Responsive Design vs. Task-Oriented UX Design

Responsive design is all the rage these days, but most folks don't really know what it means. Consequently, when they ask a design firm to build a responsive website, they end up with what they asked for, but not what they really need.

Responsive means that a single site design scales to fit reasonably well on a desktop, tablet, and phone. Which means that a site with lots of content becomes very hard to read on the smaller platform. Oftentimes, designers employ a Mobile-First design approach to design the site so that it looks and interacts well on the phone, and then scale the design up for the tablet and desktop.Task-Oriented provides a different version of a site for each of the three platforms. These different designs are optimized to address the different usage models of the three platforms and the needs of the users' tasks within each of those usage models.Consumption Tasks: Some sites focus solely on providing content for consumption, such as CNN, Wall Street Journal, etc. With these sites, there is little interaction beyond finding interesting content and responsive design may be sufficient.Interaction Tasks: Most other sites, though, require and depend on a richer, more complex interaction model. If your site requires more doing than reading, yours is an interaction task site, which can't be successfully served with a responsive design. 

You should consider the following usage models when determining the tasks you expect your users to perform on each of the different platforms.

Usage Models

For the most part, users tend to use each of the three platforms differently. While exceptions do occur, the following are some general usage paradigms.


Users at a laptop or desktop tend to be rather stationary and focus on their tasks for longer periods of time, performing more complex tasks. The more complex the task, the more likely they are to focus intently on their task and ignore other tasks; more serial-tasking than multi-tasking.

Desktops are more efficient than tablets or phones due to a combination of keyboard size, size of the display, the time it might take to perform more complex tasks, etc. When users need to focus solely on one task with rich content and controls, they are more likely to need to sit down at a desktop.


Tablet usage tends to be mostly stationary or confined to a defined area (coffee shop, warehouse, hospital, plane). Their tasks are usually of a shorter duration and less complex and can be a blend of serial and multi-tasking.

For instance, they may sit in a coffee shop for 20 minutes, reading a news site, looking up hotels, etc. They may also be somewhat mobile, but pause to perform a task, such as taking inventory in a warehouse, reviewing a medical record at the bedside, etc.

These users typically only use the virtual keyboard to capture limited data and rely more on interaction controls for selection and control.

The virtual keyboard affords more input and control than a phone, but still limits the user to what can be done easily. Users will likely not want to switch keyboard modes (character, numeric, special characters) to use any punctuation or symbols as this interrupts their cognitive flow.

Numeric entries should either be accommodated by picker controls or should automatically switch the keyboard when the user selects a numeric entry filed. A tablet is useful for reviewing content, but not for entering large amounts of content.


Phone users are often multi-tasking, on the move, and perform shorter, simpler, more focused tasks. Their tasks are also much more immediate or location related, such as finding a coffee shop, reading and replying to a text, etc.

Time on task is often limited and users want to input minimal information and perform short task sequences to achieve task success. Even though these users may be quite adept at using the small keyboard for texting, they are not as proficient at tasks that rely on more accurate input. Texting is unique in that it doesn't rely on the typing accuracy common to most other tasks.

Given that most people use only their thumbs to type on a phone's virtual keyboard, it should come as no surprise that content rich tasks are not well supported on a phone. The phone is better at receiving simple alerts and to provide quick responses than a laptop.

More likely, the phone user will be attending to something or someone else when an alert comes in and they merely need to respond appropriately and continue with their current task.

Task-Oriented UX Design

Most design teams never conduct a thorough task analysis to identify the various usage models common to their user's task environment. Identifying and optimizing the user's tasks and usage models for each platform is often the difference between a dominant UX and one nobody remembers.

Consider the process of making hotel reservations, a seemingly simple task we are all familiar with. Users perform richer, complex reservation research tasks at a desktop, such as switching between looking up restaurants, entertainment venues, area maps, transportation options, etc. Their tasks are much more complex than merely making a hotel reservation and demand a more robust UX.

They might finish this task on a tablet at a later time, such as when sitting in a coffee shop the next morning. They have likely narrowed the choice to a select few hotels and merely need to review the rooms and rates for each to make a final decision. Making a reservation on the tablet is rather easy if the users don't need to conduct any of the other associated research tasks.

The phone might be used more for reviewing or changing a reservation, checking in, and getting directions to the hotel rather than making a reservation.

Consider that a phone might also be used to make a simple, quick hotel reservation near your current airport in the event of a cancelled connecting flight. An emergency reservation task is more location and time dependent than a laptop or tablet hotel search task and requires a different UX approach.

In those situations, an app that recognizes the user is at an airport might list only those hotels with airport shuttles and streamline the reservation process to limit the options. These users aren't interested in views or pools as much as they are just getting a room before the other stranded passengers grab them.


About the only sites that scale well in a responsive design are consumption sites requiring simple user interactions.

Responsive is a terrible approach for interaction sites with complex, task-oriented interactions. Such complex sites are better served with task-oriented designs that produce different types of interaction models optimized for each device's tasks and usage model.

Many sites and apps fail miserably because they do not consider the task environment or device usage models. So, before jumping on the Responsive Design bandwagon, make sure it's the right approach for your site.

Google Yanks Fake FBI Listing From Google Maps, Puts New Blocks In Place To Stop Further Abuse

In response to a string of cases where fake business/organization listings have been added to Google Maps, Google says it has removed those listings and put in place new hurdles to make it more difficult for this kind of abuse to get through its system.

This latest run of problems came to light about a week ago, when some users discovered they could use Google Map Maker to create fake businesses that would be verified via a phone call. In the beginning, many of the fake listings were harmless.

More recently, the same user took advantage of Map Maker to create fake FBI and Secret Service office listings using his own phone number, and even managed to intercept calls to both agencies. Both of those listings were created in close proximity to actual offices, adding to the confusion over which listing was real.

Google has now removed the fake FBI and Secret Service listings, as well as others that have been exposed over the past week.

In addition, contacts at the company tell us that they’ve put new restrictions in place that will make it more difficult for this kind of activity to produce a “live” place listing on Google Maps.

This is hardly the first time users have found a hole in Google’s systems that allowed the creation of fake business listings in Google Maps. More than five years ago, for example, Danny Sullivan wrote about being able to “hijack” Yahoo’s listing and changing the company name to Microsoft.

In this latest case, though, the timing is particularly bad since Google just released its new Google Maps product out of beta.

The hole actually involved Map Maker, Google’s product that allows for crowd-sourced improvements to Google Maps. Hundreds of thousands of edits over the years have helped improve Maps, but it was also still open to the kind of exploits that have been detailed over the past week.

Given the competitive nature of local search, it probably won’t be too long before we find out if Google’s new restrictions succeed in preventing more of this kind of abuse … or if users find other holes they can exploit.

Bing Expands Timelines For a Half Million Famous People

Just a few weeks after Bing introduced the timeline feature for Olympic athletes, Bing has now expanded that to include other famous and/or influential people.

From Prince to Vincent van Gogh, Bing now presents a sidebar timeline of important events in the life of the person you've searched for.

Bing shows some standard items like height, spouse, children, parents, and birth and/or death dates.

Other information you may see includes education, group memberships, affiliations, published works, and songs. If the person has publicly shared social networking information, you'll find links to Twitter, Facebook, and Klout scores. Like previous snapshot information, related people and other associated search info also appears.

But the largest change is the addition of the Timeline data. This includes footnotes of important events in that person's life, along with the associated year the item occurred.

Bing notes that in some cases where "you would be more interested in another type of information" about a person, Timeline information won't appear. This is intentional to save space and reduce page load times.

This is most true in the case of actors and singers. A search for [Prince], for example, will show information about songs, albums and romantic interests instead of timeline information.

Timeline data has been steadily rolling out over the past few weeks. If you haven't seen it yet, keep searching for other names. Bing's algorithm has generated timelines for "about half a million" famous people and they will continue to add to their ever-growing list.

The bigger question becomes will this eventually roll out to all people? With the relationship Bing has with Klout and other social networks, will more information be fed into the already-existing Klout-verified snapshots users already have access to? Do you want to be famous? Well do you, punk?

Essential Digital Marketing Skills for Content Marketers in 2014

Like many other digital marketing agencies, we’ve been on the hunt for digital and content marketing talent on a continuous basis over the past few years. Increased demand and competition are driving the need to find people with skills that can actually create impact, vs. fuzzy “potential”.

Companies looking for agencies are in the same boat, challenged to find partners that can actually affect business goals. Sadly, there are few knights in shining content marketing armor, like our friend to the right.

In both cases, the ease of publishing online makes it easy for individuals and agencies to present expertise – whether they really have it or not. �There are a few ways to sift through the fluff and puff and one of them is knowing what skills, capabilities and experience your business actually needs.

Since a lot of companies are maturing in their content marketing abilities, I think there are a few key skills that stand out in 2014 and beyond. Some of these skills are for individuals, some are spread across an organization. To be truly competitive, I think they need to be present along with creativity and analytical skills.

Customer Segmentation – The ability to identify customer segments through available resources is pretty important for any kind of customer targeting. That means using anything from interviews and surveys with existing customers, sifting through web analytics and conversion data, social media monitoring and other demographic, psychographic and behavioral data sources. Few individuals have most, let alone all of these skills, but the simple task of identifying best/worst customers with data to support profiles is essential. �While building customer profiles and personas from segmentation data is an important skill, so is the maintenance of those profiles over time. Direct Marketers, Email Marketers, Advertising Pros and experienced Content Marketers in particular seem to have these skills.

Buy Cycle Stories – Understanding customer segments also means knowing their journey across the sales cycle. The ability and experience of mapping what questions buyers have as they move from awareness to consideration to purchase are essential for creating a content plan. Beyond answering the questions, “What is it?, How will it help me? “How much does it cost and where can I buy it?”, is the use of storytelling to communicate both practical answers and a narrative for how your brand delivers the solution in a unique and meaningful way. Stories help make an emotional connection with customers and the ability to both anticipate the customer journey and creative ways to communicate your brand value are highly valuable for content marketing.

Multi-Channel Content Planning – When you see how customer segments move across the sales cycle, it becomes clear that single channel marketing like email, SEO, PPC, mobile, etc is a disadvantage. Customers get information from multiple sources and a multi-channel approach helps brands become “the best answer” wherever buyers are looking. Being able to take customer segmentation and buying cycle insight to create a multi-channel content plan is key for delivering the best answer experience for target audiences. That doesn’t mean “expert” at PPC, SEO, Social, Email, PR, etc – but it does mean experience with the planning, integration and coordination with others that do have specialized expertise. Not everything that can be integrated should, so the ability to prioritize according to resources, timeframe and goals are just as important as the planning skills.

Editorial, Creation & Curation – A big part of content planning is the mix of content and media types. How much content should be evergreen? How should it be repurposed? Which content can be co-created with influencers, customers or with internal resources? What role will curated content play in this mix? Answering those questions are an ongoing part of any content planner’s experience and are essential for successful content marketing programs. Beyond planning of content types is familiarity with the tools to help manage their function from content marketing software like Kapost to curation software like Curata.

Community Building�- The intersection of content with social media cannot be ignored. No social media marketer can succeed without content and the same is true with community and content marketing. Empathy with the target audience as well as the communities they are influenced by is an essential consideration for content marketing. Being able to plan and promote content that engages and grows a community is very valuable skill.

Amplification�& Promotion – Content unread is content that is dead. OK, I just made that up, but it speaks to the importance of content promotion for awareness and exposure. Noise levels are high and it’s a shame (as well as a waste of money) when great content goes unnoticed. Identifying, engaging and managing promotion resources is an important skill in order for the investment in content creation and curation to pay off. Whether it’s integration with email, social networks, social ads, SEO, paid per click, sponsorships, influencers, retargeting, blogger outreach, public relations or any other type of amplification method, the ability to promote content is a skill that is as important as any other or more for a digital marketer.

Nurturing & Marketing Automation�- For longer sales cycles common to B2B companies, content is sustenance that draws buyers through an educational and engaging journey from wherever they start to become a lead and a customer. The ability to plan, implement and optimize content performance in conjunction with marketing automation software like Marketo, Eloqua or Infusionsoft is a distinct competitive advantage.

Monitoring, Measurement�& Optimization – No marketing program can optimize performance or scale without a feedback mechanism. Monitoring social media, news media, web analytics and conversion data are absolutely essential skills for any kind of digital marketer and especially for a content marketer. Optimizing content performance is a process of initial hypothesis, plan, implementation and then analysis of KPIs (key performance indicators) to adjust messaging, creative and calls to action. While many of these skills are important to an intentionally successful content marketing effort, the measurement and performance optimization piece is in the top 3.

I think any organization that can develop these skill sets amongst their digital marketing teams will bring a distinct advantage to the company. It’s also important for business marketing managers to develop these abilities and to inspire and nurture these skills within their organization.

I don’t believe any single individual or organization has mastery in this mix of skills. Most marketing organizations seem to emphasize one area over others and can still be successful. As my business partner, Susan Misukanis likes to say, “You don’t have to boil the ocean to start a successful program”. �However, I am suggesting in this post that it’s important to aspire to a mix of skills like these in order to achieve a competitive advantage, positive ROI, and market leadership.

At a minimum, an individual or a company that is new to content marketing should have the planning, creation, amplification and measurement skills (with a strong emphasis in 2 or 3). Otherwise, they’ll simply be stuck at Production phase and never really be distinguished from the competition and suffer the harsh realities of Mark Schaefer’s “Content Shock”.

Beyond these more technical skills are character and personality traits as well as other skills like strategy, creativity and the ability to draw insight from data. Of course those skills are important for any role in an organization.

What would you add to this list? What would you say are the bare minimum for an individual (according to their role) or a content marketing agency?

Hiding From That Google Penalty? It May Find You At Your New Home

Did you know that even if you try to run away from your Google penalty, it might end up finding you anyway? In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, hosted by Google’s John Mueller, John said that even if you move your penalized site to a new domain name and don’t redirect the penalized site, Google may still find it and pass along the bad signals.

In the video, 23 minutes in, John answers my question about penalties following sites. He said that if the site is extremely similar and you simply move the site from domain A to domain B, that Google may pick up on the site move without you even giving them signals of the move. So even if you do not set up 301 redirects or use the change address tool in Google Webmaster Tools, Google may indeed know that you moved from domain A to domain B and pass along all the signals.

In that case, if a site is penalized, simply moving it to a new domain name might not be enough. You might have to go the extra mile and rebuild the site, content and user interfaces to convince Google it really is a new site.

Here is the video, again fast forward to about 23 minutes and 15 seconds in:

Yesterday Eric Ward wrote a piece for us named When The Best Move Is To Kill The Site, which covers what to do when your Google penalty is so severe that you can’t recover from it. Eric mentions that in about two-thirds of the cases he sees, he recommends you “kill” the site. Some may want to take shortcuts on “killing” a site by just migrating it to a new domain name, but that might not work.

Based on the feedback from this news, I’ve heard three responses from the SEO community:

Google is a liar and it does not pass either positive or negative signals when there are no redirects or change of address requests made.Yes, Google does pass the penalties in these cases, Google is telling the truth.Not only does the penalty pass but sometimes you will see the links from the old domain show in the new domain show up in the new verified section within Google Webmaster Tools.

What is your experience with site moves without changing the site design, content or structure and while not using redirects or other signals to communicate the penalized site has moved?

Welcome Martin Beck, Who Joins Third Door Media From The Los Angeles Times

We’ve grown again!

Third Door Media, the company that produces Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, is excited to welcome Martin Beck to our editorial team. He joins the team as our new Social Media Correspondent, and his first day will be Monday, March 3rd.

Martin has spent nearly 25 years in a variety of roles at the Los Angeles Times, most recently serving as the paper’s social media and reader engagement editor. With us, he’ll be providing daily news coverage and in-depth reporting on all things related to social media marketing.

For more on Martin’s background, please see our article on Marketing Land: Martin Beck, From LA Times, Joins Marketing Land As Social Media Correspondent.

We’re excited to bring Martin on board next week and we hope you’ll join us in giving him a warm welcome to our team.

Google Targets Two Polish Link Networks While Continuing To Target German Link Networks

Google lead of search spam Matt Cutts posted on Twitter that Google has taken action on two link networks operated in Poland this week. Matt wrote that Google is “not done with Germany yet, but we just took action on two Polish link networks.”

The Google Poland Webmaster Blog posted a reminder today about unnatural links and how to submit a reconsideration request.

Matt Cutts didn’t drop a hint on which Polish link networks were specifically targeted, like he has done in the past. But he did specifically say Google did take action on two link networks within Poland.

Here is Matt’s tweet:

Not done with Germany yet, but we just took action on two Polish link networks + a reminder blog post:

� Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 24, 2014


Earlier this month, Google’s Matt Cutts announced they took action on a large German SEO agency and their clients for link schemes. This came after a warning from Cutts that Google would target German link violations.

Related Stories:Google Penalized A Germany Agency & Their Clients For Link Schemes, Says Matt CuttsGoogle Warns German Webmasters That Paid Links Violate Google�s GuidelinesGoogle Squashes, Another Link Network Outed By Google�s Matt CuttsGoogle Eliminates Another Link Network, � Just One Of Several?Google Busts Yet Another Link Network: Anglo RankGoogle May Have Penalized Another Major Link Network: Ghost Rank 2.0Did Google Just Penalize Another Link Network? SAPE Links�Text Link Ads� Was Latest Hit By Google�s Actions Against Link SellersGoogle Eliminates Another Link Network, � Just One Of Several?Google Zaps Another Link Network, �Several Thousand� Link Sellers Hit

Facebook News Feed Now Shows Content From Pages That Tag Pages You Follow

If you follow or like a Page on Facebook, and another Page tags that page on Facebook within their own post, there's a higher likelihood that you'll see that post in your feed, even though you haven't liked or followed that brand or business.

Here's the example Facebook provided, in which Bleacher Report's Facebook Page tagged Dwight Howard's Facebook Page:

This announcement follows on the new trending feature Facebook launched in January. Like Facebook's Trending topics, the Page tagging update will allow users to see content they are expressly interested in, while introducing them to new sources of information about those topics and potentially find new Pages to like.

However, one significant downside to this feature is that spammers could potentially start tagging popular Pages within their own posts, in the hopes of showing up on the news feeds of Facebook users they otherwise couldn't reach.

The only way to really compensate for this would be for people to report the post as spam, but it might not be spam in the most direct sense. You could potentially require the tagged person or page to approve it first, but in a fast moving social site, that approval might not happen for hours or days – if at all, especially for pages and people that aren't that active.

For example, if you like the Vancouver Canucks on Facebook, and a spammer has an affiliate hockey ticket site or hockey jersey site, they could tag the Vancouver Canucks Facebook Page in their posts in the hopes that people who have liked the Canucks will see that post and possibly buy from their affiliate link or website, especially if they coincide it with a like/share/click campaign as well to artificially inflate its popularity. So this could quickly become spam central on Facebook.

Facebook says that is working to ensure that only the most relevant stories appear in news feed from these related pages. One of the criteria it seems to be following is looking at ones that have the most engagement such as likes, comments, shares, and clicks. This could possibly help the spam issue, although it also opens up the possibility of those spam pages with their spam Facebook posts being inflated with something like buying Facebook likes in order to increase the odds it appears in others newsfeeds feeds.

8 UX Tools Every Digital Marketer Needs in Their Toolkit

The convergence of digital marketing and user experience isn't coming; it's already here. You can't have successful website without both.

The following eight UX tools can't substitute having a UX specialist on staff, but they can help you immensely in better understanding how your actions affect a user's experience and how you can not only drive traffic, but increase conversions.

Research Tools

Cost: From $49
Priority: Necessity

You want to make some changes to a client's site. They're hesitant, and the only thing you have in your arsenal is that it could bother users, and you think it'll improve conversions.

We've all been there.

Having in your arsenal means you don't have to rely on assumptions anymore. You can get feedback from your target audience about what frustrates them about your site (or a section of your site) and how they expect it to work. Take that to client, and you're better prepared to rationalize those changes.


Cost: Free to $65/month
Priority: Necessity

Successful digital marketing means starting with a deep understanding of your users. Knowing what they like, how they shop, where they buy, what influences their purchasing decisions (i.e., knowing everything about their buying journey of your product or service) means you're best prepared to market to them when they're ready to listen.

SurveyMonkey allows you to do just that. Set up a list of questions (no more than 10) and send them out to past customers, current customers and potential customers in your target audience. The kicker is that you have to have that list of respondents, or gather via social media, which brings me to my next tool that eliminates that.

Google Consumer Surveys

Cost: 10 cents to $3.50 for each survey
Priority: Nice to have

If you don't have contact information of people in your demographic, Google Consumer Surveys are your best bet to gather information about what your users want.

With Google Consumer Surveys, you can ask, on the cheap, folks who aren't coming to your site about what they like or survey the folks who are coming to your site about what they'd change. It's a much less intrusive option than services that put a popup on the site asking for feedback right when a user lands on your home page.

Prototyping and Design Tools


Cost: Free to $100/month
Priority: Nice to have

Being collocated with your team is ideal, but that's not always possible. If you work with people spread across multiple offices, you know the frustrations of collaborating through email.

Invision lets you share a design mockup with your team (and your client) where everyone can view, review, and leave feedback in one centralized place.

Visual Website Optimizer

Cost: Free to $129/month
Priority: Necessity

Visual Website Optimizer has changed the way we approach digital marketing. Before we were only focused on driving traffic. Now, we can better analyze (and easily test) design and optimization that moves people through a client's marketing funnel.

We can't always have a designer at our beck and call to mock up four variations of a CTA color and placement. Visual Website Optimizer lets you easily change the CSS and HTML of sections of your webpage, test the variations, and run with which ones works best.

Testing Tools


Cost: From $20/month
Priority: Necessity

There's no worse feeling than launching a site you've labored over for months to find out that visitors don't understand it.

UsabilityHub makes it ridiculously easy to gather initial feedback on designs and mockups before you launch. Upload your screenshot, select which test you'd like – Five Second Test, Click Test or Nav Flow Test – UsabilityHub shows your design to the number of people you specify, and you get a report of results quickly.

If it's this easy getting real-time impressions of what people think about your designs, there's no reason why everyone shouldn't be using it.

Optimal Workshop 

Cost: From $109/month
Priority: Necessity

Optimal Workshop includes a suite of three tools, each of which equally important to the UX process:

OptimalSort: Card sorting tool to show how users would organize your content. Great for planning information architecture, navigation, and overall site structure.Treejack: Removes visual design to test site structure and navigation labeling to see why and where people are getting lost in your content.Chalkmark: Get users' first impressions of designs or screenshots through first-click testing. Gives you quick feedback before making them live.


Cost: Free
Priority: Nice to have

Where Google Analytics tells you what your users are doing on your site (e.g., leaving before filling out your lead form or dropping off in your checkout process) ClickTale tells you why they're doing it.

ClickTale gives you heat maps, click maps, visitor recordings, form performance analytics and more so you're better armed to improve your sites optimization of conversion flow. It also executes things in real time so you don't have to wait a while to get your results.

What UX tools do you consider a necessity? Share it in the comments.

Google To Look Into Movie Blogs Losing Traffic

About eight different movie blog sites, including, have apparently lost traffic in Google � and the issue is big enough that Google is looking into it.

The owner and editor of /Film�called out to Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, about this issue on Saturday:

@mattcutts any ideas why so many movie blogs are losing more than half their google traffic this past month? Very troubling.

� Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) February 21, 2014

Cutts replied:

@slashfilm I hope to dig into this soon. Sorry it’s been a few days.

� Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 22, 2014

When I looked at’s search visibility reports on SearchMetrics, it definitely shows a steep decline in traffic:

When we asked Google about this, they had no comment for us.�If we hear more, we’ll update this post.