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It’s summer and you can’t take that away…

It’s been a fast paced few years. The web has consumed a lot of my time unfortunately. No doubt I’ve learned a lot and the amount of experience and knowledge can’t be found in a book or classroom. I’ve worked with some awesome teams, PressEnter!, Spyder Trap, and now enveloped in an Omni-Channel UX team at Best Buy. One thing that has been overlooked that has gotten me to where I am is the physical world…the non-digital space. I used to draw every night since I was very young. My teachers would always wonder where my homework was, instead I’d spend time drawing.

However, I haven’t done that in years and that’s a terrible thing. Today it finally got nice out. This has been an overly harsh winter in Wisconsin/Minnesota. A lot of factors make it cold and dark, but today was a day that was bright, sunny and warm. I shut down my laptop and ventured out into the real world to do some art.

Which brings me to today’s tutorial. How to enjoy the outdoors as an interactive designer or something to that effect. You could also title it, spring/summer therapy.

Step 1. A Canvas You’ll need a space to fill. Below is an area that is sort of a blank canvas in front of my townhouse. It needed something, what better thing then some flowers or plants. Life is awesome, so why not help it along by planting something. Blank Canvas Step 2: Make a run to your local garden center. I chose Walmart cause it was just down the way. WRONG! I know from my experienced folks that Lowe’s is the way to go. But I denied that cause I was lazy, Walmart had nothing for hanging flowers over the edge of the rail. So Lowe’s it was. And it proved fruitful! However, I ended up with only Violas, a perennial plant since it’s still quite a bit early in the season for this work. stuff stuff 2 Step 3: Stop and get Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. It’s officially spring/summer when you can open this. Best enjoyed golfing, grilling… but this works to. As long as you’re outside and working with tools. summer shandy Step 4: Open a Summer Shandy and drink. You have to get in the right frame of mind. Vincent van Gogh did absinthe… IMG_2657 Step 4: Your trays. Now I noticed they didn’t have drain holes. This is important. You don’t want your water sticking around, either it gets used by the plant or it lingers and creates a moldy environment. It’s fact. Look it up. IMG_2662 Which is ok, cause that means you can get out your power tools. IMG_2658 Now you don’t want to put too large a bit on. Something small enough for the water to drain. Otherwise your dirt will fall out and too much water may drain out or something… Here’s a bit that worked. I did not have a banana for scale, but it was somewhere in the /32nds or /8ths. IMG_2659 Step 5: Drill them holes. (Reminder, you’ve got beer, so you should be sipping along the way.) I made a pattern of sorts. IMG_2663 Crap. It wasn’t until I was ready to put in the dirt that I realized these trays had little pockets in them. Water for sure would go there. Oh well, noted for next year. IMG_2665 Step 6: Put the dirt in. How much? Well enough so the flowers stick out the top. We can play that by ear when we start putting the flowers in. IMG_2667 Step 7: Break them flowers out of their containers. Note: this is tougher than it looks. Like really tough. It took me quite awhile to figure this out. I started tearing it up good. IMG_2668 I found a system that worked. Tearing the sides and then grabbing the base of the plant just at the dirt level and slowly pulling it out. Be careful, you don’t want to rip it from its roots. IMG_2671 Step 7: Take a break. At this point you realize what you got into and you’ll need a break. Don’t get too anxious or frustrated. Remember, it’s not drag and drop, click, edit or delete. You’re working with nature here. It takes some care and patience. You’re trying to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Drink some Summer Shandy.

Step 8: Put the plants in the tray. Figure out how many you have, start to eye up the spacing and make some divots in the dirt. Put one plant in the dirt and make sure it’s got some support from the surrounding dirt.

[no pic, my hands were dirty at this point]

Step 9: Ok, one is done. Looks good. IMG_2673 I noticed that the divot idea was not working so quickly, so I made three large divots to see if that would work. At this point I was getting a bit anxious to complete this project. IMG_2675 That didn’t work so well. So I went back to individual divots.

Step 10: Hang them up. Fortunately I had spindles to help with the measurement. Just did some quick math to find center. The trays had a quick two piece system that would hang over the edge. You just tighten the nuts and you’re set.IMG_2677 Step 11: Extra flowers. I had extra, so I cleaned out a pot and put them in there. Again, do some math or some layout stuff and plant them. Do it quick though, cause by this point you may just toss them in the trash if you don’t hurry.IMG_2682 Step 12: But wait! We are not savages. We’re Gordon Ramsey, we gotta make this presentable. Get a paper towel and clean the edge of the pot. IMG_2683 Looks good.

Step 13: Don’t forget to water. You’ll want to pick up one of those spout looking deals, super professional. When neighbors walk by, they’ll think you know what you’re doing. IMG_2680 Step 14: Trash. Looks like the plants came with some instructions. You can read those if you want, but hey, we’ve all been to IKEA, we know how this stuff works. IMG_2674 Step 15: Put your tools away and sweep. I did my work mostly on the yard so I didn’t have a lot of dirt to sweep, but you may have to. Also, if you put your tools away, they’ll be there next time you need them. IMG_2684 Step 16: Enjoy your work! Grab another Summer Shandy, put on some country music or Bruce Springsteen…hey, it’s nice out, sometimes Mogwai or Crystal Castles is a bit much. You need some good ol’ chillin tunes. IMG_2686 Don’t waste the summer on that laptop. Get your hands dirty. Whether with dirt, sawdust, clay or a sand castle. It’ll help you be a better designer on the web and reset your brain so that Monday can be awesome. Enjoy the summer kids.

How to Attract Customers Researching Your Industry

Specific, well thought-out content is important for a business website.

If you’re looking to attract new customers with your website then you need content that will work to achieve this goal. You know that putting minimal effort into your website content will yield minimal results yet for some reason content gets put out of mind when it comes time to actually do the writing.

We tend to focus on the design, which is important, but we don’t want to lose focus on the content. When it comes to attracting customers the design and the content need to work together.

When we talk about attracting customers it’s important to realize there are a few different types of customers that are using the Internet to find information. For your business there are a few points along the sales funnel where your target customer will be.

First, there are customers out there that don’t even realize they need something. They might have a problem or an inconvenience, but they aren’t actively looking for a solution.

Second, there are customers looking for a solution. These customers are researching the problem they have and they’re looking for any information that can help.

Third, there are customers that have found a solution or two and are looking at comparables to make sure they are making the right decision.

For this post we’ll focus on customers that are in the research stage of the funnel. These folks are looking for solutions.

Here is how you can attract their attention.

Attract Researching Customers with Website Content

You’ve probably done research online before. Most people look to Google when they are looking for something. For the person that is researching solutions they have come to realize that something in their life is really getting out of control. They want more convenience or they want to eliminate that nagging issue. They go to Google or they ask a friend for a referral for something that might work.

Your goal, as a business owner with a website, is to be there when your target customer is in this stage of making a purchase.

Here are three steps to being there when your customers are searching for solutions.

First, create long service pages. A few months ago we talked about long form content on websites. When creating your selling content think about the conversations you have with prospective customers in real life. Think about the questions they ask and use your answers for the content on the website. Usually this process makes it easier to write content and you’ll be surprised at how long the pages will actually get on your site and that’s okay. The people that read long web pages are the people that actually pay for things.

Second, write point of view articles about the latest news. When people hear about certain industries or certain solutions they start researching. Usually the industry is new to these folks so they’re looking for information on how they should interpret things. This is where you can come in and provide your point of view on specific topics. When people are searching for things they’ll find your articles and visit your site. These articles build trust and show how you position yourself as a company.

Third, write how-to articles. Some people call this evergreen content. Others call it informational content. Whatever you call it the basic idea is to write the kind of content that gives direction on the basics in your industry. Some people in this stage of research like to think they can do something themselves. They look for how-to information with the idea that they can do it, but as they read more information or as they try to fix things they realize they need help. That’s when they remember that you’ve provided great information. They trust you. They call you up and make a purchase. How-to articles are also great for sharing on social sites. When people discover something useful they tend to share it with peers. That means more referral and word of mouth for your company.

Those are three ways you can attract customers that are researching and looking for specific solutions. Focus on these types of content on your website and you should see your website getting more traffic from search engines and social sharing sites like Twitter and Facebook.