Tech Stuff: Automation

meltmedia is not a typical interactive marketing agency.

Nearly half the company’s employees are technical and actively develop code. We don’t outsource any of our technology needs because we have plenty of expertise in our Tempe, AZ offices. We don’t call ourselves a “Java shop” or a “.Net shop” because we know how to make use of the best technology for any solution regardless of what language or platform is popular at the time.

We are a company of passionate people. Over the past year, we’ve focused our passion on the practice of automation. The following quote is of great significance and inspiration to us:

Machines need to be productive. People need to be effective. – Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry, Personal Kanban

automation

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FLTR | Forward Looking Tech Radar

meltmedia has something cool we’re going to share with marketers and digital professionals. It’s called FLTR: Forward Looking Tech Radar (pronounced: “flitter”).

The digital marketing landscape is populated by an overwhelming glut of buzzwords, technologies and tools. FLTR will provide you with a quick visual indicator of trends in technology that are relevant to you. At a glance, you will see which tech topics are trending toward more or less relevance in the marketplace. With FLTR, you will be able to move backward and forward in time to track the history and predict the future of these “bogeys” on the radar screen.

FLTR radar

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A Client’s Prep Guide for a Responsive Project

Not sure what responsive design is all about? First, check out A Client’s Introduction to Responsive Design.

Responsive design is a different approach to creating a website so, naturally, other parts of the process will be different too. Some aspects may be new or challenging. We hope to prepare you for how a responsive approach may contrast with your past experiences in the following ways:

Timeline and Budget

A responsive approach will take longer and thus cost more up-front than what you may be used to. But over time, if managed properly, a responsive approach can save you effort and cost on maintaining multiple platforms across devices. So how much more to go responsive? Hold on to your hat(s). I’ve heard of some responsive design projects costing 100% more than a traditional redesign. And it’s safe to say the average will fall somewhere between 25-75% more. Why is it so much more? Basically, there’s more planning, more cases to consider, and much more testing.

Conversations around budget are a great time to discuss the benefits of a responsive approach with your team. While the price of a more traditional redesign might seem easier to swallow, there are many costs of not optimizing for the different devices and connection speeds your users are sure to encounter. So while responsive will take more work, it reduces the risk of losing business from visitors who can not load or view your site on their devices.

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A Client’s Introduction to Responsive Design

So you’ve heard people talking about this responsive design thing, eh? And if you haven’t, you will. Agencies may be telling you it’s the future of web design and others may be saying it’s just another industry trend. There’s a plethora of articles, blogs, and examples supporting both sides, and it can be overwhelming.

We love responsive design here at meltmedia and could talk about it in detail for a long foreseeable future. But we want to back up and talk about what makes responsive design really exciting: how it changes our perspective of the web.

So what is it exactly?

Responsive web design is a term coined by Ethan Marcotte back in 2010. At its most basic, a responsive website “responds” to the available screen size to present its content in the most optimal way. Using responsive design, the same website can be readable and usable not only on a desktop computer, but on the many mobile devices the market has to offer.

Why responsive?

The web is more accessible than ever. People can connect to the web on a desktop computer, a smartphone, even the screen on their refrigerator. The number of connected devices increases each day and the specifications for those devices vary dramatically.

Responsive isn’t just about adjusting the way your site looks. At its core lies the concept of One Web which encourages us to provide users the same information and services regardless of the devices they’re using. Of course supporting every device in every circumstance would be an unrealistic expectation. The goal is to connect as many users to your content as reasonably possible and to give them the best experience you can.

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Real-Time Marketing Meets Local Listening

Stephen Quinn, CMO at Walmart, recently discussed how real-time marketing is one of their top five initiatives in 2013. After spending some quality time with shopper marketing experts in Bentonville, AR, one of the bigger takeaways was their perspective on what real-time marketing is and its importance as a touch point in the path-to-purchase.

“Analytics is confined to the past. Any number of companies can crunch historical data and provide insight into past trends, but today we can listen to the active conversation happening in real-time across the blogosphere and respond to what is happening now. We call this active social listening and this has the ability to provide that ‘look into the crystal ball’ to help predict consumer needs and tomorrow’s trend.” ~ Jon LeMire, SVP Business Development – Collective Bias

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Superheroes in the Community

Over the past twelve years, we at meltmedia have dedicated our lives to becoming Interactive Superheroes. In 2012, we emphasized also being superheroes in our community. Phoenix is full of amazing and impactful non-profit organizations that are helping our community in ways we never could. So we decided to help out in the way we know best: creating meaningful web experiences.

From this idea, our Superheroes in the Community program was formed to donate website design and development to local non-profits that need it. How would we choose whom to work with? We decided to keep it simple by picking organizations whose missions we support and projects we could really impact.

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“Siri… find me a room.”

Have you recently booked a hotel room using your mobile phone? If not, chances are that you will soon, as business and leisure travelers alike are turning to mobile devices to locate accommodations and access on-property services. And the mobile experience doesn’t end at the front desk; on-property mobile services can enable everything from acting as your room key to booking a massage to skipping the checkout line.

Mobile Travel

Google reports that hotel mobile searches have increased by 3,000 percent from 2010 to 2011 and that now over 20% of all searches are conducted via mobile devices. And hoteliers are predicting over 6.5% of all bookings ($8 Billion) made in the US will be made via the mobile web in 2013.

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The Evolution of Growth

Inc500

I want to say congratulations to an incredible group of people that I get the pleasure of working with every day: the employees of meltmedia. For four years in a row meltmedia has made the Inc. 5000 list for the fastest-growing private companies in America. This year we earned the position of #1564, surpassing last year’s growth. Making this list once is a big win for any company. Accomplishing this feat four times in a row is quite impressive, and is directly attributable to our employees and their commitment to the organization and to our clients.

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Using Agile/Scrum in a Digital Agency

Over the last year or so, our team embarked on moving from a typical Waterfall development approach to implementing a Scrum/Agile approach. While there are plenty of good blogs about making this transition from a development standpoint, I have not seen a lot of good information on what this change means from a business standpoint for an agency or professional services firm.

One of our biggest challenges is aligning the benefits of Agile to the way sales are accomplished in the organization. Our most effective sales approach has always been to have a fixed budget, fairly defined scope, and to provide timeline windows (X months, etc.).

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Why Have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be long, tedious, and exhaustive. They can leave a reader crossed-eyed and a writer with full-blown Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But, they might be some of the most important documents in a post-launch plan – and it’s possible you never use them.

So What Is an SLA Anyway?

An SLA is a document in which you formally define the services to be provided by the vendor in support of a client’s project, specifically post-launch. The list of services can range from performance expectations to issue/support triage. Well-defined SLAs should leave few questions for the vendors or client when a problem arises.

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Managing the Impact of Change Requests in an Agile Project

Software development organizations are trying to realize the benefits of moving to more Agile methodology, often with limited success. When product owners are asked what is most difficult about the transition from traditional to Agile development, the overwhelming response is focused on managing the impacts of change … on the team, on the client, and the project.

Meltmedia has also decided to take that leap into Agile and similar challenges. But, by working closely with our teams and our clients, we have identified some fundamental practices to mitigate change impact.

Step 1: Reduce the impact of change requests on your team.

The introduction of Agile has allowed development teams to more quickly produce high quality, functioning software for their clients. During short iterations (sprints), teams deliver production-ready units of work, receive client feedback, and make requested adjustments. This allows for faster course corrections when original requirements weren’t well understood or when business circumstances change. In fact, “regular adaptation to change” is one of the fundamental principles that form the foundation of Agile.

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