Whether you are an interested client or perspective employer, the insight provided below will shed some light on my understanding of the rules and responsibilities of the interactive world.

For smaller organizations, these ten cent words can be daunting. But they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Keep in mind, they are objectives that can not be tackled over night. And they won’t be worthwhile unless they are done correctly. Take them one step at a time and do them right. They will affect the visibility and effectiveness of your business.

Front-End Development (HTML, CSS, JS)

Small business and non-profit, pro-bono freelance web projects challenge me to stay fresh on trending techniques (CSS3, HTML5, SASS, etc.). And contract prototyping projects provide the space to develop large-scale, platform-based code sets. For Web-based projects, front-end development is the bread and butter. It won’t be the first milestone on the project calendar but will be affected by all the other elements. The most important aspect of front-end development is clean code. Let it be straight forward but expansive. Make it responsive but efficient. Include dynamic snippets but rely on only one javascript library.

Information Architecture (IA)

Simply put, Information Architecture is a science. After all, that’s why the title is so mysterious. An IA organizes and labels content to support usability and findability. It is a very complex and intricate craft. Such a responsibility includes focusing on the target audience, the technologies and platform that the tool uses, the data which is available and improving usability test results. And information architecture isn’t a one and done scenario. You must establish a baseline and iterating accordingly based on the related projects that come thereafter. With that baseline, patterns must be created so that future documentation is marked with understood notation. Create a library of that documentation so that future talent can reference the history which established the current model. Sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? Again, it’s a science which can’t be taken lightly.

Content & SEO/SEM

I’m not the first to tell you that content is king. It still is, but with moderation. Content needs to be concise but insightful. Captivating but not overbearing. AND it must utilize industry logic and brand keywords reap the benefits of SEO. I’ll be honest, all of the content on this page is a stab and SEO-goodness and score improvement. But don’t get caught up in the SEO hype. There are plenty of opportunities in your site’s HTML code to capitalize on keyword-richness (alt tags, title tags, image file names, etc.). Too often I hear horror stories of agencies promising organic, top rank in search results. It simply can’t be done overnight. Act wisely when working with content specialist and SEM experts. As your site grows in depth, keep in mind the accessibility of those “buried” pages. Assuming that your entire site is crawable by engine bots, users can and will find those pages in search results. Instead of making them a hindrance, make them a priority. If those pages are content-rich, your users will no longer have to dig for them. This concept especially applies to site section, category and product detail pages on large eCommerce sites.

User Interface (UI) & User Experience (UX)

User Interface and User Experience are often considered the same thing. The idea that using pretty colors in your site interface and displaying attractive pictures for a better experience covers it all. Not only are they very different, if channeled correctly, they are one of the most powerful elements of a web presence. Although they may not label it as such, performance is the most common flaw in of a Users Experience (UX). I would bet the farm on the primary reason for customer abandonment is site load time and lag. For enterprise websites, performance is heavily impacted by 3rd party calls. If performance is non-issue, then you must answer the question, “Is the user seeing what they want to see when they want to see it?” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about the user. Hierarchy is the name of the game when speaking of User Interface. And with UI, more questions must be answered. Is there one (and I mean one) primary call to action for each page. If present, are the secondary and tertiary calls to action styled in a way to establish that hierarchy? Does the global navigation, search field and my account button (to name a few) live in place that align with industry standards? If you want to get fancy with your UI, let your brand and end-user expectation set the precedent.

Branding & Social Media

Establish your brand and do it early. It is the corner stone of your organization. It will aid in your content creation and user experience. Let your customer service be the voice of your brand as its the most interaction customers will likely have with your company. And let that extend in to your social media. Be transparent and available. The week no longer starts on Monday and ends on Friday. Don’t hide negative feedback and reviews from customers. Instead, immediately apologize, respond positively and offer a direct line of communication to fix the issue. Use social networks to find customers who are brand advocates. Ask to use their photos in your marketing materials. Dare I say Crowdsource? Let your social media presence extend beyond you current customer audience and increase your brand footprint.

But wait, there’s more

After recapping those rules and responsbilities, I continued below by expanding on best practices and trending expeiences in the interactive world.

Location-Based

Sure your company may have a nationwide presence with retail stores, customer service centers and fulfillment warehouses; but that doesn’t matter to Jane Smith in small town USA. She expects your company to cater to her needs. More specifically, her location. She shouldn’t have to search to find how close the nearest retail store is. Or who the employees are at that location. It should offer up what other customers are saying about that location and what product availability is. AND it should cater to all users no matter how they are accessing the information. This is an ever-growing trend for apps and sites in the retail/social space.

eCommerce

The online shopping experience is more about personalized shopping and fullfilment than it is about pricing and product catalog count. ECommerce systems should utilize search keywords the new customer used to only display products that are relevant. They should offer expedited shipping times and upsell relevant items during the checkout process. For returning customers, the product detail page should display the shipping times to my home address, a hefty discount if I bundle that product with a pair of slacks and a dress shirt and a quick checkout so I can complete my transaction with only on more click. There is not a single eCommerce site on the web that handles personalized shopping and fulfillment perfect. Not even Amazon.

Photo-Sharing

Instagram, Flickr, SnapChat, Vine, YouTube…sound familiar? These well-known services aren’t going away anytime soon. And they are a great way for organizations to be more transparent about your brand. Take advantage of this trend. Invest in high-quality photography and do it often. And in times of need, Stock-photography can be a great fallback. If you have a quality product you are proud of and a company culture that others admire, show it off. Consider how you can utilize these tools to broadcast or build an app that can directly interact with your photos and your brand.