Nov 16

The History Of Internet Usage And Speeds (Infographic)

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to The History Of Internet Usage And Speeds (Infographic)

Not a fan of infographics? Be gone!

For I felt compelled to share with you this infographic made by the folks over at Webhostingbuzz, visually showing how fast the Internet has made its way to the people of this world in the past 15 years – and how fast the Internet has become in some parts of it.

Here’s what stood out for me: the United States leads the world in broadband penetration, with Americans consuming way more gigabytes per month than Europeans or people in Japan and South Korea.

The United States only ranks 30th when it comes to downloads speeds, however, thus trailing countries like South Korea, Latvia, Andorra and the Republic of Moldova. Surprisingly, downloads speeds in the US still surpass those in the UK, Canada, Australia and Israel.

From Horseback To Bullet Train: The History Of Internet Usage And Speeds

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Nov 16

Mobile By The Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Mobile is a rapidly developing sector. According to some projections, mobile internet usage will overtake desktop usage before 2015. In preparation, companies are developing new mobile commerce platforms, strategies, and marketing efforts.

Microsoft Tag recently attempted to sum up this constantly changing space with a single infographic.

Here’s the summary: The mobile market is large; local searches, games, and YouTube are all doing well on Mobile; and socializing is the most prominent use of the mobile Internet. See the full infographic below.

 

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Nov 15

HOW TO: Recruit All-Star Employees on a Startup Budget

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This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to HOW TO: Recruit All-Star Employees on a Startup Budget

superstar image

Alex Berg is the Chief Product Officer of Bonanza and Bags Bonanza. Bonanza is a marketplace focused on creating a browse-friendly experience that helps you discover unique items. Prior to Bonanza, Alex served in leadership positions with Wetpaint, Expedia, and Blue Nile.

At a startup it’s painfully hard to make time for recruiting. Any time not spent advancing the product feels like a distant secondary priority. However, getting the right team in place is the most important thing you can do to make your startup successful.

Your first few hires set the tone for your culture. What’s more, it’s often said that A-level hires get you more top quality hires in the long run. You don’t just need to make time for recruiting — you have to be great at it.

What follows are my tips and tricks for finding and closing all-star hires on a startup budget.


Do You Need a Recruiter?


While you’ll be tempted to outsource recruiting so you can focus on the product, recruiting starts and ends with you. No one can recruit harder than you. No one knows the right fit like you do. And no one can sell the opportunity like you can. Before you look for help, block out some time on your schedule and hit LinkedIn hard.

Get ready for an endless stream of coffees and lunches. Sound painful? It is. You have to do it anyway. What’s worse, many of these meetings won’t even lead directly to hires. They aren’t a complete waste of time however; karma has a good memory and the positive relationships you build now will pay off eventually.

Once you’ve exhausted the outer rings of your network, it’s time to get help. A great recruiter can be a tremendous asset. I look for folks who I can pay by the hour and offer them a nice cash incentive for a fast hire. Contingency recruiters, and their exorbitant fees, are a personal anathema of mine. Who has twenty grand to spend per hire?


Types of Recruiters


In my experience, recruiters come in three flavors: Lead generators (a.k.a. “sourcers”), Process Builders, and Closers. Very few people have all three of these skills. In fact, depending on your rate of growth, you probably only need a sourcer.

  • Sourcers get you leads. To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, you want the good leads. A great sourcer has a knack for finding the hidden gems: Passive candidates. Top candidates aren’t typically combing Craigslist looking for their next gig and a good sourcer knows how to find them and open the door. Passive candidates are the hardest to close, but top talent is always worth it.
  • Process builders have their place. If you’re expecting explosive growth, you will need someone to create job profiles, manage candidate flow, and wrangle schedules. However, process builders aren’t typically great sourcers. Get an intern to play coordinator and hire a sourcer instead. You’ll know a process builder by the bullets on their LinkedIn profile. A great process will make you feel organized, but it alone won’t get those all-star butts in your office.
  • Closers are typically for executive hires and complex negotiations. Some recruiters will like to handle the negotiation for you and that’s tempting when you’re working nights and weekends. However, top talent is worth your personal time. You’re not just selling the role and package; you’re selling the vision and building a relationship in the process.

The Interview Process


Need more leads? Tap local professional associations or try hosting a meetup. My company recently hosted a meetup for Ruby developers. It cost us $200 in pizza but we had more than 40 developers right in our office. Thanks to several obnoxious “We’re Hiring” signs, I had six interviews scheduled in two days.

Interviewing can feel even more painful than generating leads. After all, now you’re tapping your team as well. However, the interviewing process is really where closing begins. And closing great hires requires a holistic approach in which you examine every aspect of the candidate experience.

Take a look at how your candidates flow through your interview process. Are your candidates greeted warmly and treated with respect? Is your office environment stimulating and welcoming? Talk to your team about how to close candidates, making sure they know that interviewing is about “buying” and “selling.” Have your team make sure candidates are appropriately handed off from interview to interview.

Finally, when your loop is over, make sure the hiring manager sees them out and lets them know precisely what’s next. The impression you make through the interview process can be the difference between getting that rock star software architect and another batch of painful first-round interviews.


Closing


Do you have a gap between interview rounds? Make it as short as possible and don’t go dark. At my previous company, we sent “swag” kits to hot candidates between rounds. It doesn’t cost much to toss some logo gear together. Include a note from the first few interviewers expressing excitement at the prospect of working together. The goal is getting your candidate feeling like they are already on the team.

In the end, you need to close and closing is an art. I don’t like making an offer without knowing it will be accepted. Understand your candidate’s hot buttons, if they have any special needs, and the role of their significant other in the decision. Here’s a quick list of the lengths I’ve gone to close all-star hires.

  • Dinner with the spouse. Chances are that half your candidate’s decision resides with someone you likely haven’t even met. Why leave such a huge factor untouched? Tell your candidate you’d like to take them to dinner and be ready to sell. I’ve heard SOs ask some delightfully blunt questions.
  • Special stipends. Sometimes candidates have special needs. One candidate I was interviewing had some special-needs pets. I tossed a small stipend on top of her offer that was specifically flagged for pet-related costs. Sure, I could have just raised the salary a bit, but I knew calling this out would have an emotional appeal. It let her know I was listening, it was a cinch to do, and most importantly it helped lock her down.
  • Press kits. For some candidates, particularly those with SOs, I’ll mail a press kit to his or her house. Print out some screenshots of press coverage or some compelling aspects of your product and physically mail them out. Anyone can send an email. Getting something at home feels special and gets a tangible asset in front of the spouse. Spouses can justifiably be gun-shy of startups. Press kits can take the edge off and give you legitimacy.

A Key Example


Sometimes you have to go over the top. A few years ago I was recruiting an absolute star. I had tried to hire her once before, but was turned town. A year later it became clear she was ready for an offer and I wasn’t going to miss out. Learning from my first attempt, I wanted to make sure that I built some momentum and closed the spouse too. So I created a campaign.

First she received a swag kit and card. Three days later she received a printed press kit followed by a nice dinner. By the time she got the offer letter, with a unique extra or two, she was overwhelmed. She joked that she might have to get a restraining order … and then she promptly accepted.

While this may sound like a big investment it doesn’t need to be. All-star hires are worth their weight in gold and the time spent closing them is time saved in eliminating future interviews for you and your team. Think about the last time you were recruited heavily. It’s nice being wanted isn’t it?


Interested in more Startups resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

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More About: business, hiring, how to, MARKETING, Recruiting, startup, startups

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Nov 15

The Importance Of Failing

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to The Importance Of Failing

Recently a friend of mine sent me a link to this short video from totally outside of the technology field.  The video is called “Why You Need to Fail” and it’s by Derek Sivers.  Even though the examples are from very different domains, I thought that this short video very eloquently made one of the most important points in creating great products, and I strongly encourage all of you to watch it (especially the second half).

Really.  Go watch it and then come back.

I argue with product owners and designers about this all the time.  I’m constantly pushing them to just take their ideas and get them in front of users and customers, and to do this quickly – generally much more quickly than they are comfortable with.  I’ve written many times about this fundamental concept.

Note that I’m not suggesting they ship what they’ve come up with in only a few days (although sometimes I do), but rather, I know that the real learning starts once you put your ideas in front of real users.  And all this time we spend trying to get it just right takes away from the time we have for real learning, and mostly we’re just digging a deeper hole.

There are some people that get hung up on the “fail fast” wording because they think it gives people encouragement to give up fast.  When I read this article it was actually April 1 and I thought he was joking, but unfortunately he wasn’t.  And this is a smart guy so I don’t doubt him when he says that he has met entrepreneurs that are confused by this.  But of course the whole point is that by failing fast we can actually dramatically increase our chances of getting to success.

I personally prefer the language around “learning fast” but when you tell product people they need to fail fast it does help to prepare them to show their ideas early, and understand that it is normal that it takes several attempts before they can expect to have a solution that actually works for the users.

In the UX community we have long had some old-school people out there that didn’t quite buy this, for various lame reasons.  So I was very happy to see that Jared Spool recently published a very clear, compelling and what will be for many of his readers a controversial piece acknowledging their findings of where the real learning happens.

If you are on one of the many teams that I work with, you already know that my biggest hot button is when I find that a user test happened and the product owner and designer were not present at the test, or if they were, if they were not allowed to interact directly with the user.

I am hoping that Jared’s article puts the final nail in the coffin for the long obsolete concept of not including product owners or designers at user tests.

There has never been a better time to work on products.  The technology, the platforms, techniques from lean startups, customer discovery, product discovery, and agile development are all combining to help a capable product team learn faster than ever, and converge on our ultimate goal which is to create a product we can be proud of and that our customers love.

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Nov 14

Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If you’re a small business owner, your website is the central hub of your company, and it’s a pivotal part of your marketing and branding.

Potential customers visit your site specifically for its content, meaning its appearance and usability are critical to its success and how those users view your company. However, getting your web design wrong can have a negative impact on your business.

Here are 5 common web design mistakes you must avoid to create a great user experience and grow your bottom line.


1. Poor Navigation


Many small businesses fail to make navigation a priority, but without careful attention to how people navigate your site, you could unintentionally be creating a frustrating experience for any potential visitor. People visit your site for specific information, and if they cannot find it they will quickly go elsewhere, leaving with the impression that your business is disorganized in more than just its website.

A good navigation structure should be seamless and will keep visitors on your site longer, which means potentially more readers, subscribers, sales or leads — whichever is your primary objective.

Website navigation affects both usability and accessibility, so it’s important to make it a primary concern. Most websites and blogs use common navigational techniques that are expected by the average visitor. The pages and sections of the site should be easy and logical for visitors to maneuver. Don’t make your visitors think about how to navigate your site; it should be effortless and natural.

There are several principles you can follow to create an effective navigation structure:

  • Use icons to aid navigation. They’re both visually appealing and easy to use and understand.
  • Create logical groups of related links, with the most important links on the top-level navigation bar and functional (dashboard, account, settings, etc.) and legal (copyright, privacy, terms) located elsewhere.
  • Provide location information so users know where they are on any given page and how to proceed to another area of the website. This can be achieved by using Breadcrumb navigation.

2. No Clear Calls To Action


The fundamental error of many small business websites is the lack of a clear call to action. We’ve all seen bland small-business brochure websites with nothing but endless descriptive paragraphs. If you aren’t leading users to commit to an action (buy a product, contact you or subscribe, for example), then you are losing them.

Driving traffic to your website is important, but that traffic is useless if your primary call to action is a plain “click here” link buried in a sea of text. Call-to-action buttons are a great way to grab the user’s attention, and these buttons can be the key to higher conversions. Investing time and consideration into creating successful calls to action can help guide users and address their needs while achieving your own business goals.

It’s important to keep the following best practices in mind when creating an optimal call to action:

  • The design of a call to action can be broken down into 4 simple elements — size, shape, color, and position. Each plays a vital part in determining how effective the call to action is in directing the user.
  • Don’t make your users work or think, or they’ll leave. It’s not that they aren’t smart, it’s that they want access to information quickly without spending unnecessary time searching for it.
  • Don’t overdo it with multiple, competing calls to action on every page. Decide what your primary target is and then define a clear objective per page. Your content should have answered, “What’s in it for me?” and your call to action should now answer, “What do I do now?”

3. Color & Contrast


Color and contrast aren’t usually high up on the list of priorities for a small business owner when it comes to creating a website. But it should be, because if your website text does not have sufficient contrast compared to its background, people will have difficulty reading your content, especially people with poor vision or color-blindness.

Aside from plain readability, color and contrast are important because they can be used to create visual interest and direct the attention of the user. It can equally be effective in organizing and defining the flow and hierarchy of a page, and it’s therefore an essential principle to pay attention to during the design process. Here are some tips:

  • Using a free a Color Contrast tool (which conforms to accepted standards) you can easily check to see how the contrast on your website measures up.
  • Research how major sites use color and contrast to improve readability and highlight specific sections, and use this knowledge to experiment with color schemes.
  • One of best ways to enhance contrast is by creating size differences between elements, making some things appear larger than others. This works especially well within a minimal color scheme, and it means you don’t have to necessarily rely on color.

4. Content, Content, Content


People visit your website for its content, and how that is structured is a huge factor in its success or failure. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of small businesses get so caught up in overloading the user with information that they overlook how that information is presented.

Most people do not read unless it’s absolutely necessary, and they prefer to scan through information quickly to get to the points of interest. This is why it’s so important to establish a strong visual content hierarchy so users can quickly scan your site and sifting through relevant information. A logical content hierarchy also acts as a guide through each page and creates a more enjoyable user experience.

So when focusing on your content, it’s best to keep in mind these three tips:

  • White space is possibly the most important factor to consider. It will allow the user to focus on the meaningful content within each section.
  • Break up lengthy pieces of information into digestible blocks of text, utilizing headings, sub-headings, bullets, blockquotes and paragraphs.
  • Readable content is important, so use a good line height that is large enough to make content scannable. Margins and letter spacing also need to be taken into consideration.

When talking about content, spelling and grammar cannot be underestimated.


5. Clutter


We all know at least one small business website that seems to include everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Many small business owners tend to cram as much as they can onto a single page — the end result is a busy, cluttered and unreadable page.

The more extraneous items there are on a web page, the more unprofessional it looks, and it becomes overwhelming, confusing and distracting for the user. A cluttered website will also affect traffic because visitors won’t return if they can’t understand or follow the content, which leads to low traffic, a high bounce rate and possibly a poor Page Rank.

Clutter also applies to images. Too many can be a huge distraction and just plain annoying. Images should be used to illustrate, capture attention and guide the user where required.

Follow these guidelines for a more streamlined visitor experience:

  • Challenge every item on each page and ask, “Does it really need to be there? Does it serve a specific purpose? Can I live without it?”
  • The key is to aid the visitor in finding the information they’re looking for, so make sure to differentiate between areas of content, advertisements and promotions.
  • Prioritize your content and decide what is the most important to your visitor and potential customer — and sell it well.

Even the greatest content can become lost in a mess of words and graphics, so de-cluttering is essential.

These are just five web design mistakes that many small businesses make. What other mistakes have you noticed on small business websites?


Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

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Nov 14

HOW TO: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page [STATS]

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to HOW TO: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page [STATS]

If you’re looking to boost engagement on your brand’s Facebook Page, a new report from Buddy Media has some key findings for you. The social media marketing company collected data from 200 of its clients’ Pages* over a 14-day period and found that time is an important factor in determining the success of a Facebook post. The study reveals that more often than not, a Facebook post is ill-timed — in fact, office hours could be the worst time to blast content.

“While marketers may work Monday through Friday, Facebook is humming with activity 24-hours a day, seven days a week,” says Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow. And so, brands must adapt to their consumers’ schedules in order to optimize their engagement.

Here are the findings, along with tips about when and how to make the most of a Facebook post.


Be Timely


The study found that daily Facebook engagement has three peaks: early morning (7 a.m. EST), after work (5 p.m. EST) and late at night (11 p.m. EST). Therefore, posting all of your updates during the workday means you’re missing key opportunities to engage fans at non-work hours. However, not all brands’ engagement peaks at these three times — Playboy engagement peaks in the wee hours of the morning, for example — so you must work on a case-by-case basis.

Good timing on Facebook depends on the day of the week, too. Thursday and Friday have 18% more engagement than other days of the week, suggesting that Facebook is a procrastination tool when people are itching to get out of the office. But don’t start stacking all of your Facebook updates on Thursday and Friday — the study found interesting user patterns and engagement trends throughout the week that are unique to particular industries. Below, the findings are broken down by market so that you can see where entire industries are missing the mark and where — or rather, when — there’s room for improvement.

  • Entertainment: Friday, Saturday and Sunday are huge, as that is when people are most inclined to see a movie or go to a concert. However, entertainment brands post twice as much content on a weekday than a Saturday or Sunday.Tip: Take advantage of the weekend.
  • Media: Weekends have strong engagement for media brands, but Mondays are weak. During the study period, most posts went out during the week.Tip: Avoid Monday.
  • Automotive: Auto brands see the most engagement on Sundays, but less than 8% of posts go out on that day.Tip: Capitalize on Sunday.
  • Business and Finance: Engagement peaks on Wednesday and Thursday, though this industry tends to spread its posts even on Monday through Friday.Tip: Post on Wednesday.


    The findings for the retail vertical.

  • Retail: Sunday is a big day for engagement on the shopping and retail front, but only 5% of entertainment posts go up on Sunday. The industry’s posts lean heavily toward Friday, which has below-average engagement.Tip: Target shoppers on Sunday.
  • Fashion: Engagement peaks on Thursday but dips on the weekend. The industry pushes the most content on Tuesday, the day with the lowest engagement.Tip: Optimize engagement on Thursday.
  • Healthcare and Beauty: Like fashion — perhaps because consumers are shopping and preparing for the weekend — healthcare and beauty brands see the most engagement on Thursday. But a lot of content is posted on Mondays and Fridays, when engagement is lower.Tip: Post content on Thursday.
  • Food and Beverage: More than the other verticals, the food and beverage brands do a good job of spreading their posts throughout the week and weekend. But in this case, engagement peaks on Tuesday and Saturday and dips on Monday and Thursday.Tip: Target Tuesday.
  • Sports: Not surprisingly, especially during football season, Sunday is king for sports brands and teams on Facebook. This data is affected by the fact that Super Bowl Sunday fell during the data collection period, but Sundays remain strong during other weeks, too.Tip: Increase your post volume on Sunday.
  • Travel and Hospitality: The highest engagement occurs on Thursday and Friday, when the week is winding down and people are looking to escape from the office.Tip: Get these eyeballs at the end of the week.

Joe Ciarallo, Buddy Media’s director of communications, says a lot of smart brands already target their audiences when they’re most engaged. For those who don’t, Ciarallo says they should consider scheduling Facebook posts to go live during times of high engagement at night and on weekends.


Be Concise


The data indicates that the length of the post can determine engagement just as much as the time of the post. The bottom line: Keep it short and sweet. Posts with 80 characters or less — the length of a short tweet — garnered 27% more engagement than posts that were more than 80 characters. But brevity is far from a common practice — only 19% of posts in the study were shorter than 80 characters.

And while the content should be short, the URL probably shouldn’t be — posts with a full-length URL had three times the engagement of their shortened bit.ly, ow.ly and tinyurl counterparts. The reason is likely because readers want to know where the link will take them. Ciarallo says a brand-specific URL shortener, like bddy.me or on.mash, keeps a post short while also providing context.


Ask For Engagement



Words ranked in order of their effectiveness at converting Likes and comments.

If you’re looking to get Likes on a post, all you have to do is ask. Ciarallo says simple, outright instructions — “Like us if … ” — are much more effective at getting a Like than a post with a long explanation of why you should “like” something. Remember, “liking” only takes one click and then the “liked” item is syndicated on a user’s own page, so don’t be afraid to ask for the thumbs up.

The same goes for comments — outright saying “post,” “comment” or “tell us” motivates fans to engage. If you’re seeking answers, put a simple “where” or “when” or “would” question at the end of the post — you’ll get 15% more engagement than if the question is buried in the middle. Shy away from “why” questions, as they seem invasive and ask much more of a user than a “what” question, Ciarallo says.


Advice for Smaller Brands


These findings are insightful and can help brands better target their consumers, but it is important to note that the brands studied are all large and well-established. While URL shortening is a good idea for all brands, the day and time findings may not apply to businesses of all sizes within each industry.

For small businesses, it’s important to balance the data above with what you know about your own brand, based on Facebook Insights and your own experiences with your Page. “Small brands can take away some best practices from this, but remember that the data set is all large brands,” Ciarallo says. “Still, a boutique hotel owner could look at the hospitality section and see how it can help his Facebook marketing.”

He also says it’s important to realize the social marketing space is constantly evolving, and these statistics can change in a matter of months. If every brand begins to post when the engagement is high, then engagement either will increase because of the optimization, or it may decrease because there’s so much noise at the high-engagement times. Only time will tell for the long term.

“This is 200 large brands over two weeks, so it’s a large data set, but things are moving fast,” meaning your Facebook marketing program must be flexible, Ciarallo says. Though this is the first study of its kind that Buddy Media has publicly released, Ciarallo foresees future reports like this one to help brands maximize engagement in an ever-changing marketing environment.

What engagement tips have you picked up from your Facebook Page? Tell us in the comments.

Disclosure: Buddy Media is a Mashable sponsor.

*Buddy Media did not disclose which of its 600 client brands were included in the study, but the company has a lengthy roster of enterprise clients, including W Hotels, Target, American Express, Playboy and the Food Network.

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Nov 11

5 Tools to Improve Your Idea Before You Write a Line of Code

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to 5 Tools to Improve Your Idea Before You Write a Line of Code

testtube2.jpg In my last post on ReadWriteStart, I talked about how, in many cases, it wasn’t an advantage to build your start-up in stealth mode. As a continuation of that theme, I thought it would be interesting to explore five tools you can use to iterate and improve your startup idea before writing one line of code. There is nothing worse than building a tool no one is interested in, so I’d encourage you to consider these options before starting down the path of building your next startup.

Specifically, these five tools can help you do three critical activities before starting to write a line of code: create a wireframe, get feedback from the target market and test value proposition through multiple landing pages.

Sponsor

iMockups for Wireframing Concepts

imarkup_icon_79x79.png If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a good mockup is worth 1,000 lines of code. If you own an iPad, iMockups is a killer solution to quickly and efficiently create wireframes. It’s been interesting to watch a number of the startups I advise shift from trying to use PowerPoint or Keynote to flesh out concepts, to using iMockups. The feedback from those startups has consistently been that the iMockups tool makes it so much faster to put wireframes together that the time savings was well worth the $10. Check out the video below to see iMockups in action:

Feedback on Concept from Target Market

Once you’ve got a concept put together, it’s often valuable to get some early feedback from your target market. Obviously, in many cases this can be done by setting up meetings with your target customers and walking them through the idea.

AskYourTargetMarket.png

Another simple and relatively low cost way to get feedback from a critical mass of potential users is to use Ask Your Target Market. While there are a lot of online survey tools, the nice thing about this tool is it has developed a great network of respondents (or “panel” in market research parlance) who you can target for response. This allows you to get statistically meaningful feedback from a specific target audience.

Build & Test Landing Pages

A final obvious technique to testing and improving your idea is to build some landing pages to test out different value propositions.

launchrock150.jpgLaunchRock: We’ve covered them a few times before, but with tools like LaunchRock that have automated the process of developing these landing pages this is a great way to test interest and get signups.

If you aren’t familiar with LaunchRock, see the video the team did for a demo with Robert Scoble:

optimizely-logo.png A/B Testing Different Value Propositions: To take this approach to the next level, you can even use a solution like Optimizely, Google Website Optimizer or Sumo Optimizer. For a thorough review of these options check out this analysis on our SMB channel ReadWriteBiz of the tools. The general technique of optimizing your landing page is a practice most startups should do. But before you build out your solution you can actually see which value propositions and features are more compelling by testing which call to action – for example “find new sources of information” vs “filter the information you already read” – gets a higher percentage of requests from users.

Conclusion

As an entrepreneur, you have to figure out the right plan to test and build your product. However, locking yourself in a room and designing and then building your product is rarely optimal. Before opening your IDE of choice, maybe the best step next time is to launch one of the tools mentioned above and started getting some feedback? Do you have other techniques to test out your ideas? Let me know in the comments below.

Test tube image from Horia Varlan

Discuss

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Nov 11

3,000,000,000 Intelligent Phones By 2013

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to 3,000,000,000 Intelligent Phones By 2013

Specialists estimate that by 2013 the number of “intelligent” mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) will reach 3 billion units at a global scale. The global tendency of mobilization will be felt on the local level, also, officials from SAP, the software producer, mention. The company will extend the set of mobile applications.

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.jimmyhua.com/2011/11/11/3000000000-intelligent-phones-by-2013/

Nov 10

4 Free Conference Calling Services

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to 4 Free Conference Calling Services

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Salesforce.com removed one free conferencing tool from the world when it acquired DimDim in January, leaving many startups without a free teleconferencing service.

Fortunately there are many excellent free options for coordinating remote meetings. “Free,” in this instance, means a service that doesn’t charge extra call rates or add service subscription fees on top of call fees. Aside from the well-known FreeConferenceCall.com, here are four of our favorite services in this category, listed below, ranging from impromptu team conversation tools to meeting organization powerhouses.


1. Rondee


Rondee

Rondee is a champ at coordinating conference calls with minimal email exchange. Meeting coordinators simply select a start time and enter email addresses of participants (contacts can only be imported from Outlook). If scheduled in advance, participants RSVP to Rondee, which tallies an attendee list.

At call time, each user enters a unique pin number to join the call. There’s also an option to host impromptu meetings, for which call participants receive the same code and can set up meetings using that number at any time.

For no extra charge, Rondee will record the call and make it available for download. For toll-free calls, the service has a premium option that charges $.05 each minute per participant.


2. Wiggio


Wiggio_image

Conference calling is just one feature of Wiggio’s free group-management service. The site also helps users plan meetings, send mass text messages, plan projects and take polls within groups.

To set up a conference call, users can either invite a group they have set up within the system or enter individual email addresses. Unlike Rondee, Wiggio gives users the option to import their email contacts from non-Outlook email accounts, which makes this part a little easier. But Wiggio lacks Rondee’s RSVP feature — although the invite emails include calendar invites, it can be hard to determine who plans to dial in to the meeting.

During the call, the moderator can switch between conversation mode (unmute all), Q&A mode, and presentation mode (mute all). Unlike most free services that don’t require a download, Wiggio calls aren’t necessarily restricted to voice. Moderators can also set up a virtual meeting that pairs a screen share, a shared whiteboard, file trading and video conferencing options with a conference call.


3. GroupMe


GroupMe_image

The group messaging app that dominated conversation at SXSW this year is also an excellent conference call option. Each group a user creates is assigned a single phone number. Texting that number sends a message to all members of the group. Calling that number puts the entire group in an instant conference call.

Since the app lacks scheduling options and meeting invites, it’s a better option for small teams that need to communicate with each other often than it is for client calls.


4. Google Voice


With Google Voice, anyone can initiate a conference call by having the call participants dial his Google Voice number at the same time. As each participant calls in, the initiating user will be asked to approve the person on the line to join the call. Note that Google Voice does not currently offer services for inviting call participants or soliciting RSVPs.

What free conference call services do you use? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, KuznetsovDmitry

More About: 3D teleconferencing, conference calls, dimdim, Google Voice, groupme, Rondee, wiggio

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Nov 10

Here are 10 Tips from BuzzFeed to Make Your Content Go Viral

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to Here are 10 Tips from BuzzFeed to Make Your Content Go Viral

I recently had the pleasure of spending an hour with Jon Steinberg, president of Buzzfeed, a company who focuses on helping media companies make their content go viral.

His words, “we find things on Sunday morning that will be on the Today show on Tuesday morning.” That’s why people turn up to Buzzfeed.

We talked about a lot of great stuff in the video including how to do sales calls and a how a new “culture of writing” is emerging as a critical skill set in business today. We also talked about why Jon decided to leave Google to become an EIR at a VC firm (Polaris) – minute 33.

But of course we also focused on making content go viral. In working with brands, Jon says:

Vary creative, try lots of things, the costs are so low, why would we put up one piece of branded content? It is absolutely MVP of advertising. Can we do 10 variants? Can we take this video and put it in 10 different contests? One in a list, one with a quiz, one with a cut-out tool – let’s see what takes off. There’s no cost!”

There’s tons of more great advice from real-world experience from Jon so please watch when you have time. You can also get the video or audio on iTunes and save it for a commute. Right now we have about 25,000 people who listen to it every week this way. Here’s a link for iTunes.

But if you’re short on time to watch it, I wanted to at least provide you with some of Jon’s insights on what makes content go viral. [we started this convo at minute 47]

1. Keep it Short – “It’s gotta be short. 30 seconds is good, 60 seconds is worse, 90 seconds is worse, people just do not want to watch long stuff.” Doh. I guess this video won’t go viral, then! ;-) Again, Jon, “I’m not just talking about video. If you want something to be shared virally on the web it has to be short.”

2. It needs to have an interpersonal, human angle – Examples he gives, “mothers & daughters, traits in your boss you don’t like or the perfect drinks on your anniversary. Everybody will send this to people and say, ‘isn’t this just like us?’ or ‘this is totally different than us’ – you need to start the conversation” I have to admit I get this all the time. I’ll write a post on how to give feedback to employees and then I’ll get emails from people telling me they forwarded it to their whole team. When it’s personal, it gets shared a lot.

3. People want rough content that feels genuine to them / authenticity – People don’t want highly produced stuff, they want stuff that feels genuine to them. “How-to” guides work well. Behind the scenes videos do great.

4. Create something people can engage with – Examples include videos you can put your image into. Or creating quizzes or games with your content. People want to engage with content, not just consume it. The more engaging, the more it gets shared.

5. Offer the ability to react / comment - In the blogging world it’s clear that having a good comment system like Disqus is critical. And you need to work your comments section if you want people to share your content and turn up again. Good comment community = viral blog. It’s called showing good service to your most loyal customers.

6. People like lists / images – Everybody likes lists. Try making your blog posts as lists and have it in your headline to drive clicks. How very meta of me, hey? ;-) If you want a great tool to create lists check out Ranker (I’m not an investor). Also, images are way more viral than video. Many people aren’t able to listen to videos in their office.

7. Give up page views – Many websites give you presentations or lists and make you scroll through 10 pages to see the entire list. Jon says don’t do this. You get a few extra page views but less people will consume the content and certainly less will share it and make it go viral.

8. Make sure you headline is compelling, a call-to-action or a list - We talked a bit about the need to make your title catchy. In an era of RSS, Twitter, Facebook & new consumption tools like FlipBoard – titles matter.

9. Make sure the content of your Tweet / FB Share isn’t something that is something people would feel stupid sending around to their friends & colleagues – we didn’t actually get to this in our interview, but I had seen Jonah Peretti (the founder of BuzzFeed & also of The Huffington Post) talk about this in a previous interview.  If the title of your post (or the content itself) is something that is likely to make the sharer feel embarrassed for sharing it then it certainly won’t go viral. Keep in mind that when somebody hits “share” they are putting their reputation on the line by sharing it with friends.

10. Tweet appropriately – OK, I’m adding this one to the list (also not in interview) but it’s a technique I have data on. First, make sure to leave 10-12 spaces in your Tweet rather than using all 140 characters. Sure, people can use new-style Retweets but many people prefer old-school ones. If you don’t leave enough space then it’s harder to share and many people won’t bother.

And I tell people all the time, it’s OK to Tweet more than once (full advice in this link). In particular I do an East Coast morning Tweet (5.40am PST) and a West Coast Tweet (8.40am). Each converts the same (e.g. if I hand’t sent the second tweet I’d get a lot less clicks / shares). I use a tool to set it up in advance so I don’t actually have to be ready to Tweet in real time.

If you keep a blog make sure you have ReTweet buttons prominently placed near your article. This will also drive a lot of shares.

And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a ReTweet. So if you liked this article, please find that nice little Tweet button near the top and share the love ;-) or share your own viral tips in the comments section below. I’ll see you there.

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.jimmyhua.com/2011/11/10/here-are-10-tips-from-buzzfeed-to-make-your-content-go-viral/

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