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Content Strategy Quinnipiac Site Development Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 512 – Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

For User-Centered Design Class, I compared Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment.

Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

For two sites with the same ostensible purpose – assisting users with hiring musicians – Harrison Parrott and Sam Hill could scarcely be more different.

Harrison Parrott

From the beginning, the Harrison Parrott site is all about the hiring of classical performers.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott 01
Harrison Parrott Front Page

The slide show changes, but the images are all clearly associated with classical performing arts, such as chamber music or opera. There is a lot of white space and the headings are simple and clear.

Scrolling down, the next part of the front page revealed the Featured News portion of the website. The slideshow at the very top is apparently the really important news, whereas the middle portion has smaller images and isn’t a moving slideshow. Featured News seems slightly older, but everything has a date range within the month of May, 2015. This gave the site an up to date look and feel.

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Featured news portion of front page

Scrolling down, the next part of the front page revealed the About section. This part also contained social sharing buttons for LinkedIn and Twitter, and a Twitter stream. Harrison Parrott has done its homework, particularly given the demographics for LinkedIn (urban, over age 30, many with college educations, and 44% with an income of over $77,000 per annum) and for classical music aficionados (median age of concert goers is 49). As well as they can, Harrison Parrott is matching a typical classical art aficionado buyer persona with the closest social media platforms that they can find.

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About portion of Harrison Parrott site

I clicked on the Artists tab, and was presented with large clickable images of artists with brief verbiage about what each of them does.

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Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

The tiles are clickable and everybody’s got their own page.

A quick perusal on my phone (I have a Nokia so the screen is a little smaller than an iPhone) revealed that the site is pretty easy to navigate although the hamburger icon is unexpectedly in the upper left corner of the small phone screen. This detracted from usability but only momentarily.

In all, it’s a well-designed site where the user can readily locate nearly anything. As Jakob Nielsen notes in The Need for Web Design Standards,

“Standards ensure that users

  • … don’t miss important features because they overlook a non-standard design element”

While the logo isn’t in the upper left corner (it’s centered at the top), it’s still easy to spot. Doing double duty, the logo serves as a link to return to the home page. To minimize confusion, there is also a small house icon in the upper left corner, another way to return home from anywhere on the site.

Sam Hill Entertainment

Sam Hill is a site for booking bands for weddings, parties and the like. Head to the home page, and you get this:

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott v Sam Hill 01
Sam Hill home page

I’m not really sure what the images on each side are for, as there are no links behind them. This is it for the front page. Everything is above the fold because there is no fold.

The site isn’t optimized for mobile. The side images look even more out of place, and there is a ton of unused white space at the bottom of my screen. Print is tiny; I had to zoom in if I wanted to click anything. If the twin images had been eliminated, there might have been larger print.

Selecting the Browse By Musical Style tab, I was presented with choices which were grouped. E. g. Motown, Soul, Oldies, Beach, and Variety are all grouped together.

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Browse by Musical Variety

I chose the musical style at the bottom of the tab: Decade, Tribute, Novelty Acts.

I selected Massachusetts from a menu of states, and was brought to this screen:

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Massachusetts Decade, Tribute and Novelty Acts

The colors are still washed out, and the print is still too small on my phone, but at least those two images are gone. I clicked the page for The Real Geniuses and finally found a page that looked good on my phone. I scrolled down and found this:

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Sam Hill FAQ

The FAQ has its own page and its own link (upper right corner of every page), but it’s also on all of the band pages. The placement of the FAQ link does follow the Web Style Guide, but the placement of another copy of the FAQ on every single band page does not. Furthermore, from a developmental standpoint, placing the FAQ on every page creates a nightmare if the document is ever altered. I viewed the page source, and the FAQ isn’t linked from somewhere. Instead, the verbiage is in the page itself. This includes a statement that the offices are in Charlottesville, Virginia. If the offices are ever moved to, say, Pittsburgh, the webmaster will need to change code on over ten pages, and that’s just for bands that serve Massachusetts.

Between the two sites, Harrison Parrott is well put together and easy to follow and find what you need. Sam Hill could learn a few things from them.

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Quinnipiac Site Development Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Doostang versus Amtrak

For Social Media Ethics class, we were asked to compare dark patterns, which are designs which are put together in order to trick users into clicking on something (often to sign up for something they don’t want).

Doostang

Doostang is a rather unfortunately-named jobs site, claiming to have top financial and consulting jobs. Attempt to apply for a job through them, however, and you’re passed to a sign-up screen. Fair enough, a lot of jobs sites require an account. But this one’s just a little bit different.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Doostang sign up page

Instead of defaulting to selecting the free sign-up, or not selecting any of the radio buttons at all, Doostang defaults to signing its potential customers up for a $9.95 “Premium” 2-day trial.

But wait, there’s more!

And it doesn’t make Doostang look so good. The Better Business Bureau has quite the file on Doostang, and rates them a D-. What’s the most common complaint? Billing and collection issues. A complaint dated January 21, 2014 says it best:

Complaint: I never agreed to automatic renewal or recurring payments. As can be seen in my usage history, I did not know I had a membership to this site, and never used it. At no time did I authorize recurring payments.

Desired Settlement: Please refund all monies taken after the initial payment. Please do not make me take additional action.

Business Response: Doostang is very clear in stating that all memberships are automatically renewed unless canceled. Members may cancel their subscriptions at anytime.

This is one of Dark Patterns’s classic forced continuity complaints, and it’s also a roach motel, in that it’s deceptively simple to sign up for a Premium service on Doostang, but it’s a real bear to get out of one.

Amtrak

Amtrak, like many other common carrier transportation companies, offers the user the option to purchase travel insurance. However, the option is just that, an option.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Amtrak travel insurance purchase page

While the questions about buying travel insurance are set off in a different-colored box, and you must pass through this screen and make a decision before you can pay for your ticket, Amtrak doesn’t choose either travel insurance option for you. Instead, you are required to decide, one way or the other. There’s no question that Amtrak is trying to make the buying of travel insurance seem like a smart thing to do. But the consumer isn’t beaten over the head with numerous dubious reasons to make the purchase, and the screen is easy to understand.

Turning Doostang Away from the Dark Side

Doostang has two jobs to do, possibly three.

  1. Eliminate the preselection of anything on the sign-up page, or default to the free option. Clearly explain why a job seeker would want a Premium option. End forced continuity.
  2. Make it easy to cancel an accidentally added Premium service by adding online cancellation options and lengthening the time a consumer has before a full refund is no longer permitted. Close the roach motel.
  3. (Optional) Add more free services. Currently, Doostang only allows for applying to one job under the free service. This is the job connected to the referring URL. What if the free service was expanded, say, to that entire session, or for three job applications? A consumer just surfing in from a referral URL would never pay and, perhaps, would be served more advertisements. But someone clicking around, applying to a few jobs or opening up a long session would be using more valuable materials. Complaints of not knowing they were signing up for a paid service would have a lot less credence.

Come to the light, Doostang! It’s not too late!

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Facebook Quinnipiac Site Development Social Media

Quinnipiac Assignment #9 – J-Krak Facebook Page

Quinnipiac Assignment #9 – J-Krak Facebook Page

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J-Krak Facebook Page

Once again, we did not have to create a video this week for Quinnipiac Assignment #9. Instead, my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I were required to create a Facebook page for our J-Krak fans community (which in our blog, we were referring to as KrakHeads). We decided to call the page J-Krak RI in order to better emphasize our intimate connection to the state of Rhode Island.

The Facebook page was designed with a standard Creative Commons background image of sheet music and our preexisting KrakHeads logo (Kim made it by combining a Creative Commons image of a vinyl record with lettering in a font that we selected together) was used as our logo and the avatar for the page itself. That avatar has since been replaced with an image of John Krakowski and John Cairo together (the avatar was replaced after our class was finished).

We were pleasantly surprised when we hit one hundred likes in about six and a half hours. Currently, the new page has 125 fans on Facebook.  We are very excited about this, and Kim and I feel that we have definitely found our platform!

Thank you for following! And party on!

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Career changing SEO Site Development

Website Planning

I suppose I should have planned my site better or maybe not just gone in and barreled my way in just to see what I could do.

I don’t think that’s truly awful as I have some ambitions but they feel very possible and within reach. I look at my notes and I see — yes, I need to fix and put up Google Search. I need to play with keywords some more. I need to do … a lot.

And SEO! Oh my gosh. There’s a boatload to learn there and I’m still busy reading the books. I can’t recall who said that Time is Nature’s Way of making it so that not everything happens all at once. And I can live with that as an idea. It shouldn’t all happen in one shot. It should flow and develop.

Patience, a virtue. And sometimes an elusive one. But one thing is for certain — once a year elapsed, suddenly, I had a Google Page Rank of 3. Was that by design? Well, yes. But the science and art of getting a Google Page Rank of anything over zero is so obscure and unknown as to be akin to deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, I get that it’s all proprietary, e. g. intellectual property, etc., but c’mon! It gets silly after a while. Jigger this, don’t jigger that. Say this in some particular, special, magical fashion, and not in another.

Don’t spam. Well, yeah, that makes sense. But what is seen as proto-spam isn’t always. And what’s seen as non-spam, I suspect, sometimes is. I do recognize that Google is attempting to make rules to cover as many scenarios as possible. And they wish to check out what people like I do by using computer algorithms rather than actual humans, in order to be somewhat timely when it comes to investigating websites. But! It remains frustrating and, in my opinion, unnecessarily mysterious. A clue, s’il vous plait, and by that I mean a real one, by someone who is there and really, truly knows. The rest, it seems, are speculating, with varying degrees of accuracy and results.

I swear that figuring out how to get a good or at least decent Page Rank is harder than translating the Upanishads.

Plus I’m developing my strategy. It will, I am sure, change. But I already have ways to promote what I’m doing. This is not quite like cliff-jumping because I have experience in promoting my Examiner articles (http://www.examiner.com/x-34454-Boston-Extreme-Weight-Loss-Examiner). Oh, look, some promotion!

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Personal Site Development

Appointments

Life is outta control. Well, it’s not that bad.  But I’ve got a lot going on, even though I’m not employed. Looking for work is, as they (who?) say, a full-time job in and of itself.

Hence I’ve got a somewhat full calendar. Plus I’m working on the site and also doing work out stuff to lose weight. Which I have to schedule these days in order to be sure it happens. It is, of course, better than sitting around and doing nada but it’s a tad overwhelming at times.

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Site Development

Sunday Sunday Sunday

I suppose this blog is going to encompass not only my job search/career change efforts but also talk a bit about the development of the site in general.

I’m finally getting my act in gear in terms of uniformity and a vision.

Now, you might say to yourself, what’s this “finally” business? After all, haven’t you been open for less than a week?

Too true, but I like to be organized, and it’s obvious that, with a website, you need to be organized from the get-go.

Hence now I’ve got three (yay!) uniform pages. The resume is going to take more work as it’s such a different format from the other stuff.

I’m also going to, at some point, do some painting. I want to make my own background, my own button(s) and my own logo. I am not a great painter by any means, but it’s something I enjoy doing. Plus, ha! There’s no issues with copyright. I gotta figure I own my own watercolors.

Today we’re (I’m a married-type person) off to a Celtics game. Go green dudes!