Goin’ Back

After a crazy couple of weeks at work, I’m back here to say – I promise I’m going to finish talking about TrendsWatch 2015, and those other long-reads I posted – someday. However, there’s something a bit more pressing to take care of right now, and that’s packing, moving, and looking for a new job!

It’s officially official that I’ll be moving back to Austin in mid-May. I’m really sad to be leaving the team I’m on at Morikami, and I really love what I do there, but it’s time to get back home. My husband is graduating optometry school, and we’re heading back to the Lone Start State where our family, and most of our friends, are waiting. I’ll miss a few things about South Florida, but I am really excited to see what happens in our next chapter!

Until Next Time,


Found – Open Data!

Just dropping you all a quick note to say – open data is alive and well! I ran across this post from Smithsonian on facebook today. Surprise! The Smithsonian is awesome and has their collection digitized and made available for download! Click the pic to see the post on Facebook.



See you all soon for the next section of TrendsWatch 2015!

Until Next Time,

TrendsWatch 2015: Open Data

On my second read through of the TrendsWatch 2015 report I was surprised to find that it brought up more questions than it answered. Perhaps that’s what they were going for – facilitating conversations surrounding these trends, and not so much answering the questions that might arise. Maybe they were trying to give us a framework for assessing how we are influenced by, and interacting with, these trends. As a side note for those of you museums up for re-accreditation, I think it also reads a little like a checklist that AAM will expect to see you addressing in some way.  That said, I really want to focus in on a few key questions that came up for me while reading, and ask you the same things. Take a few minutes to reflect on them and let me know what you came up with!

I’ll assume you’ve all gotten that head start I gave you, and read through the report already, but if you haven’t, it’s available from the Center for the Future of Museum’s website if you’d like to pause here. A few housekeeping things before we get into it – my goal here is to make the info in the report relatable to those of you who don’t work in a museum, or even the arts. So, just because this report is from the AAM, don’t count it out! Also, I’d like to keep these posts fairly short since the report cited the statistic that the optimal blog length is just 1600 words (a 7 minute read) from FastCompany. :/ In the interest of holding your attention I’m going to break up the report by each chapter and tackle them as a series. You know I love a blog series. That means I’ll go over Open Data here, then Ethical Everything, Personalization, Rising Tide, Wearable Tech, and finally Slow Culture. Now- on to the report!

The “Open” Economy: Filling the Data Pipeline

The first proper section of the report (after the intro, and the how to use this report stuff) talks about open data, open source technology, APIs, and the like. I have to admit, I hadn’t spent a ton of time trying to learn or understand this topic before reading the report, but it was enthralling, and even a little frustrating at times, to dig deeper into what open really means, and how it applies to non-profits, arts organizations, small businesses and marketing for any of these.

The first thing I want to point out in this section are the fascinating ways open data is already being used for some really diverse goals. The report cites a project by the New York State Civic Engagement Table and the Denver Regional Equity Atlas which are pretty fantastic, but I also think projects like these by Sha Hwang (whom you might remember from my NAMPC blog) and this one from the New York Public Library are also amazing ways to use open data to create useful (and really beautiful) tools for the public to use and interact with.

Transit map by Sha Hwang for Trulia using city transit data and commute time data.
Transit map by Sha Hwang for Trulia using city transit data and commute time data.

It’s worth mentioning that projects like this aren’t just for the benefit of the public. They are also great for raising public awareness of your brand, communicating your company’s values, and getting the public to engage with you, rather than just transacting with you. Just saying…

Another great point from the report was how important it is becoming to make sure data is accessible, meaning not just that it’s there, but also that it’s ready to use. Here’s the quote:

Many barriers stand in the way of converting data to knowledge, the foremost being compatibility. Interoperability is chimerical if data sets aren’t configured to talk to each other. To this end Code for America is promulgating recommended formats to make data easier to access and use.

The link above takes you to Code for America’s description of their current data formatting categories. Currently there are standards for referral services, park and nature trails, food inspectors, and housing data. The idea is that if local governments begin to format their data in the same way, then different departments, and even other local agencies, businesses and citizens will have an easier time finding what they need. So – brainstorm time: what pieces of your business data can you start converting now, so that you too can start contributing, and benefiting from, this streamlined system? See, I told you there’d be some reflection questions.

In the “What This Means for Society” part of this section, I just have “HOW?” written all over the margins. How does open government data facilitate transparency? How did the National Day of Civic Hacking improve communities? How are companies building business around public data? Even after reading the links in the report, it’s a little murky, but my biggest takeaway was from Beth Noveck’s TED talk, namely: “open” is really about being collaborative. Opening data, whether we’re talking about public data like the census, or organizational data like the makeup of your workforce, is useful, but it’s more powerful once you let others collaborate with you to make something new. A great example of this is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hitREcord project. The site allows individual makers – artists, musicians, designers, writers, etc. – to upload their creation and give it over to whoever want to re-mix, re-use or layer on top of it. They make collections at the end of the year, and the end results have been really stunning – I highly recommend checking it out.

Me with my very first hitREcord compilation in 2011.
Me with my very first hitREcord compilation in 2011.

Later in this section, the report discusses what museums can do to apply the open philosophy to their own data – which made me wonder – what constitutes data? For museums, maybe we mean data about what’s in their collection, but for a small business could data about your store locations, or data about how frequently you roll out new products, be useful to the public? What other kinds of data might be used to collaborate with local organizations, non-profits, other businesses or local government agencies? It made me wonder if facts and figures might just be the beginning. What about images, corporate branding pieces like logos and typefaces (which the report mentions), and other things we wouldn’t normally deem “data”? How can you make those things available for public consumption and re-purposing, and what are the risks/benefits of doing so?

The other side of the same coin would be – What kind of data would you like to have? The report lists city demographics, use of public and private transportation services, and school performance as some data that may already be open and available to you through your local government, but they also make note that when you open up your own data you might be surprised at how the public uses it – to help YOU.

When [you] put [your] data out there to play with, [you] may learn a tremendous amount about what people value about [your] work, and how people want to work with [you].

I replaced the museum specific language with you for impact, but you get the picture. You might get a whole new set of data to learn from once you see what people do with the info you give them. Opening your business up to this kind of collaboration is an opportunity to really learn something about your audience, and then promote your own goals, with theirs in mind. Again, you’re creating opportunities for people to engage with you, while also learning how you can make their experience with your business better and more than a purchase.

In the end, we could all use more collaboration. True collaboration, where we work together to create something new, is a great way to advance your marketing goals while also learning a little bit about what your customer needs and wants from you. Collaboration, aka the open economy, is the doorway that can lead us to a new way of doing business – one that’s not just buying and selling, but creating an supporting communities. We’re already seeing this work in spaces like etsy, so it’s high time we apply it to other businesses.

Check back soon for a discussion of the next section – Ethical Everything – an idea that has an undeniable marketing advantage.

Until Next Time,


Long Reads on My List

Just a quick note to say: I’ve got so much to share! I really love longreads, but they take a while (obviously) to get through, process and analyze. That’s why I want to give you a head start! Below are some cool articles that I absolutely want to talk about here, I just haven’t finished writing yet. So, if you want to be ahead of the curve, read them first, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I get there. Deal? Cool – on to the links!

1) Future of Museums TrendsWatch 2015

This one is REALLY long (60 pages to be exact), but it’s so worth the time investment – even if you don’t work at a museum. It’s by the American Association of Museums, but the themes are totally translatable, and that’s what I plant to focus on here – how these themes are relevant to non-profits, small businesses and the wider marketing landscape.

Get that one here.

2) Mashable’s Dear Marketers, Stop Trying to Sell Sexism

This is a topic I’m particularly passionate about, and I think the case presented here is interesting because it’s an intersection of marketing and technology (as so many campaigns/messages/case studies are now).

Check that one out here.

3) 2015 Non-Profit Communications Trends Report

This one is from Non-Profit Marketing Guide, and while there isn’t nearly as much explanation to go with this data as there is in the AAM report above, there are plenty of useful numbers, and clear trends.

See that here.

4) Video: Ray Bradbury on Combinational Creativity

This one isn’t really a long read, but it’s about an hour so I’ll include it here. I  love this quote from the video, and I can’t wait to dive deeper: “What you’ve gotta do from this point forward is stuff your head with more different things from various fields, hygienically speaking.” – Ray Bradbury

Find that one here.


So when you’re ready to glue your eyes to your computer screen, go ahead and pull a Bill Murray, then check out these articles. I’ll be back here with my take on all of them very very soon. Have other long reads you think I should check out? Catch me on twitter @rachelanndesign, or leave a comment below.

Until Next Time,



P.S. to my fellow #RPDR fans – don’t worry, it won’t be that kind of long read 😉

Responsive Design Pt. III : Getting It Done

The long-awaited (and I do mean long, oops), much-anticipated part three of the responsive design series I’ve been working on is finally here! Let’s dive right in…

Get Organized

The first thing you want to look into when you start work on a responsive site (or any project really) is how you are going to communicate about it, where all the “stuff” is going to “live,” and how you can keep it all organized. This is why I can’t recommend enough a project management application of some sort. Whether it’s web based (as most are now) or software based, invest (or look for a web vendor who does – like we did) in this tool. It will change your life. I mean it. Gone are the days of long email chains that get caught between one inbox and another, lost in the shuffle when someone doesn’t respond to the latest comment, etc. etc. I personally really like basecamp because it’s super easy to use and has a bunch of cool functions like file uploads, to-do lists, discussion threads, the ability to include (or dis-include) certain team members on pieces of the project, and a bunch of other great features – all in real time. This will save you time and sanity.

Clean Up

This piece of the puzzle can be done at the same time as a couple of others, but it still needs to happen early in the process – clean up your content. Go through every page of your site and decide if you still need it, if it needs to be updated, if it can be consolidated, and how it will fit into the new site (and – more importantly – your visitor’s experience.) One of the mantras in our office is “the website can be as robust as you want it to be,” meaning, add as much content as you like to your area of the site so that we don’t have to print it. In an effort to cut down on expensive print pieces this has been a really effective strategy, but when it comes time to figure out what’s moving, and where, be sure that the content you are offering is still valuable, as well as accurate. You don’t have to do this alone, and you probably shouldn’t. Ask everyone to go over their section of the old site and be 100% sure it is up-to-date, valuable information. Once that’s accomplished you can clean out information that is no longer relevant or useful, collect the newly updated info, and find the right spot for the rest, say, an archive?

This will also be a good time to decide on how you want your site to be used. Should this be an archive of every event, program and product your organization has ever produced? Should it be a place for people to find information quickly? Should it be a place for people to do in-depth research into your industry? If it’s a combination, be sure to prioritize those goals and plan storage, site navigation and architecture, and future areas of growth around those priorities. These decisions will also guide how you re-apportion the old content once it’s updated.

Brand It

This is probably my favorite part – creating a look and feel. This is the part where whoever is working out the creative and visual aspects of your site should be asking you about the character and personality of your brand. We already talked about hiring a web vendor you trust, and this is one of those critical areas where your vendor should be taking your ideas and turning them into gorgeous layouts that work. Just because you want to have a huge gif of a man shooting bananas out of his nose (because you’re a FUN banana company) in the background of every page does not mean that it will make for a good user experience. Your vendor should be guiding you toward beautiful ways of making things easy for your site visitors. It’s helpful to show your vendor sites you like. Be specific about the aspects you want to see replicated. Do you like their color palette? The way their buttons look? Is there some kind of functionality you want?

When it’s all said and done, the look and feel of the site should match the personality of your brand, and make people think of whatever values your brand stands for.

Frame It

Once you have a solid foundation forming on the visual side of things it’s time to start thinking architecture. No skyscraper could stand without the steel girding, and no person could move without a skeleton. Similarly, the navigation and architecture of your site make up the framework you’ll need to build something great. For us that started with navigation. If you’re anything like us, you don’t want to re-invent the wheel, but you are excited by the opportunity to shake things up. That’s why we started with our existing navigation, and then turned it, flipped it, spun it around and tried to see it from every angle. We finally settled on the idea that our outside users didn’t necessarily see us as the compartmentalized departments that we thought of internally. So, restricting some content to the “education” drop down, and other content to the “events” drop down wasn’t going to cut it. A good way to start is to ask yourself where you’d look for something on your site if you didn’t already know where it was. In short, organize your content and navigation like a user, not a staff member.

The other big issue we faced was the challenge of a mega menu. If you haven’t seen one before, a mega menu is a large drop down that lets you see a bunch of associated links at once, rather than organizing things into parent>child>grandchild lists that end up getting stacked over and down forever. It was a challenge for us to marry the new technology to an older way of organizing. What we ended up with was a hybrid of both where each column of our “child level” content is organized into what would have been a single drop down in the old style (and we’ve got “grandchild” links listed below), but it’s all under one umbrella, or what would have been a single “parent” before. The difference here is that the “parent” serves as a wider category for all of the things you’ll see in that section, but you get to see and choose from all of them at once.

Another consideration while you’re framing is what kinds of way-finding technology you’ll be using. Our wordpress site allows us to create a single page with multiple tabs that display only the content you put inside the tab tags, sort of like dividers in a binder. What we didn’t realize, until pretty late in the process, is that if you have a link to a specific tab in your main navigation, and you want to click on a link in the main navigation to a tab on that same page….nothing happens. As it turns out, that’s because the system is reading that you’re already there – because you are on that page. This caused considerable heartache for us, and I can’t emphasize enough how much trouble and double work I would have saved myself if I had asked more questions and taken a little more time to understand (and explain) the tech I was employing.

There are a lot of other options for navigation you should consider too – things like buttons and plain links are some basic options, but there are also breadcrumbs that let you see where you are in the navigational levels, and sidebars with mini versions of your main navigation tailored to the section of the site a user is on. Keep your options open, and ask your web vendor to walk you through the benefits of using one vs. the other.

Lastly, take care of the orphans. Orphaned content is anything you can’t get to using the main navigation. (Side note: some say it’s anything that isn’t linked from some other page on the site. I think that’s generous from a user experience standpoint because if I have to click more than a couple of times to find it, I’m going to leave your site….. just saying). This was another big hurdle for us. Our old site was positively lousy with orphans. We had content 3 or 4 pages deep and no way to get to it other than a labyrinthine series of clicks. So, when it came to building the new content we tried to keep that top of mind. If the content is important enough to have on the site, it’s important enough to help visitor’s find it.

Think In 3D

Now we get to the meat of designing responsively – actually creating a responsive site that makes sense on mobile, tablet and desktop. I’ve heard people say designing a responsive site is thinking “mobile first,” but I don’t completely agree with that. When you are designing a responsive site you should really be thinking in 3D – meaning every idea should be run through your “how does this work on mobile/tablet/desktop” filter before it’s set in stone. Thinking mobile first is really creating a mobile site that happens to work on a desktop. Our goal is to create a site that works elegantly on all three platforms (or four or five as the technology grows.)

My best example of thinking in 3D was when we were incorporating our mobile guided tour. used to take you directly to the mobile guided by our third-party vendor, but when we started designing responsively this made less and less sense. If you’re on a desktop and you visit you want to see something tailored to you and your screen. The same is true if you’re on a tablet or phone. Instead of sending visitors directly to the tour that page has a short explanation of the tour (for desktop users) and a big button that takes you to the tour (for mobile and tablet users). While this adds an extra click, it allows us to offer ALL of our users something that makes sense for their platform. The idea of tailoring the experience to the user isn’t new, and we could certainly go further to offer tailored content, but this is a solid first step.

The other great thing about designing responsively is that there are endless options when it comes to offering your site visitors a good experience – I’m talking about thresholds. When you set a threshold for your mobile users you can tell your site to display, or not display, certain pieces of your site based on the screen size or browser width of the user. For us that meant getting rid of the hero image at the top of the homepage (because a horizontal image look s great on a big screen, but gets squished into insignificance on a phone) and bringing them straight to the main content of the home page. We also set our mobile menu to kick in on a tablet held in portrait mode, but the full mega menu shows when the tablet is in landscape. These types of tweaks are the heart and soul of designing responsively, and the best part is – changing them is incredibly easy when you build it right.

Test, Gather Data, Adjust

The last phase – and the one that pretty much never ends – is the testing phase. Because it’s so easy to make adjustments to things like your mobile thresholds you can adjust to your heart’s delight. Create a heat map, check out your analytics, and make informed decisions based on what the data tells you about user behavior. Things might be challenging at first, there will be little bugs, unexpected kinks and just plain-old, change-averse users. I speak from experience when I say it can be frustrating, confusing and downright hard, but the challenge of this process is what’s so interesting and exhilarating. Keep at it, stay positive, and have fun!


That about sums it up! If you’ve gotten this far – snaps to you – I hope you found some useful info. If you’ve still got questions, leave a comment or catch me on twitter @rachelanndesign. I’d love to hear about your challenges, insights and ideas!

Until Next Time,



Data, Data, Data: What I Learned at NAMPC 2014

I’m becoming a data nerd more and more. As I’ve grown in my marketing career I’ve come to both crave, and downright love, data. It’s the lifeblood of my decision making. I love seeing the spike in traffic when I post a new blog entry here, or seeing the varied locales visitors to my site are from. I just can’t get over the wealth of information all this data brings.

As you can imagine, when I was picking out individual sessions at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference I gravitated to the ones I’ve dubbed “data binges.” Sessions like Using Data to Provide New Insights into Customer Behavior and Segmentation, or Measuring Success in New Ways. I was immersed in new ideas and ways to mine Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and our CRM. It.was.awesome. Then, we went to our lunch keynote on Saturday and my mind was completely blown.

We sat down to hear Arthur Cohen, of LaPlaca Cohen, talk about their national study Culture Track. This annual study tracks cultural consumer behavior in U.S. and I was SO sad I had never heard of it before. The full study is available here (you’ll just need to enter your email, because they aren’t giving it away COMPLETELY for free 😉 … ), but you can listen to Arthur’s full presentation below, thanks to Americans for the Arts. I hope you’ll hang in and listen to the whole thing even if you aren’t an arts marketer, because there are some really interesting stats for any one who is interested in consumer behavior. This study is an absolute wealth of data, and I am so glad to finally be clued in.

After you watch Arthur’s presentation, I also highly recommend you watch the closing keynote by Sha Hwang. It was a really inspirational look at our culture, and he mixed in some great points about data, too. The big take away, though, was this – data is not a pathway forward, just a tool to help us get there.

Both of these perspectives on data and the cultural landscape of the U.S. were really insightful, so please do enjoy! Next time I’ll get back on track with that responsive web re-design we’ve been chatting about.

Until Next Time,


(Skip to 27:37 for start)

(Skip to 25:39 for start)

Responsive Design Pt. II – 5 Steps for Choosing a Web Vendor

As I sat down to write this second installment of my responsive design series (part one is here), I thought about what the actual first steps were in re-vamping I realized the very first step, after deciding to go with a responsive platform, was researching and choosing a vendor. I remember this being a DAUNTING task, and a pretty major piece of the puzzle. I get it – there’s an endless rainbow of options to consider (you get the featured image now, huh?) So, for you dear readers who are considering re-working your site, here is my advice on choosing a web vendor. I’ll get back to more on responsive design, and my experience in actually helping to build a responsive site, in the next installment.

Five Steps for Choosing a Web Vendor

1) First things first – what’s holding you back on your current site?

For Morikami it was a combination of things, as I suspect it is for you. We were working in two, piece-meal systems. One housed our e-commerce store, our donations and memberships, and our educational programming registrations, as well as our email marketing and some of our informational pages. The other housed our web forms, our basic informational pages, our database of museum collections pieces, and – for a time – our email marketing. It was a pretty hodge-podge system that was frustrating for me as the manager of all this content, but also for some of our internal staff users. Don’t get me wrong – these systems had their high points, but they weren’t working well together, and they weren’t giving us what we really wanted – a site fit for use on mobile AND desktop.

Before you even go looking for a vendor, start with the challenges your current site is creating for you, your internal staff, and your outside users. What needs improvement? What needs overhauling? And what can you do to create a better experience for your users? Ask internal staff what they’d like to see from your site. Hold a focus group, or send out an email survey asking your users what they like and dislike about your site. Be specific, and make sure to dig into your google analytics as well. You’ll be surprised at what the raw data can tell you about where external users are having trouble.

2) What kind of functionality do you need?

As I said before, Morikami had a lot going on, and I suspect this is why we smashed together two disparate systems. Once you know what challenges you’re facing, start figuring out what kind of solutions are out there to fix them. Maybe you need more flexibility with your email list size and you should look into a pay as you grow plan. Maybe you need a more streamlined e-commerce store to sell products online, and you need to look for a simple e-commerce solution. Is it integration with other systems that you need – like Raiser’s Edge or maybe a retail POS? Look for vendors that offer ready made plug-ins, or fairly-priced custom programming for those integrations.

It’s also helpful to make a list of all the functions your current site performs, as well as the things you’ll want to add on. Here are some of the functions we needed:

  • e-commerce with flexible discounting for members and frequent sales, easy product set up, and space for lots of products and categories
  • email marketing with robust reporting, and pay as you grow pricing
  • the ability to take donations with no tax added
  • the ability to sell memberships with multiple options and specific information gathering fields
  • a well designed calendar with the ability to integrate a product for our educational programming
  • a database of past exhibits and museum collections pieces that included both text and images in a consistent format
  • a mega menu – more on this in the next installment

When it was all said and done we had a healthy list of functions, but it really helped to narrow down the competitors! Make sure you get feedback from other departments that rely on your site so that you’re sure you’ve included everything the site needs to do on this list. Around this point is also a good time to start setting a tentative budget. You won’t have a super clear picture of what all of your needs will cost until you start asking what the going rates are, but having a general number in mind for what you’re willing to spend, and what you’ve been spending thus far, is a good idea.

3) Start Looking

I started with our current vendors to see if they could rise to the level of functionality we were looking for. Unfortunately for us, or maybe them, it just wasn’t in the cards. They had some options for responsive sites, but they weren’t nearly as good as I was hoping they’d be. Thus, the search for someone new began.

My advice here is to look at your list of needs/wants for functionality and start googling things like “build e-commerce site” or “responsive web design vendors.” At the very least you’ll run across some sites that can show you what you don’t want your site to look like, and that’s just as valuable. You should also ask around to businesses and organizations like you, or in your area. See who they are using, how they like them, and what they offer. Once you get a few leads, take a look at the vendor’s site and their portfolio. Make sure you like the designs as well as the way their sites actually function. Are they offering the type of e-commerce sites you need? Do they have clients using the kinds of functions you’ve listed?

4) Talk to their users

Once you get a short list of potential vendors get in touch with their clients. Don’t be afraid to ask for references even if you haven’t asked for a quote yet. You want to hear from their users to see if they a) got what they wanted and needed from this vendor and b) have been well supported since launching. Be sure to ask what the build process was like, if they have a dedicated account manager, and if they’d recommend you using this vendor.

5) Get some quotes

When you start asking for quotes make sure the potential vendors know what you’re asking for. Give them a clear list of all the functions you’ll need to include. They should also be asking you questions about other needs you may not have even thought about – things like content migration, and hosting services. Try to include everything you can in this quote process so that when you get them all back you are comparing apples to apples. You want to make sure that each of your potential vendors is quoting you on all the things you’ll need. Once all the quotes are in you get to make the tough decisions. Who is offering you everything you want for the best price and the best service?

And that’s it! It seems so simple when it’s boiled down to just 5 steps, but I understand how frustrating, and anxiety-ridden, the whole process can be. So take heart, you’re not alone! Still have questions, or think I missed something? Leave me a comment and we’ll discuss 🙂 Pop in again soon for the next installment of this series where we’l finally dive into  actually building a responsive site.


Until Next Time,


Responsive Design Pt. I

Hello again! It’s been almost two months since I’ve written (where the heck does the time go?!) and I’m sure you’ll excuse my tardiness when you read about what’s been going on, at least I think you will. I spent most of my summer re-designing the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens website. I knew it would be a big undertaking, what I didn’t know was JUST how big it would get. I literally spent ALL of my time at work, and many hours at home, molding the site, making decisions and finding solutions from May through September. It. was.crazy. Directly after that I jumped head first into helping plan and execute Morikami’s most popular annual festival. Now that I’ve got a little breathing room, and the new and improved is live, I want to tell you all about why I think responsive design is so important, and cool, and some of the things I learned along the way. This will be a multi-parter, so stick with me!

First, let’s start with what responsive design actually is. There are a lot of pseudo-definitions for responsive web design out there, and I was just as inclined as anyone to take the first one and run. Simply put – responsive design means your site responds to the width of the internet browser your visitor is using. Whether they are on an ultra-skinny iPhone 5 (more on that later) or a super-sized desktop monitor, the site is programmed to add or subtract content, re-align columns and stack things up to give the visitor the content they need most in whichever format they choose to view it. Many see responsive as a one-size-fits-all solution that serves up identical content for a mobile user and a desktop user. Detractors would say a mobile website, or an app, are more effective tools. However, after a brief twitter exchange with our web provider, Venture Industries Online, and their principal – Drew McManus – I’ve come to see things a little differently. The full blog by Drew is here and here.  But I’d like to excerpt some of it for you.

Here’s how it started:

Here’s where it ended up:

Responsive design has been a boon for arts organizations and what was once a nearly unknown term three years ago is increasingly common; so common in fact, that the development field is beginning to distort what responsive design is all about. Case in point, one of Venture’s users, Rachel Carneglia, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens’ Online Marketing Coordinator, recently pointed out an article at (no affiliation to The Venture Platform) titled “Is responsive design killing mobile?”

It’s a good article except for the fatal flaw of categorizing what responsive design is really all about then portraying it as a jack of all trades but master of none solution.

“The content served up to the user is the same as on a desktop site, and while they layout is organized to accommodate a smaller screen, it is important to remember that the integrity of the desktop site is intended to remain as true to form as possible and any changes to the desktop site will also affect the mobile site”

Simply put, that is categorically incorrect. The notion that a responsive site must deliver all content from each page on all browser widths is the opposite of what good responsive design is all about.

Can you see where this is going yet? While venturebeat is correct that some changes to the desktop site may affect the mobile site, it’s a little more nuanced than that. As Drew says above, if you’re serving up the exact same thing to your mobile users as your desktop users – you’re doin’ it wrong. The beauty of responsive design is that you can make text changes to a page on your desktop site and then move on with your life….because your mobile site is the same site. You can also dig deep into your google analytics and see that mobile users are dropping off your e-commerce site like flies, maybe removing that big header image would make it easier to purchase? Remove it from the mobile version, and ta-da! your conversion rate is through the roof. Responsive lets you experiment on one, without compromising the other, AND without compromising the overall consistency of your web experience.  I highly recommend reading through all of Drew’s two-part blog on this because he explains some of the more practical applications, as well as what all of this means for those looking to make the switch.

In the next piece I’ll take you through what it was like to actually make the switch to responsive design, why we did it, and why I think responsive is so important. In the meantime – got questions? Want to discuss? Disagree? Leave me a comment below!

Until Next Time,



P.S. A special thanks to Adaptistration for that cool sketch image of the morikami site on each device!

How to Build a Hype Machine: The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Campaign

If you aren’t in to Starbucks, which I realize many aren’t, or you aren’t into twitter, tumblr, pinterest,  and the like…. then maybe you haven’t seen the blitz that is the Starbucks marketing efforts to promo the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I’ve already had one this season, despite the numerous articles about how unhealthy it is, and the more convincing articles about how you should just drink it ’cause it’s not that serious. Through it all, I was struck by two things: 1) Goodness! Where did the summer go? 2) Starbucks has some genius marketers in their corner to be able to create this much hype over a drink that doesn’t even have pumpkin in it.

Starbucks adeptly got people from point A (twitter) to point B (their local Starbucks), with the clever use of a contest, and the promise of an early taste of the coveted PSL. So maybe you’re asking – So what did they actually do? And what’s so great about all of this? And how does this apply to anyone besides Starbucks? Glad you asked! I’ll take your (my) questions in order.

1) So what did they actually do?

@TheRealPSL tweeted a total of five clues over a week. Each tweet had a link to tumblr, Pinterest or other tweets, and participants played a series of games to reveal the answer to the day’s clue. Once each of the five puzzles had been solved, participants had to combine them to unlock a code word. With code word in hand (or on phone, as the case may be) thirsty fall-seekers could then “unlock” the PSL at their local Starbucks a week before it was officially released to the public.

2) What’s so great about all this?

Well, let’s take a closer look at the numbers. Starbucks started tweeting from @theRealPSL on August 4th, and as of this writing PSL has almost 87,000 followers and over 8,000 tweets.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.48.03 PM

That’s some pretty amazing growth for just under a month. Starbucks, obviously, understands that there’s practically a cult following for this specific drink. They also know who buys the PSL, what social platforms they use (twitter, tumblr, and pinterest anyone?), and what gets them to engage on those platforms. This whole campaign was a well calculated plan to capitalize on the popularity of the product, and ultimately, drive sales.

One of the building blocks of that plan was the choice of social platforms. The Pew Research Center’s study of social media demographics in late 2013 confirmed what many of us (Starbucks included) already knew – Twitter is young. Users from 18-29 make up 31% of the total user population, and Pew reported that adoption rates for Twitter were especially high among African American and Hispanic users as compared to other social platforms. It’s a pretty easy sell there. The same goes for Tumblr. The blogging site played a huge role in the actual structure of this campaign in that Twitter provided the first touch point, but Tumblr offered the real meat of the content. According to Search Engine Journal and Tumblr itself, the site hosts over 200 million individual blogs, and 66% of its users are under 35 (31% are under 25). Are you seeing a pattern here? With Pinterest in the mix (where 18% of the content shared is food and drink related – hello!) it’s fairly easy to see who Starbucks was going after here. This campaign is so great because it’s smart. This campaign is a big deal because it was well crafted, kind of like the PSL… (ok, that was too much, right?)

3) How does it apply to anyone besides Starbucks?

I get that Starbucks has a HUGE budget to execute all of this. I’m sure they have more than one community manager devoted to the PSL twitter account, to say nothing of their other social networks devoted to the fall favorite. BUT THERE IS HOPE! What all this proves is that with a little research and a dash of creativity you too can create a hype machine!

Crafting Your Contest

Before you start – assuming you’re hoping for this kind of hype, as well as a way to measure how it paid off  – the first step is figure out who you’re going to talk to. Start with the data. If you don’t have data, start gathering some. Conduct surveys and informal polls; mine your e-news lists, google analytics and social media insights to find out who your customer is. Once you’ve figured out who they are, it’s time to figure out where they are. Check out those demographics again, better yet – ask them where they are! Survey Monkey has a great free survey plan that makes it a cinch to send a survey to your email lists.

Now you know who they are, and where they are. Time to come up with a contest! Contests are tried and true methods of driving engagement on social, but they usually turn out to be pretty shallow. People come for the freebie, but leave after they don’t win, or the fun is over (more on that later). What was so lovely and different about this campaign was that everyone could be a winner. There was no limit to how many people could win the “prize” because the prize was early access to a product they still had to pay for. So, when you’re coming up with a contest and prize think about ways to offer value that a) don’t cost you anything, or very little and b) mean something to your base. While Starbucks was pushing something they already knew was popular, they found a way to offer value to the customer without costing themselves anything in profit.  Granted, if you’re starting from scratch on a product, event, or service that isn’t already popular with your base, this can certainly be a little more tricky. BUT the same rules apply. Your prize will just require a little more research.

After it’s over – Even if your contest doesn’t meet the goal you had hoped it would, it’s still worth taking a look at what worked and what didn’t once it’s all over. Why didn’t you meet your goal? Was the prize not as engaging as you thought it would be? Was the work the audience had to do unequal to the prize? What made people flock to that social site? Was it the push you did on other platforms? Was the e-blast the MVP? Make sure to take a look at the campaign as a whole, and don’t just focus on the narrow goal that was met or unmet. Did you gain something else from the process? Maybe some new followers even?

I mentioned above that contests can be a really shallow way of gaining followers, but that’s only if you don’t keep up with them after the contest. If you keep offering value, as in content they find interesting, you’re more likely to keep those numbers you worked so hard for. Mashable has a pretty good article about running a successful contest, and Inbox Group has some good tips on how to keep those newbies, but the short version is this – keep in touch.

Meaningful conversation on social media is key. Don’t let your social profiles die after the contest ends, and just as importantly, don’t make it all about you either. Social media is about back and forth – which is the last great thing about this PSL campaign. You’ll notice on their twitter feed that PSL responded to ALL of the contest-related tweets, and many that weren’t strictly contest-related. Making your social followers feel like they are being heard, and valued as customers, is one thing that Starbucks just knocked.out.of.the.park. on this one. Also – I can’t repeat the word value enough here…it’s a BFD, ok?

The last thing I want to say about this campaign, and contests in general, is this: do what you can do. Starbucks is a multi-billion dollar company. If you’re a small business, or a non-profit with a shoe-string budget – don’t freak out! Think about what your supporters like about you, think about the amount of time and money you can put toward a project like this, and go from there. Measure, measure, measure your first contest, and grow from there. You can do it!

I hope all of this was useful. Got something to add? Want to talk about something else? Hit up the comments 🙂

Until Next Time,


Photos: PSL Twitter

I’m Back (again)!

It feels a bit like coming back from the dead writing here, but no worries – I’m not craving brains – just a little re-connection! As you can see just by looking at the dates of my most”recent” posts, I have been sorely neglecting this blog. It’s a mix of full time work, contract work, and good old fashioned procrastination. This time, though, the procrastination turned from “I’ll write something tomorrow” into “I’ll write something next week” which morphed into “What blog?” I don’t pretend that you all have been pining away waiting for me to write something new, but I did want to get back in the habit of writing regularly, and I think I’ve found a new angle that’ll keep me writing with more focus and intention.

Over the past year and a half or so I’ve been working as the Online Marketing Coordinator at Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, FL. Some of you might remember that I moved to Florida from Texas when my husband started optometry school. I was doing marketing and development at Women In Distress of Broward County, Inc., and after a brief stint where I thought I might go to to grad school, I started work at Morikami. I always knew that I wanted to end up in non-profit work, but I hadn’t thought of marketing as a real option until I started doing it after graduating in 2010. Let me tell you – it’s been an absolute blast! I’ve learned a ton, met some amazing people, and grabbed on tight to a really important area of non-profit work. Which brings me here…to you…and this blog.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can better use this blog to offer something people might actually want to read. I’ve seen the power a blog can have in reaching a wide audience, and the depth it can offer when used correctly. So, while I’ll still be discussing design and any important design news I come across, I also want to incorporate marketing news and views with a focus on marketing for non-profits and small businesses. My hope is that this will be a place people will come to catch up on, and more importantly, discuss what’s going on in non-profit marketing and design. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, so I won’t make any promises at all…for now. Just know that it’s my plan to make this an engaging place to be.

That said – my first in-depth marketing discussion will be the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte hullabaloo. I’m working on that now and I’m hoping to have it up very soon. In the mean time, if you’re interested in what I’ve been up to all this time I highly recommend checking out – which I have been trying to whip into shape, and We’re launching the new and improved on September 15th, so go catch a glimpse of the before, now!

Have questions? Need answers? Leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Until next time,


P.S. If you’re not making fun stuff at work, you need to figure out why…and change it. Inspiration from some of my favorite Morikami events: