Archive for March, 2009

Use of Color in Logos and Design

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The meaning of colour is debated all the time. Some articles or blogs that say that colours do have strong meanings and ties.

Does the colour black mean power and authority? White is purity and safety? Purple is wealth and prosperity? Green means money, and darker green is masculine money? Orange is fun and flamboyant?

I could go on. But I want to say that I don't really subscribe to that. Maybe I'm special, but I've never looked at something with a black background, and felt that it meant power and authority. Sure, bleached white socks say purity and cleanliness, but I'm not sure they say safety! I'm drinking out of a purple mug, but I don't feel like it represents wealth.

So I just don't go for that. But colours are important. My approach is that colours are more about mood, and how you use colours together can really help project your company, product, or service personality and image.

Black and pink. Does that mean "whatever black means" plus "whatever pink means"? Not to me. Black and pink looks like modern punky. A bit left of centre. The contrast between something dark and something light. The fishing pole company is unlikely to go with black and pink. :)

Blue and green. They're sometimes equally dark or light shades of blue and green, so this may not be about contrast. These are colours used for nature a lot… eco, water, sky, grass.

People may say that red means passion, but I think it depends what you put it with. Put it with blue, and I'd say you have gone USA patriotic in your theme or mood! I don't look at red and blue, and say WOW… the passion of the red and the confidence of the blue. The colours in combination now have their own meaning to me.

Put red with pink, and I'd say you have something that's probably just feminine. I wouldn't say oh, it's red for passion and danger and pink for whatever pink means. I'd say we're selling to women. :) Also, the pink being a shade of red will give the logo or design a certain mood. Shades can do that!

Orange is flamboyant? Um, I don't think so. Put it with brown, and I'm going to say that 1972 wants its fridge and wood panelling back! Orange and yellow I'd say are bright and sunshine-y. Orange and blue are, well, the NY Mets I guess. :)

So do think about your colours when designing a logo, website, or anything else. I personally don't subscribe to the idea that a single colour will make people all feel the same thing… like we all think of riches and royalty when we see purple. It's also cultural. Wikipedia points out that purple is a colour of mourning in Thailand. So not every person will have the same reaction or connection to a colour.

What about the As Was logo? Did we pick those colours so that you'd imagine the spirituality of the colour violet with the flamboyance of orange? Nooooooo. I chose those colours and looking the way they do in our logo to look like the sunset in the New Mexico (I had been living in Santa Fe just before I had the logo designed). The sunset looks like this in Tucson, AZ (where I was just living for years) as well. The sky gets a really bold and warm violet, just above the horizon is a burning orange-red-orange, and in between, it's a gradient. An old version of our logo used to have the gradient. We now just use the two colours… easier for embroidery. :)

But do think about boldness, warmth, contrast, neutrality, and other "effects" of colour combinations when you're having something designed. It's all about projecting the message of your business!


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TwitPay Helps Amazon Battle PayPal

Monday, March 30th, 2009

This morning, from a tweet (Twitter message, for you uninitiated :) ), I found out about TwitPay, which is TwitPay.ME and not .com. It's interesting, but I think it needs a few tweaks before it'll really take off…

It's really easy. If my company just did a change to your eBay listing template, and that was a $50 change, you can tweet, "@aswas twitpay $50 for template change." TwitPay will then use Amazon Payments to make that payment. You use the TwitPay to "settle up," which I assume means connecting your Amazon Payments account to TwitPay, or maybe you have to approve each transaction. I'm honestly not sure about that detail yet.

Amazon Payments takes their cut, which is a bizarre matrix of fees. For every payment 99 cents or greater, TwitPay takes a nickel for their role in the process.

I think it's interesting that the people building this new services chose Amazon and not PayPal. They could have integrated both, and asked which one you want to use. And they could have picked PayPal. But they didn't.

I was never able to get anybody into the idea of sending me money with PayPal through their mobile phone. Both Amazon and PayPal allow you to register your mobile phone, and then send payment to somebody if you know their mobile number or email. Nobody ever did that. Every client I had went to the PayPal website even though it WOULD be shorter to text, "send 50 to [my PayPal email address]" to 729725. Yet nobody seems to do it!

I wonder if tweeting money to people will pick up. My theory? It will once it's done through DM'ing the TwitPay service. Using "@" means that the payment is public, and you've just typed in someone's email address in a place in a public place that can be scraped for spam lists. So I don't like that. Anybody following me or reading my public timeline would see how much I paid and to whom.

So to TwitPay, the only problem I see so far is that one nice thing about people and companies paying each other is that it's a private transaction. You're making it public. Make it through the Twitter direct message system, and I think you have a shot. The convenience could be worth the nickel.


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How To Approach Your New Logo

Monday, March 30th, 2009

One thing that every seller needs is a good logo. I've always said there are two main approaches to logos: the symbol and the text treatment.

The symbol is something that can stand for the company, product, or service even when no words are there. I hope the As Was logo is that for you! You see our design and colours, and you know it's us even if "As Was" aren't there. Or think of the Nike swoosh. It doesn't have to say "Nike" for you to know. That's a symbol, to me anyway.

The text treatment is when you are really just writing the name out. Maybe you write it plainly like Coach or Prada, or maybe you write it with more pizazz like Yahoo or eBay. But ultimately, this is mostly about font and colour, and not about symbols.

This article in the Positive Space Blog goes further than my breakdown, and identifies 5 types of logos. As this may help you think about what kind of logo you want, I'll quickly run through them here.

What I call the text treatment, Positive Space calls the "wordmark." You're using text and font and colour for your logo.

Their 2nd type is "letterform marks." This is where the logo revolves around the use of individual letters that are designed or styled. I guess I'd think of Qwest or ADP as letterform logos.

Their 3rd type is "marks," which are like what I call symbols. Though in this case, they seem to categorise "marks" more as characters. Think the Trix Rabbit or Linux Penguin. Positive Space says these types of logos relate to the company or a brand attribute. I guess I'd put the Apple "apple" here, though I'd say the "iPhone" and "iPod" logos are really just text treatments.

Their 4th type is "abstract marks and symbols." These look at symbols that aren't any particular character. I think I'd put the Windows logo (the 4 coloured blocks that seem to be flying) here. Positive Space says these logos are about the brand message.

Their 5th type is the "emblem," which Positive Space describes as a combination of words and pictures that relate to the company, product, or service, and how they're positioning it. As an emblem, the slogan might even be part of the logo. I couldn't think of any off-hand. UPS maybe?

Remember that logo design is a really important aspect of your branding and identity. This may not be an area to cheap out. When we've seen cheapy logos, they look like someone stuck together one or two clip art images, and then threw in the name. Well, that's worth what you paid for it, especially since the same company might put together something quite similar for someone else. 

The logo should be memorable, which is why symbols often have more impact than just a text treatment. Think about what will be best for your business!


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In-Person Conference on Virtual Events… Huh?

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I just got an email inviting me to the Virtual Edge Summit. In theory, I'd like to attend that, but I'm not sure I can budget for more conferences and travel. I already have what feels like 100 events coming up in the next 3 months.

The Virtual Edge Summit should cancel itself out. It is an in-person conference about virtual events and online communities. Huh? Why not prove the point of virtual events BY HOLDING A VIRTUAL EVENT?

Like don't have me fly to Santa Clara, CA (or assume I'm already in that area)… have a virtual event to show how awesome virtual events are! Jeez.


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Ticketmaster Convenience Charge

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Ticketmaster Convenience Charge. I barely know enough four-letter words for you. Ticketmaster is the only company I can think of that surcharges ME for experiencing convenience, and allowing them to use fewer resources and workers. If my clients took work off my plate, I would DISCOUNT our prices because now, we have less work to do on the project!

Ticketmaster Convenience Charge, you are SO convenient that you add often 15% to the ticket price. All of this for the glory of using nearly none of your resources since I'm buying tickets online. I didn't have to talk to a phone rep. I didn't make you rent more office space. You didn't have to hire for my purchase!

And then $2.50 for the TicketFast service or TicketsNow or whatever they call emailing you a PDF so you can print your own tickets. So if you print my tickets and mail them to me, which takes paper, postage, and resources, that's free. But if you use no paper, no postage, and no resources, that's $2.50… AND it comes with a full page of ads. My last one came with a coupon for FedEx Office and the Mexican chain place next to the venue. I bet those people paid to be there. Ticketmaster made money emailing me a PDF of my tickets, first from advertisers, and then from me. I am literally being charged to view paid ads.

The ticket business is down. Ticketmaster, in many cases, is the only place you can get these tickets. I have to get them from you, not go to the show, stand outside the theatre box office, or get them from a scalper, broker, or reseller. And remember that the tickets aren't your only expense. You will pay for gas to drive to the event, and you'll pay for parking. Or you'll pay for mass transit, and sit on busses and subways. You'll probably go out and eat. You might buy a drink at the venue. You might be a souvenir CD, DVD, shirt, pin, etc… There are plenty of expenses tucked into an evening at an event.

$8.50 Ticketmaster Convenience Charge on a $60 ticket (14.2%). $5.95 on a $37 ticket (16.1%). Add $2.50 for the PDF service to a $37 ticket, and you've added 6.8% to the price. Ticketmaster would have collected $8.45 on a $37 ticket (22.8%).

People complain about eBay fees being 10% or 12%, and they should complain. That's HIGH. Ticketmaster is charging more and giving people way less. eBay fees expose your item to millions of shoppers every day. Ticketmaster Convenience Charge does nothing but keep me from buying more event tickets.

If your show didn't sell out in my town, you can thank Ticketmaster for making it 23% less appealing to buy those tickets.


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I Want To See Higher Standards

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

People can't afford to waste time and money with sub-standard companies, products, or services. In this economy, that is magnified. Nobody should be sending ANYBODY to any company, product, or service that they don't really, deeply believe is the best choice.

I still see blogs and websites with lots of ads and affiliate links, and they take people to all sorts of things like "systems" for selling on eBay. These systems are pretty much always endorsed by some sort of "expert" or "big PowerSeller" to win your trust. They will take your money, and many of them don't work… especially if they are based in having you get most of all of your inventory from traditional "drop shippers."

I'm reminded of the controversy that swelled around an eBay "expert"
who often recommended products and systems to his readers and fans.
People started complaining that one of the companies he recommended was
a scam. The "expert" finally admitted that he was just recommending
them for the cut he got, and he had never actually checked them out. His readers were pretty angry, and I think they rightly felt like they had just been used for the "expert" to make money off of. Some people thought this was not totally ethical.

Similarly, a company recently told me that they don't really look into their partners. They push business to whomever comes in as the bigger sponsor of their events… but don't really check them out. It sounded like they had no standards other than who paid them. I think this company's clients should get recommendations based on quality companies who are good matches to their needs, not who paid the most in sponsorship money.

And I think that's sometimes true for websites and blogs that have ads and affiliate links. These are sometimes chosen for where money can be made, and not necessarily by who that website thinks you should be doing business with.

Who do you want recommended to you… by someone you trust?

So I am calling for higher standards. I'm calling for an end to "enabling" scammers and low-quality companies, software, and services. Sure, they may offer you a cut. But remember that that cut comes from your fans and readers paying that company money. If nobody hires them, you get nothing. Which means you might be pushing your fans and readers to spend money with someone who may not be good.

If that company, product, or service ends up "disgraced" like my previous example with that "expert," you could end up with "guilt by association." Your fans may want to know why you plugged a scammy service or rip-off e-book. Your readers may want to know how much money you made off of something that was trouble for them. Your readers may want to know why you pushed so hard for them to use a certain online marketplace if there are very few sales happening there. Your fans may have good questions, and those questions are really questions of your credibility.

I'm at the point where when I see ads on a website or blog, I just assume someone paid to be there, and the website probably didn't run any kind of quality check. I don't think they Googled the business to see if there are complaints. I don't think they checked BBB complaints. I assume these are paid ads, and as paid ads, they had NO standards to live up to. The advertised company, product, or service could be great, or could be a waste of time and money, it could be ineffective, or it could even be unethical.

We don't accept ads on our website, in our blog, or on our radio show. The companies who sponsored our events and the people I chose to speak at our events last year were chosen by my trust for them. Anybody who did anything to break that trust wasn't invited back. Companies I don't like, who offered me a lot of money to sponsor those events, were turned down. I didn't want to sell my attendees/fans/readers on something I couldn't totally stand behind.

Those are my standards. They're not everybody's standards. But I think now is a good time to take a look at having higher standards. Relationships are important. Your fans and readers trust you. Every suggestion you make to these people can make or break that trust. So I think websites and "experts" should be more careful about who they recommend. :)


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As Was is Hiring (Spread the Word!)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Hey there! We've been redefining some of the jobs at As Was, and we now have some open slots.

Our open jobs page has all the information. You can then follow that to our Account Manager and Integrations Manager jobs.

We expect you to have the skills and talent to match what we want. We'll teach you how to do things the As Was way. :)

Thanks, and pass it on!


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eBay Partner Network Income

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

OK I think I've tried just about everything, and I just can't make the eBay Partner Network (ePN) into any sort of decent revenue-generating thing. I'm sure if I "sold out" more, maybe it would work, but I can't bring myself to do that. I already hate how much I pushed some of these links, and for what?

Experiment 1: Dropping eBay items into an existing Twitter account with a following

I have a twitter account called yourppl, which mostly covers the music business, focusing on concerts and touring. I had a small following, and I thought I'd see what happens if I had a feed drop a few tickets from eBay sellers every hour. I figured people who wanted to know concert news might be interested in concert tickets.

In a month, I had 6,000 clicks on those concert tickets, and ZERO purchases. So if this was to see if anybody cared, it looks like some people were interested. But from the world of making money, I made none. Nobody bought a single concert ticket. I just pissed people off, evidently.

The outcome is that I lost some really nice followers. They hated the ticket listings, even though they were not the main "content" in the account. People called me "scalper scum," and HATED me for listing tickets for sale. I mean venomous hate. It was really bizarre. Someone even suggested that I should be shot. None of these listings were mine anyway, so it was really interesting to be so hated for something I wasn't even selling.

So after a month or so of that, I have removed that feed. I'd rather not plug tickets to people who will hate me for it. I don't want to sacrifice what I'm building up with my @yourppl account just for the experiment of who will click on tickets, and would it make me any money. I have shut the feed off, and promise people who follow that account: no more eBay ticket listings.

Experiment 2: Creating a blog and twitter feed just for stuff from eBay

On the assumption that stuff in blogs and twitter would get attention in search, I ran a separate twitter account just to dump stuff from eBay in there. An expert suggested that I dump higher priced things that are very in demand so that if I do make ePN money, it'll be decent money. So I dropped in high-priced things based on what I thought was in demand… concert tickets, Coach bags, iPhones, Wii systems, a real hodge podge of stuff, all higher-priced.

I got some clicks, and I think a couple of purchases. I think I got around $20 last month from people clicking on these. Barely worth the web hosting I set up for the domain name. So I consider this a failure.

Could I work harder at this? I guess. But that would be work. :) And for what I bill for an hour of my time, I'm not sure this is how my time is best spent. I don't think I've ever received a payment of more than $40 in a month from ePN. Barely worth the time.

Experiment 3: The blog and twitter thing tried by someone else

Someone I know decided to try a similar experiment. She set up a blog and and twitter feed, but rather than go for the higher-priced thing, her idea was to do focused items for a narrower audience. She aimed at items around $50 that were housewares and craft-related things like for knitting.

It sounds like she got some action and some purchases, but not enough to call this any kind of part-time living. Maybe it'll pay for one dinner out each month.

What is your experience?

Have you been able to make serious revenue from the ePN without "selling out your friends" and getting your life threatened like my experience? :) I have only found one person claiming to make more than $50/month, and I wasn't able to reproduce that person's results, even though he gave me clear directions on things to try. I tried a BUNCH of things (not all listed here), and couldn't get more than $70 in a month.

I think that until ePN allows more links to be commissionable, it's not that viable as a real revenue source. I believe that more links SHOULD be allowed to be commissionable, but that'll be a blog post for another day. :)


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Web Design Has Evolved Past Columns

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

For 14 years now, my company has been on the cutting edge of website design. We did some things that were considered out there… until everybody was doing them. The very warm and visual style people are doing now with backgrounds, lots of mood, etc… is what we've been doing for years.

I'm always looking at where website design is going next, and one amazing thing I noticed was that some time in the 2nd half of 2008, major websites removed their columns. Best Buy, Target, and Office Max are some main ones I tend to watch. I assume they pay for research and focus groups. :) And all three removed their mult-column website format. What do they look like now? Click for larger versions.

Bestbuy-mar09
Target-mar09

Officemax-mar09
Gap-mar09

Columns are gone. Left side columns full of categories are gone. You can still search sites. And some do categories by having a "categories" button. When you run your mouse over that, categories pop up. Or they have categories along the top, and when you run your mouse over those, sub-choices pop up.

Have you seen the new View Item page eBay is testing? I believe that you will not be able to drop your eBay Store categories down the left. We had said for years to get those out. We thought they were more distracting than helpful, plus who wants to read a gigantic list of words. But now, I think that the new View Item page isn't even letting you put those there.

Left side categories are dead. Long live web design that is more visual, bold, vibrant, and focused on making shoppers feel engaged. Anybody who wants to give you lots of columns is probably not up on where website design has been going for years.

Once you click into a site, it makes sense for a left side column to be used to help you narrow down your search. But this is functional, and enhances your experience. If it makes shopping easier, then it makes sense. But to have those old-style home pages that dump EVERYTHING on there no longer really make sense. Shoppers' attention spans are WAY down. They're not reading. They want something catchy and obvious.

Here is someone who hasn't caught up with the times. :) Very texty. Lots of lists. Lots of messages… join site-to-store, top navigation, see all departments, left navigation, search box, backyard fun, nintendo, find gas prices, prescriptions… I think that's just too much for someone to digest. Too many messages. I look at this, feel overwhelmed, and just want to know where the search box is. :)

Walmart-mar09


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Advanced eBay Store Design is Dead

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

I saw that a conference a week or so ago had a seminar about Advanced eBay Store Design. I'm surprised to see that someone is out there talking about this or trying to sell you on this. Advanced eBay Shop Design is dead.

In January 2009, eBay dropped the axe on "advanced" eBay Store design. This seems to have been the practice of using coding that broke an eBay rule in existence since 2004 to give the eBay Store a very different look and layout. All through 2008, I was waiting to see if eBay would embrace this style of design, or if they would kill it. I believed eBay would kill it, so my company chose to NOT offer this non-compliant style of design.

eBay chose to kill that style of design. Among other things, they felt that changing the Store's look and layout that much was confusing to eBay users, who get accustomed to how an eBay Store looks and works. This meant that hundreds of people paid a lot of money to get an eBay Store that not only broke eBay's rules, but was possibly less effective than a more "simple" eBay Store design.

What's left of "Advanced Store Design" seems to be an overdesigned eBay Store home page. Once you click past that, you get an eBay Store with minimal design (as it probably should be). My question now is: why sell the overdesigned home page when time after time, we hear that these are less effective?

Let me put it this way. I used to call someone on the eBay Stores team every year, and ask the same question. I'd say, "Tell me that your data shows that custom eBay Store home pages work. Tell me you have proof that they are more effective… they make shopping easier… they make shoppers stick around longer. Tell me ANYTHING, even if you don't give me the data, tell me you HAVE data that shows that custom Store pages lead to more sales. I will make sure every client I have gets a custom Store home page if you tell me this." And year after year, there was silence on the other end of the phone. They could not tell me that a custom Store home page, especially one with a lot going on, would be better for a seller.

And then they drop the axe on "advanced" Stores. I get the message. I believe that these designs are often not effective, and have the potential to distract and confuse shoppers. eBay would know if custom Store home pages lead to more sales, and they would be comfy telling me that they do, even if they give me none of their internal and confidential data. So we still recommend that sellers NOT use eBay Store home pages at this time.

What's left of Advanced eBay Store design is evidently just a custom Store home page, which in my opinion are often overdone.

Advanced eBay Store design is dead. Long live simple eBay Store design that brands the seller, makes shopping easy and obvious, and excludes distractions, microscopic text, and the "let's throw everything on the home page" idea that most online retailers abandoned in 2008. I'll explain that one tomorrow. :)


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