How to Fix the Top 3 Mistakes Early-Stage Entrepreneurs Make

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How to Fix the Top 3 Mistakes Early-Stage Entrepreneurs Make

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There’s an old saying about first time entrepreneurs -- they don’t know what they don’t know.

It can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, this ignorance can work in your favor. First time entrepreneurs have the advantage of unchecked optimism, wide-eyed enthusiasm, and they aren’t slowed down by the apprehensions that caution more seasoned entrepreneurs. But more often than not, this ignorance holds them back. If you’re a first time entrepreneur with an early stage business, there are mistakes that you are making right now that are preventing your business from taking off -- mistakes that you probably don’t even realize you’re making.

These mistakes manifest in subtle ways, or don’t impact your life or business until years later, when it’s too late. In the end, you always end up learning them the same way -- the hard way.

That’s why I’ve put this list together. These are things I’ve gleaned from the dozens of successful entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed for my podcast, combined with the lessons from my own entrepreneurial experience. You see, I’ve spent more than a decade launching companies like SnackNation, and believe me, I’ve made my fair share of these mistakes too. Here are the top three mistakes that early stage entrepreneurs make and how to fix them, so you can learn the smart way, not the hard way.Mistake 1. Starting a business without thinking about scale.

My Kolbe score registers me as a high “Quick Start,” meaning that I have an appetite for initiating change and disruption. As an entrepreneur, it means I love taking a new idea and getting it off the ground.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of you are Quick Starts too. As entrepreneurs, when we see that there’s a problem to solve and that we’re in a position to solve it, we are champing at the bit to get started. We start off so passionately, virtually obsessed with our new idea and getting it off the ground. The problem comes when we fail to think about the next steps.

When I started my first healthy vending business right out of college, I was so inspired. I knew that there was a need for healthier nutrition options at places like hospitals and health clubs, and all I wanted to do was jump in and get things off the ground as fast as possible. What I didn’t realize was how difficult this concept would be to scale. It wasn’t until I had friends and relatives stocking vending machines for me in other states that I realized I needed a more efficient solution.  

Eventually my partners and I solved the problem, but I didn’t give it enough consideration early on -- and paid the price.

The fix: Factor in scale from the very beginning. As you develop your product and think about launching it, always ask yourself, “then what?”

Think of your idea as a point on the map, and then circle out. How do I solve this problem for myself and my close family and friends? What about the rest of my city? What about cities in other states? What about nationally? Internationally? How do I reach these new people and create demand? How do I maintain a fantastic experience for my new customers as we continue to expand outward? The point is, think about the needs of the business at every stage, and make sure there is a viable path to scale up. Of course you won’t have all the answers right away, but you’ll be able to spot major obstacles early, and choose the right path for you.

Mistake 2. Failing to realize that people are everything.

I truly believe it. People are everything when it comes to business, and the degree of alignment of the people in your business -- employees and customers alike -- will largely determine its success.

Sure, there are business fundamentals that have to be in place -- things like product-market fit, strategy and market potential. But what took me some time to realize is that these are all secondary concerns. People actually trump everything else in your company.

This might seem counterintuitive, but makes sense when you dig in. Think about the etymology of the word company itself. It’s just a military term, meaning a body of people. And what else is a company but a collection of people, working towards the same goal?

Who you choose to join you on this journey is hugely important, and only becomes more important as the business matures and scales. You have to find people who are aligned with your mission, contribute positively to your culture, and are engaged and mindful in their work. And you have to foster an environment that will help you keep them engaged.

It took me a while to reach this conclusion on my own. For me it all came down to the type of problems I was facing. We all know that problems are a fact of life. In the early stages of a business, it’s a matter of dealing with good or bad problems. I found that I didn’t mind tackling problems related to the product, technology or strategy. To me, these were the good problems, because these were usually solvable.

The bad problems were the ones that couldn’t be solved, and at their core, they were almost always people problems. These are the headaches you deal with because you have the wrong people on your team, have the wrong people advising you or are targeting the wrong customers. If there’s a lack of alignment with any of these groups, you usually have to end the relationship and move on.

Discovering this has been a process for me, but the sooner an early stage entrepreneur understands this, the better.

The fix: Think of yourself more as a coach than a player. If people are the most important part of a business, effectively coaching people to do their best is the most important role for any entrepreneur. In the early stages, when your team is small, you will definitely still be doing your share of the heavy lifting. But as you grow, your contribution will become more about coaching your team, providing a vision and roadmap, and inspiring greatness in others.

Mistake 3. Being too afraid to ask for help.

I see it so often. Early stage entrepreneurs whose businesses either fail, or come really close, because of a very solvable problem that spiraled out of control.

Most of the time, the problem in question could have been nipped in the bud immediately if only the entrepreneur had done one thing -- picked up the phone and asked someone for help.

Unfortunately, fear prevents most entrepreneurs from actually doing so. To a lot of entrepreneurs, asking for help is a sign of weakness, and they are convinced that success ultimately depends on maintaining the perception that everything is perfect. Bad leaders don’t take kindly to constructive criticism and would rather fail on their own than accept advice from others.

I should know, because I used to think this way as well. I used to be obsessed with being right and perfect all the time. Asking for help was completely out of the question. Like so many of us, I was raised to believe the old adage, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” and I felt like I was the only one who could overcome the obstacles my company faced.

The truth is, there are tons of great people out there who are both willing to help and in a much better position to actually solve the problem than you are. That’s because they’ve been there before and can provide the solution much more quickly, and with far less pain.

The fix: Surround yourself with great mentors. There are tons of people out there who are more than willing to help out a fellow entrepreneur. I used to believe that people wouldn’t be willing to help me unless I had something to offer or if I reached a certain level of success. It’s simply not the case.

Forming these relationships does take some work. I actually set aside an hour each week in my calendar to maintain the most important relationships. It’s usually a matter of a quick email check-in, where I don’t ask for anything, but just see how he or she is doing or provide an update on my life or business.

Once a month I also rate my relationships. I give them a letter grade, and those who fall below the mark get my immediate attention. People are actually looking for deeper, more meaningful connections. As long as you allow yourself to be genuine, curious and even a bit vulnerable, you’ll be able to establish invaluable relationships with people who you can rely on in moments of crisis.

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Our Principles for Effective Branding Online

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Our Principles for Effective Branding Online

thehonosgroup.com

thehonosgroup.com

Principles for Effective Branding Online

Before you can build an engaging, purposeful site to promote your brand, products and/or services effectively, you first need to understand the viewing habits of users. 

Basically, users’ habits on the Web aren’t that different from customers’ habits when shopping in brick and mortar stores. Like window shoppers scan windows before deciding to enter a store, web visitors glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and then click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing for which they are looking before entering too far into a site. In fact, there are large parts of the page they don’t even look at. And, if they don’t see anything that catches their attention, they will move on to a site that does.

Web users are impatient and insist on instant gratification. Very simple principle: If a web-site isn’t able to meet users’ expectations, then the design has failed to get the job done properly. Complicated and overloaded with information are two quick ways to get users to leave the web-site and search for alternatives. 

Users follow their intuition.  Users want to have control. Users want to have an experience that is comfortable and easy.

honos+creative design principles:

1. don’t make users think 

2. dont squander users' patience

3. manage to focus users' attention

4. strive for feature presentation/call-to-action 

5. effective message, content and copy

6. strive for simplicity

7. dont be afraid of white space

8. communicate effectively visually

9. basic design, functionality and navigation are our friends 

10. test early, test often

bottomline: if you want an effective site, your must test and re-test

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15 Must-Have Features for E-commerce Sites

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15 Must-Have Features for E-commerce Sites

All websites are unique in their own way. We’ve seen trends in e-commerce website design like animation, 360-degree product previews, advanced filtering, and dynamic product search. However, trends don’t guarantee conversion rates or robust user experiences. There are certain elements that every e-commerce site should have to stay relevant and competitive. Here is a list of 15 must-have features that attract online shoppers.

Ease of Use

This comes from the old K.I.S.S. adage about keeping it simple. Simplicity should be a goal in good design and you don’t have to sacrifice elegance to achieve it. As a matter of fact, studies show that 76% of consumers say the most important characteristic of a website is ease of use.

The objective is to help shoppers get to what they want, faster and without running into unnecessary complexity that can clog up the path to purchase.

Online sellers have minutes, if not seconds, to make a sale. Focus on the user experience by providing shopping categories, filters, and comparison capabilities. Consider easy-to-find customer reviews and FAQ information to help buyers make decisions more quickly.

E-commerce sites should be a competitive advantage instead of a troublesome experience.

High-Resolution Photos and Video

Gone are the days of posting one photo with a few bullet points and a price tag. Shoppers want to see multiple angles and people using the product in different environments. They want to be able to zoom in and get a feel for the product.

Technical considerations for images are crucial. Images that don’t load or take too long to load will see a consumer drop-off rate of 39%, according to Adobe.

Images sell, not text. E-commerce websites should display multiple photos per product. The photos need to be high-resolution and optimized for page load.

Mobile-Friendly Website

Google declared it, so it must be done. All websites are required to have a mobile-friendly version by 2017 or suffer the SEO consequences. If this isn’t reason enough, one in three online purchases is completed on a smartphone.

With a responsive website, content intuitively adapts to whatever device is accessing it to provide the most user-friendly experience. Shockingly, many sites still have not adopted a responsive or mobile version.

User-Generated Reviews

Shoppers read reviews. About 92% of them, in fact. The star rating on a product is the number one factor used by consumers.

You might think that having negative reviews is a sale killer. The opposite is actually true. Having negative reviews can often be a positive. It’s shown that products without negative reviews are seen as censored and, in turn, shoppers will assume the positive reviews are fake.

Depending on website functionality, e-commerce sites can use plugins from the most popular review platforms including Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook.

Forward-thinking e-commerce sites, like Paiwen paddleboards, are using reviews as user-generated content to drive social proof and build raving fans.

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5 Big Trends and Tips for Social Media Marketing

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5 Big Trends and Tips for Social Media Marketing

In the last five years, social networks have acquired about 1 billion new users. 

Over one third of the world’s population is now accessible via social media, and companies have gone from being skeptical about social media marketing to seriously investing in it.

In this social media dominated world, marketing is heavily reliant on technology, but that technology remains focused on people. This year’s trends will help marketers reach and engage their audience on a more personal level, over social media noise. Companies will be able to fine-target their niche communities, with increased support from software solutions.

Social Media Marketing Trends and Tips

The following is a list of trends and tips for social media marketers to leverage now.

1. Investment in Visual Marketing Will Increase

Most social networks have already launched their versions of live-streaming. Twitter has Periscope, Facebook’s Live, and other networks like Blab and DubSmash support live video sharing. Live-feeds are becoming the “in-thing”. Even the US Presidential election updates were broadcast live by BuzzFeed on Twitter.

You can use live video platforms to engage you audience will near-tangible experiences. If you don’t have a Facebook Live strategy, now is the best time to get one.

With social feeds growing crowded and viewer attention spans growing shorter by year,  you’ll need powerful graphics to captivate your audience. In the last five years, the graphic design software market has expanded, giving marketers extensive options to choose from. You can put together graphics on a drag-and-drop editor to simplify your content creation process.

2. Personalization Will Become Priority

Today’s social media users are faced with ads and commercial content on multiple fronts. The receive information from multiple sources, and breaking through that barrier is becoming a tough task for brands and marketers. Personalization will help marketers slice through the chaos and reach only the people who matter.

Tracking consumers’ behaviors on social platforms and targeting them based on interests will become an essential part of marketing. Some social media marketing tools and apps are already incorporating features to support personalization and targeting. More technology solutions will appear in the time to come. You can target your high-potential market by posting content that only they can relate to, or by targeting them using data pulled from tools.

3. Brand Advocacy Will Grow Popular Among Marketers

Ad saturation is driving brands to look for alternative means to reach their target markets. Investment in advocate marketing has seen a steep increase (by about 191 percent) in the recent times. Micro-influencers could be the key to increasing your brand’s reach on social media, because they are more influential and credible than your brand can be.

Employees, customers and social fans are among the micro-influencers that brands are activating. There a quite a few great employee advocacy guides and case-studies that you can look at for inspiration in building your brand advocate outreach programs. You can use an advocacy platform to build and run your brand advocacy program.

4. Native Content Promotion Will Expand

In Joe Pulizzi’s words, native advertising is content marketing’s “gateway drug”. The modern audience is wise to commercial ploys, and traditional advertising alone may not be a great option for branding your company. Native ads help you create awareness without disrupting users’ activities. Content delivered in this manner can help you connect with your audience without being too pushy. According to a study, native ads are set to to grow to $21 billion by 2018.

Content discovery tools, content distribution platforms and content amplification tools are interesting means to having your content shared organically on social media. You could use one of these solutions to have your content positioned where it can earn you some traction.

5. Marketing Automation Will Go Mainstream

Companies with constrained marketing budgets may have not used marketing automation until now, but according to a study, 92 percent of these companies are losing revenue because of that decision. 2017 may see business of all types and sizes adopt marketing automation. 91 percent marketers are convinced that automation is an indispensable part of marketing.

Each social network is unique in terms of demographic and use-cases. This may force businesses to be present on more than one of them to keep consumers and prospects engaged. Managing social pages can be a time intensive task, without the assistance of a supporting social management tool. The idea is to use the tool to automate tasks that don’t require personal attention – like posting created content to multiple accounts and catching mentions of your brand. You can also curate content with a tool and take the final call on what to share. It all comes down to the extra-time that you can save to better invest elsewhere. Managing content on a central platform can also help you maintain consistency across different pages.

Wrap

Social media marketing is set to evolve into a highly tech-focused and detail-oriented effort. To succeed  at reaching and engaging your target market, you need to explore and stay abreast of the latest developments and technologies offered for social. The areas mentioned on this post are good places to keep tabs on.

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5 Must-Have Tools for Every Startup

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5 Must-Have Tools for Every Startup

Let’s face it – you are struggling to get your startup on track but failing to manage everything on your own. Well, you surely don’t have enough budget and investors to assemble a top-tier marketing team, nor do you have enough time to learn the basics of everything and become jack-of-all-trades.

In fact, the age of “if you build it, they will come” strategy is long gone and is never going to provide you the same exposure that it did in the past. However, making use of some tools will get you started on the right track and give you enough pace to kick-start your profitable business in no time.

Check out these 5 must-have tools for every startups.

1. Content Marketing Tools

It has been reported that 58% eight percent of B2B marketers increased their budget for content marketing in 2015. Content marketing tools are considered as the backbone of most online businesses today as they help in creating, distributing, and measuring effectiveness of their contents. Here are a few content marketing tools that can be useful:

Google Analytics – Google’s analytics tool makes it easy to customize reports, measure the impact of social media and mobile on website traffic.
Alexa – Though this tool is currently neglected by many, it provides data and global rankings for commercial websites and their effectiveness on the web.
SEMRush – This tool helps to track keywords and rankings, both paid and organic.
Moz – This platform can be used to monitor social media, manage SEO campaigns, and measure different online metrics.

2. Social Media Marketing Tools

Social media is considered the future of online marketing and As a startup you need word-of-mouth, and you need to start promoting you or your brand on social media starting on day 1. While there are several social media platforms available, using them one at a time might be time-consuming and boring. There’s no need to worry as social media marketing tools are there to back you up. From creating, curating, managing, scheduling and analyzing, these tools will empower your brand to capitalize the market. Here are a few that might be helpful for you:

Buffer– From creating a posting schedule to different social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and G+ pages, Buffer is an all-in-one social media marketing tool.
IFTTT– Another all-in-one tool that has recipes for your social media needs, IFTTT lets you post, read and do all sort of things with almost all social media platforms available.
Social Rank– This tool helps you to identify, organize and manage your followers and potential customers on different social media platforms.

3. Email Marketing Tools

Email marketing is probably the oldest and still one of the best ways that are proven, effective and important for any kind of businesses and startups. No matter what comes in and goes in the world of digital marketing, email marketing is what will exist forever and will always remain crucial to grab success. Here are a few email marketing tools you need to use:

MailChimp– An ESP tool that has both free and paid plans, you get some pretty useful and powerful features with MailChimp.
The Hemingway App–  Want to make you copywriting clear and conversational? This is what the tool will help you with; optimize emails.

4. Project & Employee Management Tools

Most startups and small businesses do not care much about using project and employee management tools as they handle a small number of projects and work in small groups. But, if they are to grow big eventually, they need to have the know-how of handling bigger projects and large employee and clients’ base.

Pingboard‘s CEO Bill Boebel says: “We found that most of our customers were still managing their org chart in PowerPoint or Visio — even with several hundred employees. These documents are time-consuming to maintain, difficult to share and often become out-of-date shortly after they are created. And quite frankly, org charts made this way are ugly.”

Here are a few easy-to-use and useful tools:

Org chart software– This tool helps to create and structure the members, their relationships, and relative ranks according to their positions and jobs
Basecamp– From managing projects, groups and client works, Basecamp is an all-in-one tool to manage everything at one place.
Trello– Another project management tool to give you the perspective over all of your projects, Trello makes collaboration with employees and clients easy.

5. SEO Tools

If you or your company needs to gain quick attention and visibility online, search engines need to be your top priority. From gaining leads, making sales and making an impact through online visibility, SEO is what every startup need to focus on first. Here are a few SEO tools to track and maintain the online presence:

Ahrefs– From link profile data to content referral information, Ahrefs does everything you need to track you and your competitors.
Schema Creator– Addition of schema or microdata can increase search engine visibility and Schema Creator is what does it in minutes to your website or blogs.
MozBar-It lets you perform a range of SEO tasks from your browser, including keyword ranking data analysis, schema validation, and SEO metric reporting.

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4 SEO Basics Every Small Business Should Know About In 2017

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4 SEO Basics Every Small Business Should Know About In 2017

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As a small business owner, SEO probably isn’t something that gets you excited to drive to the office every morning. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. If you want to remain competitive in 2017, it’s imperative that you focus on the basics.

Four SEO Concepts To Focus On

There’s a lot of noise in the SEO world right now. Everyone has their own opinions regarding what works. There are also plenty of predictions in regards to what will happen in the coming years and which practices will become obsolete.

SEO has always been a bit like the Wild West in that we’re still very much in the beginning stages of the industry. Plus, secret algorithms make it difficult for anyone to really know what the best strategy is.

“SEO can get technical, but it doesn’t have to be,” WPBeginner notes. However, “Just learning a few basic SEO tips to optimize your site can give you a noticeable boost in your website traffic.” Help your business move forward in 2017 by focusing on these foundational concepts:

1. White Hat Link Building

No matter what anyone tells you, link building is not dead. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an internet ecosystem where link building will ever be dead. So what is everyone crying about? In most cases, you’ll discover that the people complaining about the decay of link building are the same ones who were using black hat techniques to weave their webs of links.

While black hat link building is dead, white hat link building will remain important in 2017 and well beyond. You’d do well to pour even more energy into this area and really focus on link relevancy above all else.

2. Sitemaps

If your website doesn’t already have a sitemap, now’s the time. By adding a sitemap – which is essentially a page listing that links to the other pages on your site – you make it easy and effortless for search engines to crawl your website. And, as you can guess, the fewer clicks needed to access a particular page, the better off you’ll be.

3. Keyword Research

“Only a few short years ago, all you needed to rank was to have some content on the page. It didn’t matter if the content read like it was written by a monkey playing Mad Libs, you were probably safe,” SEO expert Brock Murray admits.“That has slowly changed over the years as Google’s algorithms were adjusted to better account for the interests of searchers.”

Understanding this, it’s important that you don’t just perform basic-level keyword research and plug some high-ranking phrases into your website content. You need to conduct in-depth research and use semantic language that satisfies keyword requirements and keeps readers engaged when they’re on your site.

4. Satisfy User Intent

Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t just have one master algorithm. There are hundreds of individual algorithms in play and many are becoming increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence.

“So forget the algorithms,” says expert Tom Boland.“Stop trying to predict or understand the changes. Make content to satisfy user intent. Google is learning faster and faster how to determine exactly what your users are looking for. You should too.”

Build A Strong SEO Foundation

Before your business can worry about the intricacies of SEO or try newfangled strategies, you have to build a strong and stable foundation to fall back on. In 2017, make it a top priority to lay some sturdy cornerstones that will give you the strength needed to pursue other techniques down the road.

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5 Social Media Studies That Will Boost Your Marketing Skills

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5 Social Media Studies That Will Boost Your Marketing Skills


To help you better understand the ever-changing social media landscape, check out these studies.
 

We are very grateful for all the research that has been done on social media.

Social media studies have given us great ideas to improve our social media marketing, helped us understand the psychology behind social media behaviors and made us better marketers.

To help you better understand the ever-changing social media landscape, we jumped into the latest social media research papers, hoping to discover some under-the-radar insights to help supercharge your social media marketing strategy.

In this post, I’d love to share what we discovered and bring you some insightful and surprising social media studies of 2016, sharing the key findings and actionable takeaways you can try today.

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Web Design tips: optimizing digital experiences for human behavior

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Web Design tips: optimizing digital experiences for human behavior

For User Experience Design That Delights, Put People First

In a world saturated with web and mobile apps, great user experience (UX) design remains scarce. Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, optimizing digital experiences for human behavior is always a challenge.

As entrepreneurs or designers, it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting process over people. Designing in a black box, obsessively working to add functionalities or developing features without anchoring every decision to the needs of users are all common issues that come with this strategy. This tunnel vision often stems from having no clear product vision, too many stakeholders, or intense pressure to meet release deadlines.

To design products that solve problems instead of creating them, entrepreneurs and UX designers should keep a few tips top of mind.

Get Feedback First

Through a project’s life cycle, user experience designers need feedback from the people the product is meant to help. Surveys and market research will only go so far. You need to recruit and interview actual target users.

When you’re ready to build something, start with a prototype. This can be anything tangible that conveys the big idea behind your product. Tools like Invision and Proto.io let you create demos and get immediate audience feedback. Once you have a prototype, let users break it. Observe them testing out features. Ask questions. When they encounter a problem, you’ll know immediately, and you’ll be able to work on resolving it.

Don’t make assumptions about a user’s needs. Verify that the pain points your product addresses actually exist. When adding new features, confirm that these match up with people’s needs. Pushing out a bunch of notifications, for instance, may align with your business objectives, but those alerts might annoy users.

Plan Perfectly

Begin every project with the end in mind. Create a plan to get your product to market fast, and prioritize requirements, understanding that done is better than perfect. Make sure you have a launch plan. Know who your first users will be, and make it easy for them to share your product with your next wave of users.

Have a positioning plan. Understanding what differentiates your product can be a difference maker, and focusing on those elements during the design phase will lead to success.

Plan for your platform. If your goal is to release an app on Android and iOS, don’t expect the two versions to be identical. Think about the requirements of each operating system. Otherwise, you’ll have an app that probably doesn’t align with user expectations. As you plan, know when enough is enough. Cramming in additional features complicates the experience and can result in information overload for users, placing you back in the black box you’re climbing out of.

Develop a Product Persona

If your product were a person, whom would it resemble? Brainstorm the qualities your product would have, and make sure any product copy or messaging aligns with that persona. You’ll need to define a clear voice for your product to help users connect to it in a way that surprises and delights.

In many cases, your product is your brand. The way you talk about it should be consistent, both internally and externally. Your company may end up becoming like your product persona. That’s a good thing.

Great Design Keeps Moving

Accept that the first product won’t be perfect. In fact, it may never be perfect. That’s OK — design is iterative. Look forward to continuously improving on the basis of user feedback, and always be testing.

There’s no one formula for great user experience, but these best practices place people first, setting up your product for success. With design in mind, you’ll build an app people look forward to using.

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Five Motivational Tips for Launching a Startup in 2017

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Five Motivational Tips for Launching a Startup in 2017

Launching a startup is tricky business. There are few detailed roadmaps for how to do it successfully and most of the time it comes down to a good idea, a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. Not all startups are created equal.

But it’s not all just walking blindly in the dark without a guide. There are some things you can do and not do when launching a startup in 2017. Here is a list of five things to consider:

1. Just do it
As the part time philosopher and famous shoemaker once said – just do it. Begin. Whatever doubts you have, stop. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly from the beginning, or about making mistakes – you’re going to – so simply push them aside, don’t let them get in your way. Nothing comes from nothing. Register the domain. Write some code. Get your logo designed. Your willpower is an incredible asset – it’s like a force of nature.

So do it. Now. Just start. Why not?

2. Singular brand focus
Branding is crucial for any new business. You are your brand, and if it’s unclear to you what you are and who you are, then it will be unclear for everyone else too. Valentin Stalf, co-founder of the online-only bank N26, discusses their strategy here.

Essentially, they decided to build a mobile-first app, an app built with great design as the guiding principle. Rather than building something purely functional, and later asking the user to learn how to use their app because it has some potentially good features they might want to use, they built an app that people want to use – that people understand how to use right away. There was nothing accidental about it, their focus when developing the app was solely on making it a good experience for the end user and so far it’s succeeding for them.

What is your focus? What will you do that nobody else has thought of yet? What will you do that’s better than what’s currently available.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn coined the phrase (and later wrote a book about it) “live life in permanent beta.” This is an important message as it conveys one of the struggles encountered in every startup. It’s easy to become confident when things are going well, and it’s easy to find yourself looking internally rather than externally for answers to questions that arise.

You’re not going to know everything. Sometimes you’ll need the advice of experts. Just remember that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask questions, it’s a sign of strength – of knowing your limits. Just as it’s equally important to remember that there is no finish line. Your product will never be done. Keep working and keep asking questions.

Live your life in permanent beta.

4. Find funding from the right investors
It’s important to surround yourself with people who share your vision. This applies to employees and investors alike. It’s critical that your investors understand what it is you’re trying to achieve with the business, that they understand and trust your decisions even if the path forward isn’t always clear.

There are a few great options online to help you get started with finding the right people. Kabbage is one of the best options out there right now. It takes moments to apply and review your business performance. There are many options out there from companies like Square, with Square Capital or Fundbox. There have never been so many options available, and it’s key to get this partnership right if you want to grow your business the way you want.

5. Don’t lose your great company name
Registering your business name online is a snap with a multitude of online business registration sites. There’s no doubt that you should register your business name as soon as you know what it is, and it’s never been easier to do so.

Beyond losing your name to someone else, in most states, it’s the law. The exception to this is if you’re a sole proprietor or freelancer using your own name to conduct your business. John Doe, the freelance carpenter, doesn’t need to register if the business is solely in his name. Otherwise, it’s the law, as the public needs to know who is running the company.

With any online services, it’s easy to do. So don’t wait! Register your business today, and in 2017 you have one less thing to worry about on your path to conquering the world of business.

As 2017 is right around the corner, now is the time to get started with your company today! With a new administration coming, it’s a great chance to kick off your new idea!

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5 Website Design Trends That Will Emerge In 2017

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5 Website Design Trends That Will Emerge In 2017

As always, the fonts must match the product, the brand and the target audience, and be web responsive to be effective.For non-website designers, it is nearly impossible to stay on top of the technological advances and countless new design options emerging almost daily. But you know that your website must be user-friendly and engaging on any device.

As a business owner in the digital marketing space, I often become the translator for designers and coders. Here are five of the most important website design trends to help you engage visitors and achieve your website conversion goals in 2017:

1) Responsive Website Design

Responsive website design is a requirement in today’s mobile society. Users may not know what it takes to make a website design responsive, but they know that without it, they will be looking elsewhere for answers, products or a viewing experience. In short, a mobile responsive website is one that is designed so that it looks the same when viewed on any device. A great source to view some prime examples of responsive website designs can be found at Awwwards.com; browse them and compare on different devices to see the unified effect.

2) Semi-Flat Design

Semi-flat design makes the elements appear as though they exist on a single surface. The widely-used design approach can bring clarity to the website for the viewer, while making transitions appear more unified. While it can be difficult to execute convincingly, when done correctly, semi-flat design makes it easier for website visitors to understand the cues and directions of the website. The result is a more intuitive navigation experience across the entire website.

Flat designs from a year or two ago had a lot of problems with their inability to draw users into the site and create a more immersive experience. This was because the images and characters were flat without any shading or differentiation, making it difficult for users to know where to click to navigate the websites. The discovery was chronicled in Windows 8 Usability Tests conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Semi-flat designs overcome those challenges, and the use of the style in both Android’s and Apple’s software releases make it something that many mobile users are used to seeing.

3) Minimalism Paired With Micro-Interactions

It’s all about the mobile experience in 2017 and beyond. Micro-interactions are user enabled interactions that provide control, guidance or rewards, or just impart fun to the experience for the user. Minimalist design means web pages are uncluttered. By combining these semi-flat and minimalist design trends in 2017, websites can deliver great user experiences that take advantage of visitors’ short attention spans and need for instant gratification.

In the last two years, my firm began to discover that even though our clients’ websites had been optimized for mobile, we weren’t always seeing the bumps in conversions or longer visitor interactions that we expected. The biggest challenge was having too much content on the page. Best practice search engine optimization is in our blood, and having at least 200 words on each page tends to improve search engine results. But, in an era when people are looking for faster mobile interactions, users were getting frustrated navigating through too much content per page.

We adjusted by balancing snackable content on scrolling pages, and have seen great results.

4) Parallax Scrolling And Interactivity

Moving different parts of a website page at different speeds (parallax scrolling) is not new, but those who know how to use it innovatively reap the rewards of visitor engagement.

An example of using it innovatively would be applying it to interactive storytelling and interactive assessments. Each engages the user at a deeper level. We’ve all experienced websites with great parallax scrolling where the images and text are highly structured and fold on top of one another as we scroll down through or swipe across the page.

Parallax scrolling enables the user to have a one-touch scrolling experience that engages them, provides an interactive experience, and can tell a story through progressing content and images that they control. They can have the same experience on any device, which helps to enhance their experience as they learn about a brand, a product or a solution.

5) Stronger Use Of Typography

It seems we are always learning about effective fonts and using them in new ways with website design. One of the latest and most enduring trends is to blend fonts that work well together in a single page. This works with both different (but compatible) fonts as well as font sizes. As always, the fonts must match the product, th

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