World Information Architecture Day | #wiad17

World Information Architecture Day | #wiad17

On Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, I helped celebrate World Information Architecture Day in Vancouver, attending a series of talks by:

Marianne Sweeney – The IA of AI
Lorraine Chisholm – Put a Mental Model to Work: UX, Strategy, and Content
Melissa Breker – How to Use Content Mapping to Collaborate with Stakeholders
Hannah Wei – Lessons Learned Designing for an Emerging Mobile Market
Robin Rozhon – Structured data and SEO
Suzy Gonzalez, Michelle Kang, Rajeshwari Keluskar, Julian Liao, Marly Marquez Ordaz and Gianna Vanoni – IA Lessons
Alan Etkin – Carved Code: Extending First Nations’ Storytelling into the Digital Sphere
Closing Keynote by Karyn Zuidinga – A Strategic Approach to IA


The international hashtag had a lot to offer so I combed through for my favourites in the Storify below.

#LeaderLounge

#LeaderLounge

Last night, I attended the first of Smart and Savvy’s monthly workshops designed to “up the leadership quotient” locally by helping strengthen attendees’ ability to lead and influence others. Here’s a transcript of live tweets created through Storify to keep track of the ideas and principles we covered.

Concrete Actions I’ll Take Following the GAIQ

Concrete Actions I’ll Take Following the GAIQ

After spending a week prepping for the GAIQ, I want to apply what I’ve learned with specific, concrete action items. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll forget the lessons.

Consequently, there are a few features I’d like to take advantage of immediately when I return to work after the holidays.

Concrete Actions

  1. Annotations

In Google’s reporting interface, you can annotate your account’s timeline in order to highlight key dates like when you experienced a major outage to your call centre or launched an in-store sales promotion that may explain either a spike or drop-off in web traffic.

I’ve totally ignored this feature until now, but I see the value of tracking events that may impact your site or mobile app’s performance since memories fade and staff leave or retire. You need to record these dates so that you don’t lose the knowledge or the ability to then monitor and report attendant changes to your account.

  1. Filters

Filters let you include, exclude or change how data appears in reports. In practical terms, filters can be immensely helpful by letting you exclude data from your head office’s IP address or force all URLS to be reported either in lower-case or upper-case characters, aggregating data that should be listed together. This is one of my greatest pet peeves—Google Analytics is case sensitive so the results for the same page (mysite.com/thanks and mysite.com/THANKS) get recorded separately unless you set up a filter to clean up how that data is reported.

While studying, I also discovered Jason Cartwright’s article on 6 Must Have Google Analytics Filters that I’d like to put into action as well.

Pro tip: try any new filters on the Test view only so that you can validate everything is running correctly before promoting changes to the Master view. Changes can’t be undone or corrected once the data is processed so take heart the old carpenter’s adage to “measure twice, cut once.”

  1. Content Groupings

In addition to filters, you can configure Content Groupings so that you can organize content logically in order to view and compare aggregate metrics. You could choose to create groups of content by product pages, blog topics, content types, target audience or whatever principle makes sense on your site.

In the absence of Content Groupings, I’ve relied on the All Pages’ advanced search feature to ferret out useful nuggets about how our content performs. But I’d like to implement Content Groupings to enable more methodical, rigorous reporting in the future.

  1. Data Imports

Did you know that you can import your own data to be processed alongside what Google has tracked? This can result in sophisticated reports, enabling business insights to occur faster than ever before. As long as the two sets of data have a common “key” like a page URL then you should be able to tie the information together for reporting.

With a content-driven site, I’m most interested in the opportunity to marry data listing Content Authors with data gathered by Google’s JavaScript code. I can’t think of a better way to fight the impulse to create a wasteland of content published and then promptly forgotten than by integrating individual performance goals for each author.

Of course, some of these features will be easier to start using straight away, while others might have to wait until a full measurement plan has been crafted. There are larger pieces to put in place like:

  • Identifying the Goals that best align with corporate objectives;
  • Attempting to get tracking code installed across all web-enabled touchpoints (not a small feat if you don’t “own” those channels like in-store kiosks); and
  • Setting up custom reports and dashboards that will make sharing data smoother and more efficient.

What was the first thing you did on your account after finishing the GAIQ?

Tackle the New GAIQ Exam

Tackle the New GAIQ Exam

I’m a lifelong list-maker. And nothing pleases a list-maker more than crossing something off the list of to-dos like tackling the updated Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) exam. That’s why I finally girded myself to prepare for the GAIQ over the holidays.

Why bother?

There are disparate views of whether the exam is worth the effort of studying or dismissed as mere resume fodder, window dressing for those who are shiny rather than substantive.

Frankly, the answer depends on whether you consider yourself a novice or a ninja with Google Analytics. The more advanced your skills, the less you’ll get out of the process (besides a screenshot of a certificate).

Personally, I found the material engaging and so I really wanted to retain the principles long-term instead of just for the 90-minute, multiple-choice exam. I think Google’s done a superb job of synthesizing the foundational concepts of web analytics for application across the field—not just their own proprietary product. And all for free.

Further, the exam reflects the evolution of the industry so you’re forced to think about how mobile has changed measurement; in a hyper-connected world, smart marketers assess how all devices, touch-points and micro conversions (behaviour indicator, e.g. newsletter registration) lead up to a macro conversion (business goal, e.g. online sale). That holistic thinking then also impacts how we attribute credit for conversions—automatically assigning it to the last channel (Google’s default setting) could be myopic depending on your goals. So even if you’ve been certified in the past, it may be worthwhile to brush up on what’s changed.

Ok—I’m in. Now what?

I spent about a week revising for the exam, and the first thing I did was read up on other folks’ experiences. There are two resources that I found particularly invaluable:

  • A 5-Step Plan to Mastering the New GAIQ Exam by Josh Waldrum on The YouMoz Blog
    • Comprehensive coverage of key concepts with great explanatory visuals.
    • Note: The actual exam has been updated since this post was published so some facts about the test itself are now out of date.
  • Taking the GAIQ: Advice to Help with Your Study by Robert Fleeting on Web Analytics World
    • Clear overview of the current exam, including all of the changes to the test.
    • Thorough outline of how Robert approached GAIQ, and his tips for success.

Afterwards, dive in to Google’s Analytics Academy and focus on these two self-study courses:

Each lesson includes a video, a PDF transcript and a short quiz. Because I’m an old-school visual rather than an auditory learner, I preferred reading the PDF, taking notes and then the quiz before watching the video.

I used Evernote to keep my notes; feel free to download them for the first course and the second set too.

Sitting the exam

Don’t do what I did—I got sick of studying and then sped through the exam, finishing in just over 60 minutes. While I passed with 90% (63/70), my heart was pounding and I felt sick throughout it. I let nerves get the best of me because I just wanted it over. Eep!

GAIQ CertificateBut there’s no need for you to be nervous—or at least that panicky—if you’ve studied the materials and played around with a sandbox account on Google Analytics (or your own), then you should be just fine.

Any tips you’d like to share?

Boiling Down Digital Storytelling

Boiling Down Digital Storytelling

Basic Principles to Get You Started

If you’re tackling digital storytelling for your brand, then it probably feels like you’re being asked to boil the ocean.

No wonder the task seems daunting—we just passed 1 billion websites according to Internet Live Stat’s count. And by the end of 2014, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union expects that we’ll hit nearly 3 billion Internet users.

Every second on the Internet equals:

  • 7,840 tweets
  • 1,390 photos uploaded to Instagram
  • 45, 905 Google searches
  • 89,924 videos viewed on YouTube
  • 34M emails

The sheer scope and velocity of communication in the digital space is compounded by the platform itself; in fact, digital comprises multiple formats and channels—you could easily spend your time specializing in a single area from websites, email, video, social media and games to apps.

So where do you start?

I think a few basic principles can ground day-to-day content planning and creation, making the task manageable and your output more effective.

online or offline, storytelling is the same

 

1. Online or analog, storytelling is the same.

Digital is still often referred to as “new media”; in fact, news headlines since 2004 show virtually equal preference for the two terms. The connected web has fundamentally changed how we list, buy and sell products and services—disrupting industries from banking and travel to education.

But the types of stories we tell online follow age-old patterns we’ve inherited from oral narrative through to stage plays, radio, TV, movies and advertising.

In the end, you still need to tell a good story with compelling characters and conflict—but in this context your brand, product or service should help fulfill the central protagonist’s need. One of my favourite examples is the Webby award-winning Milwaukee Police Department’s website, which highlights how the community’s desire for safety is fulfilled by dedicated officers—not the usual lionizing of might and authority.

Customer is the hero

 

2. Your customer is the hero.

Storytelling may bridge both analog and digital—but our cast of characters has changed irrevocably with the democratization of online publishing and social networks. Your customer’s now squarely center stage as the most valuable player in the narrative.

Not a terrible stretch in an era of widespread #selfies, eh? (Cool fact: selfies make up almost one-third of all photos taken by people aged 18-24.)

For marketers, that means that the specs of any product or service are secondary to how that purchase makes life for the customer better.

GoPro’s tagline is literally “be a hero” and its dedicated channel includes snapshots and videos created by customers using its action cameras. User-generated content gives customers the creative control to tell their own story.

Alternatively, Lowe’s is creating a series of six-second Vine videos that highlight quick fixes around the home rather than fixating on the features of individual tools or parts. Do-it-yourselfers are making a home into a sanctuary and Lowe’s wants to be part of that experience—not just sell widgets.

 

Online complements offline

 

3. Online complements offline.

Customers expect a seamless experience when they move back and forth from clicks to bricks; a Forrester study reveals that 71% of customers expect to view your in-store inventory online. And 50% of customers further expect to buy online and pick up in-store.

Often, however, organizations can’t deliver an integrated customer experience because of how they’re structured. For example, a recent study by Forbes Insight and Wipro of 125 global executives in consumer goods highlights how internal fragmentation is holding back some companies:

  • 37% still treat digital marketing as a separate function
  • 39% operate e-commerce in a silo
  • 50% reported that their digital marketing failed to integrate with essential back-end processes in one or more instances

While it’s tempting to stick to digital platforms when you’ve been put in a corner to muck around on your own, the end results will be better if you can marry online and offline efforts. Plus, the demand for greater integration doesn’t apply just to selling and fulfilling orders—it’s the same for storytelling too.

Event organizers have been doing it for a while by live streaming attendees’ tweets, photos and videos. Likewise, digital signage at brick-and-mortar locations have been widely used to reinforce key messages from in-flyer promotions and direct mail campaigns. And political activists routinely employ online petitions and rallies in real-life to advocate for change.

And even though “Weight Watchers has an online app, it continues to host weekly, in-person meetings as well,” points out innovation broker Katherine Bierce.

 

All content should reflect your voice and tone

 

4. All content should reflect your voice and tone.

Even the lowly “Page not found” is a chance for you to connect with your audience. In fact, some brands and agencies have taken up the challenge and produced some really creative versions of the staple 404 page.

My personal favourite is the one for SpaghettiOs—a simple but clever reference to the famous “Uh-oh SpaghettiOs” jingle created when the brand launched in 1965 that still acknowledges the visitor’s disappointment after stumbling on a broken link.

404 SpaghettiOsThese are some of the basics rolling around in my head that make the daunting task of telling digital stories more achievable. What are yours?