5 More Typography Mistakes You Can Eliminate

This is a continuation of my earlier post “7 Typography Mistakes You Can Easily Eliminate.” That post garnered quite a few reader comments, including some who pointed out “mistakes” I didn’t include. So I’ve decided to share five more

MistakesThis is a continuation of my earlier post “7 Typography Mistakes You Can Easily Eliminate.” That post garnered quite a few reader comments, including some who pointed out “mistakes” I didn’t include. So I’ve decided to share five more:

1. Over Centering

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Many non-designers use centered text way too often. Mind you, I’m not against centering … I like it. But you need to know how to do it in a way that does not make your text unreadable.

Our eyes read from left to right. When we finish a line of text, our eye slides left to the beginning of the next line almost automatically. An edge is formed by the flush left text and helps our eye find the beginning of the next line. Each new line starts in the same place. It’s easy and we don’t think about it.

When you center multiple lines of text, your eye struggles to find the beginning of the next line of copy. The line does not line up with the line before it. The straight edge is not formed and our eye now needs to search for the start of the next line. This searching slows down reading and tires our eyes. Not what you want when trying to communicate a message.

What’s the solution?

First, center only a few lines at a time. Do this to grab attention — to highlight copy.

There are also ways to center text where you don’t actually center every line. Center the block of text instead. This gives the “feel” of centered text without the readability issues.

Centered text example
Everything centered is difficult to read. Use centering sparingly. Center copy blocks instead.

2. Justified Text

This is when all the type lines up on the left and right margins. Although not used as often as centered type, justified text also can make type difficult to read. It’s also very difficult to make it work, even for the best designers. Again, use it sparingly.

Make sure the line length is long enough. Short line lengths have fewer words per line and therefore more space is added between words to justify the text.

Be ready to edit your text to create better word spacing. This way, you can adjust the spacing a word at a time.

My recommendation: Don’t do it. It’s just too difficult to make type look good with the tools available to most non-designers.

Justified text example
Justifies text causes overly large word spacing making text difficult to read.
Plus it just looks bad.

3. Proximity

What is proximity? It’s the grouping together of items that relate to each other, such as a title with descriptive copy or a price with a product description. Grouping them together makes them one visual unit, organizing the information in a logical way that makes it easier for readers to take it in

In the wonderful book “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” (4th Edition) by Robin Williams, there’s a great example depicting how appropriate proximity and group content can improve look and readability.

Typical proximity example
Typical proximity
Better proximity example
Better proximity

Notice how much easier the example on the right is to read. Each block of copy now reads as a unit and has clear separation. The larger image has more visual appeal too.

4. Underlining

Underlining is a holdover from typewriter days when there was no other way to boldface or italicize type as we do now on computers.

Is It Time for a True Goodbye?

As I reflected on a client interaction I had this week, I thought about how helpful it is for organizations to learn from the past and then also to let go. I had facilitated a meeting where we tried to embrace failure not as life-over, but simply as feedback—to have a more positive outlook on the unplanned learning lessons that failure brings a brand. It was a tough sell. These young, smart, good-hearted brand builders were perfectionists. They only ever saw A+ on their report cards. Red Fs would have been scarring.

This morning we woke up to our first snow in the foothills of the Rockies. Even though it was only a light sprinkling—like powdered sugar on our lawn—it seemed entirely way too soon. We were not ready to say a goodbye to summer. We assumed we had a couple more weeks to enjoy patio dinners, the window boxes in full bloom and the hummingbirds on the feeders. We had to readjust.

Later in the day, I read this from Jeffrey McDaniel: “I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” I appreciated this advance lesson about winter … it helped me set my favorite season aside and anticipate the cozy fires in the woodstove, cross-country skiing and holiday family gatherings.

Many of my clients are multichannel retailers who introduce hundreds of new products in a season. Very few of these new rollouts become brand rockstars (as I call their bestsellers); many more end up in the middle of the performance pack and the rest trickle towards the bottom. This is a repeat pattern. I believe there is as much value in the bottom learnings as there are in the top-of-chart learnings. The conversations about the bestsellers are just more fun.

As I reflected on a client interaction I had this week, I thought about how helpful it is for organizations to learn from the past and then also to let go. I had facilitated a meeting where we tried to embrace failure not as life-over, but simply as feedback—to have a more positive outlook on the unplanned learning lessons that failure brings a brand. It was a tough sell. These young, smart, good-hearted brand builders were perfectionists. They only ever saw A+ on their report cards. Red Fs would have been scarring.

But, here’s the thing: Unplanned lessons are the exact opposite of lesson plans … those neat and tidy curriculum plans teachers try to follow until the students show up and things go awry. We often learn more from things that don’t quite go the way we hoped than things that do. If we dare to review our actions.

In a BusinessWeek article entitled “Radio Flyer Learns from a Crash,” Thomas Schlegel, VP for product development at Radio Flyer shared his thoughts on a product launch that was halted. After months of development and lots of production time and dollars, Schlegel scrapped it. “It didn’t live up to Radio Flyer standard,” he said. According to the article, “his boss, Robert Pasin, CEO, told Schlegel failure was OK as long as the company learned from it. Pasin now holds a regular breakfast for new employees at which he impresses upon them the idea that failure is inevitable if you want to innovate and valuable if you can learn from it. And after every project ends—whether the project has been shipped or been killed—Radio Flyer is developing what Schlegel describes as an ‘autopsy without blame,’ in which everyone involved in the development of a product discusses four questions: What went well on the project? What didn’t go well on the project? What did we learn? And, what are we going to do next?”

Author James Joyce gives us a new perspective on unplanned lessons: “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” Bravo to Radio Flyer. They made discoveries and acted on their volitional errors!

So, I switched gears in my client meeting and described to these Type A risk-averse professionals how another client actually embraces failures—publicly and light-heartedly. This company even had more than 300,000 customers take a tour of its flops: Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. It’s a real live collection of 31 ice cream mistakes and missteps over the years memorialized for all to see.

Ellen Kresky, Creative Director for Ben & Jerry’s shares this: “One of my favorite things about Ben & Jerry’s is that we’re not afraid to acknowledge our shortcomings or failures to consumers. Take our Flavor Graveyard for example. We use it on our website, and you can actually go visit real tombstones at our Waterbury tour. The Flavor Graveyard features limericks to eulogize our flavor bombs. We even sell Flavor Graveyard t shirts. A few years ago we had a contest to bring consumers’ favorite flavor back from the dead for a limited time in scoop shops. A lot of us were secretly hoping that a flavor with a low gross margin would win so that consumers would benefit in more ways than one. And our wish came true. For me, this is an example of contrarian brand management. Projects like this help continue to build consumer love and trust, and manage to do that in an un-contrived way that stays true to our roots.”

I know it used to be a common practice for many multichannelers to take the time to have strategic post-mortem conversations evaluating a season’s results by sales channels (retail, on-line and catalog) and by customer segments. Product visual boards would be created and the nuances of what worked and what didn’t would be discussed along with promotional strategies and competitive tactics and offerings. In today’s attention deficit business culture where every one is chasing the next new thing, I’m afraid these important cross-departmental meetings have morphed into line item reports read individually and acted upon in silos. The subtle underlying threads of what didn’t work do not get fully analyzed and the real failure of this short cut practice is that similar mistakes get made again (and possibly again).

I am a proponent of serious, slow talk (like the Slow Food, Slow Travel and Slow Christmas movements!) post mortems where true learning and insights can occur. I have both led and participated in these with my clients and they work and are worth it. Stop and think time. Concentrated focus on the previous season’s happenings both for your brand and your customers’ experience with your brand. Free flow of information. Open agenda. Robust conversations. Potential surprise endings.

So, have you dared to slow down and look back with your brand team? Why not take time to better understand and collaboratively converse about your brand faux paus openly and then, and only then, bid them a true goodbye!

Go Deep!

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile. When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile.

When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you look at some of the most successful brands doing mobile, EVEN the small businesses they focus on two … maybe three platforms within the mobile space and focus on that until they can’t focus anymore.

That’s what I call “going deep.”

As a small business owner you can’t be everywhere … It’s actually not even in your best interest.

You need to spend the time on what generates results for your business. Basically, the things that put money in your pocket.

So, when you’re getting started in mobile … heck, if you’re already executing mobile programs, I’d suggest you scale back and focus on two to three efforts until you’ve really mastered them.

It will allow for you to focus your efforts, your time and your money into things that you’re giving a chance to grow.

Giving 10 percent to 10 different mobile channels won’t deliver the results you’re looking for.

As a small business owner, you should go deep with your mobile website and SMS first. If you’re adding a third, I’d recommend email.

Between those three channels, you can create systems that turn prospects into customers and turn those customers into repeat customers.

Why waste time in the beginning spreading yourself too thin?

To be successful with mobile your best bet is to go deep.

4 Tips to Get in the Mobile Mindset

We’ve talked about SMS, mobile websites and mobile email. But, as you may know, those are just tools to get your job of marketing your business done. Yes, building these into your strategy are the core foundations of mobile success, but mobile is more than technology … Mobile is about your customer. Now, I’m not here to shout out stats, because I’ve provided those before. And, frankly, you’re here … so you know adding mobile to your business is critical. Your customers are mobile … therefore, your business needs to be.

We’ve talked about SMS, mobile websites and mobile email. But, as you may know, those are just tools to get your job of marketing your business done.

Yes, building these into your strategy are the core foundations of mobile success, but mobile is more than technology …

Mobile is about your customer.

Now, I’m not here to shout out stats, because I’ve provided those before. And, frankly, you’re here … so you know adding mobile to your business is critical.

Your customers are mobile … therefore, your business needs to be.

Now, before you go and plan your strategy and determine the appropriate tactics to reach your goals, you need to put yourself in the mobile mindset.

I recently attended Mobile Marketer‘s Mobile FirstLook event in New York in which many brands, such as Coca-Cola, Sephora, MillerCoors, Nissan and JetBlue discussed their strategies.

I noticed that all of these individuals work within their entire organization to help them think differently about the mobile opportunity.

Making sure you have the mobile mindset and your organization is on board and you’re more likely to succeed.

Here are four tips I learned from the top brands on getting in the mobile mindset:

1. Think about your mobile opportunity across your organization.

Mobile isn’t just about marketing. Can mobile enable your sales team to sell more effectively? Can mobile optimize tasks to save time? Can mobile save you money by cutting down on transaction fees?

Before you think SMS, QR Codes or apps, think “How can mobile add value to all of the other parts of my organization?”

2. Stop making it complicated.

Believe me, I know it’s super complex and overwhelming to keep up with the latest and greatest technologies.

Coca-Cola focuses on six aspects of its mobile programs. Those are the six that work for THEIR business. They may not be the same for your business, but you can’t worry about ALL the possibilities of mobile. Focus on the handful of things that will most impact your business.

3. Work with the right partners. Ones you can trust.

Luckily, we don’t have to do all of this alone. In fact, if you try you’re more likely to get frustrated and give up. Aligning yourself with the right strategic partners and technology partners is important.

Again, every business is different, so you need to make sure that the workflow and process of your partners matches the style of your business. You most likely want to enjoy working with them, too. Make sure personalities mesh well.

Finally, I don’t care how big your company is. Mobile is no longer a “nice to have.” No matter the size of your business, you can find someone who knows more than you do and who is able to offer services.

4. Stop waiting.

This was probably the most powerful statement of all. So simple, but it needed to be said.

With technology advancing so fast, some businesses find themselves waiting for the next great thing in order to start. Guess what? When you do that … you never start.

Listen, nobody is going to do it for you … it’s on you to dive in and get the process started.

If you’re dilly-dallying and finding excuses to wait just a little bit longer … quit complaining and start taking action.

Yes, you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s fine. But what you learn from those mistakes will be an important part of your growth.

Starting now is the only way you’re going to learn what works for YOUR business.

3 Ways Most B-to-B Marketers Get Off Track With Social Marketing

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”  There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing.

[For more of Jeff Molander’s insights on B-to-B marketing and social media, be sure to catch him on Thursday’s Multichannel Marketing for Business roundtable webinar.]

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”

There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing. They:

1. Have a very weak expectation of social media to begin with … they don’t expect it to produce leads nor sales.

2. Focus energy on finding effective ways to measure social’s effectiveness rather than finding ways to sell with it.

3. Make mistakes 1 and 2 because they’re looking to relatively inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media.

Expect Social Marketing to Sell
Your thoughts manifest reality. It’s a metaphysical fact whether you turn to new age gurus, the Bible or other philosophical belief system aimed at creating emotional, spiritual and financial wealth. What you think becomes reality and if you’re thinking about marketing outcomes (engagement, clicks, visitors, customer sentiment, etc.) that’s what you’ll get—by law!

Selling requires not only a change in expectation but a process mentality that generates tangible outcomes. Marketing usually involves a creative process with fungible, intangible outcomes like “good branding” that somehow results in sales. Marketing is faith-based.

If marketers could have anything they want when it comes to social media they want “better engagement” and better ways to measure it. The result is a world where B-to-B marketers continue to put today’s interactive version of branding before revenue.

Get Off of Social Media and on to a List
What if we cast aside such marketing aspirations and replaced them with dreams of creating leads? For instance, changing the goal from engagement to leads means changing what we do all day long—and how we do it. What if the goal was to get prospects OFF of social media?!

I’m noticing how B-to-B marketers who create revenue (and think about it all day long) think this way. They don’t care to spend five years wondering, “What’s the value of a Facebook fan?” only to find out that the question is as pointless as the half-baked answers self-appointed experts cook up.

Successful social sellers ask different questions like, “Can we use what we already know works to start generating leads sales with social marketing techniques?”

For these companies, the answer is, “yes, sometimes” but only when the social platform can be used in a way that moves sales prospects off of it and onto a lead nurturing program. In the end they rely more on traditional, process—driven database marketing—telemarketing, direct mail, email—and not johnny-come-lately metrics like “return on engagement.”

Believe in Yourself, Ignore the Experts
In many cases the reason why marketers are making mistakes 1 and 2 is because they fall victim to the uncertainty created by self-appointed experts.

In a moment of remarkable candor, former Apple brand evangelist, Guy Kawasaki announced his secret to social media success: Do not have any plan whatsoever for it. Because you can’t understand these oh-so-new technologies, he says the smartest way to approach them is to just do it.

You can understand Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc., if your context remains founded in business principles that are not revolutionizing—no matter what the experts say.

Resist the urge to hire who you know are ambitious, bright yet inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media (and how to do it). The truth is most social media experts have one main qualification: “I use it more than you do” and (my favorite) “I ‘get it’ because I study other companies that ‘get it'” (when “it” is largely hot air).

So if you want to avoid the three most common mistakes, expect social media to sell start learning a systematic way to make social platforms serve your business, stop trying to measure social’s effectiveness in intangible terms and trust your business instincts more than young social media experts.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes, Part 2

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

(To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

This week, I’ll discuss the last five mistakes, which were presented by both Amy and Matt.

6. Blocking your users’ progress. Don’t make people go through extra steps to get the information they need from your site, Schade said. Instead, make your users feel like they’re flowing through your site and making progress toward reaching their end goals.

7. Saying way too much or way too little. Before offering any details about a product, offer a synopsis of the product you’re selling, Schade said. Users will not scroll through pages and pages of information about a product unless they know exactly what the product is. Also, be specific when categorizing your products.

A good way to do both of these things, according to Schade, is to use a concept called layering, where you offer different layers of product information on your site.

At the top of a page, for instance, you could show a picture of an item, along with some identifying characteristics. If users are interested, they can scroll down the page and see a highlights tab that summarizes more detailed information about it. Then if they’re still interested, they can click through and read more detailed information. This is a nice balance of presenting the right amount of information in a very usable way, Schade said.

8. Not taking a walk in your users shoes. This applies to users web usability and technical perspectives, Poepsel said. Make sure the experiences they have in terms of website availability, performance and load time are excellent. If not, users will be frustrated, your brand will be at risk and you’ll incur higher operational costs, among other potential problems.

9. Not checking your work twice. Validate how your website looks, displays and performs not just in the most popular browsers — such as Internet Explorer 7.0 — but in all the possible browsers consumers may use when visiting your site, Poepsel said.

10. Not preparing for success. Make sure your website can perform well in both your lowest traffic times and your highest, Poepsel said. You don’t want to have the performance of your website flounder after sending out an email blast about a special promotion. Despite the influx of people going to your website at the same time, it should perform just as well as it normally does.