Category Archives: Technology

Web-fonts – Make Something Beautiful

Choosing the right font can make all the difference.

In the early days of the internet, the internet was the wild west in many respects, yet when it came to typefaces, we had few choices and those we did have were referred to as “Web-Safe” fonts. The so called web-safe fonts are listed below along with their fallback generic family type of serif, sans-serif or monospace.

  • Serif Fonts
  • Georgia, serif
  • “Palatino Linotype”, “Book Antiqua”, Palatino, serif
  • “Times New Roman”, Times, serif
  • Sans-Serif Fonts
  • Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif
  • “Arial Black”, Gadget, sans-serif
  • “Comic Sans MS”, cursive, sans-serif
  • Impact, Charcoal, sans-serif
  • “Lucida Sans Unicode”, “Lucida Grande”, sans-serif
  • Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif
  • “Trebuchet MS”, Helvetica, sans-serif
  • Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif
  • Monospace Fonts
  • “Courier New”, Courier, monospace
  • “Lucida Console”, Monaco, monospace

The fall back is listed as a backup, which is to be used if the specified font isn’t available on the users system.

This is a font stack declaration for a body tag, showing the preferred font, a fall back and a generic fall back.

Example:
body {
font-family: Arial, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;
}

While these fonts are utilitarian and do the job we now have web fonts available to us which allow us to specify a wider variety of fonts which will display correctly on (almost) all user machines.

Web-fonts are supported by all major browser platforms but not all in the same way. There are currently four different font formats that must be included in order to target all browsers. This includes TTF, WOFF, EOT and SVG.

How do I use web-fonts?

You must upload your web-font kit to your website. They should be in or near the same directory as your CSS files.

Include your web-font stylesheet

To use web-fonts, you must first make a CSS @font-face declaration allows each browser to select the font it needs from the various formats.

I’ve included an example of an @font-face declaration below.

Example:

@font-face{
font-family: 'MyFavoriteWebFont';
src: url('MyFavoriteWebFont.eot');
src: url('MyFavoriteWebFont.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.woff') format('woff'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.ttf') format('truetype'),
url('MyFavoriteWebFont.svg#webfont') format('svg');
}

Modify your existing stylesheet

Now that you have a new web-font available to you, you need to tell your stylesheet where to use it. Look at the@font-face declaration I included above, there is a property called “font-family.” The “MyFavoriteWebFont” name listed there is how you will reference or “nickname” the font. To use your new web-font, simply reference that webfont name to the font stack in the “font-family” property, inside the selector you want to change.

Example:
p { font-family: 'MyFavoriteWebFont', Times, serif; }

Why can’t it be easier?

There are also several web font services available such as Adobe’s Typekit https://typekit.com/, Google’s – Google Fonts http://www.google.com/fonts, with both serve up the font files from a Content Distribution Network (CDN), for increased availability and fast downloads. These services also alleviate the need to house the font files on your server, you merely reference them in the head section of your file and declare them in your CSS.

Take a few minutes and play around with web-fonts. Choosing the right font can make all the difference.

“Welcome to warp zone!” How Playing Nintendo in My Parents Basement Poised Me for the Consumer World.

You remember that feeling, that rush that overtook your small frame when you first opened that shiny Nintendo cardboard box for the first time.  Sure, your friends may have let you play with theirs, you may have even considered yourself a skilled “gamer” (though it would be years before anyone would classify themselves as such) but this was your Nintendo consul, your chance at video game glory.

In my case, my victories were to be shared with my younger brother.  As it turned out, the majority of my defeats would also be his doing.  Regardless of this fact, nothing (NOTHING) could take away the feeling that I was part of something bigger, something that was in my control (at age 8 there really isn’t much that lays within your control) and somehow this was my destiny realized.

Granted, I wasn’t really a little Italian fellow battling through mysterious worlds to save my princess, nor would I have responded to the name Zelda in real life, but after a few days hunkered over the hand-me-down TV in the basement a few things had become very clear:

  • Mushrooms will always shrink you
  • The dog will perpetually steal your ducks (or worse, laugh at you when you miss)
  • The donkey is not your friend
  • Different scenes call for different ambiance: Mario Brothers Dungeon Music

 

It had also become clear that blowing on the game cartridge was the secret that solved all skipping, hiccups, and    worst of all, the dreaded blinking red light of death….

 

 

I am happy, and somewhat disappointed, to say that I no longer play video games.  However, a few lessons have stuck with me years later when it comes to my consumer experience based on those afternoons in the basement:

  • Products that allow you to fix something yourself will always find favor with me (just imagine trying to blow on your iPad if it breaks.)
  • The emotional attachment that comes when I am given control is still addicting.
  • I, like nearly all American consumers these days, will always expect the next version to be better, shinier, and more user friendly than the previous version (compare Super Mario Bros. to Mario Cart which came out only a few years later.)

These lessons are not specific to the video game industry, all segments of consumer culture (including home builders) ought to be aware this is what your customers have come to expect.  Put the tools and products in place that will give your consumers that “fresh out of the package,” “I am going to rule the world and be cooler than all of my friends” feeling.  At this point, the princess whose face is merely a pixilated compilation of tan boxes just isn’t worth saving anymore.

 

Fly Fishing & Selling Homes

Plans

First There’s Strategy -

When you first think about building a new community, what are some of the thoughts that come to mind? Customer? Area? Product? When an angler begins a trip to his or her favorite fishing destination, they need to think along the same lines of strategy. In fact these are some of the key areas of concern before they even drop that first line into the water:

  • Type of fish
  • Geographic Area
  • Time of Year
  • Rig Presentation

Isn’t this similar to what an executive team thinks about too when planning a new community? Who’s going to be my customer? What area? Type of product offering?

Fly Fishing

Choosing The Flies – Product Selection

When choosing trout flies, the relative importance of fly characteristics in your selection, in order, should be: size, shape, color, and action (for stripped flies). In saltwater, action is often more important than exact size and shape. Don’t you need to make sure that your home offering selections are enticing to the target demographic too? If technology is a key feature for a Gen X buyer, then one must make sure that there’s key technological features available in the community.

Fly Fishing Cast

Presentation – Creating The Right Sales Environment

Trust me on this one, you can be casting into a certain section of water and not even get one bite if you don’t have the right presentation. Two thirds of the time, trout are biting on submersible midges and nymphs. The other times, they are striking a dry fly on the surface that represents an insect that’s hatching that time of year.

If you don’t have the right type of web site presentation using up to date technology such as Interactive Floor Plans, then chances are the prospect will pass you on for better presentations. Not only is presentation important, but a builder will need engaging content to attract potential home owners. (see 2012 Home Buyer Conversion Report)

Interactive Floor Plans

These are but a few direct correlations of fly fishing and selling homes. I trust that we can all learn new ways to go to market by observing other endeavors of life…………………

Happy Fishing!!!

Interactive Floor Plans

Declare Independence from Tradition!

Embracing 21st Century Technology in our 20th Century Industry
(Or, why we do things differently at Contrado)

Thomas Jefferson once said that he liked “the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He knew what they needed: independence from traditional political, economic, and religious oppression. By writing the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, he was expressing the convictions that were in the hearts of the American people – the need for change.

1.  Understand that People Are Afraid of Change. When was the last time you changed the course that you were on? “Change” is a broad word that we can apply to many different things… a birth, a loss, a move, a new opinion, a new job. But ultimately it is a departure from tradition – which leads to a new way of doing things. For example, the change our nation went through during the 1700’s, despite being fought by many, led to a whole new world of possibilities and fresh starts. Regardless, change usually freaks us out. Whether it’s Good Change or Bad Change, we as humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. We fear failure. We feel doubtful about the possible outcomes. But we have to remember we always have options, and we can always CHANGE the outcomes. You don’t have to settle. “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

2.  Understand the Technology. If we think of change as a software upgrade, what software are you in need of, right now? Do you need better online engagement with prospects, for example? Do you need to build more homes with limited resources? Do you need better software to help you meet your customer’s exact needs? If you don’t know, evaluate what isn’t working. Then inform yourself!  You can start by asking the question, what are the best tools out there for what I need right now? If you go beyond word-of-mouth and previous methods into the world of uncovering the new, you will find services, systems, software, companies, and tools that you have never even heard of (like Contrado’s new HTML5 Interactive Floor Plan system!). What are today’s game-changers? Incorporating iPad technology into their homes? Making it easier for you to do your job? Building homes in half the time? You will be surprised at how much newness is flooding the industry.

3.  Understand that nothing will change unless you Try Something New. Times they are a-changin’! We are living in an exciting time where technology seems to be accelerating at the speed of light, and we will be left in the dark if we don’t try to keep up. In other words: have you ever heard someone say that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’? Trying new things can be scary folks, but how can you improve without even a little bit of change? Traditional tactics in the Revolutionary War ultimately failed the British; the revolutionaries were outnumbered, so they developed guerilla warfare to outmaneuver their red-coated opponents. They were forced to innovate the way they battled – thinking differently, operating more efficiently, using what they had and just going with it – which led them to victory.

You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  So if after all of this you don’t do it for you, do it for our Founding Fathers!

The Independence Equilibrium

How to Find the Right Balance in the Home-Building Industry

With our most celebrated national holiday upon us, we at The Contrado Group have been thinking about Independence quite a bit lately. Yes, we’ve also been looking forward to breaking out the BBQ, floating around on that unused raft, and maybe even playing with some fireworks. We will be celebrating our country’s Day of Independence – the day our Founding Fathers came together and drafted a revolutionary document declaring our freedom and our independence from our British ancestors. So we asked: what does that have to do with us in the home-building industry? How can we apply such a monumental moment in history to us? And most importantly, how do we find the right balance that will enhance efficiency for all?

First, we must acknowledge that Independence Inevitably Leads to Innovation. In embracing your individuality as a company (or as a person, for that matter), you will be surprised at how many new ideas you have and how much new material you can actually create. Take our Founding Fathers for example. Not only did they fight in an actual decade-long war for their freedoms, but after their triumphant victory they created the “Declaration of Independence,” they established the US Constitution (“We the People”), and in general had a pretty successful American Revolution. They were pioneers. In declaring Independence like they did, you are virtually breaking through the old dysfunctional way of doing things, and embracing change and newness as your Modus Operandi. And the final objective? Self-sufficiency… on your terms. This is the bread and butter of the American Dream and of what being successful means in our society today, applicable to both to the individual and the organization.

Second, we must recognize that Independence Isolation. Think of our industry as an ecosystem. Each member contributes to the overall operational efficiency of the system, which as it turns out, is paramount for saving time and money and for producing the best results. Who does your architectural planning, drawings, & renderings? Who does your marketing, and your selling?  You may need to re-evaluate your game plan. Being over-independent often results in the dreaded Silo-Effect (dun dun dunnnnnnn!): operating in isolation. This leads to little/no communication and an almost guaranteed increased inefficiency. In most of these all-too-similar cases, being over-independent indirectly cuts you off from valuable resources and other members of our “ecosystem,” who are there to give feedback, bounce new ideas off of, and in essence help you grow.

So, how do we find the Independence Equilibrium?

  1. INNOVATE: We must create space for the innovation that independence breeds. Within your company’s means, ask yourself what you can do differently to maximize operational efficiency.
  2. COLLABORATE: We must find the Pioneers, the Innovators, and the Front-Runners and we must collaborate with them. Outsourcing key parts of our processes, people, and technologies to these guys will yield better results than trying to figure it out on our own – one-stop-shops and multi-taskers welcome!
  3. NETWORK: We must keep in constant contact with the members of our ecosystem, the other home-building industry professionals. There is a big chance they might have the solution you are looking for.
  4. EMBRACE CHANGE: We must declare our Independence from the old dysfunction! The plus side for home-building professionals? We don’t need to fight a 10-year war and risk death for our revolution.

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