Ergodriven Topo Mat Review – Inspired by Nature

Topo by Ergodriven is the standing desk mat inspired by nature. After 5+ years of standing while working and testing several types of flat cushioned floor mats, Topo is the most comfortable and ergonomic anti-fatigue mat I’ve tried.
emily-binder-standing-ergodriven-topo-mat-review
Standing barefoot on my Topo

Addressing the hidden problem with standing desks:

Standing is only healthier than sitting if it’s done right.
-Ergodriven
Emily standing on Topo floor mat
At my standing desk, on my mat, long hair don’t care.

I’ve always recommended a high-quality anti-fatigue mat at least 3/4″ thick. You can certainly buy a cheap mat for $15 or $20 and kid yourself that you’re not wreaking havoc on your feet and legs, but prolonged standing with little movement isn’t healthy. Topo is a fun new take on foot relief, and it’s rooted in science.

Standing Science

I got rid of my chair because sitting can kill you. But standing on a flat mat, even a nice one like my $75 Rhino Mat, wasn’t cutting it. My legs still felt tired and heavy – stagnant.
Emily Binder standing on ergonomic mat at standing desk
To test it out, I stood on Topo at least six hours a day for two months. Sometimes in cushioned wedge sandals like this. Usually barefoot. Still using it.
Ergodriven is led by mechanical engineers who care about science. Topo’s calculated terrain keeps you moving while standing so blood doesn’t pool in your calves, which can cause poor circulation and increased risk of deep vein thrombosis. You subconsciously shift into different standing positions, engaging the anti-gravity skeletal muscle pump. Increased blood flow mitigates the risk of varicose veins. Great news for me, because although my CEP Women’s Progressive+ 2.0 Calf Sleeves are a big help for circulation while sitting or standing for long stretches, adding more movement is the best medicine.

Inspired by Nature

A Data Driven Playground for Your Feet

Topo’s design was inspired by hiking, swimming, and cliff-jumping.

Ergodriven Topo mat in grey
Office cliffs and peaks – Topo in grey

Our office environments are hardly natural for our bodies, so any way that we can introduce more of what we were really meant to do – run around the forest all day – the better our health. Topo increases range of motion and circulation vs. standing still.

The Amazon links in this post are referral links. See my full disclosure policy.

Startups and Crowdfunding

Ergodriven eschewed Kickstarter. They took the time to calculate costs and benefits instead of just following the herd. They put in the grunt work required to market a new product; driving traffic and building relationships takes elbow grease. Here’s their homegrown product launch campaign. It worked nicely, and best of all, had a 0% fee.

In fact, we have everything Kickstarter would have provided us set up on our own domain now, and it only took us about 150 hours. Compared to the estimated 8,000 hours we’ve put into developing and launching Topo so far – well that only represents about 1% of our time. So why would we give up 5% of our users’ hard-earned money?

Because that’s truly what it means. Avoiding Kickstarter’s 5% fee means we can charge 5% less.

People focus on funding too much.
Product is sexy; customers are sexy; revenue is sexy.

Product Details

  • Material: Environmentally-conscious, 100% polyurethane foam, with no PVC or plasticizers (like phthalates), or added flame retardants
  • Durable, breathable pebbled skin which feels nice barefoot
  • 7-year warranty against manufacturing defects
  • Hands-free sliding is easy with one foot (no reaching down)
  • Size: 26.25″x29″
  • Thickness: 2.7″ at highest point
  • Weight: 8 lbs
  • Colors: Black, grey, blue, purple, or green
  • MSRP: $199
  • Amazon Prime cost: $119
  • 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee (free return shipping)
I asked Ergodriven CEO Kit Perkins why he’s proud of Topo:
Kit Perkins CEO Ergodriven
I’m most proud of how many people love Topo and how much they love it. Topo’s return rate is incredibly low, and the reviews we get online and sent directly to our customer service via email are absolutely glowing and incredibly heartwarming to read. I’m so proud that Topo has improved so many lives, and continues to make a big difference in happiness and health for our users every day.

One Drawback

I still find myself striking my signature desk yoga pose with one foot on the ground and the other leg resting horizontally on my desk, bent at the knee, which may or may not be healthy. The flat areas of the mat are a bit thinner than I would like, so standing on those areas for a long time gets tiring. A larger footprint for more stretching and angled standing would be nice, but the current size is nicely manageable in a cube. Overall, it’s a great product from a company I respect, and it’s worth the $119.

Buy Now with free shipping on Amazon Prime

Disclaimer: Ergodriven provided me with a Topo in order to write this review. My recommendation is not for sale: this is my honest opinion after two months of testing. The above links to purchase this product are Amazon Associate links – read more here.

Review: Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo Standing Desk

An ideal standing desk supports ergonomic posture and lets you easily change from sitting to standing. The Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo delivers on these characteristics and more. There is no question that prolonged sitting is bad for your health. But it’s important to choose the right standing desk. This is my second Ergo Desktop desk. Keywords: Quality, stability, and adjustability. It’s made in the USA and customized to your settings. At $599, the Hybrid Kangaroo is not the cheapest nor most expensive on the market, but it’s one of my favorites.
Emily working at her standing desk
Standing at my Hybrid Kangaroo: monitor left, laptop right

What is the Hybrid Kangaroo?

This is a freestanding, height adjustable desk add-on made for a monitor and laptop. The unit sits on a broad, sturdy footplate which can be slid around your desktop. A rear mounted vertical riser is fixed to the footplate. A work surface for your keyboard and mouse is attached to the riser. Easily adjust it up or down by turning the knob on the riser.

Will it Fit? Cubicle and Desk Size

My first standing desk was a Dual Hybrid Kangaroo, also by Ergo Desktop, and similar to the Hybrid Kangaroo, but it had two shelves instead of one. Then I had a private office with a large desk surface. Now I’m at a startup and I have a standard size cube. My Hybrid Kangaroo has a shelf plus a VESA mount (where my monitor is mounted). The Hybrid Kangaroo fits fine in my cube. The two models have the same footprint:
  • the main work surface is adjustable 16.5″ above your desk and measures 28″ wide x 24″ deep.
Some people complain about reduced workspace with add-on desks, but I have no problem here and frankly don’t often need a physical writing surface (or a printer for that matter) anyway.
Ergo Desktop Hybrid Kangaroo at Emily's office
My Hybrid Kangaroo setup – ergonomic AF

Vote with Your Dollar

Ergo Desktop’s customer service is excellent. As a marketer, I’m sensitive to every aspect of the customer experience, from advertising to website to product description to transactional emails. Brad at Ergo Desktop was responsive, professional, and most important, highly knowledgeable about his products. You get the sense that this company cares. Ohio people, right? 🙂 They also have a 100% quality guarantee.

Customization

This desk is really not off the shelf. You will need to commit to your monitor setup. For example, do you want your laptop on the left or the right? I like my larger monitor on the left, as I read from left to right and use this screen the most. Brad adjusted the springs for the weight of my laptop and monitor by model number so that the desk would be easy to raise and lower. This is pretty key. Because the springs are set to my specs, it is nearly effortless to raise and lower. From the raised position, while I’m seated or standing, I just spin the knob, remove the stabilizing leg, and lower it.

Setup

Assembly was a bit of work. My handy boss and I put the desk together with the included tools plus a screwdriver in about 35 minutes. The instructions were clear, though not exactly quick. This is because this model has different apparatuses for each side (VESA mount and laptop shelf). I would recommend two people and at least a half hour for assembly.

Profile

The desk is sleek and solid, featuring stainless steel and sturdy black shelves and knobs. The finish is available in black, maple, cherry, or putty.
I began receiving compliments on day one. Some coworkers fondly called it “robust.” I think they got a kick out of my desk looking so serious compared to a couple Varidesk models in the office.
Emily at standing desk
I hate to see you sit, I love to watch you stand
The VESA mounted monitor has tilt, pan, and rotate adjustability, handy for moving your monitor to show to coworkers. Aesthetically, the only true drawback is the stability leg, which I don’t mind. For neatness, Ergo Desktop offers a cable management system for your cords. This is composed of a bracket with a zip tie that can slide in the extrusion material at any slotted location. It’s $5 for two brackets. I happen to have a lot of cords due to my docking station and keyboard wire, but four cleaned things up nicely.
Cable management brackets for standing desk
Organize your cords with brackets and ties

Pros:

  • Great customer service
  • You don’t need to replace your existing fixed top desk
  • Solid construction, high quality
  • Clear instructions
  • Height adjustable in seconds with little effort
  • No motor (fewer parts that can break)
  • Custom weight settings
  • Solid steel base plate for stability
  • Optional Detachable Side Work Surfaces, Cable Management, and Keyboard Extension

Cons:

  • Not portable or easy to move without disassembling
  • Setup commits you to monitor on the left or right
  • Assembly required unless you pay $19.00 for pre-assembly

Price and Shipping

The desk is $599.00. Shipping to the lower 48 states is free with assembly required. You can pay $19.00 for the desk to arrive assembled. APO, FPO, Hawaii and Alaska shipping options are available as well.
Bottom line:
The Hybrid Kangaroo is a high quality adjustable standing desk and I recommend it.
Hybrid Kangaroo review cross-posted to Ergo Desktop. Read more reviews of Ergo Desktop’s other standing desks.
Sitting is the new smoking.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a Hybrid Kangaroo in order to write this product review. Please note that my recommendation is not for sale: this is my honest opinion.

5 Resources to Help You Learn UX

Here are five helpful resources about UX (user experience) design and copywriting. These are a great place for a beginner to start. If you’re already in marketing, you’re probably less of a beginner than you may think, if you’ve been paying attention. Pay attention all the time, especially when you’re the user. You know what feels good. Start to ask why that site is easy to use, and look for patterns. Screenshot landing pages and exit overlays that work or shopping carts that usher you along the purchase path. Research the design process of products that make everyday life easier.

Chemex coffeemaker
Chemex coffeemaker – flawless blending of design and function. Photo credit: Karl Fredrickson

The classic paperback rhetoric for writers, some copywriting tips, and these podcasts about design should prove informative for designers and marketers of various levels:

  1. Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun. In high school, my dad gave me this book to help me write more concisely, and I’ve kept the same copy at my desk ever since. It’s very University of Chicago, and it’s worth reviewing every couple years, especially if you write copy that users or customers are forced to read. Simplify.
    “Principle 1. Have a point and make it by means of the best word.”
  2. Design for the Human Brain
    UX and UI design tips based on how our brains process information. Cognitive psychology is paramount to user centered design. Reduce cognitive load.
  3. 10 UX Copywriting Tips for Designers
    John Williams gets copywriting and design. “Be ruthless with your copy.” Cut cut cut.
  4. 3 Fundamental User Onboarding Lessons from Classic Nintendo Games
    How to create good onboarding flow and inspire users to progress. Place emphasis on the naive user and value of external testing. Tetris “presents a world of perpetual uncompleted tasks” which stick in your memory, bugging your brain to finish. It’s the best example of the Zeigarnik Effect, or the “need to complete.”
  5. 14 Design Podcasts to Put in Your Ears
    99% Invisible, Design Matters, and more. Tip: I like to listen to podcasts with the free Stitcher app. It gets smarter with use.

Target With Digital Then Lick a Stamp

After a MapMyRun jog last week, a Houlihan’s ad pop up promoting their Inspiralized Menu. I follow the trend toward healthier menus and food labeling transparency, so I tweeted about the ad from a marketing angle, not intending to promote the restaurant. The Houlihan’s social team picked up my post, took it as a compliment (which it really was), and mailed me a $25 gift card.

Screenshot of tweet about Houlihan's Inspiralized Menu
Tweet with screenshot of Houlihan’s MapMyRun ad for Inspiralized Menu
By 2016, 89% of brands expect to compete solely on customer experience (Gartner, 2014). This gift card is a great example of G.L.U.E. (Giving Little Unexpected Extras, as Stan Phelps calls it). I’ve been a fan of Stan’s marketing lagniappe concept for years. It refers to a little something extra thrown in for good measure.
It appears that Houlihan’s personally @ messages anyone who tweets about their brand with positive sentiment. Perhaps they utilize a more in-depth analysis resulting in only offering this reward to users with a certain amount of influence or likelihood to dine. ​ ​Because any egghead can tweet about a brand; only certain tweets are really worth anything as far as advertising.
Personalized gift card and letter from Houlihan's
Personalized gift card and note from Houlihan’s
This begs the question: as marketers, should we invest time in harnessing social data and finding a formula for which users to reward, or just produce thousands of gift cards and offer them to anyone who tweets about our brand?
Even at the cost of the latter, what may seem like spaghetti on the wall is fine with me; marketing dollars are often squandered on mediums like TV, billboards, and display advertising that can’t be reliably measured. Some digital ad platforms have numerous deliverability issues and often abysmal conversion rates. Even on the more targeted and trackable side of cookies, drip campaigns, and big data-based social targeting, digital has become so personalized that nothing feels personal.
old mailbox
Photo credit: Xaiver Massa
The Houlihan’s tactic of using social and snail mail is one-to-one marketing. What has become a throwback can stand out. Haven’t you noticed how popular TBT is? Digital is saturated, but is a great way to initially target. Identify customers there, then try reaching out via the postal service, or another method that will catch them a little off guard. Another promoted post might not cut it.
Better geo-targeting would be beneficial, however; only serve this ad to users who live near a Houlihan’s (the nearest location is 107 miles from me). Whether this acquisition pans out or not, I couldn’t help but feel more affinity toward the brand. And here I am writing about them. That is certainly worth their ~10 minutes of labor and $25 plus production and postage.

Houlihan’s Marketing – HQ, HouliFans, and PR

Houlihan’s has a successful history of using social media and WOM techniques to identify brand ambassadors and derive valuable information from them. SVP Marketing and Creative Director Jen Gulvik worked on the 2008 idea for HQ, an invite-only social network of engaged customers with insider news and one-on-one dialogue, resulting in a ready made focus group. It encouraged customer loyalty and resulted in revenue growth based on menu feedback.
Their marketing team continues to handle the brand with poise, recently diffusing a potential PR crisis on Facebook involving a veteran with a service dog being refused service in Algonquin, IL in May 2015. A mix of intuition and good data in digital plus differentiating lagniappes in the physical world will help keep their tables full.

Technology Means Fair Play – Parking Apps

By the end of 2016, all parking meters in New York City will accept payment via mobile app. New York isn’t the first city to offer mobile parking meter payment (joining Boston, Fort Worth, Seattle, SLC, and others) and it won’t be the last. Interesting: unused parking meter money will be refunded to users. This is one of very few situations in which the government would volunteer to forfeit funds already in their possession. Historically, they may have kept monies in similar cases of overpayment to increase revenue or more likely to avoid the cost of processing more paperwork. Losses in annual revenue due to the refund feature are expected to be nominal, so it’s likely the latter.

New York City street with cars and taxis
Photo by Jon Ottosson

When technology makes transactions more seamless, it’s harder for either party not to play fair.

As the cloud replaces paper and user generated content competes with traditional journalism for greater media share of voice, policies that have served vendors and governments will give way to ones that serve users. Revenues from happy customers and their repeat purchases will characterize businesses that survive, rather than policies that hurt users but previously were not fought due to acceptance and a lower tech status quo.

Fine print, one-sided policies, and rigid contracts will go the way of the horse drawn carriage (and probably soon, the taxi). Keep an eye on companies like T-Mobile and Spirit Airlines. They put customers in control by foregoing required contracts, forced add-ons (e.g., paying for bags and peanuts), and in general offer more a la carte products. “We’ve never done it that way” and “our system wouldn’t support that” won’t be able to compete.

Marketing and Digital