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What’s a lead?

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Refrigerated Real Estate Consumers


My definition of a real estate lead

A lead to me includes absolutely the following:

  • the full name of the buyer (both persons if a joint purchase)
  • an exact capture of their area and style of housing
  • pre-qualified with a qualification letter
  • a signed agreement that they consent to the distribution of their information to me and understand they’ll be working with me.
  • the lead must be exclusive to me or my company.

What most supply

  • name (sometimes correct)
  • email address (rarely their best contact)
  • city or zip code searched (is this narrowed or a broad general search)
  • share the fragment of information with 2-10 additional agents

What ends up happening

  • You and upto 10 other agents bombard the consumer with updates and QUESTIONS
  • You turn off the consumer because you’ve been left with more QUESTIONS than answers
  • You lose the consumer to someone else and are left begging for a response
  • You’re left discouraged and with a hole in your wallet

It seems to me

A better approach for any aggregator would be to connect locally a partnership with a Broker, and provide a lead capturing solution supported by their national site.  Endorsing the Brokerage from a national level  gives the local Broker credibility allowing a transaction to take place on the local site- The transaction of information. 

The wrap 

Agents must raise the bar and and begin to ask serious questions of the vendors that would provide fragments of shared information.  You must learn to just say no to antiquated products and force vendors to raise their bar. By doing so you force aggregators to engage a solution for consumers that is valuable enough that they would want to willingly submit their information, agree to pre-qualification, and yes, make the home buyer eager for the call by the agent by asking permission upfront- Permission marketing.

In the end, the consumers experience is what is most important, but the almighty dollar seems to continue to fuel poorly conceived dot-disasters to the online market place.  These so-called lead generation opportunities leave buyers frustrated and with a feeling of refrigeration- consumers are not meat.

Are there dot-somethings out there that aim to bridge the gap from search to purchase?  If so, I’ve not received your email.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Matthew Rathbun

    April 9, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I’m reminded of issues that a certain company went through when they were “generating” leads from ther employees to ensure that minimum commitments were met. I got out of all my on-line lead generation systems. What I found was that the “lead systems” were costing me as much as I was making. So, had just one lead not worked out, I would have been in the negative.

    Agents need to do a little market research and check with other users out of their markets before signing up for services that generate potential client contacts.

    This is still a social buisness and it seems that some lead services are hoping that something comes by, as opposed to actually engaging folks and finding out what they are looking for. This goes back to Boardman’s post, yesterday. It’s important to have a connection and realistic mentality with your client. Why pay for a “lead” if they aren’t going to be a good fit for you?

    Sorry, Benn, if this wasn’t your primary point, but it’s a topic, that I think all agents should explore more.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 9, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Matthew, no, it strikes at the heart- the solution (technology in this case) needs to bridge and build warm contacts, not refrigerated meat. The solution is introducing me to an opportunity, not an email address.

  3. BawldGuy Talking

    April 9, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    As usual, Benn, you’ve called it as it is.

    Leads generated by the agent’s own efforts, at least in my personal experience, are golden. Our batting average with those coming to us through our sites is well over half.

    I can’t even imagine the conversion rate you enjoy with the leads you generate.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    April 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Better yet lets not treat consumers like leads and let’s cut out the middle man. They add no value for consumers. If agents stopped working with the lead aggragators they would cease to exist and consumers would come to us.

  5. Benn Rosales

    April 9, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Teresa, that isn’t going to probably happen, they’re like weeds. The best we can hope for is a company that fills the void with a product that bridges the gap. I am no fan of aggregators by any stretch of anyone’s imagination…

  6. Jay Thompson

    April 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I hate the word “lead” and try to avoid it like the plague. Leads are people. People buy and sell homes, not leads….

  7. Jonathan Benya

    April 9, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Here’s what I don’t understand:

    I have my own independent blog, and I get 50-100 visitors daily.

    I average 3-4 first-time calls from potential clients weekly.

    I average 3-4 first-time emails from potential clients weekly.

    So weekly, I’m looking at 6-8 possible leads.

    I spend $15/month on the blog hosting.

    I spend approximately 1 hour a day blogging.

    I can close a lead a week (actually 1.2) from blogging leads alone.

    If I can close 4-5 leads monthly from blog traffic alone, at a cost of $15 & 30 hours of prospecting (writing) each month, why on EARTH would I pay $50-$75 for a lead with a company that averages a 20-25% closing ratio? I figure if a lead generation company charges me $60/lead, and 20% (1 in 5) make it to closing, I’m paying $300 per lead that actually closes, right?

    Let’s say my time is worth $50/hr. That means the time I spend blogging each month is worth roughly $1,500. ($50x30hours). I close 5 leads that month, and I’m spending the same amount on my blog as I would for a lead generation service, PROVIDED THEIR LEADS CLOSE AT 20% or BETTER!!

    It sounds to be about the same, but the difference lies in the fact that I’m being called by the client, not the other way around! By the time they contact me, they feel as if they already know me because they’ve met me, my listings, my team, my dogs, you name it, and there is a personal connection to me before they’ve ever even heard my voice! It makes transactions go much more smoothly, in my opinion, and instantly eliminates many of the hurdles you see with leads you’re paying for!

  8. Gabe Sumner

    April 9, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    This post demonstrates an extreme ignorance about how the Internet works and what Internet consumers want.

    Internet users enjoy the anonymity of the Internet. They enjoy being able to browse at their own pace. They want to be empowered to do their own searches and research. When they have questions, they want clear simple, truthful answers. They do not want to be forced to submit information they are not ready to give or take steps they aren’t ready to take.

    It might take MONTHS for the lead to mature; as a person progresses from curious, to interested, to serious, to ready. When the time comes though, most people will remember the agents, companies, and web sites that were honest & helpful to them.

    Any web site that makes someone pre-qualify for a loan to even ask a question (or worse do a search) will fail! Miserably!

    To speak to your points above; you will never get want you want because the Internet is purely consumer driven. There are thousands of web sites and the successful web sites will be those that allow consumers to approach the home buying process on their own terms.

    I understand that in an ideal world you would like leads where the person is primed and ready to hand you a stack of cash with minimal fuss…but there isn’t any web site that will be able to do that for you.

  9. Eric Blackwell

    April 9, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Jay, you nailed it, man. I agree totally.

    I feel a post coming on…. These folks are PEOPLE who are searching for what we have to sell. They may not be ready to buy yet, buuuuuttttt…they will decide whom they buy through based on who is helpful.

    “Lead” well and “lead generator” ought not to be in the lexicon IMO.

    Best;

    Eric

  10. ines

    April 9, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I’m with Jay – the first step is to stop calling them “leads”.

    If I may interject here: Gabe – as much as I totally agree with you and so will most of us in this platform (sorry if I generalize) – this post is about Lead Generation Companies that actually sell a product, they “sell” leads. I personally don’t use don’t companies and use the process you describe in my own site – the question for me is, if these companies are going to sell these leads, shouldn’t they be complete? and real? if not, what exactly are they selling…….people’s privacy and anonymity? ……just a thought.

  11. Bill Lublin

    April 9, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    @Benn – I have a ton of stuff to say about this whole thing, but frankly its another post – I think you are absolutely on the right track and have part of the answer, but haven’t yet gone all the way with it – leaving a little for me to get my teeth into later on – for which I thank you “oh provider of all things that are good” (or more appropriately, the husband of “the provider of all things that are good”!)
    @Jay AND Eric – As another Bill once said ” what’s in a name?, a lead by any other name would smell as sweet…” They are leads until we meet them – at which time they become people, but while I don;t agree with much of what Gabe said. I do agree that anonymity is part of the internet experience, and until we remove that anonymity, the “leads” haven’t yet coalesced into “people” because we haven’t yet met them.. and that part is our job – and one that we shouldn’t allow anyone else to do – unless we don;t want to be in business any longer…
    @Gabe – I admire your courage if not your perception when you say “This post demonstrates an extreme ignorance about how the Internet works and what Internet consumers want.” about this particular author and these particular commentators in this particular arena –
    And I have to disagree with you when you say “the Internet is purely consumer driven” – That is simplistic and untrue – the majority of succesful business models are either ad driven, or looking to be driven by fees and referrals paid by real estate professionals – Is there another internet service which is paid for by the consumer using it? Even Amazon, Ebay, and every other e-commerce site I can think of has their business model fueled by the vendor rather then the consumer – The only part of the Internet that comes to mind as completely consumer driven might be the pornographic portion of the net which I am told by others is actually paid for by the consumers- and if I did miss one or two examples which are not ad driven or fee & referral based, they are in the underwhelming minority-

  12. Brian Columbus

    April 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    On the surface, your “lead standards” make sense. There’s validity in not wasting time with half-hearted buyers. Like any relationship (business or personal), there needs to be some level of commitment for both sides in order for things to work out. So I ask, why bother “chasing leads” at all? Why not spend your time marketing to the type of customers you really want: sincere, motivated and qualified consumers. Focus on getting referrals and repeat business. Focus on the relationships (people) and not the data (leads).

    (BTW – If you’re looking for a dot-something to help with that…I’ll send you an e-mail shortly.)

  13. Benn Rosales

    April 10, 2008 at 7:55 am

    The post that says leads are a bad word and aggregators that lack a product that they own will surely fail, have already been written- I know because I wrote them.

    This post is something much deeper and much to the heart of any startup that wants to offer antiquated methods to real estate practitioners that lead them down a 1.0 path. Some here get that, some here do not, but my larger point will be understood by a vendor that is looking for the niche that will fly through the ages,

    It is the point that will build what some used to call a lead into a buyer who wants to willingly participate. The meat being if you had reached that level of bliss with the consumer with a product they wanted, you’d have recieved more than bits and bits should not be sold (or purchased). When purchasing bits the consumer is destined to become chewed by the pack. Again, this method was created by aggregators but somehow the agent becomes the vilain.

    There is a better way… I’ve seen it, and I’m going to show it to you… stay tuned.

  14. Gabe Sumner

    April 10, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Bill Lublin,

    I don’t believe saying “the Internet is purely consumer driven” is simplistic. Instead, I believe it is a fact to keep in mind for anyone who wishes to succeed in this environment.

    Of course there are web sites that are supported by ads or sales. However, those web sites delicately place their revenue model on top of a solid customer-centric experience…or they will become irrelevant.

    Google is a very good example. In the beginning Google was a text box, one click and then the answer to your question. With this “simplistic” approach they became the greatest force on the Internet.

    Now Google obviously has AdWords; but notice how careful they have been about infusing ads into their product. Notice they have never allowed the “natural” results to be tainted with ads. Do you know how much companies would be willing to pay for top-spots? Millions & millions of dollars are being lost. But Google understands that as soon as they start down this path, they lose the confidence of their users. That confidence is really the only thing of value they have.

    If I have a web site where I am trying to offer value to customers during the real estate transaction, it is not in my customers interest to:

    – Demand of them questions they are not ready to answer.
    – Exclusively give their “lead” to 1 agent who may or many not respond.

    ines,

    Regarding the companies you describe, it does not surprise me that the leads they generate would be flawed. Their core business model is flawed. Thank you for the clarrification.

  15. Gary Ashton

    April 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Hello,
    I think that really we have to view our lead generating websites as a 24hr virtual open house.

    We all know that the best way to meet buyers, the traditional way, would be to sit in a well publicised open house or in a heavy traffic area, and wait for potential buyers to walk through the door.

    Well, in actual fact, the open house brings in all sorts of potential buyers as well as plenty of lookers, from the next door neighbors to the couple doing some remodelling and looking for interior design ideas. They are all interested in the home but with varying degrees of interest towards actually buying a home.

    The internet lead is very similar and in a lot ways exactly the same. It’s an virtual open house that the buyer can enter at any time of the day or night…and we don’t need to be there.

    Most real estate sites at some point will require the user to provide some kind of information about themselves. Those who have no intention of revealing their identity can create a fake, but plausible e-mail address, and a fake, but plausible phone number, and then they have access to the rest of the site.

    Other users will only provide a good e-mail and yet others will provide a working e-mail and a working phone number. However just because the working phone number and working e-mail user has provided all the correct information doesn’t mean that they are looking to buy a home. They may still be a inquisitive neighbor or some one doing research regarding interior decorating and they needed to see pictures of homes etc.

    The point is that internet captures leads at all stages in the buyers life cycle just like the buyers and people coming to view traditional open houses. Some maybe in the very early and formative stages and have 2 years to incubate before they buy. Others may not even know they are thinking about moving but the research they do for another project brings them to the realization that they need to “upgrade” to get what they want in a home ie they can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear 😉

    I guess all I’m saying is that internet leads are at the end of the day either real people or fake. The real people will at some point be looking for a home. It may not be next week, next year or the next decade but it’s very likely they or someone they know will be involved in a real estate transaction. If you treat that lead with respect and give them some attention they will remember you via your drip campaign when they do enter the actual buying stage.

    I don’t reject someone just because they are using my site for research. I hope they will remember it as a user friendly site and refer their friends and family and eventually become a client themselves when it’s their turn to buy 🙂

    I look forward to hearing any one elses opinions as I would like to convert more of my leads just like everyone else that uses the internet as a way of generating business for themselves and their team 🙂

    As exclusive agents for Nashville.com we generate anywhere from 15 to 50 leads a day…and not all are immediate buyers 😉

  16. Vicki Moore

    April 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    There is a better way… I’ve seen it, and I’m going to show it to you… stay tuned.

    I wait excitedly, Obi Wan. 🙂

  17. Bill Lublin

    April 10, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Gabe;
    When I said simplistic I meant just that – not dumb, just simplistic- It (the statement) didn’t take into account all of the levels that truly drive the internet- And please don’t get me wrong – I am not suggesting that there are not sites that are simply there for fun or for the experience of sharing like the gutenberg project or archive.org, I objected to summing up the entire nature of the Internet in that one sentence-

    I would disagree with your perception of google’s careful insertion of adwords- they’re just geinb honest about identifying ads- something that newspapers have done for years, and a laudable action, but since they’re banking large, I would respectfully say that the reason is not because they love the consumer experience, but because they don’t need to do anything else. Businesses need to act as businesses in order to survive and to have the participants in those businesses survive and even thrive- I don’t think that is a bad thing or a good thing – just a thing we need to recognize when we look at the structure of our electronic workplace

    I do agree with you that we need to keep the consumer’s experience in mind, because even if the motivation of the business or person operating the web site is commerical, they defeat their own pupose if they don’t make it a good consumer experience, because many consumers will then choose not to participate.

  18. David Carroll

    July 6, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Brilliant article and the comments are equally as insightful. If only I got my head out of the gutter of software development with our FREE IDX Property Search a year ago and found this very post, I would have had a great reference for all the naysayers about redefining lead capture I’ve encountered this past year. Check out our video on this very subject and let me know your thoughts. http://www.softRealty.com/video/LeadCaptureRedefined/.

    I never understood the mentality many agents have regarding the “unregistered” use of their IDX Search. Some agents believe that if you’re not ready to pony up some identification with “forced registration,” you have no business on their site. How ridiculous!!! Gary Ashton’s comment said it perfectly in his assessment of people who do or don’t give their information. I talk to brokers and agents everyday who say they force registrations to capture leads, but would never fill out those forms themselves. However, if they don’t push some sort of registration, they won’t be able to begin nurturing a relationship with this lead. What they don’t consider is you also can’t connect with qualified home buyers leaving your site or giving you fake information. The very people that do give you factual information have probably given it to every other site they’ve visited and may not be a qualified buyer.

    As a “dot-something” technology company, as it were, we have addressed the concept of nurturing relationships online with “Lead Capture Redefined.” This is where we approach the lead capture process with a consumer driven approach. Let them search anonymously while giving the agent the ability to connect online. If the consumer sees value in the correspondence, they’ll identify themselves. There is much to be afraid of with identity to begin with on the internet. Give your new visitors time to get to know you as an agent, search your site, and return periodically. Don’t give them a reason to “lie” with fake information. Rather, engage early and establish trust.

    Bill, Ines, and Teresa, we met at REBarCamp PHL. I wish I was following this site earlier on. You guys ROCK!!!

    Benn, I’m digging Agent Genius with every new article I get a chance to read. I feel that guy who just discovered the box set of “Lost” for the first time and am playing catch up from several seasons back.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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