GMT NewYork London Moscow Tokyo Sydney

Jun

3

2016

7 Tech Predictions That Totally Missed the Mark

missed-the-mark.jpg

How far will technology advance in the next 20 years? That’s kind of a difficult question to wrap your head around, isn’t it?

Of course, that hasn’t prevented people from offering up their own (sometimes bombastic) claims for what the future will hold.

From forecasting the demise of certain companies and technologies, to predicting the mass adoption of particular products, tech fortune-tellers have long been waxing philosophical about what’s to come. 

But in many cases, these predictions have proven to be categorically, unequivocally, wrong.

Here are some of our favorite examples of tech predictions that completely missed the mark.

7 Tech Predictions That Totally Missed the Mark

1) “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” – Robert Metcalfe (1995)

robert-metcalfe.jpg

Image Credit: Ohio University

This is one of the most well-known failed tech predictions. And the person who made the prediction, Robert Metcalfe (who co-invented Ethernet, FYI), even acknowledged how off the mark he was a few years after making the prediction. During a keynote speech at the International World Wide Web Conference, Metcalfe put a print version of his InfoWorld column that featured the infamous prediction in a food processor and — quite literally — ate his words.

2) “Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet — which there isn’t — the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.” – Clifford Stoll (1995)

clifford-stoll_0.jpg

Image Credit: Newsweek

It turns out that Metcalfe wasn’t the only seemingly intelligent person to predict the demise of the internet back in 1995. In an article for Newsweek, astronomer Clifford Stoll explained why the internet wouldn’t be as transformative as many had been claiming. Specifically, Stoll called out the idea of “cyberbusiness” (read: ecommerce) as being totally impractical. As Stoll wrote:

We’re promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations, and negotiate sales contracts.

Flash forward to today and … yep, we can do all that. What’s more, in Q1 of 2016 alone, total ecommerce sales in the U.S. were around $92.8 billion. Needless to say, we’ve solved the whole “sending money over the internet” thing.

3) “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders.” – Michael Dell (1997)

dell_39838.jpg

Image Credit: Inc.

This one isn’t really phrased like a prediction, but it definitely hints at Dell CEO Michael Dell’s vision of the future. The quote above was given in response to a question about what Dell would do with Apple if he were in Steve Jobs’ shoes. (Jobs had just rejoined Apple at the time.)

Of course, when we look back now — knowing that Apple is currently the most valuable brand on the planet — Dell’s plan for Apple’s future seems incredibly foolish. But to be fair, lots of folks were discounting Apple at the time. Case in point, this quote from a 1996 Fortune article: “Apple’s erratic performance has given it the reputation on Wall Street of a stock a long-term investor would probably avoid.”

4) “Two years from now, spam will be solved.” – Bill Gates (2004)

bill-gates-made-some-bold-predictions-for-the-internet-20-years-ago--heres-what-he-got-right.jpg

Image Credit: Tech Insider

I mean, come on. This one was just wishful thinking. At the 2004 World Economic Forum, Bill Gates made the bold claim that spam email would be gone in two years.

Bad news, Bill. It didn’t happen. A report published in 2014 — 10 years after Gates’ prediction — showed that, on average, 54 billion spam emails are sent everyday.

5) “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, ‘Probably never.'” – David Pogue (2006)

video-pogue-iphone-articleLarge.jpg

Image Credit: The New York Times

In 2006, the above quote from tech journalist David Pogue appeared in The New York Times. In 2007, Apple released the first generation of its iPhone. Sooo yeah, a definite swing and a miss.

But even after the iPhone was released, tech soothsayers still weren’t sure it’d be a success …

6) “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” – Steve Ballmer (2007)

cut_ballmer_2560756b.jpg

Image Credit: The Telegraph

Back in 2007, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thought the iPhone would be too expensive to earn widespread adoption. In an interview with USA Today, Ballmer even put a number on it. He argued the iPhone might end up with “2% or 3%” of the market share, but no more.

Ballmer was wrong. Apple ended 2015 claiming around 16% of the global smartphone market. And when we look at just the U.S., that market share figure jumps to 40%.

7) “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken Olsen (1977)

ken-olsen

Image Credit: Boston.com

From the 1960s through their acquisition by Compaq in the 1990s, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was a major player in the American computer industry. But for founder and former president and chairman of DEC, Ken Olsen, the computer didn’t seem like it would ever become a household consumer good (at least not in 1977, when Olsen made the comment above).

Today, more than 84% of U.S. households have computers.

Know of any other famously inaccurate tech predictions? Share them in the comments section below.

learn about the future of marketing

May

30

2016

How to Get Featured on the First Page of SlideShare [SlideShare]

slideshare-victory.jpg

Very meta, we know. 

When it comes to SlideShare marketing, there’s no better feeling than seeing your prized presentation featured on the SlideShare homepage.

In addition to giving a boost to your self-esteem, landing a presentation on the first page of SlideShare will give your performance metrics a boost.

With 70 million people checking out the SlideShare website monthly, it’s no surprise that nabbing one of those coveted “featured” spots has the potential to send your presentation’s views, likes, and shares into overdrive.

Of course, talking about earning a place on the SlideShare homepage is one thing. Actually doing it? Not so easy. As is the case with many marketing channels, there’s no magic formula that can guarantee success. That being said, the team at Venngage recently reached out to some SlideShare pros to gather their tips for reaching the SlideShare homepage. Check out their advice in the presentation below.

Know any other tips for landing your presentation on the SlideShare homepage? Leave a comment below.

free guide to SlideShare marketing

May

26

2016

How to Stay Focused in the Age of Distractions [Infographic]

office-distractions.jpg

While most of those “survivalist” reality TV shows — like Survivor and Naked and Afraid — send contestants to exotic, tropical locations, the producers of those shows are really missing out on an exceptionally chaotic destination: the office.

True, in the office you don’t have to worry about building a shelter (that’s usually provided) or getting swallowed whole by an anaconda, but there are other dangers office workers have to face. And one of the most intimidating? The dreaded distraction.

Tweets. Facebook messages. Texts. Snapchats. That annoying coworker who is always bugging you with their personal problems (for the last time, Tyler, I don’t care that your cat has eczema). Office distractions are everywhere. But in addition to being annoying, they can wreak havoc on our productivity. Fortunately, the team at On Stride Financial created the infographic below, which offers several tips and tricks for dealing with distractions. 



How-to-focus-at-work-in-the-age-of-distractions-DV2.jpg

Know any other tips for avoiding distractions and staying focused? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips

May

19

2016

7 Helpful Resources Every Email Marketer Should Bookmark

Websites_for_Email_Marketers.jpg

Email has seemingly been on the brink of extinction for about a decade now. Over the past few years alone, email has been called “dead,” “not dead, evolving,” and even “dead, again.” But as you can likely tell by the steady stream of messages still flowing into your inbox every day, not to mention the ones you write and send yourself, email continues to keep on keeping on.

With the state of email marketing constantly in flux these days, and with a nearly endless supply of tips and tricks floating around, separating the valuable resources from the noise can be a real challenge.

To help you make sense of all the email marketing information out there, we’ve put together this list of websites that you should bookmark. While some of the sites are geared toward providing email marketing stats and best practices, others offer helpful tools for making your job (and life) easier.

7 Websites Every Email Marketer Should Bookmark

1) HTML Email Gallery

Here’s another great resource for finding email inspiration. But in contrast to the Really Good Emails website, which showcases emails of all kinds, the HTML Email Gallery exclusively showcases examples of design-heavy, HTML emails. It’s a great site to bookmark if you’re looking to take the design of your emails up a notch.

html-email-gallery-1.png

2) Touchstone Subject Line Analyzer

Touchstone Subject Line Analyzer tool will show you projected open rates, click rates, and other helpful stats based on Touchstone’s database. It’s like taking your subject line for a test drive before making the decision to use it.

The tool also lets you upload your own email data, so you can see how your actual subscribers are responding to your subject lines. While using Touchstone’s full database for analyzing subject lines is great for identifying trends, using your own data can give you insight into what’s working (and what’s not working) with your specific audience.

touchstone-subject-line-generator.png

3) IsValid

After running an email experiment (e.g., testing which subject line receives more opens) and collecting all the data, there’s one question that email marketers are often left with: “Are my findings statistically significant?”

With the free IsValid web tool, you don’t need to be a statistician in order to answer that question. Just enter the sample size and conversions/metrics from your original data set, then do the same for your experimental data set, and voilà: IsValid will automatically analyze the results and show you the degree of statistical significance. No math required.

isvalid-statistical-significance.png

4) The HubSpot Marketing Blog’s Email Marketing Topic Page

This post you’re reading right now … we’ve got a ton more like it. In fact, we have a whole subset of our blog dedicated to email marketing content. 

Email_Marketing_Topic.png

5) The Best of Email‘s Inspiration Gallery

As its name implies, The Best of Email is a website dedicated to highlighting top-notch emails that you can use as inspiration for your own email marketing campaigns. From examples of ‘welcome’ emails to killer email newsletter designs, The Best of Email has something for everyone. 

The_Best_of_Email.png

6) SendForensics Email Deliverability Test

Want to make sure your emails will reach their intended destinations? SendForensics has got you covered with their free Email Deliverability Test.

After you sign up for an account, SendForensics will provide you with an email address that you can add to your contacts list and use for testing. When you send an email to that address, the Email Deliverability Test will provide you with a deliverability percentage (see screenshot below for example).

sendforensics-deliverability.png

7) HubSpot Research

One more shameless plug: Our research site — HubSpot Research — offers a ton of data across all facets of marketing. But if you go to the site’s chart-building tool, and filter the data by the “Email” category, you’ll be able to get your hands on our latest email marketing insights.

From exploring email open rates by company size, to checking out clickthrough rates by annual revenue, there’s a lot of great email marketing data available. And best of all, we’re always updating HubSpot Research with fresh findings.

hubspot-research-email.png

Know of any other great websites that email marketers should bookmark? Share them in the comments section below.

free email planning and tracking template

May

18

2016

6 Workplace Rules That Drive People Crazy [Infographic]

annoying-workplace-rules.jpg

Depending on the size, management style, and overall culture of the company you work at, you may have to deal with some workplace rules that can leave you feeling a bit frazzled.

Of course, codifying rules is often necessary for helping to keep everyone focused on the same goals — especially as a company grows larger. That being said, rules don’t always have a positive effect on the workplace. From restricting access to certain websites, to forbidding employees from wearing attire that’s (arguably) outlandish, companies can sometimes go a bit overboard when writing their rule books.

The team at CashNetUSA recently created an infographic that highlights six of the most annoying workplace rules that employees have to deal with. What’s more, the infographic provides tips and best practices for coping with these rules so that they don’t interfere with your happiness or productivity.


6-workplace-rules-that-drive-everyone-crazy.png

What are your thoughts on the workplace rules shown in the infographic above? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips

May

16

2016

9 of the Best Photoshop Filters & Plugins You Can Use for Free

free-photoshop-filters.jpg

There’s no denying that Adobe Photoshop is a powerful photo editing tool, with loads of built-in features and effects. In fact, if you’re a marketer with little (or zero) photography or graphic design experience, Photoshop can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming.

Oppositely, however, if you’ve spent years learning the ins and outs of Photoshop, you might now be arriving at a point where you feel like you’ve exhausted all of Photoshop’s built-in benefits.

Regardless of your experience level, there are free Photoshop filters and plugins that can help. As a beginner, these free add-ons can help simplify complex editing processes. As an expert, they can help expand your available Photoshop tool set even further, and help lead you in new artistic directions.

9 Free Photoshop Filters and Plugins

Free Filters

Note: The filters below are technically Photoshop “actions” (.ATN files). An action is a pre-recorded series of steps that allows you to apply effects — in this case, filters — automatically.

1) Dramatic Sepia (via Efeito Photoshop)

Sure, you can easily create that classic, reddish-brown sepia effect in Photoshop manually by selecting Image > Adjustments > Photo Filters, and then choosing “Sepia” from the dropdown menu. But if you’re looking for a sepia filter that’s a bit more — well, dramatic — the free Dramatic Sepia action from Efeito Photoshop is a popular option.

Photoshop_Action_Sepia.jpg

Image Credit: Romenigps

2) Old Photo (via DeviantArt)

If sepia is a bit too much for your taste, but you’re still trying to create a nostalgic, old-timey feel, the Old Photo action has got you covered. The action will adjust the color and contrast of your image, transporting it back in time (visually-speaking).

old_photo_action_by_sakiryildirim-dhygeg.jpg

Image Credit: sakiryildirim

3) Dream Blur (via DeviantArt)

As its name suggests, the Dream Blur action adds a filter to your image that creates a subtle, dream-like atmosphere. Specifically, the action produces a dark, blurry vignette at the edges of your image while also upping the saturation levels.

photoshop_dream_blur_action_by_jaj43123.jpg

Image Credit: JoshJanusch

4) Vintage (via DeviantArt)

Unlike the Old Photo action from earlier on this list, the Vintage action does more than just visually transport your image back in time — it also adds a distinctive neon effect (perfect for giving your next project a groovy feel).

vintage_action.png

Image Credit: beckasweird

5) Lithprint (via DeviantArt)

The Lithprint action imitates the vintage look produced by the black-and-white lith printing process. But compared to the other vintage filters on this list, Lithprint is much more drastic. In addition to adjusting contrast, highlights, and shadows in your image, it adds a gritty texture.

lithprint_hard_boiled_by_rawimage-dlstxi.jpg

Image Credit: rawimage

Free Plugins

6) virtualPhotographer

If you’re struggling to produce particular effects in Photoshop (e.g., black and white, high contrast, polarization, etc.), virtualPhotographer by OptikVerve Labs could be the plugin you’ve been looking for. VirtualPhotographer’s primary claim to fame? It allows you to add complicated effects to images with a single click.

vP_Bridge.jpg

Image Credit: optikVerve Labs 

7) ON1 Effects

Like the virtualPhotographer plugin, ON1 Effects is a free Photoshop plugin that makes it easier for you to add complex effects to your images. What sets ON1 Effects apart is that it boasts a library of filters — including vignette, adjustable contrast, and HDR look — that you can stack on top of each other, allowing you to easily build layers of different effects.

on1effects.jpg

Image Credit: ON1

8) Flaticon

Wish you could sort through thousands of free icons and add them to your projects without having to leave the comfort of Photoshop? Then Flaticon by Freepik is definitely worth a look. The free plugin’s icons are available in .SVG, .PSD, and .PNG formats.

flaticon-1.png

 

Image Credit: Flaticon

9) Tych Panel

The free Tych Panel plugin makes it easy for you to create double panel (diptych), triple panel (triptych), and quadruple+ panel (ntych) projects in Photoshop. Just select the number of rows and panels you want, as well as the alignment style, and Tych Panel will format everything for you automatically.

tychpanel-bigtych.jpg

Image Credit: Lumens

Know of any other great free Photoshop filters and plugins? Share them in the comments section below.

download 195+ free design templates

May

13

2016

A Visual Guide to the Science of Twitter Success [Infographic]

science-of-twitter.jpg

After years of trying to understand the ins and outs of using Twitter for business — from hashtag best practices to running paid campaigns — many marketers have been left wondering … “Does any of this Twitter stuff actually work? Where are the numbers? Where’s the science?!”

At long last, we’ve been able to uncover the answers to these questions. And with the help of our friends at Audiense (formerly SocialBro), we’ve created an infographic that showcases the science behind achieving Twitter success.

In the infographic below, you’ll find a host of stats that can help you to better understand where you should be allocating your Twitter resources and what tactics you could be using to expand your reach. Let’s dive in …


Twitter_Success_Infographic.jpg

Share this Image On Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to hubspot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/science-of-twitter-success’><img src=’http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/Twitter_Success_Infographic.jpg’ alt=’The Science of Twitter Success [Infographic]’ width=’669px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

Know of any other Twitter statistics that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

free guide: science of twitter success

May

9

2016

7 Useful Reporting Hacks to Try in Google Sheets

google-sheets-hacks.jpg

While it might not be as powerful as the industry standard, Microsoft Excel, Google’s online spreadsheet tool, Google Sheets, provides several other advantages. From offering more collaboration capabilities, to having a more attractive price point (re: free), it’s no wonder that more and more marketers are turning to Google Sheets for their reporting.

Whether you’re just getting started with Google Sheets, or you’ve already played around with it a bit, there are several “hacks” you can use to make the reporting process easier. Let’s walk through them.

(Want to uncover some useful Google Doc tricks while you’re at it? Check out this post for 15 Google Doc features you probably didn’t know existed.)

7 Google Sheets Hacks to Make Reporting Much Easier

1) Use keyboard shortcuts.

Want to undo that change you just made in your report? There’s a shortcut for that (Command + Z on a Mac / Control + Z on a PC). Want to quickly find a particular word or figure in your report? There’s a shortcut for that, too (Command + F on a Mac / Control + F on a PC). And the list goes on, and on, and on.

The most important shortcut to remember for Google Sheets, however, is Command + / on a Mac, or Control + / on a PC. That’s the shortcut for pulling up the master list of Google Sheets keyboard shortcuts. In the screenshot below, you can see some of the most popular shortcuts on the list.

google-sheets-shortcuts.png

2) Create a heat map with conditional formatting.

Setting up a heat map in Google Sheets is a great way to make trends and important data points easily identifiable. At its most basic, a heat map can show the highest values in your report in one color, and show the lowest values in a different color. All the values in between, meanwhile, will appear as a mix of both colors.

Confused? Don’t worry, it will all make sense after we walk though the steps. Step 1: Select your data, navigate to the “Format” menu in the top nav, and choose “Conditional formatting.”

conditional-formatting-sheets.png

Next, you’ll want to select the “Color scale” tab from the menu that pops up. Once you do that, Google Sheets will automatically apply some default colors, and you’ll be able to see your heat map.

color-scale-sheets.png

At this point, you could simply hit that blue “Done” button and call it a day. Alternatively, you could spend some time fine-tuning your settings. For example, by clicking those paint bucket icons, you can customize your heat map colors (see example below).

color-scale-custom.png

3) Easily add an image to a cell.

If you need to add a logo, screenshot, or other image to a report in Google Sheets, the standard protocol is to navigate to “Insert” on the top nav, choose “Image,” and then upload an image from your computer. However, there is a much quicker solution available. Here’s how you do it:

First, select the cell you want to insert the image into and type “=image.”

insert-image-cell-sheets.png

Next, add an open parentheses, followed by an open quotation mark, and paste in the URL of the image you want to insert. You’ll then need to close the quotation marks and close the parentheses.

image-url-in-sheets.png

Hit enter, and voilà: your image will appear.

add-image-sheets.png

4) Add international currencies.

If your company does business internationally, being able to work with international currencies in your reports is essential. Fortunately, Google Sheets has got you covered.

To access Google Sheets’ massive A-to-Z list of currencies — from the Afghan Afghani to the Zimbabwean Dollar — you first need to click that “123” icon in the top nav.

123-icon-google-sheets-1.png

From there, head down to “More formats” and select “More currencies.”

more-currencies-sheets.png

You can now choose a currency from the list and click the blue “Apply” button to set it.

currency-menu-google-sheets.png

5) Set up email notifications.

Want to know when a coworker makes changes to your report? Or are you looking for a way to get daily progress updates from a report a coworker is working on? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, then this is the hack for you.

To set up email notifications in Google Sheets, first head to “Tools” in the top nav and select “Notification rules.”

notification-rules-google-sheets.png

Next, select what notification rules you want to put in place and click the blue “Save” button. 

set-notification-rules.png

(Note: Notifications can be triggered based on changes made to your spreadsheet as well as form submissions. To add a form to your spreadsheet, simply navigate up to “Tools,” then select “Create a form.”)

6) Validate Emails & URLs

Sorting through and making sense of hundreds (if not thousands) of email addresses and website URLs is no easy feat. And in some cases, this task can get even more complicated when, late in the game, you discover that some of those emails and URLs are invalid.

Once again, Google Sheets has got your back. Using the ISURL and ISEMAIL functions, you can quickly check whether email addresses and URLs are valid or not. For example, if you wanted to check if “hubspot.com” was a valid URL, you could select an empty cell, type in “=ISURL” and then put “hubspot.com” between parentheses like you see in the screenshot below. Even before you hit enter, Google Sheets will return a “TRUE” (valid) or “FALSE” (invalid) message.

is-url-true-google-sheets.png

You can follow the same instructions for the ISEMAIL function, just use an email address instead of a URL. Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:

is-email-true-google-sheets.png

For a full list of Google Sheets functions, check out this Google support webpage.

7) Unlock a ton of additional features with add-ons.

Did you know that you can sync Google Sheets with your Google Analytics account? Or that you can use Google Sheets to plot data onto a Google Map? These features — and many, many more — don’t come standard with Google Sheets. However, you can easily add them by heading up to “Add-ons” in the top nav and selecting “Get add-ons.”

add-ons-google-sheets.png

From there, you’ll be able to choose from tons of free features. You can use the dropdown at the top left to narrow down the category of add-on your looking for, or you can search for it directly using the search field at the top left. For example, if you wanted to find that maps add-on I mentioned (which is called “Mapping Sheets,” FYI) you could do a search for “maps.”

google-add-ons-menu.png

Know any other tips or tricks for making reporting easier in Google Sheets? Share them below.

free marketing reporting templates

May

6

2016

The Science of Speed Reading: How Well Does It Actually Work?

speed-reading.jpg

Imagine breezing through a lengthy business report in mere seconds, or tackling War and Peace in a single afternoon. For many of us, such feats sound like they belong squarely in the realm of science fiction. But to others, “speed reading” is quite real, and can be improved through practice and proper technique.

Take six-time world speed reading champion Anne Jones, for example, who read all 784 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in just 47 minutes. As New York Magazine reported, that works out to 4,200 words per minute — more than 10 times faster than the pace “good readers” read at. And to prove that she wasn’t simply rifling through pages with reckless abandon in order to make it seem as though she was speed reading, Jones was able to successfully summarize the major plot points of the book afterwards, suggesting that she actually retained information.

So, what’s going on here? Is Jones really able to read at word-per-minute rates far greater than what the typical, non-super human is capable of? Or is there some other, more scientific explanation behind what’s happening?

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand how speed reading (allegedly) works.

Speed Reading 101

Speed reading courses have been around since the 1950s, with educator Evelyn Wood introducing one of the more popular ones — Reading Dynamics — in 1959. As with many of the speed reading courses that would follow, Wood’s course focused on minimizing the number of back-and-forth eye movements a reader made while scanning a page.

The underlying theory was that you could improve reading speed through improving reading efficiency. In other words, if you could absorb more information with each glance (e.g., through only focusing on every other word, or through honing in on just the beginnings and ends of sentences or paragraphs), you could, in theory, drastically reduce the time it takes you to read something.

Modern speed reading apps, like Spritz, rely on the same basic principle. In fact, by flashing individual words in rapid succession, such apps don’t just reduce back-and-forth eye movements, they essentially eliminate them. This leads to a highly efficient style of reading. Check out the GIF below for a sample of what it’s like.

spritz-app.gif

Image Credit: thejournal.ie

But can this more efficient method of reading really help you read faster? Or does it merely make you think you’re reading faster, when in reality you’re not retaining as much information? (i.e., is “speed reading” really just another term for “skimming”?)

Based on the available research, it definitely appears that the latter is more likely than the former.

The Science of Speed Reading

For psychology professors Jeffrey M. Zacks and Rebecca Treiman, speed reading claims have always sounded too good to be true. And in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, they delivered their thoughts on the matter under the blunt headline “Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read.”

One of the biggest issues they identified, which also applies to reading apps like Spritz, is that people fail to understand the difference between perception (simply seeing words) and language processing.

Unlike perception, language processing involves stringing words together in order to derive a broader meaning from them. So while speed reading courses can indeed help you perceive more words in a given glance, that doesn’t guarantee that your brain will have enough time to actually process everything you’re seeing. That means when you’re speed reading, you’re not understanding the text as deeply compared to if you were reading normally — even if you see every single word.

In their op-ed, Zacks and Treiman used this analogy:

Have you ever tried listening to an audio recording with the speaking rate dialed way up? Doubling the speed, in our experience, leaves individual words perfectly identifiable — but makes it just about impossible to follow the meaning. The same phenomenon occurs with written text.”

Ultimately, the factor that most effects a person’s reading speed isn’t how efficient their eye movements are, it’s how extensive their vocabulary is. According to Zacks and Treiman, reading and understanding text more rapidly is all about improving language comprehension, not vision. So if you want to read faster, your best bet is to start reading more, so you can expose yourself to as many words and linguistic nuances as possible.

Have you ever tried “speed reading” before? What was your experience like? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

free guide to writing well

May

5

2016

33 Little Ways to Improve Your Nonverbal Communication Skills [Infographic]

nonverbal-communication.jpg

As famed dancer and choreographer Martha Graham one said, “The body never lies.” And it turns out that this is as true in an office or boardroom as it is on a stage or dance floor.

Whether you realize it or not, your posture, your mannerisms, even how close you stand to someone can communicate something to the people around you. And yet, many of us don’t give a second thought to what our bodies are doing when we communicate — we’re too focused on what we’re saying.

But as an observer, you’ve likely noticed that when someone is saying one thing, but their body language seems to be saying another (e.g., when your boss says “that’s a great idea!” while sporting a frown and a furrowed brow) there’s often a breakdown in communication. To help you avoid such communication breakdowns, the team at Ethos3 put together the infographic below. Check out their 33 tips for mastering nonverbal communication.

33-nonverbal-communication-tips.jpg

Have any more tips for mastering nonverbal communication? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips  

May

3

2016

A Visual History of Internet Firsts [Infographic]

internet-firsts.jpg

Back in 1995, less than 1% of the world’s population used the internet. During that same year, Newsweek published a now-infamous article (originally titled, “The Internet? Bah!”), which surmised that the internet would amount to little more than a fad.

Flash forward to today. Around 40% of the world’s population is connected to the internet, representing over 3 billion people. (And yes, that number is continuing to grow as you read this.) Over the past few decades, the internet has evolved from an intriguing experiment to — as Bill Gates once put it — “the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

To help highlight all of the developments that have shaped the internet over the years, the team at SSLs.com created the infographic below. From the first email, to the first tweet, you can learn about all of the internet’s many “firsts.”


internet-firsts-infographic.png

Know of any other “internet firsts” that aren’t featured in the infographic? Share them in the comments section below.

download the essential guide to internet marketing

Apr

30

2016

You Can Now Set Goals in Google Calendar: Here’s How to Set It Up

stick-to-your-goals-with-google-calendar.jpg

While setting and working towards personal goals is often hailed as a way to stay motivated and productive, the science behind goal-setting paints a different picture.

For starters, a study from the University of Liverpool revealed a connection between depression and setting generalized, abstract goals. It turns out that when we don’t have precise criteria for what it means to achieve a goal, it’s difficult to ever feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s like kicking a soccer ball toward a goal line, but the goal line keeps moving further and further backwards.

Couple that with the fact that, as psychologist Robert Cialdini explained in his best-selling book Influence, sticking to any goal you set is incredibly difficult — unless you take the time to write your goals down and/or share them publicly.

Fortunately for all of us who have been struggling with defining and sticking to our goals, Google has released a new feature for Google Calendar that can help. It’s called “Goals,” and it could be the solution to the goal setting problems I outlined above.

What are “Goals” in Google Calendar?

Google announced the addition of the “Goals” feature to its Google Calendar application on April 12, 2016. The feature lets you set clearly defined goals (e.g., “practice speaking French three times per week”) and then Google Calendar automatically schedules those goals based on when you have open slots in your calendar.

When you’re setting a goal, you also have control over how much time you want to dedicate to each session. Just like with a meeting, you can have a goal session last 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or however long you want. You can also specify what time of day — morning, afternoon, or evening — you’d prefer to work on your goals.

What happens if a new meeting pops up on your calendar in the spot where a goal session has been scheduled? No, you don’t get to use that meeting as an excuse (any more) for skipping out on your goals. Instead, Google Calendar automatically reschedules that goal session for you.

Goals_reschedule_FINAL.gif

(Source: Google)

The same thing happens if you decide to defer a session. Instead of disappearing from your calendar, that session gets automatically rescheduled. And as you keep using the Goals feature, Google Calendar gets better at understanding your scheduling preferences, so it can provide more personalized scheduling.

One caveat here: You can only create goals using the Google Calendar application on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. That being said, you can still view, edit, and — if needed — defer goal sessions using Google Calendar on a desktop or laptop.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what Google Calendar’s “Goals” feature is all about, let’s go through the steps of actually creating a goal.

How To Set a Goal in Google Calendar

1) Open the Google Calendar app and tap the red “create” icon.

create-goal.jpg

2) Tap the blue Goal (flag) icon.

goal-button-flag-icon.jpg

 3) Choose the type of goal you want to set.

choose-a-goal-455214-edited.jpg

4) Get more specific.

pick-a-skill.jpg

5) Get even more specific.

pick-a-language.jpg

6) Choose how often you want your goal to appear on your calendar.

choose-how-often.jpg

7) Choose how long you want each goal session to last.

choose-how-long.jpg

8) Choose the ideal time of day for when goal sessions should be scheduled.

choose-best-time.jpg

9) You’re done! Here’s what the confirmation screen looks like:

learn-french.jpg

Once your goal is set and you’ve landed on the confirmation screen (see above), you can fine-tune your goal settings by tapping that “More Options” link. From there you’ll be able to edit notifications, colors, and more.

edit-goal.jpg

When you’re finished, goal sessions will start appearing on your calendar and you’ll be off to the races (or off to French lessons, depending on your goal).

Have any tips or tricks for getting the most out of Google Calendar’s Goals feature? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

free productivity tips

Apr

29

2016

7 Great Examples of ‘Welcome’ Emails To Inspire Your Own Strategy

Welcome_Email_Examples.jpg

We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good first impression. Show up late for a job interview? That’s a bad first impression. Eat a ton of garlic and forget to brush your teeth right before a first date? Also a bad first impression. Go to meet your significant others’ parents for the first time dressed in Crocs and sweatpants? That might also result in a bad first impression (depending on prevailing fashion sensibilities).

It turns out that the “make a good first impression” principle holds true not only in face-to-face encounters, but in email interactions as well.

When you send off a welcome email to a new blog or newsletter subscriber, or to a new customer, you’re making a first impression on behalf of your brand.

To help ensure you’re making the best first impression possible, we’ve rounded up some examples of standout welcome emails from brands big and small. As you’ll soon discover, each example showcases different tactics and strategies for engaging new email subscribers. Let’s dive in …

7 Examples of Standout Welcome Emails

1) Kate Spade

kate-spade-welcome-email.png

Let’s face it: We, the internet-using public, are constantly bombarded with prompts to sign up for and subscribe to all sorts of email communications. So as a brand, when someone takes the time to sift through all the chaos in order to intentionally sign up for your email communications, it’s a big deal.

In order to acknowledge how grateful they are to the folks who actually take the time to subscribe, Kate Spade uses a simple — but effective — tactic with their welcome emails: They say “Thank You” in big, bold lettering. And by placing that “Thank You” on an envelope, Kate Spade recreates the feeling of receiving an actual thank-you letter in the mail. (The 15% off discount code doesn’t hurt either.)

2) Virgin America

virgin-america-welcome-email.png

A welcome email is the perfect medium for introducing folks to the characteristics (and eccentricities) that make your brand unique.

For Virgin America, that means putting the “sign of the horns” hand gesture, which loosely translates to “Rock and roll!”, front and center. The playful accompanying copy, “Welcome aboard,” and casual call-to-action, “Grab a seat,” also help to position Virgin America as a hip, fun-loving brand right off the bat.

3) Michaels

michaels-welcome-email.png

The Michaels approach to the welcome email borrows elements from both Kate Spade and Virgin America. In addition to expressing gratitude to the folks who took the time to sign up, Michaels uses their welcome email to showcase their brand. And they do a great job: the lengthy email feels like one big arts and crafts project, complete with paint, yarn, and chalkboards.

Another standout feature of this welcome email is that Michaels makes it immediately clear what value their future email communications are going to provide. After thanking subscribers, there’s this nice bit of copy that sums it up: “We’re going to send fun stuff like DIY tips and tricks, invites to in-store events, and exclusive deals and coupons.”

4) InVision

invision-welcome-email.png

When you sign up for InVision’s free prototyping app, their welcome email makes it very clear what your next step should be: using the app.

To facilitate this action, InVision’s welcome email doesn’t simply list out what you need to do in order to get started. Instead, it shows you what you need to do with a series of quick videos. Given the visual, interactive nature of the product, this makes a lot of sense.

5) Food52

food-52-welcome-email.png

Sometimes the tiniest of elements in a welcome email can speak volumes about a brand. And when it comes to Food52’s welcome email, their preview text at the top of the email, “We brought snacks,” definitely accomplishes this.

Also known as a preheader or snippet text, preview text is the copy that gets pulled in from the body of an email and displayed next to (or beneath) the subject line in someone’s inbox. So when you see Food52’s welcome email in your inbox, you get a taste of their brand’s personality before you even open it.

preview_text-3.png

Food52’s welcome email also does a good job of building trust by putting a face (make that two faces) to their name. As soon as you open the email, you see a photograph of — and welcome message from — the company’s founders.

6) IKEA

ikea-welcome-email.png

It might not be the most beautifully designed email on this list, but that doesn’t mean IKEA’s welcome email isn’t effective.

Instead of going for the hard sell (e.g., “By stuff now!”), or explaining what it is they do (which is something IKEA probably assumes most people already know), IKEA uses its welcome email to turn folks onto its other, lesser-known programs and content channels. For example, there’s a call-to-action right at the top that explains the value of its member benefits program. There are also prompts to visit their design blog and to contribute to their collaborative “Share Space” site.

Of course, if you’re not interested in any of that stuff, IKEA’s welcome email also makes it easy for you to simply log in and start shopping (there’s a login field right up top).

7) Drift

drift-welcome-email-1.png

No fancy design work. No videos. No photos. The welcome email Drift sends out after signing up for their newsletter is a lesson in minimalism.

The email opens with a bit of candid commentary on the state of email. “Most people have really long welcome email sequences after you get on their email list,” Dave from Drift writes, before continuing: “Good news: we aren’t most people.” What follows is simply a bulleted list of the company’s most popular blog posts. And the only mention of the product comes in a brief post-script at the very end.

If you’re trying to craft a welcome email that’s non-interruptive, and that’s laser-focused on adding value vs. fluff, this is a great example to follow.

Know of any other standout examples of welcome emails? Share them in the comments section below!

free email marketing tracking template

Apr

28

2016

8 Guidelines for Exceptional Web Design, Usability, and User Experience

web-design-ux-guidelines.jpg

When it comes to designing or re-designing a website, it can be easy to get hung up on the aesthetics. “That shade of blue just doesn’t look right …. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the logo on the right side of the screen? …. How about we put a giant animated GIF in the middle of the page?”

However, if you’re truly trying to accomplish something with your website (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, etc.), you’ll need to focus on more than just how your website looks.

In a world where folks have more than a billion websites they can potentially land on, you need to make sure your website’s design is optimized for usability (how easy your website is to use) and user experience (how enjoyable interacting with your website is for actual users).

Download our free guide to web design here for more tips on designing a user-friendly website.

Now, you could spend years studying the ins and outs of usability and UX, but for the sake of giving you a jumping off point, we’ve put together the following list of helpful guidelines to apply to your next web design project.

8 Website Design Guidelines for an Exceptional User Experience

1) Simplicity

While the look and feel of your website is important, most visitors aren’t coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. Instead, they’re coming to your site to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.

Adding unnecessary design elements (i.e., elements that serve no functional purpose) to your website will only make it harder for visitors to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish.

From a usability and UX perspective, simplicity is your friend. And you can employ simplicity in a variety of different ways. Here are some examples:

Here’s a great example of a simple homepage design from Rockaway Relief:

rockaway-relief-homepage-simple-design.png

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

– See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/08/principles-over-standards.php#sthash.GdOvzpl1.dpuf

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

– See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/08/principles-over-standards.php#sthash.GdOvzpl1.dpuf

2) Visual Hierarchy

Closely tied to the principle of simplicity, visual hierarchy entails arranging and organizing website elements so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first.

Remember, when it comes to optimizing for usability and UX, the goal is to lead visitors to complete a desired action, but in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By adjusting the position, color, or size of certain elements, you can structure your site in such a way that visitors will be drawn to those elements first. 

In the example below from Spotify, you can see that the “Get Spotify Free” call-to-action sits atop the visual hierarchy. For starters, it’s positioned on the left of the page (most visitors scan websites from left to right). What’s more, it’s the only element above the fold that uses that dark purple color, which naturally draws your attention.

spotify-visual-hierarchy.png

3) Navigability

Having intuitive navigation on your site is crucial for ensuring visitors can find what they’re looking for. Ideally, a visitor should be able to arrive on your site and not have to think extensively about where they should click next — moving from point A to point B should be as pain-free as possible.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your site’s navigation:

  • Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
  • Include navigation in the footer of your site.
  • Use breadcrumbs on every page (except for the homepage) so people are aware of their navigation trail.
  • Include a search box near the top of your site so visitors can search by keywords.
  • Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
  • Don’t dig too deep. In most cases, it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep. (Check out this article for more clarity around flat vs. deep navs.)
  • Include links within your page copy, and make it clear where those links lead to.

Another pointer: Once you’ve settled on what your site’s main (top) navigation will be, keep it consistent. The labels and location of your navigation should remain the same on each and every page of your site. Here’s an example from the InVision website:

InVision_Nav.png

InVision_Nav_Main.png

And this leads us to our next principle …

4) Consistency

In addition to keeping your site’s navigation consistent, the overall look and feel of your site should be consistent across all of your site’s pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas where being consistent can have a positive impact on usability and UX.

That’s not to say, however, that every page on your site should have the same exact layout. Instead, you should create different layouts for specific types of pages (e.g., a layout for landing pages, a layout for informational pages, etc.), and by using those layouts consistently, you’ll make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they’re likely to find on a given page.

In the example below, you can see that Airbnb uses the same layout for all of its “Help” pages (a common practice). Just imagine what it would be like from a visitor’s perspective if every “Help” page had its own, unique layout. (It would likely result in a lot of shoulder shrugging.)

help-page-airbnb.png

5) Accessibility

According to comScore, tablet internet consumption grew 30% between 2013 and 2015. Smartphone internet consumption, meanwhile, grew 78% during the same time period. The takeaway here: In order to provide a truly great user experience, your site needs to be compatible with the different devices (and operating systems, and browsers) that your visitors are using.

At a high-level, this means investing in a website structure that is highly flexible — like responsive design. With a responsive site, content is automatically resized and reshuffled to fit the dimensions of whichever device a visitor happens to be using. (HubSpot Marketing customers: Using built-in responsive design, HubSpot content built on the COS is automatically optimized for visitors from any device.)

responsive_design_2-2.jpg

At a lower level, improving accessibility can be as simple as adding alt-text to all of your images (so visitors who can’t see images in their browsers can still understand what’s on the page).

Ultimately, it’s more important that your website provides a great experience across different platforms as opposed to having to it look identical across those platforms. And that can mean adhering to platform-specific design conventions instead of trying to squeeze in unique elements that users of that platform might not be familiar with.

This leads us to our next principle …

6) Conventionality

There are certain web design conventions which, over the years, internet users have become increasingly familiar with. Such conventions include:

  • Having the main navigation be at the top (or left side) of a page
  • Having a logo at the top left (or center) of a page
  • Having that logo be clickable so it always brings a visitor back to the homepage
  • Having links change color/appearance when you hover over them

While it might be tempting to throw all such design conventions out the window for the sake of being completely original or unique, this would (likely) be a mistake. It’d be akin to putting a car’s steering wheel in the backseat, which is to say: it would confuse people.

In order to provide the best experience possible for your site’s visitors, take advantage of the fact that you already know what types of web experiences they’re familiar with. You can use this information to make your site easier for visitors to navigate.

One of the most common examples of conventionality in web design: Using a shopping cart icon on an ecommerce site:

shopping-cart-icons.png

In the image above, you can see (from left to right) shopping cart icons from Amazon, Wayfair, and Best Buy.

7) Credibility

Ultimately, using web design conventions — design elements and strategies that visitors are already familiar with — can help give your site more credibility. And if you’re striving to build a site that provides the best user experience possible, credibility (a.k.a. the amount of trust your site conveys) can go a long way.

One of the best ways to improve your site’s credibility is to be clear and honest about the product/service you’re selling on the site. Don’t make visitors have to dig through dozens of pages to find out what it is you actually do. Instead, be up front about it, and dedicate some real estate to explaining the value behind what you do.

Another credibility tip: Have a pricing page. While it can be tempting to force people to contact you in order for them to learn more about pricing, having prices listed clearly on your site can definitely make your business seem more trustworthy and legitimate. Here’s an example of a great pricing page from the Box website:

pricing-page-box.png

8) User-Centricity

At the end of the day, usability and user experience hinge on the preferences of the end users. (After all, if you’re not designing for them … who are you designing for?)

So while the principles detailed in this list are a great starting point, the real key to improving the design of your site is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and make changes based on what you’ve learned. 

Here are a few user testing tools to get you started:

  • Crazy EggUse this tool to track multiple domains under one account and uncover insights about your site’s performance using four different intelligence tools — heat map, scroll map, overlay, and confetti.
  • Loop11. Use this tool to easily create usability tests — even if you don’t have any HTML experience. 
  • The User Is DrunkPay Richard Littauer to get drunk and review your site. Don’t believe me? We tried it. Check it out.

(Read this for even more helpful tools.)

According to Vitamin T, 68% of visitors fail to convert because they don’t think you care about their experience. So as a final bit of usability/UX wisdom, start caring more! Put yourself into the shoes of your site’s visitors and keep them in mind every step of the way.

What other principles do you think make for exceptional website design and usability?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

 
free introduction to growth-driven web design

introduction to growth-driven web design

Apr

28

2016

The Hazards of Working a Desk Job & How to Overcome Them [Infographic]

hazards-of-desk-jobs.jpg

Sore neck. Blurred vision. Difficulty focusing. The feeling that your eyes are being burned into oblivion by your computer screen. If you’ve been experiencing any (or all) of these symptoms, there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from a terrible affliction known as “working a desk job.”

Even if you love what you’re doing, sitting and staring at a screen all day can take a toll on your well-being. And while there are ways to sneak in some exercise during the workday to offset a few of these negative effects, it’s hard not to wonder: What kind of impact is this routine really having on my health?

The team at FramesDirect answered that question in infographic form. What’s more, they uncovered some tips for overcoming the hazards that often accompany desk jobs — specifically the ones that impact our vision. For more, check out the infographic below.


hazards-desk-jockey.png

Know of any other tips for being more productive while working a desk job? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips

Apr

25

2016

Where Time Gets Lost at Work (And How to Get It Back) [Infographic]

lost-time-at-work.jpg

We’ve all been there: heads down on an important project, cranking away, and then  woosh. You fly into a meeting. And then woosh, you fly into another meeting. Your stomach grumbles. It’s lunchtime. You decide to work at your desk so you can keep cranking on that project. But then ping, there’s a message from your manager. You have to drop everything and help put out a (digital) fire. By the time you get back to your important project, it’s 6 p.m. and everyone is packing up to go home.

What the heck happened to the day?!?

If you believe in the supernatural, you might be tempted to think that a Bermuda Triangle-esque time warp has opened up in your office, and you’ve been unwillingly sucked into its swirling vortex of temporal confusion.

But for a more scientific answer to the question, the team at Scoro has got you covered. Their infographic highlights some of the workday’s biggest time-wasters, along with suggestions for how you can avoid them.

Where_time_gets_lost_at_work.png

Have any tips for how you can use your time more productively at work? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips

Apr

22

2016

How to Turn Your Workspace Into a Den of Productivity

den-of-productivity.jpg

When it comes to improving productivity in the workplace, much of the advice we hear centers around the mindset or motivation of the individual in question — advice like “You need to set goals for yourself,” or “You need to focus on your passion,” or “You need to meticulously plan every portion of your day down to the millisecond.”

And while such advice can potentially be helpful, there’s one aspect of improving productivity that we often overlook: our environments. As Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford’s Persuasive Tech Lab once noted:

“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.”

In the list below, we’ve highlighted some of the best tips and tricks you can use to create a space that’s not only pleasant to work in, but that actually helps to improve your productivity. True, not every suggestion will be applicable to everyone’s unique work situation, but hopefully you’ll be able to come away with some useful ideas.

7 Tips for Making Your Workspace a Den of Productivity

1) Let the sun shine.

Assuming you’re not a vampire, letting plenty of daylight shine into your workspace is a proven way to increase your productivity, not to mention your overall mood and well-being.

While there are many studies that have linked sunlight to productivity in the workplace, one study in particular — “Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life” — is especially compelling. To quote the study’s abstract:

Compared to the group with no windows, workers with windows in the workplace had 173% more white light exposure during the workday and slept an average of 47 minutes more per night. There was also a trend for workers with windows to have more activity and higher sleep efficiency than those without windows.”

Unfortunately, not every workspace is going to have a ton of natural light shining in. One potential solution? Invest in smart LED lighting (e.g., Osram or Philips Hue) that mimics natural sunlight and can help maintain your body’s circadian rhythm.

2) Keep warm and carry on.

In a perfect scenario, you’ll be able to control the temperature of your workspace so that it’s aligned with your ideal comfort level.

If you work in an office, of course, this usually isn’t possible. But you still might get a say as to what temperature the almighty office thermostat is set to. If that’s the case, remember these words: Warmer. Is. Better.

As a study from Cornell University showed, temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit lead to more errors and lower productivity. Temperatures above 68 degrees, meanwhile, have the opposite effect. To quote the study:

When the office temperature in a month-long study increased from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44% and typing output jumped 150%.”

(Check out this post for 16 hacks that’ll help you deal with unruly office temperatures.)

3) Pick the right music (or opt for no music at all).

For many of us, there’s no better way to get into “work mode” than to slap on some noise-canceling headphones and blast our favorite tunes. And there are a ton of productivity studies out there to back the effectiveness of this approach. 

Trouble is, it can be hard to nail down just the right tunes to get the wheels turning. So if you’re struggling to find the perfect playlist, check out this post. It contains a bunch of interesting research around different types of music that can be used to boost your productivity — from classical to video game soundtracks.

Music doesn’t do the trick for you? That’s okay. In fact, there’s also some contrasting research out there that argues that music can actually be too distracting. If you find it’s too hard to concentrate with music playing, try embracing silence. Or, try listening to music before you get to work, which can help you get pumped up for the task at hand.

4) Go green.

Have an empty spot on your desk and can’t decide what to stick there? My suggestion: Don’t go with another tchotchke, or another framed photo of your cat (seven is enough, Tyler, I’m starting to worry about you). Instead, go with a fern, a cactus, a Venus flytrap, or some other plant.

According to a 2014 study, incorporating plants into a workspace can increase productivity by 15%. As the study’s co-author, Alex Haslam, told Entrepreneur:

The findings suggest that investing in landscaping an office will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity … Modern offices and desks have been stripped back to create sparse spaces — our findings question this widespread theory that less is more. Sometimes less is just less.”

5) Add some yellow accents.

Most offices are awash with grays and other neutral tones. And while such a color scheme can help create an environment that isn’t too distracting, it simultaneously fails to provide much in the way of stimulation.

In the world of color theory, red is often hailed as the most stimulating color. However, red also carries with it some strong negative connotations, particularly aggression. A superior color for making your workspace more energizing is yellow, which packs the same productive punch as red without the negativity.

As the President of the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers, Frank Mahnke, wrote in his book Color, Environment, & Human Response:

... [yellow] is cheerful, high-spirited, and suggestive of the life-giving sun. It represents a bright future, hope, wisdom, and it is expansive — not earthbound.”

So if you’re looking for some new artwork for your workspace, or perhaps a new pot for your Venus flytrap, going with something with lots of yellow is probably your best bet from a productivity standpoint.

6) Feng shui your desk.

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of arranging objects to create a more harmonious, positive environment. While often applied to the realm of interior design, especially in regards to furniture placement, there’s no reason why you can’t apply those same feng shui principles to your desk.

One of the main tools used in feng shui is feng shui bagua, which is essentially an “energy map” that shows how different spaces are connected to particular parts of your life. In order to apply feng shui bagua to your desk, you can follow the diagram below:

feng-shui-your-desk.png

(Source: Feng Shui & Beyond)

Note: While it’s unclear whether feng shui actually works, research does show that de-cluttering your desk can help improve focus as well as your ability to process information.

7) Use (at least) two monitors.

Did you know that the simple act of giving every employee an extra monitor once helped a customer service department reduce their average time per call by 12%?

Ultimately, using two monitors gives you a larger digital space to work in, which makes moving between different browser tabs and applications much easier. And while having two monitors on your desk will add some clutter and could take away from the zen setup you might be going for, the utility of having two monitors in your workspace will likely outweigh any aesthetic displeasure.

Have any other suggestions for how you can turn a workspace into a den of productivity? Leave a comment below.

free productivity tips

Apr

21

2016

How to Memorize a Speech Using Visualization Techniques [Infographic]

giving-a-speech.jpg

If you’ve ever tried to recite a speech entirely from memory, you’ve likely discovered that it’s no easy task. And it’s not just the sheer brainpower required to memorize a speech you’ve written ahead of time that makes it difficult — having to recall that speech in front of a live audience adds a further level of complexity.

Fortunately, the following infographic walks you through the process of memorizing a speech, step by step. 

Instead of having you memorize text verbatim, the infographic shows how you can use visualization techniques to organize different sections of your speech in your memory. The infographic also offers several tips and tricks for boosting your memory, from eating foods rich in fatty acids, to taking naps.

how-to-memorize-a-speech-1.png

Know of any other tips for memorizing speeches? Share them in the comments section below.

free powerpoint presentation templates

Apr

20

2016

7 of the Best Pieces of Free Video Editing Software

Video_Editing_Software-1.jpg

Not sure if video marketing is worth your time? Here’s an eye-opening statistic for you: According to Aberdeen, businesses that use video grow revenue 49% faster year-over-year than businesses that don’t. Still not convinced? Here’s a SlideShare presentation with more stats that illustrate the importance of video.

Of course, even if you are completely sold on the idea of incorporating video into your business’s marketing program, there’s still the issue of actually creating the videos. And in order to do that, you’re going to need some video editing software.

If you have a PC that’s running Microsoft Windows, or an iMac/Macbook, there’s a good chance you already have video editing software installed on your computer. For Windows, that’s Windows Movie Maker, and for Macs, it’s iMovie. However, depending on your particular skill set and/or what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your videos, you may find that the above options are either too complicated or not packed with enough features.

The good news: There are several free video editing solutions you can download that run the gamut from super simple to Hollywood-level powerful.

7 of the Best Pieces of Free Video Editing Software

1) Machete Video Editor Lite (Windows)

machete-lite-04-620x449.png

(Source: Softonic)

At the simple end of the spectrum is Machete Video Editor Lite, which allows you to cut, copy, and paste different sections of video. As the Machete website puts it, Video Editor Lite was “designed for quick and simple ‘slicing’ of your video files.”

The program’s intuitive interface means you won’t have to waste time shuffling through technical support documents. And because Video Editor Lite doesn’t re-encode your video files when you slice them, you don’t have to worry about losing video quality.

The main downsides to the program? It only supports the AVI and WMV video formats, and it doesn’t allow for audio editing. Still, if you have zero video editing experience and only need to make simple edits, it’s a great option.

2) Avidemux (Windows/Mac/Linux)

avidemux-37.png

(Source: Softonic)

Like Machete Video Editor Lite, Avidemux allows you to do basic video editing (no audio editing) without having to worry about loss of video quality. But Avidemux also has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

For starters, the program supports multiple video formats, including AVI, DVD, MPEG, QuickTime, and MP4. What’s more, Avidemux comes with several filters that allow you to perform a host of different functions, from flipping and rotating clips, to adding subtitles, to adjusting colors and brightness levels.

And while the learning curve for Avidemux is slightly steeper compared to Machete Video Editor Lite, the upside is that there’s an extensive Avidemux wiki that covers everything you need to know.

3) WeVideo (Cloud-based)

we-video-editor-799465-edited.jpg

(Source: WeVideo)

Cloud-based video editing software (i.e., software that you access via a browser instead of downloading directly to your hard drive) is growing more and more popular. And one of the programs leading the charge is WeVideo.

Compared to the first two programs on this list, WeVideo definitely offers some more advanced features and functionality, including audio editing capabilities and a library of commercially licensed music. However, the free version of WeVideo isn’t without its limitations.

One major downside is that you’re only given 5GB of cloud storage. If you’re making a one-off video, this is fine. But if you’re planning to edit multiple videos you’ll definitely need more space. The free version also puts a WeVideo watermark on your videos, which isn’t ideal.

For a complete breakdown of the differences between WeVideo’s free and paid options, check out their pricing page.

4) VSDC Free Video Editor (Windows)

VSDC-Free-Video-Editor.jpg

(Source: Softonic)

In experienced hands, the VSDC Free Video Editor can produce some seriously professional-looking video. In addition to supporting nearly every major video format, the program offers advanced video effects, including object transformation and color correction, as well as advanced audio effects like volume correction and sound normalization. And unlike WeVideo, the VSDC Free Video Editor is truly free. You can use the program’s full feature set without having to deal with pesky watermarks.

But unfortunately, there is one catch. If you want technical support, you need to pay. (And because there is a bit of a learning curve, there’s a good chance you’ll need to.) Support for the VSDC Free Video Editor costs $1 for one month, $5 for half a year, and $10 for a full year.

5) Wondershare Filmora (Windows/Mac)

wondershare-filmora.jpg

(Source: Wondershare)

Wondershare Filmora (formerly Wondershare Video Editor) is the perfect option if you want to start out with basic video editing functionality while also having the opportunity to get more advanced as you go.

The program’s “Easy Mode” strips away the complexity so you can drag and drop video clips, choose a pre-designed theme, add some music, and produce a finished video in a matter of minutes. Go into “Full Feature Mode,” however, and you’ll be able to do much, much more — from adding transitions, filters, and overlays, to playing video clips in reverse, to using split-screen effects.

Sound too good to be true? Welp, you’re right: The free version of Wondershare Filmora adds a watermark to your videos that you can only remove through upgrading to their paid service.

6) Blender (Windows/Mac/Linux)

blender-video-editing.jpg

(Source: Blender)

The open source program Blender is more than just a video editor: It’s a full-blown 3D animation suite, which allows for modeling, rendering, motion tracking, and more.

On the video editing side, there are a ton of features, including transitions, speed control, filters, adjustment layers, and more. There are also 32 slots available for adding video clips, audio clips, images, and effects, which means you can produce some incredibly complex video.

For the amateur video editor, all the functionality that’s available can be a bit overwhelming. But if you’re looking to produce truly professional-quality video — without having to deal with watermarks — Blender is a solid option.

7) Lightworks (Windows/Mac/Linux)

lightworks.jpg

(Source: ZDNet)

Like Blender, Lightworks is definitely on the more advanced (and powerful) end of the video editing software spectrum. In fact, it’s a program that’s been used to edit some well-known and award-winning films, including Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential, and The King’s Speech.

There are two different licenses you can choose from with Lightworks: “Free” and “Pro.” (The latter of which, as you might have guessed, requires that you pony up some cash.)  The main difference between the two licenses is that the Pro version offers more features, including stereoscopic output and advanced project sharing. But the free version is still quite powerful, providing 100+ effects and supporting multicam editing.

Too see the complete list of differences between Lightworks Free and Pro, check out their “Compare Versions” page.

Know of another great piece of video editing software that’s not on this list? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

free guide to using vine for video marketing on Twitter

Apr

18

2016

8 of the Weirdest Shark Tank Products That Got Investments

shark-tank-sink-or-swim.jpg

Whenever you watch an episode of Shark Tank, there always seems to be at least one product an entrepreneur pitches that makes you go: “Whaaa?”

That’s a big part of Shark Tank‘s appeal. If every product (or service) that got pitched on the show was perfectly reasonable, and perfectly matched to some target market, the show’s ratings would likely plummet. I mean, just imagine the tagline for a show like that: “Shark Tank: The show where entrepreneurs with realistic expectations pitch sensible products based on extensive market research.”

To keep things interesting, the show’s producers will sprinkle in the odd product … like Pet Paint, for example, which is “colored hairspray for your dog.” (Although to be fair, Barbara Corcoran did make an offer.) Or, Squirrel Boss, which is a bird feeder that has the added functionality of being able to electrocute squirrels at the push of a button. (No, seriously.)

Every once in a while, however, one of these seemingly strange Shark Tank products will land an investment. Don’t believe it? Check out eight of the weirdest products that actually got investments below. 

8 of the Weirdest Shark Tank Products That Got Investments

1) Custom cat drawings (I Want to Draw a Cat for You)

In season three of Shark Tank, billionaire Mark Cuban put up $25 thousand for a 33% stake in a company that sells custom drawings of cats.

This is a fact. This really happened. There is video evidence.

Entrepreneur/professional-stick-figure-cat-artist Steve Gadlin had a dream: To bring custom cat art to every home, using the power of the internet. Mark Cuban, no doubt, believed in that dream.

As the I Want to Draw a Cat for You website still reads (even though the company recently went out of business), Gadlin and his team would create — for $29.95– any cartoon cat configuration you desired:

Want two cats getting married on a beach? A ninja cat fighting a giant talking pickle? A cat on a unicorn leaping over a rainbow? You’re the boss!”

i-want-to-draw-a-cat-for-you.jpg

(Source: Groupon)

2) Light-up rave gloves (EmazingLights)

It was like something out of a science-fiction movie when entrepreneur Brian Lim — donning an oversized cartoon head — walked into the tank. The lights inside the studio went dim, and then a group of gloved dancers began moving their hands, their fingertips glowing and swirling in a brilliant display of colors.

Welcome to the world of “gloving”: A modern dance style that involves wearing gloves that have LED-illuminated fingertips. Lim’s company, EmazingLights, makes these futuristic gloves. And while you might think that the “sharks” would’ve scoffed at or dismissed the product as a novelty, they all ended up wanting a piece. (The fact that EmazingLights had $7 million in annual revenue at the time certainly helped Lim’s cause.)

The $650K deal ultimately went to Daymond John and Mark Cuban. The two “sharks” received 5% of the company, plus a 20% commission on any future licensing deals.

emazinglights-gloves.jpg

(Source: CNN)

3) A potty training system for cats (CitiKitty)

This is another one of those products where I feel obligated to state: Yes, this is a real product that exists in the world and is available for purchase.

Now that any remaining disbelief has hopefully been suspended, let’s dive into the concept a bit more. CitiKitty is basically a litter box that you put over your toilet seat. Once your cat becomes accustomed to doing its business there, you can remove the inner part of the litter box, section by section, over time. By the end of the training period, the litter box is completely gone and your cat can (ideally) use the toilet like a human.

And while it might seem a little strange to some, former “shark” Kevin Harrington pounced on the idea, making a deal with CitiKitty founder Rebecca Rescate worth $100 thousand. Harrington received a 20% equity stake in the company.

citikitty.png

(Source: citikitty.com)

4) A sports bra with built-in waterproof pockets (Boobypack)

Marketed as the “fanny pack for your rack,” Boobypack isn’t necessarily a weird product, but it’s definitely a product that the “sharks” were intrigued by.

At one point during the episode, Boobypack founder and CEO Christina Conrad had an offer on the table form “shark” Robert Herjavec: $80 thousand for 30%. Conrad countered with $80 thousand for 25%. Herjavec wouldn’t budge from 30% and then bam! Barbara Corcoran took the deal for 25%.

I could tell you more about the Boobypack story, but my colleague actually had the opportunity to interview Conrad and wrote a great post about her experience on the show. You can check it out here.

Boobypack.jpg

(Source: The Surge)

5) Lip balm that creates a reaction when you kiss (Kisstixx)

 

Here’s the concept: you apply one flavor of Kisstixx lip balm (e.g., raspberry), and someone else applies a different flavor of Kisstixx lip balm (e.g., lemonade), and when the two of you kiss … well, I mean, the two different lip balms obviously smudge together. Oh, right, and then there’s a “chemical reaction of flavor and scent.”

The idea was intriguing enough that Mark Cuban ended up making an offer, which college pals Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo accepted: $200 thousand for a 40% share in Kisstixx.

According to the Huffington Post, Kisstixx saw a 3,000% increase in website traffic and sold more than 5,000 units following their appearance on the show.

kisstixx.jpg

(Source: kisstixx.com)

 

6) Bagged wine cocktails sold in a box that looks like a stereo (BeatBox Beverages

 

While we’re on the topic of funky flavor combinations, let’s take a look at BeatBox Beverages. Co-founders Brad Schultz, Aimy Steadman, and Justin Fenchel created the company based on the belief that “boxed wine doesn’t have to be boring.”

BeatBox Beverages’ products all come in neon-colored boxes that resemble stereos. Flavors of the “bag-in-a-box party drink” include blue razzberry, cranberry limeade, and box a’rita.

When it was all said and done, Mark Cuban apparently liked what he tasted. He invested $1 million in BeatBox Beverages in exchange for a third of the company.

beatbox-beverages.jpg

(Source: justelementary.com)

 

7) Live horror entertainment (Ten Thirty One Productions)

I think it’s safe to say that most investors don’t have a company in their portfolio that specializes in producing haunted hayrides and other live horror events.

Mark Cuban, however, isn’t like most investors.

When entrepreneur Melissa Carbone walked into the Shark Tank with her team of ghastly ghouls, it seemed likely that all of the “sharks” would be scared away from making deal. Cuban, however, ended up putting down $2 million for a 20% stake in Carbone’s company. It was one of the biggest deals in the show’s history.

ten-thirty-one-productions.jpg

(Source: Business Insider)

8) Energy bars made from crickets (Chapul)

While eating insects is a common practice in many parts of the world, in the U.S. the idea of munching on bugs as a snack still leaves many people squeamish.

Entrepreneur Pat Crowley, however, believes that his Chapul bars, which are made from cricket flour, can help people “leap over this psychological hurdle” of eating insects. For Crowley, this is important because insects are a much more sustainable source of protein compared to traditional sources, like beef.

When Crowley pitched his cricket bar company Chapul on Shark Tank, both Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban made offers. Cuban ended up hopping away with the deal: $50 thousand for a 10% stake in the company.

chapul-bar-845337-edited.jpg

(Source: J. Walter Thompson Intelligence)

Can you think of any other products that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

learn the secrets behind the coolest product videos and more


Below are Sister sites of the Site you are on Powered by: MCC Group
Advertising Pages Exchange StudioFortunes TE Business Directory Free Classifieds