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2012 Social Sharing Trends [Infographic]

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With each passing year, we share more, invest in new tech toys, and the way we get the news of the day evolves. Information is everywhere and all of us are a part of shaping the social sphere around us. As we get ready to wrap up 2012, what will the year be known for? Who was the most talked about athlete this year? What country had the biggest growth in social? What was the most shared event? See what AddThis has to say about the trends from 2012 in this infographic.

 

 

Three Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

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As we close out 2012, I can safely say that it has been a milestone year for designers.  New technologies are popping up every day that make our lives easier and allow us to stretch our talents further.  Over the course of the year, a few recurring trends have popped up among some of the major site redesigns.  The good news: most of these can be implemented by blog and website owners with very little effort or code knowledge.  Here are a few of my favorite trends to watch out for in the coming year:

By the way: this is in no means an exhaustive list, but merely meant to be a snapshot of things to come.

1. Dynamic Typography

Gone are the days when Helvetica, Arial, Times, and Georgia ruled the roost when it comes to fonts.  While not necessarily unique to 2012, the use of non-standard web fonts (fonts that are not included with an operating system) has increased dramatically as new and innovative ways of serving them have been created.  Here are a few of my favorite web-font sources:

Google Fonts

With a massive library of fonts, and a price tag that can’t be beat (free!), Google has become a go-to resource for web designers.  Their web font directory is completely searchable by style, weight, and thickness; you’re guaranteed to find a font that will suit your needs.  Implementation is even easier: simply drop a piece of JavaScript into your <head> section.  Once that’s done, call the font family in your stylesheet, and you’re done!

FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel has a great selection of off-beat fonts, separated for ease-of-discovery by grouping (grunge, retro, etc).  While the selection is good, the delivery method is a bit more complex: instead of hosting the font files on their server, you have to download them, store them on your server via FTP, and then link to where they are on the server.  Once that’s done, the rest is the same: call your font family in the stylesheet and you’re done.

TypeKit

Typekit was purchased by Adobe not too long ago, so one would argue that they’re the best.  They have a wide selection of professional font families available that other services don’t; classics like Gotham, for example.  They have a limited selection available for free, but to get to the majority of the collection you have to pay a fee.  Once you’ve selected your fonts, however, two lines of JavaScript will fix everything for you – you don’t have to call them manually from your stylesheet, call them inside of TypeKit instead.

My Favorite Fonts

I’ve chosen a few fonts from each service to showcase as some of my favorites:

Serif Fonts

Museo (TypeKit)

Vollkorn (Google Fonts)

Josefin Slab (Google Fonts)

Sans-Serif Fonts

Open Sans (FontSquirrel)

Proxima Nova (TypeKit)

Ubuntu (Google Fonts)

Display / Script Fonts

Girl Next Door (Google Fonts)

Pacifico (Google Fonts)

Special Elite (Google Fonts)

2. Large Photo Backgrounds

As internet connections get better, photos are becoming more and more prevalent – not just as accents to content, but as part of the design itself.  Couple that with the semi-new CSS3 standards, and designers are taking photography to a whole new level.  It’s not uncommon to see designs and blogs with photos spanning the width of the site itself.

How to Set a Large Photo Background

This is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of thinking.  Specifically, you have to make sure that the background is high enough resolution to accomplish what you need, but not so large that even high-bandwidth devices take too long to download it.  I recommend no more than 500k-700k for your file size – any more will be too large, and any less will be too compressed (and will look terrible).

Upload your photo, and use this code in your stylesheet:

body{background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;}

This sets the background image, tells it to not repeat (or tile), and aligns it at the top-center of your site. If you want to scale the image, you can add the “background-size” attribute:

body{
background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;
background-size: 100% auto;
}

This will cause the background image to always be 100% wide (and the height will scale accordingly) – great for responsive designs (which we’ll talk about momentarily).

Examples of Photo Background Sites

Here are a few sites I’ve designed or seen online that utilize a large photo background:

 

thirdoptionmen.org

mellowmushroom.com

bentlyreserve.com

3. Responsive Design

I want to go on record saying that responsive design is the most important thing to happen to web design in the recent years.  So important, in fact, that the W3C has recommended that all sites strive to be “one web” accessible by all devices – something in which responsive design excels.

Responsive (or adaptive design, as it’s sometimes called) means that a design will adjust itself depending on the size of your browser or the device you are viewing it on.  Meaning, instead of having a mobile website, you have one website that adapts itself and responds to the “viewport” (the size of your viewing device from edge to edge).  Responsive design is made possible through the use of @media queries.

What are @media Queries

A @media query is nothing new to web designers; we’ve been using them to attach stylesheets for years.  However, recently, designers have been utilizing its parameters (specifically, “max-width” and “min-width”) to allow different styles for different screen sizes.

A media query looks like this:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
@media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}

This tells the browser to apply styles to only devices 959px wide and below.  Anything above that will ignore any styles put here.

Using @media Queries

This is a bit more complex than some of the other things we’ve talked about, since you have to have knowledge of CSS to implement, but here are the basics.  First, we include this in the <head> section of our site:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1″>

This code tells our site to scale according to the width of the device – it’s an important step in making sure things are appropriately sized.  Next, we include the media queries we want to use.  This is my favorite set – you can set them however you want, but I’ve included common breakpoints in device sizes:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* Tablet Portrait size to standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* All Mobile Sizes (devices and browser) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Landscape Size to Tablet Portrait (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Portrait Size to Mobile Landscape Size (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 479px) {}

This includes breakpoints for all mobile devices (under 959px – great for people who utilize a 960px grid system), tablets, all phones, landscape phones, and portrait phones.  Now, the hard part – apply the styles you want to get the site to look how you wish.

If it looks intimidating, that’s fine: there are a lot of pre-built themes and templates that have responsive elements built in.

Examples of Responsive Design

Here are a few examples of sites utilizing a responsive design

mickieandme.com

www.boogey.com

thirdoptionmen.org

Summary

2012 has been a fantastic year for web designers, by far.  And if these trends are anything to judge by, 2013 will be even better. These are but three of the emerging trends and resources we have at our disposal, and many of them can be implemented easily by site owners.  Between large photo backgrounds, dynamic typography, and responsive designs, we can create sites that function well and look amazing.

What other design trends do you see coming in your favorite websites and blogs?

 

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about design from Mitch? Check out his session at NMX in January, entitled “Advanced Blog Design: The Latest Tools, Trends & Best Practices You Can Implement Today!

Why Changing Your Profile Picture Means Nothing

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Over the past few days, I kept seeing my Facebook friends change their profile pictures to cartoon characters. I’m a huge geek, as are many of my friends, so at first, I notice a few Pokemon pictures. I thought it had something to do with a new video game coming out or something. Then Disney princesses and Sponge Bob started showing up. Yet, I had no clue what was going on. Apparently, this was another Facebook trend that you had to be one of the “cool kids” to understand, like when everyone was shouting out their bra colors a few months ago.

Finally, I saw someone post about it. Apparently, everyone on Facebook is supposed to change their profile picture to a cartoon character from their childhood for the weekend to show support for the prevention of child abuse.

Cue me rolling my eyes.

Let me say right now that I 100% support an end to child abuse. I used to work at a day care and saw first hand how horrible the effects of abuse can be. Most of the cause-related memes that hit social media are for issues that I fully support.

But how exactly does changing my profile picture change anything.

The “Raise Awareness” Argument

Whenever I bitch about these types of social media campaigns, the most common angry response I get is this: It raises awareness. Even if you aren’t out there stopping predators from abusing children, you’re reminding people that this is an issue.

Ok, I agree with this in some cases, but most of the time it just makes me roll my eyes a second time. Is it an issue that isn’t widely known? Then, that makes sense. Child abuse? Breast cancer? The extinction of *insert your favorite cute animal here*? I already know that these are huge problems in the world! I don’t need you to remind me.

If your cause is for something that most people do not know about, then by all means, start some kind of Facebook craze to raise awareness. As you’re changing your picture, ask yourself this: is doing so actually going to inform someone who had no idea that the problem exists?

Where’s Your Call To Action?

The “raise awareness” bull is only enhanced by the fact that people aren’t voicing their concerns over the issue. It took me THREE DAYS to figure out why everyone was changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters. If you honestly want to raise awareness, why aren’t you using the weekend to post often about why you changed your picture? Talk about the issue if it is important to you!

One of the silliest things I saw was a few months ago on Twitter when people were refusing to tweet for the day – I believe that was in support of autism. It makes no sense to me to refuse to talk about a cause in order to show your support of the cause. Instead, it should been a campaign where if you want to support autism, for the day you’re going to do nothing by tweet about autism – stats, links to how to donate, etc.

Most of all, what I hate about these cause memes is that there’s no actual call to action to help most of the time. Raising awareness is great – but who cares if every single person in the world is aware that child abuse exists? If no one actually does anything, it doesn’t matter. If you change your profile picture, give your friends/followers/fans a link where they can go to donate. In looking on Facebook for an answer as to why people were changing their profile pictures, I saw ONE link to a child abuse charity where I could donate.

And it was from someone who basically said, “Changing your picture is stupid. Here’s a link to donate instead.”

You can even get creative with it! For example, I think the “social media death” campaign that’s going on with a bunch of celebrities right now makes a ton of sense. Until fans donate however much money to a cause, you won’t be on Twitter/Facebook. Now that’s a call to action. You can even support if you don’t have the means to donate by passing around the link for others to do so. But just changing your picture doesn’t actually get anything done.

Abuse is not Trendy

While trying to figure out why avatar pictures were changing, I asked a few people what was going on. Three of them – THREE – said, “I don’t know. I just saw that people were changing their pictures, so I decided to do it too.”

Ok, I understand that showcasing your favorite cartoon character is cute, but child abuse should not be trendy! That’s the risk you run when you have no explanation or call to action. People just jump on the bandwagon because they want to be one of the cool kids, but at that point you’re not raising awareness at all!

I especially resent the thought that people are somehow going to think I’m a bad person if I don’t change my picture too. It’s not that I don’t support the prevention of child abuse. I just don’t like changing my profile picture. Beyond that, crap like this is going on constantly. It becomes white noise if I’m constantly asking people to donate to this cause or that cause. So, I’ve chosen the issue that is extremely important to me, and I focus on that.

A Final Thought

If you want to change your picture, awesome. Just tell me why, and give me something I can do to actually make a difference.

Right now, people are talking about child abuse, but the issue that is most important in my life is suicide prevention. So, to end this post, my call to action is this: Please consider learning more about my favorite charity, To Write Love On Her Arms, and consider making a donation to this or another charity this holiday season.

Is Social Networking Killing Search Engines?

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Last week, one of the top stories from SmartBrief on Social Media was an article from the New York Times called “Search Takes a Social Turn.” The theory is that social networking sites, like Twitter, are taking traffic away from search engines because users can instead quickly poll their friends when they have a question, rather than turning to searching Google for the answer. Could we see a huge drop in search engine usage as social networking becomes more and more popular?

The Trust Factor

You can’t trust Google.

I don’t mean that you can’t trust the company or any other search engine for that matter. However, at the end of the day, your results are still automated and you have to weed out the most relevant sites. Let’s say you’re searching for “best restaurants in New Mexico,” for example. The results you get will most likely contain ads, restaurants near New Mexico, restaurants that are new and in Mexico, and other irrelevant sites. Even the top sites may not actually lead you the best restaurants as voted by fans or ranked by some kind of expert. Instead, they could very well be sites that have spent a lot of money optimizing themselves for the search term.

Your friends are going to give you their honest opinions on the best restaurants in New Mexico. They essentially act as a search engine result filter, and you can trust that what they give you is going to match your “search term” so to speak. Your friends are humans. Google’s search engines are not. This is not The Matrix. Yet. Humans – 1, Machines – 0.

The Conversation Factor

When you “search” for something via your friends/followers, you have the chance to hold a conversation about the topic. For example, let’s say that you need to know the definition of a word. Instead of using a search engine, you ask your Twitter friends and someone replies to you with the answer. If you need further clarification, you can just ask. With a search engine, there’s no conversation with their results. If you need further clarification, you have to reword your search term and try to find it yourself.

The best part on a social networking site is that you have the ability to talk to multiple people at once about the topic. The conversation isn’t a one-way street, like on a search engine, nor is it even a two-way street. It’s a whole network of streets. Again, a win for the human race. Humans – 2, Machines – 0

The Results Factor

There is one clear problem with using social networking to replace search engines, and it’s why search engines will never die. When you poll your friends, there’s a good chance, even if you have a million Twitter followers, that you won’t see any results. If no one knows how to answer your question or even has an opinion, you’ll hear crickets chirping and be stuck high and dry. On a search engine, that doesn’t really happen. Sure, you may occasionally type in something obscure that gives you no results, but in general, you’re going to get a list of relevant websites.

Plus, I’m guessing that most of you don’t have a million friends on any one social networking site. If you’re brand new, you might still be working on building up a following. The fewer people you have to poll, the less likely it will be that you get results. Unfortunately, it just takes time to build up your social networking sites. If you need an answer today, it doesn’t help you to wait a month until you have more connections. A search engine will give you results even if it is your first day using the Internet.

Even for easy-to-answer or opinion questions, you might not get a reply via social networking if you’re asking at an off hour when most of your friends are sleeping. Search engines don’t sleep. So, I have to give this round to the machines. Humans – 2, Machines – 1

Overall, humans do still come out on top, but the last factor probably needs to be more heavily weighted. Social networking may take away some search engine traffic, but we aren’t going to see Google or other search engines up and disappear because of this.

Still, the article is a good reminder – don’t forget to use the real people in your life when you’d normally type something into a search engine. If someone can give you a result, it’s likely to be better than the results list you’d receive via a search engine.

Check out the other top stories last week from SmartBrief on Social Media:

  1. 5 lessons from the best social-media campaigns
  2. How much is a follower really worth?
  3. Are you better off targeting Twitter or Facebook users?
  4. How Cisco keeps its social-media teams on target
  5. How big brands learned to love “like”
  6. Twitter 2.0 offers new tools for advertisers
  7. Why social marketers must learn to think local
  8. Search engines are dead, long live social search
  9. Foursquare campaign boosts McDonald’s foot traffic
  10. Why social media is the new standard for small businesses

Meet the Milblog Panelists: Scott Henderson

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Scott Henderson is not a milblogger, he’s a Transformer. No, not like in the movies, but a person who helps companies and non-profits transform themselves online so that they can transform their growth. In the Milblog Track, he’s going to be discussing the changes and opportunities on the way for milblogs and milbloggers.

SHmilblog09

His bio is as follows:

During his fourteen-year professional career, Scott has been a major gift fundraiser, foundation executive, magazine editor, marketing consultant, and president of a capital campaign firm. Today, he is the cause marketing director for Indiana-based MediaSauce, helping corporations and non-profits create and implement online strategies to achieve transformational growth.

Recent accomplishments include the creation and launch of www.pledgetoendhunger.com, which helped Tyson Foods deliver 560,000 meals to four different cities for children in need, raised $28,000 for Share Our Strength, and assembled an army of nearly 5,000 childhood hunger awareness champions.

MediaSauce is a full service marketing and communications firm whose strategic philosophy positions the online space at the center of communications in order to create and sustain open dialogue and lasting relationships. Clients include The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Pacers, USA Diving, Samaritan’s Feet, and University of Chicago.

You can hear him speak at 4pm on Thursay 15 October on the “Getting the Picture: What’s Next for Milblogs” panel.

http://www.mediasauce.com/cause/

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