What Is Flat Design? 

By Steve Hoag

flat design

Flat design is taking the web design industry by storm. And it’s set to grow even more. So what is it exactly? What does it look and behave like? Are there any benefits to adopting this style in future designs? Let’s take a closer look:

Flat design is about usability and minimalism.

No fancy shadows, 3d effects, or anything else that can distract the user. Flat design is just flat. This minimalist approach promotes end-user usability at any cost. Any extra feature that gets in the way of streamlined navigation and ease of use will be taken out. Flashiness takes a back seat to user friendliness and functionality.

Bland is not flat design’s middle name.

What is the best example of recent flat design? Personally, I think it’s Windows 8. Do you think that OS is boring with its vibrant colors, backgrounds, and icons? I hope not! Again, this vibrancy helps to promote functionality by making important programs/features jump out at the user. You can easily tell what’s important when looking at a well-executed design. So while there is a minimalist approach in flat design, it doesn’t mean the final product will look bland at all.

Benefits of Flat Design:

  • Clean look
  • Concise
  • Easy to use
  • Awesome functionality
  • Efficiently conveys information
  • Works in a variety of color schemes
  • Great for mobile screens

Cons

  • Not suitable for every business.
  • It’s most suitable for companies that want to convey information efficiently, and not in a flashy, visual way.
  • There has been some criticism that flat design can look a bit funny on large, high definition screens.
View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, January 10, 2014 5:09:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB web design web trends website

The Top 2014 Web Design Trend Links (Thus Far) 

By Steve Hoag

web design trends links

There have been dozens of articles written leading up to, and immediately following New Years. We’ve taken the liberty of poring through a lot of these and collecting the best and most interesting for your reading pleasure! Check it out:

Melissa Cale’s 2014 Design Trends Pinterest

Melisa Cale, a Pinterest user and professional photographer, has assembled a plethora of web design trend related articles, infographics, websites, and much more. She used a ton of reliable sources to create a very thorough and broad spectrum of information for what to expect in 2014.  Definitely worth a look!

Collis Ta’eed’s 2014 Design Trend Article

While many designers/writers are focusing on aesthetic changes in their trend rundowns, Collis, a web designer/CEO, also looks at other factors. For example, he takes a analyzes the CMS industry, and how that will impact design, as well as indie design tools that will make an impact quickly. Definitely worth reading if you want to see a part of the bigger picture!

The Next Web’s 2014 Design Trends Slideshow

The Next Web is a great resource for designers. If you haven’t heard of it before, take a look, because it is awesome. In related news, their slideshow on the biggest emerging trends is fantastic. It provides informative visuals to go along with detailed descriptions. If you want a comprehensive breakdown that you can read through in 3 minutes, check this out!

John Croft’s Web Standards Killed The HTML Star

While the other links/articles have been mostly positive, and looked at aesthetics and tool changes, this one analyzes web development/design as a profession. Croft takes a look at how being an HTML & CSS guru is no longer good enough, and states that developers/designers need to ‘diversify or die.’ Tough love! Also, if you’re interested, check out this response piece by Jeffrey Zeldman for another view. Great stuff!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, January 9, 2014 7:45:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise SMB social media web design web development web trends website

Why Social Media > Cold Calling 

By Steve Hoag

here's why social media is better

Social media is not just for young people. It’s for businesses too. It is obliterating barriers to sales, and becoming an indispensable marketing tool. Tactics like cold calling are a thing of the past. You shouldn’t need to cold call anymore. Here’s why social media is better:

Social media beats cold calling 11 times out of 10.

Cold calling doesn’t work like it used to. Thanks to the Internet, marketing analytics, and social media, there are much better ways to approach leads. When you cold call someone, your target usually doesn’t know anything about you. Social media lets you build a rapport, either directly or indirectly with your target. Connecting with leads via a mutual online contact, and nurturing them by posting in similar groups or discussions is much more effective than cold calling. Social media can create a personal relationship, and can help close a sale without having to come across as salesy.

Social media has incredible reach.

Social media can enable you to target anyone, anywhere, at any time. Cold calling limits you to a single point of contact. Sharing content online exposes you to your target and anyone else who sees your post. It simultaneously has pinpoint targeting, and massive reach. Your business is not limited to your geographic location. Want to talk establish a partnership abroad? Find key decision makers via social media, and forge a relationship with them. Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful tool that simply cannot be ignored anymore.

Social media is not just a lead generator.

Social media is not just a great lead generating resource. It’s a hub of information, FAQs, crowdsourcing, and much more. Having trouble understanding how to use a program, or need advice regarding inbound marketing? Take to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, and you will have your question answered. Need to the minute business rumors that could impact you? A custom search on Twitter can divulge a lot of breaking news, oftentimes before it hits mainstream media. Furthermore, social media also builds things like SEO for your business if you link back to your site. It is an outbound AND inbound marketing tool.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, January 8, 2014 6:54:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C enterprise SMB social media social media marketing website

Three Tips on How To Become A Thought Leader Using Social Media 

By Steve Hoag

how to become a thought leader using social media

Part of inbound marketing is about generating demand for content. Another important part of it is becoming a thought leader so that you retain that demand. Becoming a thought leader is a gradual process. It won’t happen overnight. But once you become one, you will start to see great dividends! Check out these three tips on how to get started using only social media:

Maintain a consistent presence

Consistency is key! One of the most important factors for staying top of mind is keeping a consistent presence online. Create a social media schedule with planned blog posts, tweets, etc, and stick to it! People have short term memories when it comes to social media. If you stop having an active presence, people will forget about you. Also, consistency and more posts equates to increased credibility. Over time, your high value content and steady presence will have a huge impact on you becoming a thought leader in your sphere of influence.

Always respond in a timely manner

Do you like it when you send someone a text and they don’t reply for a few days? You begin wondering if there’s something wrong with you, or maybe something happened to the other person. It gets especially awkward when you see them posting things on social media, but still haven’t replied to you. The same thing is true for people who comment on your posts, or mention you online! Never leave a potential customer or partner hanging. Every person you interact with should feel valued.

Be personable, and go the extra mile!

People like to post things on social media about companies going the extra mile for them. Anything from a handwritten birthday card at a hotel to a free replacement from your favorite company can make an immediate impact on brand perception. When it comes to social media, the same thing holds true. While you may not be giving out products, there are other ways of making customers feel appreciated. Make it a point to go through your newsfeeds on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc and congratulate people on new jobs, promotions, birthdays, etc. Thank them for posting great content. Not enough companies make it a point to connect with people on a personal level. Again, making people feel valued will elevate your brand to entirely new levels online.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Tuesday, January 7, 2014 7:15:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise SMB social media social media marketing web trends website

Blogging 101: A Crash Course 

By Steve Hoag

blogging 101

Creating a blog is one of the best ways to generate organic traffic to your website. It’s also useful for branding, becoming a thought leader, and being trusted by consumers. Many people get scared by the idea of having to write consistently, and think that they don’t have enough time or experience to do so. That is just ridiculous! As long as you don’t have a tenuous grasp on English, you can blog! Check out these tips on how to get started:

Figure out whether you need to use a third party blogging site or can implement a blog on your existing website.

This bit is extremely important. Does your existing business website have blogging functionality? If it does, great! You can start writing immediately. If it doesn’t you may need to choose a third party solution like WordPress and link to it from your site. Using a service like WordPress means you will have to set up a smaller second website, but this is fairly easy. They have a ton of templates, and are very affordable. Just make sure your branding matches up and you are good to go!

Create a manageable schedule.                                       

This varies from business to business. You need to figure out what works for YOU. If you can only blog once a week, than do that! Do whatever is comfortable for you. Once you start getting used to blogging you will be able to write more efficiently and produce content at a faster pace.

Make all your content shareable!

The point of blogging is to generate engagement with your customers. Make sure all your content is easily shareable via ‘Share This’ buttons. That way, users can share anything they like with various social media networks.

Share EVERYTHING on social media.

If you don’t have a business social media account yet, get one. Having a social media presence is pretty much mandatory for practically any industry at this point. People won’t know about all this great content you are creating if you don’t share it with your networks! Also, be sure to use a service like bit.ly so you can track click throughs on your articles. It will help a ton with regards to seeing which articles resonate with your target audience, and which don’t.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, January 3, 2014 6:59:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise retail marketing SEO SMB social media social media marketing web design web trends website
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