies on the computer, sometimes their search results can be biased toward the web pages that are being searched most often. Duckduckgo is not as accurate as Google, but because it doesn’t embed cookies on a computer, I often use it to verify my search results from Google searches.

Search Engine Rankings and Google Analytics

Those search engine rankings for each division are saved in an Excel file. I refer to this Excel file when determining what pages to promote more aggressively and to keep track of pages that are either gaining or losing ground in search engine popularity. I cross-reference these results with Google Analytics results, which measure page hits and unique visitors, among other things.

Four times a month, and especially at the 1st day of each month, I check Google Analytics to see which divisions and pages are improving and which are lagging. For the laggers, I search their rankings on Google, then see which similar pages on other websites are being ranked higher. I will look for patterns in their text content, see if they have more text content than the USC pages, and if they are promoted through social media in addition to their inherent content. Depending on my findings, I will do the following for the USC pages that are lagging:

  • In terms of terms and phrases, look for niche areas where the USC pages have a better chance of ranking higher.
  • Edit META tags and page titles so they aren’t exactly the same as the more popular competition’s pages.
  • Add graphics, related links, and research/add more content to bolster the existing text.

Back to Google Analytics: I will look for trends and patterns with page hits and unique visitors, and any anomalies with certain pages being visited much more than other pages. If any unique characteristics seem obvious with the more popular pages, I will use those characteristics to style other pages that are more lagging. More than anything, I try to get a “feel” for the whole ecosystem. And because Google often changes its algorithms in terms of ranking pages, I have to follow as well, tweaking once-popular web pages to become popular again.

Visual Design and Composition

Working on web pages will give me ideas on how to embellish the pages with graphics. If the page is an overall theme page, I sometimes will opt for a more abstract header graphic, using photos that I’ve taken of buildings and surroundings on campus.

If the page is a specific procedure or disease, I will review my collection of royalty-free illustrations:

  • LifeArt – Grant’s Thorax and Abdomen
  • Mediclip – Cardiac Pro
  • MediClip – Clinical Cardiopulmonary Images
  • Mediclip – Color Anatomy 2
  • PhotoDisc medical photos

I will also use hi-res images from USC marketing, image collections from biomedical and pharmaceutical companies that have provided their stock photos to USC, use photos that USC staff have sent, or physician photos from Nathaniel Taylor.

If no useful graphic is found, I will then Google search the creative commons area for images that I can either use directly, or will give me the foundation for a custom illustration. If necessary, I will custom create a graphic for a specific disease or procedure.

4-5 times a day I will visit Twitter for medical news updates, and will visit Facebook at least 10 times a day, sometimes posting a new article to attract more Facebook followers.

Later in the day, I will research the search engine articles as well as the competition’s websites to better understand their SEO techniques. Inevitably I will find some SEO patterns and will edit some USC pages with the new patterns. I usually make SEO changes to one set of pages (for example, the lung surgery patient guide pages), while keeping another set as a control group (heart surgery patient guide pages), to see if the new strategy works.

Before I take another break, I will do a quick check of each of the division pages, just to make sure that no pages have been corrupted on the server or overlooked during recent editing. I will test the search engine feature of each division. I will randomly select pages that I haven’t visited for a while to see how they show up on search engines, and will read through some older content to make sure the information is still fresh. I will take notes for work to do the next day.

Before I go to sleep at 3am, I will revisit Twitter and Facebook one last time, jotting down ideas for the next day, posting a new article or retweeting, since it’s 6am on the east coast and some people are reading their morning newsfeeds.

On Saturdays, I try to post on Facebook and Twitter between 8-10am, which is when more people read their emails and social media than any other day or time during the week. On Sundays, the schedule is the same as on a weekday.

Schoolguides

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Schoolguides archived home page
Web design and front end architecture, book design, print/promotional material design, marketing and search engine strategies, cartoons and illustrations.

Another multifaceted project that began as a simple website redesign, the Schoolguides.org program expanded to include designing a 64-page student handbook, logo and branding, and creating marketing pieces for new online experiences, including a social networking module for schools.

The website went through at least three major redesigns to keep up with its evolving target market, which is schoolchildren and their families. The most recent version was designed to reflect other marketing pieces aimed toward high school students, including TV commercials, magazine ads, and point of purchase displays at retail stores.

Although the website’s largest target audience was high school students and their families, other subsections were aimed toward middle school and elementary students, as well as a separate section that took the visitor directly to order forms. To make navigation as simple as possible right from the start, we worked with the Schoolguides educators to distill the options on the home page, ultimately reducing the number of main buttons to four. We would sometimes add a fifth button during a promotional period, including one that called attention to a DVD on computer/Internet addiction. Below is one of the cartoons I drew for the DVD cover and supportive material for the website.

webgaming

Commercial Sand Blast Company

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www.commercialsandblast.com
Produced for a modest budget and with very little text content from the client, the Commercial Sandblast website required maneuvering of available collateral material to create a sense of visual robustness. Another goal was to get the simple message of “we do commercial sandblasting, pipeline coating, painting and restoration” out to the public, as clearly as possible. Because the client had dozens of high quality photos of their projects, we focused on images to promote the company’s skills and equipment, while emphasizing that they are certified, safe, and capable of handling almost any job.

In addition to design, each web page was optimized to attract search engines (SEO) based on specific criteria, including promotion to local businesses in the Los Angeles area.

 

 

Kay Dermatology

Kay Dermatology

Kay Dermatology archive site
Web design, development & front end architecture, content editing, video editing and conversion, web marketing and search engine optimization.

Dr. Martin Kay’s site caters as much to a senior audience as well as the middle age demographic, and as much to men as to women. The web site was designed to be family-friendly which meant no nudity or suggestive graphics. Our task was to create a safe, accurate and informative online experience while still maintaining a certain level of design aesthetics, a certain “sexiness”. Since the majority of services offered were for facial treatments, variations of the human face and head are repeated throughout the overall design.

The biggest challenge to this project was organizing the large number of services and treatments offered, and categorizing them into a manageable number of subsections. Services that were more common or needed additional promotion, like acne treatment and laser cosmetics, were reiterated using newsletter articles, strategic link positioning on the web page, and before-and-after photos, to attract image search engines as well as provide potential customers with examples from actual patients.

Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK)

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www.taskca.org
Logo/identity branding, web design, marketing, print/promotional material design, online video production.

The TASK website project began with the design of a people-friendly logo that was colorful and optimistic. The logo had to be reducible as well as recognizable when printed in black and white. The logo and the web site had to accurately depict the demographic that TASK serves, which is special needs children and their parents and families. Another major emphasis was in showing the TASK’s staff and meeting rooms, so that web visitors will be familiar with the TASK environment before their first physical visit. Support, advocacy and a welcoming atmosphere was the consistent theme throughout.

In addition to the website, we worked with TASK to come up with the slogan, “Supporting, informing, empowering,” honing the essence of their mission from twenty rough slogan ideas, down to three succinct words. We also created a template for their quarterly newsletter in Microsoft Publisher, the program used by TASK staff.

Our duties included updating the website, editing/converting web and print graphics, and acting as liaison with printers during production of promotional items. Other duties include marketing strategies consulting, search engine optimization, and implementing web apps like the social networking buttons. We also created and administer a fan page for TASK within the Facebook social networking site.