Get it All

In order for you to see my stuff on Google+, you have to have me in a circle and I have to be posting to a circle with you in it.

As a wise denizen of Google+ recently pointed out, Google+ is a “project,” not yet a “product.” It still has miles to go before its complete and features are yet to be added, I am sure. But at first blush, the nacent social network looks promising and I’m certainly on-board with it as a means of personal communication.

But as a means of branding? Of the kind of public blogging persona I have built over years on my blog, FaceBook and Twitter? I’m not so sure.

On the one hand, the fact that I can cleave my stream into multiple “Circles,” targeting content to specific audiences, means the potential of significantly simplifying and enhancing my social experience. I can create a circle for this blog, one for my political blog and one even for my creative writing and musical experimentation. Then only the people I wish to see my content can tune in to those specific facets of what I’m doing.

But isn’t that exactly backwards, as a marketing tool? Don’t I want to put out different channels of content and let the audience decide what they see? Yes, of course I do. I don’t want to have to be responsible for saying, “this person shall only see my computer stuff,” because if they feel like checking out my music, I’d be happy to let them. Also, the onus is on me to know what they do and do not want to see, which I can hardly be expected to know beyond my immediate circle of friends.

And now we come to an even bigger worry: the Double-Blind Circle. In the Double-Blind Circle, I’ve added people to a Circle that aren’t actually interested in what I have to say. They don’t have me in any of their Circles, or worse yet, they have me in a Circle for jerks (see what I did there?) that they never look at. Now I’m spending my time and going to the trouble of developing content specifically for a Circle that is completely useless. Its Double-Blind, get it?

Yes, click-throughs will tell me who clicks on content; comments and Plus1’s will tell me who is interacting. But headline readers and lurkers abound. Just because a person on Twitter isn’t retweeting, commenting or clicking on my headlines in no way means they’re not engaged and reading. How do I know if the same is true or not on Google+?

I only ask these questions because I’m actually quite excited about G+ and am itching something fierce to get at the API once its released. But in the meanwhile, its worth asking the questions, especially since so many of my friends and connections in the world of Social Media are doing the same types of promotion and marketing that I am.

If you’re like me, you like to have a fair amount of control in the way your websites look to the user. As you know, this is not always easy based on the way browers were meant to behave. Browsers were meant to allow differently-sized monitors and windows show the same content, and thus allow for a lot of proportional widths, with the page stretching and scaling to adjust to the different readers. But in these modern days, we can anticipate certain screen resolutions and many pages conform to a rigid width.

Keeping this width is actually quite important from design, usability and branding perspectives, as a matter of fact: my keeping pages a consistent width, we increase the chances that people recognize our pages as something unique (branding), we allow our users to be accustomed to the locations of key navigational components (usability) and we decrease the chances that something unexpected on the page will break the overall design (design).

However, there are very real problems with fixed-width pages that many novices encounter, making fixed width pages a real bear to deal with. I thought I’d take the time to discuss the reasons that – even in a fixed-width page – using proportional sizes has benefits to the designer.

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