31 August 15 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from August 2015.

Only one more day until spring is here! To celebrate the last day of winter, take a few minutes to look at this month’s Super8.

We’ve got a thought-provoking mix of email easter eggs, user experience ideas, tips for being a better leader and communicator and, of course, livecoding.tv… because why wouldn’t you?

If there’s an article you tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed or told your desk buddy about this month, add it to the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

1. How five email Easter eggs helped sell out the email design conference.

marketing/development

When promoting its Email Design Conference earlier this year, Litmus decided to hide five free tickets inside their promotional email. The first subscriber to find the ticket and tweet about it using the event hashtag #TEDC15, won a free to ticket to the conference location of their choice: Boston or London.

“We’re sending emails about emails to email lovers (so meta) and they love these out-of-the-box techniques.”

Litmus drew inspiration from a range of sources when it came to hiding their free tickets and they weren’t all hidden the same way. Some were hidden in code, others as images, hover states and even a hidden keyboard command.

The campaign went viral and the buzz helped Litmus sell out their conference.  Kevin Mandeville talks about the creative techniques they used and why a playful approach can be a powerful thing.

It’s a great example of creating hype and increasing engagement around an event through an unusual marketing initiative.

2. Four ways animation can improve user experience.

user experience

As you browse the web, you’re probably noticing more and more sites incorporating animation into their page transitions, images, icons and even menus.

In this article, Matt Eller looks at four ways that animation can strengthen a user experience and lead to higher conversions. While this article is written for a developer audience, anyone working in digital marketing should be aware of the power of animations when it comes to user experience.

“Animation is a useful supplement to content, and takes on a secondary role in making UX clearer.”

Matt’s article includes some great examples of animation, with clear explanations on why they work. If your website currently has no animation, incorporating elements might be something to consider. No need to go crazy, but some of Matt’s suggestions could work well depending on the site.

3. You’re probably doing email introductions wrong.

communication

A short article, but it gets straight to the point. If you’re doing email introductions the first way that Anand Sanwal describes, then you’re probably doing them wrong.

That first way, is about introducing two people in one cold email. Why is that bad? Ultimately, it’s about respect. You’ve just committed two people to have a conversation. They probably don’t know each other (even if one has heard of the other) and you’ve given them no notice that the commitment was heading their way. If they both don’t respond then everyone looks bad – and nobody wants that.

Anand suggests using the double opt-in introduction instead. It’s far more respectful, it gives people time to consider your offer of an introduction, and it allows you to accept or decline depending on their preference.

So, what is this double opt-in introduction and how does it work? Read the article to find out.

4. Why empty states deserve more design time.

design

You’re probably wondering what an ’empty state’ is, right? No, it’s not a feeling of melancholy. It’s a page on an app or website that has no data in it but is still valuable real estate.

For example, you’re using an eCommerce app and you don’t have anything in your shopping cart but you click the tab on the app and it takes you to your cart. Technically, this page shouldn’t give you any information because there’s no data (ie, items you’re buying). But, this article by Dina Chaiffetz explains why designers should give more time to these empty states.

Dina discusses how we can use these empty states to educate, delight and prompt users in the critical first days of using the new app or website.

“If you know that your users are looking for a reason to leave you in the first week, how can you leverage blank states to influence early retention?”

Dina has a great point: empty states are often overlooked in design, but they present a great opportunity to differentiate against competitors. She uses a bunch of engaging examples to show you how.

5. James Hird and the elusive truth about leadership integrity.

leadership

There has been an enormous amount of commentary and public opinion on what James Hird did or didn’t do when it came to Essendon Football Club’s recent supplements scandal. Refreshingly, this article is not about that.

Instead, Elisabeth addresses what it means to be a leader, and the elusive concept of integrity in leadership. I liked the examples she gave of politicians and athletes who recently found themselves in the spotlight for their actions. Elisabeth looks at how other ‘leaders’ come to the defence of a culprit and how they excuse or criticise their behaviour. She addresses what this means for leadership and uses it to highlight the concept of leadership-integrity.

Regardless of your views on James Hird, I think Elisabeth is constructive in her approach to his situation. If nothing else, she highlights the difficult nature of a leadership role, one that is rarely talked about but should be discussed more openly.

6. Four invisible user experiences you never knew about.

user experience

If you attended our Digital Poets Society training session in May, you would have seen Marc’s presentation on design and how great design is invisible.

This article by Michael Wong uses examples from four well-known brands to demonstrate user experiences you probably didn’t know about. Airbnb, Disney World, Uber and Nest – all platforms that are deceptively simple in their design.

“A good designer can organise chaos. A great designer can eliminate chaos.”

This was one of those articles that had the entire August team nodding in agreement. Michael’s examples are spot on and great inspiration for invisible design.

Do yourself a favour and read this piece to understand the impact of invisible design and why it’s invaluable.

7. How your job shapes your identity.

business

Does the work you do affect your personality? The Book of Life (the ‘brain’ of The School of Life) thinks so. In this article, The Book explores the psychological requirements and consequences of work in various industries.

“Keeping in mind how work shapes a person means we should be slower to blame other people for the way they are.”

It’s a fascinating piece that suggests we categorise jobs in terms of their psychological profile and, therefore, what traits of human nature they weaken or reinforce. It suggests you look at opposite traits, such as optimistic or pessimistic, consensus-seeking or independent, then ask yourself whether your work encourages you to demonstrate either of those traits.

I think ultimately, this article is about understanding people better and developing empathy. Sometimes, we are quick to judge someone without considering the impact their work has on them. Our work has the ability to change us and it’s something we need to keep in mind when communicating with others.

8. The strange appeal of watching coders code.

development

I couldn’t resist adding this piece in. With the plethora of reality television and web shows in existence, this one provides real value. Livecoding.tv is here and it’s live. Yep, you can watch coders code. Why? Because other coders can learn from what they’re doing – it’s all about education (or curiosity, if watching coders code is your thing).

Scott Rosenberg discusses how livecoding.tv is helping developers interact with each other and bringing some fun to those lonely late-night coding sessions.

“It’s an unexpected and potentially game-changing mutation in the DNA of the programming field itself.”

It seems that there are two styles of live coders – introverts and extroverts. As you might expect, the introverts are generally pretty quiet, whereas the extroverts talk about their activity, drag other people into the frame and say hi to their dog… all while coding live to the world wide web.

Scott looks at the different reasons why people might want to be live coding and watching live coding. For me, it’s great to see this initiative happening and people getting involved. Anything that spreads more coding knowledge is a good thing!

***

And that’s a wrap for this month’s Super8. Keep ahead of the curve by signing up to next month’s Super8 and the August eDM below.