Author: Shawn Gannon

I think of myself as a motivated executive with B2B/B2C mobile and online digital product, marketing and sales expertise. It is my belief that leaders are born through strong mentoring and consistent developmental opportunity. I have been fortunate to have a unique few in my life who have given me the driving force for constantly improving a career based on performance, unselfishness, reliability and availability. I have been referred to as a creative and pragmatic team builder. I strive to illuminate a path for others to follow. In return, my teams have always shared that vision.

Saved by Strikingly Site Builder

Back in September of 2013, I was one of many folks who were laid-off from their jobs. Still, not that uncommon.  However in my case, this was my third layoff in 6 years!  After 25 years of jumping through corporate hoops I decided corporate America was showing me that they just didn’t care enough about hard working, dedicated professionals. So screw those corporate monkeys, I decided to start Gannon Solutions – a digital consulting agency to help small and mid-sized businesses with their digital needs. My focus was everything from strategy, innovation, content marketing to corporate identity, branding and simple web design.

Now how to get started? First things first, you have to have a website with strong SEO to simply be legit and get your name on the web. Seed money was a factor in the beginning and not being a developer myself, I began researching ways to get my site up and running fast and inexpensively. That’s when I came across Strikingly. It wasn’t the first web builder I found. There is just a ton of them out there. In fact, Strikingly was one of the last ones I found. Saving the best for last served my purpose perfectly.

Strikingly has one of the easiest user interfaces I’ve worked with. It is very intuitive to users. The simple interface allows you to test different features without worrying that you’re going public. You can save as you go and publish once your happy with the look. It also has mobile previews that I found very helpful, as I wanted to be sure to have a responsive site that looked great on all devices.

My business is operating well, I’m happy to say. I hire developers to assist me in creating all different kinds of websites from native code to open sourced templates; but I always provide my clients with the option to use Strikingly because of its simplicity and low cost. You’d be surprised how quickly that can make a a trusted bond as a consultant. Too many consultants are in the market charging far too much for web development. I often think of it as how some people profit from the under-privileged during a disaster. Web sites are a single channel for a business, albeit an import channel. As a consultant, one should never take advantage of a business simply because development is a higher skill. Strikingly helps me to provide a simple, inexpensive solution to a single channel opportunity.

So when Strikingly asked me to blog about their service, I was happy to oblige.  I love how gannonsolutions.com turned out.  I keep it updated and fresh with new content.  I also made a resume site at shawngannon.com with Strikingly. Both sites are optimized for SEO and have garnered much attention. I’m a pretty satisfied customer. Thanks Strikingly for helping me out in a pinch!

 

 

Is the Sales Department dying?

Is the Sales Department dying?

Let’s just view the Sales Department in its current form as a department in steep decline.  But more similar to the metamorphosis in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. “Sales Departments” as we know them are a changing profession.  They are, in fact, evolving to Client Engagement.  And in today’s marketplace it is actually Product Departments and Marketing Departments that are also key to engage more closely with clients to define gaps and opportunities.  I see it as a progressive partnership — Client Engagement: the direct link to clients and closest partnership-builder to be aware of clients’ holistic business strategy. Marketing: the brain that digs through terabytes of data to find opportunities.  Product Development: the technology solution building company and client products and enhancements to fill the gaps towards new revenue streams.

Technology actual helps us connect to people more than ever before.  Don’t believe the hype that we have become a society of drones tweeting and posting thoughts to the cyber-sphere just to be heard.  As with any evolution, a dramatic event abruptly disrupts the status quo.  Our thinking is still status quo without acknowledging the precipice of change.  Are we truly prepared for the next abrupt industry development?

From a client’s perspective, you don’t want to be sold an idea that you’re not interested in.  You’re looking for a partner to develop and grow new ideas for revenue and brand awareness.  Sales alone cannot make that connection; that’s where Marketing and Product development bridge the gap.  Businesses need to think of Marketing and Product as data scientists instead of merely channel executioners.  This is where friction is instigated between role definitions in companies.  We’re all trying to find opportunities for revenue and happy customers but with different approaches.

Progressive companies don’t just develop a product then go sell it out of the box. They instead, look for ways to develop and scale solutions through client partnerships. In today’s electronic world Information is free and abundant – collection is difficult but more so is putting the insights it provides to action.  Data is often not being used properly to grow partnerships with current and potential customers on a relevant basis.

This is where we can leverage technology and a new partnership in our own business units.  Sales: become Client Engagement and look for the solution to a client’s holistic need by strengthening a partnership not just a relationship.  Marketing: collect the necessary information to illuminate a path towards innovation.  Product: consider data and need to work together in defining the solutions most relevant to clients.

Finally, lose the friction and silo behavior between departments that exist so often.  Be partners with each other.  At the end of the day, better partnering makes for more opportunity.

 

Photo by Elizabeth Rose.

Gannon Solutions Philosophy

At Gannon Solutions, we care about vision and strategy first. We research and deliver engaging planning. We design and develop beautifully tailored websites and products cunningly optimized for all devices. We are a full-service digital firm. That means we partner with you from inception thru analytics to help you stay relevant to your current customers and attractive enough to attain new.

Gannon Solutions connects you to customers in meaningful, innovative ways.

Go to slideshare link below to learn more.

Gannon Solution Digital Marketing Strategy and Product Development from Shawn Gannon

 

12 Americans Taking the Fourth of July a Little too Seriously

Courtesy of Mashable.com

The Fourth of July is a time for Americans to celebrate and reflect on how great it is to be an American.

Most of us like to think of ourselves as true patriots, but until you dye your mustache, or turn your dog into Uncle Sam, or wrap your entire truck in a bald eagle, you’re merely just an average American.

These dedicated sons of liberty might actually bleed red, white and blue.

Tech Father’s Day Gifts

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Now if your father is anything like mine, these gadgets will definitely make you closer to him because he will be calling you day and night with unending questions on how to use them!   :^)

Repost from Mashable’s Yohana Desta

The holiday for dads is rapidly approaching, which means it’s time to bust out the wallet and show him just how much he means to you.

For the tech-loving fathers out there, we’ve rounded up eight great gadgets he’ll appreciate. Even if he’s somewhat of a Luddite, he’ll still find it hard to resist these crafty tools.

From brand new Beats headphones to sleek cooking tools, here are eight neat gifts to consider this Father’s Day.

How to Maintain Image Aspect Ratios in Responsive Web Design

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Consider a typical set of image gallery thumbnails:

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<ul>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/320/180/abstract" /></a></li>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/320/180/city" /></a></li>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/352/198/technics" /></a></li>
</ul>

We can show this gallery at any size in a responsive page template using CSS (essential properties shown):

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ul
{
  width: 100%;
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0 0 2em 0;
  list-style-type: none;
}
li
{
  float: left;
  width: 33.3%;
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0;
  background-color: #000;
  border: 10px solid #fff;
  -moz-box-sizing: border-box;
  box-sizing: border-box;
  overflow: hidden;
}
li a
{
  display: block;
  width: 100%;
}
img
{
  display: block;
  max-width: 100%;
}

This works well because all our images have the same 16:9 aspect ratio. The height of the image is exactly 56.25% of the width (9 divided by 16 expressed as a percentage).

responsive thumbnails

However, we web designers are paranoid: people conspire against us and supply photographs in an infinite range of sizes and aspect ratios, e.g.

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<ul>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/320/180/abstract" /></a></li>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/320/320/city" /></a></li>
  <li><a href="#"><img src="http://lorempixel.com/200/150/technics" /></a></li>
</ul>

responsive thumbnails

There are various solutions to this problem:

  1. We could resize every image by hand. That’s time-consuming and tedious.
  2. We could implement a clever automated server-based image resizing solution. That could take a while and resulting images may not be as polished or optimized as we like.
  3. We could throw a diva-like tantrum and refuse to work under such conditions. Of course, that’s unprofessional and none of us would resort to such tactics (too often).

Or can we use CSS to solve the issue?

We can, but it’s not as straight-forward as you may expect. In the old fixed-width design days we would have known the width of our image placeholder. If it was 160px, we could make the height 90px and leave early for a beer. In this example, our width is 33.3% of the container minus 20px for the border on the left and right-hand edges. It could be any size so setting a fixed height will impede our required aspect ratio.

The Percentage Padding Ploy

A little-known quirk of padding is that setting a top or bottom percentage bases it on the width of the containing block. If your block is 100px in width, padding-top: 30%; will equate to 30 pixels. I suspect this was done to make rendering calculations easier since element heights are normally determined by their content. Besides, if you had a fixed-height parent of 300px and set padding-top: 200%; on a child, the parent would become at least 600px — thus leading to a recursive cascade which breaks the web.

Whatever the reason, it’s very useful since it permits you to set an intrinsic ratio, e.g.

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#element
{
    position: relative;
    height: 0;
    padding: 56.25% 0 0 0;
}

This element will retain a 16:9 ratio based on the width of the container. The height has been set at 0px but, since we have set position: relative;, we can absolutely position any child element.

As far as I’m aware, the padding trick was first highlighted by Thierry Koblentz to create responsive videos, but the same concept can be applied to images or any other content. Let’s update our thumbnail CSS:

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li a
{
  display: block;
  width: 100%;
  position: relative;
  height: 0;
  padding: 56.25% 0 0 0;
  overflow: hidden;
}
img
{
  position: absolute;
  display: block;
  max-width: 100%;
  max-height: 100%;
  left: 0;
  right: 0;
  top: 0;
  bottom: 0;
  margin: auto;
}

The result will show the image with black borders if it does not have a matching 16:9 dimension:

responsive thumbnails

View the demonstration code…

Play around with the CSS. Removing the image max-width or max-height can apply cropping effects rather than resizing. I hope you find it useful.

Contributing Editor

Craig is a Director of OptimalWorks Ltd, a UK consultancy dedicated to building award-winning websites implementing standards, accessibility, SEO, and best-practice techniques.

The Power of Web Content Management Systems – A Company View

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Our goal as business people whether you are in marketing, sales, IT or support of a Fortune 500 company or a one-person-shop in a small business, the goal is still the same – deliver a consistent experience across all customer touch points.  The siloed nature of big corps and small can make that a difficult feat.  Yet we all strive for it.

What to do, what to do?  The answer for Gannon Solutions is web content management systems (CMS).  Now a CMS all by itself isn’t going to solve the many facets involved with integrated messaging.  No sir.  But with the proper strategy, it can be the most relevant foundational piece to begin that journey. You see websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built as they once were.  The idea of IT receiving “requirements” based on a product manager’s explanation of a designers rendering from a senior manager’s vision seems barbaric and inefficient. Not too mention we’ve seen this game of “documentation telephone” often leaves a developer writing native code that offers only a percentage of value expected by the business.  And the communication divide often felt by marketing and sales departments as an example generally leaves little room for a development team to know the intricacies of how to execute on say, the appropriate ad serving software, video streaming or sophisticated customer personalization tool.

Now I’m not pointing fingers, because believe you me I have been there.  Repeatedly.  But what are we to do and how do we sell the right solution into our companies?  Here are some considerations you might find useful to those looking for the precise solution to begin the journey of delivering consistent customer value:

  1. Always have vision.  Is it obvious?  Sure.  But do you know what it means? That’s the real question.  Vision is meant to place a company’s potential in the realm of the possible, not the impossible.  It is long-term and can be achieved through a singular or subsets of missions.  Not just mission statement.  Think literally mission.  A mission has to be attainable based on the way your company is positioned today or the mission being applied to reposition your company for the achievable future.
  2. Find the right strategy.  Formulating strategy is not as obvious as just knowing you need one.  I once read something that always stuck with me when considering crating an accurate strategy – Keep it simple by considering just two critical factors:  predictability (How far into the future and how accurately can you confidently forecast demand, corporate performance, competitive dynamics, and market expectations?) and malleability(To what extent can you or your competitors influence those factors?).
  3. Facilitate a conversation about CMS capabilities.  Q: “But we’ve got a great website, why do we need to invest in another technology?” A: Read the first sentence of this blog again.  A CMS can be the tie that binds company silos.  Ah, but now what to look for:
  4. Easy-to-use-interface.  A must-have for tech and non-tech to get on the same page.
  5. Single view to the customer with omnichannel delivery.  A CMS should be collecting data for personalization to render to the indented customers cross platform.  Conversions, impressions, etc. to achieve company goals.
  6. Automation for all possible content channel messaging.  A CMS can scale to translate your content through your current channels and expand to reach new channels that align with your company vision.  Customize for scalability.
  7. SEO.  Yep, what’s the point of a cool site when no one finds it.  Take care when developing content to adhere to titles, meta descriptions and keywords.  Leverage the alt attributes and link backs.  All this becomes far more manageable in a CMS and is truly important in Google’s rankings.
  8. Support.  Every CMS has a support component.  Whether it’s an active community online or a 24/7 call-in line, use them.  When you add a CMS to your business, you’ve just joined a club.  Research the CMS’ support channels to find the right solution for your individual business’ needs.
  9. Integration flexibility.  Insists on aligning with a CMS that has simple integration to your current line of business applications.  If you begin to see that options become too limited, it’s time to look at your business applications.  Don’t stifle your efforts to a scope of work that doesn’t include an internal audit of current technology.
  10. Scalability.  Today’s strategy is tomorrow’s learned mistake.  That is OK.  But be certain you’ve found a CMS that is continually supported and upgraded to allow your company to pivot on demand.  This is the riskiest part, I’ll admit.  No one knows the future.  We all aren’t CEO with ultimate decision-making power.  However, a CMS can be the best tool in your arsenal to keep up with an ever-changing environment.
  11. Bring everyone together.  Yes communication between the silos.  Tap the shoulder of a developer.  Invite key stakeholders to a luncheon.  Never underestimate the power of informal conversation while you research.  It’s just the right thing to do.

This is a high-level list of considerations.  Many more exist based on the culture and size of your organization.  But big or small, there are ways through technology that can align your efforts to meet company goals.  Solutions are out there.  Research.  Then, research again.

Feel free to ask us for help, too, by the way.  We love this stuff!