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Infographics

Let’s talk infographics, those jazzy visuals that get you hyped when reading an article or a blog, when trunddling the net they catch your eye and suck you into content. Are they made by incredible designers whose super human knowledge of Photoshop can’t be replicated? No, well, sometimes. But for most content creators there are easier, quicker tools now available that require no technical know how. I tried and tested a few of them, here’s what I found.

  1. Canva

Easy set up with a whole host of templates and stock images, no manual needed with a simple space to operate. Once you’ve chosen the type of infographic you want to make you’ll go through to more options of customization, such as layers, images, lines, illustrations etc:

First off I made a simple presentation graphic and chose to use a back template + chart + 3x text boxes, which all together took less than 5 mins. 

Looks a little 90’s power point doesn’t it? let’s try one more. This time I did a poster for a fictional restaurant:

You can save your file as a JPG, PNG (standard or advanced) and PDF.

Overview: I really like Canva and can see why the internet has great things to say about it, positioning was a little fiddly at times but fine if you zoom in. The default colours are limited but you can pay for more choice. Considering it’s free you get a huge amount of content and functionality for nothing. Definitely will be using in the future!

      2. Piktochart 

Overview: Watch the video on going through to the start up page, it tells you everything you need to know. I immediately really liked Piktochart because you can vector and align things really easily on the document, which for someone who likes symmetry is right up my street. It was easy to move, add things and edit the doc.

Video is here

The interface is easy to navigate, it also has a drag and drop system with each element editable. I quickly mocked up an infographic for a presentation/ corporate comms, I made this in about 5 minutes:

Note: all the data/ content in this is made up!

Comparison: Piktochart definitely has more dynamic editing controls that are easy and simple to use but it lacks the variety of templates, images and other addables offered by Canva. There are more colour schemes though than Canva, which I liked personally as I could coordinate the above easily, unlike Canva everything available is editable, including colour, size and font.

3. Venngage

Initially I was impressed with Venngage as it incorporates the functionality and variety of choice of Piktochart and Canva but unlike them it is very limited unless you sign up for a monthly subscription, you can make an infographic and share it on social media for free but you can’t export it. From what I can see there’s a great range of tools and templates to use and the subscription isn’t too pricey ($19 a month). I didn’t sign up so screen capped the body of an IG on the creative process below:

All in all if I was going to sign up to one I would either go with Venngage or Piktochart, purely because the functionality worked better and the IG’s produced were clean, easy to create and looked more like the kind of content that would make an impact. I would still go back to Canva for flyers and posters though as I think they have a great variety of templates for those.

I’ll be exploring more IG software and tools soon so stay tuned!

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Crazy Eggs and Typeform

If you’re in a role where market research plays a chess piece then these two nifty pieces of software are for you.

Crazy Eggs

This is a new and easy way to get an overview of your sites click-throughs, they offer a variety of views and subscriptions including two free trials.

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Typeform:

Allows you to build your own market research tools, which you can do from scratch or via one of their templates. A few of the templates they offer are:

  • Surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Registration forms
  • Lead generation forms
  • Polls, Quiz’s and feedback

When building you’ll have a variety of options that can easily be dragged and dropped into place. They layout is clean and super user friendly (see below).

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Have fun!

Prolific content

How do you avoid regurgitating content? People say when your competitor zigs you must zag. But what if a new idea or an innovation light bulb sparks a great opportunity for new business or content but somebody has gotten there first? As is usually the case. Is it back to the drawing board? To do so wouldn’t be congruent with creative belief and would leave a lot of people twiddling their thumbs. Peoples daily lives seem to masticate the same content over and over with little stimulative difference in its reception and impact. Some would argue that getting your entertainment fix from Facebook is just the same as a Buzzfeed list, no? and so media vies for our attention in a black hole of content.

I’d never encourage trying to do the same thing with only a change in price as an incentive to your customers. When approaching any new idea think, from a content strategy point of view, how does it align with your business goals and mission and secondly how, from a content marketing point of view, does it bring value to and engage with your audience/ customers? Innovation plays a big part when changing/ designing a product or service. (see my other post on innovation and its language).

The deeper the knowledge you have of your audience the better you’ll identify an angle that will fit for both of the above. The key to creating engaging content is creating something of value to your audience that is delivered where, when and how they want to engage with it.

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Project management for editors

Whether you’re an editor, an author or illustrator if your’re working on a collaborative project then you will need to communicate things like schedules, deadlines, tasks and docs. The role of the editor is generally quite autonomous but that of the digital editor is quite the opposite. Creating and designing digital products requires input from a number of stakeholders. Here are three simple tools for project management that editors can use across the board.

Trello

Summary: Quick, easy and so user friendly it will appeal to even the biggest technophobes.

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Sign up here and it’ll take you through to a blank ‘board’, much like Pintrest. Your first task is to make a ‘list’ and choose the number of items you want to manage. I’ve done the basics below:

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When you click on a list you can ‘add a card’ this will fall under the board you’ve placed it on.  Then you can add a ‘card’ which will enable these options:

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The ‘edit labels’ feature allows you to colour code things on your board, so tasks for marketing, sales and editorial can all be different colours. You can add or remove members to cards or boards, set deadlines and add attachments. Team members can add their comments on individual cards too.

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On the home screen at the far right you will find your settings side bar, which looks like this:

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From here you have options to add team members and to customize, including adding ‘power ups’. You can only add 1 power up in the free version but the full program offers a wide range. The full list consists of:

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Each power up’s functionality is easy to set up and use. That’s all there is to it!

Base Camp

Summary: This is my personal go-to as I find the layout suits my needs better.

Once you’ve signed up you’ll be taken through to this landing page:

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This is the sample page they show you to get the ball rolling. Unlike Trello there are set project boards, but with added functionality. To get started click ‘base camp’ at the top and start a new project. You can add clients to the project so they can see it’s progress but won’t show them internal discussions or any unfinished work. The other tabs at the top allow you to talk one on one, see your notifications and switch to other projects. The reports tab is particularly useful:

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It gives you an overview of what everyone else working on the project is up to. Like Trello you can upload docs, set deadlines and keep tracking all of the ongoing tasks building your project.

Jira

Summary: A lot more complex than the previous two, ideal for Agile workflows and digital  projects. Jira is great if you’re working in sprints, with much of the functionality of Base Camp it allows you to share and analyze data easily. It also provides a series of add on’s, similar to Trello but aimed at software development. You can do portfolio planning, scrum boards, other features include:

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For the sake of space I won’t go into too much detail on this one, Jira only post will follow up!

Spotlight: Aquafadas

“Meet your audience where they live – on their mobile devices.”

“The Aquafadas Digital Publishing System makes it easy to design apps, publish e-books and create digital magazines for mobile devices and the web.”

This is the first of the spotlights I’ll be doing on platforms, innovation companies, websites and other digital things. For ease I’ve shortened Aquafadas to ‘Aqua’ for the duration of this article.

Aqua provides a variety of services and as most people in publishing use InDesign they’ve come up with a nifty little plugin for us. It is authoring that allows customization of eBooks and apps. It comes in a basic or a premium package, the basic includes enhancements like audio, interactive buttons, video, slideshows, HTML5 etc. The premium ups the game with illustration features, mazes, quizzes and you can export docs as ePub docs, apps or web readers.

The main benefit of the Aqua plugin is that it is free, a refreshing use of four letters. It’s also easy to use and provides accessibility to a large array of enrichment’s, which are compatible with most OS’s. It’s laid out in two panels; the AVE Project Manager panel and the AVE Interactivity panel.

The AVE Interactivity panel allows you use and add in any enrichment to a digital product, including any interactivity. Allowing users to do everything from the same sidebar. When your digital product is ready to go it can be sent directly to an iPad to test using the MyKiosk app, this app also allows you to make a demo that you can show to any customer or end user.

The Aqua plugin comes as part of a Digital Publishing System, offering a business model that takes into account publisher’s and agency budget restraints. With an eye for solutions they have created a system that is both intuitive and time saving. The business model is based on fixed fees per publication, allowing users to create cost effective business plans. I should add that my research has found no hidden costs, such as a cost per download, revenue share, charge for push notifications, etc.

Feedback highlights from global publishers who use Aqua:

  1. web store represents an opportunity to increase discoverability via Google Search while reaching a larger number of people, schools and bookshops.
  2. 65% of sales come from books presented in featured sections.
  3. Using notifications, categories and app store optimization increase in-app purchases.
  4. true transformation of the print experience is necessary, where touch and audio are utilized in the same ways that a child’s eye and crayon had been used in the old print editions.

It’s pretty swish, check it out!

Useful links:
Aquafadas homepage

Aquafadas blog

 

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Innovation and the ‘off’ switch

Let’s talk language

With a surge of creative marketing advertising is now more competitive than ever before, most believe now that creative strategy boils down to just one thing or rather one word, innovation. To quickly define, innovation is taking something that already exists and improving or changing it to market more effectively. Businesses do this with products but they also do it with words. With an unlimited lexis at your fingertips people stealthily use words to their advantage on a day to day basis.  In many cases a change in the way you market your product could mean the difference in spending millions on advertising to changing the product itself.

But is ‘innovative’ language accessible to those who want it? Buzzwords with arguably ambiguous meanings are more like theories than realist strategies. How do you apply these to work effectively? I have attended a few conferences and talks on creative strategy in the last few months and it occurred to me that a lot of the time I spent trying to decipher the objectives through the jargon, trigger phrases and tech buzzwords. Many people can talk about these strategies and ideas but we, the audience, are often left in a whirlwind of words that are disconnected from any real application.

One particular word that crops up a lot and irks me a little is silos, “we can’t work in silos”, “we have to move away from silos in order to achieve synergy”, why isn’t silogy a word? My beef is thus, that this is easy to say but rarely do the speakers who say it mean it in a way that will change two (or more) things that work completely separately into something that works together. From my experience there is a lot to be gained from segregating parts of a business, like the organs of the body they work together in harmony but they all have their own processes and ways of doing things, and that works for various reasons. I’m all for synergy too, in a realistic and achievable sense. I think the reason that language like this is hard to grasp is that it often comes without context, ideas and plans but no examples or real details of how it will be achieved. A good strategy should analyze problems and policies in order to set out how they are going to be tackled and changed.

There is also the problem with the nature of inno-lingo (innovative language, a term I also made up), I will attempt to disseminate the difference between ‘innovate’ and ‘innovation’. The word innovate is formerly a verb, it is the process of changing something that has already been established whereas innovation, the noun form, is the process used on a cultural scale, Dross explains “If we use the term “innovation” the same way we use the term “innovate,” we will create cultural confusion.  This is because “innovation” is best used to describe a cultural state, while “innovate” is an action term, a deliverable, an output.  They are different things.” Henry Dross, Forbes.

Here’s another Dross quote, just for relevant kicks “The biggest challenge organizations face in building and nurturing and leading innovative cultures is language. Not plans. Not ideas. Not action items. Not even creativity. It is language” Henry Dross, Forbes
Full article here: The Rhetoric Of Innovation

These language barriers lead us to the dreaded ‘off’ switch, where you are sitting listening to an interesting talk and then when the buzzspeak pours forth you slowly move into a blank grey sphere, before snapping back thinking “I’m not listening, what are they saying now??” We’ve all been there. Using language that is decipherable to your audience is just the beginning. Motivating colleagues and connecting to your business as well as it’s needs in order to generate and encourage innovation is, in itself, another task.

My recommended reads:

Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Victor Hwang’s The Rainforest Scorecard: A Practical Framework for Growing Innovation Potential
Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen

And podcast:
The Language of Innovation with Doug Williams

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