Beantin

James Royal-Lawson

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Add sharing to printed newspapers with QR codes

QR codes aren’t all about campaigns and coupons. They can quite easily be used to add value and to help customers/readers/visitors do what they’d like to to. I’m going to give you an example of how they can help improve sharing of printed articles.

Despite the looming figure of Death hanging over their shoulders, traditional printed newspapers are long from their EOL. That said, the way in which we consume media is developing all the time. I read most content digitally, through a web browser (on my laptop and my tablet) or via an app (on my tablet).

I regularly share the links to content I consume, often adding my own little comment and opinion. The channels I use to share are varied, but mainly Twitter, Facebook and Yammer – and myself (somethings have to be saved to be read later – there are only so many hours in the day!)

The Economist

Despite my digital life, I still have a fondness for printed newspapers and magazines. That said, the number of publications I subscribe to has reduced dramatically over recent years, but one that has remained is The Economist. I enjoy it’s stability and consistency. A 15 year-old James wouldn’t be shocked at how the present-day Economist of 38 year-old James looks.

What is frustrating is that I still have the same urge to share when I’m reading the paper version as I do when reading articles digitally.

This is where QR codes could add real value for me.

Printed share buttons

So why not add share buttons to printed articles? Okay, it’s obviously not possible to put actual sharing tools in printed paper, but it is possible to print a scannable barcode alongside the article.

Rather than have direct link to the digital version of the article encode in the code, why not take one step further in helping the reader and provide a link to a ready made sharing page?

I’ve taken the Wikipedia page for How to win friends and influence people and made it into an example document. In the footer of each page I’ve placed a QR Code. This code links to a simple share-page that I’ve made. (It would be sensible to include some indications of what the QR code does when scanned – I’ll update the example document later to include that.)

(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

The share page

Scanning the barcode takes you to a share page that shows the article title and then offers a number of easy to press links enabling you to share the article on Twitter, Facebook or via email. Or if you fancy – you can even be a little crazy and open up the actual web page.

Screenshot of the share page taken on an Android tablet

Increasing sharing

If The Economist printed a little QR code at the end of each article, I’d share plenty more articles with my friends and followers than I currently do.

If you produce a printed publication, why not try it out? My share page is just a simple example, but it would be relatively easy (and low-cost) to produce a branded, slightly more advanced, version. Producing the QR codes is straight forward, and even possible to automate.

Let me know how you get on!


is a freelance web manager and strategist based in Stockholm Sweden.

Google Analytics: 7 things to do when you first start

If you are starting out with Google Analytics for a site (or sites), then there are a few first steps you should follow. Here are 7 tips to get you up and running…

1. Create an account

Make sure you sign up using a company email address, Preferably a non-personal one such as google@yourcompanydomain.com. This will make things much easier in the future, such as when you change roll, change your digital agency, or leave the company.

2. Think about your account/profile structure

Put some time into thinking how you are going to structure your Google Analytics account. There are accounts and profiles. This will be confusing at first. Without a bit of thought when getting started you run the risk of having a structure that further down the road you realise just isn’t right for you.

Google uses the analogy of a House with a number of rooms. An account should be a collection of related things – could be a brand, or a company. Profiles are the things; a particular blog, website, filter of another thing.

3. Insert the tracking snippet into your site

Make sure it’s the right version and in the right place – and working! It might be the case that an agency or a consultant has helped get you this far – double check and make sure they’ve used the latest version of the tracking snippet. The latest version at the time of writing is the asynchronous snippet.

Look at the source code of your site and compare the tracking snippet to the one shown on this page. If it looks more like this snippet, say thank you and goodbye. If they are putting the old snippet on new installations, they don’t know what they are doing.

4. Give your personal google account access

Yes Google are making it easier to switch between accounts, but you can’t do that yet with GA – so make life a little easier and add the Google account you normally log in with as a user for each account.

The best place to add yourself is via the user manager. You can find a link to the user manager towards the bottom of the account start page. From there you can give yourself access to all profiles within an account. Make sure you add yourself as an administrator.

5. Turn on site search

If your site is more than just a handful of pages, then there’s a good chance you’ve got a search box – or site search as Google calls it.

Turning on the tracking of site searches means that Google Analytics will record the search queries your visitors enter into your on-site search box. This can give you vital information as to what is important to visitors (and what they struggle to locate it via your information architecture and design).

6. Filter internal traffic

Every website has a significant number of visits from employees (or the site owners). This is a very distinct set of visitors, with different visitor goals and behaviour to your other target groups.

For many companies excluding internal traffic is quite straight forward as all Internet browsing usually goes through a gateway or a proxy. This means that internal visits will come from a known and limited number of IP addresses.

You should exclude this traffic, but I recommend that you also create a new profile for internal visits – as this means you can analyse the traffic if you need to.

Add an additional profile to the existing profile for your site. Perhaps with the same name as the original profile but with (internal traffic) as a suffix. Then create a filter that excludes everything apart from internal traffic. This means selecting “include only” instead of “exclude” when setting up the filter.

7. Get to grips with the basics

Learn what various figures and data actually mean – not all the statistics are necessarily what you think they are. If you’re going to be making business decisions based on GA stats, at least take the time to get to know them a little better first.

Traffic sources, bounce rate, and time on site, are three examples of data that is commonly misunderstood within Google Analytics.

Plain english please!

Plain language is better for usability. Giving things descriptive, clear and to the point labels will help users complete their tasks easier.

We’ve talked for years about the inside-out problem where corporate websites let internal terminology seap through into the information architecture of their external web site.

OK, sometimes it’s perhaps some strained attempt at sub-branding, but in most situations I think it’s more effective to use plain language rather than go through the cost and hassle of inventing and establishing a sub-brand.

SL Access

A little while ago I used one of the ticket machines at a Stockholm metro station to buy a ticket for a visiting relative. This is not something I would normally do, being a season pass holder. Being fluent in Swedish, I wouldn’t normally choose English as the language rather than (the default) Swedish,

Seeing the opportunity to do a bit of on-the-spot usability testing of SL’s ticket machine, I tried to stay out of the process as much as possible – only helping when my relative got stuck, or reached the point of giving up on each screen of options. Yes, each screen. We got stuck a lot. There is no real on-screen help at any point. So as a tourist you have to magically understand different zones, concessions, and numerous other things.

With each screen I was increasingly wondering just who the ticket machines were aimed at? No matter which language you choose – English or Swedish – if you were using the ATM to purchase a ticket then it is likely that you are an occasional user of the transport system or a tourist (as regular users would have period cards). Occasional users need guiding and supporting through the process, nothing can be presumed to have been learned or remembered. The labels and language should be simple and intuitive.

MIFARE standard

Photos showing the mysterious MIFARE standard button

The screen that made me shake my head, and inspired this blog post, was the “Select media type” screen that contained the phrase “MIFARE standard” as an option. Media type? MIFARE standard? We opted for “Paper” by deduction as Back, Cancel, and the mysterious MIFARE didn’t seem like the right options. So Paper it had to be.

But what is MIFARE you ask? A search on SL’s website is no help whatsoever. The term MIFARE isn’t used at all on the entire site. As usual, Google will give you the answer – it’s the contactless technology used in SL’s “Access” smart cards and billions of other smart cards around the world.

Screenshot showing no search results for MIFARE on sl.se

Access is the sub-brand created by SL for their smart cards, which given that they have bothered to create a sub-brand, would have been a more sensible option to display on this screen. People just aren’t going to understand what MIFARE Standard is. Not that it will help you, but MIFARE Standard isn’t even the the technology used, it’s actually MIFARE Classic.

Complete lacking of testing

Sadly, despite my ranting above about plain english and sub-branding, I think in this case the problem is down to a complete lack of testing of the Englsh language version. The Swedish version perhaps may not have been tested with real users either, but it does use more sensible language – and in particular doesn’t include the mysterious MIFARE option.

SL introduced a 20kr fee for “Access” smart cards from the 1st of January in an attempt to encourage Stockholmers to reuse and refill their cards more often. Perhaps it would have been more sensible to invest a little more in testing the process and making it a bit more user friendly instead?

12 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 8-9, 2011)

This time, a collection of links (and summaries) including articles related to:Web management, UX, intranets, SEO and web analytics.


Web strategy, Web management & UX

Situational Design for the Web

Responsive web design is all the rage, and rightly so – you can do some incredibly useful things with media queries and user-agent detection. But in this article Alex Dawson, at least in part, argues against a pure, one web *shall* fit all, solution and instead advocates custom solutions for each situation – with design, structure and content that fits each situation best.

Mobile Content Is Twice as Difficult

Even though “Responsive web design” is an excellent way of dealing with different screen (and viewport) sizes, there’s a growing amount of research showing that for significantly different screen sizes, adjusting the design isn’t enough – content (and even navigation and calls to action) need to be customised/optimised for the type of device. Per Axbom pointed out to me this post from 2009 suggesting developing Mobile first.

Why Hover Menus Do Users More Harm Than Good

I’ve seen this in testing and user observations many times. Hover menus are tricky beasts and cause a number of problems. I’m generally not a fan – especially, as on corporate sites, they are often just a bi-product of content-bloat.

Introducing Recipie View, based on rich snippets markup

Google has introduced a “recipes” filter, which includes options to filter further by ingredient, cooking time and number of calories. This has been implemented using microformats. Google enourages you to implement a number of these formats; you should – they’re not encouraging you just for a laugh: Rich Snippets documentation


Intranet

Social #Intranets: Silos, Culture and Moderation

Great post by Jonathan outlining a number of realistic points to take in and take on board concerning social intranets

Intranet Strategy: Shaping the future of your intranet

At the IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2011 a show of hands indicated that just a handful of the delegates had an intranet strategy. Although still not the case for every website, it’s increasingly common that companies and organisations have strategies in place for them. Intranet’s are lagging behind in this respect. This is Sam’s presentation from the conference.


Search engine optimisation & analytics

Social media and SEO massively undervalued: study

Lots of lovely number in this post that compares measuring conversions with the conventional “last touch” attribution model with “assisted conversions” (where all channels that assisted in the conversion receive credt) and “attributed conversions” (where all channels receive a share of the conversion proportional to how many times the channel featured). Conclusion? Basing your spending on the last channel used before conversion may not be the smartest way of allocating your budget.

Site Speed – Are You Fast? Does it Matter?

Some nice geeky data showing the impact of page speed on ranking. It isn’t, of course, a major factor – as the post says, getting a few backlinks will make a much bigger difference than speeding up your page – but, slow page load times impacts on conversations – people are impatient. You should always aim to make your page as fast as you can reasonably acheive.

User-Friendly SEO

What’s good for humans is usually good for search engines, but it’s crucial to get the execution right. Much of SEO is just good web management. The real optimisation is in making sure it’s done exactly right.

Google Bounce Rates: The Untold Story

Not so much “untold” as “not told often enough”. Bounce rate is frequently misunderstood – as are many of the seemingly easy-to-understand terms and phrases within Google Analytics and web analytics in general.

Seven reasons to use lists in blog posts

A list giving reasons why lists are good. Leading by example. In addition to Shel’s seven reasons, lists are very shareable – which also means they gets linked, which also means they are good for not only generating trafic, but also SEO.


Tools

Just another test text generator

I always enjoy finding tools for generating random text that isn’t Lorem Ipsum. This one has some serious configuration options, including specifying specific languages (yes, Swedish is one of them).

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