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Being the best at what you do simply isn’t enough in today’s noisy, hyper-competitive world.  

I cannot forget a call I recently received at my PR firm – a crying man asking to speak with me. Sobbing, he told me he was valedictorian of his medical school class and is the best at what he does, yet can barely make a living.  He explained; “I went to school to learn to help people, not be a PR person.” (The sobbing was clearly the result of a domestic fight about finances as the call ended abruptly with screaming between the man and his wife.) As he wrote me later;

“I have no time for reading a zillion books, written by as many PR experts, making me crazy by telling me to do a zillion different things to get publicity. My question is how does someone like Dr. Phil who really is not very good at what he does, become world famous, while someone like me, who is very good at what he does remain broke all the time. Can you point me in a direction as to how I can become better known? I usually show a negative profit in my business at the end of the year.”

The truth is I couldn’t help him, honestly because he couldn’t pay the bill – and that’s the harsh reality of the world today.

Many people today work for themselves – and that requires public relations and marketing skills. Being the best is not enough and everyone today is a brand which must marketed.  And make no mistake, marketing yourself is no just optional – and there are some absolute basics which everyone must do (and should urge their teenage kids to start doing even now). Think Ahead.

Some basic (super low-budget) tips:

 Be the Master of Your Domain. Every person on Earth should buy the domain for their full name as well as iterations of that name. Simply non-negotiable, if even to protect yourself.  At the very least post contact information and your resume and bio to the site.

Create profiles on the most popular social media properties – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I don’t care what you use them for – but anyone in business today should be participating to some degree in these venues.   Personally, I don’t post any personal information to any of these properties as I am private about my family, and no one needs to see pictures of my children or home.  Everyone can use marketing as they best see fit – but the basics must be tackled.

Creating Content is not optional.  At minimum post 4x a year to any of the existing user-friendly platforms like Blogger or WordPress (very SEO and user-friendly). For nearly anyone, those posts will reflect thoughts, ideas, and insights and will often appear on page one of many Google searches.

P.T. Barnum fairly encapsulated this whole idea with the quote:

“Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing!”

For today’s bread winner, no matter what the profession, marketing one’s self is more crucial than ever. And the reality is, if you do not have the skills to be your own PR, you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you.

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When The Best Tool For The Job Is An Animal

After DARPA announced, somewhat sheepishly, that after $19 billion and six years of research, they had concluded that the best bomb-detecting device is a dog, we got to thinking: what other instances are there in which you’d reach not for a traditional tool, but for an animal? These eight examples range from the medical to the military to the culinary fields, but all have one thing in common: there’s no better tool for the job than an animal.

Dolphins of War

The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), based in San Diego, CA, began in 1960 when the military examined the Pacific White-sided Dolphin, trying to figure out the secret to its hydrodynamic body with the aim of improving torpedo performance. (Given 1960s technology, the NMMP never managed to solve the puzzle.) That later expanded to other marine mammals of the Pacific, especially other dolphins and California sea lions, which led to the discovery that these animals are not only trainable but fairly reliable even while untethered in the open ocean. NMMP has been a controversial program, but the Navy insists that the program complies with all available statutes, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. The NMMP also states that, despite rumors, marine mammals have never and will never be used as weapons themselves. No attack dolphins. So what does the NMMP do now? Dolphins are used as undersea mine detectors, even finding more than 100 in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War in 2003. Dolphins and sea lions are used as sentries to find and alert the military to unauthorized swimmers and divers, and sea lions are used to retrieve objects from the ocean depths (at this they outperform human and robotic swimmers by a fair margin).

Mites in Your Cheese

Porcine/Canine Mercenaries

Truffles, of the black French variety from Perigord as well as the white Italian version, are renowned for both their enticing flavor and aroma, and the heart-attack-inducing prices they can bring. Considering they can fetch thousands of dollars a pound, making truffles one of the most expensive natural objects on the planet, you might expect that science has devised all kinds of amazing, high-tech ways to find the pungent mushrooms beneath the ground. But you’d be wrong. The two main tools used to find truffles? Pigs and dogs. Truffle hogs are have been the traditional truffle-hunting tool of choice for hundreds of years–their strong sense of smell and apparent deep love of truffles makes them ideal tools for the job. Studies have indicated that a chemical in mature truffles is also found in the musk of male pigs and boars when in heat, so sows will make a beeline for any mature truffles they can find. But despite the romantic image of a Frenchman walking his truffle pig through the forests of Perigord, pigs haven’t really been in use for quite a few decades. Dr. Charles Lefevre, president and founder of New World Truffieres and the Oregon Truffle Festival, as well as one of the foremost truffle experts in North America, notes that there are quite a few reasons pigs have been replaced by man’s best friend. Aside from the basic problem that pigs, unlike dogs, will try to eat the truffles before a human can snatch them up, “pigs don’t have all that much stamina,” says Lefevre, “and they’re less inclined to try to please their handlers.” Then there’s the modern-day oddness of transporting a pig around. “Truffle-hunting is always a surreptitious activity–you don’t want other people to know about it,” says Lefevre, who compares it to hunting for hundred-dollar bills in the forest. “It’s a lot harder to transport a pig around, and people will know what you’re doing if you’re walking a pig.” Dogs have taken prominence in truffle-hunting–they have to be trained, unlike pigs, but it doesn’t seem especially difficult. One breed, the lagotto romagnolo (which is related to poodles and water dogs), has been long bred for truffle-hunting, though the Oregon Truffle Festival offers training for all sorts of dogs. Essentially, you just have to imprint the dog with the smell, and reward them for finding truffles. “People use all sorts of breeds,” says Lefevre. “The individual dog is much more important.” But why, in 2011, are we still using dogs? Surely we can plant truffles, or at the very least use machines to find them, right? The problem, says Lefevre, is that truffles are “like a tomato: they take a long time to ripen, and they ripen at different times.” And an unripe–“immature,” in truffle-speak–truffle is “worthless in cooking.” So the dog’s role “isn’t really to find truffles, but to pick the truffles that are ripe.” There are some artificial sensors that can detect the chemical compounds in truffles, but they’re nowhere near as effective as dogs, which can calculate location based on wind patterns and strength of scent, and, best of all, take you right to the site of the truffle. Mechanical devices are used like metal detectors–not nearly so efficient.

Pest Control

What’s the best way to get rid of an animal? To ask Dan Frankian, owner of Hawkeye, the answer is…another animal. Frankian is a licensed falconer and pest control expert, with four offices in the Toronto area. His main customers are city governments and airports, and they go to him for two main reasons: his methods of getting rid of animals (most often birds like seagulls and geese, but also skunks, beavers, raccoons, and more) are frequently more humane as well as more effective than other methods. And his methods rely heavily on raptors–birds of prey–and other animals. Pests aren’t just annoying; as we all learned from the Hudson River emergency airplane landing, birds can be a legitimate hazard, especially overpopulated species like gulls and geese. Parks and bodies of water can be swiftly polluted by geese, which excrete more than two pounds a day, and they often cause auto accidents. Modern methods of ridding areas of these pests often fall back on killing en masse with nets, which is kind of unpopular and gruesome, or using mechanical devices, often audio-based, to scare pests away. Frankian does, in a Bond-like way, have a rare “license to kill” from the Canadian government, but says it’s more effective to scare. “You can kill all of them, if you want,” he says. “They won’t learn. Scaring them is faster.” Frankian has an arsenal of more than 100 raptors, mostly hawks and falcons but also including a few owls and even three bald eagles (which he refers to as “the big bang in bird control”), as well as five dogs. He demonstrated his technique with Clara, a five-year-old Harris hawk, in this slideshow. Basically, he stakes out territory, flying the hawk around the entire area to be monitored (in this case a gull-infested landfill). “This basically tells every gull out there that this is no-no territory,” he says. Once a gull sees a raptor acting this way, marking its territory and even hunting a bird or two, it’s unlikely to come back–whereas a simple kill trap would remove gulls but not discourage them from coming back.

Sniffing Bombs

Human innovations are pretty good at replacing some of our senses, especially sight and hearing, with mechanical or electronic equipment. But one sense in which natural, organic versions outstrip human inventions by a laughable degree is that of scent. The Pentagon recently announced that after six years and a whopping $19 billion in spending, some of the world’s best scientists and engineers concluded that the best bomb-sniffing device is…a trained dog. The most sophisticated detectors ever invented can detect maybe 50% of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. But a simple soldier accompanied by a trained dog can detect 80%. Dogs proved so efficient, in fact, that the Pentagon shifted this team’s focus from detecting bombs to simply disrupting them–radio jamming to mess with the frequencies used to detonate bombs, aerial sensors to scan bomb-heavy areas, that kind of thing. Dogs are ideal for this kind of work in the field, thanks to their physical endurance, easy trainability, and eagerness to please their handlers. But they’re not the only animals found to be far better at detecting explosives than anything we humans can come up with. In Israel, bomb-sniffing mice are being tested in airports, and early tests showed them detecting bombs 100% of the time.

Laboratory Testing

The Nose Knows

Sniffing isn’t restricted to bombs. As it turns out, the schnozzes (scientific terminology, look it up) of some animals are so delicate that they’re capable of smelling all kinds of things far beyond the reach of our puny proboscises, let alone any robotic sniffers we could create. It’s true: animals are capable of smelling disease. Earlier this year, we reported on the Gambian pouched rat, a giant rodent (about three feet long, including a long tail) that looks more like a hamster, with its cheek pouches and white tummy as well as its intelligent and friendly disposition. But, as Belgian Bart Weetjens figured out, the pouched rat’s amazing sense of smell and trainability would enable it to do much more than serve as an exotic pet (or, if we’re being honest, an occasional invasive species). Weetjens started APOPO, an NGO that uses these rats as both bomb sniffers and disease sniffers. As bomb sniffers, the rats (or as they’re known in-house, HeroRATS) are well-suited: they’re native to sub-Saharan Africa, where they’re often deployed; they have a long lifespan at 6-8 years; and are trained to work for food, rather than a bond with a handler, as dogs do, which means they can be swapped to different handlers without losing efficiency. They also are light enough to walk over buried land mines without triggering them, unlike dogs. But it’s their abilities as disease sniffers that’s most amazing. Tuberculosis, a widespread and destructive disease, is especially prevalent in the developing world, and the only detection methods available are nearly a century old and notoriously unreliable. Typically, TB is found using a microscope to a stained sample of phlegm. But this method misses as many as 60 to 80 percent of cases, because there needs to be a very high number of the offending bacteria in the sample to spot. Even worse, microscopy is very slow, only able to sift through about 40 samples per day. The HeroRATS are better than this option in every conceivable way. Trained to spend longer at infected samples and scratch at them, they can test the same 40 samples in less than seven minutes. Not only that, but the rats were able to detect 44 percent more positive cases than microscopy. Plus, rats are cheap, especially compared to the newer, admittedly more accurate models endorsed by the World Health Organization. But the rats are affordable, far better than current options, and, come on, kind of adorable.

Medical Maggots

Maggots, which are actually fly larvae, earn a morbid reputation, as they feed on dead flesh. But before you pass judgment, remember that sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Maggots have been used for medical purposes since antiquity, and they’re still used today in certain cases. Maggot therapy, as it’s called, involves introducing maggots to an exposed area of flesh, where they will clean the area of necrotic, or dead, tissue while leaving the living tissue intact. Most recently, maggot therapy has received attention for its effectiveness in treating MRSA, a bacterium that’s resistant to most antibiotics and which often includes flesh-eating types, which can cause serious injury or death if untreated. Without the benefits of antibiotics, this bacteria can only be removed through invasive surgery, and that surgery is often imprecise; surgeons are simply not as good at identifying dead from living tissue, and any surgery to debride, or remove necrotic tissue, results in an unwanted loss of living tissue. As Professor Andrew Boulton of the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester, said at the time of that 2007 study: “Maggots are the world’s smallest surgeons. In fact they are better than surgeons. They are much cheaper and work 24 hours a day. They remove the dead tissue and bacteria, leaving the healthy tissue to heal. There is no reason this cannot be applied to many other areas of the body, except perhaps a large abdominal wound.” Even better, maggots actually secrete certain antibiotics that serve to disinfect the wound, and maggot secretions also include allantoin, a substance used in many cosmetics and toiletries as a skin-soothing ingredient. Modern use of medical maggots was reintroduced in 1989 as a last-ditch option to remove newly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A type of green bottle fly (pictured) larva is often used, marketed under the name “Medical Maggots,” and can be prescribed by any physician. The maggots are placed in either a cage or a ventilated pouch–they need oxygen to survive–and feed on the necrotic tissue. It’s a remarkably safe procedure; the maggots have no interest in living tissue, will stop feeding when full, and cannot reproduce, as they are of course in the larval stage. They do have some drawbacks; medical maggots have a short lifespan, cause what is described as an “uncomfortable tickling sensation” (though you have to believe that’s better than the alternative), can only be used in certain cases (a moist wound with available oxygen is essential), and of course some patients find the idea of medical maggots distasteful. In a 2008 study, maggot therapy was found to be just as effective as leading hydrogels used for debridement, and debridement was much faster. Morbid? Maybe. But it’s proven to be more effective than our best surgeons.

4 Things To Do When Your Ppc Campaign Isn’t Generating Leads

Did you know:

PPC visitors are 50 percent more likely to purchase from your site than organic visitors?

Half of your audience can’t tell the difference between paid and organic results?

Manually set up IP exclusions.

Run remarketing campaigns.

Adjust your targeting.

Use smart techniques like CAPTCHA security systems to throw off bots.

1. Change Your Keywords

Broad match keywords are great. Usually.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Those are results for “website builder software.”

The second ad is the odd one out. “Builder software” is probably set to broad match and you can see how broad it gets as it’s showing up for “website builder software.”

This is just one example of a mistake you might be making with your PPC keywords.

Here are some PPC keywords best practices for effective lead generation:

Understand Your Match Types

There are two other match types apart from broad match:

Phrase match: This triggers an ad for people who used the exact phrase or close variations of it.

Exact match: This triggers an ad for people using the exact keyword.

Narrow Your Keyword Focus

Your keywords make a difference.

Sure, the more specific you get, volume and impressions may be lower, but you can always find specific keywords with respectable volume for your PPC campaign.

Use Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can significantly help your PPC campaign.

For example, if your keyword is “website builder software” you probably don’t want it to be shown to people searching for “free website builder software.” Adding “free” to your list of negative keywords will accomplish that.

2. Tweak Your Ad Copy

Great PPC copy is an extremely important factor in lead generation and conversions.

Perry Marshall, author of “The Ultimate Guide to AdWords”, recommends that ad copy should highlight benefits because consumers want to solve problems, and not buy a product or service.

Ideally, your copy should have three components:

Features (Unique Selling Proposition).

Benefits.

Call to action (CTA).

Don’t mix up the first two components. A feature is what your product or service is, while a benefit is what your customers can achieve or do with your product or service.

For example, if a smartphone is water-resistant, that’s a feature. The benefit of a water-resistant smartphone is preventing water damage and eliminating phone repair costs or costs of buying a new phone. It’s bare bones, and can be more persuasive, but you get the idea.

Also, CTAs like “buy now or shop now” are bland and uninspiring.

Use CTAs that appeal to the emotions of your prospects. Think along the lines of “save more money by…” or “get the body you deserve by….”

Finally, don’t forget to test your ad copy through Google Ad Variations.

Here are more resources to help you write better PPC ad copy:

Because of Google Ads character limits, those changes may seem insignificant, but they can change the fate of your PPC campaign’s lead generation abilities.

3. Scrutinize Your Landing Page

Dedicated landing pages are great because ideally, they’re designed with just one goal in mind: to convert the visitor.

A poor landing page experience won’t convert.

For example, this page has too many distractions.

Compare it to this.

This is far less distracting and has a clearer CTA for the visitor.

Also, I’ve seen some marketers try to trick people into signing up by using misleading headlines or claims.

For example, you may see an ad about free software only to be taken to a landing page where you’ll have to pay a fee to get the “free” software. Or you’re sent to a landing page for an entirely different product.

4. Stop the Campaign

People decide to stop their PPC campaigns for various reasons, including:

Terrible ROI: Even with your best efforts, your ROI may be poor. No one wants to spend $1,000 over and over just to make $50 each time. It’s extreme, but you get the point.

The problem? iPhone 6 was released in September 2014. So that was six months of wasting money!

Still, you can choose to keep the faith and continue experimenting with your current campaigns to see if the ROI gets better. But know it is just that – a choice.

Conclusion

You can save a failing PPC campaign.

Take the right steps and never stop testing.

Apart from the tests mentioned earlier, you can test other elements like negative keywords, long-tail keywords, or bid amounts.

More PPC Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, July 2023

Web Accessibility For The Human Experience: When We Can Help

Adding web accessibility best practices testing to your websites and mobile apps offers new opportunities to understand digital product experiences.

We are challenged — as marketers, writers, designers, and developers — to observe people because our work focuses on meeting their needs.

When creating web solutions for persons with disabilities, there are gaps in how we are building digital products because we are not asking the right questions.

I recently learned that in some cases, it is best to not ask anything at all. I’ll explain shortly, and in this column you’ll learn:

Who is web accessibility for?

What is the value of accessibility QA testing and audits?

Do you need to design and build digital experiences for persons with disabilities?

Use Case Assumptions

Let’s imagine I am holding two ice cream cones in my hands.

The cone in my left hand is hand-dipped, locally dairy-made ice cream made with one scoop of mint chocolate chip and a scoop of black raspberry. It has colorful sprinkles on top.

It’s my favorite ice cream. No need to guess what I’ll choose; I know myself.

My cone is stuck upside down into a paper cup, so I don’t drop it.

I know my poor eyesight and tendency to bumble along in surroundings I am unfamiliar with.

In my right hand is an ice cream cone made with chocolate and vanilla swirl soft ice cream poured into a vanilla wafer cone, topped with chocolate sprinkles and I asked for a cherry on top.

I have no idea what you want.

When I hand your cone over to you, you give me that look that says, “Yours is way better. Can I have one like that?”

I should have asked you what you wanted.

I should not have made assumptions about what you like or how you would eat the ice cream cone.

The cherry is my apology.

This is how we build websites.

This is why so many digital properties are not accessible.

We don’t want to know about anything outside of ourselves.

Web Accessibility Short Cuts

Some marketing campaigns are crystal clear about how your business may be destroyed by an ADA lawsuit and the only possible solution is to pay for an AI product promising to prevent them.

If you were talked into buying an accessibility automatic AI product by today’s version of a vacuum cleaner salesperson selling pink colored Kirby’s, you are making assumptions about the needs of persons with disabilities.

Check to be sure the installation of any accessibility overlay or widget script isn’t actually a third-party app violating your privacy.

The National Federation of the Blind, for example, revoked sponsorship of an accessibility tool for a convention, saying in their written statement:

“The Board is deeply concerned that the company treats blind access technology experts shabbily and disrespectfully in private meetings and disparages the blind in the press and their other communications. It seems that accessiBe fails to acknowledge that blind experts and regular screen reader users know what is accessible and what is not.”

Research Updates

The most recent report compiled by UsableNet found that in 2023 there have been 350 lawsuits filed against companies using accessibility widgets or overlays.

The study also documents a 20% increase in ADA lawsuits. The top five industries are:

Ecommerce.

Digital Media & Agencies.

Food Service Industry.

Fitness & Wellness.

Banking/Financial.

Nearly every industry has had lawsuits related to mobile apps, and more than 26% of companies that received an app accessibility lawsuit this year were previously sued for their website being inaccessible.

The threat of an ADA lawsuit, while possible, is not a business reason to invest in inclusive design practices.

Incorporating an accessibility program from the ground up is a sound business decision, both now and for the long term.

This may include thinking outside the box to gain a competitive edge.

Digital marketers with complementary UX and accessibility knowledge are one option. Training customer care and sales staff on inclusive web practices is another.

For example, a phone requires the ability to hear unless there is a special setup. Online chat help is intimidating for those who can’t read or type quickly.

It’s best to get your hands into the inclusive design goo.

Do We Need to Design & Build Digital Experiences for Persons With Disabilities?

Well, who are the people being excluded?

You.

A disability is not automatically considered a disability. It may be an inability. It may be a temporary incapability. It may be a secret.

An impairment can be permanent or temporary.  A migraine headache. Hangover after a bachelor party. Carpal tunnel pain in the wrist. Misplaced reading glasses. Learning new mobile phone settings.

There are endless examples of people who need an assist to perform a task with computers.

Many people have no idea they have an impairment that falls into the accessibility category. Colorblindness. Diabetes. ADHD. Low hearing. Low vision. Stutters. Autism. Fear that creates physical reactions like hand tremors and memory loss from shock.

Can you design for everyone, or should you focus on a few? Does your data indicate targeting specific demographics, operating systems, and computer devices?

Going down the select-users-only path sets up barriers to discoveries and blocks opportunities for customer loyalty.

User Interface Design, Accessibility & Conversions Design Are Woven Together

What are some of the challenges?

That Alt Text Experience

Why should an image need alt text?

Web images are empty visuals without alt text to describe them to people depending on audio feedback. Twitter, Medium, MS Word, and WordPress are some examples of how alt text fields are added to help website visitors understand images.

Search engines need to know what the picture is, yes. You may fire up the automatic alt text thinker machine and let it decide how to describe the image.

Or you can stop, take a look, and figure out how you can play with it.

How would you describe an image of a painting of wildflowers to someone who has never seen colors, wildflowers, or a field of them on a summer day? Would you try?

How about a visually impaired person hoping to understand your painting so they can buy it for a friend? How might you describe it for them? What do they need to know?

They may know their friend has a favorite scent like lavender or rose. Maybe they love the sound of thunder and rain. These details may mean little to you but to someone looking for a gift, your extra efforts to describe images help them make good choices.

Conversions are not just for people who can see.

The Anchor Text Experience

You are taking me to the airport for that promised trip of a lifetime to some exotic island and we become separated in a large crowd of people.

I panic easily and speed dial you for directions. “Help! I have no idea where to go!”

You say, “Read more.”

I say, “Read more what? Are these the directions?”

You say, “Price drop 60% if ordered in the next 3 seconds.”

I get really mad at you.

None of your directions were any help to me. The sudden modal ad was totally out of scope for the task at hand.

These common design habits are not helpful on websites when someone has no visuals to assist with figuring out what the link is referring to.

When my son was small, he would wander off in stores and get lost. My husband is not a child, and he also wanders off in stores. The rule I devised works for stores and websites. When you are lost, go back to the front of the building, or “Home” link.

This is why having a navigation link “home” matters. It’s a best practice, not an ADA success criterion, that saves the mental and emotional health of millions of people.

Gotcha Captcha

The Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (Captcha) way to prove you are human ironically excluded many humans.

Captcha confounded anyone who could not see the images.

Understandably, captchas of images where you check all the ones that show a tree, or you try to figure out what the letters are when English is not your first language and dyslexia makes the letters do the Charleston on your monitor, do not work.

We find ways to convince computers that we are not robots and yet some companies install AI to manage the accessibility for human visitors.

Pain Points Tank Conversions

A pain point is anything that prevents someone from completing a task on the web the way they expect to.

Performance is an accessibility consideration because it is related to user experience. Google’s Web Core Vitals should be included in accessibility QA testing.

Web accessibility requires a shift in how you perceive the world around you. You may stop seeing barriers and start looking for new ways to open doors.

I can walk from my house to the barn to feed the horses and lose the signal on my cell phone. People who live deep in the woods or in areas that do not have 5G do not have access on demand at speeds that allow 50 images to load.

It’s not a disability. It’s design that doesn’t accommodate.

It’s the marketing promotion for 5G in areas where it doesn’t exist.

Videos and podcasts are a pain point for deaf, blind, or deaf/blind persons who need captions and transcripts.

Symbols, fractions in recipes, and abbreviations within the content are pain points because they are not read back accurately unless programmed to do so.

The removal of pain points is ongoing and part of a larger, growing awareness that persons with disabilities are trying to fit into a world that traditionally excludes them, and it should be the other way around.

If you use social media to share images that tell stories, sadly, many people will never know you did.

There’s Lots to Consider in Making the Web Work

You’re not expected to design for everyone. However, if you’re curious and creative, there are endless opportunities for developers to make the web work for people.

User experience and accessibility experiences are human experience design opportunities.

There’s a fascinating research study called Orientation Tactics and Associated Factors in the Digital Library Environment: Comparison Between Blind and Sighted Users that explores the differences between how visual and blind users use digital libraries.

Visual users scan content they see on the page. They use images, headings, links, navigation structures, columns, and familiar layout patterns to quickly understand web page content and orientation.

Blind or low vision users ask for help from their favorite screen reader, which is loaded on their computer or mobile device.

They may request to see all the headings so they can understand where the content is. They may request a list of all the page links.

For someone missing visual clues, relationships and page structure take on more importance.

Does the anchor text move them forward or leave them stuck wondering what the link means?

How long does it take to understand the page topic? How does this differ between blind and visual users?

An audio summary presented at the beginning of the page for screen readers that presents the page topic or recommends where the help or contact page is located for fast access might be helpful.

Don’t Underestimate the TAB Key

Assigning people tasks on webpages and apps quickly provides informative user feedback. It’s common to watch them wait or listen for validation.

Did I make the right choice? Is this the correct button? Was this the right form field to use? Did I enter the phone number accurately?

To get an idea of what visual feedback is like, use your keyboard TAB key to navigate webpages.

You should first be presented with a way to skip over the header section and jump directly to the content. This Skip to Content link is an aid for screen readers and text to voice apps, too.

The focus state success criteria for WCAG 2.2  is available now if you want to implement it rather than depending on the browser default settings.

The TAB key should move forward to each link on the page in an orderly manner, without missing a link. (There can be hidden menu links from the focus order, such as lists of links by category.)

It’s a fast way to see your anchor text and decide if you can adjust the content to increase interest or remove confusion.

Anchor text links work with our impulse to make decisions on the fly.

If you present a brief paragraph about a product and your content motivates desire and interest, present the link to go get that amazing thing at the precise moment it is introduced.

Not later. Not down the page. Not in some long lost sidebar stacked on mobile way down at the south pole of your web page.

“Submit” is not a motivational call to action.

The TAB key is a fun test.

So is removing all the images on the page to see what’s left.

The most common missing text is the brand name when all the images are removed from view.

Every Moment Is Now

Accessibility reaches far beyond the five senses. The brain and heart offer additional clues for negotiating life. A horse can sense your heartbeat from far away.

Sometimes, someone with an impairment or disability will explain that they do not feel limited. It is the rest of us who see differences.

Dementia slowly reduces the brain’s capacity to remember people, places, and things. As horrible as it is to watch a loved one experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s, I had the opportunity to see a miracle during a visit with my mother.

Since my father passed away in May, she has needed to adjust to life without him in an independent care facility where she is safe.

Every Sunday morning, my husband and I take her out to breakfast. It’s always new to her. She bursts into joy as if she hasn’t seen us in years.

She lives in the now. I’ve been watching how that works. There’s much to learn. Google maps fascinates her.

“What do you think of that voice in your car?” she will ask.

One morning as we were leaving the restaurant, it began to rain. People were standing on the sidewalk trying to get underneath the overhang to avoid getting wet.

Not Peggy.

She looked up at the sky, raised her arms in the air, and went out and danced in the rain.

The people on the sidewalk cheered for the tiny 85-year-old woman with long white hair.

She may have dementia but at that moment, she was limitless. She needed nothing. There was nothing for us to fix.

There was no reason to hide from the rain.

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Human Relations Movement: How It Changed Management

Human relations are a critical part of the workplace and have been guided largely by the basics of the human relations movement.

It is important for companies to apply the principles of the human relations movement to their management of employees.

There are a few key applications of the human relations movement that can be used to increase employee motivation and improve performance.

This article is for professionals and business owners interested in the history of human relations and how it impacted human resources practices.

The first management theory, Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory, dates back to 1911. From there, many others were born, including Max Weber’s bureaucratic theory and Mary Parker Follett’s theory of organizational management. The countless theories ultimately spawned the human relations movement. It represents a crucial shift in management that encouraged a more personal type of management. Here are the basics of the movement and how it affected today’s style of management.

Who started the human relations movement?

The human relations movement was born from the Hawthorne studies, which Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger conducted from 1924 to 1932. Originally, the studies focused on how physical conditions, like lighting, affected workers’ productivity, but the studies found that one of the biggest factors influencing employees’ performance was whether they were being observed by others.

In other words, relationships between workers and management affect employee efficiency. If workers are being analyzed by their boss, they will be more motivated to do well – a phenomenon known as the Hawthorne effect.

Being part of a group and having a specific responsibility in that group also increased employees’ motivation. Workers want to feel that their personal goals and development goals align with their team’s overall goals and that their work is valuable.

Human relations vs. human resources

Some, if not most, employee management styles are predicated on the tenets of the human relations movement. All employee management styles require the use of human resources (HR), not to mention a department devoted to HR. This distinction raises the question: How do human relations and human resources differ?

Human relations encompass all interactions between employees and your company. That means not just how your employees interact with you (the business owner), but your work environment, all your other employees, your clients and anyone else they come into contact with in the course of their work. Human relations aims to ensure that your employees are as happy and productive – not the latter at the expense of the former – as possible.

Human resources somewhat disregards interpersonal interactions and treats your employees primarily as resources. An HR manager or outsourced HR firm may view your team as largely another cog in your machine while occasionally thinking about their wants and needs. This distinction stems in part from the fact that your HR team may be responsible for minimizing your risk, a task sometimes at odds with employee happiness.

Key Takeaway

Human relations concerns employee happiness, whereas human resources centers around your business.

Theory X and Theory Y

Management professor Douglas McGregor later created Theory X and Theory Y, two opposing perceptions of employee motivation. Here are the basics of the two theories, according to McGregor’s 1960 book The Human Side of Enterprise:

Theory X: Negative outlook on workers

Management is responsible for organizing company components in the interest of economic ends.

Managers should direct workers’ efforts, motivate them, control their actions and modify their behavior to suit organizational needs.

Managers must persuade, reward, punish and control workers to stop passiveness and resistance.

Theory Y: Positive outlook on workers

Management is responsible for organizing company components in the interest of economic ends.

Passiveness or resistance to organizational needs develop with experience in organizations.

Motivation, potential for development, capacity for assuming responsibility and readiness to direct behavior toward organizational goals are naturally instilled in people.

Above all, management should focus on creating a system where workers can achieve their own goals in line with company objectives.

Theory Y shared similarities with the human relations movement, noting that workers can be trusted and are naturally motivated and efficient. However, American psychologist Abraham Maslow had developed a theory of hierarchical needs, which McGregor referred to in his book, to indicate employee incentives to perform well. From lowest to highest in the hierarchy, those are physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, ego needs and self-fulfillment needs.

The two theories were important additions to management studies, and the human relations movement progressed by aligning individual needs with organizational needs.

What were the results of the human relations movement?

The human relations movement was a crucial event in management history and a major contribution to today’s leadership style. The behavioral sciences helped managers and theorists understand how to increase productivity by ditching the primary focus on organizations over their workers. Contemporary theories, like the contingency theory and the systems theory, focus more on the importance and effect of every individual in a company and how they can achieve their own goals while benefiting their organization.

How can human relations management improve employee performance?

Some aspects of human relations management can be applied to the modern workplace. There are a few positive actions businesses can take to improve employee performance.

Treat work naturally. Try to encourage employees to treat work just as naturally as they would resting or playing. After all, this is one of the central points of human relationship management. They are exercising their skills in a professional environment. The more that employees can treat work as a natural state, the easier this will become.

Share the big picture. Try to share the overall theme and big picture of the job with employees. Everyone wants to feel valued, and they want to know that their work is contributing to larger successes. When employees can see how they fit into the big picture, they will be more motivated.

Give employees more power. Everyone wants to feel independent, and nobody wants to feel like someone is constantly looking over their shoulder. Therefore, push employees to innovate and make independent decisions when appropriate.

Train employees and develop their skills accordingly. Employees who feel like the company is investing in them are more likely to perform better. As they grow, increase their freedom and responsibilities as well.

Reward success. Recognize employees when they do well. Nobody wants to feel like their work is being ignored. Therefore, reward employees and success and ensure they know their hard work is being noticed. This will encourage others to work hard to achieve company goals as well.

How can I learn more about human relations management?

Just as employees look to management for guidance and assistance, managers must also strive for self-improvement. To do this, they can learn more about human relations by taking online courses or participating in in-person seminars.

Learning about new human relations tools and resources is also important, which will play a key role in rewarding employees who excel.

When Competition Is Bad For Consumers

Copying rivals

Few companies in any industry are genuinely focused on doing something new. Probably the most pernicious influence of that keenly felt competition is the need to keep an eye on what your rivals are doing. Any success they have must be emulated. That’s how we reach a situation where countless manufacturers are producing smartphones, but they all look extremely similar and have virtually identical features and functionality.

It’s a given that any successful product is going to dictate new directions and competitors will copy elements of it, or sometimes even rip it off wholesale. But at some point that copying habit goes beyond what has actually been successful with consumers. Companies can’t afford to be late to the party and so they start emulating everything their rivals are doing. They are being guided by their competition and spending huge amounts of money to try and gain an edge with incremental improvements to existing standards.

Instead of forging ahead with new innovations companies begin to focus on how they can protect what they produce. Time and resources plowed into patents and legal teams are diverted from the creative end of the business where you need huge investment to produce great products. But if you’re fundamentally risk-averse then it’s much cheaper to copy a successful idea and build on it than it is to come up with a new one.

Closed ecosystems

Set the interests of the tech giants aside for a moment and think about this from the consumer perspective. Why can’t we just buy the best products as determined by us and have all of our digital content work across all of them? Why can’t rival systems be synced together? Why can’t we have universal standards for accessories?

The idea that your library of apps and purchased content can’t travel with you to a new device looks increasingly like blackmail. You’re never going to get the best possible experience if you have to buy all your devices from one company. How much energy are these companies putting into closing their ecosystems down and avoiding cross compatibility?

Competition is supposed to boost quality and choice. Closed ecosystems seem like the opposite of that.

Where’s the creativity?

Companies get used to planning in terms of their rivals all the time and closing things down. These attitudes become deeply ingrained over time. The agility and creativity you need to come up with new innovations is stifled by huge, overbearing corporate structures. There’s a reason that most of the giants of tech buy in their new ideas now. They lack the atmosphere internally to come up with them and it’s easier to acquire a startup and assimilate them.

Most of the genuine innovation in tech today is coming from small companies and the growing crowd-funded movement that can catapult someone with a good idea into business. If they gain any measure of success then the lucky ones get bought out, the unlucky ones have their idea copied by a company with a much bigger marketing machine that rolls in, undercuts them, and takes over the market.

Without startups and crowd-sourcing where would the new ideas in tech be coming from? The very competition that was supposed to drive progress is now stifling it. The sad thing is that collaboration between rivals can be mutally beneficial. Perhaps instead of focussing on what the competition is doing, it’s time that companies concentrated on what consumers want.

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