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Roundtable: Lean UX with Lane Halley and Jaime Levy

Jaime Levy and Jane Halley

At this month’s much anticipated Los Angeles User Experience Meetup event regarding Lean UX, Media Contour had the opportunity of conducting a round table interview with Lane Halley and Jaime Levy on the benefits of Lean UX strategies and practices for startups and enterprises.Lane Halley is a digital product designer and UX facilitator at Carbon Five. Jaime Levy is a User Experience strategist and principal at JLR Interactive. She also teaches User Experience at UCLA Extension.They are both pioneers in the topics of User Experience and Lean Startups and offered innovative insight at this great event. Below is an excerpt of our round table.LUKE: Hello. Our community consists of both agency UX’ers and designers, but also startups, small businesses and marketing teams within medium-to-enterprise level companies. I’d like to start with them. Let’s define Lean UX and discuss why it’s beneficial to their projects.

What is Lean UX?

LANE HALLEY: Lean Startup is a growing movement focused on customer understanding, experimentation, validated learning and iterative product releases which shortens product development cycles and increases the chance of product success. Lean UX combines elements of design thinking and Agile development practices. I think of Lean UX as the evolution of user experience methods which allow us to continue as UX practitioners in the modern world.Lean UX is an alternative to the “waterfall” method of product development which involves distinct phases, handoffs and an over-emphasis on deliverable documents. By working in small validated cycles, teams can reduce risk and minimize waste in their design and development process.

Jaime Levy and Lane Halley

Jaime Levy, Chris Chandler and Lane Halley discuss Lean UX at Cross CampusJAIME LEVY: User Experience is typically practiced as a linear methodology with the output being a static product design document jammed with wireframes and functional specification. The biggest waste to me is the precious time that we creative professionals spend designing products that potentially nobody wants or needs.LUKE:Reducing waste. How often do we end up at the final QA phase of a project only to find out that we should have done something another way? These realizations are often unavoidable growing pains of developing something new, but Lean UX can help businesses find out what they REALLY need earlier on.

Why is Lean UX Better for Businesses?

LANE HALLEY: The first question would be what does this business do and who is their audience? With that sort of foundation, you can better determine ways to deliver what meets your client’s needs without getting caught up in the hubris of what you think they need.LUKE: It’s almost planning by doing. You don’t know what you need or what you’ve missed until some sort of final product is in front of you.LANE HALLEY: Working in this kind of environment, you have to create a different kind of collaborative relationship with your client, where you become explorers together, and you have to recognize that all of your ideas are assumptions until they’re validated with happy, paying customers. This shift in consciousness and way of working based on this philosophy really does yield better results.LUKE: Happy paying customers. I’m finding that it’s really important to get real user feedback sooner in the process and in Lean UX it’s a must.JAIME LEVY: I would add that getting stakeholders and users together as quickly as possible really applies in any type of work environment. For example, a technique I employ is bringing startup clients and potential users into an informal environment (i.e. a cafe) instead of a traditional focus group setting. We show the potential users a quick and dirty prototype as opposed to a polished product. This relaxes the atmosphere. It makes the interview more conversational, and we increase the likelihood of receiving both immediate and more thought-provoking feedback. I did these "guerilla"-type interviews with the CEO of TradeYa recently. He saw how the potential customers not only stumbled on the prototype but just did not understand the product's value proposition. Because he sat in on the interviews as a notetaker, it allowed us to get on the same page more quickly and with a sharper focus toward product optimization and value innovation.

Adopting a Lean UX Philosophy

LUKE: Let’s shift back to agency life. For teams unfamiliar with Lean UX, how can they start implementing the Lean UX method into their practices?LANE HALLEY: It’s really about changing the relationship between the client and the team that’s doing the production and design. The first thing is to make talking to users an ongoing part of your process. It’s not a special occasion and it’s not just at the end of the process. It’s about continual user engagement, constantly mixing that conversation into the project, and engaging the people who are making the decisions in that process too. Step two is really empowering and aligning the team around a shared vision. We use a technique at Carbon Five called “design studio.” It’s a collaborative design session facilitated by a designer where everyone sits down with pencil and paper and sketches solutions to the problem. This is a great way to get the right conversation flowing around the product that is being created.JAIME LEVY: Well, it’s so dependent on the client because a lot of times clients come in and already have a specific idea for something. It’s also really important to do market research so you know what direct competitors are doing so you can consider what’s being done outside of that particular vertical in terms of feature concepts. This allows for new ways of approaching things and problem solving. Oftentimes, you need to shift the mental model of how a product works to something totally different. Lean UX advocates for UX practitioners to ask clients about who they think are their customers and what problems they are actually trying to solve. But UX Strategy is about balancing the validated solution against smart market research so you can find new opportunities to exploit.

Conclusion

Lean UX is defining a problem and then finding a solution by doing. By getting started, you provide your team with the opportunity to catch missing functionality that you couldn’t of otherwise caught without some type of prototype. It’s also about getting customers in front of your project as soon as possible to learn as much as you can about real user interaction.You can start practicing Lean UX by bringing together collaborative teams and giving them tools to create working prototypes. These prototypes do not have to be complex. At our studio we use a combination of marker boards, paper sketches and Balsamiq Mockups to create working prototypes with your clients and their customers.

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5 Internet Marketing Trends for 2013 You Can't Ignore

Internet marketing trends change from year to year. Sometimes these fast changes leave Internet marketers and small brick and mortar businesses alike scrambling to catch up. Here’s the good news. Although 2013 is nearly half over, there’s still time to implement these five internet marketing trends you don’t want to miss out on.

1. Responsive Website Design

People visit websites from a wide range of different devices. Your site needs to be accessible to as many of these viewers as possible no matter how they’re accessing your site. In other words, you need a site that flows seamlessly for people viewing on laptops, desktops, tablets, notebooks, netbooks, and mobile phones alike. That’s what responsive website design is all about, creating a site that’s friendly on all platforms. Today, it’s not a nice-to-have feature, it’s a must have.

2. Email Marketing/Remarketing

Email remarketing is one of the Internet marketing trends for 2013 that business owners from all industries can get excited about. An important component of it is contacting people who have allowed website shopping carts to expire by not taking the final steps to make the purchase. It lets your audience know you care to hear why they didn’t make the purchase to begin with. It also helps you shore up areas of concern for customers so they’re confident enough to buy from you in the future. Start off with email marketing. Launch an email campaign and publish an email newsletter to develop a relationship with your existing and prospective customers and make your email remarketing more effective.

3. Content and More Content

Of course, a voluminous amount of content alone is not enough. You need high-quality, high-value content that is relevant to your area of business, or niche, if you’re going to really capitalize on the benefit it can provide. A content management system is a great tool to help you “feed” your website with timely and regular content and is one of the most valuable of the internet marketing trends.

4. Smarter Social Media Strategy

Social media is constantly evolving. While you may be using social media, are you using it to your full advantage to capitalize on internet marketing trends for 2013? Do you have a plan and social media strategy in place? A smart social media strategy includes social listening, engagement, call to actions, advertisements and measurement. A solid social media strategy for businesses that is reassessed every year, and not just for 2013, is a wise plan for all businesses operating on the Internet today.

5. Mobile Strategy

Just as social media is growing in prominence and importance as a marketing tool, so is the usage of mobile devices by the population at large. In fact, 24 percent of Google traffic in the fourth quarter of 2012 came from mobile devices. Those numbers are only going to grow in 2013. The current worldwide audience of subscribing smartphone users is 1.1 billion people. That’s a huge market to miss out on if you don’t have a mobile website.

If you aren’t keeping up with these Internet marketing trends your business could suffer in 2013 and beyond. Now is the time to reassess your Internet marketing strategy to be sure you’re embracing the changing way the world does business today.

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8 Common Web Design Mistakes That Ruin User Experience (UX)

Throughout the Internet you can find all manner of articles and blogs dedicated to telling you exactly what you need to do to create the perfect website design for mobile devices. You’ll hear different opinions on content, context, and outright design features that are a must for your site to be successful on the mobile web. However, few of these articles and blogs address the mobile website design issues that could be holding your site back, like these.

Overwhelming text

People who are using the mobile web are often people who are on the go. They want to look information up quickly and with as little pain in the process as possible. Don’t make them scroll through a ton of information they don’t need in order to find what they’re looking for. Less, really is more, when it comes to mobile website design content.

Use of Pop Ups

Pop ups are annoying in the best of times, and downright loathsome in the worst. On mobile devices, they can be completely problematic. It’s best to disable them altogether on your mobile website design for the convenience of users if nothing else.

Burying Your Call to Action

Mobile screens are small. Keep your call to action above the fold (in the visible screen people see when they land on your site) or your conversion rates will suffer.

Not Having a Responsive Design

Different devices are different sizes. You need to have a mobile website design that accounts and adjusts according to these variations. Failing to do so renders your content unreadable to some, if not most, of your target audience.

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Links and Objects Too Close

Some fingers are fatter, flatter, or altogether less nimble than others when it comes to navigating around on their mobile devices. Placing links and objects too close together on the screen leads to a great deal of wasted bandwidth (a real problem now that so many characters have dropped their unlimited data options).

Buttons Too Small

Again the problem comes down to fingers. Not only do the buttons need to be large enough for the fingers to fit, but they also need to be spaced an appropriate distance apart so that fingers aren’t constantly tapping the button to the left or right of their intended targets.

Long, Complicated Forms

Mobile devices are portable, and are designed for people on the go. Often times people are in a hurry trying to get to the information they want in a timely, painless manner. Long, complicated forms make this impossible. Ask for as little information as possible from users if a form is absolutely necessary. If it isn’t necessary, save it for your desktop-friendly sites and skip it on the mobile websites.

Not Testing

Test, retest, and then test again. Test your site on multiple devices, multiple platforms, and in multiple conditions to ensure that your mobile website design is firing on all cylinders – not to mention providing a favorable experience for users on each of these mobile platforms.

These things are all small adjustments you can make in your mobile website design that will decrease user headaches and improve user experiences. Give them a try today and enjoy great improvements in response to your mobile sites.

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Is a Mobile Website a must in 2013? Move it or lose it?

Businesses today need every competitive edge they can get. In today’s fast-paced world, a mobile website is the very edge you need in order to remain competitive, much less get ahead of your competitors. More and more people are making the move to mobile services for fast access to information and for making purchases. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then you’re leaving money on the tables for other businesses in your field to come in and swoop up.

Unprecedented Growth in Mobile Traffic

Mobile websites offer a whole new world of opportunities for business owners to cash in on the “other” half of people accessing the Internet by engaging them with apps, mobile coupons, QR codes, location-based coupons and discounts, and countless other mobile-specific offerings. However, any of these efforts are pointless if you do not have a mobile website that’s compatible with smartphones and other mobile devices.

“In 2010 more than 50 percent of all Internet access was being done via handhelds of some sort,” reports Inc.com. Those numbers, according to Cisco, rose to 70 percent in 2012.

The widespread introduction of fourth generation, or 4G, mobile connectivity has generated 19 times more traffic than non-4G connectivity according to Cisco. This means that mobile websites are becoming even more critical for business success.

Mobile Users Expect It

Even with faster 4G connections, mobile users have come to expect quick loading, easy to navigate mobile websites. If you do not have one, then they’ll simply visit the next one on the list. The real secret to success with mobile websites is to follow the keep it simple philosophy. Mobile visitors want sites that load fast and give them the information they are looking for without a lot of the clutter full websites include.

Now Offers the Greatest Advantage

“90 percent of websites are not ready to be optimized.” -- Get Elastic

“52 percent of users who have bad mobile experiences are less likely to engage with the companies.” -- Get Elastic

These statistics tell you that it is your opportunity to be the early bird that really does get the worm. More importantly, this means you could be missing out on business today and in the future by not having an easy to navigate mobile website for your business.

Mobile is Where People are Spending Money

Consumers spent $25 billion dollars via mobile devices in 2012. Those numbers are only expected to grow as more people make the move to 4G devices and greater numbers of net savvy youth get jobs and enter the mobile marketplace. -- Yahoo! Small Business Advisor

The bottom line is that you need your website to be wherever people are spending money.

Businesses today can’t afford to alienate potential customers by ignoring their mobile audiences. It would be the same mistakes businesses made by putting off embracing social media and could prove extremely costly.

Stay ahead of your incorporation by implementing a mobile version of your website.

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7 Reasons to Publish an Email Newsletter Today

It started with a simple box inviting people to subscribe. Today, Geoff Bartakovics has transformed Tasting Table to a thriving newsletter with over one million subscribers. It only took four short years and a fair amount of elbow grease to do it. Not all businesses will grow to one million subscribers. But, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibilities. Here are seven reasons your business needs to publish an email newsletter beginning today.

Keeps Your Business Name Fresh in the Mind of Customers

Every single time you send out a news email “blast” or email newsletter to your subscribers you’re sending them a reminder that your business is the one that can meet their needs. Whatever business you’re in, this is advertising that keeps on giving – even if they don’t need your products or service today, your business will be the first one that comes to mind when they do because they consistently see your name in their email inboxes (whether that’s on their computer or mobile device).

Brings Customers to You Week After Week

You no longer have to wait for customers to come to your website when they need something you have to offer. Now, you can bring your website, products, and/or services to them with a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse. And – it’s instant! You don’t even need to wait on the postal services to deliver it.

Lets Your Customers Advertise for You

When you send consistently high quality email newsletters to your customers, the chances are good that they are going to share your newsletters through social media or with other friends and family who need the information, services, or goods you have to offer. They become advertisers for your business and all it took was for you to give them the tools to help you out via your email campaign.

Drives Traffic to Your Website

No matter what line of business you’re in, no matter how good you are at taking care of your business, your website isn’t going to be successful without traffic. Email marketing through a well-designed and well-thought out newsletter brings a steady stream of visitors to your site week after week. The best news is that these visitors are generally people who are already interested in the products you’re selling.

Helps You Build Relationships with Your Target Market

More importantly, email newsletters help you build trust with your target market. The more reliable and informative news you share with your audience, the more often they will turn to you for solid industry information. There really is no better way to build solid, trusting relationships with your customer base than email newsletters.

Establishes Your Business as an Industry Leader

For the people who subscribe to your newsletter, you are the voice of authority in your industry. The more information you provide them with, the more proof you’re giving them that this is the case. Give expert advice to your customers and they will keep coming back to you for more and more advice in your industry. Newsletters are, by far, the easiest way to share that advice.

Gives you the Chance to Provide a Compelling Call to Action

More importantly, it gives you this vital opportunity every time you hit the send button for your email newsletter. You’re not just sending one call to action. You’re sending calls to action to each and every newsletter subscriber on your list. And, they’ve invited you to do it. They want to hear what you have to say and when the timing and product is right, they are your most likely buyers on the World Wide Web (and sometimes off the Internet too).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all these things so easily? You can! We can help. Contact us today to to see how we can help you get your email newsletter up and running today so you can enjoy amazing results like these tomorrow.

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5 Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Business Website Design

Whether you’ve decided that it’s time to redesign your website, or perhaps you’re embarking on your very first business website design, your website is a vital part of building your brand and business, both online and off. Either way, here are 5 strategies to get more traffic to and customers from your website.

Be strategic.

In other words, know your website’s goals, both primary and secondary. The more clearly defined your website’s goals, the easier it is for your website designer, copywriter, and blogger to meet these goals. What is the main purpose of your website? Is it to gain leads, sell products, attract new clients, ask you for a free quote request, sign up for your newsletter, provide product and service support to reduce phone calls, or read your blog a few times a week?

Make it user friendly.

Are your visitors able to interact with your website in a way that is meaningful to them? Intuitive navigation, easily recognizable hyperlinks, strategic information design, optimized search function, scannable and readable text, fast page load times, functioning keyboard shortcuts, and good use of white space are all features of a user-friendly website design.

Make it mobile friendly.

According to GoMo News, 25 percent of mobile only internet browsers rarely or never browse the web using their desktop. Think with Google further reports that by 2015, more individuals in the U.S. will access the internet through their mobile device than through a desktop personal computer. What’s more, one in five mobile website visits leads to a user taking action. Building a mobile compatible website while also avoiding elements that frustrate mobile users is critical for businesses to take advantage of the exploding mobile world we live in today.

Incorporate fresh and captivating content.

Regularly supplying your website visitors with fresh and engaging content will incite visitors to return to your site again and again. Encourage comments or participation in polls to have your visitors interact more with your site. Utilize a call to action to ask for blog or newsletter subscribers, provide captivating high quality images, and be sure to integrate social media into your website and blog. Whether it’s your blog, product updates, galleries, multimedia, or company or industry news, deliver useful, entertaining, and valuable information -- consistently.

Utilize analytics.

At the very least, get to know Google Analytics, which your professional web designer can provide and incorporate into your website. This insightful tool can tell you what pages on your site your visitors are reading, how long they are staying, where they are located, what browser or device they are using, what their entry and exit pages are, and so much more. Learning more about your visitors and their behaviors can help you better target them.None of these business website design strategies are a quick fix. They require effort, persistence, and time. But the investment not only provides cumulative benefits, but also takes your business to the next level.

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Effectively Integrating Social Media and Blogs Into Corporate Websites

Among the most successful business and corporate websites out there are those that manage to incorporate blogs and social media into their overall web presences. Doing so requires quite a bit of thought. It also requires diligence. These three elements can mix very well, but you do need to make certain that you exercise a bit of control.

Overly Personal

Back in the day when newspapers were the primary venues for getting information about business out there, public relations firms would constantly send press releases to reporters about promotions within a business, personnel who had won some sort of award and other like stories. More often than not, these press releases got ignored. The reason is simply that most people aren't interested in this type of information about a company.One of the best ways to utilize blogs and social media presences is to tie them into the corporate websites and to make certain that it's all business. To put forward a more human face for the company, consider offering value rather than uninteresting information. For example, people will be much more interested in getting some technical information about a product that your company sells than they will about who got an award for being a particularly reliable employee.

Controlling the Message

Message control is a big part of public relations. If you have a blog set up, make certain that the company that sets it up for you gives you ways to control the posts that visitors make and the posts that the people actually filling the blog make. There should be some sort of approval process for both. Where people making the updates are concerned, it prevents blog posts from going up that may reflect negatively on the company. Where user comments are concerned, controlling the comments prevents the blog from becoming filled up with spam. Web designers can provide you with both automated and manual ways of achieving these goals for corporate websites.Social media, blogs and corporate websites can all be linked together and can function very well as a coordinated effort. There still needs to be some level of control exercised over all of them, however. At the very least, you should have technically savvy marketing people in charge of these endeavors and make certain that there is accountability built into the system. This can prevent embarrassments, accidental leaks of proprietary information and other pitfalls from becoming issues.

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Make Smart Updates and Avoid Being Distracted by Website Trends

In any field involving design, there will always be trends. Sometimes, these trends offer easy ways for designers to make certain that one of their creations looks contemporary. In other cases, these trends are destined to be short-lived and may not really offer anything to the end result. Website updates generally will follow some dominant design trends in the Internet world but, that being said, it's important to understand what types of website trends may constitute wastes of time and money.

Layout Trends

Today's websites tend to be much more content rich on a page by page basis than were the websites of the past. In fact, multicolumn designs allow website designers to pack pages full of information. This is an example of an effective website trend. When this is done right, your website visitors won't have to click through a lot of different pages to get to the information they want. When it's done incorrectly, your visitors won't be able to figure out what part of the page they should be looking at to find what they're after.If you are expanding your website from a one-or two-column designed to a multicolumn design, make certain that you're doing so in a way that makes life easier for your visitors, not more complicated.

Graphic Trends

One of the very noticeable website trends in design over the last few years is that graphics have become more functional than they ever were before. For instance, rather than having a pretty picture on a page to keep visitors interested, most images on webpages these days are very specific to the content on the rest of the page. For businesses, rather than looking for a nice image to put on a webpage, the current trend – and this has been a trend for a while – is to utilize the branding theory as much as possible in image selection.Branding is an example of a good website trend as far as design is concerned. It comes from the accumulated knowledge that marketers and businesses have built up over years of being on the Internet now.

Too Trendy

Remember not to get too trendy with your website design. You may notice that a lot of websites are starting to adopt a particular design style that appeals to you. Your website designer can help you to take advantage of what's good about these website trends but, if they're a very good website designer, they will also show you how you can be different and original at the same time.

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Tips on how to maintain a mobile compatible website

According to many different sources, the percentage of overall webpage views made on mobile devices goes up year after year. It's important to understand what a mobile device is for most of the people who own one. They might not be surfing the Internet in the traditional fashion but they are most certainly visiting webpages, seeking information and performing many of the same tasks that they could only do at their desktop computers before mobile devices became Internet-enabled. This means that making your site mobile compatible is, indeed, a priority if you're serious about reaching out to people.

Is it Complicated?

There are, in the broadest sense, two ways that you can go about making your site mobile compatible. One way is to use a responsive design. This means that your website will detect what type of device it is being viewed on and that it will automatically adjust the size and orientation of the elements on the page to make your page more accommodating to the smaller screens on mobile devices. The second way to ensure that your site is mobile compatible, is to have a separate mobile site developed by a web designer. Either provides a workable solution.Using the mobile site isn't any more complicated than using your regular site. There's nothing that the user needs to do. In fact, you can verify this for yourself by visiting just about any well-known site on a mobile device and then visiting it on your desktop computer. You'll notice that, when you show up on your mobile device, you get a differently formatted webpage than you do when you show up on your desktop computer. Selecting the appropriate site is done automatically for you.

Choices

Well-designed mobile compatible websites generally do give the user the option of viewing the full desktop site, if they so choose. Users on devices with larger screens, such as tablet computers, may well choose to visit the full site, as the usability is not compromised by their device in any regard. Offering the choice, however, is important. Your users should have the option to use the mobile site.Mobile device usage is going up very quickly. At the same time, the speed of mobile carrier Internet connections is increasing and more people are choosing to have Internet access on their phones. This means that, to be ready for the future, you do have to have some sort of mobile compatible site set up as an option for your visitors.

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Update Your Website : Work With Your Designer to Prevent Hack Attacks

It's safe to say that, when most people think about web design, they think about appearances more than they think about anything else. Web designers do far more than make an attractive website for their clients, however. It's also safe to say that most people are probably aware of the fact that some websites are dangerous to visitors. A good web developer can make certain that your website does not pose a risk to your visitors and implement techniques to prevent against hacking as you update your website.

Avoiding the Dangers of DIY Sites

Some companies and individuals who have websites set up for business purposes try to have the website designed in the house or try to do it on their own. Designing a modern website is a task that requires the skills of several different types of people. This is also the case as far as the effort and team needed to update your website. Graphic designers work on the looks of the site, developers work on the code and other professionals handle their own elements of the site.When people try to do it themselves, they oftentimes end up using premade plug-ins and other features to increase the interactivity on their site. The problem with this is that the people adding these features oftentimes don't understand web programming enough to know when there installing something that could pose a threat to their visitors. Some of the worst threats on websites don't come from the website that the person is actually looking at: they come from websites that are linked to through malicious add-ons or advertisements. Good web designers can help you avoid falling victim to this as you update your website, and prevent you from getting a reputation as someone with a dangerous website.

Membership Sections

For any type of business, one of the worst possible public relations events is having your member's credentials stolen by hackers. The people who steal this information sometimes go as far as to offer it for sale on certain websites.A good website designer can make certain when you update your website that your website is secure, rather than just appearing to be secure. Understand that security is an ongoing effort.. Security isn't a goal that you reach, it's a constant battle between security experts and the hackers trying to exploit people who use websites. With a good web designer, you can make certain that your website is always updated so that it is ready to handle the latest security threats out there.As is the case with most security issues, website security comes down to knowledge. When you are ready to update your website or if you're having a website newly built , be sure you're using a knowledgeable firm.

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