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ADA Website Compliance: Get Ahead Before You’re Behind

26 Feb

design

New ADA Regulations Could Affect Your Website Design Practices

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

For a long time, the only constant related to the web and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been confusion. Recent news and information floating around has caused many companies and web development firms to consider changes to website design and development practices to ensure compliance. Are we finally about to get clarity on the topic?

This topic has been discussed for years with many predictions of future actions with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and proposed amendments to ADA guidelines. For years, government organizations, some publicly traded organizations, educational institutions, and other entities have been concerned with ensuring their websites are ADA compliant. The bulk of other industries and focuses have worried only about certain usability aspects. Now, industry professionals are predicting that everyone will soon be required to comply with the ADA or face the penalties associated with breaking the law.

At this point I feel compelled to include a disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer and nothing in this post or on this site constitutes legal advice. I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to rethinking how we build websites to ensure that all businesses, regardless of industry or sector are ADA compliant to the right standard.

Until now, many of us have followed the lead of Google in pushing for all image and video content to be labeled or marked up in a way that is friendly for the visually impaired by utilizing screen reading software. We have also emphasized rendering content in a user-friendly way for all sizes of screens and types of devices. And these have been great improvements—but we’re finding that they aren’t enough to meet the potential new standard.

While there has been a lot of talk and speculation about what the new standard will be and when it will be officially adopted, the consensus that I (and colleagues I’ve spoken with) have found is on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. That is a specific standard and level defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that works to define standards for the web. This level of ADA compliance would require a decent amount of work for a lot of existing websites. But when integrated into design and development processes for new websites, it won’t add too much extra effort in the long-run.

The two biggest challenges that I see for digital marketers are:

  1. Finding a way to get our sites ready for the potential April DOJ mandate
  2. Finding the budget to invest to update existing sites in a cost-effective way.

The more you read, the more uncertainty you’ll find regarding predictions for what is going to happen. Interestingly, the DOJ has chosen not to amend ADA guidelines in the past, but has taken enforcement action. Regardless of all of the speculation and confusion out there, the time is now to start considering where your web properties stand regarding ADA compliance and start determining how your organization will prepare for these new standards, whether they are officially adopted or left to be just guidelines.

References and Further Reading:

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10 Trade Show Tips That Speak for Themselves

22 Dec

Be in the Know Before the Show

Trade Show Gift

When you’ve been in the building products industry for long enough, you learn some valuable lessons about attending a trade show and making the most of your time there. That’s how I know that every year, January marks more than just the start of the new year—it’s also the start of what we in the building products industry call “trade show season.”

Trade shows are fun and an  teffective way to meet prospects; they’re also hectic and crazy. Over the years, I’ve lost count of all the trade shows I’ve attended, but the lessons learned have stuck with me.

I’ve compiled a quick list of tips for attending a trade show that need no further explanation:

  1. Follow all the handles/hashtags for the event to keep current—before, during, and after an event.
  2. Visit the website before the show to view the map against the schedule of speakers you’d like to attend. Don’t be that freshman who schedules back-to-back classes across campus.
  3. Download the app for the show beforehand (if they have one).
  4. Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking. Hint: if your feet are hurting, seek out the booths that paid extra for carpet padding.
  5. Bring enough business cards.
  6. Have a plan for how you’re going to follow up with the prospects you meet. Then, follow through with it.
  7. Pack a backup phone battery and bring it with you. Thank me later.
  8. Don’t be that guy who eats your lunch at a table in a booth. Sit with prospects and meet new people.
  9. Know how long it takes to get to the nearest bathroom and back so you don’t miss something important.
  10. Wi-Fi isn’t always a given. Plan accordingly.

I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way—but follow these tips and you won’t have to. Consider it my trade show season gift to you.

For more trade show tips and tricks, see my last roundup post here.

Bonus tip for those who made it to the bottom of this post: If you take nothing else away from this, remember that the Lowe’s booth always has fresh-baked cookies. Just be careful not to burn your mouth if they’re fresh out of the oven.

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6 of My Favorite Building Products Manufacturer Apps

10 Dec

Are You Using All the Sales Tools Available to You?

Unknown

As of July 2015, there are 1.6 million Google Play apps, 1.5 million Apple App Store apps, and 400,000 Amazon App Store apps*. The building products industry is beginning to take notice of this phenomenon with apps of their own—apps that can be used to visualize, quote, install, and educate customers about various products and services. These are apps that can make a huge difference when selling and marketing building products, and they should become a strong part of your strategy both in working with pros and consumers alike.

I’ve put together a list of some of the standout apps in the building industry. Of course, the apps most impactful to you will depend on inventory, product relevance, location, and so on. But these are a good sampling of the types of apps you should be looking to as standard-bearers within the building industry:

  • Sherwin Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer: This app goes above and beyond the call of duty for most visualizer tools—what you would expect from a household name. Not only can users see how colors will look in a space, but they can also match colors based on images, scan colors in-store, and view entire color schemes based on a single color number. This app considers how people live and allows them to design their home around it. Plus, by letting a user pull color matches from real photos in their camera roll, they add a certain playful element that makes a user want to spend time in the app.
  • AZEK® Deck Building Products iPad App: This app can be used as a 2D or 3D visualizer of the entire AZEK product line so customers can see how it looks before any purchase is made. Users can take notes on their creations, save, and share them when necessary. You can imagine a situation in which you or one of your pros could create a visualization of a buyer’s space, share it with them, and more easily close a sale. Not only that, but a buyer could use it with a pro or dealer so they could recommend the best product for them.
  • RDI® Railing Designer App: This one is especially useful for pros, who can access the SRP back-end of the application to create customer quotes. Meanwhile, all users have the ability to create a simulation of their railing configuration and then generate a materials list for shopping. Once the design is finished, it’s simple for customers to save and print out the materials list, which they can take to their local RDI dealer.
  • Therma-Tru® Doorways: Like the others, this is another mobile visualizer, but it works on all mobile devices and integrates with social media so users can post their creations and get input from others if they’re stuck between multiple options (mahogany and oak, for example). Product information is automatically stored in every design, and users have the ability to search for the nearest dealer of each product, bringing consumers and dealers closer together.
  • Ply Gem Designed Exterior Studio: While not a mobile app (must be accessed in a computer browser), Ply Gem has put together a great visualization tool for home exteriors. Users simply pick their home style, select an area of the home to change materials and colors, then select from stone, windows, siding, etc. Ply Gem recently added a new feature called MyHome, which allows a user to upload an image of his/her own house to modify.
  • Eldorado Outdoor™ Design Tool: I love this tool from Eldorado Stone. Like the Ply Gem one, this visualizer is for web browsers, but it is a seriously robust platform. You create your space based on layout size, then you can add in everything from cabinets to walls and fireplaces, appliances, etc. before you apply the Eldorado stone and brick of your choice. Like the others, it offers an easy way to save, print, share, and get quotes. With all of these features at your disposal, Eldorado Outdoor is not your average design tool.

A recurring theme of the blog lately has been a discussion of how the building industry will need to modernize in the coming years (see here and here for more). Integrating manufacturer apps into your sales and marketing efforts is a simple yet strategic way to meet the changing needs of today’s increasingly mobile/digital consumers. Whether you’re a manufacturer, a pro, a dealer, or you’re at some different point in the channel entirely, apps like these will be important parts of growing your business—in 2016 and beyond.

[*] http://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/

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B2B Email: Only As Good As the Inbox It Lands In

16 Jul

Simple Tips for Email Deliverability

iPad Finger ThinkstockPhotos-178480834

You’ve done the unthinkable: you’ve crafted the perfect marketing email. A stunning design, perfect CTA, and breathtakingly relevant content.

And guess what? None of it matters if it doesn’t land in an inbox. Email deliverability is one of the most important things to keep in mind as you engage with your audience. And yet, it seems like it’s often overlooked. This article from Marketing Profs talks about the importance of email deliverability and a few tips on how to improve it. Here are a few of the best tips from the article:

  • Personalize Your Emails: The more personalized your emails are, the more likely your audience is to engage with it. This will produce a more positive sender reputation with ISPs, who can make or break sender reputations. This should be a “gimme.” In fact, we’ve recently discussed the importance of producing personalized content based both on Buyer Personas (who your audience is) and the Buyer Journey (where they are in their sales journey). But according to this article, even simple customizations like variable first names and region-specific modifications make a big difference. There is even evidence that some users will sacrifice online privacy for personalization—in other words, they’re giving up one of their most precious online commodities simply to guarantee that the emails that land in their inbox are actually relevant to them.
  • Optimize Email for Mobile: Sorry, B2B marketers—this applies to you just as much as anyone else. Mobile open rates are growing for B2C and B2B industries alike, and B2B marketers will need to adapt their email code accordingly. Shockingly, only one-third of content publishers say their emails are mobile-optimized. This is unacceptable; since emails are usually opened once, marketers have one chance to make a first impression, and that means creating a content environment that the audience wants to participate in. So maybe it’s not just about personalizing based on where your audience is in their Buyer Journey—it’s about personalizing based on where they are literally reading the content. Don’t let your email deliverability suffer because you’re not willing to optimize for mobile.

These are just a couple of the tips from the article. For the full list of email deliverability best practices, read it by clicking here.

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Email Marketing Must Be Mobile

11 Mar

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Email is not dead, but it might be if you don’t utilize responsive design (email that isn’t coded and optimized for mobile viewing across multiple screens and devices). The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently published an article about email and responsive design: ‘Delete This Email!’ Why Mobile Email Matters to Your Business.

Before any of you building materials marketers tell me how this is not applicable for ‘your’ audience, you better start preparing now, because it will be soon.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company study, email is still 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

  • 91% of all U.S. consumers still use email daily
  • Emails lead to purchases at least three times more than through social media
  • The average order value is 17% higher

This means it is important to increase the scope of how recipients are viewing your emails, especially since people are increasingly on the go. According to U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013, 65% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device.

Probably the most important fact of all: 42% of mobile users delete emails* that don’t display on their devices correctly.

That means, of the emails you send, four of every 10 recipients might as well have the subject line (you guessed it): “Delete This Email!”.

Froont Blog’s 9 Basic Principles of Responsive Web Design is a comprehensive explanation, complete with animated examples, about what responsive design is. Click the image below to view how breakpoints are utilized in emails for mobile responsiveness:

Mobile-Responsive-Breakpoints-vs-Without-Breakpoints-1

Another great way to understand responsive design is to pay attention to the emails you receive and how you interact with them on your devices.

The CMI suggests looking into responsive templates offered by email providers, but be sure to test and preview the templates on a few different devices.

Now is the time to stop thinking of emails as a straight to desktop touch point, because they are on-the-go and you better be able to keep up.

*GetResponse Study, 2013

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