Bright Matrices

Writings & musings of Mike Zavarello (a.k.a. brightmatrix), a "red mage" web developer.

Tag: marketwire

Where Users Fear to Tread? On the Heels of Great Footers

Of all the elements in a modern website, the footer is probably the least appreciated. Users have come to expect basic contact information, privacy policies, and other legal-oriented details to live in the footer, but that doesn’t mean footer designs need to be dull collections of links or tiring repeats of the main navigation. Done well, footers can be helpful, informative, and even mischievous elements in a website’s overall visual design.

In this post, I cite four examples of well-crafted and thought-out footers I’ve come across, leaving room to expand the list as I discover other fine specimens. Of course, suggestions are welcome!

1. Marketwire

Marketwire is a Canadian communications corporation that offers unique solutions to help organizations listen, monitor, analyze, measure, and connect with their audiences in both traditional media and “new media” channels. Their suite of tools and dashboards allow their clients to gather valuable insights into their customers and competitors and make actionable results to increase their value, influence, and reputation.

Marketwire chose to let their website’s main content sections do the talking, so the footer is tasked to show essential contact information with a few informative links. The sweeping gray stripe offers a clear separation from the main content and neatly caps off the overall design. Critical touchpoints, national and international phone numbers and social media channels, are presented in a clean and prominent fashion. Large, colorful social media icons pop nicely off the monochrome background and into focus.

This is a simple but effective design that gets straight to the point and doesn’t leave current or potential customers wondering where to go next.

2. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City is one of the twelve banks that make up the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States (Disclosure: I work for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, part of the Federal Reserve System). Alongside their dual mandate of monetary policy and bank supervision, the Federal Reserve Banks promote community development in their districts, enrich financial literacy among the public, and publish research data and documents on a wide array of economic topics.

The Kansas City Fed’s footer displays their site’s major website categories, a listing echoed in the top navigation. These categories, however, are shown in alphabetical order vs. the more topical choices in the top navigation, and surface the next level of content to help users find what they’re seeking. All titles are short (no more than four words) to ease scanning.

Bold category headings stand out nicely and draw the eye to key starting points. Common footer elements, such as a link back to the home page, contact information, privacy policy, and FAQs, are centered and offset from the primary and secondary categories to be easily discovered. The bank’s address and phone number have a third distinct style to complete the typography in the banner and headings. Seals at the top and bottom of the footer provide nice visual breaks.

Most Americans aren’t familiar with the inner workings of the Fed and can get lost amidst the vast amount of online content they offer. The Kansas City Fed’s footer delivers a lot of options, but does so in a roomy, clear presentation that can help ease information overload.

3. Wall Street Journal

One of the most recognized news publications in the United States, the Wall Street Journal delivers a staggering array of financial, national, and international news to its readers.

Offset in tones of deepening gray with ice blue links, the five columns of links in the WSJ’s footer are easily scanned and digested despite the fineness of the font size. The reversed contract color scheme is easy to read and distinct from the otherwise busy conglomeration of content in the main section of the site. As with the Kansas City Fed’s footer, key sections are in boldface. The WSJ’s RSS feed and social media links are embedded with small icons whose colors help them to stand out in the crowd. Alternate editions of the WSJ are collected together in the rightmost column and ruled off with a thin, dashed white border.

With nearly 100 links to various content pieces throughout the WSJ’s digital empire, the footer possesses a clean and pleasing design that gives a great overview of the wealth of available information.

4. ThinkGeek

A veritable gold mine of geeky goodness, ThinkGeek is a Fairfax, Virginia-based company specializing in collectables, apparel, games, and all manner of merchandise appealing to the geek in all of us. ThinkGeek is well known for its infectious creativity, whimsical demeanor, inventive products, and outrageous April’s Fool fake-outs.

ThinkGeek’s footer is another clean arrangement of major site categories divided into easily scannable lists. Bold, bright color gradients give richness and depth without sacrificing readability. Timmy, the impish monkey mascot of ThinkGeek, directs your attention to the company’s Twitter stream, videos, and blog from his vantage point at the footer’s left edge. Random “customer action shots” offer additional bursts of fun, user-contributed content that keep the experience fresh.

Best of all, the scene of rampaging robots that grace the bottom of each page turns into a mob of marauding zombies upon reaching the footer. It’s a subtle touch, but an extra bit of awesomeness to reward users for adventuring this far below the fold.

If Social Media is “Free,” Personnel Hours are a “Hidden Tax”

This week’s #smmeasure Twitter chat, held by Marketwire, the company behind Sysomos, focused on dispelling common myths about social media. The first myth raised for discussion was “SM is free, everyone should do it!” Besides the notion that you shouldn’t get involved in social media just for the sake of it (tactics come second to strategy, not the other way around), it’s the amount of time your staff will come to spend working with social media that takes a bite out of the “free” notion.

I likened this notion to a “hidden tax,” especially for instances where social media is taken on as an additional task versus changing existing roles or hiring new talent (the latter of which has a more defined, upfront cost).

Regardless of exactly how your organization gets involved in social media, hours will be spent. Listening, learning, reading, engaging, responding, and measuring all take time, and we all know time is money. Consider this: if your analyst Suzy Creamcheese makes $50,000/year and is now spends 15% of her time focused on social media efforts for your company, those efforts are now costing you $7500/year. Twitter’s not so “free” anymore, is it?

That said, you can help reduce the “hidden tax” of social media by thinking about efficiencies. Will entering this space give your business more visibility to potential customers and increase the loyalty of your existing buyers? Could the knowledge you gain by monitoring give you the ability to respond to industry conditions and customer needs, saving money over the long run? Can you avoid a meltdown and negative press by responding to complaints or controversies as they happen, sparing your company and your stockholders the agony of lost revenue?

Social media certainly isn’t a silver bullet in and of itself, but set up and managed effectively, you can turn those “costly” personnel hours “lost” to social media into gains for your business.

Shout-outs: The #smmeasure chat happens on Twitter every Thursday at noon Eastern time. Follow @smmeasure or @marketwire to tune in; Marketwire also has a Facebook page where they post questions ahead of time. Also, I recommend reading “The Now Revolution” by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, which is filled with excellent advice and counsel on ways to make your business more nimble and effective in the era of real-time communication.

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