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  • This is a brilliant idea – Pooter is an iPhone app that turns bumblebee spotting into a fun game that also sends data automatically to scientists so they can map bee populations across the country. Read more about it in the post I wrote for The Mersey Forest website. PS I got into the top 25 of the national leaderboard of Pooterers last week, which I was quite proud of!  

  • I recently signed up as a member of Sparked – a really clever initiative that offers professionals the chance to support charities through bite-size projects coordinated over the web, so that even the most time-poor marketing specialist or web designer can log-in and lend a hand, even if they wouldn’t be able to commit to a more traditional long-term volunteering role. Charities post “challenges” to the site, ranging from requests for advice on how to build their social media presence, to asking designers to submit ideas for a new logo. Professionals can then browse the challenges on offer, upload their ideas and designs, and comment and collaborate on the work of fellow “micro-volunteers”. My first contribution to the site has been to help an American charity that supports elderly people by responding to their request for designs for a new header for their newsletter (here’s my design). The site is already nearing its 10,000th challenge, so there’s plenty more to do – why not check it out or sign up.

  • A quick but hearty recommendation – I decided to try out Evernote a couple of months ago and have found it immensely useful. The gist is that it lets you note down anything, anywhere, and be able to retrieve it all via a simple, super-fast search box. Nobody likes racking their brain for that elusive idea/website/tool that’s on the tip of their tongue, and with Evernote you can effortlessly summon it back. I’ve used it to store screenshots of good web design, create lists of handy Photoshop tips from around the web, and keep a note of useful tools and articles for future reference. A standard account is free, so it’s well worth a try. If you end up getting hooked, they also run a very affable podcast where you can hear how other Evernoters around the globe are using the application.

  • Subtle, life-like animated photos, often called cinemagraphs, are becoming increasingly popular and offer some great possibilities for nature-related website photography. The above example is from the photography blog From Me To You, and features in this round-up of 28 of the best cinemagraphs. The technique relies upon the previously deeply unfashionable animated gif format. Until recently, animated gifs were invariably associated with cliched animated doodles and cartoons, but this is now changing thanks to the cinemagraph approach, which marries the simplicity of the format with the power of Photoshop.

  • Getting feedback on our websites is important – but how can we achieve this without the dreaded “Will you spare 5 minutes to take our website survey?” pop-up box that so few audiences have the time or inclination to fill in? A tool called KISSinsights (update: now renamed as Qualaroo”) provides an elegant solution. Its core principle is essentially “Get in, get some quick feedback, get out”. It works via a mini-widget that pops up at the bottom of the webpage, inviting the user to answer either one or two quick, direct questions on the spot. We have used this to great effect on the new Mersey Forest website that I manage (pictured above), receiving more than 20 useful comments within the first month of using the tool. The tool isn’t perfect – for example it doesn’t appear for iPad or iPhone users, and hence you do not hear feedback from users of those devices – but excellent customer service is provided and it is well worth checking out in either it’s free or premium (£18 per month) versions.

  • I loved this fantastic example from New York of how to engage tech-savvy audiences with green spaces. As always, carefully crafted content is the key, and from the orchestral performance you can watch at the bandstand to the clips of Hollywood movies filmed in the park, it’s a great taster of what can be achieved. Thanks to Rhiannon Davies for sharing.

  • BlueDot is an interesting new concept from the former Creative Director of Comic Relief. It incentivises positive social action by allowing registered users to build up BlueDots (essentially loyalty card-esque “reward points”) for spreading the word about good causes on social media, and/or by donating to charities. BlueDots can then be spent on a variety of goodies, from free coffee to audiobooks. The site is heavily Facebook-oriented at present (perhaps unsurprisingly), but I would be concerned that some people may hesitate to “connect” BlueDot to their cherished Facebook account without a clearer, more immediate explanation on the home page of how BlueDot works. A short video or simple infographic could make a big difference.

  • The kings of the email marketing jungle at MailChimp have developed a new tool to speed up the process of getting sign-off on enewsletters. OnStage aims to prevent gathering feedback on drafts from being a lengthy, fragmented affair, by letting colleagues comment on a single online version of the enewsletter hosted “in the cloud” (or “on the internet” as it used to be called in less flashy times).  Using a very visual interface where users can add pins to particular areas of the enewsletter and make associated comments, it looks like a promising tool.

  • Great audioboo (short podcast) from Paul Boag, full of tips on designing webpages and websites in a way that gives confidence to visitors who are new to using the internet or who find using the web intimidating. One of the most powerful points is about giving positive feedback when users do things right (for example through ticks or encouraging messages) rather than just bombarding them with red error messages when they do things wrong. Also recommended is to be aware of jargon and to replace it with everyday language or recognisable symbolism, for example using a padlock icon and plain English to describe how the user’s data is secure during a transaction. In a world where only 8% of people know what a browser is, adopting these kinds of practices and being mindful of the level of web literacy of our users is key. This is just one in an excellent series of audioboos – check them out at http://audioboo.fm/Boagworld.

  • I’ve been a fan of the writer and behaviour change expert Chris Rose for some time, first hearing him speak at a conference two or three years ago. I’m looking forward to reading his new book “What makes people tick“, which came out earlier this month. The book shines a light on one of the key tenets of his work, an approach known as the Three Worlds model, which puts an emphasis on achieving behaviour change by connecting with the audience’s core values. While little known in general circles, the approach is employed in the marketing of bluechip organisations as varied as McDonalds and the National Trust. Find out more on the publishers’ website.

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