May 28, 2004

May 22, 2004

  • Making Einstein Simple

    Jessie Scanlon has a great essay in the NYT on simplicity in design (“A Design Epiphany: Keep It Simple”) that includes this line that intrigued me:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying. His actual wording was a tad more convoluted, but in any case, few in Silicon Valley heeded his advice.

    A bit of Googling showed that indeed a lot of people like this quote and attribute it to Einstein. A bit more digging found more details on the attribution in a lengthy discussion of Occam’s Razor:

    The pithiness of this quote disguises the fact that no one knows whether Einstein said it or not (this version comes from the Reader’s Digest, 1977). It may well be a precis of the last few pages of his ‘The Meaning of Relativity’ (5th edition), where he wrote about his unified field theory, saying ‘In my opinion the theory here is the logically simplest relativistic field theory that is at all possible. But this does not mean that nature might not obey a more complex theory. More complex theories have frequently been proposed. . . In my view, such more complicated systems and their combinations should be considered only if there exist physical-empirical reasons to do so.’

    Funny that someone (probably Reader’s Digest) had to simplify the concept of not simplifying too much.

May 7, 2004

May 5, 2004

  • What Are You Working On?

    While speaking to clients over the last few months it seems the following five things are on lots of To Do lists:

    1. Site Re-design — I can’t believe how many people are working on making their sites more useful. People seem to be waking up after a few years of sleeping through no budgets and no appetite for new projects and realizing that sites they built in 1999 just doesn’t cut it any more. This is good for me because that’s what I help them with! Are you or your clients working on site upgrades? If so, why?

    2. Search Engine Visibility — “Getting Found” online is probably the next thing I find people talking about. Most companies seem to be pretty reluctant to hire SEO firms fearing that the hired gun will do something unsavoury and muck up their results. That’s one reason why I talk about Search Visibility instead of “optimization”, “placement” or “ranking” which seem to imply deception. Do you agree that Search Visibility is to Search Engines as PR is to Media?

    3. Search Engine Marketing Tests — Paid search ads are of course the big news in online advertising. Lots of companies seem to be experimenting with this right now. I’m concerned though that the experiments aren’t being thought through well enough and some companies will determine that SEM isn’t right for them because of poor execution and poor understanding of the goals of these tests. How should people get their feet wet with SEM?

    4. Saving E-mail Programs — I still love e-mail marketing but it seems that many companies are questioning their strategies. Between delivery problems diverting up to 20% of messages, list attrition, and slow list growth, only those with a solid handle on WHY they are sending messages seem to be happy. Is your e-mail marketing strategy in danger or are you looking to do more by e-mail this year?

    5. Understanding The Role of Conversation — More companies seem to be interested in blogs and feeds as business tools as they see the need to talk to their customers like humans. I’m finding the Internet is becoming increasingly conversational and that companies that are not communicating well online are really ticking me off. Are you thinking about using blogs and feeds for your business? What goals will they support? If not, why not?

    Finally, if these aren’t the things on YOUR list, what are you working on?

May 4, 2004

May 2, 2004

  • Our BULLMARKET Entry

    In case you don’t want to download the book and go to page 292 just to see what it says about us, here’s the description of Schafer Group Inc:

    “User experience is the number one issue for most web sites. But who has time to read every book, blog, and article on creating great sites? You probably don’t, but we do!

    We help companies gain the knowledge they need to significantly increase the impact their web sites have on the bottom line. Unlike usability experts and other Internet consultants, we collect current best practices from hundreds of sources. We then present them in plain English so busy business people like you can quickly adopt best practices on their sites.

    The Schafer Group constantly scours books and the web for new ideas, best practice corroboration, and examples of effective design in action. That means you can relax knowing that all the best thinking on building better sites is only a click away.”

  • Schafer Group Featured In Seth Godin’s BULLMARKET

    Seth Godin has just released his latest eBook called “BULLMARKET 2004: Companies That Can Help You Make Things Happen”.

    The book is a compendium of several hundred “Bulls” — companies that can help you make Purple Cows. I’m happy to report that Schafer Group is featured this year (yes, that’s us right there on page 292).

    Here’s a bit of an overview from Seth’s introduction:

    “But sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we’ve been working on something for so long we fail to see the potential for greatness. It’s easy to get worn down, to get fatigued after seeing yet another great project torn down. Over time, most organizations get boring. They forget how hard it was to get to where they got, and they become obsessed with eliminating risk.

    That’s where Bull Market comes in.

    Bull Market is filled with people who will shake things up. People who will help you see possibilities where none existed. Organizations that can turn your product and your service upside down.

    It’s probably never occurred to you that you could build a giant steel facsimile of your product and put it in your parking lot, or launch a cellular phone version of it or plan a special event around it. That’s my point. If you want to grow, you need to be remarkable. You must create a Purple Cow and have people talk about you. Alas, we’ve been worn down and it’s easy to just give up and be boring.

    That’s why my new mantra is simple: Make Something Happen. The only person who can actually do that is you, not a hired gun. But what the folks in this vast volume can do is open your eyes, clean the glass and make it clear that there are things worth doing. The best part is how cheap they are!

    You’ve spent a fortune on infrastructure. You have factories and employees and lawyers and brands. Now, for just a few shekels more, you can turn that into something remarkable. Something worth talking about. Something worth doing.”

    As a bonus the eBook also includes summaries of his two most recent books, Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside.

    (Download BULLMARKET 2004)