Facebook’s announcement in April of their new Open Graph made waves across the web. Its release has introduced a new level of social integration and personalization readily available to all website publishers. If you are in charge of the strategy and/or user experience for your organization’s website, Facebook’s new social plugins are new tools for the toolbox you’ll want to become familiar with. In this post, I’ll outline some strategic ways to bring your website and your Facebook audience together. Read more…
We love Basecamp. Just wanted to get that out of the way. For over five years, we’ve watched Basecamp evolve from a very basic project management tool with messages, basic to-do lists and file uploads, to a wonderful collaboration system with Writeboards, comments at a to-do level, advanced notification and permission controls and more. Our projects and clients continue to benefit from its superior features and usability.
Because we like Basecamp so much, we thought we’d point out a few features that less-expensive competitor, activeCollab offers which would make Basecamp even better.
Progress tracking and due dates for tasks
Basecamp of course has integrated milestones, however tasks can easily go unfinished and unnoticed. Sure, to-dos can be associated with a milestone, but unless the parent milestone expires, team members may be unaware of individual task dates until it’s too late. activeCollab supports due dates for checklists and tickets and as such, alarm bells can ring if important sub tasks aren’t met. Many companies have tried to get around this in Basecamp by creating more milestones than to-dos, however this gets unwieldy and results in a very long list of milestones that cannot be categorized or grouped the way to-dos can. People have been pleading on Basecamp forums for to-do due dates for a long time. Hopefully someday soon they’ll get their wish.
On top of this, activeCollab has a nice progress bar which shows the number of tasks completed out of all existing tasks and a percentage calculation. Another good way to sound the alarm if tasks aren’t being checked off as they should be.
This relatively simple feature can be powerfully useful. It gives each user the power to select, on an ongoing basis, any item(s) that they want to keep an eye on. For instance, tasks may be grouped into various lists, but on a given day say, five of them are being focused on. Rather than breaking up carefully constructed lists, an individual user can star those items that need to be taken care of or monitored without affecting what the rest of the users see. This puts more power in the hands of the individual to use the system as they see fit.
Updated items since last visit
Here’s another simple feature that is more powerful than it may seem at first glance. Project managers love quick summaries of project activity since they’ve been gone. The Basecamp Dashboard does indeed show all latest activity, but seeing what’s new since you last looked can immediately bring you back up to speed. Did something happen related to one of your starred items? You can quickly be aware.
Similar to Facebook status updates or tweets, these can help teams that are under tight deadlines, but aren’t using a chat tool like Campfire to quickly see who’s working on what. This helps a project manager know if reminders should be sent out or if a person should be interrupted. Sometimes it takes a while to get into the “zone” and any feature that helps team members remain there is valuable. 37 Signal’s internal collaboration tool, Backpack actually has this feature so it should not be difficult for Basecamp to implement.
Another example of a feature that both activeCollab and Backpack offer is the creation of individual pages. The ability to highlight certain information in a permanent spot that doesn’t get pushed down as more content is added (such as is the case with Messages), is of high value to a team. A particular collection of files, a summary of key business goals, a list of URLs to competitive sites, are just some examples of content that deserves a permanent home. Backpack’s pages are excellent in that they allow drag and drop modules of text, images, files, and to-do lists. Even if pages for Basecamp only included text and file attachments, it would be a great start.
Sometimes viewing a calendar in month format just helps communicate the bigger picture better. A simple addition which again, is already in Backpack.
Ability to resize Message/comment edit windows
In activeCollab you can grab the corners of a text box you’re working in and drag it to whatever height you want. When you’re typing a message and it becomes larger than you anticipated, it’s great to have the extra breathing room. Basecamp’s messages auto-expand only once when a certain content amount is reached, but the customizability of dragging to fit is truly a step up.
To reiterate, Basecamp is a fantastic tool, and it’s only out of love that we post these suggestions which we feel would take it to yet another level. There are plenty of other great ideas circulating in the forums and we encourage you to add your own two cents.
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
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
Create an information space and central task area to bring together five offices, 200 agents, and piles of disparate documentation.
Along with HomeSale Realty’s impressive growth and success has come the challenge of maintaining efficient communication and uniformity of process and documents between multiple offices.
Molstad Consulting interviewed key decision makers, analyzed HomeSale’s methods and business practices and developed a portal-based, scalable information architecture to accommodate widely varied user needs, tasks and access levels.
A Web-based content management system was implemented giving particular staff members instant access to update the content they’re responsible for. With their agents constantly on the go, this content needed to be version-controlled, and immediately accessible. The role of publishing content has been shifted to its creator.
The intranet features a single sign-on gateway to essential real estate forms, listing data sheets, training and marketing materials, as well as their public site administration tool to manage listings, agent profiles, open houses and more.
Truly a company of friends and family, HomeSale wanted to create a closer bond with its community of staff and agents. The intranet helps accomplish this via a central area for discussion, social events and announcements.
The intranet has already taken on a life of its own and has the flexibility to grow in step with the ever-evolving HomeSale organization.
Enable an up-and-coming new real estate brokerage to compete with the big boys on the Web.
Home Advisors, Inc., based out of St. Paul, MN is a forward-thinking real estate brokerage that embraces new technology to better serve its customers.
Molstad Consulting conducted a thorough discovery and analysis outlining a progressive plan for the company’s web presence and online services. The current site represents a fresh look and feel along with a new logo to reflect Home Advisors’ committment to provide value and build trust with their customers.
The custom-developed site features a variety of lead capturing forms as well as a portal to Home Advisor’s customer tools including transaction monitoring and showing management. A home search management tool will soon be added to the extensive service offering.
A system to promote the brokerage’s listings was also created featuring an adminstration area for quick and easy publishing. Next phase plans include an extensive real estate resource and lead-capturing website that will be entertaining as well as informative. Stay tuned…
“The concept behind developing the web presence for Home Advisors, Inc. was to create a fully customized interface from scratch that could present a simple, yet powerful communication tool for us and our clients.
We were able to successfully implement this concept because of some of the unique features of Molstad Consulting.
First, I was excited to work with Brian because of his genuine enthusiasm to truly understand me and my business. I never felt like it was simply “give me your stuff and I’ll slap together a site for you.” He took the time to understand what I was trying to accomplish from a strategic perspective and really worked to create an interface that supported all of my ideas.
Second, I was very impressed with Brian’s approach to viewing websites as a part of the overall business plan for a company. He thinks as much through a business mindset as he does from a technical perspective. What this did was create the feeling like he was working with me instead of for me. Being able to discuss the business implications of a technical decision was a refreshing feeling that I truly appreciated.
Overall, working with Molstad Consulting has been instrumental in helping me create the foundations for my business without compromise and I would recommend the company to anyone serious about creating a web presence for their business.”
- Mark Duquesnoy, Owner
Bring the new Direct Mortgage Funding branding identity online.
DMF already had a new branding identity in place for their print materials, but needed to bridge the gap to the Internet.
Molstad Consulting conducted a competitive analysis of sites in their industry and others to lead the team to a consensus on layout and merging their marketing themes with global navigation options.
Flash was integrated into the navigation to create a tighter link with the branding elements highlighting each of DMF’s main service offerings.
Their customers were demanding fast access to DMF’s rates and so a password protected area was created to house the daily-updated data.
“The interface between Molstad, his production team, our in-house staff and our external partners was absolutely flawless. The end result was a website that is earning us praise from all of our clients both for its look and utility.”
- Todd Harple, Ph.D., Organization Anthropologist
Dr. Haefs is a highly experienced and regularly published medical optometrist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dr. Haefs sees patients at multiple locations and needed to make it as easy as possible for them to find her.
Molstad Consulting developed an architecture and fresh design to help Dr. Haefs establish a unique presence showcasing her experience and extensive patient vision resources. The site also serves as a medium through which to feature her frequent publications including articles and a video segment on “Vision and Learning” from a recent local television news interview.
Dr. Haefs was also provided with and trained on a site editing tool putting her in control of her own content. The site is truly standing out in a local community of largely neglected and under-utilized optometrist websites.
“Molstad Consulting has created more than a beautiful website for my practice, they’ve created a means for me to easily provide vision health information and resources to my patients as well as a way to stay connected with them. The process of designing the site went smoothly and was even fun. They’ve exceeded my expectations in designing an accessible site that’s as easy to navigate as it is to look at.”
- Christina Haefs, OD
Enable a Family Medicine physician to stay connected with his patients.
Dr. Bonavia is a highly experienced Family Medicine physician in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A recent change in hosptial affiliations left Dr. Bonavia concerned that his network of patients, developed over decades, would have difficulty finding him.
Molstad Consulting developed an architecture and fresh design to help Dr. Bonavia establish a unique presence showcasing his experience and exceptional patient testimonials. The site also serves as a medium through which to feature news, announcements and valuable health resources for his patient base.
Dr. Bonavia has discovered that, with his own site, he is in control of his patient contacts, his professional image and how he wants to offer valuable resources to the public.
“As a Family Physician, my expertise does not lie with computers or
websites. When you are working with Brian Molstad of Molstad
Consulting, that is just fine. Brian walks you through the process and
in so doing discovers your goals for the website, likes and dislikes.
The final product will be extremely personalized for you, yet very
functional. I especially appreciate his cost-effective strategies in
producing my website and his continued interest in its success. I
highly recommend Molstad Consulting for your web design needs.”
- John P. Bonavia, MD