Business Design Measurement Strategy

Gut versus data – the eternal question

From the HB Blog

I used to be a math geek. When I was a grade school and high school student, I displayed advanced behaviors with regards to numbers and their interrelationships. I nearly attended a technical university in order to continue exploring mathematics.

Funny track for a designer, no?

Today, as someone who designs experiences for other humans, I rely less on my knowledge of numbers and more on my intuition. The ubiquitous head-versus-heart argument has always intrigued me so I recently scoured the web for some additional insight. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

But that means us too, as leaders, need to have the guts to go with our intuition sometimes instead of hiding behind the numbers. Hiding behind the numbers is the easy way, because even if it goes wrong, it’s easy for us to say that with the information we had it seemed pretty clear that that was what we should have tried blah blah blah. What’s harder is making a decision because you feel like it’s the one that needs to be made. Your gut tells you it’s the right one. You won’t have the luxury of hiding behind the numbers if you’re wrong, but at least you’re actually thinking and making decisions instead of doing what the numbers tell you to do. – workplace MOJO

Don’t get me wrong — you need data. You should be gathering all the data you can from the very beginning. But you also need to know that your data is not absolute — it’s incomplete, and you simply don’t have enough of it to base your decisions fully on data. You gather all the inputs you can, but your decision really boils down to both using your head AND trusting your gut. So while there’s no exact formula, when it’s time to make the decision of whether to make a change or stick with your original business plan: gather your data, consider all the advice, and take some time to listen to what your gut has to say. – The Accelerators blog

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and psychologist, said “gut instinct is basically a form of pattern recognition.” Our brains can process more information on a more sophisticated level than most of us realize. These complex systems — battlefields, financial markets, company cultures and corporate strategies — require a different kind of thinking based on the informed gut. In these situations, you will never collect enough data or be able to weigh every alternative in order to rationalize an analytical decision. However, your subconscious has already amassed sufficient cues to tell your gut how to move forward. All you have to do is listen to it, trust your instincts and make the best decision you can with the limited information available. – Austin Business Journal

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards… you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, June 2005

Did you need data to choose your life-partner? How about your alma mater? Was there deep analysis that led you to choose the name of your first-born? Likely, not. But you still can’t tell your board or your leadership team that you need to launch a new service offering, because ‘your gut says so’.” The Reaganesque ‘Trust But Verify’ works for us. Use your guts to lead you to a hypothesis. Use your intuition to decide on how best to verify it. Then, go get the data and build the case to win over your peers and bosses. Sooner or later, the decision-makers will need to trust their guts to make the call. After all, even when the evidence is beyond the shadow of a doubt, the decider needs to take a leap of faith when the time comes to choose.” – Corporater World

In the end, the debate continues, but one strategy remains clear: balance helps with decision-making. Both your gut and the numbers need to play critical roles in both design and business decisions.

Design Measurement Technology

Ain’t nobody fresher than my click

“If you’re constantly tweaking and tailoring your website for natural search success, doesn’t it also stand to reason that this diminished focus on your website’s users creates an environment that isn’t enjoyable or interesting for real people?”

That’s a great quote. And although the author, Sujan Patel, goes on to argue that good SEO can also make for good user experience, he misses out when discussing the true importance of a web site: design. In fact, the word “design” isn’t used in his post at all.

Google domination

Google Search completed transformed the web site landscape several years ago in that it manipulated web sites to accomplish certain tasks in order to more likely appear at the top of a search string. These tasks include appropriate use of:

  • keywords, site descriptions, and meta data,
  • amount of content, and
  • uniqueness of content, amongst other factors.

Sites quickly learned that the way to appear high in organic search was to follow the Google Search commandments… or perhaps no one would find your site! Gasp!

With a heightened importance on search combined with analytics, data became an increasingly popular way in which to build – or dare I say, design – your site.


Over the past several years, the building and developing of web sites has been unbalanced – too high of a concentration on proper code and SEO and not enough on design and creativity.

It’s design, not SEO, that:

  • delivers stories and content in a visually-striking manner,
  • creates an engaging digital experience,
  • requires a deep, human interaction from the viewer, and
  • makes the world a more beautiful place.

Critical to user experience is design – in fact, it’s the most important part.

Trends are cyclical

Like anything else, trends tend to work in cycles. Towards the beginning of the commercial internet, amazing things were built with great design. Over the past few years, the data and measurement revolution changed that.

But I believe we are seeing a movement back towards the necessity of artistic design as the key factor in user experience and the building of web sites. Digital news consumption and the minimalist aesthetic result in sites embracing the beauty of white space and legibility. Mobile sites and apps require a simple, pleasing design in order to succeed. And the rise of the designer/developer is helping to put design at the forefront.

And that, as Panel says, is “enjoyable and interesting for real people.” In short, it’s a beautiful thing.

Content Marketing Design Measurement Social Media Strategy Technology

The vernaculars of man and machine in marketing

From UnPanel and MITX

Look out! The machines, robots, and automators won a few marketing battles over the lowly humans. These tools have even taken away income from marketers and agencies.

So how can mankind overcome? Or, more realistically, join forces for the ultimate marketing solution?

For starters, it helps to speak the language.

New business development: conversation vs conversion

Nothing feels better than earning a “win” for the agency. And for us humans, it all starts with a simple chat. We get a sense from an interested prospect that there may be a strong fit. Excellent!

Robots often see these interactions as conversions. An interested party visits a web site, does some research, and fills out a form with similar information from the human encounter. The robots have converted someone into data. Huzzah!  

User experience: collaboration vs user testing

Designing and developing a web site ain’t easy. It takes deep learning and discussion to determine the best answer to questions like, “where should this button go?” and “what should be the names of these pages?” In the web design (and marketing) world, it’s a team of individuals who can work together to determine the best solution.

The robots see things differently. They offer incredibly detailed insight through user testing. Products and strategies like eye-trackers and heat sensors yield robust data. Robots compile the findings and the intent is to do exactly as they say.

Content development: creative writing vs quality score

Writers are schooled to develop creative content by professors, instructors, and our own drive and intuition. This creativity helps guide the big picture in marketing campaigns – often a hook, tagline, or theme. It’s the key stepping stone in content development – a great idea.

Robots often see creativity through a quality score. Does this particular page of a web site gather lots of traffic – and more importantly, traffic that stays on the page? Well, it must have been creative, unique content.

Fight or unite?

So now what? The robots have taken some of our money, clients, and maybe a bit of our dignity. Which language should we speak? Do humans fight back or give up?

The honest truth: human marketers should employ robots, not fight them. It takes a great idea to start a campaign and great execution to let it shine. Simply put, only humans can come up with great ideas… but robots offer an amazing partnership when it comes to execution, guidance, and feedback.

Try not to look at the robots as impending doom. Rather, they’re the new breed of marketing sidekick. And that’s great news for us humans.

Business Measurement Social Media SXSW

What happens after SXSW?

From the HB Blog

Post-conference communication often creates challenges:

  • What was that person’s name?
  • Did I remember to follow her on Twitter?
  • How can I reach out to him?
  • And, the big one: could this person become a partner or client?

One can imagine an avalanche of email correspondence the week following SXSW Interactive. But how can your voice, note, or offer get to the thousands of people you met?

Keep it short

The last thing anyone wants to do is slog through dozens of emails about how much the sender enjoyed meeting you. Keep your message brief, targeted, and actionable. What do you want the recipient to do? At the very least, keep the conversation going – invite the recipient to a Twitter chat, encourage them to watch a SXSW recap, or setup a time to chat.

Show some love

Folks appreciate digital manners. If you meet someone interesting, mention them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or provide them a soapbox on your blog. A post about the 5-10 interesting people met on day 1 of SXSW helps the folks you meet and lays the groundwork for future partnerships.

Grow your audience

Conferences provide excellent opportunities to share your voice with a larger audience. No matter your tactic or strategy, continuing the conversation with SXSW attendees helps extend your reach and develop a larger audience for your content (and maybe, your business).

Content Marketing Measurement Media Social Media Strategy

Control vs. continuation: a shift in marketing strategy

From the HB Blog

Last week, I overheard a conversation between our PR team and a representative from a prominent wire service.

“When I started, we concentrated solely on media. We differentiated ourselves from our competitors through speed – as soon as you faxed something to us, we had two people proof it as soon as possible.”

That was only 10 or so years ago.

Then, media strategy stressed control. An agency suggested key messages – and that would be the only thing you heard from a business.

Lack of control

And then the internet happened. Through the birth – and rapid explosion – of social networks, companies soon learned a then-awful truth: they no longer controlled their messages and stories.

The customers had a new playground to express their opinions. Gasp!

Embrace uncontrollability

As companies learned to harness their networks over the last few years, the power of the customer grew exponentially. Companies now interacted directly with customers… and often, the customers drove business decisions. What a novel concept!

The shift to continuation

More recently, companies’ social strategies matured into something Gary Varynerchuk called “continuing the story.” Instead of fearing the uncontrollable, businesses began crafting their own story… and extending it online with a microsite, hashtag, or Facebook URL.

Customers are now characters, taking the beginning of an idea and crafting it into a story of their own, providing ample opportunities for brands to re-engage.

Now that’s continuing the story.