Category Archives: Marketing Strategies

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.

Source

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

Source

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

[email protected]

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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9 VR Marketing Examples That You'll Want to Steal for 2019

I won’t lecture you on the importance of incorporating virtual reality (VR) into your marketing strategy.

What I will do, however, is share a few fun facts about VR and show you nine examples of this technology used for marketing a product or a brand.

  • By 2020, the economic impact of virtual and augmented reality is predicted to reach $29.5 billion.
  • By the end of 2017, the number of shipped units of VR software and hardware from Sony, Oculus, HTC, and others totaled $2.4 million, up from $1.7 million in 2016.
  • By 2020, the number of VR headsets sold is predicted to reach 82 million — a 1,507% increase from 2017 predicted totals.

VR is being adopted quickly, and adding it to your marketing channels is something you should definitely think about for the coming year.

What Is VR?

VR, short for virtual reality, is a form of interactive software that immerses users in a three-dimensional environment — usually by way of a headset with special lenses — to simulate a real experience. Ideally, VR allows people to simulate the experience in 360 degrees.

Numerous industries are now finding uses for VR in order to transport people to places they might otherwise have to travel to, or simply imagine. While movie companies, for example, are giving audiences the opportunity to experience the movie as if they’re a character in the scene, conventional businesses are now using VR to demonstrate and promote their products to potential customers.

Before we dive into some of the businesses that have found success injecting their marketing with a dose of VR, it’s worth noting that virtual reality has a few key differences from another term you might’ve heard before: augmented reality. Find out what these differences are in the video below.

Seeking inspiration for your own VR marketing campaign? Look no further. Below are nine of our favorite VR marketing campaigns and how they served the company’s marketing strategy.

1. Key Technology: VERYX Food Sorting

Key Technology, a manufacturer and designer of food processing systems, created a Virtual Reality demo that would allow attendees of the Pack Expo food packaging trade show to experience a detailed, hands-on look at how the company’s VERYX digital food sorting platform works. It was part of a comprehensive B2B campaign to grow brand awareness among a target audience of food manufacturers, and VR gave participants a highly unique look at what exactly the process looks like inside of the machine.

While this 360-degree video doesn’t completely replicate the experience, it does indicate the differentiating way brands within such B2B industries as manufacturing can leverage VR to immersively demonstrate their sophisticated technologies and capabilities.

2. Defy Ventures and Within: Step To The Line

When my colleague attended Oculus Connect in October, the most memorable experience for her was, by far, the event’s VR For Good exhibit: a showcase of creative work that used Oculus and VR technology for social- and mission-focused ventures.

One such example of that work was Step To The Line: A short film (that was immersively viewed on a VR headset) documenting the lives of inmates at California maximum-security prisons. It was created by Within, a VR storytelling production company, in partnership with Defy Ventures, an entrepreneurship and development program for men, women, and youth who are currently or were formerly incarcerated.

With this unique watching experience, viewers were able to uniquely see what life is like within the walls of these correctional facilities, from the yard, to the cells, to the conversations that take place there.

3. Limbic Life: Project VITALICS

For far too many people, injuries, age, and disease can diminish mobility and equilibrium to the point where walking ranges from extremely painful to nearly impossible.

That’s why the folks at Limbic Life created the Limbic Chair, in partnership with the VITALICS research being conducted by RehaClinic. Pairing this special chair with a Gear VR headset allows users to more intuitively move their bodies (thanks to the chair’s combined neuroscience-based and ergonomic design) while virtually experiencing day-to-day experiences with a rehabilitative use of their hands and legs.

While the research is still underway and no definitive conclusions have been drawn, my coworker had the opportunity to use the chair at the 2017 Samsung Developer Conference and speak with the chair’s creator, Dr. Patrik Künzler.

“Patients enjoy being in the chair and the freedom of movement it allows. They enjoy VR a lot, especially the flying games,” he told Samsung Business Insights. And not only can the VR technology help them physically heal, but it also contributes to emotional rehabilitation.

“When they get up from the chair,” Künzler said, “they’re in a good mood and feel happy.”

Learn more about the conceptualization behind the Limbic Chair from Künzler’s TEDxZurich talk below.

4. Lowe’s: Holoroom How To

Anyone who’s gone through the existential angst of being a first-time buyer knows the unfathomable power of paperwork and finances to undermine the fun of designing or decorating a new home.

That is, until you walk into one of 19 Lowe’s stores that features the Holoroom How To VR experience.

Some homeowners are lucky enough to pay a professional to renovate their home when it needs to be. For others — Lowe’s core buyer — the next stop is the world of do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement, which comes with its own hefty dose of stress.

That’s why Lowe’s decided to step in and help out homeowners — or recreational DIY enthusiasts — with a virtual skills-training clinic that uses HTC Vive headsets that guides participants through a visual, educational experience on the how-to of home improvement.

5. Boursin: The Sensorium

One of my colleagues recently pledged to give up dairy — okay, 48 hours ago — and she already claims to miss cheese, a lot.

You can imagine her happiness, then, when she discovered that the cheese brand Boursin once created a VR experience to take users on a multi-sensory journey through a refrigerator to shed light on its products’ flavor profiles, food pairings, and recipe ideas.

The goal: to raise awareness among U.K. consumers of Boursin’s distinct taste and product selection.

While the VR installment was part of a live experiential marketing campaign, the rest of us can get a taste — pun intended — of the virtual experience via this YouTube video.

6. Adidas: Delicatessen

In 2017, Adidas partnered with Somewhere Else, an emerging tech marketing agency, to follow the mountain-climbing journey of two extreme athletes sponsored by TERREX (a division of Adidas).

And what good is mountain climbing to an audience if you can’t give them a 360-degree view of the journey?

Viewers were able to follow the climbers, Ben Rueck and Delaney Miller, literally rock for rock and climb along with them. You heard that right — Using a VR headset and holding two sensory remote controls in each hand, viewers could actually scale the mountain of Delicatessen right alongside Rueck and Miller.

This VR campaign, according to Somewhere Else, served to “find an unforgettable way to market TERREX, [Adidas’s] line of outdoor apparel & accessories.” What the company also did, however, was introduce viewers to an activity they might have never tried otherwise. Instill an interest in the experience first, and the product is suddenly more appealing to the user.

Check out the campaign’s trailer below.

7. Toms: Virtual Giving Trip

Toms, a popular shoe company, is well known for donating one pair of shoes to a child in need every time a customer buys their own pair. Well, this charitable developer found a new way to inspire its customers to give — wearing a VR headset.

The Toms Virtual Giving Trip is narrated by Blake Mycoskie, the founder and Chief Shoe Giver of Toms, and one of his colleagues.

As they describe the story of Toms’ founding, their VR experience takes viewers on a trip through Peru, where Blake and the shoe-giving team visit a school of children who are about to receive the shoes they need for the first time.

What Toms’ VR campaign does so well is something cause-driven organizations all over the world struggle to do: Show donors exactly where their money is going. Even without a VR headset, the video below gives you an experience that’s intimate enough to put Toms on your list for your next shoe purchase.

8. DP World: Caucedo Facilities Tour

DP World is a global trade company that helps businesses transport goods around the world. As the company opens new terminals, however, they need a way to show their customers what DP World’s property has to offer.

DP World’s recently opened Caucedo facility in the Dominican Republic is just one of several DP World properties that uses VR to promote its large and often mysterious ships and land masses as they suddenly appear in a community.

Is trade logistics a sexy industry? Not to everyone. But that’s exactly why a 360-degree tour of DP World’s terminal is so valuable here. Show people just how efficient, safe, and crucial these properties are to certain businesses — without making them put on a hardhat and walk through the port itself — and you can gain massive community support.

9. TopShop: Catwalk VR Experience

Just because you couldn’t attend TopShop’s fashion show during London’s Fashion Week doesn’t mean you couldn’t still “be there.”

TopShop, a women’s fashion retailer, partnered with Inition, an emerging tech agency, to give customers a “virtual” seat of their fashion show by wearing a VR headset connected to the event as it was happening.

The groundbreaking campaign put viewers right next to the fashion runway and the seats of the celebrities who were attending. Talk about making sure your brand is inclusive …

Check out the video below, recapping the experience.

Want to see how other emerging technologies will impact your marketing? Check out A Practical Approach to Emerging Tech for SMBs: AI, Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, IoT, and AR/VR.

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19 of the Best Personal Websites to Inspire Your Own

Some refer to it as a full-time job in itself. Others compare it to dating. And several cats over at BuzzFeed think it just plain stinks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you’re applying for a job, you’re typically asked to submit a resume and cover letter, or maybe your LinkedIn profile. But there are better ways to stand out from your competition, and building a personal website is one of them.

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Why You Need a Personal Website

Here’s the thing about resumes and cover letters: No matter how unique you try to make your own, for the most part, they tend to read dry. And there’s a good reason for it: It’s supposed to be a single, no-frills page that documents your work experience. And while being concise is good, there’s very little opportunity to convey your uniqueness, or for your personality to shine through at all for that matter.

While a resume is a sole, largely unchanging document, a personal website can be customized and updated according to what you’re working on, or what you want to emphasize. It’s both fluid and current.

Overall, a personal website can serve different goals, but perhaps what it does best is provide you with an opportunity to tell your story. And with 53% of employers reporting that the resume alone did not provide enough information to determine if the candidate would be a good fit, that storytelling element can really help to improve your odds.

If you’re thinking about creating a personal website of your very own, check out the examples below that hit the nail on the head.

Resumes

Whether you create a single-page site or a larger portfolio, the web resume serves as a more personalized option for sharing information and demonstrating your technological skills — and it can be used by all types of job seekers.

Even if you have very little work experience, you can leverage a website to build a better picture of your capabilities and yourself as a candidate, while leaning on your traditional resume to provide the basic background information.

1. Gary Sheng

Personal website of Gary Sheng with a picture of him on the homepage followed by details of his resume

Unlike a standard resume document, Sheng’s website makes it easy for him to include logos and clickable links that allow his software engineering and web development skills to shine.

We love that visitors can choose to scroll down his page to view all of the website’s categories (“About Me,” “My Passion,” etc.), or jump to a specific page using the top navigation.

The “My System” section reads like a company mission statement, and this personal touch helps humanize his work and make him more memorable.

2. Raf Derolez

Personal website of Raf Derolez with black background and large white font creatively outlining his resume

Derolez’s web resume is modern, cool, and informative. It shows off his personality, branding, and developing skills in a way that’s still very simple and clear. Not to mention, his use of unique fonts and geometric overlays ascribes personality to his name in an eye-catching way.

Want to get in touch with Derolez? Simply click the CTA located at the bottom of the page to open up an email that’s pre-addressed directly to him. Or select one of the social media links to connect with him on platforms like Twitter — where the look and feel of the visual assets happens to seamlessly align with the branding of his website. Well played, Derolez.

Twitter profile of Raf Derolez

3. Brandon Johnson

Personal website of Brandon Johnson with black and white resume and space theme

Johnson’s incredible resume must be seen to be believed. Beautiful images of planets help to complement his planetary science background, and animations make his resume more of an experience than a document.

In terms of design, the textured, multi-layered background adds greater depth to the two-dimensional page in a way that evokes feelings of space and the planetary systems, which Johnson’s work focuses on.

4. Quinton Harris

Personal website of Quinton Harris with resume details including personal photography and storytelling

Harris’ resume uses photos to tell his personal story — and it reads kind of like a cool, digital scrapbook. It covers all the bases of a resume — and then some — by discussing his educational background, work experience, and skills in a highly visual way.

Not to mention, the copy is fantastic. It’s clear that Harris took the time to carefully choose the right words to describe each step of his personal and professional journey. For example, the section on storytelling reads:

NYC, my new home, is filled with the necessary secrets to not only propel my craft forward, but my identity as an artist. With every lens snapped and every pixel laid, I am becoming me.

Finally, at the final navigational point (note the scrolling circles on the left-hand side of the page), users are redirected to quintonharris.com, where he goes on to tell his story in more detail.

Website homepage of Quinton Harris that says 'Griot in Training' across the front

5. Sean Halpin

Personal website of web designer Sean Halpin with soft white and green colors and personal avatar

Halpin’s resume is short, sweet, and to the point, which is authentic to his voice and personal branding outlined on the site. The white space allows his designs and copy to pop and command the reader’s attention, which helps to improve readability — especially on mobile devices:

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Best Practices for Resume Websites

  1. Code your resume so it can be crawled by search engines.
  2. Offer a button to download your resume in PDF so the hiring manager can add it to your file.
  3. Keep branding consistent between the website and document versions: Use similar fonts, colors, and images so you’re easy to recognize.
  4. Be creative and authentic to yourself. Think about the colors, images, and media you want to be a part of your story that you couldn’t include in a document resume.

Portfolios

Building an online portfolio is a highly useful personal branding and marketing tool if your work experience and skill set call for content creation. In fact, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, writers, and content marketers can all use web portfolios to show off their skills in a more user-friendly way than a resume or hard copy portfolio.

6. Tony D’Orio

Personal portfolio website of Tony D'Orio showing portraits of people

It’s important to keep the design of your visual portfolio simple to let images capture visitors’ attention, and D’Orio accomplishes this by featuring bold photographs front-and-center on his website. His logo and navigation menu are clear and don’t distract from his work. And he makes it easy for potential customers to download his work free of charge.

Want to give it a try? Click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner, then select + Create a PDF to select as many images as you’d like to download.

Link to create a PDF from Tony D'Orio's personal online portfolio, featuring tiled images of his photography

Once you open the PDF, you’ll notice that it comes fully equipped with D’Orio’s business card as the cover … just in case you need it.

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7. Gari Cruze

Personal website portfolio of Gari Cruze with tiled images of his photography and links to his work

Cruze is a copywriter. But by turning his website into a portfolio featuring images from different campaigns he’s worked on, he makes visitors want to keep clicking to learn more about him. Also, there’s a great CTA at the top of the page that leads visitors to his latest blog post.

His site’s humorous copy — specifically in the “17 Random Things” and “Oh Yes, They’re Talking” sections — serves to show off his skills, while making himself more memorable as well. These pages also include his contact information on the right-hand side, making it easy to reach out and connect at any point:

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8. Melanie Daveid

Personal website portfolio of Melanie Daveid with script font and simple illustration theme

Daveid’s website is a great example of “less is more.”

This developer’s portfolio features clear, well-branded imagery of campaigns and apps that Daveid worked on, and she shows off her coding skills when you click through to see the specifics of her work.

While it might seem overly minimal to only include three examples of her work, Daveid did her portfolio a service by including her best, most noteworthy campaigns. At the end of the day, it’s better to have fewer examples of excellence in your portfolio than many examples of mediocrity.

9. The Beast Is Back

Personal website portfolio of The Beast Is Back, also known as Christopher Lee, with tiled images of colorful design work

Christopher Lee’s portfolio is busy and colorful in a way that works. When you read more about Lee on his easily navigable site, you realize that such a fun and vibrant homepage is perfect for an illustrator and toy designer.

Known by his brand name, “The Beast Is Back,” Lee’s web portfolio highlights eye-catching designs with recognizable brands, such as Target and Mario, along with links to purchase his work. This is another gallery-style portfolio with pops of color that make it fun and give it personality, thus making it more memorable.

10. Daniel Grindrod

This freelance videographer is another example of a simple but sleek portfolio, organizing the many types of media Daniel’s done into the categories by which his potential clients would likely want to browse. The opening video spot on the homepage — labeled “Daniel Grindrod 2018,” as shown on the still image — also ensures his site visitors that he’s actively creating beautiful work.

daniel-grindrod-portfolio

Best Practices for Portfolio Websites

  1. Use mainly visuals. Even if you’re showcasing your written work, using logos or other branding is more eye-catching for your visitors.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your personality, style, and sense of humor could be what sets you apart from other sites!
  3. Organization is key. If your portfolio is full of photos, logos, and other images, make sure it’s easy for visitors to navigate to where they can contact you.
  4. Brand yourself. Choose a logo or icon to make your information easily identifiable.

Blogs

Consistently publishing on a blog is a great way to attract attention on social media and search engines — and drive traffic to your site. Blogging is a smart way to give your work a personality, chronicle your experiences, and stretch your writing muscles. You might write a personal blog if you’re a writer by trade, but virtually anyone can benefit from adding a blog to their site and providing useful content for their audience.

11. Everywhereist

Personal blog of Everywhereist with green and red homepage

This blog looks a bit busier, but its consistent branding helps visitors easily navigate the site. The travel blog uses globe iconography to move visitors around the site, making it easy to explore sections beyond the blog.

It also features a “Best Of” section that allows new visitors to learn about what the blog covers to get acclimated. The color scheme is warm, neutral, and free of excess clutter that could distract from the content.

12. fifty coffees

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The website fifty coffees chronicles the author’s series of coffee meetings in search of her next job opportunity, and it does a great job of using photography and visuals to assist in the telling of her lengthy stories.

The best part? Each post ends with numbered takeaways from her meetings for ease of reading comprehension. The high-quality photography used to complement the stories is like icing on the cake.

13. Minimalist Baker

Personal food blog of Minimalist Baker with yellow and white website theme

I’m not highlighting Dana’s food blog just because the food looks delicious and I’m hungry. Her blog uses a simple white background to let her food photography pop, unique branding to make her memorable, and mini-bio to personalize her website.

14. Kendra Schaefer

Personal blog of Kendra Schaefer

Kendra’s blog is chock-full of information about her life, background, and professional experience, but she avoids overwhelming visitors by using a light background and organizing her blog’s modules to minimize clutter. She also shares links to additional writing samples, which bolsters her writing authority and credibility.

15. Mr. Money Mustache

Personal finance blog of Mr. Money Mustache with wood themed background and illustrated logo

Mr. Money Mustache might take on an old-school, Gangs of New York-style facade, but his blog design — and the advice the blog offers — couldn’t be more fresh (he also doesn’t really look like that).

This financial blog is a funny, browsable website that offers sound insight into money management for the layperson. While his personal stories help support the legitimacy of his advice, the navigation links surrounding his logo make it easy to jump right into his content without any prior context around his brand.

Best Practices for Blogs

  1. Keep your site simple and clutter-free to avoid additional distractions beyond blog posts.
  2. Publish often. Company blogs that publish more than 16 posts per months get nearly 3.5X the web traffic of blogs that published less than four posts per month.
  3. Experiment with different blog styles, such as lists, interviews, graphics, and bullets.
  4. Employ visuals to break up text and add context to your discussion.

Demos

Another cool way to promote yourself and your skills is to create a personal website that doubles as a demonstration of your coding, design, illustration, or developer skills. These sites can be interactive and animated in a way that provides information about you and also shows hiring managers why they should work with you. This is a great website option for technical and artistic content creators such as developers, animators, UX designers, website content managers, and illustrators.

16. Albino Tonnina

Personal demo of web developer Albino Tonnina with animated homepage showing his work

Tonnina is showcasing advanced and complicated web development skills, but the images and icons he uses are still clear and easy to understand. He also offers a simple option to view his resume at the beginning of his site, for those who don’t want to scroll through the animation.

17. Robby Leonardi

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Leonardi’s incredible demo website uses animation and web development skills to turn his portfolio and resume into a video game for site visitors. The whimsical branding and unique way of sharing information ensure that his site is memorable to visitors.

18. Samuel Reed

Personal demo of Samuel Reed with plain code themed homepage

Reed uses his page as a start-to-finish demo of how to code a website. His website starts as a blank white page and ends as a fully interactive site that visitors can watch him code themselves. The cool factor makes this website memorable, and it makes his skills extremely marketable.

19. Devon Stank

Personal demo of Devon Stank with black homepage and 'Let's Build Something Amazing Together' written across the front

Stank’s demo site does a great job of showing that he has the web design chops and it takes it a step further by telling visitors all about him, his agency, and his passions. It’s the perfect balance of a demo and a mini-resume.

Plus, we love the video summary. It’s a consumable summary that at once captures Stank’s personality and credentials.

Best Practices for Demo Websites

  1. Brand yourself and use consistent logos and colors to identify your name and your skills amongst the bevy of visuals.
  2. Don’t overwhelm your visitors with too many visuals at once — especially if your demo is animated. Be sure to keep imagery easy to understand so visitors aren’t bombarded when they visit your site.

The Ultimate Guide to Viral Campaigns

  

“He once ran a marathon because it was on his way. Sharks have a week dedicated to him. Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect.”

Have you heard of him before? Yes, he’s “The Most Interesting Man in the World”— a fictional character that drinks Dos Equis beer and stars in the company’s viral commercials.

The commercials — which make me laugh every time — are part advertisement, part comedy skit and have a similar theme so fans always know when they’re watching a Dos Equis advertisement.

The company targets its audience of sophisticated beer drinkers in an engaging, creative, and humorous way through TV, social media, and YouTube. The unique campaign created fans around the world that helped spread it across multiple platforms, so much so that people even dress up as the commercial’s main character for Halloween

Dos Equis may not have been 100% sure that their campaign would take off the way it did, but they had a good idea about its potential popularity. 

Similarly, there is no guaranteed way to ensure your content goes viral, but there are certain steps you can take to give your marketing campaign the best chance at success.

 

Many marketers hope for a campaign to go viral — meaning it’s recognized, widely-accepted, and influential. But there’s no guaranteed formula. However, if you think about some of your favorite viral marketing campaigns, you’ll notice some common features. Marketers wanting to reach a bigger audience should keep these attributes in mind when creating their next campaign:

1. It appeals to a target audience.

A successful viral marketing campaign considers the target audience. For any campaign to go viral, it needs to resonate with the audience and make them feel so strongly about your content that they decide to share it with their family, friends, and followers.

Determine who your target audience is in the earliest stages of your campaign creation. To achieve this, ask questions such as: Who do I want to connect with? What content would they feel passionate about? What are their hopes, dreams, and values? Why would they care about my campaign? What will can I do to make them want to share my content with their social network?

2. It has a strong visual strategy.

Viral marketing campaigns require a visual strategy — this guides potential customers to understand your brand through the use of images.

A campaign should tell a story and that story is best told using visual elements that resonate with your audience. Your visual strategy needs to be compatible with your brand and target audience — it should be interesting, informative, and contain some element of intrigue, such as humor or hope.

3. It’s highly creative.

Think about your favorite viral marketing campaign. What sets it apart from others?

Marketing campaigns don’t go viral unless they have a unique, interesting, and innovative idea behind them — your campaign needs to be something new and attention-grabbing.

4. It has emotional appeal. 

Have you seen the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign? It makes you feel frustrated, insecure, strong, and confident in just a few minutes.

Each commercial shows a person sitting behind a curtain describing their appearance while an artist — who cannot see them — draws their portrait. After the individual is done describing his or her features and the portrait is complete, the curtain is removed. The artist then draws a second portrait of the individual based off what they actually see.

After the second portrait is finished, the artist places the two drawings next to each other. As you can probably imagine, the portrait derived from the individual’s self-description is less attractive than what the artist draws in the second portrait.

In fact, in each video throughout the campaign, the portrait that the artist creates is a much brighter and more realistic depiction of the individual. This is a message about self-esteem and the beauty within all of us.

The campaign went viral because of its relatability and emotional appeal. You need to make your audience feel something — otherwise, why would they want to share your content?

5. It’s easy to share and promote.

Thanks to the internet and social media, sharing and promoting your content with the rest of the world is pretty simple. You don’t need huge sums of money to produce successful photo or video content that can be consumed by the greater population. 

For something to actually go viral, it needs to be shared over and over again. This means you and your company need to share the content first in as many places — and in as many ways — as possible. Then, you need to make it easy for your audience to share it as well.

Enable sharing, embedding, and downloading capabilities on all of your content so your viewers can tag their parents on Facebook, message their best friends on Instagram, or download your video so they can easily turn your content into a memorable GIF. Create calls-to-action or elements that encourage people to send it to their friends. 

Think about asking a celebrity to promote your content if an influencer would fit with your overall message and add value to your campaign. For example, viewers may find your insurance commercial more entertaining and share-worthy if Peyton Manning or Brad Paisley are singing.

6. It’s published at the right time.

You should also consider the date and time that you share your content. Marketers use major holidays — such as Christmas — as well as major events, like the presidential race and the Super Bowl, to their advantage.

More people are scrolling through their social media feeds, watching TV, and keeping up with current events during these times which causes marketers to spend more money on their campaigns. 

Similarly, anyone who uses a platform like Instagram knows what I’m talking about when I say the date and time of your posts matter.

For example, if you post on a Saturday at 8 p.m., most people are out at dinner, seeing a movie, or just hanging out with friends — meaning they are most likely not browsing their newsfeed … at least not as much as they do on Tuesdays

After all of this sharing and promoting, you need to wait and see whether or not people latch onto your content. If so, you could have created a viral campaign. If not, you may have to try again.

Read this blog to learn about the reasons why some older campaigns stand the test of time.

The Advantages of Viral Marketing Campaigns

Creating a viral marketing campaign isn’t an easy or predictable achievement. But if your campaign does go viral, it can mean thousands or even millions of new people being introduced to your brand and buying your products — money in the bank!

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s campaign video went viral, which made them a household name. They were then acquired by Unilever for $1 billion — not bad.

Here are a few more advantages of producing viral content:

1. They can build your brand.

When a marketing campaign goes viral, your audience automatically learns about your company, products, services, and brand. This includes people who may not have ever heard about your company otherwise. This is how some small companies make their “big break” and how large companies stay relevant.

2. They don’t require a large budget.

Some of the most successful viral content is created on a low budget. These days, individuals and companies of any size can film high-quality video and take professional-looking photos all on an iPhone.

Many content creators, or people who simply upload a random video, have found themselves become famous almost overnight. It’s not about the resources and budget — it’s all about what catches the attention of the internet. Marketers don’t always need a large-scale production with a celebrity to make their campaign funny, surprising, relatable, or informational. 

Fun fact:Jonathan Goldsmith, the man behind the “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials, had only done a few gigs prior getting his big break when the campaign went viral. 

3. They get your brand in front of a new (and larger) audience.

Campaigns are considered “viral” when they have a large reach. Companies may experience an increase in sales, greater engagement on social media, and a boost in conversation about their brand and products.

This is exactly what happened for Smart Water when they brought Jennifer Aniston on board for their campaign in 2012. The video has over 6 million views on YouTube, and their humorous campaigns have done so well with the public that Aniston was featured in them through 2017.

3 of the Most Famous Viral Campaigns

Now that we have reviewed the features of successful viral campaigns and how to launch one yourself, let’s dive into some of the most popular viral campaigns ever created.

Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

Old Spice found that women are the ones to purchase men’s personal hygiene products, so they created an ad that spoke directly to this audience.

The “Old Spice Man” talks directly to the audience in a bold, confident, and humorous way. He tells women that anything is possible when your man uses Old Spice — all while he sails the ocean shirtless, turns sports tickets into diamonds, and rides a white horse on the beach.

This campaign went viral because … well … humor works. It was so successful that it even increased sales for the brand. The commercial has received over 55 million views on YouTube, won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial at the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards, and won the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

ALS: “Ice Bucket Challenge”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge began four years ago and was created to raise awareness for the debilitating disease. For the challenge, you had to pour ice cold water over your entire body and then nominate a friend to do the same. This became a movement that raised $115 million in the summer of 2014 alone. Because … who doesn’t want to watch a family member or friend pour freezing cold water on their head?

Celebrities from around the world started participating, challenging their famous friends, donating, and raising awareness. There was an Ice Bucket Challenge hashtag that gained popularity allowing for the videos to spread easily over multiple social media channels.

Most importantly — the challenge is fun and makes participants feel like a part of a bigger movement, which is why it remains relevant years later.

Always “#LikeAGirl”

This video became a major hit because it directly addressed how phrases that are so commonly used can be detrimental to someone’s self image and confidence. In the video, various men, women, and young boys are asked to “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl”. Then young girls are asked to do the same, with a very different approach: They show strength and confidence in their movements. 

It made viewers recognize how quickly we use female-oriented phrases as insults, and that doing something #LikeAGirl should be seen as inspiring and brave. 

The original TV commercial that came out in 2014 has over 65-million views on Youtube, and the hashtag — #LikeAGirl — remains popular today.

For more great examples of viral video marketing campaigns, check out this blog.

Conclusion

There is no roadmap for making your content “go viral.” You can review what has been successful in the past and try to emulate this, but ultimately, it’s about creating great content that connects with your audience and makes them want to share it. Do this, and you just might find that your brand is the one everyone is talking about. 

What You Missed This Month in Google

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching Labor Day weekend here in the U.S. — the unofficial “end” of summer — but alas, here we are, with another recap of the month’s top Google news items.

What You Missed Last Month in Google

1. The Big August Algorithm Update

Google globally rolled out a core algorithm update on August 1 — nicknamed, according to Search Engine Land (SEL), the “Medic Update.”

While Google hasn’t confirmed what percentage or type of pages have been impacted by the update, SEL’s analysis points to sites concerning health and lifestyle showing the greatest shift — specifically, those “that offer medical or health information that could impact your physical well-being” or “offering advice on major life decisions, such as pages on parenting, purchasing a home, a vehicle and so on.”

These are often referred to as “your money or your life” pages [YMYL], which Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines define as sites that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”

Here’s a look at the top 20 “losing” sites following the algorithm — many of which offer alternative or so-called “natural” health advice:

Source: Sistrix

As with all of Google’s algorithm updates, the change was likely made to improve the quality of Google’s search results. Read full story >>

2. Mr. Page Is Cordially Invited

Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has been formally invited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to testify at a September hearing on foreign influence on social media.

Should Page accept, he will testify alongside Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the topic.

Hearing details for the foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms

Source: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Media Advisory

This visit to Washington, D.C. is the latest for many Silicon Valley executives over the past year, especially since it was discovered that social media sites were weaponized by Russian actors to spread misinformation and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Since then, Facebook has uncovered similar election interference activity on its site — and all three companies (Google, Twitter, and Facebook) recently purged several accounts from their sites after discovering coordinated misinformation campaigns based in Iran.

Google has not yet confirmed if Page will appear at the hearing, which is scheduled for September 5. Read full story >>

3. The Pixel 3 Is (Probably) Coming

Earlier this month, The Verge reported that Google is likely to release the latest generations of its Pixel smartphones — the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL — and that it’s rumored to do so a major press event this fall.

The official product announcement, it’s speculated, will take place on October 9 in New York.

But for reasons unknown, the Pixel 3 XL has been plagued with leaks ranging from product photos to an official “unboxing” video.

Why so many product launch leaks? Apparently, a number of units were stolen and sold on the Ukrainian black market for a cool $2,000 each. (The actual price of the Pixel 3 XL is yet to be determined, but the current generation — the Pixel 2 — currently retails for $649.) Read full story >>

4. Make Google Say It

Earlier this week, Google announced a number of updates to its Cloud Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text technologies — namely, that its WaveNet machine learning capabilities can now translate written text to spoken work 17 new (less robotic-sounding) voices, as well as new languages.

Another update: the ability of users to optimize the audio output for wherever it’ll be played — like speakers or headphones.

Want to take it for a spin? You can do so right here.

Meanwhile, with speech-to-text, TechCrunch reports that it’s now easier to transcribe multi-person conversations, like a meeting or conference where several people might be speaking at once. Those different voices can now be distinguished by the technology — as long as you let it know how many different voices exist within the audio sample. Read full story >>

5. Good News

Google Assistant has a new skill — and it’s sharing news that’s a bit more, well, feel-good than some recent dominating headlines.

With a simple command of, “Hey Google, tell me something good,” Assistant users can get the day’s roundup of positive news stories. (In its official statement, Google used the example of beekeepers who are helping to recover the bee population in Detroit.)

The stories are curated — from a vast range of news sources, the company says — by the Solutions Journalism Network, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of fighting “negative news fatigue.” Read full statement >>

Until Next Month

As always, we’re watching all things Google. We’ll continue to pick out top news items, algorithm updates, and trends.

See you next month, and until then — have a fabulous rest of the summer.

Featured image credit: Google

27 Fun Corporate Team-Building Activities & Outing Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Starting to notice some droopy shoulders around the office? Sounds like it’s time to plan a team outing.

Team outings are a great way to facilitate bonding with your team members, reduce employee stress, and give them the chance to get to know one another outside of the office.

And, you know, they’re really fun.

But how do you find ideas for a great team outing? Maybe you start with a Google search for “team outing ideas” and stumble upon an article that suggests “field trips” and “professional development activities.” Sounds like a starting point, but where’s the real excitement?

Next time you plan an outing for your team, cut the trust falls and get one of these ideas on the calendar instead.

Large Group Games

1. Scavenger Hunt

Find a beautiful day, break everyone out into groups, and have a scavenger hunt around the city. You can organize one yourself, or use an app like Stray Boots. Your team will feel nice and rejuvenated after some fresh air and fun challenges. Be sure to take plenty of silly pictures — you can even have a slideshow when everyone regroups at the end.

Four people on a scavenger hunt, a team building activity for large groups

2. What’s My Name?

You might have seen this game played before. It goes by different names, and the more people who play, the better it is.

What’s My Name is an activity where each player is assigned the name of a person — dead or alive — and displays that name on their back, head, or part of their body such that only the other players can read the name. You can write these names on index cards or Post-it notes. Once everyone has been assigned a name, the players mingle with one another, treating their coworkers the way they’d treat the person listed on that coworker’s card. They can also ask questions about their own hidden identity until they correctly guess who they are.

What’s My Name has no complicated rules or potential for competitiveness. It’s simply an empathy-builder — a critical ingredient of good company culture — allowing employees to find out what it would be like to be treated the way someone very different from them might be treated every day.

3. Cook-Off

Here’s a culinary team-building activity that could end in dessert or disaster — in a fun way. Creating new dishes together requires creativity and will require everyone to put their team and leadership skills into action. Divide your team into smaller teams, pick a food category, and challenge each team to whip up something delicious. The category could be anything from ice cream, to salsa, to pizza.

One fun twist you could add? Pick a single ingredient that all teams must use, like maple syrup or Oreos. Or, have each team get creative with the shape of its food — you can make pizzas into almost any shape.

Group of female coworkers in an ice cream cook-off

Source: Teambonding.com

4. Sneak a Peek

What do you get when you add a test of memory to a game of pictionary? Sneak a Peek. In this game, people break off into groups of at least four and take turns recreating objects from memory.

Using LEGOs, clay, building blocks, or a similar set of construction items, one game leader will craft an object or structure for every group to recreate. A member of each group then has 10 seconds to “sneak a peek” at the structure (which is concealed from view), return to their groups, and describe what they saw to their group members so they can recreate it.

Each group has their own LEGOs, clay, or building blocks. If after a minute of recreating the structure, it isn’t complete, another member of each group sneaks a 10-second peek at the game leader’s object and comes back to further instruct the group. This rotation continues until a group is confident they have recreated the item. The object of the game? Be the first group to recreate it.

Not only does this game help employees practice project management, but it shows you how to accomplish tasks using input from a variety of sources. It’s also just a fun way to see how good your coworkers are at retaining information.

5. Board Game Tournament

Here’s one way to spark your team members’ competitive sides without having to leave the office. Organize a team-wide board game tournament. Especially if your team is pretty big, it might be easiest to pick a single game, then have people sign up for specific time slots when they’re free to leave their desks and spend some time playing the game.

Some great games with reasonable play times include Boggle, Jenga, or even games using good ol’ playing cards. Don’t forget to incentivize with prizes for first, second, and third place.

Three male coworkers playing in a board game tournament

Source: Glassdoor

6. Office Trivia

Who says trivia night only takes places at the bar? Office trivia is the perfect way to bring a large group of colleagues together and challenge the brain in areas that don’t necessarily apply to their daily jobs. Break the company into teams of four or more and offer small prizes for the teams who score the most points.

Want to write your own trivia questions? For reference, trivia questions are generally sorted into categories — four or five trivia questions per category — with optional bonus questions at the end of the game. While you can give each question a point value, you can also assign each team a certain amount of points per category that they can bet, instead. Each team can then bet as many or as few points as they want per question until they’ve used all their points for that category.

Not prepared to create your own trivia questions? Hire a trivia organization to host a trivia night at your office. There are tons of national trivia companies who’d be happy to host an event right on site — District Trivia, The Trivia Factory, and the Big Quiz Thing are just a few of them.

Small Group Activities

7. Improv Workshop

Comedy and improv events are fun, interactive experiences that’ll have your employees roaring with laughter while teaching them useful communication and soft skills, like focus and trust. Depending on your budget, you could do anything from simply playing improv games with your employees to bringing in professionals to run competitive, fast-paced activities.

Improv workshop with a small group of coworkers

Source: Al-Jazeera

8. Two Truths and a Lie

This is a classic house party game, but it’s also an excellent icebreaker when integrating coworkers who don’t yet know one another.

Two Truths and a Lie is simple: Start by organizing the group into a circle and give each person the floor to introduce themselves. In addition to giving their name, however, each employee also says three things about themselves — only two of which are true. It’s up to everyone else in the circle to guess which statement is the lie.

9. Karaoke Night

What better way to get your employees to break out of their shells than to have them get up and sing some karaoke? You can even have a contest for best group karaoke performance. Bonus points if there are feather boas and cowboy hats involved. This works best for a more extroverted group, so if your team isn’t into strutting their stuff on stage, consider an idea on this list that caters more toward those personalities.

Head of a microphone used for karaoke night, a team building activity for companies

Source: derekgavey

10. The “Suddenly” Story

If you’ve ever told stories around a campfire, you might have told a variation of The “Suddenly” Story. This activity is the choose-your-own-adventure book of team building activities. You’re not just telling a story — you’re piecing a story together using the (often hilarious) imaginations of your coworkers.

To tell The “Suddenly” Story, gather your team in a circle, and offer the opening three sentences to a story about anything. At the end of the three sentences, say “Suddenly …” and pass the story onto the person next to you. It’s their job to take your three sentences and build on the story with another three sentences, followed by “Suddenly …” Each mention of “Suddenly” allows the story to take a turn. What that turn looks like is up to the next person in the circle.

The “Suddenly” Story helps people find ways of building on content that came before them, while also being creative when all ears are on them. Try it the next time you want to get your department together for a break, and you’re sure to get everyone laughing.

11. Go-Kart Racing

Nothing like a little competition to bond a group together. An adrenaline-pumping event like kart racing is a great way to get employees to interact with one another in a totally new and fun way. Just make sure everyone pays attention during the safety lecture.

Small group of coworkers going go-kart racing in red uniforms

12. Concentration (Marketing Edition)

Here’s a professional spin on the 1960s game show. The original game show, called Concentration, put 30 numbered tiles up on a board, each tile with an identical tile somewhere else on the board. What made them identical? They had matching prizes on the back. Over time, as contestants opened up more tiles, they had the opportunity select tiles they knew would match up and win the prize written on the back.

Businesses — especially marketing departments — can have a field day putting logos, slogans, and company names on the back of their own tiles and having players match up every piece of the brand. As your business grows, you can even put the names of your own products, employees, and job titles on the backs of your tiles to see how well your coworkers know the company they work for.

Teamwork Games

13. Professional Development Workshop

Want to encourage your employees to bond while providing them with an opportunity to learn and further their career? Offer a shared learning experience either at your office, or at an off-site workshop or conference. The activity could be specifically related to your employees’ jobs, or it could be something broader, like a negotiation or leadership skills workshop.

Coworkers sitting around a lecturer hosting a professional development workshop

14. Jigsaw Puzzle Race

Jigsaw puzzles can be a tedious thing to put together alone. Maybe you have one set up at home and make progress on it for a couple of hours every weekend. Put your numerous brilliant colleagues on the case, however, and a jigsaw puzzle becomes a fun problem-solving challenge. Break the company into teams for a multi-puzzle race, and suddenly you have a test of teamwork that electrifies the entire office.

Grab several copies of the same jigsaw puzzle and turn your weekend activity into a contest to see which team can complete the puzzle first. Offer prizes just like you would in a game of office trivia. Just be sure each team has the same number of people and choose your puzzle size wisely. A 1000-piece puzzle, for example, might be a bit time-consuming for a team of just five or six people.

15. Room Escape Games

Here’s a great bonding activity that requires leadership skills, teamwork, logic, and patience. Room escape games — Escape the Room, Puzzle Break, AdventureRooms, etc. — have become a wildly popular team-building exercise for groups around the globe.

Here’s how it works: A group of people gets “locked” in a room for one hour. During that one hour, they have to find hidden objects, solve puzzles, and figure out clues to locate the key that will set them free. And it’s not easy: Only 20% of players actually make it out before the hour is up.

Escape the Room

Source: Escape the Room St. Louis

16. The Egg Drop Challenge

Chances are, you played this in school or summer camp. The Egg Drop Challenge is a beloved tradition that challenges teams of kids to create small structures around an uncooked egg in order to protect the egg from a high fall onto hard ground. Each team is given specific items they can use to build the structure that protects the egg, but nothing more. So, why not offer the same challenge to your coworkers?

Straws, newspaper, tape, and cardboard are just some common items provided during the Egg Drop Challenge — as you can see in the sample egg fortress below. For your coworkers, however, consider making it even more challenging and allow them to use simply anything available in the office.

The height of the fall is up to you, too, but be sure to set an altitude that’s consistent with the materials each team has to work with.

Egg taped to four toilet paper rolls and a sponge for an egg drop challenge

Source: Buggy and Buddy

17. Laser Tag

Another great way to get your adrenaline pumping? A good old game of laser tag. Not only is it great fun, it’s also an opportunity for employees to exercise their strategy and logic skills, as well as teamwork skills. Bonus: Determine teams ahead of time and have people dress up.

Group of coworkers playing laser tag as a teamwork game

18. Catch Phrase

In this classic party game, players team up and take turns describing words and phrases to their teammates without saying the word or phrase itself. Phrases can include celebrities, expressions, or just simple things found around the house. If my phrase is “needle in a haystack,” for example, a clue I might give to my teammates could be “a pointy object buried inside farm equipment.”

Catch Phrase is the perfect way to get your employees together and teach them how to communicate with one another. (Don’t worry, everyone will be having so much fun, they won’t realize that’s what you’re doing.)

This game is often played with a basket of phrases on slips of paper, but it became so popular, Hasbro made an electronic version.

Outings and Events

19. Volunteer

Giving time to support a good cause isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also a great way for your team members to bond. Place-based volunteering ideas include things like volunteering at a local soup kitchen, helping build a Habitat for Humanity house, or delivering gifts to children’s hospitals during the holidays. Skill-based volunteering is a cool way to stretch your employees’ expertise: It’s when your team volunteers its time and uses its professional skills — anything from marketing to app development to writing — to help a nonprofit.

Try VolunteerMatch.org for either type of volunteering opportunities, and Catchafire.org for skill-based volunteering opportunities.

People standing outside with shovels and wood chips while volunteering, one of many team building activities for companies and corporations

Source: VolunteerSpot

20. Mystery Dinner

Mystery dinners are one of the most beloved traditions here at HubSpot. On a single night, you send a group of folks from different teams within your company to dinner somewhere in your city (or at someone’s house). The dinner is hosted by one of your company’s leaders and paid for by the company. These dinners allow random groups of people from the same company to spend an evening chock full of good food and conversation together.

What makes them a mystery dinner? The only thing participants should know about the dinner ahead of time is the date and time. Then, on the afternoon the dinner is supposed to take place, send each group an email with the name of the restaurant they’re going to and who they’ll be going with, so they can arrange transportation together.

Optional: Give every dinner host the name of a restaurant or bar to invite everyone to congregate at once the dinners are over.

Mystery Dinner

21. Kayaking/Canoeing

Nothing says “let’s work together” quite like trying not to end up in the water. Want to take advantage of the outdoors? Grab a paddle and head down to the closest river for a great spring or summer outing.

Many public rivers and ponds have boat houses where you can rent kayaks and canoes — and you can encourage folks to rent multi-person ones and pair up with people they don’t usually work with.

Five coworkers kayaking on a company outing

22. Trampoline Park

Hey, who says trampolines are just for kids? Take your team to a trampoline park for some jumping fun and a chance to work off the day’s stress. Many cities have local places with trampoline activities — if you’re in the Boston area, check out Skyzone for trampoline dodgeball and basketball games.

Team Outing Ideas: Trampoline Jumping

Source: Mustbeart

23. Something Touristy

Embrace your city! Pick a hot tourist destination and go as a team. You can even do a Segway tour. (Fanny packs: optional.) It’ll be fun to laugh at how silly it feels to be a tourist in your own city, and you might even learn something new.

Yellow Duck Tour boat on the water

Source: Wikimedia

24. Painting Class

If you’re looking for a slightly more relaxing activity, take a group painting class. Paint Nite hosts painting classes by local artists at various bars throughout major cities for painting on canvases, wine glasses (like in the picture below), and so on. It’s a great way to let your team members unwind, catch up over some drinks, and express their creativity.

paint-nite.jpg

25. Cooking Class

In the mood for something a little more… culinary? Change up the usual outing to a bar or your local restaurant, and try a cooking class. Through a service such as Kitchensurfing, you can hire a professional chef to come cook a fancy meal for you in your home or office kitchen. Between the multiple courses prepared before your eyes, your team will have plenty of time to strike up a conversation and enjoy the delicious aromas.

HubSpot employees taking a cooking class

26. Explore a New Place

Few things more fun than getting out of the city and exploring for a day. So, why not do it with your team?

For bigger events — maybe on a quarterly basis, when you have more budget to use for outings — charter a bus and take your team to a new place. You can all take a historical tour of the new place, grab lunch at a restaurant serving the town’s finest, or take in a local attraction together.

ptown-outing.jpg

27. Sports Game

Round up the team and head out to a sports game. What a fantastic way to rev up team spirit while combining both competition and camaraderie.

team_outings_baseball_game

Source: Wikimedia

Now you’re ready to show your team a great time while increasing their happiness and creating a great company culture. And hey, you might just be the “cool boss” now. How cool would that be?

Want more? Read The Power of Teamwork: 31 Quotes That Celebrate Collaboration.

download free guide to company culture

Your Cheat Sheet for Posting GIFs on Instagram

GIFs are fun, digestible, and, most importantly, relatable — that’s why everybody loves them and shares them on social media so much.

And since Instagram is the top social media platform for visual content, your followers expect your brand to post more compelling content than the photos of your company’s complimentary lunch each week.

Your audience want to feel something when they scroll through Instagram, and GIFs can forge that emotional connection with them.

Below, we’ll show you how to post a GIF on Instagram — with a series of GIFs — and share some of the social network’s best GIF apps.

Here’s a series of GIFs that will show you exactly how to post a GIF on Instagram:

Open GIPHY

Search for a GIF

giphy

Press the “More Options” button and then press the “Instagram Share” button

giphy

Post the GIF to your Instagram story or feed

giphy

The 6 Best Instagram GIF Apps

1. GIPHY

GIPHY has the world’s largest library of animated GIFs and stickers.

Free on IOS and Android

4.7/5.0 Rating

2. Giphy Cam

On Giphy Cam, you can record your own GIFs and add filters or special FX to them.

Free on IOS and Android

4.8/5.0 Rating

3. ImgPlay

ImgPlay lets you turn your own videos, live photos, photos, and burst photos into GIFs or videos. You can also add captions and filters to your GIF, edit its frame sector and order, and control its frame speed and direction.

Free on IOS and Android

4.7/5.0 Rating

4. GIF Maker

With GIF Maker, you can convert your photos or videos into GIFs, Boomerangs, and memes.

Free on IOS and Android

4.6/5.0 Rating

5. Momento

Momento lets you use your live photos and videos to create GIFs and stop motion videos. You can also add augmented reality, filters, music, stickers, effects, text, and zoom to them.

Free on IOS and Android

4.6/5.0 Rating

6. Gifnote

Apple featured Gifnote on their “New Apps We Love List” last year. And it was included for good reason. The app has a licensed music library full of modern and classic hits that you can add to their collection of GIFs or your own created GIF. But if you don’t feel like making your own GIF-music combination, you can just select and send one of their trending Gifnotes to your friends.

Free on IOS

4.8/5.0 Rating

7 Free Project Management Software Options to Keep Your Team On-Track

59% of U.S. workers say communication is their team’s biggest obstacle to success, followed by accountability.

Managing multiple projects at once, delegating tasks, and collaborating across teams is difficult on a good day — but can become downright impossible when unforeseen obstacles get in the way.

Miscommunication and inefficiencies in your project management process can lead to confusing and stressful experiences for your employees, and hinder your company’s ability to satisfy your clients’ needs or hit end-of-year goals. This can lead to major losses over time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free project management software options to keep your team on-track without breaking the bank. To streamline your process and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page, take a look at these seven exceptional free project management tools.

1. Teamweek

Teamweek is an effective project management tool to automate your task delegation process, and visualize which project tasks have been completed and which haven’t. If your team often collaborates with other departments on projects, this could be a useful tool for you.

Features include:

  • Gantt-chart visualization to track important deadlines and projects
  • Integrations with Slack, Github, Evernote, and others
  • Team collaboration option through shared calendars and task notes

Cost: Free for an unlimited number of projects for up to five team members

2. Zoho Reports

Zoho Reports is easy to use and lets you create comprehensive dashboards and data visualizations to ensure your projects are on-track. You can import data from outside files, cloud drives, applications, and in-house apps, enabling you to create more accurate cross functional reports. (Zoho Reports is a HubSpot integration partner).

Features include:

  • Easy drag-and-drop interface with BI visualization tools
  • Ability to share and collaborate on reports and dashboards with colleagues privately.
  • Cloud BI reporting tool embedded within your own website or product
  • Integrations with Slack, Google Apps, and Dropbox, as well as mobile apps, making team collaboration easier.

Cost: Free for one project with multiple users, storage up to 10 GB

3. Asana

Asana, one of the most popular project management solutions used by millions of people across 192 countries, has a clean and user-friendly interface. The all-in-one tool lets you create boards to visualize which stage your project is in, and use reporting to keep track of finished tasks and tasks that need your attention.

Features include:

  • The ability to create templates to automate mundane tasks
  • The ability to collaborate and share information across the team, privately and securely
  • The option to set security controls and designate admins
  • Over 100 integrations for a more efficient start-to-finish process
  • Custom project fields, share documents, and filter tasks

Cost: Free for unlimited projects for teams up to 15 people.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork, a project management tool that specializes in bringing together remote workers, allows you to create team member status updates so your remote and flexible teams know their coworkers’ schedules. It also provides customer service functions, including the option to assign tickets or view customer emails in one place. (Teamwork is a HubSpot integration partner).

Features include:

  • Customizable navigation to prioritize your team’s needs
  • Gantt chart for visualizing due dates and project timelines
  • Private messaging, and option to make project details private
  • Team member status updates for remote or flexible team members

Cost: Free for two to five users

5. Wrike

Wrike stands out as an exceptional project management tool for teams who want the option to customize workflows and edit and revise projects from within the platform itself. The tool offers the ability to color code and layer calendars, and its mobile form allows colleagues to update project information on-the-go. You can add comments to sections, videos, or documents, and create custom fields to export data most relevant to your company.

Features include:

  • Security measures to ensure only authorized personnel can access information
  • Activity Stream to allow project managers to micromanage small tasks, see activities in chronological order, and tag team members
  • The option to unfollow activities to declutter your own personal Stream
  • Email and calendar synchronization
  • Built-in editing and approval features

Cost: Free for five team members

6. Paymo

Paymo’s free version only allows access for one user, but if you’ve got a small team or you’re a freelancer, this could be an efficient option for tracking billable hours and invoicing clients. Along with tracking finances, Paymo also allows you to organize project timelines, create to-do lists, and stay on top of your budgets for multiple projects at once.

Features include:

  • Kanban Boards
  • Time Tracking
  • File Sharing and Adobe CC Extension
  • Reporting
  • Three Invoices

Cost: Free for one user, one GB storage

7. ClickUp

ClickUp provides a few impressive features to customize the all-in-one project management tool to suit your team members, including the option for each user to choose one of three different ways to view their projects and tasks depending on individual preference. If your marketing team overlaps with sales, design, or development, this is an effective solution, as it provides features for all of those four teams.

Features include:

  • The ability to organize your projects based on priority, and assign tasks to groups
  • The option to set goals to remind teams what they’re aiming to accomplish
  • Google Calendar two-way sync
  • An easy way to filter, search, sorting, and customize options for managing specific tasks
  • Activity stream with mentions capability
  • Image mockups
  • 57 integrated apps

Cost: Free forever, with unlimited users and unlimited projects, and 100 MB of storage

65% of People Think Social Media Sites Should Remove This Content

Content moderation on social media sites remains a hotly-contested topic.

This year, congressional committees have held not one, but two hearings on the “filtering practices” of social media networks. And while some of these lawmakers begged the question, “Are networks suppressing content from one stream of thought or another?” — these days, there’s another big question in the ether.

Are social media companies responsible for the content published on their networks — especially when that content is factually incorrect?

65% of People Think Social Media Sites Should Remove This Content

The Current Climate

The above question arose at a recent hearing on foreign influence on social media platforms, where Senator Ron Wyden broached the topic of Section 230: a Provision of the 1996 Communication Decency Act that, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes it, shields web hosts from “legal claims arising from hosting information written by third parties.”

But those protections are speculated — including by Wyden himself — to be out-of-date, considering the evolution of content distribution channels online, and both the volume and nature of the content being shared on them.

That includes content pertaining to conspiracy theories, or that is otherwise factually incorrect.

The former has been top-of-mind for many in recent weeks, with the removal of accounts belonging to Alex Jones — a media host and conspiracy theorist who attempts to frame mass shootings and other tragedies as hoaxes — from Facebook, Apple, and YouTube. 

But what is the public opinion on the matter  — and to what extent do online audiences believe social media platforms are responsible for the presence of this content on their sites?

The Data

The Content Itself

We asked 646 internet users across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you think social networks should remove factually incorrect content, like conspiracy theories?

On average, 65% of respondents said yes, with the highest segment (67%) based in the UK.

Responses by Region (4)

Data collected with Lucid 

The Accounts and Users Sharing It

Then, we wanted to know how people felt about the moderation of the publishers of that content: the accounts and users distributing it or sharing it on social media.

We asked 647 internet users across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you think social networks should remove users or accounts that post factually incorrect content, like conspiracy theories?

On average, 65% of respondents said yes, with the highest segment (68%) based in the U.S.

Do you think social networks should remove users or accounts that post factually incorrect content, like conspiracy theories_ (1)

Responses by Region (5)

Data collected with Lucid

The Responses in Context

Conflicting Standards

Many point to a lack of transparency around the practice of content moderation as a major cause of certain networks’ inability to more quickly remove information and accounts of this nature.

In an interview with Recode‘s Kara Swisher, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered very little in terms of a tangible explanation of how the network decides what — and whom — is allowed to publish or be published on its site.

“As abhorrent as some of those examples are,” he said at the time, “I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.'”

After Facebook later removed several Pages belonging to Jones, the company published a vague explanation of its criteria for removing these Pages.

As company executives have explained in the past, Pages and their admins receive a “strike” on every occasion that they publish content in violation of the network’s Community Standards. And once a certain number of strikes are received, the Page is unpublished entirely.

What Facebook will not say, however, is the strike threshold that must be reached before a page is unpublished. It remains mum, the statement says, because “we don’t want people to game the system, so we do not share the specific number of strikes that leads to a temporary block or permanent suspension.”

But that statement could suggest that, since the system is even able to be gamed, it’s possible that different Pages are given different thresholds, or that some more easily receive strikes than others.

The objectivity of content moderation remains a challenge. And despite Facebook’s publication of its Community Standards for public consumption, certain reports — like an undercover investigation from Channel 4 — indicate that content moderators are often given instructions that conflict with those very standards.

The Moderation Onus

There appears to be widespread phenomenon of social media networks downplaying their respective levels of responsibility, in terms of moderating this type of content.

While Facebook, Apple, and YouTube actively removed content from Jones and Infowars — which is said by some to be far from a sustainable solution — Twitter has allowed this content to remain on the platform, claiming that it’s not in violation of the network’s rules.

Twitter CEO Dorsey went so far as to place that responsibility not on the network, but on journalists, who he said should “document, validate, and refute” claims made by parties like Jones — which has actually been done repeatedly.

The timing of Dorsey’s statement is particularly curious, given the company’s recent selection of proposals to study its conversational and network health.

The inconsistent response by various platforms to content from and accounts belonging to Jones and Infowars point to flaws in the development and enforcement of community standards and rules. Where one network won’t reveal how many strikes until “you’re out,” another says targeted harassment isn’t tolerated on its site — and yet, dismisses many reports of it as non-violating.

“The differing approaches to Mr. Jones exposed how unevenly tech companies enforce their rules on hate speech and offensive content,” writes The New York Times. “When left to make their own decisions, the tech companies often struggle with their roles as the arbiters of speech and leave false information, upset users and confusing decisions in their wake.”

The Definition of a Corporation in Less Than 100 Words [FAQ]

Ever since the Great Recession, the word “corporate” has had a negative connotation. The leaders of major corporations dismantled the world economy during the events prior to the financial crisis, and the wreckage sparked harsh animosity toward big companies that had an “Inc.” at the end of their name.

But contrary to popular belief, corporations aren’t just made up of a bunch of unethical executives who wear thousand-dollar suits to work everyday. Corporations are actually legal entities of their own, separate from the people who run it.

Incorporating a business or organization is incredibly beneficial for owners, employees, and, ultimately, the economy. Some of these benefits include shareholder protection from corporate liquidation, tax benefits, raising capital more easily, establishing stronger credibility, and easily acquiring health and financial benefits for stakeholders.

If you want a more concrete understanding of a corporation, here’s a formal definition:

Since they aren’t dependent on anyone, corporations can outlive any of their owners and leaders, enabling them to exist indefinitely. This distinction also offers shareholders limited liability, which legally protects them from being held personally responsible for the corporation’s debts, if creditors sue the corporation for unpaid debt. Creditors can only collect the corporation’s debt payments by seizing and selling its assets.

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