AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Please, Alexa, I want some more (or “How do I compete with Amazon?”)

Ecommerce Voice Ordering

And…boom. There it is.  About an hour ago Mothership Amazon sent me an email announcing they had activated voice ordering for my Amazon Echo. It’s here, and perhaps a bit faster than I even imagined in my blog post from 2012 on the future of ecommerce. Back then the story went:

Alex: Siri, my wife said we need diapers.
Siri: You probably mean the Size 3 Swaddlers for Nina.  Lesters.com can have them to you tomorrow for $20.  Shall I order them?
Alex: Yes, and have them send a gift for my wife.
Siri: They recommend this bracelet to go along with the earrings you bought her last year for your anniversary.  Shall I add them to the order?
Alex: Yes, thanks.
Siri: Forever in your service, Alex.

 

It appears Amazon’s offering will be just that easy: “Alexa, re-order laundry detergent” and it shows up on your doorstep 2 days later.

Why does this matter to the rest of us in the ecommerce industry? Because hidden in this experience is the answer to the question, “How do I beat Amazon?” Your retail business only survives and only wins if you make the experience of ordering from you dead easy, dead simple, AND AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT.  If you don’t, you won’t be here in 3 years.

I’m not saying you need the latest voice recognition technology (though it certainly couldn’t hurt).  But you do absolutely need an online ordering experience that is tailored specifically to your customers, that requires zero training, and is fun to use.

Amazon competes in a completely un-level playing field for most parts of its business. You’re probably not going to match their purchasing power, their distribution network, the number of Prime users, and a whole host of other things they do better than the rest. However, the user experience design of your retail website can be specially designed for your products and customers, and that’s how you can compete with one-size-fits-all Amazon.

For the moment, I’m going to ask Alexa for that present I promised my wife back in 2012.

 

Ecommerce

Ai at Imagine 2015

 by Tim Angiolillo IMG_2942 (2)

 Wow, what a show! Ai descended upon The Wynn Resort this past week for the annual conference/seminar/massively-awesome-Magento-party that is Imagine to catch up on the latest and greatest with the platform and rub elbows with the ecommerce glitterati in Las Vegas. Highlights included an updated timeline for Magento 2’s release, new updates to Magento EE and CE, great talks on B2B ecommerce in the breakout sessions, and Steve Wynn’s engaging keynote discussion on the universal truth’s of a good customer experience.

Getting together with your clients, friends, and competition to talk shop for a few days in the desert reinforces the community element in the things we create and the experiences that inspire us. We’re as excited as ever with Magento’s momentum and look forward to another year of designing and and developing websites with the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. See you next time!

 

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Facebook Responsive Photo Gallery Plugin

It’s been way too long, but I finally got around to updating the Facebook Photo Gallery plugin for the terrific image gallery framework, Galleria.  The library lets you put Facebook album photos on your website using the Graph API.  Galleria has great support for responsive photo gallery layouts.

Facebook loves to change their Graph API without warning (and sometimes defying logic), and we needed to make a small tweak to the syntax for changing the default limit of 25 photos on a album to:

var url = 'http://graph.facebook.com/' + params['album_id'] + '?callback=?' + '&fields=photos.limit(' + this.options.max + '){images,source,picture,link,name}';

Enjoy the plugin, and take part in the discussion on the aiaio github.

Put Facebook photos on my website

Design

IRCE Focus: Digital Design

Righteous Recap for Rockstar Retailers

by Grace Paik

IMG_1768

Alexander Interactive recently attended the IRCE Focus conference on Digital Design in sunny Los Angeles, California. We had a booth on the exhibition floor, as well as a separate booth in which our Experience Director and design-wizard, Ed Samour, was able to provide in-person design consultations for conference attendees. Co-founder and pixel-whisperer, Josh Levine, enjoyed the limelight as the conference’s concluding speaker, sharing thought-provoking insights on how to incorporate social sharing in a site design along with some pretty killer anthro-animals. Yes, that’s a thing.

As exhibitors, we found the conference a fantastic opportunity to connect with existing clients and meet some new ones. By attending some of the seminars, we were able to learn what’s really on the minds of retailers big and small. What are their burning questions? What are the specific challenges they’re facing? What are some digital concerns that they hadn’t considered but should be prioritizing?

Many retailers were visiting the conference to find solutions for a specific pain point. Others were more interested in learning where the industry is focusing its efforts, both on an enterprise and small business scale.

Here’s some stuff we learned while we were there.

  • Agency-recommended SEO best practices are great, but retailers should drill into the ones that translate to actual sales. Look holistically at your business and focus your energy on those strategies that will move the right needles.
  • We’ve known for a long time that video helps drive conversions in e-commerce. Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the Internet? Combining video with your SEO strategy is more crucial now than ever.
  • Buying and sharing should not exist in silos. Learn from social sharing – implement seamless favoriting and hearting on your site.
  • Customers are researching products on social networks where you might not have much control over those conversations. Have no fear! This content is gold – aggregating and integrating it into your site not only helps with merchandising, but also provides customers with more confidence in your products.
  • Know your audience. If your site sells beautiful jewelry, privilege visual social platforms over others (i.e., do you really need that Twitter share button?).
  • Speakers who invested in responsive design found that it did not increase their mobile traffic very much. But it did increase their mobile conversions – and their bottom line – in dramatic ways.
  •  A full 30% (WHAT?) of the top 500 internet retailers aren’t set up to be mobile-friendly, either with responsive design or with an m-dot site.
  • Google is changing its algorithm on April 21, 2015 so that sites that are not mobile-friendly will drop in the rankings.
Design

Ai Pedals for Puppies to Continue Giving Back

This past December, Ai created a holiday website where each employee committed to making or doing something to raise money for Bideawee, a leading animal welfare organization in New York.  If your commitment were purchased, the money would be donated to Bideawee.  My commitment was to host a charity ride at Swerve Fitness, a team-inspired cycling studio a few blocks south of Ai’s office, to raise even more money for Bideawee beyond the price of my commitment.  As of about a week ago, that commitment was fulfilled!

On Monday night, March 9, 2015, 47 of my closest friends, family, and co-workers joined me for the event I deemed “Pedal for Puppies”.

Pedal for Puppies Collage

We rode for 45 minutes and celebrated afterwards with a fun photo session and time set aside to play with five puppies, two of which were up for adoption.  Together we used our collective energy for some good and raised an additional $1500 for Bideawee.

Both of my dogs growing up at home were adopted from Bideawee, and I went to high school across the street from Bidewee’s Long Island location. That night I rode in their memory, for all the puppies looking for a home, and for the people who work so hard at Bideawee to find them one and keep them comfortable until they do.

Pedal for Puppies Group PhotoThank you to everyone who participated in Pedal for Puppies, to those who donated, to Swerve Fitness for hosting, to Bideawee for doing the great work they do each and every day, and to Ai for being the catalyst that fostered the creation of Pedal for Puppies.

Ai

PHP7 Vagrant Box

We’re keeping a close eye on PHP7 and what it means for the future of the language. We know it’s coming and will eventually effect the way we work and how we write PHP. The earlier we can get eyes on the new paradigm, the better.

Installing in your local dev machine is risky, especially if you have ongoing work. As usual, Vagrant comes to the rescue!

Rasmus Lerdorf has put together a Vagrant box to ease in the setup and isolate your testing. 

If you use Atlas, check out the box here. Otherwise, the readme is available on Github

Technology

Presentation Tips: 15 ways to calm your nerves before your next presentation

aiu-presentation-tips-julia-sosa-1160

Our Creative Director, Julia Sosa, kicked off our AiU 2015 season with a fantastic session where she shared some pre-presentation coping strategies that she’s adopted over the years. It was too good not to share publicly. Deck and written version below. Enjoy!

— (Transcript)

I hate the word hamburger.
I spent 3 years in speech therapy because of this stupid word, and many other words I couldn’t pronounce. At 6 years old I already hated the sound of my own words.

I hate “R”s too.
I hated the letter “R” and many words with “R”s, and avoided them at all costs. Rrrrrrrrrr……

Fucking R’s.
The anxiety of getting this nasty letter out of my mouth — is still with me, buried deep in my psyche.

Enter Hell.
I started working in advertising — the industry that is the single largest employer of people who love to hear themselves talk. But I wasn’t one of them.

Hell x 2.
And to top that off my first job was at an agency where one of the premier clients was (god help me) BURGER KING . R’s and the word hamburger were proving unavoidable.

Time to buck up, Buttercup.
It was time to face my fears, and start building an arsenal of coping techniques.

Here are a few of the tips and tools I’ve been stockpiling along the way.

Before we start, remember…
“Ready” ain’t a thing. The first step in preparing for any presentation is realizing you will never be fully prepared. Get over it.

Okay, let’s really do this…

Tip 1: Study yourself.

Take notes of physical symptoms during your next meeting or presentation. Write down the dumbest thing you said.

Now go ask someone who was there if they noticed anything of those things.

Boo, you so crazy. Guess what? No one noticed that shit! And if they did, it wasn’t half as bad as you think…

Now let’s talk about preparing for your NEXT presentation…

Tip 2. Finish Early

24 hours before ideally. Know when to cut bait. At a certain point, getting the material you have in a good place is better than just creating more content.

Tweaking a deck at 4am won’t make it better. It will make you feel like shit the next day.

Tip 3. Get comfy.

Make sure you’re comfortable with what you are presenting, and if you aren’t change it or just say so.

Ask your tech bestie to cover the crazy technical questions. Ask your budget buddy to speak to the numbers and dollars slide.

Tip 4. Have props.

Give yourself visuals, quotes, cultural references on slides — they can be a crutch or safety blanket to make you more comfortable.

Tip 5. Educate yo’ self

Identify anything you think you will just be “reading” and try to learn it. Ask questions, get someone else to tell you what it means to them, how they’d say it.

Tip 6. Bite-size points.

Write as much as you need to think through but then capture in short bullets and sound bites so you can speak naturally to it. Turn them into your cheat.

Tip 7. Plan your “segways.”

Focus on your opening line and setting up the ‘theme”– that’s the toughest part and sets tone, cadence, comfort. Plan transitions to and from other presenters.

Okay, you are so ready for the big meeting! What now?

Tip 8. For f*cks sake, sleep!

Don’t be stupid. Ain’t no slide, fancy transition, pie chart that matters more than this.

No Ray Donovan marathons. No League of Legends midnight missions. No last minute, mad dash deck cray, you crazy buggers.

Tip 9. Three hours before…

Take a walk. Pin kittens. Call your mom. Do other work. Just forget about the presentation.

Avoid other stressors or intense meetings. Say no if you have to.

People get it, and they want you to do your best!

Tip 10. Fifteen minutes before…

Glance over bullets. Harness your inner spirit animal. Head in.
You got this. We love you.
Carpe f*ckin’ diem.

Tip 11. Settle in, say hi.

Say anything to anyone in the room about anything unrelated to the meeting. Fancy a carrot? Ye ol’ weather banter, whatevs’. A single interaction before a meeting will help you be less presentation-y and more real with peeps in the room.

Tip 12. Find Soul Mates

Don’t just feel compelled to speak “to” the person or client you think you should. Speak to everyone or anyone you can engage. Feed off the nods or smiles.

BONUS TIP! Screw the grumpy cats!

Positive energy in a room is contagious. You can always circle back to a furrowed brow when you have a comfortable stopping point, but don’t cater to the haters if it’s going to throw you off your game.

Tip 13. Stand up, paws out.

Speak with your hands. Get them moving. Imagine you are a kitten with a ball of string. Even on the phone! Stand if you can if it’s large conference room. It seems scarier but it will help get your energy up and out.

Tip 14. Be yo’ self.

You are not Joel Osteen or Don Draper. You are a normal person talking to normal people. Authenticity, sincerity and conviction IS compelling.

Tip 15. Now, stop! 

You’re done, don’t feel compelled to keep talking. And know your closer. Asking people “What are your thoughts on xyz” is a lot smoother than “The End” or “That’s all I got folks.”

Praise Yeezus, It’s Over.

kanye

“I’m like the vessel. And God has chosen me to be the voice and the connector.”

You’ll get better with each presentation, and each will be less painful. Find your swagger, your own style — and own it.

Have other tips to share? Questions?I’d love to hear them! Comment or holla’ anytime.

Business

Mongular, a Content Delivery System

Mongular is something to keep a close eye on. We’ve had a number of projects here at Ai where we might want something… other than a CMS. Where content is king and that content is decoupled from the system using or displaying it.  Other solutions that we’re excited about are Prismic and Contentful.

Systems like this would let us do whatever we wanted with the site. Not being tied to the confines of a particular CMS’ way of doing things could be freeing. These systems offer much more powerful ways to relate content or parts of content to each other. Going far beyond just weighted tags.

What is Mongular?

Mongular is a Content Delivery System (Framework?… not really) built to take advantage of all the tools available to speed up the delivery of your content to users, and reduce server load.

Content Delivery System?

Mongular wasn’t built to be a Content Management System, even though with enough development it could probably be built to do just that.

Mongular was built to deliver content in an easy, efficient and extendable manner. Where developers take it, is up to them.

Related reading:

Technology

Nick Angiolillo Speaks to Digital Journal about Responsive Design

 

screen-multi-device

Our own Nick Angiolillo, Senior Front-End Engineer here at Ai,  sat down to discuss mobile responsive design with Digital Journal. “The big thing we’re seeing with responsive design now is that it’s being deployed everywhere,” he said. “Now that people do so much on mobile, you’re seeing responsive web apps, ecommerce sites and games.”

According to the article, a growing trend  Web Design (RWD) will emphasizes mobile first and then later adapt  for desktop.

In terms of development and process, responsive design has necessitated a shift in the way design, UX and development work together. This means a lot more collaboration and more work being done “in code” earlier to see how the product works across a lot of screen sizes.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/b2bnn/2015/01/guide-mobile-responsive-design-2015/#ixzz3PIvd5O6R

 

 

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