Category Archives: Marketing Strategies

48 C# Interview Questions Any Interview Worth Their Salt Will Ask

With over 7,000 C#.Net programming jobs advertised every month that have an average salary of over $90,000, the demand for this type of developer has exploded. But why is the C#.Net labor market so hot right now? Well, more and more engineering departments are adopting C#.Net to build their software because it’s similar to other common C-type languages like C++ and Java. This makes the language intuitive to learn — in fact — it’s the fifth most popular programming language for building software.

To help you prepare for your next C#.Net developer interview and land the job, check out the following C#.Net interview questions most interviewers will ask you.

48 C#.Net Interview Questions

1. What is C#?

2. What are the advantages of using C#?

3. What are an object and class?

4. What is an Object Pool?

5. What is an abstraction?

6. What is polymorphism?

7. Is C# managed or unmanaged code?

8. How do you inherit a class in C#?

9. What’s the difference between Interface and Abstract Class?

10. What are sealed classes in C#?

11. What’s the difference between a struct and a class in C#?

12. What’s the point of using statement in C#?

13. How is Exception Handling applied in C#?

14. What are boxing and unboxing in C#?

15. What are the three types of comments in C#?

16. Can multiple catch blocks be executed in C#?

17. What’s the difference between static, public, and void? What’s the outcome of each one?

18. What are value types and reference types?

19. What’s the difference between ref and out parameters?

20. Can “this” be used within a static method?

21. What are Arrays in C#?

22. What is a jagged array in C#?

23. What’s the difference between Array and ArrayList?

24. What’s the difference between System.Array.CopyTo() and System.Array.Clone()?

25. What’s the difference between string and StringBuilder?

26. What are delegates in C#?

27. What’s a multicast delegate?

28. What is a Reflection in C#?

29. What is a Generic Class?

30. What are Get and Set Accessor properties?

31. What is Multithreading?

32. What is Serialization?

33. What are the different ways a method can be overloaded?

34. What is the accessibility modifier “protected internal”?

35. What are the different ways a method can be overloaded?

36. What is an object pool in .Net?

37. What are the most commonly used types of exceptions in .Net?

38. What are accessibility modifiers in C#?

39. What are nullable types in C#?

40. What’s the difference between is and as operators in C#?

41. What are Indexers?

42. What are Singleton Design Patterns?

43. Given an array of ints, write a C# method to total all the values that are even numbers.

44. Is it possible to store mixed data types like int, string, float, and char all in one array?

45. Describe dependency injection.

46. Write a C# program that accepts a distance in kilometers, converts it into meters, and then displays the result.

47. What’s the difference between the “constant” and “readonly” variables when using C#? When would you use each one?

48. Which preference of IDE do you have when using C#? Why?

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Form Layouts: 6 Best Practices and Great Examples to Follow

Have you ever tried completing a form on a website and felt confused or lost while doing so? Did the placement of the form field labels and the fields themselves not make any sense? Were the form’s title and submission button not in locations that were easy for you to spot?

These factors, among several others, are major aspects of a web form’s layout that have the potential to either enhance or diminish its user experience (UX). By implementing a successful layout, you’ll create a great experience for your visitors as well as initiate a positive — and hopefully long-lasting — relationship between them and your brand. 

In this guide, we’ll review six best web form layout practices as well as examples of each practice to help you get started. But first, let’s review what web form layout actually is and why it’s so important.

 

Why does web form layout matter?

Almost every website has a web form of some kind. Your web form layout plays a large role in how well your form converts. That’s because a great form layout leads to seamless form completion and improves the submission process for your visitors. Visitors will easily convert since you’ve created a web form that’s hassle-free and feels both professional and thoughtful. 

In contrast, a poorly planned layout will lead to a confusing and difficult-to-work-through form that may frustrate your visitors and even cause them to abandon your site entirely, diminishing your conversions.

Now that we understand why getting your web form’s layout right is so important, let’s dive into how to create an optimal layout for your web form. Below are six best practices to follow when arranging your content.

Form Layouts: 6 Best Practices and Great Examples to Follow

We’ve curated this list of best practices, to apply to virtually every type of web form. We’ve also included great examples of each practice to help you better apply the concepts to your own forms.

1. Use a single-column layout

When it comes to your layout, you should keep the location and order of all your fields as straightforward as possible. This means you should use a single-column layout. By organizing your fields this way, your visitors won’t miss a field, they’ll complete the fields in the order that makes the most sense, and they’ll be able to submit your form faster than they would if you used a multi-column form.

Great example:

Source 

This example shows you what a single-column format should look like. The layout is just about as streamlined, straightforward, and minimalist as it could possibly be, which is exactly what you want. This way, you decrease the amount of time your visitors need to work through your form and there’s no possible cause for error or confusion.

2. Align copy to the left

Align all of your form fields to the left side of the web page. This is the most natural way to lay out your form because it’s how the vast majority of people learn to read content — by moving from right to left. If you aren’t using inline form field labels (which are located directly in the form fields themselves), you should also align your labels to the left. Again, this natural flow will help your visitors complete your form more efficiently without feeling confused about which label belongs to which field.

Great example: 

left-side-web-form-alignment

Source

This photo depicts left side alignment for both the form’s fields and labels. The form is organized in a way that makes it clear for visitors and therefore allows for speedy completion and submission processes. There’s no question about which labels belong with which fields and working right to left through the form is both natural and hassle-free.

3. Use a one-page layout

When creating your forms, you should use a one-page layout so there’s only one form located on each page. If you have a short form, everything should easily fit on a single page, making this an easy layout to implement. 

If you have a lot of form fields, you should break up them up into a multi-step form. When you do this, there will be multiple web pages with separate portions of the form, making the amount of work your visitor needs to complete appear more manageable. (If you do have a multi-step form, you can also add a progress bar at the top of the page so your visitors know how much longer they’re going to be working through it.)

Great example:

one-page-web-form-layout

Source 

Due to the large number of form fields that visitors are required to complete, this is a multi-step form spread across three separate web pages. By organizing the form this way, reviewing and completing it doesn’t feel like it’ll be a long, tedious process.

Rather than looking at a long list of form fields that need to be completed, seeing only a few fields at a time makes the form feel less overwhelming. (The progress bar at the top of the page also helps with this, especially since it clearly labels the names of the web pages the visitor needs to work through.)

4. Create a mobile-friendly layout

These days nearly everyone carries some type of mobile device with them at all times. No matter if they’re on-the-go, traveling, commuting, or simply sitting in the comfort of their own home, it’s no secret that people are signing up for your newsletter, registering for an account, and buying your products via their smartphones and tablets. That’s why it’s critical your site includes mobile-friendly forms.

Great example:

mobile-friendly-web-form-layout

Source 

This example displays many important aspects of a successful mobile form layout. The form has a clear title at the top of the small screen, a clear and simplified option to add (or scan) credit card information so a visitor doesn’t have to type our the series of numbers on such a tiny keyboard, a straightforward, single-column, and multi-step layout, minimalist design, and more. This form is laid out in a way that allows users to easily understand and complete it via a mobile device.

5. Add inline form field labels

Inline field labels and text make it exceptionally easy for visitors to understand where they should be placing their responses in your forms. They take the guesswork out of which label belongs to which field, making it simple for visitors to move through the form without hesitation. They also keep your form looking clean, minimalist, clutter-free, and sleek.

Great example:

inline-form-fields-web-form

Source

Since these field labels are inline, the form looks simplistic and shorter than it would if the labels were located outside of the entry fields. Visitors will have no issue determining where they need to input their information. Sometimes when the field labels are located above, below, or to the side of the fields, it’s hard to determine which label belongs to which field.

6. Use inline error messages

Using inline error messages in web forms is an effective way to ensure someone understands there’s an issue with a field they tried completing. They also direct that visitor to the exact location of the error so there’s no time wasted determining where the problem is.

Once you create your inline messages, be sure to add some context about why the error exists and how your visitors can correct it. This not only saves your visitors time when fixing the error(s), but it also saves you and your fellow employees from having to work through invalid responses once the form’s submitted.

Great example:

In this form, the error message appears inline, meaning the invalid field is highlighted red. The form includes an error symbol next to the field to further highlight the fact there’s an issue and where the issue is located. Lastly, the message explains why the error exists and how to fix it.

Back To You

With a successful web form layout, you’ll create a great user experience for your visitors that’ll leave a positive, lasting impression on them. Your layout should streamline the form completion and submission processes for your visitors so there isn’t any confusion or uncertainty regarding the form itself. Get started improving your form’s layout today by thinking about these practices and how you can incorporate them into your own forms to enhance UX and boost your conversions.

9 Reasons for Leaving Your Last Job That Hiring Managers Will Completely Understand

Out of all the questions hiring managers can potentially ask you during an interview, “Why did you leave your last job?” could be one of the hardest to answer.

To effectively answer this question, you need to frame your response in a way that shows hiring managers that you know what’s important to you and how to handle less than ideal situations. But you also don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities you had in your previous role, or come off like you’re still bitter about how you left things with your last employer.

It can be challenging to explain why you decided to leave your last position without throwing your old company under the bus. But if answered thoughtfully, this question can help you highlight your flexibility and self-awareness.

To help you nail this question at your next interview, we rounded up nine reasons for leaving your last job that hiring managers will completely understand. And even if you’ve only worked in your current role for a short amount of time, these reasons can help you frame your decision to depart your last role in a way your potential new employer can truly respect.

1. You’re looking to level up in your career, and your current company has limited opportunities for career growth.

Career stagnation can be incredibly frustrating. If you’ve worked hard at the same company for a few years, and you haven’t been promoted or even promised a promotion, you have every right to leave your current job. If you can communicate that you haven’t been able to climb the career ladder at your preferred pace during your interview, you’ll show hiring managers that you’re ambitious and goal-orientated.

2. You don’t feel challenged or fulfilled at your current job.

No job is perfect, but if you don’t feel any satisfaction at work, it’s definitely time for a change. Work becomes a chore if you don’t feel mentally stimulated or emotionally fulfilled. And hiring managers will completely understand why you’re leaving your current role, if this is the case. They’ll also be impressed with your internal need to be passionate about your job.

3. The nature of your work is not what was promised to you.

Did your current employer promise you a copywriting job, but now you somehow work in product marketing? If they’ve baited-and-switched you like this, wanting to leave the company is more than understandable. They promised you something, but failed to honor it — so why stay?

Leaving your job to find a new role that actually meets your expectations will also show hiring managers that you can stand up for yourself and pursue what you truly want in life.

4. You’re burnt out.

If your job’s heavy workload or endless stress make you hate going to work, it’s time for a fresh start somewhere else. Burnout can make work and, in turn, life miserable and most hiring managers have experienced it at least once in their careers, so if you need a new change of pace, they’ll definitely be able to empathize with you. They’ll also respect your willingness to take care of your mental and emotional health.

5. You feel undervalued at your current job.

When your current manager underestimates your potential or doesn’t know how to leverage your skill set to its full potential, work can become frustrating and dull. So why work for a company that doesn’t challenge you or allow you to make a impact?

If you can genuinely convey these frustrations and aspirations during your interview, hiring managers will perceive you as someone who truly wants to make a difference at their company — and that’ll only boost your chances of landing the job.

6. You want to make a career change.

In a world where most industries never stop changing, it’s common to leave a job to pursue a new career path. But even if you think your lack of experience in an industry is a vulnerability, you shouldn’t fret. Most hiring managers actually like hiring candidates from other industries because they can bring a fresh perspective to their team and company.

7. You want a better work life balance.

Sometimes employers forget that people work to live and don’t live to work. If your current job steals too many hours away from your personal life, it’s time to go. Life is for living, so if you can express your desire to work in a new role that provides a better work life balance, hiring managers will admire the respect you have for your own time.

8. Your values don’t align with the company’s values.

Whether you were never a good fit at your current company or a merger or acquisition altered its values, a moral conflict with an employer is totally a justifiable reason to leave. If you stand firmly behind your own beliefs, you shouldn’t have to compromise your ethics to drive results for a business you don’t support.

Hiring managers also want to hire people whose values align with their company’s, so clarifying that you both have similar principles will help you out tremendously during an interview.

9. You had to leave the company due to family or personal reasons.

Life happens. If you left your last job because you needed to take care of your family or nourish your physical or mental health, hiring managers won’t knock off any points during your interview. In fact, this reason will most likely bump up your score because you’ve proved that you can prioritize what’s truly important in life.

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What Does HTTP 302 Mean?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet at all, chances are you’ve encountered an HTTP status code.

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In simple terms, HTTP status codes are essentially standard response codes used to show the relationship between all the things that go on in the background when you travel from web page to web page: things like the user agent (i.e., your web browser), the web page you’re trying to load, and any third-party web applications you might be running.

Because of the complexity of how all those things interact, there are a ton of possible HTTP status codes you can run up against. HTTP status codes can be used to identify and diagnose the particular blocker preventing you from loading a resource, or give you more information about the journey you took on the way to a page.

What Does HTTP 302 Mean?

One of the most common HTTP status codes is HTTP 302. This status occurs when a resource or page you’re attempting to load has been temporarily moved to a different location — via a 302 redirect.

As opposed to 301 redirects — which are used to permanently direct users from one location to another — 302 redirects are temporary. You usually won’t notice a 302 redirect if it’s set up correctly. The web server serving up the 302 redirect should immediately indicate the new location of the page to your browser, and should send you there right away.

If you want to see when you’ve encountered a 302 redirect (or any type of redirect), consider using an application or Chrome extension (like this one, Redirect Path). This type of tool will show you directly in your browser when you run into a redirect.

It’s important to note that an HTTP 302 status code is caused by the web server you’re attempting to reach. It’s not an issue with your web browser, or anything you can control on your end of things.

If you’re thinking about setting up 302 redirects on your own website, you should know that these types of temporary redirects aren’t appreciated by Google. Google’s crawler will follow and honor a permanent 301 redirect, but will ignore any temporary 302 redirects you set up. If you want to maintain your search ranking on a page you need to redirect to a new location, opt for a permanent 301 redirect instead.


The Ultimate Guide to Cryptocurrency

When I first heard of cryptocurrency, I thought it was similar to PayPal or Venmo … a simple, digital exchange of money. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that cryptocurrency wasn’t only a digital exchange, but an exchange of a completely new currency.

I could hardly wrap my mind around it. I was this emoji personified: 🤯.

How could a brand new (albeit invisible) currency work? What could you buy? Did people actually accept it? What stopped people from not believing in it?

I had lots of questions … and I still do. Cryptocurrency is a complex, ever-changing topic that affects consumers, investors, and business owners alike. Below, we tackle some of those questions and highlight the most important aspects of cryptocurrency. By the end, you should have enough of an understanding to chime into those dinner party conversations with a fact or two.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency. Since its conception in 2009, which occurred in response to the banking crisis and housing market crash, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies have been created … and have failed.

Your Cryptocurrency Dictionary

Before we dive into the world of cryptocurrency, let’s review a few key terms frequently used in this guide and when discussing the concept.

Altcoins

Altcoins is slang for “alternative coins.” Altcoins refer to every other cryptocurrency besides Bitcoin.

Blockchain

All cryptocurrency transactions are recorded on the blockchain, a public record used to verify digital currency transactions and prevent scams. Transactions are recorded on blocks, and a new block is added to the chain roughly every 10 minutes. We explain blockchain further in the video below.

Cryptography

Cryptography refers to the act of writing in or deciphering a code. Cryptography (where we get the “crypto” in cryptocurrency) is a type of mathematics that creates secure transactions and online environments, i.e. “encrypted” accounts or currency.

Fiat

Fiat currency is paper money like the US dollar or Euro.

Mining

Cryptocurrency mining is a proof-of-work (PoW) system where miners solve math problems to validate every cryptocurrency transaction. These minters get cryptocurrency in exchange for their time and resources. These complicated mathematical calculations also increase the security, transparency, and value of cryptocurrency. Mining is only one way — the hardest way — to obtain cryptocurrency. The reward for solving these math problems varies per currency but is more profitable than any other method (besides an outright purchase).

Nodes

Nodes are computers that are part of the global cryptocurrency blockchain network. They serve to verify transactions recorded on the blockchain. Even if one node attempted to validate an incorrect transaction, the transaction wouldn’t go through as they require multiple validations (and that node would be disconnected) … making cryptocurrency a virtually incorruptible network.

Private Key

A private key is a secure “password” that gives cryptocurrency owners access to their wallets. Each wallet has its own private key, and without it, users couldn’t access their coins.

Public Address

A public address is similar to an email or physical house address. (It looks like this: 1GV5Vye4LCfpkM9V5oFSQsZk8kq2vBxvCK.) To send cryptocurrency, you simply need the recipient’s public address. It’s the only public-facing piece of data on the blockchain, and each transaction uses a unique address.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cryptocurrency by Feature

Both support and speculation exist in the world of cryptocurrency. Some hate it, some love it, and most are confused by it. It’s a brand new concept that sparks a whole barrage of questions and concerns.

Below, we explain the core features of cryptocurrency and the positive and negative perspective of each.

Feature

Benefits

Drawbacks

 

Security Cryptocurrency transactions are secure and private, creating valuable anonymity despite their very public (yet non-identifying) validation method on the blockchain. Security, privacy, and anonymity make it easy to use cryptocurrency for less-than-legal purposes.
Affordability Cryptocurrency has low transaction costs and in-between fees you might find at banks or payment gateways. Cryptocurrency isn’t accepted by everyone, which could cancel out its affordability altogether.
Volatility The volatility of cryptocurrency can yield a high-reward (high-risk) investment. Due to its volatility, cryptocurrency turns many people off from investing … which could lower its value over time.
Decentralization Cryptocurrency isn’t regulated or valued by a financial institution or central government, which eliminates the middleman, a penchant for corruption, and creates a truly global currency. It’s monitored by a peer-to-peer internet protocol. Many people relate cryptocurrency to the Silk Road … such a decentralized, deregulated asset couldbe used for both legal and illegal purposes. There’s also no way to recover lost coin.
Digitalization Cryptocurrency doesn’t deal in physical coin or paper money, leaving little room for loss, theft, or misuse. Cryptocurrency is purely digital, and you can’t recover lost coin or repeal validated transactions. The “invisibility” of cryptocurrency can also make it hard to trust.
Inflation

Cryptocurrency isn’t inflationary — there’s a set amount that can be mined and circulated.

Cryptocurrency will likely never become a central currency because of its non-inflationary, inflexible elements.
Creation Cryptocurrency is released through mining, which anyone can do with the proper resources — a computer and internet. Cryptocurrency mining consumes a ton of energy and resources.. (In fact, miners are on track to use more energy than Argentina.)

How is Cryptocurrency Created?

Cryptocurrency is released into the economy through the process of mining, as we defined above. But how do these digital coins become a legitimate currency in the first place?

Cryptocurrency creation depends on three main things:

  1. A community of people who believe in the purpose of the coin and network … and who will eventually mine and evangelize it
  2. A code to create and encrypt the software and blockchain network on which the currency will operate (which is relatively easy as most cryptocurrencies are based on the open source code of Bitcoin available on Github)
  3. The confidence of merchants to value and do business with the currency, further building trust among consumers, investors, and the general public

There’s obviously a lot more that goes into creating a cryptocurrency, but these are the main three elements that lead to its legitimacy and acceptance. Third parties like WalletBuilders also offer to create cryptocurrency for you.

Creating Your Own Cryptocurrency

Nowadays, a lot of businesses are creating their own cryptocurrencies — through a crowdfunding process known as an initial coin offering (ICO). ICOs are when startups raise money by creating their own digital token that can be spent on current or future products or services.

Companies who participate in ICOs exchange their token for established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Some ICO investors keep their tokens for future use or trade them on cryptocurrency exchanges as they would stock.

To learn more about creating or investing in an IPO, check out our guide here.

Types of Cryptocurrency

As of today, there are over 2,500 active cryptocurrencies, most of which serve as more than a simple payment system. Below we’ll review a four of the most popular, listed from oldest to newest.

1. Bitcoin

Bitcoin (BTC) is the first and most famous cryptocurrency. It’s been around for almost 10 years and has been hailed as the “digital gold” of the industry.

Today, 1 BTC is equal to $4,087.63 USD. There are currently 17,433,962 BTC in circulation, and the max supply is 21 million BTC.

Psst. Read more about Bitcoin in our ultimate guide here.

2. Litecoin

Created in 2011, Litecoin (LTC) was introduced as the “silver” to Bitcoin’s “gold.” It was intended to be used as a lighter, more nimble currency for everyday transactions. Litecoin is a replica of Bitcoin, just on a much smaller scale — it’s faster to mine, holds a smaller value, has a greater market cap, and operates on a much more flexible algorithm.

Today, 1 LTC is equal to $32.42 USD. There are currently 59,665,588 LTC in circulation, and the max supply is 84 million LTC.

3. XRP by Ripple

XRP is the cryptocurrency released by Ripple. Founded in 2012, Ripple was formed to expedite and improve cross-border payment transfers and the global payments system as a whole. The company itself is more of a network to process IOUs, and XRP serves as a currency transfer tool and token against spam — the currency itself holds no real value ( meaning you can’t buy anything with it).

Ripple designed XRP to function on a unique blockchain that validates its transactions over 200 times faster than Bitcoin. XRP also requires no mining — the only way to attain the currency is to purchase it on a cryptocurrency exchange.

Today, 1 XRP is equal to $0.370595 USD. There are currently 40,762,365,544 XRP in circulation, and the max supply is 100 billion XRP.

4. Ether by Ethereum

The Ethereum network hosts both a decentralized computer system and payment system, through its main token, Ether (ETH), along with a handful of others. Ether can be traded as a cryptocurrency, but it’s more commonly used to pay for transaction fees and services on the Ethereum network.

Launched in 2015, Ethereum uses blockchain to replace centralized computing systems (like Google, Apple, and Amazon) that regulate, censor, and control user data on their applications. A decentralized network gives power back to the users and removes the security risk of a centralized system. Along with payment transactions, Ethereum also processes and validates programs and contracts, such as insurance payouts. Ethereum’s average block mining time is 12 seconds.

Today, 1 ETH is equal to $117.59 USD. There are currently 103,925,546 ETH in circulation, with no set limit on its total coin supply.

Other top cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin Cash (price: $207.34 USD), EOS (price: $2.66 USD), Stellar (price: $0.124446 USD), and Tether (price: $1.02 USD).

How to Get and Store Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency can either be earned or purchased. You can earn cryptocurrency, by mining it or completing tasks in exchange for it.

You can purchase cryptocurrency in a few different ways. For one, you can invest in an ICO (as we explained above). You can also purchase cryptocurrency from another individual through sites like LocalBitcoins.

The easiest (and arguably most secure) way to buy cryptocurrency, though, is on an exchange like Coinbase or GDAX. Cryptocurrency exchanges simply require fiat money to make the purchase, typically from a debit card. You can also seek out a Bitcoin ATM, which operates just like your typical bank ATM.

So, what do you do with your cryptocurrency after you earn or purchase it?

Well, all cryptocurrency technically lives on the blockchain. But individual owners keep track of and manage their cryptocurrency through wallets.

Your wallet stores your private key and public address. Without your private key, you cannot access or verify purchase of your cryptocurrency, so it’s essentially the most valuable piece of your cryptocurrency ownership.

The most popular type of wallet is a software wallet like Coinspace (which also serves as an exchange). You could also use a desktop or paper wallet, which we explain further in our guide to Bitcoin here.

Note: Cryptocurrency is a largely unregulated and tumultuous market, and it’s notorious for scams. That being said, we highly recommend doing plenty of research before investing in any cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency Resources

This guide simply scratches the surface of the cryptocurrency world. If you want to learn more about mining, purchasing, or investing in cryptocurrency, check out the resources below:

Over to You

Between mining, blockchain, and wallets, there’s a lot that goes into cryptocurrency. It’s well-established in our economy, but it sure hasn’t triumphed every marketplace and merchant.

If anything, cryptocurrency is a sign of how advanced and open-minded our economy is. We’re willing to take new risks and try new things in order to businesses, bank accounts, and futures secure. Is cryptocurrency guaranteed? Absolutely not. But it might be something worth exploring you’re looking to spice up your portfolio or try something new.

Mobile Form Design: A Beginners Guide to Converting Mobile Users

Think about a time when you were on the train, walking to work, sitting in the airport, or simply laying on the couch, and you had to complete an online form of some kind (an order form, shipping form, survey, etc.) on your smartphone or tablet. Did you have a positive or negative experience? Did the mobile form you completed function properly? Was it easy to read and submit on your mobile screen?

Due to their convenience, as well as the fact that most of us are almost always carrying a device, mobile forms may be something you complete frequently. If the online form you’re completing has a mobile-friendly design, then this process really is a convenient one. However, if the form you’re trying to complete is not mobile friendly, you might quickly become frustrated, angry, or ditch the site completely.

In this guide, we’ll review the most effective ways to design your business’s mobile form to help you boost conversions and create a great user experience. There are a variety of ways to achieve this, including obvious action buttons, clear form fields, minimal form fields, automated actions, a beautiful design and layout, and more.

Source

But before diving into all of those details, let’s first define mobile form design to better understand the concepts and guidelines we’re about to review.

Mobile vs. Desktop Form Design

Today, your website visitors aren’t just browsing your site, viewing your content, and completing your forms from their desktop computers — they’re also completing these tasks from their mobile devices. That means it’s absolutely critical for your form to be simple to review, complete, and submit via a mobile device.

Why Is Mobile Form Design Important?

Great mobile form design allows for a positive user experience which ensures a happy website visitor who’s more likely to convert to a customer and become a returning user.

The design, layout, and functionality of your mobile forms play a large part in your website’s overall user experience due to the number of people who browse items, make purchases, and shop via their mobile devices every day. If your forms aren’t mobile-friendly, you may experience fewer conversions, a loss in mobile site traffic, and an increase in unhappy and frustrated customers. And who wants that?

Why Should Mobile Form Design Differ From Desktop Design?

Think about the difference in the display or screen size between a mobile device, such as an Apple iPhone, which typically ranges from 4.7” to 6.1” in size, and an iMac desktop computer, which typically ranges from 21” to 27” in size. Clearly, it’s safe to assume a form that fits an iPhone screen wouldn’t fit a desktop screen perfectly.

If your mobile visitors cannot easily read, complete, and submit your form, you may lose their business. So creating a mobile-friendly form that fits the screen of any mobile device is crucial to creating a great user experience in order to leave a lasting impression on your visitors and help you boost conversions.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

If you want to take mobile form design a step further and ensure your entire website is functional on all types of devices, you can implement a responsive website design. 

Responsive web design takes the user’s screen size, platform, orientation, and environment into consideration. This is a simple and effective way to create a great user experience since so many people are constantly visiting and browsing different websites on a variety of devices.

There are a number of ways you can make sure your site has a responsive design. For example, if you’re a WordPress user, there are several responsive WordPress themes that you can install and use to design your site. Additionally, if you’re building, or have built, your site with software such as Squarespace, your site may automatically come with responsive web design

Today, responsive web design is a popular choice for businesses due to the sheer number of people visiting websites via a variety of different mobile devices. But for now, let’s get back to discussing mobile form design.

Mobile Form Design: 10 UX Guidelines

When creating a mobile-friendly form, there are some steps you’ll want to take to provide the best user experience possible for your visitors. Let’s review 10 of these UX guidelines that you can begin implementing in your own forms today.

1. Minimize the Number of Form Fields

Ever heard the saying, “less is more”? Well, that’s exactly what you should be thinking while creating your mobile form. 

Between the size of a mobile device’s screen, the amount of content you need to place in your form, and the number of form fields (form fields are the boxes in which your visitors add their responses), it’s easy to accidentally make your form feel cluttered. Remember to remove all unnecessary fluff and only keep the form fields for information that you absolutely need

In addition to narrowing down your number of form fields to only the necessary, you’ll also want to make sure your form fields are labeled clearly with the fewest words possible. You should also mark the optional form fields as “optional” or include an asterisk next to the required form fields to streamline the process. 

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2. Automate Actions When Possible

If you accidentally mistype your street address and the form corrects the spelling for you, the form autocorrects your response.

If you begin typing your shipping address and a box pops up with the rest of your address asking you if you want to “autofill” the rest of the form fields with your saved address, then your form is autocompleting your response for you.

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By implementing autocorrect and autofill features on your mobile forms, you’ll improve user experience through a quick, efficient, and straightforward process.

3. Use a Single-Column Layout

When you’re completing a long or multi-step form, list all of your content in a single-column layout. 

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This is true for forms on both desktop and mobile devices for a few reasons — single-column form layouts are:

a. Easier to read

Placing all of your form fields in a single-column format allows your visitors to focus on only one item at a time, making your form easier to read.

b. Less daunting

If you look at a form, especially in a tight space as you would on a mobile device, and see a large amount of content smushed together, you may feel overwhelmed. That’s why separating your content by rows and placing your form fields in a single-column format make your content look and feel less daunting.

c. Quicker to complete

When you place your multi-step form in a single column, leads are able to complete it more quickly than they would a multi-column form. That’s because the format makes the form easier to read and work through step-by-step.

4. Use Input Constraints for Form Fields

If your mobile form includes short or long responses, you should enable input constraints. Input constraints place a limit on the number of words or characters a person can type into your form field.

Writing long responses on a mobile device isn’t always easy due to the size of the keyboard and screen. And if a visitor is unsure about the amount of detail required for a response, they may over-explain, which could end up being a time-consuming process for you and your visitor. 

An input constraint will typically say something like, “You’ve exceeded your maximum of ___ characters”.

There are other types of input constraints that limit input options, like dates on your forms. For example, if someone was trying to make a reservation for a table at your restaurant and accidentally selected a date in the past, your constraint would prevent them from actually being able to select and confirm that date. By setting input constraints, you’ll save your lead time while completing your form fields, and you’ll also prevent yourself from having to review a long-winded or invalid answer.

5. Create Clear Action Buttons

After taking the time to complete a mobile form, it’s likely that a lead will want to make sure their form is submitted properly to ensure you and your team are able to receive and review their information.

By using large, bold, and visible buttons labeled with clear actions on them, such as “Submit”, “Next”, or “Complete”, your lead will feel confident about their form submission. These action buttons help you streamline the form completion and submission processes for your leads to avoid any unnecessary confusion or concern.

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6. Provide Scanners For Payments

Have you ever tried entering your credit card details in a form via your smartphone? Typing a bunch of numbers on such a small screen with a small keyboard can be a tedious process.

Card scanning apps, such as BlinkID and card.io, have become increasingly popular for that exact reason. When making a purchase, your visitors can click a button that takes them to a screen where they can use their mobile device’s camera to take a secure photo of the front and back of their card, whether that be their license or credit card.

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With just a couple of pictures, your leads will be finished with one of the most time-consuming parts of your mobile form completion process. These card scanning apps keep your visitors efficient as well as frustration and error-free.

7. Explain Need For Specific Information

While completing a simple email signup or a registration form, have you ever been asked to provide personal information that has nothing to do with the signup form itself? 

This is a common phenomenon in all types of forms (not just mobile). Asking someone for personal or other sensitive information without explaining your need for it can be a bit sketchy.

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If you’re asking a question that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to the reason your visitor is filling out the form (whether the field is required or optional), then you should create some type of summary box or notification that they can click on to read a short description of the reason why you’re asking for this information. This way, your form will feel professional and thoughtful.

8. Provide State of Success or Completion

No matter what type of mobile forms you have on your website, you should provide your visitors and leads with their current state of progress, success, or completion while they work through them. 

If you have a long, multi-step form, you should include a progress bar at the top of your form so your visitors are aware of how much longer they’re going to be working through the form. 

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Additionally, once your leads submit their forms, you should direct them to another screen or page that says something like, “Success!” or “Thank you for submitting the form!” so they know their submission worked.

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9. Include Error Messages

While completing your mobile forms, your visitors are bound to make a mistake here or there. Your mobile forms should flag these errors in real-time so your leads can remain efficient and accurate.

For example, if someone adds the incorrect zip code alongside their street address, make sure your mobile form flags that error so there is no time wasted and your business is sure to receive accurate information.

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In your message, give your lead applicable, easy-to-understand information that clearly shows the exact location of the error as well as how they can fix it.

10. Consider the Form’s Appearance

Appearance and first impressions in business always matter. That goes for your mobile forms, too, because nobody wants to complete a dark, difficult to read, cluttered, and unattractive form.

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You want your mobile form to be highly functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. You can create a professional-looking form by branding it with your logo and colors. Your mobile form’s appearance should contribute to its readability and positive user experience. 

To achieve this look, use:

  • Simple, easy-to-read typography
  • Minimal form fields
  • Bright and bold action buttons
  • Single-column layout
  • A color palette that doesn’t feel overwhelming

Back To You

It’s no secret that, today, your website visitors are completing and submitting your web forms via their mobile devices. That’s because it’s convenient and efficient, as most people carry some type of mobile device with them everywhere, making it crucial for your forms to be mobile-friendly. Otherwise, your forms will be difficult to read, complete, and submit, which may frustrate your leads or cause you to lose their business completely. By considering your mobile form design and implementing these guidelines, you’ll enhance your mobile form user experience, build positive relationships with your leads and customers, and boost your conversions. 

How to Use Porter's Five Forces to Outmaneuver Your Competition

In March of 1979, Harvard Business Review published an article about a business analysis model that countless MBA students still study to this day.

Coined by Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business SchooI, Porter’s Five Forces is a model that draws from industrial organization economics to identify and describe the fundamental economic forces that shape every industry. More specifically, it explains how these forces dictate every industry’s competitive intensity, potential for profitability, and attractiveness to other entrants.

Porter’s Five Forces has become a fundamental model that most businesses use to grasp the dynamics of their industry and, in turn, drive their business strategy. And it can help you do the same, too.

But the way you apply this model to your own business is totally dependent on the nature of your industry. Once you understand these economic fundamentals, though, you’ll be able to extract insights from the model that are specific to your unique situation and apply them to your business.

To help illustrate this, we’ve fleshed out the five fundamental economic forces at play in every market and provided an example analysis in each section, so you can see how each of these forces might play out in your specific industry.

Porter’s Five Forces Examples

Competition in the Industry

Competition plays a huge role in your industry’s profitability — the potential to produce a high return on investment — and, in turn, its ability to attract new entrants. If there’s a lot of competition in your industry, it’s harder to turn a profit. Customers have a rich pool of options to choose from, so if your prices are too high, they can just strike a deal with a supplier who will sell to them at their preferred price. 

In other words, customers typically wield more power than suppliers in competitive industries. This usually leads suppliers to undercut each other’s prices until their revenue barely exceeds their costs, plummeting their profits and discouraging new players from entering the market.

If there’s less competition in your industry, it’s easier to turn a profit. Customers can only choose from so many suppliers, so if they want to buy your market’s product or service, they must accept the higher prices or else they won’t be able to buy it. This potential for high probability encourages new players to enter your market.

To help you examine the competition in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the competition in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

From little league to college, baseball players all around the country primarily use aluminum baseball bats to train and compete. Louisville Slugger, Rawlings, Marucci, DeMarini, and AxeBat are the leaders in the high-end of this market. Their target customers are travel or college baseball players who are willing to pay a premium price for the best bats that can perform at a high level and stay durable for multiple seasons.

Easton, Mizuno, and Adidas serve the middle of the market, and Anderson, Combat, and Dirty South serve the low-end of the market. Their target customers are less competitive players who probably just play baseball for fun and friendships.

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Potential of New Entrants into the Industry

If new players can enter your market quickly and cheaply, they can sell their minimum viable product, which is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, at a much lower price than you and your competitors can while still covering their product development, marketing, and sales costs. As a result, they can snatch established player’s market share and threaten incumbents’ position in the industry more easily.

The frequency of new players entering your market hinges on your industry’s barriers to entry. If it costs a lot of money and time to build a minimum viable product and cover essential overhead expenses, startups can only afford to build an unsophisticated product that’s sole differentiating factor is a slightly cheaper price. With these high barriers to entry, they wouldn’t be able to compete, discouraging them from entering your market.

However, if building a minimum viable product and covering essential overhead expenses don’t cost that much money or time, your market’s low barriers to entry will encourage most start-ups to enter.

To help you examine the potential of new entrants in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the potential of new entrants in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

The barriers to entry of the aluminum baseball bat industry are very high. You would have to spend a lot of money on research and development to figure out how to differentiate your product in a saturated market, purchase a bunch of raw materials to manufacture the bats, and build expensive facilities and machines to actually produce them.

You would also, at the least, have to hire a product, marketing, and sales team to run this startup’s daily business operations. This startup would have to charge close to an industry-average price to cover the initial overhead of creating a minimum viable product, crafting an enjoyable brand experience, and generating revenue. And since each incumbent in this industry would have a better, more trusted product than this start-up’s simple product, there’s no way they could compete with a slightly cheaper price as their only selling point.

Power of Suppliers

The number of suppliers or competitors in your market directly affects your company’s ability to control prices. When there are only a few suppliers in your industry, each supplier holds a ton of pricing power because if a consumer doesn’t accept your prices, you and your fellow suppliers can easily find someone else who will.

When there are a lot of suppliers in your industry, each supplier holds less pricing power. Your market’s customers have a rich pool of options to choose from, so if your prices are too high, they can just strike a deal with a supplier who will sell to them at their preferred price.

To help you examine the power of suppliers in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the power of suppliers in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

With 11 major suppliers in a massively popular industry — and five or less brands competing in each segment of the market — the suppliers hold a lot of pricing power. Almost every baseball player, from little league to college, needs an aluminum baseball bat to train and compete, so they’re very dependent on these suppliers, which gives them even more pricing power.

Power of Customers

The number of customers in your industry directly affects their ability to control prices. If there are only a few customers in your industry, they hold most of the power. Since suppliers depend on customers to generate revenue, suppliers must adhere to their customers’ pricing demands or their customers will just do business with one of the many other suppliers who are willing sell their product or service at a generous price.

On the flip side, if there are a ton of customers in your industry, the customers hold significantly less power. Since customers depend on suppliers to purchase necessary products or services, they must accept the prices suppliers set or else they won’t be able to buy any of the market’s products or services — the suppliers can sell to plenty of customers who are willing to pay a prettier penny.

To help you examine the power of customers in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the power of customers in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

Every single baseball player, from little league to college, needs an aluminum baseball to train and compete, so each supplier in the aluminum baseball bat industry has a huge potential customer base to market and sell to. Since there are such few suppliers and so many customers in this market, the customers don’t hold enough power to drive the prices down.

Threat of Substitute Products

Substitutes are products from different industries that consumers can use interchangeably, like coffee and tea, and they can significantly shape your industry. If your product has cheaper or superior substitutes, you not only have to compete with other players in your industry, but you also have to compete with businesses in other industries. This high multi-market competition can plummet your prices and profit.

If your product doesn’t have cheaper or superior substitutes, though, the businesses who produce these substitutes don’t pose as much of a threat to you or your direct competitors. This low multi-market competition might only drop your prices and profits slightly.

To help you examine the threat of substitute products in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the threat of substitute products in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

Instead of buying aluminum baseball bats, players could buy wood bats from suppliers who only manufacture wood bats, like Baum Bats, Old Hickory, and Sam Bat. But the odds of this happening are extremely low. Even though individual wood bats cost less than individual aluminum bats, wood bats break much more frequently.

For instance, one $250 aluminum bat can last longer than five $100 wood bats, so replacing aluminum bats with wood bats would actually cost more money. Players can also hit the ball farther with aluminum bats, which makes it the superior product. Additionally, wood bat manufacturers make the most money by focusing on a specific market of baseball players who only use wood bats, like professional baseball players, summer college league players, and top-flight travel baseball players. In sum, there’s a low threat of substitutes in this industry.

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The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing

If you’ve ever came across Tim Ferriss’ iconic book on how to just work four hours per week, you’ve probably dreamed of sipping a Mojito on a beach while your money worked for you in the background while you sleep. One of the main ideas he constantly talks about is the concept of passive income.

After all, having an income chart like this is the main goal of many online entrepreneurs:

For many entrepreneurs looking to build an online business, or marketers looking to monetize their web traffic, affiliate marketing is often how they got started with generating income.

Affiliate marketing is one of the world’s most popular methods of generating passive income online, and there are many tried & tested strategies when you are just starting out.

If you’re looking for a complete guide to affiliate marketing, read more to find out how you can promote products as an affiliate to create an additional source of income.

There are typically four parties involved in affiliate marketing:

  • The affiliates – the promoters of the product
  • The product creators – the creators of the product
  • The networks – the networks managing the affiliates
  • The consumers – the end users of the product

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Image via Digital Ads Online

You don’t always need a network to become an affiliate, but the other three parties (the affiliates, the product creators, and the consumers) form the core of an affiliate program.

Who are the affiliates?

An affiliate, also known as a publisher, can be an individual or a company. Typically, these are other bloggers or content creators operating in the industry of the product they are creating.

They help promote the product or service by creating content like blog posts, videos or other media.

They can also promote their content to get transactions by putting up ads, capturing search traffic from SEO, or building an email list.

When one of their visitors creates a transaction, which could be a purchase or submitting a lead form, the affiliate gets a commission. How much commission is structured depends on the affiliate program terms.

Who are the merchants?

A merchant, also known as the product creator or advertiser, is typically the creator of the product or services. They offer revenue sharing and commissions to people or other companies (affiliates), which have a significant following on their brand.

The merchant can be a company like HubSpot, which offers a commission to every affiliate who’s able to get their visitors to make a purchase.

Or it can be an individual like Pat Flynn, who offers an affiliate program with his podcasts.

The merchants can be anyone from a solopreneur to a big company, as long as they are willing to pay their affiliates to help them gain a transaction.

Sometimes the merchant does not even have to be the product creator, as in the case of the Amazon Associates Program.

Who are the affiliate networks?

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between the merchants and their affiliates. In some cases, a network is not necessary, but some companies choose to work with a network to add a layer of trust.

The network manages the relationship and provide third-party checks and balances. Third-party checks can be important because they bring down fraud rates.

Some popular networks include ClickBank and ShareASale.

Some merchants choose to work with an affiliate network because they lack the time or resources to track, report, and manage payments to the affiliates. They might also choose to work with multiple affiliates or publishers within the affiliate network.

Who are the consumers?

The consumers or the customers are the one who makes the transaction. They are the ones who purchase the product or submit the lead form in order for the affiliate to gain the commission.

How does affiliate marketing work?

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Image via Digital Ads Online

As an affiliate, you are typically paid whenever your visitor creates a transaction. The transaction could be anything from a click, lead form submission, or a sale. In the majority of cases, affiliate marketing is performance-based, which means you only get paid as an affiliate if your visitor takes an action.

Here are some common affiliate marketing models:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): The affiliate gets paid for all clicks that were generated, regardless of whether a lead or sale happened. This is fairly rare, since all the risk is on the product creator.

Pay-Per-Lead (PPL): The affiliate gets paid for every lead they generated. This could be an online form submission, trial creation, or any pre-purchase. This is a shared risk on both the merchant and the affiliate.

Pay-Per-Sale (PPS): The affiliate gets paid for every sale they generated. This is the most common model, since all the risk is on the affiliate.

To become an affiliate, you first need to sign up for a program like the Amazon Associates or HubSpot Affiliate Program. After signing up, you will get an affiliate link which contains a unique ID. You can then use this link in your promotional content.

Whenever your visitor clicks on your unique affiliate link, a cookie is inserted in their browser to track actions.

When they make a transaction that is a qualified action (could be a sale or lead form submission, depending on the terms of the program), the merchant is able to record this action and attribute it to you as an affiliate so they can make a payout.

There are different structures when it comes to payout, which varies based on affiliate program terms.

Commission payouts by the company are usually given on a monthly basis, but this varies depending on the affiliate program terms.

It could be a weekly payout or a monthly payment for all the leads or sales you’ve made.

You’ll want to pay attention to the payout structure when choosing an affiliate program to join, which ultimately depends on the goals you have.

Do you need to pay to join an affiliate program?

There are typically no upfront costs when it comes to joining an affiliate program, but your variable ongoing costs will depend on how you want to promote the products.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, most people think it’s a process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s or company’s products.

While affiliate marketing can seem straightforward — just find a product you love, promote it, and earn a piece of profit with every sale you make — there are actually a few moving parts you need to take note of.

For instance, you might want to understand the commission structure of the company or product creator. Are you looking for commission per sale or commission per lead generated? Are you looking at recurring commission or a one-off payment?

Depending on your goals, this will affect which product you choose, how you plan to promote the product as well as how much time & resources you want to invest.

For instance, if you choose to promote your content via paid ads, then that’s a cost you have to account for. You will have to compare how much you’ve spent to promote each piece of content or to generate each purchase against how much commission you’re getting for each referred sale.

Or, if you have a blog and website, then you will have to pay for hosting. In this case, this should be a flat fee spread out across all your referred sale.

Use this marketing plan generator to calculate how much you need to invest to get a basic marketing plan up and running.

How much can you make from affiliate programs?

You might be wondering, what are established affiliates earning? (established affiliates are those working full-time.)

A poll was held on the STM Forum on “How much do you earn in a year?”:

Almost 20% of established affiliates report making more than $1 million per year. While this seems like an unattainable figure, reporting on revenue is only one side of the story.

Making money from an affiliate program is more about the profits than the revenue you’re getting.

An affiliate making $5000/day might be worse off than another affiliate making $500/day with no cash outflow because the former might be spending most of his revenue on paid acquisition.

At the end of the day, before becoming an affiliate, you have to align your expectations to your earning potential. What kind of industry or niche you operate in, and what kind of work you do depends a lot on how much you want to make.

If you focus on ads like Adwords or Facebook to promote your affiliate products, how much money you invest is as important (if not more) as how much you make.

How do you choose an affiliate program?

I commonly hear two misconceptions when it comes to affiliate marketing.

  1. Affiliate marketing is dead.

    It seems like every year in the world of online marketing, people have mentioned some variant of X is dead (SEO, Ads, Mobile). The test of time is a pretty good test — if something has stayed around for a while, there’s a better chance of it still staying around for a while.

    Everything evolves, and there are tactics that don’t work the exact same way as they did before. Affiliate marketing, of course, is no exception to that rule.

    Affiliate marketing has evolved from a get-rich-quick scheme into something that requires affiliate to build real trust with their audience in order to reap the rewards of the work that’s been put in.

  2. Affiliate marketing is easy to do.

    According to Three Ladders Marketing, only 0.6% of affiliate marketers surveyed have been around since 2013, which means that affiliate marketing takes time and effort to build and make money.

    Choosing the right product to promote, working with the right company, fostering relationships and updating content are all core essentials of excelling at affiliate marketing.

According to Pat Flynn, one of the pioneers of creating passive income through providing value to his audience, there are two important rules when it comes to affiliate marketing:

  1. Only recommend products as an affiliate that you’re extremely very familiar with. If you are not confident in the product and do not feel it will help people, do not promote it.
  2. Never tell anyone to directly buy a product. Always recommend products based on your experience and in the context of what you’ve done.

When it comes to choosing the right products, David Gonzalez — founder of an affiliate management agency, suggests that you should think about these 3 components when choosing a product to promote:

  1. Your audience – will the product resonate with them and make them grateful you promoted it?
  2. Product quality & value – would you advocate your best friend buying it?
  3. Profitability – does the offer have highly competitive conversions & payouts?

At the end of the day, become successful at affiliate marketing requires you to nail down the fundamentals of marketing. Authenticity is hard to fake, especially when it comes to building your own personal brand.

A brand that promotes products incessantly without any regard for bring real value to its audience will find affiliate marketing to be a short-lived source of income. Choosing the right products to promote, stemming from a true passion for what the product does, forms the basis of all your promotional activities.

While there are many tactics to scale your promotion, the golden rule of affiliate marketing stays the same: only promote products you love & treat your audience like humans.

Build your own brand, choose products that you love, create authentic content and you will be on your way to building a real source of passive income.

In the past year we’ve really invested into our solutions to make it worthwhile for solo-bloggers, solo-preneurs to tap on our software and educational content to grow their audience and business.

For instance, we’ve introduced a free tier as well as a $50/month option for people who are just getting started to utilize email marketing, forms on top of their blog.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

If you’re someone who produces videos professionally, sells video content, or simply creates videos as a hobby, you need a place to share your work online. Not every WordPress theme is set up to house your artwork — you’ll need a video theme that will create the experience you want your visitors to have the moment they enter your website.

With the variety of WordPress video themes available, finding just one to use on your website may feel time-consuming and tedious. The good news is we’ve curated this list of 15 of our favorite WordPress video themes (in no specific order) to help you through the process.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

There are video WordPress themes tailored to a variety of different needs. Whether you’re looking to add your videos to a multi-purpose WordPress theme, or if you’re hoping to create a video-based site for your blog, portfolio, or other creative work, there are a number of options available. We’ve compiled the following list — which includes feature descriptions and a few key takeaways — to help you determine which option best suits your needs.

Multi-Purpose Video Themes

Multi-purpose video themes are WordPress themes that aren’t necessarily completely video-focused, yet have strong and unique video-related features. These themes are ideal for anyone who doesn’t need their website to revolve around their videos and would actually benefit from a wide range of additional features.

1. Bridge 

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Bridge is a multi-purpose theme ideal for sharing your business’ videos with customers. It provides you with options to integrate your videos in different layouts and sections. You can create section video backgrounds so your video takes up the entire width of the screen and add different transitions (including fades, animations, and more) to the beginning and/ or end of your videos. The video slider feature lets you place multiple video clips in one section so your visitors can slide right and left through all of your clips.

Key Takeaways:
  • Section video backgrounds
  • Video transitions are included
  • Slider feature 

2. Brooklyn 

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Brooklyn is a multi-purpose WordPress video theme, meaning it’s ideal for virtually any type of business. The theme is easy to use due to its drag-and-drop page builder that allows you to add and embed your videos with the click of a button. There are options to feature photo and video galleries on different website pages as well as create fullscreen video backgrounds. There is also a video widget to make adding, editing, and formatting your website’s videos quick and straightforward.

Key Takeaways:
  • Drag-and-drop page builder
  • Video galleries
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds

Blogging Video Themes

If you’re a video blogger these themes might be ideal for you — they’re built for people who want to include written blog content alongside videos on their website.

3. Videoblog 

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Videoblog is a blog and magazine video theme that gives you the ability to list your latest or featured posts on your homepage. The rest of your site pages are formatted in two-column, magazine layouts so your written, video, and photo content are all aligned in an organized manner to enhance user experience.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for blogs and magazines
  • Latest and featured posts listed on your homepage
  • Two-column layout

4. TheMotion

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TheMotion is a video blogging theme with a feature called Live Customizer that allows you to add all of your video content, test it out in different sections, and see your changes in real time. The theme offers a variety of ways to feature videos on specific website pages in two columns. The theme has a sleek, modern design with the option to add a video slider so your visitors can easily move right or left through your collection of videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Live Customizer feature
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Video slider

5. Vlog 

Vlog is a video theme built for blog and magazine content. The theme is compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion to make sharing your video content simple. You can group your videos into playlists to keep related content together so it’s easy to find for your visitors. You can also set your video’s thumbnail as your featured image for your article or blog post so you don’t have to deal with any images if you don’t want to.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for blogs and digital magazines
  • Compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion
  • Can group videos into playlists 

Portfolio and Photography Video Themes

If you are looking to share your portfolio, feature your videos and photos in a gallery, and possibly sell your work straight from your website, the following portfolio and photography-based video themes may suit your needs.

6. Reel Story 

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Reel Story is a video theme ideal for sharing your portfolio. The video portfolio module allows you to create a three-column grid layout with a “projects category” filter so your visitors can easily browse your work and locate specific items they may be searching for. The theme is also Retina-ready, meaning it’s optimized for sharing hi-res, professional content and videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for sharing video portfolios
  • “Projects category” filter for browsing videos
  • Retina-ready

7. Fargo 

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Fargo is a photography and video WordPress theme ideal for sharing your content in a gallery format. The theme’s Smart Galleries allow you to move from written content to photo content to video content seamlessly. Fargo’s flexible navigation includes customizable transitions that create an interactive, 3D experience for your visitors while they browse your different site pages.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for sharing photography and video content
  • Smart Galleries
  • Flexible navigation with customizable transitions 

8. PhotoNote 

PhotoNote is a video theme ideal for photographers. The theme has a touch-enabled slideshow on the homepage so your visitors can slide through your landscape and portrait photographs. It’s compatible with YouTube and Vimeo so you can quickly add your videos to the top of your site pages — and make them fullscreen if you choose. PhotoNote comes with two different “skin colors” (light or dark) for your theme’s background so you can ensure your content pops off the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for photographers
  • Touch-enabled slideshow
  • Compatible with YouTube and Vimeo 

9. Inspiro

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Inspiro is a video theme built for professional photographers and videographers who want to share their content in a portfolio format. The theme features formatting options that allow you to create custom, fullscreen slideshows that include both your photos and videos. On each slide, there is a “video lightbox”, meaning your video appears to jump off the screen as the entire background dims — this helps your visitors focus on the content they’re viewing. The theme also works for professionals who are hoping to sell their work because it includes a WooCommerce integration.

Key Takeaways:
  • Built for professional photographers and videographers
  • Custom, fullscreen slideshows
  • WooCommerce integration

10. Primero

Primero is a theme created for photographers and videographers. The theme also has several portfolio options for you to display all of your work in custom galleries. You can embed your photos and videos inline with text or other photo or video content.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for photographers and videographers
  • Ability to enable portfolio, gallery-style layout
  • Can embed photos and videos inline with other content

Filmmaking Video Themes

Videographers, directors, and producers may benefit from these WordPress themes. They have layouts and customizable options tailored to sharing and displaying videos of many lengths, topics, and genres.

11. FilmMaker

filmmaker-wordpress-theme

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If you produce your own movies and videos, FilmMaker could be a great WordPress theme option for you. The theme gives you the ability to create fullscreen video backgrounds or add a parallax effect to your site pages — the parallax effect provides a 3D, cinematic experience for your visitors while they scroll down the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for movie and video producers
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds
  • Parallax effect 

12. The Producer

The Producer is created for professional video production work. The theme is responsive, meaning your video content will look high quality and fit the screen no matter what type of device your visitors are on — whether that’s desktop, mobile, or tablet. You can also add the credit roll effect to the end of your videos to list all of your producers, designers, and more.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for professional video production
  • Responsive design
  • Credit roll effect

Creative Video Themes

Creative video themes are versatile and flexible enough to be used for a variety of business needs and different industries, however, they’re still all created specifically for video-based websites.

13. Focus

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Focus is a great option for displaying all types of videos, whether you’re sharing your work for professional or personal use. The theme has integrations with YouTube and Vimeo so you can easily transfer your content over from those platforms to your website. The theme also has creative layout and template options suited for video blogs and even educational video sites.

Key Takeaways:
  • Suitable for business or personal use
  • Integrates with YouTube and Vimeo
  • Template options for video blogs and educational video sites

14. VideoBox 

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VideoBox is a creative video theme with a WooCommerce integration for anyone who may want to sell their video or photo content. The homepage layout includes a slider that allows you to feature multiple, fullscreen videos or photos for your visitors to click through. VideoBox has a minimalist design with a dark color scheme making it easy for your visitors to focus on your content.

Key Takeaways:
  • WooCommerce integration
  • Homepage slider
  • Minimalist design with a dark color scheme 

15. VideoPro

videopro-wordpress-theme

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VideoPro is a creative video theme with a responsive design and also includes layout options ideal for a variety of video types such as movies, games, news, entertainment, education, and more. VideoPro integrates with sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, so you can easily embed, import, and share your content. VideoPro also has a feature that allows you to create a multi-episode video series on your website — displaying related videos below whichever video is being watched by a visitor at any given moment.

Key Takeaways:
  • Responsive design
  • Video and social media integrations included
  • Multi-episode video series feature

Back To You

WordPress video themes allow you to display your content, mix and match your videos with photos and written content, sell your content, and more. Whatever your needs, there is a video theme that will work for your WordPress website. Try installing one of the themes above, or check out the number of other video themes in the WordPress theme library. By applying your unique content you can create a website that works for your business needs.

free guide to video marketing

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: What’s the Difference?

Year after year, WordPress ranks as one of the top website building tools available. This easy-to-use CMS (content management system) software is beginner-friendly, offers a variety of plans, and allows you to quickly create and manage a unique and functional website for your visitors.

If you’re looking to build a site on WordPress, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is, “What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?”

 

WordPress.org is a self-hosted, free platform in which you purchase and manage all aspects of your website including your domain name, add-ons, security, and code. WordPress.com hosts your website for you, offers multiple payment plans, gives you access to a domain name, and a variety of default features.

Below is a useful table that compares the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

Feature WordPress.org WordPress.com
Cost Free. Free, $4 per month, $8 per month, or $25 per month.

Hosting Provider and

Additional Features

Need to purchase hosting provider, create a custom domain name, purchase plugins, themes, and all other add-ons. Must manage your entire website, code, and security. WordPress offers a hosting service, domain name, security, and backups. You can upgrade your account and create a custom domain name and choose a third-party hosting provider as well.
Customization Must purchase and install your own themes to customize your website. Customize your website with any WordPress-compatible theme of your choice. If you upgrade your account, you can also use premium themes, third-party themes, or custom themes.

Integration with Social

Networks

Must install plugins to enable all social media sharing on your website. Your website can integrate with social media networks. If you upgrade your account, sharing functionality with social media accounts is included.
Plugins Find and install plugins to enhance your website’s functionality. Features such as sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. You can also add plugins to your website for other features.
Support WordPress.org support forums.   WordPress.com support forums and personal support are available. With an upgraded account, you have access to live chat and email support.
Link to Download Get started here. Get started here.

Let’s dive into each of these features and review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in more depth.

Cost of WordPress

There are a number of different WordPress plans to choose from that range in price. No matter your budget, you can find an option that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Cost of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is always free. However, because it’s only a publishing platform, you’ll have to purchase every other element of your website including your third-party hosting provider, domain name, as well as your themes and templates, plugins, and add-ons. You’ll also have to find a way to manage your website’s security and maintain and edit your site’s code.

Cost of WordPress.com

WordPress.com has four different plans that range in price.

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There is a basic plan that is always free, a plan ideal for personal use that costs $4 per month, a premium plan that costs $8 per month, and a business plan that costs $25 per month. As you work your way up through the more expensive plans, the more features and levels of customization you will be able to take advantage of on your website.

If you choose the free option, you will be offered WordPress hosting, a domain name, and minimal access to WordPress support. If you choose one of the three paid options, you’ll be able to add a hosting provider of your choosing and a custom domain name. You will also be offered extensive support and customization options.

WordPress Hosting Providers

A hosting provider gives your website a place to “live” on the internet. Choosing the right hosting provider for WordPress is crucial because it will impact your site’s functionality, speed, reliability, security, and more. Let’s review the differences between website hosting with WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com.

Hosting for WordPress.org

If you choose WordPress.org you’ll have to self-host your website, meaning you’ll have to purchase a third-party provider, such as WP Engine or InMotion Hosting. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, so we’ve created a guide to 19 of the best WordPress hosting providers of 2018 for you to review.

Hosting for WordPress.com

WordPress.com offers different hosting packages for you to use. If you pick a paid version of WordPress.com, you can decide whether or not you want to use WordPress’ hosting service or if you want to use a third-party provider — as you would with a WordPress.org plan — you already feel strongly about or have prior experience using.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosting

There are plenty of benefits that come from self-hosting your WordPress website, as you would with a WordPress.org site. However, there are also a lot of challenges to be aware of that often make WordPress.com plans preferable.

The pros of self-hosting include having complete control over everything that goes into the creation of your website, and the ability to manage your website’s security and edit your website’s code. You also have the opportunity to find, buy, and install a third-party hosting provider of your choosing, create a custom domain name, and find different themes, plugins, and add-ons that work for your site and needs. If you choose the self-hosting route, you use the WordPress platform for free.

The cons to self-hosting include having to actually spend the time to find, purchase, and install an ideal third-party hosting provider for your site, learn how to create a domain name, and identify the themes, plugins, and add-ons that make the most sense for your website. You also need to have some type of knowledge in web development as you’ll be the one managing your website’s code and updates.

WordPress Customization

WordPress is a completely customizable CMS. With the help of the hundreds WordPress themes and templates available today, you can achieve virtually any look imaginable by customizing every element of your website.

WordPress.org Customization

With WordPress.org, you are required to find and install your desired third-party themes, such as StudioPress, Pixelgrade, and Stylemix Themes, on your own. WordPress does not offer you access to their free themes the way WordPress.com does, so the level of customization you want to achieve is dependent on your own theme research and the options you decide to implement on your website.

WordPress.com Customization

The free version of WordPress.com comes with dozens of free themes that you can choose from and implement on your website. The free plan does not let you add any third-party or premium themes to your website.

However, with a paid plan, you can use premium, third-party themes as you would with a WordPress.org website. If you choose this route, WordPress.com allows you to easily install your third-party or premium theme so you can get started customizing your website in just minutes.

WordPress Website and Social Media Integration

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become a powerful tactic to promote brands, products, and websites today. Integrating your WordPress website with your social media channels is an easy way to manage all of your interactions in one place, broaden your impact, and increase conversions. It’s also a great way to simply ensure your website visitors know about your social media channels and vice versa.

WordPress.org Social Media Integration

WordPress.org does not come with any social media channel integration. You’ll need to install plugins on your website to enable social media sharing and integration. There are a number of social media plugins available in the plugin library, such as Social Media Widget by Acurax and Jetpack, to help you with tasks such as social media posting from your website and creating beautiful sidebars with links to all of your social accounts for your site.

WordPress.com Social Media Integration

With a free WordPress.com account, you can integrate your own website with social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. This will just require a bit of work on your end. By publicizing your website, or connecting it to your multiple different social accounts, you can integrate your accounts and access them from your WordPress dashboard.

If you have a paid WordPress account, all social media integration comes included and ready-to-use so you can access all of your social accounts from WordPress with the click of a button.

WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to add to the array of features you have on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install plugins. Plugins are how you enhance your website’s functionality by adding capabilities that don’t come standard with the software. Since there are over 56,000 options available, we created a list of 25 of the best WordPress plugins to help get you started.

WordPress.org Plugins

You’ll need to find and install plugins yourself with a WordPress.org website. Since WordPress.org is simply a platform and there aren’t any features that come standard with the plan, you’ll want to install some plugins on your own. You can search for specific topics or things you need in the WordPress plugin library to narrow down the thousands of search results and find an option suited to your specific needs.

WordPress.com Plugins

With WordPress.com plans, some social media, customer interaction, and analytics-related features (that do not come standard with a WordPress.org plan) such as sharing, statistics, comments, and polls, are automatically included. To add to these default features, you can install WordPress-compatible plugins of your choosing. If you pay for the most expensive WordPress.com plan, you can also install custom plugins.

WordPress Support

While building your website, you may run into a roadblock here or there, or have a question about how to complete a task. WordPress has varying levels of support based on the plan you choose.

WordPress.org Support

With WordPress.org, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to customer support as this plan does not provide any access to one-on-one assistance. Instead, you can access the WordPress.org support page which contains a number of forums that you can use to problem solve. Other than that, you can always try searching for answers to your questions on the internet.

wordpress.org-support-page

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WordPress.com Support

Free WordPress.com plan users can take advantage of community support and forums available, which are similar to the support pages that WordPress.org users have access to. This is a very basic level of support that leaves you to do most of your own problem-solving.

If you are a paid WordPress.com user, you will have 24/7 access to live chat and email support with WordPress experts in addition to the community support and forums. 

Back To You

Understanding the key differences between WordPress.org and the various WordPress.com plans is key to determining which type of website best fits your needs. WordPress.org is a great option if you’re looking for complete control over every aspect of your site. WordPress.com is preferable if you need some assistance building your website and want more automation. 

Once you’ve reviewed and considered all of the plan options, you can get started by downloading your WordPress.org or WordPress.com account and utilizing the variety of features you have access to design a website perfect for your specific needs.

The Leader's Guide to Effective Change Management

The only constant in life is change.

[Enter any tried-and-true marketing tactic] is dead.

Winter is coming.

We’re reminded daily about how change is coming, and to succeed in business, we must remain agile. Sure, that all makes sense in theory, but in practical application, to change how we operate or serve customers is no small feat.

According to Mckinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Yikes.

This doesn’t mean employees are wrong — they simply lack understanding and buy-in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to guide your team through the end result and help establish this comfort and buy-in.

The good news is there are tons of change management methodologies that you can adopt and adapt to your business.

At IMPACT, we’ve gone through quite a bit of change recently. We’ve almost tripled in size in just over a year, and what was once a small core team, is now a fairly good sized-agency that requires a much different approach to implementing change than the good ol’ days (a.k.a. last year).

After struggling to implement a change to our client onboarding process, we decided to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to change management.

Below I’ll share with you the key change management models and tools we reviewed, and how you can avoid becoming another statistic.

Yes, there are tools and models, which I will get to below, but at the core of any strong change management program is your people.

No model will work if you continue to let employee resistance and lack of management support sabotage your efforts.

4 Common Change Management Models

No need to dust off your old college business school books. Here are the top 4 change management models most commonly referred to when researching the “how” behind change management.

1. Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model

Picture an ice cube. The Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Unfreeze
  2. Change
  3. Re-freeze

This sounds like the most simplistic model on the surface, but there’s a lot to unpack.

In the unfreeze stage, you are essentially breaking down the current way of doing business and noting what needs to change. It’s crucial in this stage to obtain two-way feedback of what needs to change (vs. solely top-down).

After noting and communicating the need for change, gather the key stakeholders necessary to proactively implement what needs to be done.

Once everyone has bought in, “re-freeze” in the sense that the change is institutionalized and consistently used in the new manner.

In our experience, this model focuses more on process than people. If you have a smaller team with less emotion to manage, this could be a good option.

2. The ADKAR® Model of Change

The ADKAR® model breaks down the human side of managing change.

The idea is you should work through each letter of the acronym, focusing heavily on the individuals within your company.

Awareness. Here, the goal is to learn the business reasons for change. At the end of this stage, everyone should be bought-in.

Desire. This is dedicated to getting everyone engaged and willingly participating in the change. Once you have full buy-in, the next stage is measuring if the individuals in your company want to help and become part of the process.

Knowledge. In this stage, you’re working towards understanding how to change. This can come in the form of formal training or simple one-on-one coaching so those affected by the change feel prepared to handle it.

Ability. Next, you must focus on how to implement the change at the required performance level. Knowing the required job skills is only the beginning; The people involved need to be supported in the early stages to ensure they are able to incorporate change.

Reinforcement. Lastly, you need to sustain the change. This final step is often the most missed.An organization needs to continually reinforce change to avoid employees from reverting back to the old way of doing things.

Unlike Lewin’s model, this focuses on people-side of stage. We like its idea of using reinforcement to make your changes stick and this model takes it a step further. It’s a good approach to consider if you have a larger team or more complex problem you’re trying to solve.

3. Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

In is 1995 book, Leading Change, Harvard Business School professor, John Kotter, lays out 8 stages all companies must go through in order to see effective change management.

  1. Create urgency through open dialogue that leads others in the organization to want the change as much as you.
  2. Form a powerful coalition of change agents in your organization. This can go beyond leadership and manager.
  3. Create a vision for change to reinforce the why behind it and the strategy to achieve the end result.
  4. Communicate the vision regularly to ease team anxiety and reinforce the why.
  5. Remove obstacles to pave the way for the needed changes to happen.
  6. Create short-term wins to keep up morale and show the team you’re moving in the right direction.
  7. Build on the change by analyzing what went well and didn’t go so well in your quick wins to keep pushing to the desired end result.
  8. Anchor the changes in corporate culture as standard operating procedure and reinforce why change is necessary and embracing it is part of your company culture.

If you have a more agile team, this model’s iterative short-term wins and building based on what you learn as you go, sync nicely with the agile methodology.

4. Kim Scott’s GSD Model

Okay so maybe this one isn’t as common yet, but it soon will be, so you might as well get ahead of the curve!

Kim Scott outlines the GSD model (get stuff done) in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, which is a process of the following steps:

  1. Listen: Listen to the ideas of your team and create a culture where they listen to each other.
  2. Clarify: Make sure these ideas aren’t crushed before everyone has a chance to understand their potential usefulness.
  3. Debate: Create an environment where it’s okay to debate and make the ideas even better.
  4. Decide: Select the idea that will best solve the issue.
  5. Persuade: Since not everyone was involved in the listen-clarify-debate-decide stages, you have to effectively communicate why it was decided and why it’s a good idea.
  6. Execute: Implement the idea.
  7. Learn: Learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.

We included this in our mix at IMPACT because of how much it focuses on obtaining ideas from the frontline. People buy into what they help create and Kim Scott’s GSD model provides a framework to make that happen.

Now, there are many more models for you to choose from than just these four, but realize there may not be just one model that fits your organization best.

If you’re anything like us at IMPACT, you may want to take a page from several of these models to improve your communication and effectiveness in times of change.

A Change Management Plan in Action

Below is a real example of how my team approached a major change and the change management steps we took to ensure everyone was on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Step 1: Determine What Needs to Change and Craft the Message

In the course of 3 months, IMPACT completely restructured the agency-side of our organization. In March, our agency team looked like this:

image4-7

This structure worked for us in 2017, but as we came into the new year with an even larger team, our quarterly team survey results told us a different story.

For the first time in several years, not everyone could see their future at IMPACT.

Some had no idea what was going on or why certain decisions had been made. And what stung the most is we had a few happiness scores below seven, which we haven’t had since 2015.

Ouch.

In our February leadership team meeting, we debated for hours why some in the company were feeling this way.

After several ideas, we all determined one area we should focus on was our structure. We were setting our managers up for failure with competing responsibilities and in doing so, we made it extremely difficult for them to effectively communicate with their teams, coach them in their careers, and ensure they could see their future at IMPACT.

The ones who did better in this area suffered in others, like client results and retention.

It was a huge issue that needed to be solved immediately.

This leadership team meeting was the beginning of step 1 in our change management plan:

Determine what needs to change and craft the message.

In our monthly all-hands meeting following that leadership team meeting, our CEO, Bob Ruffolo, explained the why behind our decision that we needed to make a structure change — the what.

He explained the survey results, our thought process, and everything that led to the conversation.

Then, he explained that we had outgrown our current structure, placing too much responsibility on our current managers. We inadvertently set up our teams to fail and that wasn’t ok. — the message.

In order to improve this situation, we needed to create a structure that scales.

Planting the seed for a change is seriously just the first step. After this meeting, we knew there would be fear and confusion, so we got to work on step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Stakeholders and How to Manage Them

We knew that a complete structure change would not go well if it was strictly a top-down initiative. We needed help and a core coalition to get it off the ground.

However, not every single person would need to know every single detail of what was going on.

While all teams were involved, most were focused with how they would personally be affected in a day-to-day sense, as well as in relation to how they work with other teams.

To keep communication clear, and to ensure everyone had a voice and a chance to enact Kim Scott’s debate stage, we needed to identify stakeholders across the agency team.

In this case, our stakeholders were the managers of our teams. We were essentially changing their job responsibility, so it was prudent to include them in the conversation.

Although we created a committee of stakeholders, what we failed to do was take our communication a step further by managing the other agency team members more closely.

The matrix below outlines a way to segment your team and your communication with each segment so you can better communicate across the board.

We only had our managers involved, and we updated the rest of the team all at once in our monthly all-hands. Next time, we will definitely create a strong communication plan based on this matrix.

Stakeholder Power-Interest Grid Diagram

Image from Mindtools, which adapted from Mendelow, A.L. (1981). Environmental Scanning – The Impact of the Stakeholder Concept,’ ICIS 1981 Proceedings, 20.

Once we identified our key stakeholders, we met with each one and some of their teams to get their feedback, pushback, concerns, and ideas about the structure change.

In full transparency, not all these meetings were fun. There was high emotion and rigorous debate, but, at this point, we had not zeroed in on our exact plan, and they helped us understand the team’s concerns and ideate on the best way to structure for scale — together.

Step 3: Systematically Communicate

This is an area we got wrong in this scenario.

In step one, we announced at a company meeting a pretty earth-shattering idea. Our managers felt blindsided and not all the team members were convinced a structure change was needed.

We learned the hard way that surprising people in a company meeting was not the way to go.

Our intention was to be transparent about what was discussed in our leadership team meeting, but there was definitely a better way to do that had we been more systematic in how we communicated to the team.

After identifying key stakeholders, this is the path we are focusing on now:

CEO/Leadership team (if it’s a leadership decision) > communicates to the next level management > who then communicate to the frontline managers and key stakeholders >who then communicate to the the rest of the team.

Managers can communicate to their own teams in a style that they know will resonate and create shared understanding. They can also help identify issues and concerns so we can all co-create a solution.

This eliminates group-think and reduces the timeline to extinguish fear.

Although our path was a little messier here, once we received all team feedback, we all agreed to what our new agency structure should be:

Then we moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Get Organized With Incremental Steps

At this stage, everyone knew a change was coming, but no one knew how we were going to make it happen.

This was the time to get organized and get buy-in on the “how” of change management.

Now that we knew what our new structure would be, we developed a project plan with the incremental steps to get us there by the end of the quarter.

We created a video explaining the structure and project plan for all teams to review in their weekly meeting.

Our managers and key stakeholders were involved and accountable for different parts of the plan, and in our all-hands meetings, we updated on the progress of the plan so everyone could stay informed.

In our plan, we also mapped out some “quick wins” in the first month so the team could feel major progress was happening.

In our case, this was selecting new team managers for those teams whose Principal Strategist moved over to the Strategy team.

We interviewed internally and selected our new managers within 3 weeks of rolling out our initiative, which was exciting for our new managers and exciting for the team to see we’re already making huge steps.

Step 5: Equip Your Managers to Handle Emotional Response to Change

It’s one thing to have great communication and a solid-looking plan — but change is hard.

Everyone responds in their own way, but what we didn’t think about was this concept of The Change Curve. Ok, let’s be honest — we didn’t even know this existed.

image2-1

Image from Insights.com, Kubler Ross The Change Curve

After our initial all-hands meeting, we had people all over the Curve. We then in essence said, “Managers, figure it out!”

As we went through the process, we learned another lesson the hard way: We needed to adapt our communication and management style for each individual based on where they were in responding to change.

The graphic below by Expert Program Management shows how you change your response along The Change Curve to gain buy-in sooner and give better coaching to your managers.

image1-26

By meeting team members where they are at, our managers could adapt their communication style to coach each team member through the process, allowing for more personalized, effective transition.

Note: This doesn’t have to be advice just for managers. Our teams operate in scrum, and in their team retrospectives, a shared understanding of this tool could have facilitated more understanding and stronger conversations and problem solving within the team.

Step 6: Manage by OKRs

In order to stay focused throughout the quarter, we created an objective and corresponding key results (OKRs) for our structure change.

The objective was essentially “make the structure change happen” and we measured by tracking the milestones from our project plan.

Each all-hands, we would update the team on how we were doing on our objective and show the percentage complete so they could see visible progress. (We use 7Geese as a way to continually check in and measure our key results.)

This was also a time for those working directly on the project plan to celebrate and give themselves a pat on the back. There was a ton of work involved, and they deserved to be recognized for crushing it.

By breaking down exactly what needed to happen, we were able to keep the team focused and motivated to reach our goal.

Step 7: Continue to Communicate like Crazy

As I mentioned in step 1, discussing the idea is seriously only the first step. To keep everyone motivated, organized, and informed, we had to communicate like crazy.

There three types of communication we focused on: motivational, informational, and two-way.

Our motivational communication often came from our CEO to continually reinforce the why behind this major change.

Informational communication came from updates on our OKRs in our all-hands meetings, as well as one-off videos from the team working on the project plan to update on progress.

The most important one that we focus on the most now, however, is two-way communication. We started off slow in this area, but after getting feedback in our Q2 team survey and from individuals on the team, we doubled down on this much more in the last month of the transition.

By ensuring you have a regular cadence of two-way communication, you ensure the team understands what’s being shared, but you also learn and address if there’s underlying dissent or miscommunication.

Although I put this as the last step, this is the most crucial.

Communication must happen throughout your entire initiative or you’ll risk falling short and potentially damaging company morale in the process.

If you focus on the 3 types of communication above, you will reach your goals faster with a happier team to boot.

Change is Cyclical

The reason I included Kim Scott’s GSD model is it most relates to our company culture. We are always looking for ways to improve, which means we have a lot of change going on all the time.

There is rarely a beginning and a clear-cut end like the more traditional models. I’m sure we’ll discover more tweaks we need to get our structure right, and that’s okay.

The point is change really is constant, and developing a model that works for your business is the best way you can manage the people-side of change and set everyone up for success.

As a leader, you can choose a model, or a mix of models like what we do at IMPACT, to help organize effective, lasting change in your organization.

By incorporating your team via the communication methods outlined above, you can empower and enable your team to take action — and have pride in the change they helped make.

Change isn’t easy and it isn’t going anywhere, but when you can figure out a model that works best for your company, you and your team have no limits. 

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How to Write a Business Letter That Won’t Get Ignored

Nowadays, writing a letter can seem completely archaic. I mean, do people even send mail anymore or do they only communicate through email and messaging?

In the business world, letters are actually still crucial for collaboration. To convince someone to offer you a job, you need to write them a compelling cover letter. And to persuade someone to speak at your company’s event, you need to write a gripping pitch.

A lot of professionals overlook the importance of writing high-quality business letters because they seem outdated. As a result, most people don’t actually know how to write one.

Fortunately, if you’re in the same boat, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll teach you how to craft a persuasive business letter for any purpose and situation.

To teach you how to write a business letter in more detail than the snippet above, let’s take a look at a letter I wrote to Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot’s CTO, when I was a wide-eyed college student trying to convince him to speak at my school.

I’ll analyze the most important parts of my letter — the introduction, body text, and call-to-action — and explain how and why they can strengthen your own business letters.

Business Letter Example

October 1, 2016

 

Dharmesh Shah

HubSpot

25 First Street,

Cambridge, MA 02141

 

Dear Mr. Shah,

When my freshman year of college ended, I was fortunate enough to work as a digital marketing intern at a startup called SlideBatch. They were introducing a new content marketing tool to the market, and my job was to apply that tool to their clients’ social media marketing campaigns and prove that SlideBatch was an effective marketing solution. I was so excited to get to work, but I had one small problem. I didn’t know what content marketing was. So, I did some research on the Internet and discovered HubSpot’s Marketing blog.

Fast forward a year and half, and I’m still reading HubSpot’s Marketing blog and leveraging its insights at my third digital marketing internship. Reading your blogs changed my life. I entered college believing financial advising was my destiny. But, after learning about HubSpot’s inbound marketing philosophy — how helping people is the ultimate way to increase brand trust and engagement — I was hooked. Shortly after my internship with SlideBatch ended, I decided to pursue digital marketing instead of financial advising. I’ve haven’t looked back since.

HubSpot’s influence on my life is the reason I’m writing to you today. I’m certain if you spoke at my school, DePauw University, about your life, HubSpot, and the inbound marketing philosophy, there would be hundreds of undecided students who start pursuing digital marketing. I know this because DePauw’s McDermond Speaker Series is one of the best platforms for business leaders to showcase their passion for their industry, company, and work. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics, Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, and Bill Rasmussen of ESPN have all successfully used the McDermond Speaker Series to inspire the world’s next generation of business leaders, and I know you could, too.

We would be honored if you spoke at our school. Thank you for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

 

Clifford Chi

313 South Locust St.

Greencastle, IN 46136

555-555-5555

cliffordchi@aim.com

Introduction (first and second paragraphs)

To instantly grab Dharmesh’s attention and entice him to read the rest of my letter, you’ll notice I didn’t lead with the standard “I’m writing to you today because…” introduction. Instead, I engaged him with a story about how I discovered HubSpot and how his company changed my life. I thought this would strongly resonate with him because I assumed, as a co-founder of HubSpot, he would love to see how his life’s work has benefited others.

In your own business letters, you don’t necessarily need to tell a story to immediately hook your reader and persuade her to read on. But you should definitely describe how she’s made an impact on your life. This is what will truly grab and hold her attention.

Body text (third paragraph)

After my introduction, I swiftly segued into why I was writing to Dharmesh — to ask him to speak at my school. Personal anecdotes are an effective way to engage readers, but I’d lose Dharmesh’s attention if I didn’t cut to the chase.

Once I stated my letter’s intent, I quickly pitched the benefits of speaking at my school and bolstered the reputation of my school’s speaker series. By emphasizing how speaking at my school could inspire hundreds of students to pursue digital marketing and highlighting the group of impressive speakers Dharmesh could join, I focused on the dividends he would reap from being a McDermond Series Speaker, rather than how my school would benefit from his guest appearance.

So whether you’re trying to convince someone to hire you or speak at your school, you must first persuade your reader that doing what you ask of them will ultimately benefit them and be in their best interest.

Call-to-action (fourth paragraph)

In my last paragraph, I politely ask Dharmesh to speak at my school again.  Even though I already asked him this earlier, it’s important I end my letter with a clear next step. It packs more of a punch and crystalizes the desired action in his mind.

Strong call-to-actions are a crucial element of a persuasive business letter. Because if you don’t tell your reader what to do next, you might as well have never written your letter in the first place.

How to Write a Memo [Template & Examples]

A memo (also known as a memorandum, or “reminder”) is used for internal communications regarding procedures or official business within an organization.

Unlike an email, a memo is a message you send to a large group of employees, like your entire department or everyone at the company. You might need to write a memo to inform staff of upcoming events, or broadcast internal changes.

If you need to inform your employees of official internal business, here’s an easy-to-follow business memo template, as well as examples for further guidance.

Business Memo Template

MEMORANDUM

TO:

FROM:

DATE:

SUBJECT:

I’m writing to inform you that [reason for writing memo].

As our company continues to grow … [evidence or reason to support your opening paragraph].

Please let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, I’d appreciate your cooperation as [official business information] takes place.

Header:

In your header, you’ll want to clearly label your content “Memorandum” so your readers know exactly they’re receiving. Then, you’ll want to include “TO”, “FROM”, “DATE”, and “SUBJECT”. This information is relevant for providing content, like who you’re addressing, and why.

Paragraph One:

In the first paragraph, you’ll want to quickly and clearly state the purpose of your memo. You might begin your sentence with the phrase, “I’m writing to inform you … ” or “I’m writing to request … “. A memo is meant to be short, clear, and to-the-point. You’ll want to deliver your most critical information upfront, and then use subsequent paragraphs as opportunities to dive into more detail.

Paragraph Two:

In the second paragraph, you’ll want to provide context or supporting evidence. For instance, let’s say your memo is informing the company of an internal re-organization. If this is the case, paragraph two should say something like, “As our company continues to grow, we’ve decided it makes more sense to separate our video production team from our content team. This way, those teams can focus more on their individual goals.”

Paragraph Three:

In the third paragraph, you’ll want to include your specific request of each employee — if you’re planning a team outing, this is the space you’d include, “Please RSVP with dietary restrictions,” or “Please email me with questions.”

On the contrary, if you’re informing staff of upcoming construction to the building, you might say, “I’d appreciate your cooperation during this time.” Even if there isn’t any specific action you expect from employees, it’s helpful to include how you hope they’ll handle the news and whether you expect them to do something in response to the memo.

Memo Examples

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The Plain English Guide to XML Sitemaps

You wouldn’t design a new kitchen without creating a blueprint first, would you? So, why would you design a website without creating a sitemap?

If you want to launch a website that Google (and your potential customers) can discover, you’ll need a sitemap. Here’s how to create one.

People create sitemaps when they first design their website, add pages to it, and/or redesign it. It’s kind of like a floor plan for the site, which comes in handy whenever the site gets changed. Along with boosting search engine optimization (SEO), sitemaps can also help define a site’s navigation scheme so you avoid internal linking issues.

Visual Sitemaps

You might be thinking to yourself, “But I thought sitemaps were more visual, like a web.” That’s a visual sitemap, as opposed to an XML sitemap — the latter is what we’ve been talking about so far.

Visual sitemaps, on the other hand, are abstract sketches of your website’s structure, like the one below of Google’s website. They’re useful for the internal planning process, but it’s the XML sitemaps that are relevant to SEO best practices.

Visual sitemap of Google.com with green and orange boxes showing each Google webpage

Image Credit: Wikimedia

XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are designed specifically for search engines like Google, which need to be able to find webpages anchored within a website no matter how old or deeply nested they might be in that website’s domain.

Here’s an example of what an XML sitemap file might look like:

9 lines of sample XML sitemap code

 

Image Credit: Sitemaps.org

 

For this reason, an XML sitemap is a crucial component of a blog, where article pages are constantly bumped further back into the website’s archive as new content is published.

There are four major types of XML sitemaps you can create, each dedicated to a different type of media you might publish to your website:

  • Image Sitemaps structure a website’s image content so that it ranks well in Google Images results.
  • Video Sitemaps classify video content so that it ranks well in Google Videos results, as well as rich snippets in organic results.
  • News Sitemaps describe your website’s news content so it’s more easily indexed in search results like Google News.
  • Mobile Sitemaps optimize website content for mobile phones that don’t use native web browsers, which automatically produce web content in mobile form.

So, how do you structure your website’s XML sitemap? Let’s dive right in.

How to Create a Sitemap

1. Engage Your Marketing, Tech, IT, and Legal Teams

Typically, the teams involved in structuring a website’s sitemap are the marketing team, a technical team (whether that’s a team of developers or an agency), the IT team (or whoever controls your servers), and the legal team.

The Marketing Team

This marketing department is usually responsible for defining the structure of the site. Which pages need to link to one another? Should site visitors be able to get from the “About Us” page directly to the product page, for example? Whether they define the structure using a visual site map in PowerPoint or some other tool is up to them.

The Technical Team

A team of developers will then build an sitemap.xml file based on the structure defined by the marketing team.

The IT Team

Your support team usually gets involved too, assuming you’re using your own servers or some servers that IT controls. Remember, the sitemap lives on that server — so someone has to make sure it’s on there. If you’re working for an agency, they should be able to do this for you, too.

The Legal Team

Lastly, be sure you check with your legal team to make sure everything on your website is legally sound and you don’t have any outstanding copyright restrictions that could pass through your sitemap.

2. Research Each Search Engine’s Sitemap Requirements

When you first begin planning your sitemap, think about questions like: What are your website’s goals? Who’s your target audience, and what do they want to see?

You’ll also want to keep in mind each search engine’s requirements. The last thing you want to do is break the path of a visitor getting from a search engine to your website. Google’s, Bing’s, Yahoo!’s, and others’ requirements are fairly similar, but you’ll want to make sure you’re not breaking any specific requirements for any of them. This is especially true if you see a lot of your traffic is coming from a specific search engine.

To make sure you’re not breaking any rules, check out:

3. Define the Top-Level Navigation Structure

What do you want your homepage to link to? This will provide the foundation for your site’s structure, and will allow your site to grow. 

Navigation structure with 4 teal buttons for About, Products, Pricing, and Blogs

The structure of your website plays a big role in your site’s SEO, so it’s important to plan your top-level navigation structure carefully. Specifically, pay attention to your website’s depth. The further away a page is from the original homepage URL of your site, the worse it is for that page’s SEO.

In other words, a shallow website (one that requires three or fewer clicks to reach each page) is much better for SEO than a deep website, according to Search Engine Journal.

What are best practices for top-level navigation, you might be asking? Unfortunately, it’s hard to give general advice here as best practices can vary significantly by industry, company type, and so on. For inspiration from companies similar to yours, then take a look at Crayon: It has a huge library of real marketing designs you can filter by industry, traffic level, device, and so on. Check out high-traffic homepages in your industry to get a sense of their structure and get some ideas for yours.

4. Define the Second- and Third-Level Content

This is where creating visual sitemaps can come in handy. Once you’ve defined your homepage’s navigation structure, you’ll want to brainstorm and map out the pages that are two or three levels deeper into your website. This might be your “About Us” page, your team management page, your hiring page, your blog, and so on.

Depending on the complexity of your website, you may only need two levels, or you may need up to four. And as you think out the deeper parts of your website, you may find you need to tweak the top-level navigation — that’s okay.

 

visual-sitemap-example.png

 

5. Write the XML Sitemap and Submit it to Search Engines

Once you’ve planned out how your website will be organized, it’s time for the technical team to create the XML sitemap, put it on your web server, and submit it to each individual search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and so on).

When you first publish your website, and each time you go through a significant site redesign, someone on your team will have to submit the sitemap to each search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.) so that those search engines will be able to tell your homepage from your “About Us” page from your team management page.

Unless you’re using a platform that automatically updates your sitemap, you’ll need to update the sitemap yourself and resubmit any time you make a significant changes to your website.

(HubSpot customers: HubSpot will automatically generate your sitemap.xml file when you publish new pages and make changes to your site. But remember, you’ll still either have to rely on search engines to pick up new pages organically. That means if you’ve made a really significant change to your site’s structure, you might want to manually submit it.)

We recommend using a sitemap generator to build your XML sitemap. While the folks at Google no longer maintain their own sitemap generator, there are now plenty of free and downloadable tools you can use to create your own.

To make your choice of sitemap generator easier, here are nine of the best sitemap generators available today.

1. Screaming Frog

Price: Free

Screaming Frog sitemap generator

Screaming Frog is a web crawler that allows you to assess your website’s on-page SEO. Naturally, the company also offers a tool to develop your own XML sitemap and strengthen your website’s on-page SEO in the process.

To use Screaming Frog’s sitemap generator, you’ll first download the company’s SEO web crawler (also known as a “spider”), which is free for crawling your first 500 URLs. Once your website is crawled, you can create an XML sitemap from it including every webpage that scores a “200” in the initial crawl. This ensures only your strongest pages are included in your new XML sitemap.

2. XML-Sitemaps

Price: Free

XML-Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps requires no registration or initial download to create a sitemap for your website. Like Screaming Frog, which is explained above, this tool is free to websites that carry up to 500 URLs. Once your sitemap has been created, you can either download it as an XML file or receive it via email if you need to transport it to a new computer or coworker.

The paid version of XML-Sitemaps allows you to crawl up to 1.5 million pages (instead of 500), create other forms of XML sitemaps — such as news, video, and image sitemaps — and submit your sitemap directly to a search engine from the sitemap generator.

3. Slickplan

Price: Free trial, plans start at $8.99/mo

Slickplan sitemap generator

Slickplan offers a suite of content planning products that are ideal for freelancers, agencies, and small businesses. One of these products is an XML sitemap builder. This tool helps you build a visual sitemap first so you can determine how your website will be organized, then export your visual sitemap as an XML file.

4. InSpyder

Price: Free trial, $39.95 for full version

InSpyder sitemap generator

InSpyder is a fully downloadable sitemap builder that allows you to crawl an unlimited amount of URLs and synthesize them all in an XML sitemap for you.

The tool, which is free to try, is compatible with Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask.com, so you can quickly submit your XML sitemap in the format the biggest search engines expect to see it. You can also schedule sitemap updates at regular intervals if you know you’ll make frequent changes to your website. A blog that regularly publishes new articles (with new URLs) is one example of a website that would benefit from a new sitemap every so often.

5. Sitemap Writer Pro

Price: $24.95

Sitemap Writer Pro

Sitemap Writer Pro is a fast and simple XML sitemap creator, compatible with seven types of sitemaps depending on the type of content you want search engines to index. The tool can crawl millions of webpages and automatically produce a sitemap file that is ready to be imported into your content management system (CMS).

Sitemap Writer Pro is free to try for crawling up to 10 webpages, and requires a Windows operating system to run.

6. DYNO Mapper

Price: Free trial, $40/mo billed yearly

DYNO Mapper sitemap generator

DYNO Mapper is similar to Slickplan in that it is a visual sitemap builder. Start by outlining your website and its URLs in one of four visual formats, then edit the placement and hierarchy of each webpage included in your sitemap and export your sitemap file so you can easily share it with your colleagues.

DYNO Mapper comes with Google Analytics built in, so you can accurately identify your highest-performing webpages and where they should be placed on your sitemap. This integration also comes in handy when updating your sitemap, in which case you can simply import your sitemap’s XML file and revisit its visual model for quick adjustments.

7. Rage Google Sitemap Automator

Price: Free trial, $29.95 for full version

Rage Google Sitemap Automator

Rage Google Sitemap Automator is both an SEO auditor and XML sitemap builder. The tool allows you to quickly optimize your website’s on-page SEO so it’s easily crawled by Google, then create a sitemap that’s downloadable to an XML file in a matter of minutes.

This sitemap generator also lets you create your own “filters” for assigning various attributes to the webpages included in your sitemap — making it particularly useful for big websites that have many URLs serving diverse purposes.

8. WriteMaps

Price: Free for 3 small sitemaps

WriteMaps sitemap generator

WriteMaps is a visual website planner, helping you create a color-coded flowchart that outlines the content of every URL nested within your website. Once your website — and its webpages — are written and sorted exactly the way you want them, you can export your sitemap as a PDF or as an XML file for submitting to search engines.

WriteMaps’ interface is perfect for team-wide collaboration, making this tool especially useful for companies that are in the process of building a website from scratch.

9. PowerMapper

Price: Free Trial, $149 for standard version

PowerMapper sitemap generator

PowerMapper is touted as a “one-click” sitemap maker, used by several major organizations to create sitemaps for their websites in a number of potential mapping styles. The tool uses its own web browser, where you can navigate to your website and click “Map” to create a sitemap from every webpage currently live on that website.

For more options of XML sitemap generators, check out this archive of suggestions by Google. Not all of the links on Google’s list are still active services, but you’ll still find tools that are designed with Google’s website ranking algorithm in mind.

Once you’ve selected a sitemap generator, and created your sitemap in XML form, you’ll need to add it to your website’s source code and submit this sitemap to each search engine on which you want your website to be indexed.

Below are step-by-step instructions for submitting a sitemap to Google, and then to Bing and Yahoo!.

1. Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools will be your dashboard for testing and submitting updated sitemaps to Google, so you can ensure Google is always aware of the latest pages published to your site.

For this step, you’ll first need to register your website with Google. Click the link at the beginning of this paragraph to get started.

2. Click “Add a Property.”

Once you’ve logged in to Google Webmaster Tools, click “Add a Property,” the square red button on the top righthand corner of your screen.

3. Enter the URL for your company and click “Continue.”

Type in the website whose sitemap you want to submit, exactly as it appears in your address bar. This website should just be the domain name — the parent URL to which all of your other webpages belong.

4. Click “Crawl” on the left-hand side of the page, and choose “Sitemaps.”

Once you add your website property, you’ll see a sidebar of options to the left. Click “Crawl” to reveal a dropdown of options and select “Sitemaps.”

5. Click “Add/Test Sitemap.”

To the right of your screen, you’ll see another red button for adding a new sitemap. Click it. If you already have a sitemap submitted, this button will simply say “Test,” allowing you to verify that Google has crawled your current sitemap.

6. Enter “sitemap.xml” after your website’s domain name.

Adding a new sitemap requires you to add a string of text to the end of your website’s domain. Think of it like a tracking tag, allowing Google to examine all the activity that takes place inside your website.

This sitemap tag is “sitemap.xml,” and you’ll want to add it to the end of your domain name. For example, if your domain is www.yourcompany.com, you’ll tag it like this: www.yourcompany.com/sitemap.xml

7. Click “Submit Sitemap.”

Submit your sitemap and you’re all set. Depending on how much page authority you have already accumulated on Google, it might take some time to see the status of your submitted sitemap. Give it time — Google will eventually accept it.

For more information on the sitemap submission process, click here.

How to Submit a Sitemap to Bing or Yahoo!

  1. Sign in to Bing Webmaster Tools.
  2. On the My Sites page, enter the URL for your company (e.g. http://www.yourdomain.com). Click “Add.”
  3. In the “Add a sitemap” field, enter http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. (Replace “yourdomain” with your company’s URL.)
  4. Complete the rest of the required fields on the page, and click “Save.”

(For more details, click here.)

What If I Want to Add Webpages Later?

Once you define and submit your sitemap the first time, chances are you’ll want to tweak and add pages to your website every so often — and that’s completely fine. But keep in mind that if your website isn’t built on a platform that automatically generates a new sitemap and updates it on your web server when new pages are added, then every time you add a page — any page — to your website, that page will be missing from the sitemap that search engines see.

Remember, Google and other search engines will pick up the sitemap organically as long as you’ve updated the sitemap.xml file on your web server. But if you want to try to index your content the fastest way possible, you could resubmit your sitemap after publishing a new page — and it’s possible that Google would pick it up more quickly.

Once you’ve created and submitted your XML sitemap to search engines, you can start working on other fun stuff like your website’s design.

Having an up-to-date sitemap is just one marker of a high-performing website. To see what else you should optimize for your site, run a free Website Grader report.

website redesign seo mistakes

 
free guide: common SEO mistakes

10 Great Examples of Welcome Emails to Inspire Your Own Strategy

We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good first impression. Show up late for a job interview? That’s a bad first impression. Eat a ton of garlic and forget to brush your teeth before a first date? Also a bad first impression.

It turns out that the “make a good first impression” principle holds true not only in face-to-face encounters, but in email interactions as well.

When you send a welcome email to a new blog or newsletter subscriber, or to a new customer, you’re making a first impression on behalf of your brand. To help ensure you’re making the best first impression possible, we’ve rounded up some examples of standout welcome emails from brands big and small.

As you’ll soon discover, each example below showcases different tactics and strategies for engaging new email subscribers. Let’s dive in.

Email Newsletter Lookbook

10 Examples of Standout Welcome Emails

1. Virgin America

Type of welcome: Get Started

Virgin America welcome email with a red CTA to get started

A welcome email is the perfect medium for introducing folks to the characteristics (and eccentricities) that make your brand unique.

For Virgin America, that means putting the “I love you” hand symbol front and center. This small gesture signals to the recipient that the folks atVirgin America really care about their customers. The playful accompanying copy, “Welcome aboard,” and casual call-to-action, “Grab a seat,” also help to position Virgin America as a hip, fun-loving brand right off the bat.

2. Food52

Type of welcome: Get Started

Food52 welcome email with a gray CTA to get started

Sometimes the tiniest of elements in a welcome email can speak volumes about a brand. And when it comes to Food52’s welcome email, their preview text at the top of the email, “We brought snacks,” definitely accomplishes this.

Also known as a pre-header or snippet text, preview text is the copy that gets pulled in from the body of an email and displayed next to (or beneath) the subject line in someone’s inbox. So when you see Food52’s welcome email in your inbox, you get a taste of their brand’s personality before you even open it.

preview_text-3.png

Food52’s welcome email also does a good job of building trust by putting a face (make that two faces) to their name. As soon as you open the email, you see a photograph of — and welcome message from — the company’s founders.

3. Monday.com

Type of welcome: Video

Monday.com welcome email with a link to watch a video by CEO Roy Man

From the subject line to the conversational tone in the email body, the welcome email above keeps it friendly and simple so the focus stays on the introductory video inside.

Monday.com is a task management tool for teams and businesses, and the welcome email you get when you sign up makes you feel like the CEO, Roy Man, is talking directly to you. The email even personalizes the opening greeting by using the recipient’s first name — this is well known for increasing email click-through rates (especially if the name is in the subject line).

The closer you can get to making your email sound like a one-on-one conversation between you and your subscriber, the better. If you have just so many details you need to inform your new customer of, follow Monday.com’s lead and embed them in a video, rather than spelling them all out in the email itself.

4. Kate Spade

Type of welcome: Thank You

Kate Spade welcome email with orange envelope graphic saying thank you

Let’s face it: We, the internet-using public, are constantly bombarded with prompts to sign up for and subscribe to all sorts of email communications. So as a brand, when someone takes the time to sift through all the chaos in order to intentionally sign up for your email communications, it’s a big deal.

In order to acknowledge how grateful they are to the folks who actually take the time to subscribe, Kate Spade uses a simple — but effective — tactic with their welcome emails: They say “Thank You” in big, bold lettering. And by placing that “Thank You” on an envelope, Kate Spade recreates the feeling of receiving an actual thank-you letter in the mail. (The 15% off discount code doesn’t hurt either.)

5. Lyft

Type of welcome: Get Started

Lyft welcome email with pink CTA to get started

If there’s an ideal “attitude” that welcome emails should give off, Lyft has got it.

The company’s simple but vibrant welcome email, shown above, focuses entirely on the look and feel of the app, delivering a design that’s as warm and smooth as the lifts that Lyft wants to give you. At the same time, the email’s branded pink call-to-action draws your eyes toward the center of the page to “Take a Ride” — inviting language that doesn’t make you feel pressured as a new user.

6. IKEA

Type of welcome: Offer

IKEA welcome email with offer to join free membership

It might not be the most beautifully designed email on this list, but that doesn’t mean IKEA’s welcome email isn’t effective.

Instead of going for the hard sell (e.g., “By stuff now!”), or explaining what it is they do (which is something IKEA probably assumes most people already know), IKEA uses its welcome email to turn folks onto its other, lesser-known programs and content channels. For example, there’s a call-to-action right at the top that explains the value of its member benefits program. There are also prompts to visit their design blog and to contribute to their collaborative “Share Space” site.

Of course, if you’re not interested in any of that stuff, IKEA’s welcome email also makes it easy for you to simply log in and start shopping (there’s a login field right up top).

7. Michaels

Type of welcome: Offer

Michaels welcome email with offer of 20% off an entire purchase

The Michaels approach to the welcome email borrows elements from both Kate Spade and Virgin America. In addition to expressing gratitude to the folks who took the time to sign up, Michaels uses its welcome email to showcase the brand. And the company does a great job: The lengthy email feels like one big arts and crafts project, complete with paint, yarn, and chalkboards.

Another standout feature of this welcome email is that Michaels makes it immediately clear what value its future email communications are going to provide. After thanking subscribers, there’s this nice bit of copy that sums it up:

“We’re going to send fun stuff like DIY tips and tricks, invites to in-store events, and exclusive deals and coupons.”

8. Sphero

Type of welcome: Hello

Sphero welcome email with BB-8 Star Wars Droid saying hello

Sphero’s welcome email might in fact be the cutest one we’ve seen recently — and it was sent from a galaxy far, far away.

If you purchase a bluetooth-controlled BB-8, the friendly Droid from Star Wars, it was probably made by Sphero. And if it was, you’ll have an email similar to the one above waiting in your inbox when you activate your new rolling companion.

This email’s subject line is what qualifies it for this list — “A little Droid told us you wanted our emails.” By cleverly personifying the product, and being somewhat candid about its email marketing newsletters, Sphero develops a relationship with their recipients through the product you just bought from them.

Besides showing you how to use your new BB-8 Droid with your smartphone, all this welcome email wanted to do was say hi — just like BB-8 himself.

9. InVision

Type of welcome: Video

InVision welcome email with link to watch video

When you sign up for InVision’s free prototyping app, the welcome email makes it very clear what your next step should be: using the app.

To facilitate this action, InVision’s welcome email doesn’t simply list out what you need to do in order to get started. Instead, it shows you what you need to do with a series of quick videos. Given the visual, interactive nature of the product, this makes a lot of sense.

10. Drift

Type of welcome: Get Started

Drift welcome email with link to get started

No fancy design work. No videos. No photos. The welcome email Drift sends out after signing up for their newsletter is a lesson in minimalism.

The email opens with a bit of candid commentary on the state of email. “Most people have really long welcome email sequences after you get on their email list,” Dave from Drift writes, before continuing: “Good news: we aren’t most people.” What follows is simply a bulleted list of the company’s most popular blog posts. And the only mention of the product comes in a brief post-script at the very end.

If you’re trying to craft a welcome email that’s non-interruptive, and that’s laser-focused on adding value vs. fluff, this is a great example to follow.

Free Download Email Newsletter Lookbook


Free Download Email Newsletter Lookbook

18 of the Best Product Page Design Examples We've Ever Seen

If you look at how product pages take shape across different companies, it’s clear they run the gamut. Some go for the direct approach, displaying an image of a product and explaining why someone should buy it.

Other companies create elaborate pages with moving parts and fancy, interactive elements.

Still other companies create delightful product pages that give users an authentic experience as they browse through what the company has to offer.

Believe it or not, not all of the most captivating product pages have enterprise-level programming behind them. To give you an idea of what’s possible — from the small business all the way up to the household name — we scouted out 18 examples that we find truly admirable.

The pages below have mastered their messaging, value propositions, and general product descriptions such that these sites resonate with their unique buyer persona.

(And after checking out these pages, you might want to buy their products, too.)

77 Brilliant Examples of Homepages, Blogs & Landing Pages

18 of the Best Product Landing Page Designs

1. Bellroy

Bellroy sells thinner-than-typical wallets. There’s value to that — but what is it, and how do you get the consumer to understand it?

To answer those questions, Bellroy divided its product page into three stages of the buyer’s journey — understanding the problem, how to fix the problem, and how Bellroy can resolve the problem.

There’s even an interactive section that shows how the skinny wallet will fill up in comparison to a different wallet. As users move a slider back and forth along a line, both of the wallets fill up with cards and cash, visually displaying the very problem Bellroy’s skinny wallet solves.

 Product page of Bellroy wallets with a 'Slim Your Wallet' scale[Click here to see Bellroy’s full product page.]

2. Wistia

Wistia is a video hosting and analytics company that provides users with detailed video performance metrics. It might sound like a snooze-fest, but let’s dive into what really makes this product page stand apart.

First, we’re presented with five, colorful graphics illustrating their tools’ value propositions. And in case that’s all the user really needed to see, those graphics are followed by two calls-to-action.

But, if you continue scrolling, you’ll see a video with information about Wistia’s capabilities for that video — calls-to-action, email collectors, video heatmaps, and viewing trends.

One of the best ways to explain a visual platform’s features is to demonstrate them on a product page. This one shows users all of Wistia’s features and how they work, day-to-day.

Product page of Wistia[Click here to see Wistia’s full product page.]

3. Square

Square is a mobile transaction company that merchants can use to collect payment from customers — anywhere, any time, as long as they have a compatible phone or tablet.

The product marketing challenge here is to show why Square is an easier alternative than a typical cash register — and its product page displays those reasons in a visually captivating way.

Product Description

The main headline of each section of this product page has bold, succinct copy:

“Small credit card reader, big possibilities.”

The rest of the page is clearly organized headlines — which kind of read like answers to frequently asked questions — plenty of white space, succinct copy, and appropriate images. Anyone looking into each section can understand exactly how Square works at every stage of a transaction.

Product page of Square
[Click here to see Square’s full product page.]

4. Rent the Runway

Some companies — especially in ecommerce — can have up to thousands of product pages. Rent the Runway, an online dress rental company, is one of them.

Rent the Runway has an individual product page for every dress it carries, with all the information a customer could want — images, measurements, fabric, price, and reviews. So what sets them apart? The exceptional detail of the “Stylist Notes” and “Size & Fit” sections.

Product Description

These details are clearly and carefully curated from stylists and reviewers. They don’t just explain what a dress is made of and how it looks — they cover how it fits on every part of the body, which undergarments should be worn with it, and for which body types it’s best suited. That kind of information not only delights customers and encourages their trust, but it also makes for a more confident buying decision.

Also, notice how there’s plenty of white space surrounding the product images and description. According to research by ConversionXL, that white space creates a higher perceived value — in this case, price — of the product in the user’s mind.

Product page for navy blue Badgley Mischka dress by Rent the Runway[Click here to see Rent the Runway’s full product page.]

5. Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest develops superfoods in the form of smoothies, soups, and more, and delivers them to your doorstep. What makes these foods’ product pages so outstanding? They show you exactly what makes these foods so super in a format that’s both clear and digestible — no pun intended.

Check out one of the Daily Harvest’s smoothie product pages, below. Not only can you see what the smoothie looks like, but hovering over the lefthand preview icon, below the main image, shows you the foods used to create this drink. Scroll down, and you’ll see each ingredient and a simple description of each one.

Product Description

The product description of this smoothie is just as creative as the landing page itself.

“Kicks fatigue to the curb. Leaves inflammation in the dust. Makes bloating a thing of the past. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Ginger + Greens!”

Product landing page for Ginger + Greens smoothie with ingredients list by Daily Harvest [Click here to see Daily Harvest’s full product page.]

6. Oreo

If you’ve seen any of Oreo’s marketing, you shouldn’t be surprised they’re on this list. But sometimes, being well known can actually make it harder to create a product page. So how did they do it?

The focus of Oreo’s product page is how these simple, classic cookies can help people unleash their imaginations, dare to wonder, and become generally happier. It features a series of videos, one after another. One is accompanied by the lyrics, “It’s so easy to let your imagination go when you play with Oreo,” paying tribute to the age-old discussion about the “best” way to eat them. The page takes a creative, bold approach to marketing with what might otherwise be thought of as an ordinary snack.

Oreo also took a unique design to this page. Even though the cookies themselves are monochrome, the page is wonderfully colorful, from the videos, to the backgrounds, to the graphics.

Product page by Oreo[Click here to see Oreo’s full product page.]

7. Fitbit Charge

When I took on this blog post, I asked a few people for their favorite product page suggestions. I was amazed how many people immediately recommended Fitbit — and after checking out the site, I can see why.

The page below helped unveil the original Fitbit Charge — now succeeded by the Fitbit 3 — and starts off with a value proposition, rather than a list of features. It’s a hero image of people hiking a mountain, who we can imagine are wearing Fitbits, with the copy, “Energize your day.”

As you scroll down the page, it goes through four quick steps explaining how the product works. What’s more, a lot of these are interactive — the section under “Everything you need, all in one place” allows users to hover over different features to see how they appear on Fitbit’s mobile app.

But the page also explains why these features are valuable. For example, one tracks everything you do from walking, to running, to sleeping. Why does that matter? Well, you can have your current records on hand, and try to beat them.

Knowing that users might not remember all of the specifics when they leave the page, Fitbit was sure to focus on how these features will actually make a difference in the visitors’ lives. Well played.

Teal product page for Fitbit Charge [Click here for Fitbit Charge 3’s new product page.]

8. Volkswagen

Volkswagen takes an interactive approach to its product marketing. Instead of listing out all of the features you can have in a car, the company walk you through the process of actually building your car. As you go through that process, Volkswagen highlights the different features you could choose, then gives you a preview of what the car will look like and how that will affect the price.

Even though I’m not currently in the market for a new car, I personally had fun tinkering with the different customization features on the page. What color do I want? Do I want premium audio? (Yes.) It’s an interesting way for the brand to eliminate the notorious connotations of “car salesmen,” by allowing users to learn about and select features independently.

Plus, there’s a nifty matchmaking feature that allows you to see which nearby dealerships have the car with all of your preferences in its inventory.

(If you want to see a regular product page, they’ve got that, too.)

Build Your Jetta product page by Volkswagen[Click here to see Volkwagen’s full product page.]

9. Seattle Cider

The folks at Seattle Cider claim their cider is “not your standard cider.” Well, neither is the product page. It reads like a story, beginning with attractive, high-definition images of the cider selection, which happen to have really cool label designs. As you hover, an explanation appears of what differentiates Seattle Cider’s products from others, and what makes each variation special.

But my favorite part is what comes next: a really cool, interactive display of how cider is made from start to finish, which plays for users as they scroll. It’s a surprising and delightful user experience that goes above and beyond the typical product page, because it doesn’t just display the products. It shows where they come from, and how.

Seattle_Cider.gif[Click here to see Seattle Cider’s full product page.]

10. OfficeSpace Software

OfficeSpace sells facility management software to help folks manage, well, office spaces. Like the name, the product page is very clear and direct.

Each section of this product page is dedicated to a different feature of the software. The headline explains the feature, and the subheadline explains why this feature is important as you evaluate different software.

That makes it easy for prospects to quickly digest what the product offers, but also read more details on its value proposition, if they choose to. And, if someone wants to learn even more about a particular feature, there are clear calls-to-action to do so.

Dark blue OfficeSpace Software product page[Click here to see OfficeSpace’s full product page.]

11. Orangina

This carbonated citrus drink has been around since 1935, and it has exactly four products — original, red orange, light, and tropical. So, how does Orangina keep its product page both current and special?

For one, it’s fun to explore. When you hover your mouse over any of the blocks, the picture or icon animates — the bottles dance around, the orange slices in half, and the thermometer drops. The animated images and bold colors fit in perfectly with the Orangina brand’s bold, fun personality.

Also, you might notice that some of the blocks are actual products, while the others are simply tips and details about their products. If you don’t have a lot of products to sell, consider interspersing them with tips and information about the products you do have available.

Vivid tiles on Orangina product page[Click here to see Orangina’s full product page.]

12. Mango Languages

Mango Languages creates “lovable” language-learning experiences for libraries, schools, corporations, government agencies, and individuals. Its homepage has illustrated calls-to-action for each of these buyer personas — from public libraries, to government offices, to those who are homeschooling their kids. Each of those calls-to-action leads to a different product page that’s colorful, clearly written, and very comprehensive.

Take a look at the example for homeschool teachers below. Like every other part of the website, it exudes Mango’s friendly, approachable, and helpful brand personality. The video couldn’t be more delightful. I mean, a guitar-playing mango in a top hat? Yes, please.

As you scroll, you’re greeted with clear value propositions that use playful language that’s true to brand. Everything about the page says “simple to use,” “fun,” and “effective.”

mango-homeschool-landing-page[Click here to see Mango’s full product page.]

13. Helix Mattresses

It’s one thing to sell a mattress — it’s another thing to sell a good night’s sleep. Helix Mattresses is laser-focused on the latter, having designed a product page that organizes each mattress by its level of plushness and support.

By looking at Helix’s product line in chart form, website visitors don’t have to examine each mattress individually to find the attributes they’re looking for. Simply find the row and column that matches your bedding needs, and click through to your chosen mattress’s product page to learn more.

Product Description

It can be difficult to know what “plush,” “firm,” or “supportive” really mean in a mattress — they all seem so subjective. For that reason, Helix is all about brevity in its product descriptions, using evocative explanations of each category a mattress might belong to.

“Plush Feel: Soft top of your mattress that lets you sink in like a cloud.”

“Balanced Support: Not too much, not too little. Best for side sleepers with thin to average body types.”

“Firm feel: Firm top of your mattress with no sink or give.”

helix-mattresses-product-landing-page [Click here to see Helix’s full product page.]

14. Minwax

Minwax makes products to help people care for their wood furnishings and surfaces. Riveting, right? But the brand has managed to create a product page that’s not only relevant, but also, helps users quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.

That’s thanks partly to the Minwax Product Finder module. It functions like a quiz, asking a series of multiple-choice questions, like “What kind of project is it?” and “What are you looking to do?” Once you answer the questions, the quiz generates recommended products, which includes a handy “Don’t Forget” list with the tools you’ll need to get the job done — things like safety glasses, gloves, and sandpaper. Helpful tips like this go above and beyond a normal ecommerce product page.

Minwax product page with Product Finder on wood background[Click here to see Minwax’s full product page.]

15. Ministry of Supply

Ministry of Supply specializes in comfortable formal wear, and it shows you just how comfortable in any one of its garments’ product landing pages.

Take the product page for the Juno Blouse, below. Below the photo gallery of a woman modeling the product, Ministry of Supply gives visitors “proofs,” revealing the blouse’s thread count, materials, and other key qualities that make the product unique.

The product page’s best trait might actually be its motion graphics, using basic looped videos that demonstrate the clothing’s resilience and flexibility.

Product Description

Ministry of Supply describes its products’ technical benefits but without sacrificing a friendly tone:

“Unlike silk, Juno is designed for everyday performance without the fuss. It’s moisture-wicking, breathable, and wrinkle free, so you can dress your best without specialized care.”

ministry-of-supply-product-landing-page[Click here to see Ministry of Supply’s full product page.]

16. Liulishuo

Liulishuo is a China-based startup that builds English language learning tools for personal development and test prep purposes. The company’s mobile app product page offers a clean but media-rich overview of its curriculum.

As you can see below, the bottom of the page plays a crisp motion clip of the video-based coursework in action on a smartphone. It’s essentially an app demo before users even download the app.

At the top of page, Liulishuo makes cool use of QR codes by allowing users to download the app just by scanning the app’s QR code on their mobile device. Presenting a software product in this way is a smart effort to increase customer acquisition simply by making the product easier to get.

liulishuo-app-product-page[Click here to see Liulishiuo’s full product page.]

17. Metavrse VR Photobooth™

Metavrse, a virtual reality (VR) consultancy and product developer, has just about the most immersive product page we’ve ever seen. The company sells not just VR insight, but also VR tools to help modern businesses better engage their customers in their goods and services.

One of those tools, which has a killer landing page, is the VR Photobooth™.

Metavrse’s VR Photobooth™ features both a VR headset and an actual cube-shaped room that people enter while wearing the headset for a 360-degree, branded experience. And what better way of demonstrating this experience than right there in the center of the product page? Check it out, below.

Metavrse displays its VR headset facing away from the website visitor, with a moving panoramic background that gives businesses a nearly firsthand demo of what’s waiting for them (or, more specifically, their customers).

Product Description

Metavrse elaborates on its VR Photobooth™ via a full PDF, which website visitors can download for free at the bottom of the product page. Regarding the cube-shaped room itself, the company has some enticing but informative product copy:

“Up to 4 guests can enter the booth at once to have their photo taken among a dazzling display of video imagery and mirror magic.”

metavrse-vr-photobooth-product-page[Click here to see Metavrse’s full product page.]

18. Nfant®Nipple

Nfant®, an infant nursing product, takes the transition from breastfeeding to oral feeding seriously — as is evident on the company’s product page for the Nfant®Nipple.

What sets this small business apart from other nursing and parenting services is its use of data to attract customers.

The product page below touts several types of bottle top-shaped nipples, and each one offers a different level of flow when the baby is drinking. As involved as the conditions of each product are, however, the product page delivers the information gracefully using color coordination, a video demonstration, and even a graph comparing each product’s flow range that nursing mothers can refer back to.

Nursing moms are always educating themselves on the resources they have for keeping their children healthy as they develop. With that in mind, Nfant’s detailed but easy-to-understand product page knows its buyer persona well.

nfant-nipple-product-page[Click here to see Nfant’s full product page.]

Product Page Best Practices

So, what have these brands taught us about product pages? It boils down to a few must-haves:

  • Make it interesting and fun, especially if you have a less-than-riveting product.
  • Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
  • Make it personal. Allow users to “build their own” product, to show them that you can meet their preferences.
  • Make it informative. Without bogging it down in detail, be sure to include the right pieces of information that will show users what sets your products apart.

Want more website design examples? Check out creative 404 error messages.

examples of brilliant homepage, blog, and landing page design

14 Trompe l'Oeil Examples That Will Blow Your Mind

John Pugh, a creator of trompe l’Oeil optical illusion murals, has said, “It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.”

He has a point.

Consider the popularity of the infamous “Is That Dress White and Gold or Blue and Black?” debate. Or, the instant success of shows like Westworld or Black Mirror, both of which rely on an audience’s obsession with being deceived.

Both of these examples support Pugh’s statement — people enjoy artwork that blurs the line between reality and illusion.

Trompe l’Oeil, a French expression, translates in English to optical illusion. Trompe l’Oeil murals appear to be lifelike and three-dimensional, and are typically displayed on vertical surfaces, like the walls of a building.

If you enjoy optical illusions, take a look at our favorite trompe l’Oeil examples to trick your mind.

1. “Quetzalcoatl” by John Pugh

2. “Mezzanine en trompe l’oeil” by Célia Kogut

3. “Cinema Cannes” by A.FRESCO

4. “Mueller’s Waterfall” by Edgar Mueller

5. “Puzzling Realities” by Jenny McCracken

6. “Copenhagen Zoo” by Bates Y&R

7. “Venice, Italy” by Morgan Bricca

8. “Mural for Fontainebleau Hotel” by Richard Haas

9. “Flatiron Building, Toronto” by Derek Besant

10. “Le Radeau de Lampéduse” by Pierre Delavie

11. “Trompe l’Oeil books” by Paul Czainski

12. “Derelict building” by Nina Camplin

13. “Capri” by Rainer Maria Latzke

14. “Oh crumbs!” by Julian Beever

 

Why This New VR Headset Could Be a Game-Changer

There are some days that make us want to escape reality. And it could be said that there’s no better place to do that than a conference dedicated entirely to virtual reality (VR). 

This week saw the fifth occurrence of Oculus Connect: Facebook’s annual VR conference. And while this year was a bit skimpy on flashy product announcements, it did see the debut of the latest in the company’s line of VR headsets, the Oculus Quest.

A natural skeptic, I wondered what made the Quest so special. What merited its $399 price tag (as opposed to the $199 Go, an earlier wireless Oculus headset)? And why did Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg describe it as “just wonderful” during the event’s opening keynote?

To find out, I decided to take it for a spin.

The Oculus Quest Experience

Whenever I try a new VR headset, I immediately have to warn the person running the demo that I historically get motion sickness from the technology.

I’m not alone (that’s probably why they keep a bowl of ginger candies at the demo stations) but with the Oculus’s two existing headsets, the Rift and the Go, I’ve had to end the demonstrations after only a few minutes.

But the gentleman running this demo, Thomas, told me that this experience might be different. “A lot of people have told me that,” he said, “and then tell me they don’t have that experience with the Quest.”

Sure, Thomas. I’ll believe that when I see it.

Oculus Quest controllers

As I put on the headset and controllers, and the game commenced, two things were immediately apparent to me: 1) how much more intuitive the hand controls felt, and 2) how much more realistic the visuals seemed.

The game was Superhot: an almost dystopian-like scenario in an airport setting, where the player has to destroy her enemies (which come in the form of opaque red, mannequin-like creatures) by punching them, or grabbing and throwing whatever nearby objects she can find at them.

12410441_466167547153235_345451624140898304_n-1

Source: Oculus

It felt less like I was in a game — and more like I could actually walk around the environment portrayed, duck for cover, and hide when my enemies where coming for me (I was sweating by the time my demo was over). Throwing virtual clay pots at my adversaries felt quite natural — so much, Thomas told me at the end of my seven minutes, I won the game. 

The coolest part about this game in particular was how it forced me to slow down. The faster the player moves, it turns out, the faster the enemies move toward her. Not only was it actually fun for a non-gaming-enthusiast like myself, but it was also a bit of an exercise in self-moderation.

Even better: No motion sickness. 

But what was to explain for these three stark distinctions — the ease of the controls, the natural feel of the environment and movement through the game, and the lack of motion sickness? What differentiated my Oculus Quest experience from those with the Go and Rift?

To find out, I spoke with Allison Berliner, a product marketing manager for the Oculus Quest, and Andrea Schubert, the company’s product communications lead.

The Tech Behind the Experience

First of all, I had to know: Why was my motion sickness non-existent while using the Quest?

Berliner explained that it all comes down to Oculus Insight: the headset’s four wide-angled sensors, which understand the user’s physical environment, and where she is within that space. 

“The tracking is super accurate and super reliable,” Berliner said, “and that’s why it feels really comfortable.”

I wondered if that had something to do with the green grid that would pop up whenever I was about to crash into a wall. It did.

As it turns out, the folks at Oculus were able to “tell” the headset and the game what that physical player environment looked like through a system called Guardian, which lets users know when they’re about to step out of the game’s bounds.

18406541_1580482708660942_5948848709360943104_n

The Oculus boundary system. Source: Oculus

And once the Oculus Quest ships this spring, users will be able to dictate their own environments in the same way.

Then what’s to explain for the natural feeling of the movement? I asked Berliner if it had something to do with the somewhat elusive concept of “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF): the ability of a single, physical body to move freely throughout a three-dimensional space.

“Exactly!” she told me. “The reason it feels really fluid and free is because you have the six degrees of freedom, which is all about the kinds of movements you can do while you’re being tracked” by the VR platform.

Why the Oculus Quest Is a Game-Changer

Since the physical and emotional experience of using the Quest was so saliently different from those I had with other headsets — no motion sickness, intuitive movement, and actual fun — I wondered how else it might be put to use. Could this platform be a game-changer for those in marketing or non-gaming sectors?

We’re seeing a lot of interesting use cases for VR in general — for healthcare, for education, for training,” Berliner said. “I think it’ll be great to see how the same partners and consumers using the Oculus Go and Oculus Rift for those other industries can do with the Oculus Quest.”

The area of healthcare was of particular interest. With the ease of movement on the Oculus Quest, perhaps it could be used for things like rehabilitation or injury recovery.

It reminded me of something that a gentleman named Steve from DrashVR — which develops educational programs and curricula in VR — told me on day one of Oculus Connect.

Oculus_Quest_Back (2)

“You can cram a lot more information that’s ‘learning by accident’ or ‘learning by play’ when it’s in VR,” he said. “That’s the feedback I’ve heard first-hand: that people can learn more from 10 minutes of VR than in a semester of classes.”

So if VR for educational purposes could be that effective on earlier, less precise platforms, was their potential on the Quest even greater, especially with such freedom of movement?

“We’re all really interested to see how Oculus Quest changes not only how people play games and people build games,” Berliner said, “but also how people learn and communicate, and connect with each other.”

Kind of like reenacting Gettysburg, without actually visiting the battlefield?

Berliner laughed. “Virtual field trips are super exciting.”

But as admittedly remarkable as the Quest experience is, I did wonder if it was enough to make VR go mainstream. As Zuckerberg himself acknowledged on day one, the company is less than 1% of its way to the goal of getting one billion people in VR.

So what will make VR go mainstream? Ask Berliner, and she’ll tell you — it’s offering options to all users, no matter which industries they’re in.

“The combination of completing this first generation of products means that now we have a great set and a great portfolio,” she said. “Anybody who wants to do something in VR should be able to find the product for them.”

So there’s the marketing lesson — not just the principle of offering options for your audience, but in a way to leverage VR for your overall strategy. What does your audience want to do in VR, or where could VR enhance an already existing experience, and how can you create that experience?

Berliner encouraged leaning into the narrative — and Oculus’s own credo — of breaking down distance barriers. Put the user somewhere they want to be, she emphasized, especially when they can’t get there without your help.

“It comes down to our vision of defying distance. There are moments when you just can’t be [somewhere],” she said. “That’s where virtual reality can play such a huge role.”

5 Predictions for Facebook's Big VR Event

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the fifth annual Oculus Connect: Facebook’s annual virtual reality (VR) conference.

Facebook acquired Oculus, a maker of VR hardware like headsets, as well as certain programs that pair with it, in 2014. Some have argued that the investment has yet to show any truly measurable return for Facebook, perhaps because of VR’s slow path to going mainstream.

But at Oculus Connect, we’re encouraged to dream big. At last year’s opening keynote, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his goal to have one billion people using VR — by when, however, wasn’t quite as clear.

But in order to do that, VR needs to become both more accessible and affordable, the latter of which the company has addressed by way of its less expensive $199 Oculus Go headset. 

What’s next, then, on Facebook’s path to take VR mainstream, and get it into the hands of one billion people?

We have a few ideas. Here are five predictions we have for Oculus Connect.

Note: These are purely predictions that are not based on any information from Facebook or Oculus.

1. Integration With Facebook for Dating

At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would build a native dating app within Facebook.

Earlier this month, that app was unveiled for testing in Colombia. Some of the key features: the ability to see which events your potential matches might be attending or common interests you share, and finding a place to meet as a result. (Of course, there are privacy issues associated with that — but that’s another story.)

One way to create more use cases for VR — Oculus headsets specifically — is to merge them with features already available within Facebook. Dating could be one such use case if it’s integrated with Oculus Venues: an app that allows users to experience live events (like sports games or concerts) in VR, and interact with other users who are tuning it.

Pairing Facebook for dating with Oculus Venues could be one way to help potential matches get to know each other: by creating virtual first dates within Venues to help break the ice and see if they want to meet in-person.

2. More Business Use Cases

Superstore chain Walmart recently remarked that it’s putting Oculus headsets to use for workplace training, to help employees improve skills in areas like new technology, compliance, and emotional intelligence.

At last year’s Oculus Connect, the opening keynote pointed to workplace use cases for VR, such as virtual meetings and offices.

Workplace training, however, didn’t come up quite as much — but there have been other business use cases for VR, such as those from Tobii Pro, which pairs VR with eye-tracking technology to help retailers learn where a shopper pays the most visual attention and plan store layout accordingly.

Walmart, for its part, is slated to ship 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to its stores, to provide every employee with access to the VR training. This year, I’m curious — and believe it could be possible to see more business use cases, in which multiple units of Oculus headsets have been ordered and used by businesses to help with things like workplace training. 

3. More Education Use Cases 

Similar to workplace and B2B use cases, I’m eager to see more ways to leverage VR technology within classrooms. The company does have its Oculus Education division, and in August, it announced that it would be donating Rift and Oculus Go headsets to schools, libraries, and museums — “to better understand how teachers, students, and various institutions can use VR for learning and collaboration.”

 If this strategy sounds familiar, it might be due to similar, earlier plays from other Big Tech companies. Apple also has a history of distributing mass quantities of units, like its computers, to schools. And while the company had a bumpy road to its $1 trillion valuation, some argue that it was the education distribution strategy that helped Apple amplify its brand awareness.

It would be interesting to see a similar move from Oculus and hear more about these educational pilot programs during this week’s keynotes — particularly in ways that benefit underserved communities. That could point to a collaboration between Oculus Education and the company’s VR for Good Creators Lab.

4. Integration With Portal, Facebook’s Smart Speaker

Facebook originally planned to unveil its video smart speaker — said to be named Portal — at F8 in May. However, those plans were shelved after weeks of PR crises around privacy concerns.

Now, rumors are swirling that Portal will be formally announced this week, according to a scoop from Cheddar‘s Alex Heath. The timing seems suspect, given that Oculus Connect is also scheduled for this week — perhaps we’ll receive some official word of Portal’s Debut at the VR event.

It seems odd, however, to unveil non-VR hardware at a VR-specific event. So what would make the announcement make sense? The answer to that question could exist in some sort of integration.

So, what would an integration of a video smart speaker with VR technology look like? Well, for one, it could serve as another way to share in VR experiences together. After all, virtual reality isn’t for everyone — headsets have been known to cause nausea among some users (yours truly, included), and some simply don’t want to pay for the hardware.

Heath had made the point of Portal technology being used to communicate with older family members — “grandparents,” he said — which could serve as one VR-smart speaker integrative use case.

Will Portal be able to make calls to other devices, like these relatives’ televisions or mobile phones? And if so, will the technology be equipped to share VR experiences and visuals with them?

We’ll see if we hear about it at this week’s events.

5. Leaning Into Augmented Realty (AR)

Big Tech companies have been known to, in a word, emulate features that one might have “invented” first. Take the idea of Stories, for example — the ephemeral content first introduced by Snapchat that was later adapted by Instagram, Facebook, and — most recently — by Google.

One of those “must-have” technologies is AR: the type of semi-virtual that doesn’t require a headset and create a similarly immersive experience. Instead, it uses something more accessible, like a smartphone, to place virtual objects into your physical environment via a screen.

One pop cultural example of AR is the game Pokémon Go, which allowed users to “catch” virtual creatures within the real world.

Source: Vice

Google, for its part, recently announced an integration of AR features into its own Daydream VR headsets, and Microsoft already makes its HoloLens headset to combine AR with VR (creating what is known as a “mixed reality headset”).

So, is Facebook next? Can we expect the unveiling of an Oculus mixed reality headset?

Possibly. Facebook does have among its staff a “Director of Camera,” Ficus Kirkpatrick, who is scheduled to speak about AR at a TechCrunch event in October. In the event announcement — which alludes to previous remarks from Zuckerberg about Facebook’s work in AR —  Kirkpatrick is credited as the company’s “head of Camera AR Platform.”

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Source: Facebook

The question now is: What would an Oculus mixed reality headset be named? Personally, I’m pushing for the “Oculus Almost.”

I’ll be covering Oculus Connect this week — stay tuned.

How to Fire Someone: A Step-by-Step Guide to Letting an Employee Go

To terminate is to bring to an end. And if you’ve ever had to figure out how to terminate an employee, you know things don’t get much harder or sadder. Most managers dread this part of the job more than any other.

And frankly, you should feel a little dread when parting ways with an employee — it’s what makes you human. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to ensure the conversation goes smoothly.

Due to feelings of guilt, uncertainty about the decision, legal concerns, and excuses by the team member, many managers don’t let poor performers go when they should (or at all). And when they do take action, almost every termination conversation is stressful.

But keeping poor performers on the team is a disservice to other team members, clients, the organization, and even to the employee in question. Lower standards are infectious and can bring down the aspiration level of other team members, and poor performers often incite resentment. Taking action puts other low performers on notice, helps managers meet goals, and ensures clients get the value and care they need.

Time and time again I have been told by colleagues and managers who have lost their jobs that the worst part wasn’t the termination itself but how the message was delivered. To quote one colleague, “The message was dropped like a bomb.”

When it is time to let a team member go, the process you use — while it does not change the result — significantly alters the experience and reduces chances of litigation. Knowing how to terminate an employee properly makes managers more confident and compassionate, and team members more accepting of the person’s exit.

1. Inform the human resources team.

Having made the decision to let someone go, review the employee handbook first. Make sure your grounds for termination are in line with company policy and that you’re ready to inform the right people beforehand.

Usually, the first people you notify of a firing are human resources (HR) and legal. Both teams will explain how to terminate the employee, and inform IT and security so they can disconnect the employee’s office equipment after they leave. Work with HR to calculate final compensation and/or severance, and collect all documentation and paperwork you’ll need for the employee’s departure (we’ll go over paperwork in Step 7).

Don’t have the termination conversation alone. Ideally include a colleague from HR or one of your peers as a witness during the termination.

2. Set up a meeting with the employee.

Once HR has been notified of the intended firing, set up a meeting with the employee. Having the meeting right away is ideal, but if their schedule simply doesn’t allow, it should be fairly soon after the meeting invitation. If asked what the meeting is about, use your discretion, but say that you prefer to flesh out the details during the meeting.

Or, if the discussion will be by phone, focus the exchange on when there will be adequate time to talk (we’ll talk about how to fire someone over the phone following the final step of this process).

If you have the choice, firing an employee is best done face-to-face in a private setting. This allows you to set a serious but supportive tone and present everything the employee will need to know — including any relevant paperwork about health insurance, severance, or unemployment.

3. Lead with the bad news.

The very first thing out of your mouth in the termination meeting should be to let the person know he or she is being let go. Offering too much context or lead-up before the firing itself might seem mature, but it can ultimately make the termination feel unofficial and leave the employee with too much to dwell on after they leave.

Do not rescind the decision to fire this person unless new and compelling evidence is presented. But don’t go looking for this information. You may let the employee offer their point of view, but it’s unusual for it to invalidate a firing at this point in the process.

4. Reference previous performance goals.

The fourth step in a proper firing process depends on something you were (hopefully) doing in advance of this meeting: tracking their performance and supporting them every step of the way. When letting someone go, it’s important that you politely allude to the warnings and guidance they were given at various points during their employment.

With enough coaching sessions, the termination meeting will have followed a ‘final consequence’ meeting, where you clearly spell out the objectives to be accomplished, the time frame in which to accomplish them, and most importantly, the consequence if the objectives are not met — i.e. the person will lose their job.

Document all of these coaching sessions in writing prior to the termination meeting. Don’t have documentation? Meet with HR and consider putting the person on a 30-, 60-, or 90-day performance plan before officially severing them from the company. This gives them a chance to actually improve, while providing you with the right paperwork if the person ultimately doesn’t.

The value of a performance improvement plan is, among other things, to ensure the employee doesn’t feel blindsided if they end up getting fired. In fairness to the person, termination should never come as a surprise (unless it’s due to an egregious act or part of corporate downsizing).

5. Keep your explanation short but specific.

When referencing the employee’s past performance, there’s a fine but important line between explaining why they’ve been terminated and simply making them feel worse. Keep your reason brief and clear.

For example, “We set [objective X] to be accomplished by [date Y] and unfortunately this wasn’t met.” More detailed feedback on this objective should have been given in performance reviews.

There are two reasons to keep the meeting short:

  1. You don’t want to get into an argument or long discussion. The decision has been made and is non-negotiable. While clear feedback is very important for growth, it should have already been given at this point.
  2. There’s no need to further hurt the person’s feelings. The employee may vent and ask questions, but just listen and repeat your concise message.

Don’t give a long list of failures. It will only pour salt in the wound, create resentment, and provoke an argument.

6. Listen and repeat your decision.

Despite your best attempts at making a termination quick and painless, you might still receive lengthy responses of rebuttals from the employee. That’s alright — they should feel willing to express themselves. What they shouldn’t feel is that the decision to fire them is still being made.

Listen to what your employee has to say and genuinely take heed in their feedback — this is probably a conversation you’ll have again in your career, and the employee’s viewpoint is valuable. But unless they offer any substantial evidence that there’s been a mistake, continue to reiterate that their employment is no longer needed.

7. Provide continued healthcare paperwork and related next steps.

Clearly define next steps with the terminated employee (yes, there are some important ones you need to take). The first is to clarify the effective date of termination; in many companies, this means immediately.

Then, communicate your severance policy, if you have one, and explain how the employee may continue their health insurance for a limited time after they leave. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 — commonly referred to as COBRA — allows terminated employees to extend their health insurance coverage after they depart. HR normally hands over COBRA paperwork during terminations, but it’s important that you show your awareness of this crucial step, too.

Once you’ve gone over each next step with the team member, identify who will accompany them back to their desk to gather their things.

8. Thank the employee for their services and wish them luck.

Your last step during a firing is to thank the person for the services. Don’t apologize, but say you wish things had worked out differently and extend best wishes for the future.

One last tip: Avoid Friday terminations. Monday is widely preferred because the employee can start making contacts more easily during the week.

Firing someone via a phone call isn’t ideal, but sometimes, the nature of their employment justifies it. Maybe they’re a remote employee who can’t easily travel to the office — and doing so just to lose their job would make the whole conversation even more off-putting. Perhaps they’re a freelancer for the company, and a short phone call is all that’s needed to take them out of your contractor rotation.

No matter the reason, there’s a right way to handle a termination over the phone.

1. Set up a phone meeting with the employee.

Just as you would for a face-to-face termination, make sure you set up a meeting with the employee in advance of the call — and make sure he or she is aware it’s taking place over the phone.

If you have the means, consider hosting the call via video chat instead, allowing you and the employee to see each other even if they’re not present in the room with you (it’s an integrity move, trust me).

As a gesture of courtesy, be the one to call the employee yourself, and let them know you’ll be the one to do so. Given the nature of the phone call, it’s more polite to do as much of the heavy-lifting to get the call off the ground, and having the employee call into their own termination can make you seem uninterested in what should have been a tough decision.

2. Have human resources present (and introduce them).

Make sure a member of your HR team is present on the call with you. But because the employee on the other end won’t know there’s three of you on the line, make sure you introduce the rep. HR might be speaking in this conversation too, and having them randomly interject without the employee knowing they were in the room can seem rude and negligent.

3. Have next steps and healthcare paperwork ready to email to the employee.

Before you call this employee, work with HR to get the proper next steps and COBRA healthcare paperwork ready to email to them after the call ends. Getting fired gives an employee a lot to chew on, and giving them all the resources they’ll need to land on their feet is crucial when they’re not in the room with you to receive this information.

4. Lead with the bad news.

You heard this advice in the above steps to firing someone in person. Well, the same principle applies to a phone-based termination. Always begin with the fact that the company is parting ways with the employee, whether that employee is in the room with you or not.

5. Reference performance goals and give the employee the floor to respond.

Alluding to the employee’s past performance goals, and how they were not reached, is just as important on a phone call as it is in person. But because the staff member can’t see how this conversation is unfolding, give them a verbal invitation to respond once you’ve informed them of the news.

6. Inform them that you’ll be sending a follow-up email.

Pending any evidence by the employee that their employment shouldn’t end, reiterate that the company has agreed this is the best decision for both parties.

To minimize resistance even more, and to keep the phone call moving in the right direction, inform the employee that you (or HR) will be sending them a follow-up email with all the necessary paperwork confirming their departure. This is also your opportunity to send an electronic COBRA healthcare document, allowing the employee to sustain their healthcare coverage for a limited time after employment. Give your HR rep the opportunity to comment on this document if they need to.

Does the employee have any belongings that are in the office with you? Ask the employee to confirm, and make a note on this email that you’ll mail each item to the employee at their desired address.

7. Thank the employee for their services and wish them luck.

Don’t linger too much just because it’s a phone call. It can be hard enough to bring conversations to a close over the phone, and while you want to give the employee time to react, you don’t want to leave too many awkward silences when they can’t see your reaction on the other end of the line (just another reason to have this meeting over video chat). Simply thank them very much for their services to the company and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

While termination is often the best thing for both parties in the end, it’s hard for most people to recognize this at the time. What the steps above help you do is dismiss your employee as considerately as possible. Compassion and making sure nothing in the meeting is a surprise are the keys to avoid burning bridges.

Concerns about litigation have tempered termination conversations and added another dimension of stress to these already challenging conversations. Nevertheless, I think it is important to express at the conclusion that you regret things worked out as they did and wish the person success in the future. When thinking about how to terminate an employee, keep your message objective but your tone human.

I started with the definition of termination — to bring to an end. Professionally, that is what you are doing. But the emotional tone you set — one of caring and respect — will make a difference in the short- and long-run. No matter how bad the team member has been, show you have heart.

This blog post has provided information designed to help our readers better understand the legal issues surrounding HR. But legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. Although we have conducted research to better ensure that our information is accurate and useful, we insist that you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is accurate. To clarify further, you may not rely upon this information as legal advice, nor as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular legal understanding, and you should instead regard this article as intended for entertainment purposes only.

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