Best of Marin 2018 Award!

Best of Marin 2018 Award!

We’re thrilled to announce that Lotus Live Design & Social Media has been awarded Best of Marin 2018: Digital Creative Services for the second year in a row! Or deepest thanks to all who voted for us to win.

Web Design Trends 2016

Web Design Trends 2016: Transforming User Experience

The phrase "You've come a long way baby!" has never been more true than the past few years of developments in web design. In 2016 emerging web design trends that popped up in the past few years seem to be gaining momentum, radically changing the way viewers interact with the websites they visit. Below, I'll explore a few of the top trends for website design in 2016.

HTML5 Expands Website Design in 2015

What you see on your screen when you visit a website is controlled by the computer code that lies behind that particular website. This underlying code also defines the functionality the web site offers, and much more. One of the most exciting changes likely to gain momentum in 2014 is the use of HTML5 in website design, the latest official markup language on the web. The history of HTML5, and more information about it, can be found here if you are interested.

Although work on HTML 5 began in 2003, it was not until 2011 that we began to see it used in websites within the mainstream of the web design world. HTML5 is replacing the use of Adobe Flash and Adobe has stopped further development of Flash in favor of expanding HTML5 instead.

The reason? When compared to Flash, the advantages of HTML5 become clear, especially when it comes to adding video and visual interest to websites easily. Since users do not need to download a Flash Player to view video when HTML5 is used, the user experience is more fluid. You can expect to see more interesting, unique, and beautiful website designs in 2016 due to the power of teaming up HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.

Websites With Video!

The popularity of YouTube has changed the internet in profound ways. Online users are showing a preference for video content that seems to grow each year! Video blogging (called "Vlogging") is also growing as users seem to increasingly enjoy video content more than written content online. Smart phones and tablets have advanced to record video, so we are seeing more video use in social media as well. One web design trend we will definitely see more of in 2016 is the use of video in websites. If you use a smart phone, then you may agree with many others that it's easier to view a video on your phone than it is to read a long news article, for example.

Parallax Web Design In 2016

You are probably familiar with the way websites have been designed in the past, using pages of content in static designs that required a web designer to make any changes to the website. Then came the development of blogs. WordPress, and other companies like it, began to take website design to the next level, one that simplified website design for non-designers. WordPress allowed additional content to be easily added to websites without having to hire a web designer. This was a big game changer online!

Parallax web design is poised to now become another big game changer in the world of web design in 2014. HTML5, together with CSS3 and Javascript, have given web designers the ability to make "parallax" web designs possible. Here is one of the first websites I discovered in 2011 that was using a parallax design style (to give you an idea of the difference between it and other website design styles). As you navigate through the website in the link above you will discover that the entire site is built on one large page, and that clicking links moves you around the page like magic. Pretty neat!

Parallax style websites are an increasing trend for 2016. This trend is driven in part by the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets. Smaller screens can make navigation difficult when viewing older website designs. Parallax design reduces the need to hunt for small menu item words to click; scrolling makes it easier to find what you want when viewing a site on your iPhone for example. Home pages on websites are increasingly built as a stack of content elements that are easy to scroll down to see, thus clicking menu items is not needed.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design is a development inspired by the popularity of smart phones and tablets as well. Responsive web design alters the layout of web pages and graphics based upon the size of the screen you viewing it with. Have you ever tried to view a website on your iPhone and found it jumbled, making it hard to find what you want, while viewing the same site on your computer screen worked fine? This is why responsive design is such an important website design trend for 2016.


These are just a few of the web design trends for 2016. Others involve SEO (search engine optimization), graphics, and more. But that's news for another day. I hope you enjoy this blog and find it helpful!

Privacy in Social Media

How private is your social media data?

We've all heard about ex-Senator Anthony Wiener's infamous tweets by now. Weiner's behavior aside, events took on a life of their own once multiple women came forward to disclose photos and tweets of a (ahem) spicy nature, and the media went wild with the titillating story. But what you may not know is that there is a new company that has been launched which specifically tracks and data mines your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, (and other) online posts. This company then stores your information for seven years and sells it to anyone who may be thinking of hiring you. Now you, like Weiner, will have to find employers who don't mind your past behavior online... Ouch! Should we rethink privacy in social media?

Social Intelligence Corp. won approval from the US Federal Trade Commission to open its online doors last week, and your online history is what they intend to sell. Now some will say that anything you post online is public, exactly as the FTC ruled in this case, but privacy advocates are not buying this logic. More troubling is Social Intelligence's intention to build files from online data that they keep for seven years, just like your credit report. This begs the question. How private is your social media engagement, and how private should it be?

I am in a unique position to comment on this, because I worked in the mortgage industry prior to opening Lotus Live Design & Social Media. While in the mortgage world, I dealt with credit reports on a daily basis, so I'm very familiar with this type of data tracking and reporting. The problem that I (and many others) found is that the data the credit bureaus collect favors corporate reporting over that of consumers. Credit report results consistently include data which is incorrect yet supplied by the same corporations who benefit monetarily from lower credit scores. The result of this collection and distribution of inaccurate data is that millions of Americans pay higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to insurance and home loans when incorrect data pushes their credit scores downward, which greatly benefits lenders and hurts consumers.

Another dirty little secret of the credit reporting industry is that they sell your private credit information to highest bidder with no background checks on that company, in real time. This is why you start receiving phone calls from other mortgage providers, who may even try to convince you that you just applied for a mortgage with them, or who use other deceptive tactics to get you calling them, as soon as your credit report is run for the purpose of getting a mortgage. Those companies know you just had your credit run for a mortgage because they bought this real time info from the same credit bureaus who are supposed to protect your personal credit information. The same credit bureaus who are busy selling you credit report tracking services to reduce identity theft and fraud are, in fact, selling your information to any company who wishes to pose as legitimate and has the cash to buy real time credit info on vast numbers of Americans. Is this where Facebook is headed also? Will it sell your information too?

If you have ever discovered incorrect information on your credit report you also know that it's almost impossible to get the information corrected by yourself. The words "sheer frustration" come to mind. Unless you have unlimited time to write letters and compile documentation to prove your case, you're basically screwed. And you can forget having the original creditor correct their mistake without many hours of calls. The process also can take anywhere from 45 to 90 days or more, which means that you may find out that your credit report is incorrect just as you signed a contract to buy a home within the next 30 days... so you end up paying more in interest for 30 years, or potentially losing that home purchase. Facebook, Google, and others are heading in the same direction.

I use this example because this is what has already happened in the highly regulated credit reporting industry, yet the FTC has just opened the door for another private company (which will doubtless turn into many companies) to collect your social media engagement information and to then sell it in ways that could cost you your job. How do you feel about this? I'd love your comments!

Did you know that there is no source that tracks the actual costs to consumers of inaccurate credit information? If one considers that a half point rise in interest rate on a home loan can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars for an individual homeowner, the costs are staggering! So there is a basis for concern over social media privacy issues, and online privacy in general.

What about your privacy?

Returning to the argument of those who feel your online life is fair game for profiteering, there is some justice in considering the internet as a public sphere. After all, as Senator Weiner discovered, once you've posted something online, it is available for others to locate due to the physical nature of servers and computing and the way data is stored. And there are also secondary comments and posts to consider, by  people who know you or who have responded to things you posted. So there is logic in saying that anything you post has gone "public" and is fair game. Courts have ruled on this already.

But there is also a counter argument. And if Facebook is any indication of privacy in social media push backs we can see a trend in increased concern over the unregulated sharing of your information by examining Facebook. For example, Congress is getting involved and considering online privacy legislation after fears about online privacy have heightened in the past few years, and European regulators plan to file a complaint with the FTC over Facebook's new photo tagging feature. When Facebook announced last year that it planned to sell your private contact information to third parties, an exodus from Facebook followed.

Yet Facebook, Twitter, and the other social media networks do have value, especially to small businesses for marketing. For marketing Facebook is turning out to bring better ROI than Google Ad Words. For general users there's the fun and exposure to interesting information that social media brings. Just look at the popularity of Facebook games and you can see that people do enjoy their interaction with others online via social media. There are even recent statistics that point to mobile app usage eclipsing regular internet usage nationwide. So there's no doubt that social media and cloud computing are on their way in.

So what's the answer if you want a maintain your privacy in our increasingly public, internet driven world?

First of all, be vigilant. Think before you post. Expect that everything you put online can (and will) eventually be accessible to someone you do not know. Plan ahead.

Secondly, learn what security settings are available for each social media site you use and create custom settings to protect your privacy. Facebook has updated their privacy settings several times and you can even choose specific people whom you want to restrict access to when you create custom privacy settings there. If you own a business then you should have a separate business Facebook fan page, with restricted privacy settings, for customers and leave your regular Facebook account as a personal one only.

Change your passwords monthly at least. Use sentences to create your passwords. Use upper and lower case letters plus numbers and other symbols. Personally I like to use affirmations. Be creative! Use at least 24 characters when possible.

Finally, hire specialists as needed to remove unwanted online data. If your time is valuable, and it is, then this is cost saving. Reputation management is one of the services we provide to our clients for example. Think of this as a form of public relations. Using advanced search techniques and software it's possible to clean out unwanted data (at least for now as I write this), and get it off the web. I only hope our process stays easier than having to deal with the credit bureaus! Keep your fingers crossed? Or write your congress person!

Marketing Psychology 101

Marketing Through Motivation

Psychology is a passion of mine that I willingly admit. I find people fascinating, and especially find the study of evolutionary psychology interesting. As more research studies are done, we are discovering that many of the old assumptions we had about human motivation are not holding up to scientific scrutiny, and the implications are, at times, astonishing.

I'd like to share this  link with you so that you can be part of a study on consumerism, money, and spending. This website is devoted to studying what makes people tick, and specifically, why they spend money when they do for advertised items and services. It has a blog, and a section where you can take surveys and be part of the study.

The blog this link takes you to, is called Of Sheep and Peacocks: How Marketers Get Into Your Wallet. In a nutshell, it turns out that people will be motivated by fear to spend (or vote?) when they are not trying to attract a mate and will respond to ads that offer a chance to fit in with others, to conform. Yes. Really. Conversely, when people are trying to attract a mate, then they are motivated by the chance to stand out from the crowd, a different psychological motivation entirely.

These findings point to why marketing to different demographics will lead to vastly different marketing strategy if one is to get good ROI (return on investment). This is the science behind effective marketing. And this is why I read psychology, study the findings, and consider the market demographic carefully for each client before I craft a marketing plan for their business.

Psychology Powers Marketing

If you haven't read it yet, I also encourage to you to also read The Female Brain, which explains the science of human hormones as they act in the brain, and how they are a primary calalyst for behavioral differences between men and women. This book discusses motivation as well, and shows how different developmental stages of our lives have different physiological hormone patterns, and that these hormone patterns largely govern behavior, word view, and motivation. We are not, as it turns out, in control of what we think, what we want, and how we act, as much as we like to believe.

Marketers know this. The big marketing firms have been using marketing psychology for many years to help bring products to consumers, even products which are bad for them. We see the same marketing principles at work in politics, where fear based motivation seems to be rampant in our culture. Most marketing, if you break it down, tries to motivate through fear, or through building a sense of need, both calculated to motivate the viewer to act.

I hope you enjoy the links! I wanted to share these because it gives you some insight into what I mean when I say that Lotus Live Design does strategic marketing. After carefully researching their market sector (competitive research) I craft branding, website design style, Facebook business pages, social media campaigns, and promotions based upon scientific evidence of what will motivate my client's specific market demographic to act by purchasing.

To this I add personal intuition, knowledge of local market trends, and coaching my clients on their demographic and how to reach their best potential customers through authentic engagement using social media. By staying current on the science of psychology, I can guide my clients to success.

The Science of SEO

SEO Basics

If you are fortunate to have high reading/writing proficiency the text in many websites may seem simplistic to you. This is intentional, as is the repetition of certain words. Content developers and writers intentionally write on par with a lower level of reading proficiency because a high percentage of the general population, unfortunately, reads at around a 6th grade level, not at the level you or I may read.

Writing for the web is different than writing for any other purpose I know of. Website content developers know that we must keep inserting keywords strategically into written content to allow the search engines (which “crawl” your site) to “index" your site. This indexing is partially how the search engines “rank” you. Your ranking determines where your website will appear in the search results list when someone searches Google, for example, for something you offer.

The SEO Science of Keywords

Marketing studies show that people rarely go deeper than page one in a search results list. Our SEO goal is your website gaining ranking on page one! If you hired someone to do SEO they’d do the same things we build into every website we develop at Lotus Live Design. So this is why you see certain words repeating throughout the online text, and why it can seem like those words are redundant… because SEO demands this. After all, what's the point of having a website if no one can find you?

One must generally use the same keyword 6 or more times in a page’s text, plus in titles and headings (creating "keyword density"), for it to become a valuable search keyword. Alternatively, if one uses the keyword too much Google, or another search engine, may decide your site is bogus, hurting your SEO. In the past some websites tried to trick search engines by creating pages that offered no real content, but only keywords listed over and over, an SEO trick that has become obsolete and discredited.

The same keyword must appear in the underlying SEO setup for that page. Online marketing is driven by SEO and keywords. Some keywords are more powerful than others because they are more commonly used when people search. Each page gets one main keyword, but others can also apply if used frequently. It’s a science!

SEO & Google Rankings

In the past many "SEO Experts" tried to "trick" search engines by a variety of tactics that loaded keywords into websites which actually offered no relevant content, or which redirected the user to another website they did not wish to visit. So Google and the other search engines changed the way ranking is done, and created new ranking parameters, to discourage deceptive marketing like that. At Lotus Live Design our policy is to follow strict SEO guidelines that match what Google and the other search engines require. If one runs a legitimate business then one can market online successfully without resorting to SEO tricks, which may in fact backfire.

When Google changed it search algorithms recently, it created new ranking parameters favoring websites that deliver both relevant, and the most current, information for a given keyword search phrase. As a result, more than ever, websites that contain authentically valuable content will get higher rankings than before. This is why blogging is such an important innovation online for business marketing. Publishing periodic blogs help a business add new relevant content often, and easily. Google also gives higher ranking for websites that incorporate social media in certain ways, so we incorporate social media into every website we design as well.

Built In SEO Succeeds

At Lotus Live Design we incorporate robust SEO into each website we design. We also coach and train our clients how to add content to their websites that will have the correct keywords, and keyword density, helping them write effectively to gain high search engine rankings.

We add SEO at an organic level throughout each website. Once the basic content and SEO is in place we also go the extra mile, sending site maps to the major search engines, and setting up additional tracking features. This is all simply part of our design process (very helpful to our clients too). The result is that our clients do not need to hire an SEO specialist to achieve the same SEO benefits. They do not need to hire custom coders to get special website features. Instead our clients are empowered and costs are lowered.

Our case study results have been excellent. We have clients whose income doubled and tripled within as little as three months after we updated their branding, designed their website, and managed their SEO and social media marketing. We have startup clients who met and exceeded revenue goals within their first year of business. Best of all, their website costs are lower going forward.

The bottom line? SEO, managed properly, will grow your online audience in a targeted manner that you will love!