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Kneejerk Design

December 10th, 2016

Paul Merrill

Designers love to change things. And that’s not always a good thing.

The latest trend in website and app typography is Arial Light, all mashed together. (See left, below.)


Many websites have adopted the mashed-together type. Google (right) has not.

The very simple moral of the story is that if something works well, don’t change it just to be like everyone else.

Why Selfies?

December 11th, 2013

Paul Merrill

Paul Merrill selfieTaking a photo of yourself is the latest thing. Even Obama did it at Mandela’s funeral (http://uk NULL.html#ZckgPNe). And he got in trouble, sort of.

There’s a spectrum of personal comfort in posting photos of yourself on the internet. On one end are the celebrities who take selfies many times a day and post them on Twitter. That could fall into the category of feeding your own ego, though it does them little harm and keeps their popularity high.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who never share their photo. In light of Facebook and Google using your personal data for their own benefit, there are reasons for concern.

Like it or not, people identify with you more if they can see you. Posting a photo or two is a calculated risk – the reward of potential clients or connections knowing who you are may be worth the potential negative consequences.

So if you are willing to take the risk, here are a few tips:

  • Selfies are casual. People can connect with you more if you are not perfect. There is a place for studio-perfect shots, but potential clients can get a better idea of who you are if they see you in an informal setting.
  • Put a selfie on your website. A more permanent place for your picture will allow search engines to help people find you.
  • Take several selfies till you get it right. Few people can get a great shot the first time.
  • If you can afford it, hire a real photographer to take a perfect selfie. She can probably capture the essence of you better than you can.

The Best Article on SEO in a While

November 8th, 2013

Paul Merrill

enlarged view of browser address windowIf you have a website or manage online media for your company, this article on SEO over at Medium (https://medium is a must-read.

Medium is a great website, by the way. (I also wrote a post over there (https://medium, as did Gary Vaynerchuk (https://medium null@null garyvee).)


The Details Matter

October 16th, 2013

Paul Merrill

Google Offers ads (http://www sends me emails once a day. Their Offers program is a lot like Groupon. But sadly, they must hire interns to create Offers email ads. Or maybe businesses have the ability to create those ads. Several details were missed: a bad photo of a stack of blank DVD cases – and a click through – did not reveal what sort of Monthly Cricket Bill was advertised. And the man changing the oil appears to be under a lot of pressure from the weight of the car.

When something says Google at the top, recipients have certain expectations. Quality is one, and these ads did not deliver. Even though Google’s Offers program might be one of their smallest sources of revenue, it still reflects on their image.

Maintaining a high level of quality across everything you offer can be challenging. Stakeholders demand more and more products and levels of service. Delivery times are growing shorter and shorter. Profit margins can be razor-thin.

Sometimes a choice must be made: wide offerings with low quality or narrow offerings with high quality. Another alternative is to grow slowly enough that you have the proper infrastructure in place before you launch each new initiative.

Which way will you go?

Stay Relevant

October 8th, 2013

Paul Merrill

Blackberry phone (http://www null@null N03/5675240248/in/photolist-9Dv6cN-nqeg8-8r3k42-6qKpds-dQJkWp-aj9LMt-7dPfns-5nww6M-58WjTT-99X974-7bzqf7)Blackberry is in the process of dying. I was surprised to see a recent Wall Street Journal editorial (http://online NULL.wsj NULL.html) shouting the virtues of an old Blackberry phone. Mr. Allan Ripp declared to the whole world that he is not relevant within his chosen profession, press relations.

His rant against smartphones was similar to shouting in 1980 that personal computers were not a good thing. The tide has turned toward smartphones, and he needs to learn or die. It would be one thing if Mr. Ripp were in a profession unrelated to communication. Unless he experiences how many people consume news today, he will not provide press releases that work properly on smartphones.

This is not a rant against Allan Ripp. Rather, it’s a reminder to stay relevant. Be willing to try new technologies with an open mind. “Everybody’s doing it” is not a reason for you to join in, but it is a reason for you to understand what they are doing. If you want to communicate with fish, you need to learn how to swim.

Photo: Creative Commons licensed from langleyo (http://www null@null N03/5675240248/in/photolist-9Dv6cN-nqeg8-8r3k42-6qKpds-dQJkWp-aj9LMt-7dPfns-5nww6M-58WjTT-99X974-7bzqf7).

Note: The Wall Street Journal’s full story (linked above) is blocked by a paywall. If you are a WSJ subscriber, you can read the full story. But all you need to know is in this little blog post.

Hit Your Target

September 11th, 2013

Paul Merrill

Good message - Got a blog? Take 5 minutes to write a quick blog post today. Bad message - your b2b prospects are all using social media - but are you reaching them effectively?Do you want your messages to hit the target? Read on…

The “bad” email shown at right came to me unsubscribed. I quickly clicked the unsubscribe link – since I didn’t ask for it, since I had never heard of the company, and since their message didn’t seem different from the sea of messages already sent to me.

Notice the four elements of your message being read:

1. Push or pull: Was the message requested by the receiver?

2. Recognition: Has the receiver heard of your organization?

3. Relevance: Does the message fill the receiver’s need?

4. Interest: Does your message grab the attention of your readers?

To break through the sea of information facing us today, your message must correctly answer as many of these questions as possible.

Here’s what you can do to improve your visibility in each of these areas:

1. Pull: Cold calling is necessary for many organizations to generate new business. If you get your foot in the door, you may be able to stay.

2. Recognition: If your name or brand is not widely known, do everything you can to increase your visibility. Using social media is a good and relatively inexpensive place to start.

3. Relevance: Look closely at your intended audience. If you create content for an actual human who needs what you are offering, you’ll be able to hit the target. As you describe this person, even give them a name. The more you know about them, the better you can meet their needs and wants. Think beyond what relates to your business – their unrelated needs may give you new approaches. Create content that’s useful to the recipient. Look at your message through the eyes of someone who does not work for your organization. Consider what would be valuable information and not just in terms of your product or service.

4. Interest: Even if your business is very technically oriented, some of your core audience will find your offerings interesting. Think about what makes your product or service distinct from the competition. Note the “good” example that features a very quick action point. The “bad” example features a negative question that places the receiver in a defensive position before they even open the email.

Contact me (http://greenergrassmedia if you’d like help in improving your message!