Assist a top-notch interactive agency with redefining the information architecture and user experience of a major global corporation’s flagship website, integrating the content and functions of multiple external sites, and designing over 400 screens within an aggressive timeframe. Read more…
Podcasts remain one of the best ways to keep up with the latest trends and to learn new methods and approaches. Whether listening while getting ready in the morning, during commutes or business travel, or even while working, there are more options than ever before as the medium has truly matured. Even better, the vast majority are free. Make the most of your downtime (in this economy, there may be more than usual), and never stop learning.
Below are some of the best podcasts that we “keep an ear” on: Read more…
Information Architecture, Interactive Industry News & Events, Internet Marketing, Social Media, User Interface Design, Web Analytics, Web Development, Web Graphic Design, Web Project Management, Web Strategy Consulting
Information architects (IAs) and interaction designers have many tools at their disposal, but pull one of them out of the toolbox most often. Microsoft Visio has been the been the IA’s nail gun since the profession’s early days, however this tool was never designed specifically for interaction design and instead is an all-purpose diagraming tool.
Visio has served us well for many years, however, we here at Molstad Consulting have recently made the switch to Axure RP Pro, a tool that is rapidly gaining momentum within the user experience design community.
The first and most notable benefit is that Axure was built by user experience designers for user experience designers. Elements are measured in pixels allowing an IA to know exactly how much space is available resulting in wireframes a developer can really use. Lack of pixel measurement was always a severe shortcoming in Visio, so we’re particularly pleased about this feature. Also, default spacing can be set to a certain number of pixels (10 by default) so shapes can be dragged and snapped to these ruler marks, giving everything natural spacing which can be exactly replicated when the site goes to development.
Lacking in the early days of Axure, widget libraries are now readily available and extensive. Frequently used web modules such as calender pickers, carousel photo galleries, form elements, buttons and tabs, even iPhone user interface elements, can be downloaded for free and easily dragged into your prototypes.
Another game-changer is the ability to export prototypes in HTML format. These can then be zipped up and either emailed or uploaded for review. Depending on the prototype’s level of detail, the result can be a fully navigable website complete with drop down menus, active form fields, and even dynamic error messages (through the use of dynamic panels). These exports can be used for stakeholder review or even for in-depth user testing exercises. You are also not limited by height so prototypes can naturally scroll to reveal all included elements and content just like a web page.
Try one out yourself.
Masters can be created for repeating elements such as global navigations, footer navigations or any other module that’s used in a variety of places on the website. Through creative use of backgrounds in Visio, this was achievable, but the position of the module would be have to be the same throughout the prototypes. In Axure, you can place these modules anywhere you want, yet still make global updates to the module in one place.
Often times, prototypes need to be annotated to explain operations behind the scenes or to give more details for development teams. Axure has built this right into the tool. Simply click an element and a form appears allowing for entries such as specifications, status, benefit, risk, assigned to, and more. Once exported, a small graphic appears over the element. When that is clicked, a popup window opens revealing the annotations.
In the interests of building a user community, a lively discussion forum demonstrates the breadth of the user base and keeps everyone connected, sharing ideas.
It’s great to see tools specifically designed for web prototyping reaching maturity. Consider this tool for your in-house user experience staff. Even if you don’t have information architects or interaction designers on staff, those in charge of communicating requirements to your external agency can use Axure to relate ideas and concepts quickly and cleanly. With every one literally on the same web page, the development phase will sail along.
Lead the effort to overhaul the web presence for a major Milwaukee law firm with nearly 200 attorneys. Bring a fresh approach to the firms content and the site’s information architecture, and ensure the proper migration of thousands of publications, press releases and news features as well as extensive practice area content and attorney biographical information.
Godfrey and Kahn has been providing expert law services to major businesses and industries for over 50 years with offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton, Green Bay and Waukesha, Wis.; Washington, DC; and Shanghai, PRC. Over that time, their ranks have swelled along with their web content.
Molstad Consulting was brought in by regular partner, CI Design to design and define all information architectures and content requirements and act as liaison to Godfrey & Kahn and the firm’s external development resource. Initial meetings with Godfrey & Kahn focused on key audiences and user tasks as well as project logistics to ensure the varied and occasionally daunting committee structure within the firm didn’t slow the process down. An information architecture was designed to streamline access to key content as well as focus on the benefits of a career with the firm.
From there, interface specifications and wireframes served to bridge the gap between the new information architecture and legacy systems and content. Functions to be re-thought and adapted included a full content management system, robust attorney search, overall site search, practice area content database, career opportunity system, and an extensive news and publications resource area. Molstad Consulting worked closely with the development team mapping new pages and sections to key functions and enhancing overall usability.
The Careers section of the site features a unique brand designed to demonstrate a focus on the needs of this crucial audience. A custom Flash animation showcasing the profiles of successful attorneys and staff members was combined with a new web video and social media delivery system. All this was coordinated around a CI Design photo shoot for nearly 200 attorneys across multiple offices as well as multiple video production sessions.
Once key screen templates were confirmed, all content to be created, collected, and repurposed was outlined and Molstad Consulting led weekly status review meetings tracking each element and resolving issues through to launch.
Godfrey & Kahn enjoyed an enthusiastic response to the new site both internally and from its clients. Molstad Consulting and CI Design continue to collaborate to increase and enhance Godfrey & Kahn’s overall business intelligence and marketing ROI via a targeted web analytics methodology.
Guide and lead the definition, launch, and expansion of an extraordinary organization’s new web presence.
Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin provides immersive, experiential learning opportunites and entertainment for many thousands of visitors each year. Offering such attractions as a fresh and saltwater aquarium, the S/V Denis Sullivan, and elaborate exhibits dedicated to science, technology, water stewardship, and overall education, Discovery World is a truly unique destination with something for everyone.
Molstad Consulting worked closely with Discovery World senior management, art directors, developers, and content experts to define a new information architecture and overall website framework that would serve to increase public understanding and drive visitor action in a measurable and scalable way. The massive effort was broken into multiple phases with a focus on quick wins and revenue-driving features. Prototypes of interfaces and key templates were created to serve as context for decisions and blueprints for developers.
The site features detailed content supported by targeted imagery, Flash animations and video specifically tailored for each of the primary audiences. In addition, the development of a state-of-the-art ecommerce/order management system was managed utilizing agile methodology resulting in the ability for users to purchase tickets and buy/renew memberships online. The vast and diverse selection of Discovery World programs and published and managed via a customized, integrated blogging system. In addition to streamlined content management for the staff, site visitors can also take advantage of social media feature, search, tagging and bookmarking of content.
A web analytics methodology has been established which has measurably improved business intelligence and increased conversions. Business goals have been mapped to key audiences, and in turn, to specific metrics. Molstad Consulting regularly monitors site performance, summarizes insights gained from optimized analytics tools, and assists senior staff in prioritizing web initiatives. Email marketing campaigns are also regularly reviewed ensuring their alignment with the website and organizational marketing goals.
Discovery World now enjoys greater visibility than ever before into their site usage and marketing performance due to targeted web analytics and modernized site structure/coding standards.
All communication, tasks, and schedules were (and continue to be) orchestrated via Basecamp and Molstad Consulting’s proprietary methods for online/remote collaboration.
Discovery World now has a web presence that provides them the page real estate, scalable information architecture, design cohesion, and marketing intelligence befitting a highly visible and ever-evolving organization. The site serves as the foundation of all internet marketing efforts. Insights gained from web analytics has removed the guesswork from web initiative prioritization and keeps web team members focused on key audiences and visitor tasks.
Establish a new website architecture, showcase product lines more attractively, and bring the Klement’s Sausage online presence up to speed with their offline marketing campaigns.
Klement’s Sausage is well known nationally and in the Milwaukee area especially for their delicious sausage products and their beloved Racing Sausages that entertain crowds at every Milwaukee Brewers home game.
Molstad Consulting worked closely with the Klement’s IT and Marketing departments, advising on content strategy and presentation as well as leading discussions on graphic design direction. The Molstad Consulting team analyzed the company’s existing and upcoming marketing materials and designed a look and feel that combines the “taste and fun” as well as the tradition of excellence Klement’s is famous for. Flash animations were created to showcase products and their popular “Patio Daddio” television commercials.
The Famous Klement’s Racing Sausages, were featured on the site complete with their history, bios, downloadable wallpapers and a custom-designed Flash video game. The game allows site visitors to race as their favorite sausage through the streets of Milwaukee to the Brewers opening day game.
“I’m extremely pleased with the way our web site project went from concept to completion. The Molstad team took the time to listen in order to make sure we got what we wanted. Their great service, knowledge and art talent is incomparable. They have assisted in driving our brand image by offering exceptional ideas and a unique design that has also translated into sales. I’ll definitely be calling Molstad Consulting the next time I’m in need of the services they provide.”
- Jim Westerman, Marketing Director for Klement’s Sausage
Clearly define and document all requirements, and orchestrate a multi-disciplinary team leading to the launch of enhanced technology and innovative design within an aggressive timeframe.
Brookstone Homes is one of Southeastern Wisconsin’s largest home builders, and have reached that status through progressive ideas and excellent customer service.
CI Design had established a beautiful and highly effective campaign of marketing materials for Brookstone. Recognizing the size and scope of the website redesign project, Molstad Consulting was called in to manage the entire process.
Working closely with Brookstone Homes, Molstad Consulting advised on long-term content strategies and defined and documented a new information architecture and metrics for success, dividing the project into manageable phases.
Next, information design was analyzed and wireframes were created to gain consensus on key screen layouts as well as serving as blueprints for CI Design’s creative team and Brookstone’s developers. These areas include a fully revamped community and ready home search, a customer portal allowing new home builders to track and view their home’s progress, customer service forms and many other design-intensive layouts.
Once production began, Molstad Consulting tracked all communication and decisions via a project extranet, moderated discussions, evaluated progress and performed quality assurance leading to launch.
Molstad Consulting’s search engine marketing team has set up a successful pay per click ad campaign and continues to monitor its performance, driving traffic after achieving the top position for numerous competitive keywords. An organic search engine optimization campaign is currently underway.
In addition, our analytics system was set up to monitor all site traffic and referrals giving Brookstone a clear picture of site visitors, the paths they take through the site and an easy way to track desired actions.
“The development, design, and launch of the new Brookstone Homes web site went smoothly and efficiently thanks in large part to your valuable contribution to the team. You played a critical role in keeping the many moving parts and pieces in order throughout the process. It was due to your hard work, expertise, and project management skills that we were able to accomplish all that we did in such a short period of time.”
- Dawn Wilson, Vice President & Director of Marketing for Brookstone Homes
“You were a vital part of the project, the glue that held it together, and we couldn’t have done it without you. You kept us efficient by managing all the details and delivering the requirements and content we needed when we needed them. Your wireframes and approval system eliminated unpleasant surprises and kept all accountable, including the client.”
- Jim Taugher, President of CI Design
Brookstone Homes, Inc. was honored with several recognitions at the 2006 Metropolitan Builders Assocation’s Standards of Excellence Awards. The annual event recognizes innovative use of sales and marketing techniques and practices. In the marketing categories, Brookstone Homes earned gold awards for Best Web Page Design.
Expand, enhance, and improve the online services of a world-class tea producer’s ecommerce website to satisfy a sophisticated and steadily growing customer base.
Rishi Tea is synonymous with quality. Partnering directly with tea artisans from China, Japan and other regions, they offer their products in fine food stores, restaurants, and coffee shops throughout the United States.
The third-party system powering Rishi Tea’s ecommerce website provides a core technical structure, however its default output sometimes falls short in the areas of layout and aesthetics. Rishi Tea approached Molstad Consulting to help optimize the overall user experience and expand the site’s offerings.
Molstad Consulting led discussions to prioritize short term and long term goals, mapped out requirements and implemented numerous custom solutions. Featured additions and enhancements include:
- Online, automatic credit card processing via a gateway
- Ability to process Canada orders
- Electronic gift certificates
- Retail locator search application
- Setup of Google Analytics including advanced ecommerce data tracking, local traffic exclusion and consulting
- Checkout process and customer experience optimization through many modifications and additions (improved navigation, information design, system response, form validation, shipping instructions, email content, and more)
- User account area enhancements
- Security and version upgrades
- Consulting on internet marketing techniques and technologies
- Troubleshooting and squashing of many system bugs
Operating as an exension of Rishi Tea’s internal staff, Molstad Consulting continues to make recommendations and provide services on a flexible, as-needed basis.
Rishi Tea enjoys improved business intelligence through analytics software, better customer relationships and fewer support calls, lightened internal staff responsibilities, and a clear, prioritized plan for future enhancements and internet marketing efforts.
Create a new image befitting a high-end dermatology and skin care product center and allow them to offer and manage their products online.
Affiliated Dermatologists had recently expanded to open an aesthetics division and recognized the need for a quality online presence.
Molstad Consulting interviewed key stakeholders and laid out a plan for re-branding the enterprise and mapped out their site architecture and ecommerce strategy.
An elegant logo was designed and select images were matched with custom copywriting resulting in a new main company tagline.
The online branding has now been adopted throughout their existing print campaigns.
The site features a Flash branding area on the homepage as well as portal-based layout that highlights the company’s extensive service and product offerings. The Skin & Laser Center’s online store is adminstrated by its internal staff which uses a customized, dynamic ecommerce content management system. Orders are fully managed through to fulfillment and summarized via robust reporting options. Product details, photos and even entire brands can be easily and instantly added or modified.
With the staff in complete control of the site’s content for both products and services, the Skin & Laser Center enjoys both a visual and technical advantage in their local market and beyond.
“Molstad Consulting makes website development a process that truly works for your business. They are timely, organized and professional. They listen to the needs of the business and customer to develop a website that is uniquely your own and exceeds your expectations. Molstad Consulting is a great company to work with and they continue to communicate and serve us throughout the learning process of our website services.”
- Linda Gaertner, Manager
Create a new website presence that is worthy of the level of quality the Lynn Duncan name stands for. The company needed a soothing and beautiful design that was also easy to navigate.
An elegant new logo was designed that helped to guide the rest of the look and feel. A Flash intro was created that allows users access to all major areas of the site without forcing them to wait for the animation to finish. To give the homepage an element of motion, a Flash module was incorporated that gently progresses randomly through a directory of images.
Each page in the site features a different randomly displaying testimonial, keeping the content fresh and showcasing Lynn’s glowing customer, student and physician responses.
Lynn’s extensive photo gallery was overhauled to increase visual appeal and ease of navigation and is introduced by a Flash presentation of featured case studies. The site also features a contact form which is seeing many submissions weekly both from prospective customers and students as well as a “Share This Site” form allowing users to spread the word about Lynn’s top-notch services and training.
Many new pages were added to the scalable architecture. In particular, training pages were created allowing Lynn to promote her classes that are becoming increasingly popular.
“Brian Molstad has proven to be innovative, bright, conscientious and organized. He took a stressful complex project and transformed it into an aesthetically pleasing website for my business. Brian took charge and sailed us through it together with ease and timeliness.”
- Lynn Duncan, Owner
“I just want to say that I love your website. It is very informative, easy to navigate and the design is pleasing to the eye (just like makeup should be)! It reflects the professional that you are.”
- Kathy, Contact form submission