Time to Update Your Web Site Copyright Date

Our Senior Usability Engineer, Adrian Roselli, originally posted on this topic on our QuantumCMS support forum on January 12, 2011. As another new year approaches, we thought the information, with a few updates, might be worth repeating here:

It’s that time of the year where you should take a few minutes to log in to QuantumCMS and update the copyright date on your web site. If you don’t remember where it is, for most of our clients it’s a Site Property that you can edit. If you don’t remember how to edit that property or don’t have your documentation handy, this tutorial can help: Adding a Site Property (it also works if you just want to edit the existing property).

Why is it on your site?

Perhaps you only have a copyright statement on your site because we included it in our design, perhaps you have it because your legal counsel suggested it, perhaps you only have it because you’ve seen it everywhere else. Since I am not a lawyer, doling out legal advice isn’t in the scope of this post. You can ask your own legal counsel about how declaring a copyright protects your content.

I am writing this from the perspective of U.S. companies, although I know some of you reading this are not U.S. companies. In that case, I suggest you check your own country’s laws on copyright.

If you are more inclined to track this information down on your own, you may want to take a look at the U.S. government Copyright.gov site, specifically the page “What Does Copyright Protect?” which links to a PDF file (“What Works Are Protected?“) containing the following statement:

No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.

If you are adamant about registering your web site with the U.S. Copyright Office you should grab a copy of “Copyright Registration for Online Works” (provided as a PDF file).

How else is the copyright date used?

I’m glad you asked.

Many web site users see the copyright date as a quick cue to how fresh the content is, even telling them if the site is stale. If you are visiting a site with a date of 2009 (and it is almost 2012) in the footer, you might think that nobody has touched the site in three years. And you might be right.

Many sites use the copyright with a year span (1998-2012, for example) to demonstrate how long a site or organization has been in existence. This may not impart any added benefit if you are pursuing somebody who has stolen your content, but it does at least indicate to users that you have been around for a while, are current, and probably know a good attorney.

Don’t wait too long to update the copyright date on your site. If your site claims to be from 2011 by this time next week it will appear to be (at least) over a year old or (at most) a couple weeks old. Remove that confusion by taking a few minutes to update it.


Spreading Holiday Cheer in a “Bah, Humbug” Economy

So, we’re in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving may be but a memory but Chanukah’s here, Christmas, and Kwanza are right around the corner, and New Year’s Eve is close behind and, because I’m easily motivated by food, I’ve noticed that the holiday “goodies” we’re all used to getting from vendors and clients have become less and less common over the past few years. I’ll assume it has to do with the economy and I’ll be thankful that I don’t have to let out the waistband on my pants in order to accommodate yet another delicious box of chocolates, but it did get me thinking: At this time of year, when we traditionally give people presents to show how much we appreciate our relationships with them, what do we do now that budgets are slashed and fancy gift-giving isn’t the option it used to be? How do we make sure the business relationships we value are still getting a little holiday love?

Here are some ideas I’ve been kicking around this week:

Holiday Cards
The USPS is still a pretty cheap way to get your message out there and the name and logo recognition that come from sending a card can be great. Plus, holiday cards can have a particularly personal feel if you address them to each recipient individually, call out a personal detail or two about your working relationship with them, and personally sign each one. It may sound like a lot of work, but sometimes it’s the extra touch that makes a true difference in setting your business apart from your competition.

I’ve gotten some pretty great holiday-themed emails over the past few weeks. Emails with pictures of kids and pets decked out in their finest, emails with amusing infographics about the calories in a typical Thanksgiving meal and the most stressful Christmas songs, even helpful emails reminding me of shipping deadlines. But the thing that stands out to me about these emails is that none of them were explicitly trying to sell me anything, which makes me kind of happy. Opening my inbox and finding an email intended only to make me smile is a pretty nice thing.

Your Own Products
My coworker frequently gets these cool, shiny envelopes in the mail from one of our clients. Inside, they usually contain a fun example of some recent work and their holiday envelope certainly didn’t disappoint this year. Inside were two holiday-themed examples with special features – pop outs, scratch and sniffs, even an augmented reality video. The work was a lot of fun but it also served as a great reminder of the kinds of things our client is able to produce and who we should call when we need the products they offer!

If you’re a B2C organization, or even a B2B with products or services that can be discounted, offering your clients a time-sensitive promotional price can be a great way to say “thank you” while generating some end of the year business at the same time. People are always looking for sales at this time of year and everyone loves a bargain, even on business-related goods and services.

Charitable Donations
A lot of companies have a charity that holds a special place in the hearts of the founders or employees. Why not consider making a donation, in your client’s names, during the holidays? You’ll likely help someone who could use a little extra goodwill at this time of year and give your clients (and yourself) the warm and fuzzies!

Of course, the traditional corporate gift is always appreciated (at Algonquin, we’re big fans of giving (and receiving!) Fairytale Brownies, easily the yummiest work-related gift I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting) and you can be pretty sure that your clients will be happy with almost anything you send, but if you need to consider a less expensive or more purposeful option, there are a lot of good ways to break the chocolate/wine/fruit basket mold and still do something that resonates with your clients.

Design By Committee – How To Make It Work

Design by Committee is an inescapable situation in many corporate environments today. It’s also the bane of most designers’ existence. I can understand the thinking that two heads are better than one, but trying to please a group of four or more varying opinions can seem like an impossible and very frustrating task that frequently ends in a “too many cooks spoil the stew” scenario.

Many people, on both the committee and design side, despise this particular challenge, but in my perspective it presents an opportunity to think of some ways to improve a process that so often ends in mediocre design solutions that no one really wants.

Identify the design’s purpose for all parties
Knowing the purpose of the overall design is imperative to keeping a committee on task but it also should drive design-making decisions. A design and its elements should be tied to a specific audience and overall objective that’s agreed upon by the committee in the beginning. When presenting the design, being able to communicate why a design element was used and how it meets the overall goal or appeal to the agreed upon audience can make committee buy-in easier.

Help keep egos and politics in check
All too often, a design by committee project ends up focused on the internal structure of an organization, or worse, a decision maker’s personal tastes, rather than the audience it’s meant to engage. Having the guts to ask why an individual or group is requesting a change and if that change will help meet the objectives they defined is our responsibility. Being a “yes man” may help you gain favor initially but it will most likely fail your design project and, ultimately, your goals.

For example, choosing a specific color or font because it matches your branding is a good reason for a design change, as it will help improve brand recognition and consistency across marketing efforts. Choosing a trendy font, just because you like it, as opposed to one that is more readable for your older target audience is not a good decision. As designers, we are trained to consider such things but we need to remember that the people on the committee might not be – bringing conversations back to these tangible points helps correlate something visual with the end purpose of the design.

Ask for feedback in a constructive manner
More often than not, personal backgrounds or emotional responses can end up directing a design by committee project. Asking open-ended questions can be a lead in to these emotionally-driven responses and misguided direction.

Fortunately, there are some questions you can modify to get more valuable feedback. Instead of simply asking if the CEO approves of, or likes, a design, you can ask if he feels the design meets previously-stated project objectives or if it appeals to the target audience. His answer then becomes less about is personal feelings and more about the goals of the project.

When presenting a design in person, over the phone, or even via email, it’s easy to ensure your audience understands the goals of the project but, sometimes a design will be presented to others without your knowledge or participation. Keeping the project’s objectives and key background points with your design can give context to someone who otherwise would have none.

Use research when available
You won’t always have the luxury of market research but when you do, it is incredibly valuable to the success of a design by committee project. It can help give the group an unbiased opinion of what imagery or language appeals to your target audience and, instead of basing decisions off of assumptions or popular opinion, they can be determined by audience trends.

Wrapping it up
In my experience as both an in-house designer and someone who produces work for outside clients, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where I was designing for just one decision maker – whether they were in the room or not. Finding ways to collaborate with our clients in a goal-driven way whether they’re internal groups or outside clients is something we should all aim to do and keeping the above tips in mind should help make it easier for us in the long run.

Flash is Dead! Long Live Flash!

A lot of news has been made of Adobe’s recent move to end development of the Flash player for mobile devices (such as your smartphone or tablet). Even people outside of the tech community have heard about it and are trying to understand what it really means. I wrote up the details last month (Flash Isn’t Going Away, Except from Your Mobile) and tried to remind everyone that Adobe isn’t giving up on Flash, it’s just changing its direction on its mobile player based on industry trends.

Consider that Apple won’t allow the Flash player on its iOS devices, and that the mobile version of Windows is following suit. Consider that web developers are (finally, after a decade now) starting to focus on standards-based web development and accessibility. Consider how many different mobile devices and browser combinations exist, requiring Adobe to develop a Flash player for each.

Much of Flash on the web has been used to deliver rich multimedia experiences that either don’t translate well to mobile browsers (giant file sizes, areas too small to “click” with a finger, optimized for large displays, etc.) or can be replaced with new HTML capabilities which mobile browsers tend to support now without the Flash player (such as the lowly Flash video player).

Add all these factors together and it doesn’t make sense to push the Flash player to mobile devices any more. Adobe is instead using AIR to allow Flash developers to build native apps on the phone, bypassing the hassle of the browser plug-in altogether and still allowing those legions of Flash developers to do what they do best.

Here’s where people get confused — Flash as a platform isn’t going away. Regardless of the hype you hear about HTML5, HTML5 (including CSS3, SVG, and so on) just doesn’t have the capability (whether via the specification or by browser support) to do what Flash does. Flash is the only technology that can currently do what Flash does for such a broad audience. Its ubiquity across the web (98% installation) has guaranteed that users see what the developer wants, regardless of platform; regardless of whether or not what the developer created is any good.

This doesn’t mean we are Flash-crazy over here. Quite the opposite — we have historically counseled against Flash for web sites for many reasons, some of which are simply because it doesn’t address the goal. As we develop sites that are both mobile-friendly and desktop-friendly, we are increasingly coaching our clients on the right technologies to use to achieve their goals. Our position on Flash isn’t changing because of Adobe’s move, Adobe is simply reflecting the trend.

You can expect to see less Flash in web pages on your mobile, but you can also expect to see more of it behind the scenes in apps for mobile devices. As for your desktop browser, Adobe will release Flash players for years to come and people will still develop in it for as long as it takes HTML5 and its related specifications to finalize the rules and for the browsers to support them.