Digital Transformation: 25 Years Then and Now

I had an interesting discussion with a friend last week. In her late 40’s, she recently embarked in a new career in selling real estate. We talked about her digital strategy, and I was rather surprised at how much she already knew about the digital marketing landscape.

As this month marks the 25th birthday of the first public website, I realized what a unique position some of us are in. We have lived through the entire evolution of the modern World Wide Web as adults. We have the ability to understand how the world operated before the advent of the web, as well as be comfortable in the current (2D) web-based world.

The next quarter century promises to bring yet another revolution. Virtual Reality (VR) is here now, and the VR web is racing down the road to reality. Though as Casey Yee, co-creator of Mozilla’s WebVR standards team, states, we’re not there yet.

He reported to, “We’re wondering, what is a link going to look like in VR—the blue underlined link in text works on a page. That’s the status quo. But what does that look like in VR?” Yee asks. “Is it a portal? Is it a bounding box around an object? Do you walk up to it? Do you touch it? There are all sorts of questions around what that looks like in VR.”

So back to current reality – back to my real estate friend. She’s realized that she can take advantage of her unique position in the digital evolution. She understands that older clients need marketing materials that may be vastly different than those of the millennials. She also realizes that those entrenched older real estate agents and brokers who have until now enjoyed first page search engine results, are about to lose their coveted status. They’re being lapped by savvy upstarts who are breathing life into content-rich, fully responsive websites, with a keen eye to search engine optimization (SEO).

What will the next 25 years look like? That’s anybody’s guess. Perhaps as suggested by, it may not exist at all. Instead we’ll all be lured away from a democratic web by the Apples, Googles, and Facebooks of the world – each inventing its own metaverse.

At Designing North Studios, we can help your firm navigate the next quarter century of digital evolution. And we can do it in plain English without all the industry jargon. We get it. We can help you and your firm get it too.

Give us a jingle – we still accept calls from humans – for now.


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Sunday on the Sofa – Good UX and Bad UX

Like any red-blooded, country-loving, digitally-engaged American couple, my husband and I spent last Sunday morning shopping online. He for some bike rack attachments for a road trip, and I for new sheets to replace our frayed sets.

This is a rather pathetic first-world problem, but we are selling our home, so I didn’t want to invest in a whole new design/style for our bedding – just in case our new digs have a different vibe.  After hearing an annoying satellite radio ad over and over again for Boll and Branch sheets, I thought I’d check them out.

I found the whole user experience remarkably easy and intuitive. I was greeted with a $30 off-my-first-purchase-coupon-offer, which I quickly dismissed after determining that my satellite radio coupon code would give me a better deal. The website’s photos were big, bold, and beautiful, and visually answered nearly all my questions. Option selections such as size and color were in big print and simple to navigate – a bonus for my deteriorating middle-aged vision. The checkout process was a walk in the park. No hassles, no long processing waits while you’re wondering if you actually pressed a button or not, no repeat entries – clear bold calls-to-action (CTAs) so you know exactly what to do next.

Meanwhile, as I was delighted with my quick and facile purchase, my husband was grumbling loudly at the other end of the sofa.

“Jule, you gotta check this out,” he said.

I gathered my robe, and slid my coffee over to his end.

“I mean look at this! It is so irritating!” I knew where this was going.

“I know exactly what I want to look at, but they’re making me enter all this junk first. Okay, so now I’ve done that, and I have no idea if what I’m seeing matches what I need now. I want it for my truck, but they’re modeling the rack on a car.”

good-ui-not-equal-good-ux-designing-north-studiosHe was exasperated. The company was Yakima, one I hold near and dear to my heart due to a native allegiance to the Northwest. We have spent thousands of dollars on Yakima equipment – from Rocket Boxes to ski racks to bike racks for just about every motor vehicle imaginable. Suffice to say, we’re fans. I’d almost go so far as to say to we’re influencers in the parlance of Malcolm Gladwell. But here’s the deal, my husband was so frustrated with the user experience, that he abandoned the purchase. He figured out a way to make due with what we had. If you go to the website, it looks beautiful. The user interface or UI, is modern and appealing. It’s the user experience that was miserable.

So there we were. A once blissful couple wiling away our morning with our laptops, Meet the Press, and our credit cards burning in our hands – both intent on a purchase. And due to user experience (UX), the too frequently ignored brethren of UI, one purchase was gleefully made, and one purchase was angrily abandoned.

If you’re building a new digital product or updating an existing website, make sure the firm you’re working with knows the difference between UI and UX. Designing North Studios’ Managing Director Lisa Peacock likes to say, “UX should inform the UI. We’ve all been to art school – we know we can make it look good, but can we make it useable.” That’s the problem your firm needs to be able to solve.

Think of the money, time, and effort you expend on finally getting BUYERS to your website. Not just looky-loos, but BUYERS. Don’t blow it once you’ve got them there. UX is not optional. Our weekend foray resulted in one happy customer, (who will be a return customer), and one temporarily lost customer. Had we not already been avid fans of Yakima’s products, we wouldn’t consider trying again. Fortunately, the coffee was good, the PJs were cozy, and Meet the Press was entertaining. Not even crummy UX could spoil our Sunday on the sofa.

Top 10 Reasons You Need a Website Redesign – #YouMightBeAWebneck

Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not it’s time for a website redesign. Then again, sometimes it’s obvious. For example, when you’ve decided to take your brick-and-mortar business online and need to launch an eCommerce website – that’s obvious. Let’s face it, it’s a big investment to redesign your website – both internally and externally, and nobody wants to deploy precious marketing budget dollars needlessly. So here is our advice to help you in your decision-making process. If you answer yes to one or more of the items below, it’s probably time to talk to a trusted digital design agency.

You might be a webneck, if:


Your website doesn’t pass Google’s Mobile Friendly test.

This is a very simple concept. It’s pass/fail. As of April 21, 2015, Google began degrading organic search results for non-mobile-friendly websites. If you’re still enjoying strong search results, you’re lucky. Here’s the link to test your website:


Your website is not responsive.

No, that sentence doesn’t mean your website has no pulse and you should rush it to the ER. Although, figuratively, it kind of does. A responsive website is essentially one that can be experienced and look great on whichever platform it is being viewed. That means it looks good and is useable on smartphones and tablets, as well as desktops and laptops. If it’s not responsive, you didn’t pass #1 above either, but we need to underscore this point. Nearly a quarter of all 2014 online sales Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend were completed on MOBILE. Check out the charts below. Let’s face it, the world is going mobile.



2014 Holiday Season- M-Commerce-Key-Holiday-Shopping-Days_reference


Your website still has Flash.

Seriously? Sorry, we don’t mean to be offensive, but have you been living under a rock? If your website utilizes Flash, pick up your phone now. You need a redesign. You are broadcasting to the world that your business does indeed drag its knuckles on the ground. Apple’s Steve Jobs forcefully stated his reasons for not supporting Flash on iPhone and iPads back in April 2010, yet incredibly, over 20% of websites still make a Flash request.



Your website takes too long to load.

Sure, those graphics and that video were spectacular when you launched your new site just four years ago, but now no one is waiting around to see them. 47% of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of users will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load {source: Econsultancy}. You work so hard to get eyes to your website, don’t make them leave because you haven’t upgraded it.


Your website’s lost that lovin’ feeling.

And it’s gone, gone, gone. Once your page finally loads (see #4. above), users form an opinion in 0.05 seconds {source: Kinesis Inc.}. According to the NN Group, you have 10 seconds to leave an impression and tell them what they’ll get out of your website and company before they leave. So ask yourself, Does your website’s homepage pack a punch with a sharp, concise message that’s well supported by its graphical design?


Your website is text heavy.

Like it or not (and we at Designing North Studios are book lovers, so…), people don’t take the time to read much text online. If your website has page after page of paragraph after paragraph of text, nobody is reading it. That doesn’t mean you can’t have downloadable white papers or product descriptions, but it probably does mean that it’s time for a website overhaul.


The carpet doesn’t match the drapes.

Regardless of your interpretation of that metaphor, it drives the point home. In this globally competitive landscape, your prospective clients and customers don’t need any surprises. At least not negative surprises. If you fancy your legal practice as the go-to tech law firm, but your website looks like your nerdy nephew pasted it together in 2007, you better believe that when the innovator with the IPO of the decade checks out your site, he’s going to question your tech bona fides.


You’ve expanded globally, but your website is English – only.

If you expect to be a serious global contender, whether in eCommerce or as a service provider or thought-leader, you should consider offering your website in the language of the target home country. This is a big decision by the way. While digital translators have come a long way in the past decade, they are still imperfect. We know. We’ve tested them. Capiche? You’ll need to employ native speakers to assist in the translations, and you’ll need to be committed to translating future updates as well.


Your website hasn’t kept up with your competitors.

If you go online to check out a restaurant, you expect to be able to review its menu. So if you’re running a string of restaurants, and don’t display online menus, don’t expect to accumulate new customers via the Internet. Similarly, if you’re part of the premier orthopedic group in your town, but that practice across the tracks has a website that allows patients to cancel or modify appointments online rather than sitting on hold, as long as they’re not bolting patellae to scapulae, you might get lapped.


Your website adds no value to your customer/clients.

Over two decades ago when I started in this business, it was the Wild West. Nobody was quite sure what worked best. Many businesses just slapped something up on the web to ensure they had a Yellow Pages style presence. Every now and then that still works, but those instances are declining precipitously – think sliding down Everest on a bobsled precipitous. Equally, the websites that are sell, sell, sell are much like watching those insipid infomercials – you want to change the channel as soon as possible. If you’re selling jeans online, are you showing them paired with cute tops and shoes for outfit ideas? Do you have an FAQ section or a blog post about the various denim textures that you sell or a calculator that allows the customer to input their measurements, then spits out a recommended size? If you’re a law firm, does your home page cite a couple of recent cases to illustrate how you would approach a prospective client’s case? Do you offer periodic free tips to your corporate clients that might keep them out of court? Take a good hard look at your website with fresh eyes. Are you helping or just spamming and prattling?


Look, despite the fact that we are embedded in this business, the pace of change is annoying to us too. Just when we can operate a software platform in our sleep, the provider releases an upgrade. We’re not always a first-adopter; sometimes playing a little wait-and-see can be valuable – but eventually we have to bite the proverbial bullet. Plus, all of these upgrades (software, websites, computers, smartphones, etc.) and the concomitant re-training associated with them are expensive. Double sting. That said, what we’ve presented here are not the latest innovations or ephemeral trends. Our Top 10 Reasons You Need a Website Redesign are, in our professional opinion, clearly established indicators that if ignored, may profoundly impact your business in the near future.

Questions? Did we miss one? We would love to hear your thoughts –

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