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Startups We Love: Video Rascal

Video Rascal enables non-technical users to create professional videos for their website for less than $100, not thousands that a typical agency charges. The system is simple. The user chooses a template, uploads a script, then selects audio options and the HD-quality video is now ready for use on a website and social channels.

Startups We Love: Flumes

Flumes provides snapshots of any conversation happening on social media. Right now, they’re focusing on world news, detecting and tracking keywords and removing spam to find the best images, videos, articles and analysis around sentiment, gender, volume and geography. Everything is automatic and in real-time.

Startups We Love: Moki

 

Moki is a recruitment dashboard that helps you attract great people. Moki keeps all your job vacancies & applications neatly organized, keeps track of how people find you, and lets you offer referral fees to employees & your Twitter network.

How entrepreneurs overlook one crucial detail when planning their website

Website mockups focus on the layout, design and user experience. But the most influential part of any website is the text. Why is it mockups use “Lorem ipsum” as placeholder text yet still claim to have designed the customer’s experience?

Here’s an example of a website’s text that doesn’t improve the customers’ experience. A bank’s credit cards section of its website promotes the five benefits of their preferred credit card. The benefits are listed as top-level headlines, like “No annual fee for your first year.”

Clicking the “Learn More” link should show additional info, but it doesn’t.

The Learn More page for the preferred card shows nearly the same exact text as the previous page. The page asks users to “click to learn more,” but no additional info is shown. For people seeking a little more info before they apply, the page fails to give them what they need.

That means one less conversion for the bank, simply because the copy fails to sell through the benefits of the card.

In this example, no matter how the user experience was planned, the text on the website breaks the experience. And in the end, no matter how much planning went into the website, the experience doesn’t work.

When laying out your website, write the copy along with the mockups. You will give your users a much more seamless, integrated experience, which will likely impact your conversions.

Tell your users where to click

Every visitor to your website is looking for an excuse to leave.

Don’t like the layout? Click the back button. Is the content not relevant? Click the back button. That button doesn’t serve merely as a way to leave the site. Rather, it acts as a lifeline to get users back to familiar ground.

Why would any website give users a reason to leave? Because it wasn’t built from the perspective of the user.

Here’s a website submitted to Mini Sprout. Users can choose from 40 different links in this screenshot alone. But since the layout of the website does not seem to guide users anywhere, I felt compelled to click my back button.

Compare that example to a few others. Dropbox asks visitors to watch a video, or download their app. Details like their privacy policy and support section are hidden below the fold, but someone looking for them can easily find them.

Square follows a similar set of guidelines; ask users to watch a video or sign-up directly.

Transmit from Panic asks users to download the app, buy it directly or find answers to their questions.

Even eBay, a website that struggled with clutter for years, helps guide a user. Users can search, browse a category or visit their deals.

Determining whether or not visitors like your website doesn’t need to be as subjective as critiquing your layout. Instead, use a web analytics tool and watch the bounce rate of your homepage.

Bounce rate can serve as a proxy for how satisfied your users are with their experience. If nearly 100% of your visitors are bouncing, it’s time to make a change.

 

The photo of this post is copyright (c) 2005 by StevenErat and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license. 

Don’t fight the patent. Fight the infringement.

Drew Curtis serves as an inspiration for many small businesses and inventors — he went up against a patent troll and won.

The founder from Fark.com tells his story on how he defeated a lawsuit against a frivolous patent. When other companies settled, Curtis stood strong and refused to pay them anything.

How did Curtis win? He fought the infringement, not the patent.

During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, in which either party can obtain evidence from the other side, Curtis’ team asked for screenshots proving Fark.com infringed on their patent. The plantiff’s lawyer immediately called to settle, Curtis offered them nothing, and they agreed.

Here’s what worked for him:

  1. He fought the infringement, not the patent. Infringements are easier to defend.
  2. He chose to either demonstrate his company didn’t have any money, or made it clear he was willing to spend more on the lawsuit than a settlement.
  3. He made the process as difficult and annoying as possible.

He offers last words as his guideline for fighting frivolous patent lawsuits: “Don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

The full video is available below.

How a simple design decision made Pinterest a household name

In the two years since launching, Pinterest has grown incredibly quickly to become the third most visited social network in the US, only behind Facebook and Twitter.

One of Pinterest’s most recognizable features is its layout. Photos seem to spread out like they were individually placed on a light board. But the layout is not the secret to their success.

So, what did Pinterest do differently? They featured social interactions.

On every Pinterest page, social interactions — repins and comments — take up just as much space as the content itself. Profile photos cover the website, showing conversations are alive and ready for you to join. It’s easy for users to contribute to the discussion as well, because users can log in using their Facebook or Twitter accounts. The design decision to feature the social interactions makes Pinterest feel like a vibrant community in a single glace.

Other networks choose to hide these interactions from the end user. Tumblr has plenty of social interaction across their network, but it’s not showcased. Take a look at the screenshot below:

This particular post has 154 likes, comments or reblogs. That’s a lot of activity for one photo, but the social activity is concealed. Users need to click-through to the post itself to see how readers are responding.

A recent report from comScore shows user engagement rate exactly equal between Tumblr and Pinterest, which means Tumblr isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong. The two networks serve different purposes anyway. Instead, Pinterest’s example shows how social media can be used to their advantage.

Where does social media belong? Front and center, not buried and hidden.

It’s rare to come across a business website that forgets to remind us to “Like” or “Follow” them. On many websites, the opportunity for social media has been compressed into a button. Social widgets are tacked onto web pages almost as an after thought.

It takes a truly integrated approach, like Pinterest, to do social media well. And when websites facilitate conversations, users respond.

Why no one cares about Yahoo! CEO’s fake degree

An investment fund known as Third Point LLC, which owns a little less than 6% of Yahoo!, issued a press release about Yahoo!’s chief executive.

According to their findings, CEO Scott Thompson lied about holding degrees in both accounting and computer science. Mr. Thompson only holds a degree in accounting.

From Third Point LLC’s press release issued on May 3, 2012:

If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture. Now more than ever Yahoo! investors need a trustworthy CEO.

Let’s put the problem into perspective; it’s a lie on a biography from more than 30 years ago. Typically, when people intentionally lie about education, they fabricate Ph.Ds, MBAs, military experience or even going to college.

Yahoo! acted quickly to correct the problem on its website and released its own statement. “[The error], in no way, alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies. Under Mr. Thompson’s leadership, Yahoo! is moving forward to grow the company and drive shareholder value,” according to the company’s statement.

Given the multiple shifts in strategies and executives, as well as a stock price worth half today than five years ago, it’s not entirely surprising a few shareholders hold a grudge against Mr. Thompson.

However, personal attacks to executives are quickly deflected while their companies swoop in to defend their credentials.

If you’re looking to change a company’s direction, then challenge its strategy and forecasts directly. Don’t hide behind personal accusations.

 

The photo of this post is copyright (c) 2007 by alykat and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.

Advice for Entrepreneurs: Skip the Business Plan

Don’t write a business plan. Business plans are designed to force you to think through every obstacle and potential event. But, if you write a business plan, the only thing you’ll learn is you can convince yourself of anything.

We need to avoid the business plan.

They take too long

You will waste more time fussing with Excel’s chart formatting on a financial break-even analysis than answering real questions about your business. You will make wild predictions about revenue, which may not be grounded in any type of reality.

Take a look at any business plan, and you’ll see revenue predicted to grow exponentially. For most startups, revenue growth is not exponential or even consistent.

You’ll quickly realize business plans are fiction.

Your business will need to change the moment you launch

Within weeks of launching your business, you’ll will find yourself needing to change something about your business. It may be your overzealous revenue prediction, or something else. Either way, whatever you wrote in your business plan will need to adjust significantly.

Unplanned events cause every business to evaluate how they operate, produce or market. Every business will experience them. A 30-page business plan will not necessarily make you any more prepared for those situations.

Investors invest in people, not business plans

Business plans are not for investors. If you’re seeking support from a venture capitalist, you’re not going to spend a meeting reviewing your business plan. Instead, you will give a brief pitch, share your revenue and margins to date, and then answer their questions.

They wouldn’t believe your revenue estimates anyway.

What to do instead

There’s a clear distinction between writing a business plan and the process of business planning. A business plan is a Microsoft Word document with charts and pages of your ideas. Business planning, however, can happen anywhere. Open up TextEdit on your Mac, or grab the back of a bill, and jot down answers to these five questions:

  • What will you sell and for how much?
  • How will you attract your first customers?
  • How much will it cost to acquire each customer?
  • What will your expenses be?
  • How many customers do you need to be profitable?

If you narrow your business planning down to those few questions, you’ll be able to focus on launching, adjusting and becoming profitable — no executive summary needed.

Then, share your idea. Tell your friends about your idea. Sure, they could try to steal it, but trust me, they won’t be your most serious competition once you launch. You need support from friends, and you need their opinion about your business.

Are your prices too high? Are you pitching your product to the wrong audience? Have you underestimated your expenses? You may arrive at a few of these realizations after spending a lot of time writing a business plan, or your friends may be able to tell you upfront and directly.

It’s your choice.

 

The photo of this post is copyright (c) 2009 by Yahoo! and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Why Instagram’s app feels so damn fast


If you play with the Instagram mobile app on iOS or Android, it feels a little different. It feels significantly faster than other apps. Upload a photo to Instagram, and it seems to load faster than, say, the check deposit feature in your bank’s mobile app.

Mike Krieger from Instagram says the secret to a fast app lies in “not the code, but the experience.” That’s a great approach to app development — strong app performance is no longer a developer responsibility, but a shared responsibility. When everyone at Instagram thinks about how the app can feel faster, it leads to a more enjoyable experience for the user.

Take a look at his deck below: