ProPR gets a new design

You may notice that ProPR looks different today. For the first time in five years, ProPR has had a redesign of its look and function.

So, what’s different about this design?

First, I hope that the look and feel is cleaner. The old design was heavily stylized with dark borders and broad swatches of color. This design has a more open, light and accessible feel. I hope it scales better on a variety of monitor sizes and that the design doesn’t distract from the content. Does it look good on your screen?

Second, the comments are now powered by Disqus. The old design used the BackType plug-in for WordPress, which was shut down a couple weeks ago, we knew we had to make a change. And after looking at the alternatives, discuss seem to me to be the best of breed in common management. What do you think of the way that the comments work and are presented in this design?

Third, sharing and bookmarking the content is front and center in the new design. You’ll see the Tweet and Facebook Like buttons prominently displayed at the bottom of each post, along with a general Share button and the Evernote Clip button. I think that this reflects the evolution of social networking and puts the most frequently used sharing functions in a place where they can easily be spotted and used. What do you think could this layout?

Fourth,we’ve added simple navigation to the top right corner, with tabs for About, Speaking and Contact pages. This enables me to post more complete biographical information on the About page and details about my future speaking engagements on the Speaking page. The Contact page includes a form to contact me in place of publishing my email address. A small gesture against spammers.

Finally, the sidebar has been cleaned up and reordered. We retired the Friendsroll and TopLinks plug-ins that I had used on the old design. These were developed by my colleagues at 76design at a time when blog rolls were still widely used. Those days have passed and after three years of service, Friendsroll and TopLinks have been removed. Prominent elements that remain on the sidebar include subscription by e-mail and RSS, my Twitter feed, the PostRank top posts widget, as well as the post archive and categories. We’ve added a new list of future speaking events. And, for now, we’ve kept the “Our Community” widget that we developed to point to our other blogs. (I say “for now” because we’re making other changes to the architecture of our other blogs that may lead to a change in this widget. Stay tuned.)

I owe big thanks to the talented team at 76 design for this redesign, Laurence Smink, Shaun Scanlon, and especially Ben Watts. Ben put up with me poking around the administration panel and asking far too many questions. At the end of the day he exercised his good judgment and the results are before you.

What do you think of Pro PR’s new design? Is the information easy to find and read? Does everything work? Are there things that could still be improved?

A progress marker on the road from the old to the new

Over the past five years, I’ve been working to move Thornley Fallis and 76design from a dying traditional PR business model to a new business model more in tune with the disintermediated world of individual voices and communities of interest. A world in which anyone with something to express can have a voice and others who share their interests can find them and develop relationships with them that transcend the restrictions of geography. In short, a world of social software, social media, communities of interest and relationship building.

squareWhat does our new business look like? Well, its draws on a broader range of skills than have traditionally been associated with PR. Yes, we start with our established understanding of communication and design as an enabler. But we add to this an understanding of sociology, group dynamics and organizational design. An understanding of search engines and always-on mobile connections. And an ability to design Web applications to enable people to do the things we are imagining.

It’s one thing to see these new opportunities. But it’s another thing to instill excitement about them in others. And it’s even tougher to get people who are successful in doing things the way they always have done them to open their minds to the likelihood that they may not be able to sustain this over the long term.

So, I was delighted to read how LeeEllen Carroll, a member of our Ottawa team with a background in traditional journalism, described Thornley Fallis and 76design in a posting on the shift+control blog.

[Thornley Fallis and 76design] help clients reach, connect with, and build and sustain positive relationships with their communities through the integrated use of on-line and off-line tactics.

We design the creative, build the innovative, and manage the complicated.

Every member of our firm believes in the power of digital engagement. Everything we do is designed to foster that. We engender mutual respect and trust between our clients and their respective stakeholders and audiences. Our clients are a mix of high-profile corporate brands, bleeding-edge startups, government and associations. For these clients, we go beyond. We don’t leave it at working for and representing them; we believe in them, we brag about them.

Our shop is dynamic, open-minded, eclectic and centrally located. Our style is fresh, friendly, professional and invigorating.

The common thread in all of our efforts is a big idea of what the conversation economy can do for our clients to solve real business challenges and create new business opportunities.

I didn’t write this. I didn’t even know about it until I read it on the blog.

So why am I delighted to read this description? Because LeeEllen has described the new kind of company that will thrive in the era of social media. In her own words. Without any prompting from me.

An organization and its culture cannot be changed by fiat. They can only be changed by common agreement among the people who populate it. To succeed, the people who work at our company must come to share our new vision and see themselves being successful through it.

LeeEllen’s description of the company tells me that the people I work with understand the changes in our business and are embracing them. We are well on our way in the transition from the old model to the new. We’re making progress. And that feels good.

76design's Bored of Cork!

The new 76design Website incorporates a really neat web tool that the 76designers have developed: Bored of Cork.

Bored of Cork

Visitors to the 76design Website can use Bored of Cork to write and place sticky pad notes directly on the site. In this way, you can join us in creating our collective space.

Bored of Cork is the first project to come out of 76labs, the “playground” that the 76designers established to provide a focal point for the new ideas, experiments and playing around that turns them on.

We hope you like the Bored of Cork tool. If you do, please tell us. And if you think we can make it better, we’d like to hear about that too.

Bored of Cork. Enjoy.

What do you think of our "Social Media Websites?"

76designMy colleagues at 76design have launched their new Website. I think it rocks! And I hope you like it as well.

The 76design site is a companion to the Thornley Fallis site. Both sites are built around the blog and podcast content of the employees who work at the companies. This “social media design” enables visitors to learn about the companies through the blog postings of the people who work here. People like Michael O’Connor Clarke, Chris Clarke, Terry Fallis, the PR Girlz, the 76design team and me.

Thornley FallisWe designed our Websites this way because we understand that companies are in essence the people who work for them. And we want visitors to come to know us through the eyes of our people. If we are successful in creating an environment that attracts and supports creative, thoughtful people who are passionate about their work, this will show through. And we will be successful.

At least that’s our belief. And as time passes, we’ll test this belief through experience.

Please let me know what you think of our sites. Do you like the approach? Does it work? How can it be improved?