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I made the best cake yet. Now to understand this you probably need to know that I don’t cook anything. We’re not sure how I lived alone for so long. Over the years Steve (who is a fantastic chef) has coaxed a few things out of me. I did start baking a little while ago, a few things from scratch, lots of boxed cakes. If you are short on time or cash, by all means go with a box. However, if you have an afternoon and some extra scrilla, go the scratch route.
This cake that I made, it’s a dream. I didn’t know yellow cake could be this good. It’s the cake that’s in the current edition of Martha Stewart Living and I went with all-organic ingredients. As I was putting in the ingredients I kept asking myself if the organic and pricier versions were worth it. These are my findings:
|Cake Ingredients||Worth It?|
|1 Stick Unsalted Butter||Not the stuff we bought, organic butter yes, but the super grass-fed cow butter no.We bought the Supernatural butter that the Paleos love—it was $10 for a pound at our local little gourmet food store. You can get it cheaper at Whole Foods, but it’s still pricy.|
|1/2 teaspoon fine salt||—|
|1 1/2 cups granulated sugar||We used raw/organic sugar. The jury is still out on worth it or not.|
|3 large eggs,
|Yes! Organic, local eggs will make all the difference. We get the Clifford Farms ones.|
|1 cup whole milk||Yes — organic dairy, happy cows, no hormones, etc is important to us.|
|1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract||Probably not, tasted about the same, cost a whole lot more.|
|Frosting Ingredients||Worth It?|
|1 stick unsalted butter, softened||See above.|
|4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature||Yes! The organic cream cheese was a transcendent experience.|
|5 cups confectioner’s sugar||No! Expensive, tastes the same and there isn’t enough in one bag to frost a cake. The trifecta of fail.|
|1/4 cup whole milk||See above.|
|1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract||See above.|
Cake Ingredients & Design
All of this got me thinking about what was worth the time and cost and what wasn’t. I’m often asked the same questions when it comes to design and building apps and websites. So here is a short rundown.
The caveat here is cost — if you have a larger budget, by all means get the best of the best, everything will be exponentially better.
|Design Ingredients||Worth It?|
|Logo||This is the cream cheese. A cheap logo won’t kill you, it’s better than nothing and if you are just starting out it’s not the place to drop serious cash. However, if you can afford it (and a good logo/branding is going to run you $6,000–$10,000 or more) it’s a transcendent experience.|
|Website||This is the eggs. The eggs, for us, are non-negotiable when looking at organic/non-organic. A website is the same, you must have a good site. However, you can have the mass-market organic egg of sites (build it on WordPress now, make it good, you can always take that and upgrade later). Eventually, when you can afford it, you want the Clifford Farms of local/organic egg websites.|
|Fancy Business Cards||This is the organic confectioners sugar. As in, not worth it unless you have money to burn. We have some cheap (but nice) cards, because if you are doing a lot of business, you are handing out a lot of cards—and those cards shouldn’t be costing you $1+ each to hand out.|
|Custom Photography||This is the grass-fed butter. You must have good photos on your site, and even good stock photos don’t come cheap. However, if you are very particular (like you eat a Paleo diet) you want to spring for the custom photography.|
|Mobile App||This is the organic vanilla. Only when all other things are covered should you even think about doing this. It might not move the needle at all, or it might be the greatest finishing touch.|
What do you think?
Do you agree or disagree? What is worth it to you when you bake? What is worth it to you in your business communications?
When we slid into the mobile app game everyone was still trying to figure out the best solution (hey, it’s an evolving sport even today). Since then we’ve built native apps, HTML5 apps, shell apps, responsive websites, mobile sites that compliment the full site. We even wrote the book on it to help clients figure it out.
It’s funny when you start to talk mobile strategy—seems like everyone has a really strong opinion. I was talking to someone the other day that was so anti-native and so pro-HTML5 I could barely get a word in edgewise.
Our really strong opinion is that you have to choose the right strategy for the project, no reason to put a stake in the ground and declare your position across the board.
Different Mobile Strategies Explained
Let’s look at what we’re talking about here:
- Native App: An app built to run on a specific platform (iOS which runs on iPhone/iPad/iPod, Android, Windows Phone).
- Pros: Works really well on the specific device; can access device features like the camera, contacts and email; can work offline; is easy for users to get from an app store; easy to charge money for the app.
- Cons: Expensive to build; has to be redesigned slightly and redeveloped completely for additional platforms.
- HTML5 App: Also called a web app, uses new web technology (HTML5, CSS3, jQuery) to produce a product that looks and functions almost identically to a native app.
- Pros: Design and develop once to hit every platform, even the ones with smaller market shares like BlackBerry; can be developed by a traditional web developer instead of finding a specialist; easy to push updates anytime; best bang for the buck if you can sacrifice certain features.
- Cons: Difficult to charge money for; some users will have a difficult time “installing” it (saving it to their devices homescreen); cannot access some device features; can be slower than a native app.
- Shell App: An app that uses HTML5 or another kind of programming language that is then wrapped with a piece of software (PhoneGap, Appcelorator) to function like a native app and be released via the app stores.
- Pros: Develop one app and release on multiple platforms.
- Cons: Hybrid apps don’t always look right cross platform—iOS has very specific design patterns that are different from Android and vis versa; many developers find they spend as much time trying to learn yet another system as it would take to do it natively; many people find that they are just not quite right. As of yet, this isn’t a course we recommend taking, although it has a lot of promise.
- Responsive Website: A website that changes layout depending on what device you use. The website uses the same HTML5 code and then controls the display with CSS3.
- Pros: Works well on a variety of devices and platforms; the only strategy presented that includes a view for a traditional desktop/laptop as well as mobile and tablet; easy to keep all views in sync so there is only one place to update code.
- Cons: Can be expensive to build if it’s not truly needed (some designers/developers are pushing for always including a responsive site—great idea if your client has the budget); needs to be really well thought through to decide what is dropped on the mobile view versus the desktop view to make sure each experience is complete and not just a crummy fail over.
- Separate Mobile Site: A site that compliments the regular website, but is developed to be completely separate.
- Pros: Works exactly as intended on the mobile view; can be designed/developed to use the same content as the main site (so there aren’t multiple places to update things); can be a cheap and easy add on to an existing website without touching the current code.
- Cons: Even though you can use the same content, it’s a different set of code so if something major (like the logo) changes it will need to be updated in multiple places; it is not as complete in the information as the complete site and often includes a “view full site” button.
Different Mobile Strategies in Action
We built this app natively for Boart Longyear. Why: This app is used on tradeshow floors where there often isn’t internet available; the app connects to the device’s camera to scan codes and pull up the related information.
We built this app using HTML5 for Boart Longyear’s Drillers Connect. Why: This app is used all over the world, most workers in the field will use an Android or iPhone to access the information, but some will look it up on a desktop.
Despite our best efforts to use Dreamweaver/PhoneGap we just cannot get an app to come out and install on the other side.
We built this website to be fully responsive. Why: Each view had to have full access to the entire site. Many people search for their next job while on their lunch break at their current job, and they do with a mobile/tablet device. To include the same information on something as small as a phone or tablet we shortened the logo and introduced alternate navigation.
Separate Mobile Site
We added this site onto the current Chow Truck website, we also have two more of these in the works. Why: There are very few businesses that we would recommend doing this for — but a restaurant, especially one that is in a different place every day—is going to see the most traffic from mobile phones. When you are in the car, on your phone there are very few things you want to know: where the place is, if they are open and what’s on the menu. About us, history, news, awards, etc are not as urgently important. Plus, we’ve recently learned that Open Table strongly encourages restaurants to have a mobile site and menu.
The Future of Mobile Strategies
Mobile strategies are evolving quickly. We look forward to the day that a shell app or good HTML5 to native wrapper works well, native apps are expensive—but in the right light give the proper ROI (anyone else taken out a second mortgage to support a Candy Crush habit?). We were fully onboard thinking that everyone needs a responsive component, but then we looked at the additional design/development and realized a lot of smaller clients are good with a single target site—as long as that site still works on a mobile it doesn’t have to exactly fit the mobile.
What are your experiences, either as a consumer or site owner with different mobile strategies?
I was going to use one of these book covers for my first book, some of you even helped by voting on them. In the end, even though they were clever, they were scrapped for a design that allows you to read the entire title from the Amazon thumbnail image.
I’m posting them here for reference on a future post about how to publish a book.
Today I want to say thank you to someone who was an inadvertent mentor to me.
When I graduated college the dotcom bubble had just burst and there wasn’t a design job to be found. I was competing for crappy ad-layout gigs against people who had been creative directors at prestigious firms just six months prior. It was bleak. I applied for everything out there and as luck (hard work) would have it someone was willing to take a chance on me and I was offered a job at WCF as a designer. I still remember getting the call — after months of searching I was standing at REI with my sister and we both broke down and cried. Right there in the camping stuff.
I started my job at WCF and I was finally a grown up—a real job with a real salary and a red Swingline stapler. That’s where I met Tauni, and today I want to thank her for taking a punk-ass kid and helping me not get fired within the first month. She made the job fun—she had me stand on my chair and ceremoniously open my first ever “real” paycheck. We won some great awards for some awesome posters that had a singing button in them. Most importantly she taught me to make a list.
If you know me know, you’d think I was born that way. Nope. Tauni beat it into me. I was sitting in a meeting, and our boss was giving us project instructions and Tauni asked me, “why aren’t you making a list??”. I was writing it down, but oh honey, Tauni took making a list to a glorious level. Little boxes, neatly organized. What you need to do, what you’ve done. These were things of beauty. So I made a list. Then another. Now 10 years later I have huge notebooks full of these lists.
I was struck by this the other day when a client said she wished she was as organized and as methodical as I am to keep everything straight. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “make a list”. Maybe I’ll send her to Tauni’s Make a List Bootcamp.
Seriously though, being organized runs in my family (and we have the OCD to prove it!) but making these particular kinds of lists is what has kept me organized and our business running for years. Thank you, Tauni!
I’ve been updating several websites lately and focusing on cleaning up titles and adding meta descriptions. This was all kicked off when I rebuilt www.buildingamobileapp.com to take advantage of Google Author Rank and rich snippets. So now when you search for “building a mobile app” you’ll see my face next to my site.
2013 Best Practices for Webpage Titles
- Make your titles descriptive, include your brand name, but separate them with delimiters like a hyphen, colon or pipe.
- Make sure every page on your site follows the same protocol. You can set this up to work in WordPress, or do it by hand on a small site.
- See Google Webmaster Tools Reference Article ›
2013 Best Practices for Meta Descriptions
Below the title in your HTML you should add a Meta Description (please note, these are different than Meta Tags). This is a short sentence about each page that describes the PAGE, not the site.
You use code that looks like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”We serve only the best, high-quality, fresh ingredients prepared in authentic Middle Eastern style. We also have vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.”>
Before & After
So, does it work, does it matter? Originally on the Mazza website I had a whole bunch of different titles, like:
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine – Menu
- Locations & Reservations – Mazza
See, I didn’t have a pattern, I just put whatever. I also had no meta descriptions, so the text under the title looked like an unholy mess when you searched for “mazza cafe”:
The screen shot above was taken on February 7,2013.
I went through and put in titles that all follow the same protocol:
- Dinner Menu | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
- Locations | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
- Reservations | Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine
I also added meta descriptions to each page, like:
- We serve only the best, high-quality, fresh ingredients prepared in authentic Middle Eastern style. We also have vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine has two locations to serve you, 9th & 9th and 15th & 15th.
- Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine now accepts reservations at both locations through Open Table.
So what does the search for the same term return a couple weeks later on February 22? This magnificent view:
I think my meta descriptions are too long, and I also think I can drop the brand name (Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine) from them. All in all though, I’m very happy to see that in a couple short weeks the search experience is much cleaner.