Scrambling in Snowdonia

At the end of last week, Klaas (one of my best friends) and I drove to from Belgium to Wales dead-set on scrambling up Tryfan's North Ridge and hiking the Ogwen Valley in Snowdonia.

Scrambling means hiking up steep, rocky terrain using your hands, without the need for ropes or any other kind of protection. It's something between hiking and rock climbing.

Tryfan's North Ridge silhouette next to lake Lyn Ogwen.17 people died on Tryfan the past 30 years, and 516 parties had to be rescued. While the scrambling on Tryfan is rarely technically challenging, it can be dangerous and difficult at times (video of Klaas scrambling), especially when carrying heavy backpacks. Tryfan shouldn't be taken lightly.

It took us five hours to make it to the top — and it's taking me four days to recover so far. After we reached the top, we descended a few hundred meters and found a patch of grass where we could set up our tent.

Our campsite on a ridge on the back of Tryfan. The views were spectacular.

Carrying those heavy backpacks paid off not only because we were able to bring our camping supplies but also because Klaas carried up a steak dinner with cocktails — a late birthday surprise for my 40th birthday. Yes, you read that correctly: a steak dinner with cocktails on top of a mountain! It was a real treat!

During dinner, the weather started to turn; dark clouds came in and it started to rain. By night time the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit). Fortunately, we were prepared and had hauled not only a tent and a steak dinner up the mountain, but also warm clothing.

The temperatures swung from 20ºC (68ºF) during the day time to 2ºC (35ºF) during night time. In the evenings, we were forced to put on warm clothes and layer up.

What didn't go so well was that my brand new sleeping pad had a leak and I didn't bring a repair kit. Although, sleeping on the ground wasn't so bad. The next morning, when we opened our tent, we were greeted not only by an amazing view, but also by friendly sheep.

The next two days, we hiked through the Ogwen Valley. Its wide glacial valley is surrounded by soaring mountains and is incredibly beautiful.

After three days of hiking we made it back to the base of Tryfan where it all started. We felt a big sense of accomplishment.

Selfie taken with Klaas' iPhone 8. Me pointing to the Tryfan's North Ridge where our hike began just three days earlier.We hadn't taken a shower in four days, so we definitely started to become aware of each other's smell. As soon as we got to Klaas' Volkswagen California (campervan), we showered in the parking lot, behind the car. I ended up washing my armpits four times, once for each day I didn't shower.

For more photos, check out my photo album.
Source: Dries Buytaert

Acquia sponsors NPR

As I wrote in my previous post, you might be seeing a lot more of Acquia in the coming weeks. If you listen to NPR, you may have heard our new radio ads.

Like our highway billboards and train station takeover, our NPR campaign is another great opportunity to reach commuters.

NPR is a national non-profit media organization with a network of more than 1,000 affiliated radio stations across the United States — and quite a few use Drupal and Acquia for their sites. It boasts listenership of nearly 30 million, and its airwaves reach nearly 99 percent of Americans.

Our NPR ads are running during the morning and evening commutes. In addition, Acquia ads will be featured on the Marketplace Tech podcast, which is popular among technology decision makers. Between the podcasts and radio ads, the potential reach is 64 million impressions.

We have always believed in doing well by doing good. Sponsoring NPR creates brand awareness for Acquia, but also supports NPR financially. High-quality media organizations are facing incredible challenges today, and underwriting NPR's work is a nice way for Acquia to give back.

Source: Dries Buytaert

Acquia takes over a subway station

If you pass through Kendall Square MBTA station in the Boston area, you'll see a station "takeover" starting this week featuring the Acquia brand.

Like our highway billboards introduced in December, the goal is for more people to learn about Acquia during their commutes. I'm excited about this campaign, because Acquia often feels like a best-kept secret to many.

The Kendall Square station takeover will introduce Acquia to 272,000 daily commuters in one of the biggest innovation districts in the Boston area – and home to the prestigious MIT.

In addition to posters on every wall of the station, the campaign includes Acquia branding on entry turnstiles, 75 digital live boards, and geo-targeted mobile ads that commuters may see while looking at their phones while waiting for the train. It will be hard not to be introduced to Acquia.

What makes this extra special is that all of the ads feature photographs of actual Acquia employees (Acquians, as we call ourselves), which is a nice way to introduce our company to people who may not know us.

Source: Dries Buytaert

Acquia retrospective 2018

Every year, I sit down to write my annual Acquia retrospective. It's a rewarding exercise, because it allows me to reflect on how much progress Acquia has made in the past 12 months.

Overall, Acquia had an excellent 2018. I believe we are a much stronger company than we were a year ago; not only because of our financial results, but because of our commitment to strengthen our product and engineering teams.

If you'd like to read my previous retrospectives, they can be found here: 2017,2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009. This year marks the publishing of my tenth retrospective. When read together, these posts provide a comprehensive overview of Acquia's growth and trajectory.

Updating our brand

Exiting 2017, Acquia doubled down on our transition from website management to digital experience management. In 2018, we updated our product positioning and brand narrative to reflect this change. This included a new Acquia Experience Platform diagram:

The Acquia Platform is divided into two key parts: the Experience Factory and the Marketing Hub. Drupal and Acquia Lightning power every side of the experience. The Acquia Platform supports our customers throughout the entire life cycle of a digital experience — from building to operating and optimizing digital experiences.

In 2018, the Acquia marketing team also worked hard to update Acquia's brand. The result is a refreshed look and updated brand positioning that better reflects our vision, culture, and the value we offer our customers. This included updating our tagline to read: Experience Digital Freedom.

I think Acquia's updated brand looks great, and it's been exciting to see it come to life. From highway billboards to Acquia Engage in Austin, our updated brand has been very well received.

When Acquia Engage attendees arrived at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for Acquia Engage 2018, they were greeted by an Acquia display.Business momentum

This year, Acquia surpassed $200 million in annualized revenue. Overall new subscription bookings grew 33 percent year over year, and we ended the year with nearly 900 employees.

Mike Sullivan completed his first year as Acquia's CEO, and demonstrated a strong focus on improving Acquia's business fundamentals across operational efficiency, gross margins, and cost optimization. The results have been tangible, as Acquia has realized unprecedented financial growth in 2018:

Channel-partner bookings grew 52 percent
EMEA-based bookings grew 103 percent
Gross profit grew 39 percent
Adjusted EBITDA grew 78 percent
Free cash flow grew 84 percent
2018 was a record year for Acquia. Year-over-year highlights include new subscription bookings, EMEA-based bookings, free cash flow, and more.International growth and expansion

In 2018, Acquia also witnessed unprecedented success in Europe and Asia, as new bookings in EMEA were up more than 100 percent. This included expanding our European headquarters to a new and larger space with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor of Reading in the U.K.

Acquia also expanded its presence in Asia Pacific, and opened Tokyo-based operations in 2018. Over the past few years I visited Japan twice, and I'm excited for the opportunities that doing business in Japan offers.

We selected Pune as the location for our new India office, and we are in the process of hiring our first Pune-based engineers.

Acquia now has four offices in the Asia Pacific region serving customers like Astellas Pharmaceuticals, Muji, Mediacorp, and Brisbane City Council.

Acquia product information, translated into Japanese.Acquia Engage

In 2018, we welcomed more than 650 attendees to Austin, Texas, for our annual customer conference, Acquia Engage. In June, we also held our first Acquia Engage Europe and welcomed 300 attendees.

Our Engage conferences included presentations from customers like Paychex, NBC Sports, Wendy's, West Corporation, General Electric, Charles Schwab, Pac-12 Networks, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer, Virgin Sport, and more. We also featured keynote presentations from our partner network, including VMLY&R, Accenture Interactive, IBM iX and MRM//McCann.

Both customers and partners continue to be the most important driver of Acquia's product strategy, and it's always rewarding to hear about this success first hand. In fact, 2018 customer satisfaction levels remain extremely high at 94 percent.

Partner program

Finally, Acquia's partner network continues to become more sophisticated. In the second half of 2018, we right sized our partner community from 2,270 firms to 226. This was a bold move, but our goal was to place a renewed focus on the partners who were both committed to Acquia and highly capable. As a result, we saw almost 52 percent year-over-year growth in partner-sourced ACV bookings. This is meaningful because for every $1 Acquia books in collaboration with a partner, our partner makes about $5 in services revenue.

Analyst recognition

In 2018, the top industry analysts published very positive reviews about Acquia. I'm proud that Acquia was recognized by Forrester Research as the leader for strategy and vision in The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems, Q4 2018. Acquia was also named a leader in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, marking our placement as a leader for the fifth year in a row.

Product milestones

Acquia's product evolution between 2008 and 2018. When Acquia was founded, our mission was to provide commercial support for Drupal and to be the "Red Hat for Drupal"; 12 years later, the Acquia Platform helps organizations build, operate and optimize Drupal-based experiences.

2018 was one of the busiest years I have experienced; it was full of non-stop action every day. My biggest focus was working with Acquia's product and engineering team.
We focused on growing and improving our R&D organization, modernizing Acquia Cloud, becoming user-experience first, redesigning the Acquia Lift user experience, working on headless Drupal, making Drupal easier to use, and expanding our commerce strategy.

Hiring, hiring, hiring

In partnership with Mike, we decided to increase the capacity of our research and development team by 60 percent. At the close of 2018, we were able to increase the capacity of our research and development team by 45 percent percent. We will continue to invest in growing our our R&D team in 2019.

I spent a lot of our time restructuring, improving and scaling the product organization to make sure we could handle the increased capacity and build out a world-class R&D organization.

As the year progressed, R&D capacity increasingly came online and our ability to innovate not only improved but accelerated significantly. We entered 2019 in a much better position, as we now have a lot more capacity to innovate.

Acquia Cloud

Acquia Cloud and Acquia Cloud Site Factory support some of the largest and most mission-critical websites in the world. The scope and complexity that Acquia Cloud and Acquia Cloud Site Factory manages is enormous. We easily deliver more than 30 billion page views a month (excluding CDN).

Over the course of 10 years, the Acquia Cloud codebase had grown very large. Updating, testing and launching new releases took a long time because we had one large, monolithic codebase. This was something we needed to change in order to add new features faster.

Over the course of 2018, the engineering team broke the monolithic codebase down into discrete components that can be tested and released independently. We launched our component-based architecture in June. Since then, the engineering team has released changes to production 650 times, compared to our historic pace of doing one release per quarter.

This graph shows how we moved Acquia Cloud from a monolithic code base to a component-based code base. Each color on the graph represents a component. The graph shows how releases of Acquia Cloud (and the individual components in particular) have accelerated in the second half of the year.Planning and designing for all of these services took a lot of time and focus, and was a large priority for the entire engineering team (including me). The fruits of these efforts will start to become more publicly visible in 2019. I'm excited to share more with you in future blog posts.

Acquia Cloud also remains the most secure and compliant cloud for Drupal. As we were componentizing the Acquia Cloud platform, the requirements to maintain our FedRAMP compliance became much more stringent. In April, the GDPR deadline was also nearing. Executing on hundreds of FedRAMP- and GDPR-related tasks emerged as another critical priority for many of our product and engineering teams. I'm proud that the team succeeded in accomplishing this amid all the other changes we were making.
Customer experience first

Over the years, I've felt Acquia lacked a focus on user experience (UX) for both developers and marketers. As a result, increasing the capacity of our R&D team included doubling the size of the UX team.

We've stepped up our UX research to better understand the needs and challenges of those who use Acquia products. We've begun to employ design-first methodologies, such as design sprints and a lean-UX approach. We've also created roles for customer experience designers, so that we're looking at the full customer journey rather than just our product interfaces.

With the extra capacity and data-driven changes in place, we've been working hard on updating the user experience for the entire Acquia Experience Platform. For example, you can see a preview of our new Acquia Lift product in this video, which has an increased focus on UX:


In 2018, Drupal 8 adoption kept growing and Drupal also saw an increase in the number of community contributions and contributors, both from individuals and from organizations.

Acquia remains very committed to Drupal, and was the largest contributor to the project in 2018. We now have more than 15 employees who contribute to Drupal full time, in addition to many others that contribute periodically. In 2018, the Drupal team's main areas of focus have been Layout Builder and the API-first initiative:

Layout Builder: Layout Builder offers content authors an easy-to-use page building experience. It's shaping up to be one of the most useful and pervasive features ever added to Drupal because it redefines the how editors control the appearance of their content without having to rely on a developer.
API First: This initiative has given Drupal a true best-in-class web services API for using Drupal as a headless content management system. Headless Drupal is one of the fastest growing segments of Drupal implementations.
Our R&D team gathered in Boston for our annual Build Week in June 2018.Content and Commerce

Adobe's acquisition of Magento has been very positive for us; we're now the largest commerce-agnostic content management company to partner with. As a result, we decided to extend our investments in headless commerce and set up partnerships with Elastic Path and BigCommerce. The momentum we've seen from these partnerships in a short amount of time is promising for 2019.

The market continues to move in Acquia's direction

In 2019, I believe Acquia will continue to be positioned for long-term growth. Here are a few reasons why:

The current markets for content and digital experience management continues to grow rapidly, at approximately 20 percent per year.
Digital transformation is top-of-mind for all organizations, and impacts all elements of their business and value chain.
Open source adoption continues to grow at a furious pace and has seen tremendous business success in 2018.
Cloud adoption continues to grow. Unlike most of our CMS competitors, Acquia was born in the cloud.
Drupal and Acquia are leaders in headless and decoupled content management, which is a fast growing segment of our market.
Conversational interfaces and augmented reality continues to grow, and we embraced these channels a few years ago. Acquia Labs, our research and innovation lab, explored how organizations can use conversational UIs to develop beyond-the-browser experiences, like cooking with Alexa, and voice-enabled search for customers like Purina.
Although we hold a leadership position in our market, our relative market share is small. These trends mean that we should have plenty of opportunity to grow in 2019 and beyond.

Thank you

While 2018 was an incredibly busy year, it was also very rewarding. I have a strong sense of gratitude, and admire every Acquian's relentless determination and commitment to improve. As always, none of these results and milestones would be possible without the hard work of the Acquia team, our customers, partners, the Drupal community, and our many friends.

I've always been pretty transparent about our trajectory (e.g. Acquia 2009 roadmap and Acquia 2017 strategy) and will continue to do so in 2019. We have some big plans for 2019, and I'm excited to share them with you. If you want to get notified about what we have in store, you can subscribe to my blog at

Thank you for your support in 2018!

Source: Dries Buytaert

Drupal's long-term growth obstacles

Drupal 8 has been growing 40 to 50 percent year over year. It's a healthy growth rate. Regardless, it is always worth exploring how we can continue to accelerate that growth.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the power of removing obstacles to growth, and shared how Amazon approaches its own growth blockers. Amazon identified at least two blockers for long-term growth: (1) shipping costs and (2) shipping times. For more than a decade, Amazon has been focused on eliminating both. They have spent an unbelievable amount of creativity, effort, time, and money to eliminate them.
In that blog post, I promised to share my thoughts around Drupal's own growth barriers. What obstacles can we eliminate to fuel Drupal's long-term growth? Well, I believe the limitations to Drupal's growth can be summarized as:
Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt
Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders
Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners
Keep Drupal relevant and impactful
Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win
For those that have read my blog or watched my DrupalCon keynote presentations, none of these will come as a surprise. Just like Amazon's examples, fixing these obstacles have been, and will be, multi-year efforts.

Drupal's five product strategy tracks. A number of current initiatives is shown on each track.
1. Make Drupal easy to evaluate and adopt
We need to make it easy for more people to try Drupal. To help evaluators explore Drupal's possibilities, we improved the download and installation experience, and included a demonstration site with core. We made fantastic progress on this in 2018.
Now that we have improved the evaluator experience, I'd love to see us focus on the "new user" experience. When you put yourself in the shoes of a new Drupal user, you'd still find it hard to set up a local development environment. There are too many options, too little direction, and no one official way for how to get started with Drupal. The "new user" is not receiving enough attention, and that slows adoption so I'd love to see us focus no that in 2019.
2. Make Drupal easy for content creators and site builders
One of the most powerful trends I've noticed time and time again is that simplicity wins. People expect software to be functionally powerful and easy to use. This is especially true for content creators and site builders.
To make Drupal easier to use for content creators and site builders, we've introduced WYSIWYG and in-place editing in Drupal 8.0, and now we're working hard on media management, layout building, content workflows and a new administration and authoring UI.
A lot of these initiatives add tools to the UI that empower content creators and site builders to do more with less code. Long term, I believe that we need to more of these "no-code" or "low-code" capabilities in Drupal.
3. Reduce the total cost of ownership for developers and site owners
Developers want to be agile, fast and deliver high quality projects that add value for their organization. Developers don't want their tools to get in the way.
For Drupal this means that they want to build sites, including themes and modules, without being bogged down by complex upgrades, expensive migrations or cumbersome developer workflows.
For developers and site owners we have made upgrades easier, we adopted a 6-month innovation model, and we extended security coverage for minor releases. This removes the complexity from major upgrades, gives organizations more time to upgrade, and allows us to release new capabilities more frequently. This is a very big deal for developer and site owners!
In addition, we're working on improving Drupal's Composer support and configuration management capabilities. This will help developers automate and streamline their day-to-day work.
Longer term, improved Composer support could act as a stepping stone towards automated updates, which would be one of the most effective ways to free up a developer's time.
4. Keep Drupal relevant and impactful
The innovation in the Drupal ecosystem happens thanks to Drupal contributors. We need to attract new contributors to Drupal, and keep existing contributors excited. This means we have to keep Drupal relevant and impactful.
To keep Drupal relevant, we've been investing in making Drupal an API-first platform for many years now. Headless Drupal or decoupled Drupal is one of Drupal's competitive advantages. Drupal's web service APIs allow developers to use Drupal with their JavaScript framework of choice, push content to different channels, and better integrate Drupal with different technologies in the marketing stack.
Drupal developers can now do unprecedented things with Drupal that weren't available before. JavaScript and mobile application developers have been familiarizing themselves with Drupal due to its improved API-first capabilities. All of this keeps Drupal relevant, ensures that Drupal has high impact, and that we attract new developers to Drupal.
5. Promote Drupal and help Drupal agencies win
While Drupal is well-known as an Open Source project, there isn't a deep understanding of how Drupal is evolving or how Drupal compares to its competitors.
Drupal is improving rapidly every six months with each new minor version release, but I'm not sure we're getting that message out effectively. We need to promote our amazing progress, not only to everyone in the web development community, but also to marketers and content managers, who are now often weighing in heavily on CMS decisions.
We do an incredible job collaborating on code — thousands of us are helping to build Drupal — but we do a poor job collaborating on marketing, education and promotion. Imagine what could happen if these thousands of individuals and agencies would all collaborate on promoting Drupal!
That is why the Drupal Association started the Promote Drupal initiative, and why we're trying to rally people in the community to work together on creating pitch decks, case studies, and other collateral to promote and market Drupal.
Here are a few things already happening:
There is an updated Drupal Brand Book for organizations to follow as they design Drupal marketing and sales materials.
A team of volunteers is creating a comprehensive Drupal pitch deck that Drupal agencies can use as a starting point when working with new clients.
DrupalCon will have new Content & Digital Marketing Track for marketing teams responsible for content generation, demand generation, user journeys, and more; and a "Agency Leadership Track" for those running Drupal agencies.
We will begin work on a competitive comparison chart — contrasting Drupal with other CMS competitors like Adobe, Sitecore, Contentful, WordPress, Prismic, and more.
A number of local Drupal Associations are hiring marketing people to help promote Drupal in their region.
Just like all open source contribution, it takes many to move things forward. So far, 40 people have signed up to help with these marketing efforts. If your organization has a marketing team that would like to contribute to the marketing of Drupal, check out the Promote Drupal initiative page and please join the Promote Drupal team.
Educating the world about how Drupal is evolving, the amazing use cases we support, and how Drupal compares to old and new competitors will go a very long way towards raising awareness of the project and growing the businesses built on and around Drupal.
Final thoughts
After talking to hundreds of Drupal users and would-be users, as well as dozens of agency owners, I believe we're working on the right things. Overcoming these growth obstacles are multi-year efforts. While the various initiatives might change, I believe we'll keep working on these four tracks for the next decade. We've been making steady progress the last few years but need to remain both patient and committed to driving them home. Just like Amazon continues to work on their growth obstacles after more than a decade, I expect we'll be working on these four obstacles for many years to come.
Source: Dries Buytaert

State of Drupal presentation (September 2018)

Last week, nearly 1,000 Drupalists gathered in Darmstadt, Germany for Drupal Europe. In good tradition, I presented my State of Drupal keynote. You can watch a recording of my keynote (starting at 4:38) or download a copy of my slides (37 MB).

Drupal 8 continues to mature

I started my keynote by highlighting this month's Drupal 8.6.0 release. Drupal 8.6 marks the sixth consecutive Drupal 8 release that has been delivered on time. Compared to one year ago, we have 46 percent more stable Drupal 8 modules. We also have 10 percent more contributors are working on Drupal 8 Core in comparison to last year. All of these milestones indicate that the Drupal 8 is healthy and growing.

Next, I gave an update on our strategic initiatives:

Make Drupal better for content creators

© Paul JohnsonThe expectations of content creators are changing. For Drupal to be successful, we have to continue to deliver on their needs by providing more powerful content management tools, in addition to delivering simplicity though drag-and-drop functionality, WYSIWYG, and more.

With the release of Drupal 8.6, we have added new functionality for content creators by making improvements to the Media, Workflow, Layout and Out-of-the-Box initiatives. I showed a demo video to demonstrate how all of these new features not only make content authoring easier, but more powerful:

We also need to improve the content authoring experience through a modern administration user interface. We have been working on a new administration UI using React. I showed a video of our latest prototype:

Extended security coverage for Drupal 8 minor releases

I announced an update to Drupal 8's security policy. To date, site owners had one month after a new minor Drupal 8 release to upgrade their sites before losing their security updates. Going forward, Drupal 8 site owners have 6 months to upgrade between minor releases. This extra time should give site owners flexibility to plan, prepare and test minor security updates. For more information, check out my recent blog post.

Make Drupal better for evaluators

One of the most significant updates since DrupalCon Nashville is Drupal's improved evaluator experience. The time required to get a Drupal site up and running has decreased from more than 15 minutes to less than two minutes and from 20 clicks to 3. This is a big accomplishment. You can read more about it in my recent blog post.

Promote Drupal

After launching Promote Drupal at DrupalCon Nashville, we hit the ground running with this initiative and successfully published a community press release for the release of Drupal 8.6, which was also translated into multiple languages. Much more is underway, including building a brand book, marketing collaboration space on, and a Drupal pitch deck.

The Drupal 9 roadmap and a plan to end-of-life Drupal 7 and Drupal 8

To keep Drupal modern, maintainable, and performant, we need to stay on secure, supported versions of Drupal 8's third-party dependencies. This means we need to end-of-life Drupal 8 with Symfony 3's end-of-life. As a result, I announced that:

Drupal 8 will be end-of-life by November 2021.
Drupal 9 will be released in 2020, and it will be an easy upgrade.
Historically, our policy has been to only support two major versions of Drupal; Drupal 7 would ordinarily reach end of life when Drupal 9 is released. Because a large number of sites might still be using Drupal 7 by 2020, we have decided to extend support of Drupal 7 until November 2021.

For those interested, I published a blog post that further explains this.

Adopt GitLab on

Finally, the Drupal Association is working to integrate GitLab with GitLab will provide support for "merge requests", which means contributing to Drupal will feel more familiar to the broader audience of open source contributors who learned their skills in the post-patch era. Some of GitLab's tools, such as inline editing and web-based code review, will also lower the barrier to contribution, and should help us grow both the number of contributions and contributors on

To see an exciting preview of's gitlab integration, watch the video below:

Thank you

Our community has a lot to be proud of, and this progress is the result of thousands of people collaborating and working together. It's pretty amazing! The power of our community isn't just visible in minor releases or a number of stable modules. It was also felt at this very conference, as many volunteers gave their weekends and evenings to help organize Drupal Europe in the absence of a DrupalCon Europe organized by the Drupal Association. From code to community, the Drupal project is making an incredible impact. I look forward to continuing to celebrate our European community's work and friendships at future Drupal conferences.

Source: Dries Buytaert

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A Charming Example of How to Get Fired Through Facebook

Ahh social networking. Sometimes users are in such a hurry to vent through a status update that they don't stop to remember who's going to see it. And if you happen to say something negative about someone or something, the situation can quickly turn ugly. Read more

My thoughts on Adobe buying Magento for $1.68 billion

Yesterday, Adobe announced that it agreed to buy Magento for $1.68 billion. When I woke up this morning, 14 different people had texted me asking for my thoughts on the acquisition.

Adobe acquiring Magento isn't a surprise. One of our industry's worst-kept secrets is that Adobe first tried to buy Hybris, but lost the deal to SAP; subsequently Adobe tried to buy DemandWare and lost out against Salesforce. It's evident that Adobe has been hungry to acquire a commerce platform for quite some time.

The product motivation behind the acquisition

Large platform companies like Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Adobe are trying to own the digital customer experience market from top to bottom, which includes providing support for marketing, commerce, personalization, and data management, in addition to content and experience management and more.

Compared to the other platform companies, Adobe was missing commerce. With Magento under its belt, Adobe can better compete against Salesforce, Oracle and SAP.

While Salesforce, SAP and Oracle offer good commerce capability, they lack satisfactory content and experience management capabilities. I expect that Adobe closing the commerce gap will compel Salesforce, SAP and Oracle to act more aggressively on their own content and experience management gap.

While Magento has historically thrived in the SMB and mid-market, the company recently started to make inroads into the enterprise. Adobe will bring a lot of operational maturity; how to sell into the enterprise, how to provide enterprise grade support, etc. Magento stands to benefit from this expertise.

The potential financial outcome behind the acquisition

According to Adobe press statements, Magento has achieved "approximately $150 million in annual revenue". We also know that in early 2017, Magento raised $250 million in funding from Hillhouse Capital. Let's assume that $180 million of that is still in the bank. If we do a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, we can subtract this $180 million from the $1.68 billion, and determine that Magento was valued at roughly $1.5 billion, or a 10x revenue multiple on Magento's trailing twelve months of revenue. That is an incredible multiple for Magento, which is primarily a licensing business today.

Compare that with Shopify, which is trading at a $15 billion dollar valuation and has $760 million of twelve month trailing revenue. This valuation is good for a 20x multiple. Shopify deserves the higher multiple, because it's the better business; all of its business is delivered in the cloud and at 65% year-over-year revenue growth, it is growing much faster than Magento.

Regardless, one could argue that Adobe got a great deal, especially if it can accelerate Magento's transformation from a licensing business into a cloud business.

Most organizations prefer best-of-breed

While both the product and financial motivations behind this acquisition are seemingly compelling, I'm not convinced organizations want an integrated approach.

Instead of being confined to proprietary vendors' prescriptive suites and roadmaps, global brands are looking for an open platform that allows organizations to easily integrate with their preferred technology. Organizations want to build content-rich shopping journeys that integrate their experience management solution of choice with their commerce platform of choice.

We see this first hand at Acquia. These integrations can span various commerce platforms, including IBM WebSphere Commerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud/Demandware, Oracle/ATG, SAP/hybris, Magento and even custom transaction platforms. Check out Quicken (Magento), Weber (Demandware), Motorola (Broadleaf Commerce), Tesla (custom to order a car, and Shopify to order accessories) as great examples of Drupal and Acquia working with various commerce platforms. And of course, we've quite a few projects with Drupal's native commerce solution, Drupal Commerce.

Owning Magento gives Adobe a disadvantage, because commerce vendors will be less likely to integrate with Adobe Experience Manager moving forward.

It's all about innovation through integration

Today, there is an incredible amount of innovation taking place in the marketing technology landscape (full-size image), and it is impossible for a single vendor to have the most competitive product suite across all of these categories. The only way to keep up with this unfettered innovation is through integrations.

For reference, here are the 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 versions of the landscape. It shows how fast the landscape is growing.Most customers want an open platform that allows for open innovation and unlimited integrations. It's why Drupal and Acquia are winning, why the work on Drupal's web services is so important, and why Acquia remains committed to a best-of-breed strategy for commerce. It's also why Acquia has strong conviction around Acquia Journey as a marketing integration platform. It's all about innovation through integration, making those integrations easy, and removing friction from adopting preferred technologies.

If you acquire a commerce platform, acquire a headless one

If I were Adobe, I would have looked to acquire a headless commerce platform such as Elastic Path, Commerce Tools, Moltin, Reaction Commerce or even Salsify.

Today, there is a lot of functional overlap between Magento and Adobe Experience Manager — from content editing, content workflows, page building, user management, search engine optimization, theming, and much more. The competing functionality between the two solutions makes for a poor developer experience and for a poor merchant experience.

In a headless approach, the front end and the back end are decoupled, which means the experience or presentation layer is separated from the commerce business layer. There is a lot less overlap of functionality in this approach, and it provides a better experience for merchants and developers.

Alternatively, you could go for a deeply integrated approach like Drupal Commerce. It has zero overlap between its commerce, content management and experience building capabilities.

For Open Source, it could be good or bad

How Adobe will embrace Magento's Open Source community is possibly the most intriguing part of this acquisition — at least for me.

For a long time, Magento operated as Open Source in name, but wasn't very Open Source in practice. Over the last couple of years, the Magento team worked hard to rekindle its Open Source community. I know this because I attended and keynoted one of its conferences on this topic. I have also spent a fair amount of time with Magento's leadership team discussing this. Like other projects, Magento has been taking inspiration from Drupal.

For example, the introduction of Magento 2 allowed the company to move to GitHub for the first time, which gave the community a better way to collaborate on code and other important issues. The latest release of Magento cited 194 contributions from the community. While that is great progress, it is small compared to Drupal.

My hope is that these Open Source efforts continue now that Magento is part of Adobe. If they do, that would be a tremendous win for Open Source.

On the other hand, if Adobe makes Magento cloud-only, radically changes their pricing model, limits integrations with Adobe competitors, or doesn't value the Open Source ethos, it could easily alienate the Magento community. In that case, Adobe bought Magento for its install base and the Magento brand, and not because it believes in the Open Source model.

This acquisition also signals a big win for PHP. Adobe now owns a $1.68 billion PHP product, and this helps validate PHP as an enterprise-grade technology.

Unfortunately, Adobe has a history of being "Open Source"-second and not "Open Source"-first. It acquired Day Software in July 2010. This technology was largely made using open source frameworks — Apache Sling, Apache Jackrabbit and more — and was positioned as an open, best-of-breed solution for developers and agile marketers. Most of that has been masked and buried over the years and Adobe's track record with developers has been mixed, at best.

Will the same happen to Magento? Time will tell.
Source: Dries Buytaert

Broken Records Taps Pixeldust to Develop New Identity

Broken Records, a Spicewood, TX, record label and recording studio, has selected Pixeldust as its lead digital agency for all DrupalCoin Blockchain web integrationneeds. Pixeldust will design and develop the brand identity and website for both the record label and recording studio. The website will feature Broken Records artists and showcase the state-of-the-art recording studio currently under production. Pixeldust will also develop a highly interactive 3d animation to help introduce the brand. Read more

Copywriting Q&A: Why Brand Voice Matters So Much

Copywriting is a craft with a lot of moving parts. One of the easiest to forget—and also, interestingly, easiest to disregard—is the brand voice. Today, we’re talking about what makes the brand voice so important.
Today’s question is from Frank P., who asks, “Do businesses really care that much about a brand voice? How much of that should I consider when I’m applying to work for them?”
So, the short answer is: Yes. Businesses very much care about their brand voice. It needs to be a major factor in whatever you write for any client.
As for the longer part of the answer, here’s why:
When the internet was young, (baby internet here) companies could just put their products out there and people would buy it. There was very little competition and people were still amazed at this whole idea of buying products and services over the net.
Fast forward to today, of course, and things are VERY different. Our internet has grown up into a surly teenager.
Competition is fierce – and not just for sales, but even for attention! The market is flooded with companies that look alike and probably even do or sell something similar.
And, in one sense, that’s good – it means that there is a market for what that company is selling.
But that competition makes also building and growing a business very hard. It’s getting harder and harder for people to distinguish between one company and its competitors.
It’s even harder for them to understand what a company does differently.
And a target audience they can’t immediately understand what makes a company different and special, they’re not going to buy. No matter how much a potential customer needs what that company has to offer and is actively searching for a solution, they won’t buy from that company if they don’t know what makes them different; if they don’t understand that company’s unique benefit.
A company can have the most beautiful website in the world, the most stunning photography, and the coolest graphics, but if their message doesn’t connect with their audience and spell out why that needs to purchase from them instead of anyone else, that company won’t be successful.
People look at a company’s website and photos to see if it seems professional, but they read the copy to see if they connect with them, to see if the company has experience in the business, to see if they can trust the company, and to see if they want to buy from that company.
One of the best ways for a company to set itself apart and encourage those purchases is by crafting an effective brand voice. A brand voice is the tone and style of the copy that’s used in every piece of messaging.
It’s a brand’s personality.
A brand voice is what helps people connect with a company – what makes the company feel like a group of real, living and breathing people to them, instead of just some amorphous Business-with-a-capital-b with a website. Think about it: Do you want to buy from a stranger, or do you want to buy from a friend?
The personality that a business infuses into is messages—no matter how big or small that business is—is what sets it apart and what makes people connect with it.
Your turn! What are some companies with great brand voices? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!


Illusions, Destroyed

A friend of mine is going through a divorce and we spent some time together talking through it. Or, perhaps, I just listened… a lot.

The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that I simply do not have as many answers to really anything. I have many more questions at this point in time.
As my friend begins to pick up the pieces and start a brand new life we talked about many things, but perhaps most of last conversation centered around the fact that much of what we believed to be true did not, in fact, end up being true at all…
… and how sometimes life has a way of making us destroy those illusions for our good.
But a lot of people don’t want those illusions destroyed and I though immediately of a Nietzsche saying:
Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
The truth is like surgery, it cuts and harms to do good. The scars will remain.
I’m praying for my friend. This is going to be an incredibly important year for him.
The post Illusions, Destroyed appeared first on John Saddington.


You in business? What are you doing to last? Not to grow. Not to gain. Not to take. Not to win. But to last?I wouldn’t advocate spending much time worrying about the competition — you really shouldn’t waste attention worrying about things you can’t control — but if it helps make the point relatable, the best way to beat the competition is to last longer than they do.Duh? Yes, duh. Exactly. Business is duh simple as long as you don’t make it duhking complicated.So how do you last?Obviously you need to take in enough revenue to pay your bills. But we’ve always tried to reverse that statement: How many bills do you need to pay to limit your revenue requirements?Rather than thinking about how much you need to make to cover your costs, think about how little you need to help you survive as long as you want.Yes, we’re talking about costs. The rarely talked about side of the equation. I’m honestly shocked how little attention costs get in the realm of entrepreneurial literature.Whenever a startup goes out of business, the first thing I get curious about are their costs, not their revenues. If their revenues are non-existent, or barely there, then they were fucked anyway. But beyond that, the first thing I look at is their employee count. Your startup with 38 people didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that was paying $52,000/month rent didn’t make it? No wonder. Your startup that spend 6 figures on your brand didn’t make it? No wonder.Even today… Some of the biggest names in our industry are hemorrhaging money. How is that possible? Simple: Their costs are too high! You don’t lose money by making it, you lose it by spending too much of it! Duh! I know!So keep your costs as low as possible. And it’s likely that true number is even lower than you think possible. That’s how you last through the leanest times. The leanest times are often the earliest times, when you don’t have customers yet, when you don’t have revenue yet. Why would you tank your odds of survival by spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need? Beats me, but people do it all the time. ALL THE TIME. Dreaming of all the amazing things you’ll do in year three doesn’t matter if you can’t get past year two.2018 will be our 19th year in business. That means we’ve survived a couple of major downturns — 2001, and 2008, specifically. I’ve been asked how. It’s simple: It didn’t cost us much to stay in business. In 2001 we had 4 employees. We were competing against companies that had 40, 400, even 4000. We had 4. We made it through, many did not. In 2008 we had around 20. We had millions in revenue coming in, but we still didn’t spend money on marketing, and we still sublet a corner of someone else’s office. Business was amazing, but we continued to keep our costs low. Keeping a handle on your costs must be a habit, not an occasion. Diets don’t work, eating responsibly does.Try it for a year. Think less about revenues and more about costs. In many cases they’re easier to control, easier to predict (seek out fixed costs that’ll stay the same as you grow, vs things that get more expensive as you grow), and easier to manage. But only if you keep them in mind as you make decisions about how you’re going to last — and outlast.Fired up about a new idea, but can’t seem to get traction to make it happen? Chat rooms aren’t traction, they’re treadmills. Lots of talk without going anywhere. You need Basecamp 3 — discussions, to-do lists, schedules, the ability to hold people accountable. Don’t just talk about it, do it with Basecamp.Outlasting was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Design Systems: The Parts

In our last article, we explored why you might seek help getting started on your Design System and where to begin. Now, we’ll explore what goes into one.
What goes into a Design System?
There are some differing opinions on exactly what goes into a Design System and how best to structure the inventory. From what I’ve seen, the differences from one system to another are mostly about nomenclature and how best to organize things. For us, we’ve largely defined Design Systems as "a digital library of guidelines and resources." 

Simply put, these are the documented standards—a place to go to see examples and written descriptions to better understand usages patterns. We break them up into two primary categories: Style Guidelines and UI Guidelines.
Style Guidelines
These are the perceptual patterns that are core to the brand, from principles to voice and tone guidance.
PrinciplesColorsTypographyVoice & ToneLogos & IdentityAccessibilityMotionSound
UI Guidelines
These are the building blocks of your user interface (UI) design—the functional patterns. It’s worth noting you may see other organizations call this a Component Library or Pattern Library—we like UI Guide as a nice complement to a Style Guide.
Here’s a list of things you might find in a UI Guide. Note this list only includes some of the more common components for brevity—to see what a long list looks like view Salesforce’s Lightning Design System.
AlertsAvatarsBadgesBlockquotesBreadcrumbsButtonsCaptionsCardsCarouselsCheckboxesData TablesDividersDrawersGridHeadingsIconographyListsPaginationParagraphsProgress IndicatorsRadio ButtonsSelect BoxesSpacingTabsTagsText FieldsTogglesTool Tips
This is where you go for usable parts, whether it be source files or code samples. In our organization, we often refer to these as a “Parts Kits” and separate them into two categories: one by designers and one by developers. Audiences vary based on needs, but the use case is usually a means of helping to build, extend, and maintain your Design System across an ecosystem of touch points.
Design Toolkit
These are the source files (usually) created by a designer and made available for download.
LogosLicensed FontsColor PalettesIcon LibrariesGraphics (patterns, textures, etc.)Page templatesDesign Source files (Sketch, Photoshop, Figma, etc.)
Developer Toolkit
These are the usable parts, samples, and examples made by a developer for use and reference.
Modular componentsCode snippetsPage builders
In Summary
I hope this gives you a good idea of how Design Systems can be structured. Quite honestly, they come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you only have a small portion of what you see listed in this article, you’ll already have the beginning of one. After all, Design Systems are meant to expand and evolve over time so getting started can be easy.
For further exploration, here are a few examples of Design Systems that we like:
Salesforce's Lightning Design SystemAtlassian's End-to-End Design LanguageTrello's Nachos

Source: VigetInspire

Design Systems: Problems & Solutions

Why do you need a Design System?
In a previous article, we shared our thoughts on why Design Systems may be on the rise. Now, let’s further explore why you might need one. What are some of the common problems organizations face without a Design System, and how can one help?
Common Problems
Here are a few warning signs that might indicate you need to think about implementing a Design System:
Process bottlenecks
Through agile integrationmethodologies, rapid release cycles have improved the ability for organizations to make timely and recurring updates. This means that individuals in organizations have had to do things more quickly than they used to. The benefits of speed often come at a cost. Usually, that cost is a compromise in quality. How will you ensure quality without introducing bottlenecks to your release cycles?
Design inconsistencies
Because your design needs have had to keep up with your integrationcycle, you’re left with a mess. Things as simple as having a dozen different versions of a button that could be simplified down to a few—component management. Maybe you have five different versions of a similar color or twelve different font styles when you could be using four—style management. Perhaps you’ve built a check-out flow that works differently in different places creating a nightmare for your customer support team—operational management. How will you establish and maintain consistency?
Scaling challenges
Perhaps you’ve focused on one platform when you first designed but are now scaling to multiple platforms. Maybe you started as a native application and are now working towards a web-based application or vice versa. It’s possible you didn’t think about how your designs would adapt to varying screen sizes or across platforms. How will you introduce new platforms?
How can a Design System help? What problems do they solve?
Now that you’ve explored some of the reasons you might need one, let’s look at how Design Systems can help.
Centralized knowledge base
By creating and maintaining a Design System, you’ll have a centralized reference point to account for the most up-to-date standards. This resource should be easy for anyone on the company to find, comprehend quickly, and put to use. It’s the place where you find guidelines and resources. It should be updated in harmony with your evolving needs.
Cross-platform consistency
As you expand your digital footprint across varying platforms from web to native applications or from smart watches to giant displays or from voice-activated devices to extended reality (XR), you’ll be able to better align and account for design consistency. Cross-platform consistency and brand consistency are synonymous.
Less excess
Let’s face it, the more inconsistency there is with your design, the more inconsistency there will be with your underlying code. With every different version of page elements or templates, there’s a higher likelihood of unnecessary code loading to render the design elements. This means design cruft and technical debt go hand-in-hand. By minimizing unnecessary excess, you’ll be better optimized for usability while gaining performance benefits through faster rendering of content.
Increased efficiency
The less you have to start from scratch every time you start a new design, the more efficient you will be in being able to design, build, and launch things quickly. Also worth mentioning, it will be far faster and easier to get approvals if your designs are aligned with existing standards.
Not sure where to begin?
These are just a few of the reasons you might consider implementing a Design System. In our next article, we’ll explore where to begin and why you might hire an agency (like Viget) to help with your needs.

Source: VigetInspire

Design Systems: Why Now?

Design Systems have been a hot topic as of late—so fiery hot that books are being written, platforms developed, events organized, and tools released to help us all with this growing need. To me, it feels a lot like a ‘what’s old is new again’ kind of topic. I mean, if we’re being real, the notion of systems design has been around since at least the industrial era—it’s not exclusive to the digital age. And, in many ways, Design Systems by their very nature are simply a natural evolution of style guides—a set of standard guidelines for writing and design. Yet, style guides have been around for decades. So, why the newness and why now?
As an agency, we’re not here to define what Design Systems are and are not—there are already tons of articles that do so. If you’re looking good starting places, I recommend Laura Kalbag’s Design Systems article (short form, 2012) and Invision’s Design System Handbook (long form, 2017). We’re interested in helping organizations, like our customers, better understand why they might need a Design System and how best to get started. With that in mind, this is the beginning of a small set of articles to give you an idea of how we (and other client services providers like us) can help.
To look deeper into why there seems to be a rising interest in Design Systems, here are a few factors that may be driving things right now:
Digital is pervasive. Where there used to be a separation between offline and online, there is no more. Businesses that were offline are now online and businesses that started online are expanding beyond. We’re even starting to see digital agencies (like Stink Studios) drop Digital from their name (formerly Stink Digital). This is happening because most agencies now serve ‘digital’—it’s no longer a separate thing. Some agencies are now using descriptive words like ‘integrated’ to mean they service both online and offline needs.More specialized capabilities are being brought in-house. As companies have hired more and more developers, they’ve built strong engineering departments. Once that happens, it doesn’t take long for a few engineers to tell you that they are not designers. And, once you hire designers it won’t take long for a designer to tell you what kind of designer they are. Suddenly, you are hiring for specialties like Visual, UI, UX, Interactive, Motion, Sound, and more.Agile integrationis widespread. It used to be that websites would go through extensive overhauls every two to five years to account for evolving needs. Once developers adopted agile processes they trained others outside of integrationto work in similar rapid release cycles. What used to amount to a big launch every few years has evolved from bi-annual to bi-weekly to twice daily all the way to the point where things are closer and closer to being real-time events—make a change, validate, then publish.Platforms are expanding. At one point in time we were designing for a single digital presence—the website. Then, it was sites and apps across a universe of displays—from wristwatches to stadium displays. Lately, what we see emerging are fully immersive extended reality (XR) environments—that’s just one side of the coin. On the other, displays are becoming non-essential thanks to voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Put simply, it’s a lot to keep up with and stay ahead of.Consumer expectations are rising. The most successful brands are trusted by their customers because of their attention to detail, whether it be customer service, user experience, or overall impact. The more consistent and polished your brand is across your universe of touch points, the more likely it is that you are trusted no matter where you are.
To summarize, what I think we’re seeing is a natural evolution of a maturing era. Though it is still evolving, it is no longer emerging. For many of us, we’re at a point in time where we can celebrate progress, but also recognize the messes made along the way, as is natural after a significant growth period. It’s times like these that we take what we have and make things better, more efficient, and more effective—a very real promise that Design Systems offer. For more on why you might need a Design System, be sure to read our next article.
This being the start of a short series on this topic, we’re going to leave it here for now—so stay tuned for more from us about Design Systems. In the meantime, here are some references we’ve found helpful if you’d like to dive deeper.
Atomic Design (Brad Frost)Design Systems (Smashing Magazine)Design Systems Handbook ( Guide: Why Build a Design System (UXPin)
Design Systems (Laura Kalbag)Atomic Design (Brad Frost)Building a Visual Language (AirBNB)Design Systems Article Series (Nathan Curtis, EightShapes)The Minimum Viable Design System (Marcin Treder, UXPin)
Style Guide Podcast
Styleguides.ioDesign Systems List (Github)
Carbon (IBM)Clarity (VMware)Lightning (Salesforce)Nachos (Trello)Polaris (Shopify)Photon (Firefox)Predix (GE)

Source: VigetInspire

Getting Ready for Web Video

Inspired Magazine
Inspired Magazine - creativity & inspiration daily
Video is one of those really contentious points about web design. There are some people who feel like web pages should not have embedded video at all. These people are wrong.
Like any technology, however, we should respect it and not abuse it. The two worst things you can do are:

AutoPlay videos, without express consent from the user
Embed too many videos in one page

Both of these things are likely to cause annoyance to users and should be avoided unless you have a very good reason.
Knowing what not to do will only get you so far. The rest of your online video success story will depend on knowing the things you ought to do, which is what we’ll cover in the rest of this article.
Video categories
There are six different types of videos that are commonly used on sites. These are:

Regular video – you point a camera at something and record it
Live stream – you point a camera at something and don’t record it
Slide show – composed from a series of still images, often with voice over plus added descriptive text
Animation – various methods, but more commonly 3D rendered animations made with Maya3D or Blender.
Screencast – software records images from your computer, normally used for tutorials, usually with text overlays and voice narration.
Hybrid screencast – a screen cast with regular video segments, and possibly also slideshow segments.

Knowing which type of video you want to produce is a good start. Actually that brings us neatly to the next topic.
Plan your video
Good video doesn’t normally happen by accident. Meticulous planning pays off, and that means you know what kind of video you’re going to produce, how you’re going to produce it, and (very importantly) why.
Don’t fail to plan. For a start, your video should be scripted. This is true even if there is no dialog or narration. The script gives you a clear impression of how the video is supposed to unfold. You can also optionally story board the video, but a crew that can’t work straight from a script is not a very visionary crew.
If you’re making a bigger production, you’ll also benefit from budget planning, scene breakdown, shooting sequence (shot list), location scouting, etc. The more time you invest into planning, the better your video is likely to be. Professional preparation leads to professional results.
Software that can help you with script writing and planning includes Trelby and CeltX.

Invest in quality equipment
The equipment you use will have a big impact on the result. It may be difficult to believe, but the camera is not the most important part of your equipment investment.
That’s because for web video (in 2018, at least) it’s rarely sensible to shoot video above normal HD (1920px wide), and in fact it’s better to shoot in SD (1280px wide) or lower, and the aspect ratio should always be 16:9.
One source of confusion with these resolutions, by the way, is the slightly misleading standard names used, which references the vertical height (720p / 1080p) rather than the width, which is the most natural thing people think about.
In thinking about this, bear in mind that a video with a frame height of 720px will not fit on the screen real estate of most users, so it is easy to see why shooting above 720p will not give superior results for web video.
The larger your video frame is, the more resources it will hog on the user’s device, including in some cases failing to play at all, or playing very poorly. Your goal really should be to get the highest image quality and the lowest file size (in bytes).
The reason all this is mentioned is because cameras up to HD will be quite inexpensive compared to cameras that can shoot at higher resolutions, and you’ll just be wasting your money if you invest in them, because most users in 2018:

Do not have screens large enough to support the enormous frame size
Do not have connections fast enough to stream anything above HD smoothly
Do not have connections able to stream anything above SD smoothly either
Are not overly concerned about quality as long as it is reasonable

Quality of your content is the more important thing. So cameras for web video are cheap. What matters a lot more is the audio, and that is where you should invest sensibly.
Cheap audio solutions are likely to result in poor results, so avoid cheap audio and invest in quality. What you save on your camera can be reinvested into sound. Literally what you’d regard as a sound investment.

The main microphone types are shotgun, boom, and wireless. The top brands include Rode, Senheiser, Shure, and Audio-Technica.
Shotgun microphones will do the job if the camera is reasonably near and there is no wind. A boom mic can be made from a shotgun mic mounted on a pole with an extension cable. Wireless is the most expensive and the most likely to give you trouble.
You should invest in a good quality tripod as well, with the generally accepted best brand on the market being Manfrotto. What you should invest in lighting depends on the location. Other items you’ll need could include reflectors and shaders.
Completely optional items that can be useful include sliders, dollies, jibs, and lens filters. Don’t invest in these items unless your production warrants their purchase.
Set the scene
The best idea with online video is to keep it short whenever possible, and when it’s not possible, break it down into segments. This is far better than one long continuous narrative, and makes your video look more professional.
For each segment, think about what will be in the frame. If the camera will pan, track, or otherwise follow your movement between two or more points, think about what will be in the frame at each point. Rehearse it and mark the spots where you will stand if you’re in an on-camera role.

How you can mark ground spots is with chalk, tape, small bean bags, or stones. The camera operator should use a tripod or Steadicam for best results. Shaky video is truly horrible.
For screen casts and slideshows, think about how well the user can see what you’re showing. Zoom in on key elements if necessary, and be willing to switch betweeen different zoomed and unzoomed views, as the situation requires.
Make your own green screen
If you are presenting from behind a desk, a green screen can be a big improvement to your presentation. Simply get yourself a large, flat, solid surface, which should be smooth and unblemished, and paint it a bright shade of green.

For ultimate compatibility, also create magenta and cyan screens that can be swapped in if you need to show anything green colored in your frame.
With a green screen (or magenta, or cyan) you can use a technology called chroma key to replace the solid color with any image, including another video.
Obviously there’s not much point in making a video if nobody wants to watch it, so try to keep things interesting. Beware, however, not to be insincere or act out of character, because poor acting is worse than no acting at all.
Humor can be powerful if it is done well, and used only where it is appropriate. Likewise solemn, somber, and scandalous tones can also create interest when used appropriately.
Product videos and testimonials should be delivered enthusiastically and highlight the best features, however product reviews should be brutally honest in order to boost your credibility and win the trust of your viewers. Nothing is more valuable than trust.
Editing your video is the biggest task of all. For this, you’ll need software, and that software must be a nonlinear video editor (NLE). With this you can put mix and match the various clips you’ve shot to make a coherent narrative.

Not all editing software is equal. The best video editors are Cinlerra, Adobe Premiere Pro, Blender, and Sony Vegas Pro.
Rendering is usually done, at least on the first pass, by the video editing software. When rendering for DVD, your goal is to get maximum video quality, regardless of the file size. Rendering for the web is a whole different thing.
The only formats worth considering are MP4 and WEBM, and while the latter will give you a better file size, it is not currently universally supported by all browsers. It is worth keeping in mind for the future.
Although your sound capture needs to be first rate, your rendered audio definitely should not be. In fact this is where most people go wrong, leaving their sound at ridiculously high fidelity when it’s not necessary. Reducing the audio quality will go a long way towards reducing file size while not noticeably affecting the outcome.

Codecs are a hotly debated topic, but the general consensus of professionals is to use the H.264 codec (or equivalent), because this will ensure maximum compatibility and a good balance between quality and file size.
Finally, consider shrinking the physical dimensions of the video if it is going to be viewed within a pre-defined space, and the user would not be expected to view it in full screen mode (doing so will work, but results in pixelation… their problem, not yours).
You can also use video transcoders such as Handbrake for your final render to fine tune the resulting file and ensure maximum compatibility. In some regions ISPs have restricted access to Handbrake downloads, but that’s just a testament to how good it is.
Don’t under-estimate the power of captioning. Investing the time to create proper closed captions (subtitles) for your video production will be a very good investment. At the very least, allow auto-captions, but creating your own, especially if you allow a choice of languages, is always a good idea except when your video contains no speech.
Considering how many mobile users there are and the prevalence of 3G connections, with 4G still being a (slowly growing) minority, HD video is not the best of ideas, and since Vimeo’s support for captioning is not on a par with Google’s, this makes Google the better choice for online video hosting at present.

Notice, however, that it was Google, not YouTube, that got the mention there. For numerous reasons, YouTube is not the best way to host your video, however there is nothing to prevent you uploading multiple versions of your video, one you host on a private Google account and one you host on YouTube.
The version embedded on your site should be the version hosted on your Google account.
The one exception to the rule is if you’re producing feature content, where you are showing off your film making prowess. In this case, Vimeo may have the edge.
For low bandwidth sites (those that attract less traffic than the bandwidth they have available), you could consider hosting the video on your own server. This can provide some advantages, especially in terms of loading time.
This post Getting Ready for Web Video was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.

A Focus on Blockchain

I shared this with my newsletter subscribers today… I thought I’d share it here as well, especially since I’m tired af and I written way too much copy and content for one day.
So, here it is…

If You Could Invest in “The Internet”…
… before it became a huge thing… knowing what you know now… you wouldn’t hesitate, right? Same thing might be said of mobile (or the iPhone and/or Apple) before it took over the entire world and accelerated our world into a mobile-first culture.
You’d go all-in, right? I mean, you’d drop everything to be part of that movement, correct?
Well, this is exactly what I feel about blockchain (and bitcoin and cryptocurrency).
Consequently, I’ve decided to share some pretty big news today, which is this: I’m working with my brother on a collection of products and apps in the blockchain space. These include a mobile app, a vibrant community, and a brand-spankin’ new YouTube Channel called “Decentralized“.
And I couldn’t be more excited. Truly. Blockchain may very well be the most significant technological advancement that I will ever have the pleasure of experiencing first-hand.
So, as I mentioned, I’m going all-in on this project and it’s going to be my singular focus for quite some time.
The timing is great too, by the way, as yesterday I finished my 365-day vlogging experiment… that was a great mental and physical exercise (and thanks for everyone who followed along!).
So, anyways, I hope you join me on this exciting new adventure. I’ll be sharing more along the way, as I typically do, and I’ll be spending more time on this brand new YouTube Channel as well.
Finally… if I can say anything (and I think I’ve said it already at this point… beating dead horse…) you should seriously take a look into Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and perhaps most importantly blockchain technology.
It’s going to change all of our lives for the better… might as well get a piece of the action, right?
Love you all. Let me know how I can serve you!


The post A Focus on Blockchain appeared first on John Saddington.

Techniques To Humanize Your Website and Connect With Your Audience

Have you ever visited a website and wondered if anyone was working round the clock behind the scenes to make sure that your user experience feels personal? A lot of business owners are using their websites as a way to connect with their prospective clients, especially if they cannot personally communicate with them. This is the reason you need to go to great lengths to humanize your website.
In this article, we will look into the importance of making your websites more human, and some effective tips and tricks to pull this off.

The website represents you and your business
The success of any business involves a lot of factors to consider. Some of these include having the right mindset on how to take care of the business, and having enough resources to start the business. Meanwhile, other companies focus on hiring the right people who can do the job, as well as providing products and services that people are likely to patronize.
All of these factors are key to making any business achieve its goals. But have you realized that you can accomplish all of these things by positioning your website properly?
The website lets people know more about your company
Years ago, promoting a business was done mainly through advertisements on TV, radio and print media. However, with the technology that we have today, the internet has become central to marketing – whether for brick-and-mortar stores or online businesses. These days, practically every business owner wants to take advantage of online media to promote its brand across the globe with just a few clicks.
Putting up a website has become one of the best marketing tools to reach out to consumers. Although earlier iterations webpages focused solely on content, functionality and user experience are now considered some of the key ingredients to make a website viral or popular.
Nevertheless, more than providing vivid colors and extraordinary web design, there are two important features that most consumers look for in a website: instantly available information, and customer satisfaction.
The website should give your prospective clients what they need
The content of the website plays a vital role in the success of any business. Website owners should stop beating around the bush and just go straight to the relevant information that a site visitor may want to have. Giving your site visitors high-value content propels them to browse through all of your site’s pages to check out what you can offer.
No matter what kind of content you provide, for as long as it is reader-friendly, then you can absolutely capture anyone’s attention.
Sure, you can configure your website to follow every detail in the SEO best practices rulebook. However, you need to remember that you are writing for humans – people who will potentially find your business on search engines. Do you think people would even bother to stay on your page for more than 5 seconds if they notice that you’re flooding them with repetitive keywords?
In other words, although using the right keywords in your site content is helpful in terms of SEO, you need to construct your website to satisfy your site visitors (and not the search bots).
Give your readers informative, interesting, and engaging material. Make sure that from the title, you already can excite their minds to read the rest of what is written on the page.

Tips to Humanize Your Website
One of the fundamental strategies to humanize your website is to make the content friendly and engaging to your intended audience. You want people to be interested in what you can offer them. Therefore, your goal is to create content that your target market likes.
It’s important for your site visitors to feel that they are being valued. They want to feel that their needs are being met by a real person, and not by a chatbot or a computer that’s running 24/7. In short, people want information with a heart.
Here are more techniques to humanize your website in order to connect with your target audience better:
Use human emotions

You’ve probably come across some websites where you feel like you’re reading your college professor’s lecture noes. That’s common among a lot of business websites, wherein they use a strictly formal tone by default.
While doing business is something to be taken seriously, not everyone may be interested to read technical jargon or overly serious content. That is why adding human emotions is effective – it can trigger a positive response among your visitors.
To achieve this, you may start listing down the products that your company offers, and identifying each of the product’s features that the people will probably appreciate. Be creative in using words that can trigger the user’s emotions and think about how it makes a user feel.
This can be successfully done by incorporating a story that everyone can relate to. People are fond of reading stories that they see themselves in. This kind of emotive or affective content (to humanize your website) will push them to action, whether it’s buying your products or signing up for your weekly newsletter.
Make use of creative content tools

It may be difficult to constantly update your website and provide new stories to tell your online visitors. The solution is simple: Search for apps that can help you create compelling headlines to keep your online visitors returning for more.
People generally like unique content along with high-quality images that can tickle their imagination as they read along. Once a visitor feels that the content is worth reading, he will likely become a regular follower of your website. This kind of following may even produce a lead or a sale.
Create unique content

How can you provide a weekly update without having the right materials to use? Get inspiration or ideas by checking what is trending. Discover what other people are talking about. and share something that is interesting and engaging.
Searching for trending hashtags can give you some ideas on how to create your content that will grab attention. Letting your followers realize that you’re updated with the latest trends is an effective way to humanize your website.
Find the right balance in terms of posting frequency

You may feel obliged to constantly update your content. But realistically, posting bi-monthly is ideal as you let your online viewers have time to read your latest post.
If you feel like sharing some more thoughts, you may do so by sharing shorter posts of about 500 words. Just make sure that everything that you share with your audience is carefully researched and written in high quality.
Initiate a call-to-action

Sometimes a website visitor may need a little more convincing before finally making a purchase. It can be helpful if you leave a question for readers to get them into thinking, or give them a direction (or call-to-action) to let them have an opportunity to decide.
For instance, you can offer them to sign up for a weekly update, or leave them a question to answer. This does not only make them feel that there is a real person behind the website, but it also helps in generating leads wherein they can be given priority in enjoying member-only promos.
Provide an opportunity for discussions

Some websites make use of a community board wherein visitors/consumers leave their comments, suggestions or opinions. This can help others in deciding to buy a certain product or service.
As a website owner, make sure that you take part in the discussions as well. By doing this, users are able to get first-hand information from you, in order to help them come up with a decision. In short, you can already humanize your website just by personally engaging with your followers.
Tap someone to check on your content

Having an amazing website should not only be based on visual aesthetics or effective social media sharing. There is also a need to make the content as perfect as possible in terms of grammar and spelling.
You may feel that you have made a well-written content, but it might be best to ask someone to review your work. This gives you better assurance that your text is 100% error-free.
At times, when we have a lot of things in our mind that we want to write about, we tend to think faster than we can write. As a result, we unknowingly miss out some punctuation marks, the plural forms of some words, misspelled words, and the like. Hiring a proofreader can help you create excellent content in which people can feel that you really know what you are talking about.
Besides, bad grammar may appear as if you used article spinning software to create your content. Aside from turning off your readers with weird text, article spinning also gets you penalized in terms of SEO.
Readers these days are very meticulous when it comes to browsing websites. Although web design continues to have importance in terms of catching attention, failing to humanize your website may turn off your potential clients.
The best way to connect with your prospects online is to make your website feel as human as possible. Nobody wants to experience talking to a robot while they’re browsing your site – unless if they’re huge fans of the Terminator’s Skynet!
Make your business flourish by making a website that can do more than merely enumerating your products or services. Humanize your website by telling a story to keep your online audience more engaged. People will become your loyal customers when you are able to strengthen your brand through sharing great content, providing high quality products and services, and establishing human communication that encourages interaction.
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