Archive for the 'Web Usability' Category

Seven Contrarian Resolutions for a Web Presence That Wins

Last week, I issued a press release suggesting that business and nonprofit owners and executives could benefit from some contrarian thinking when creating their web and social media strategies for 2012. My “contrarian” stance was prompted by Vint Cerf’s wonderful comment on my recent book:

“Some of the anecdotes are counter-intuitive . . .”

I took that as a great compliment!

Here are my counter-intuitive suggestions for your 2012 web strategy, based on some of my favorite rules:

  1. Avoid Industry Best Practices: unless you’re sure that you’re using valid comparisons, these can give you a false impression of your specific situation.
    Read more in Rule 4: Beware of Benchmarking and Best Practices

  2. Counter the Competition: many businesses are wary of giving away their “secrets” online – but not showing your expertise and track record can hamper your growth.
    Read more in Rule 12: Consider the Competition (available in full in the free sampler)

  3. Stop Taking “One Size Fits All” Advice: many “experts” hype their online marketing results – yet there are few really effective short cuts. Make sure that their tactics apply to your online markets and goals.
    Read more in Rule 15: One Size Does Not Fit All

  4. Ignore your Search Engine Rankings: – until you’ve figured out which of your keywords really pay off in leads and quality traffic, and then focus on those.
    Read more in Rule 22: Rankings Don’t Matter

  5. Attract Invisible Buyers: think about your behind-the-scenes influencers and decision makers, and create copy that engages them too.
    Read more in Rule 28: Talk to the Buyer Behind the Buyer (available in full in the free sampler)

  6. Beware of “Feel-Good” Numbers: “dashboard” summaries of web analytics reports are convenient for busy managers, but rarely tell the whole story – and can be quite misleading.
    Read more in Rule 35: Drill Below the Dashboard

  7. Feed the HiPPO: sometimes the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” (which can be both wrong and strongly held) should be overcome with proven web metrics data.
    Read more in Rule 37: Numbers and Testing Trump Politics (available in full in the free sampler)

Since it’s now halfway through January, these are probably the last set of resolutions that you’ll consider adopting. But do give them some thought – after all, last is not necessarily least!

United Airlines Online Satisfaction Survey – a Study in How Not To Do It?

I have to admit that I often rant about airline Websites, especially in my “Emotional Connections” program – in fact, the whole idea for my “How Does Your Website Make Me Feel?” schtick was sparked by a page on US Airways’ site back in 2001.

This morning hit a whole new low when I received an invitation to complete an online survey about the Mileage Plus program from United Airlines in conjunction with InsightExpress, LLC. Since it promised all of 250 miles if I complied, I decided to give it a go.

Why was I so irked? Let me count the ways:

  1. In order to access the survey, I needed to enter my Mileage Plus number. That’s OK, but the first question in the survey was: “What’s your Mileage Plus number?” Wait, didn’t I just tell you that?
  2. The survey seemed to run incredibly slowly – I frequently had to reload pages, and every time I had to re-enter my response. I don’t know if this was my connection, or if they underestimated traffic levels . . .
  3. There was only one question per page, and no indication of how many questions there would be in total, or how far along I was in the process. Every time the page hung, I thought about giving up, but continued in the hope that it would soon be over (and that I’d get my 250 miles).
  4. Every question required a checked radio button, or a rating on a scale of 1 to 5. There was no free input anywhere, and no place that asked why I responded the way I did. Which made me even more frustrated – don’t they want to know what about the program makes me “Strongly Dissatisfied”, and more so than last year? How can they fix anything if they don’t know what the problem is – or maybe they don’t really want to know what the problem is?

There’s an art to conducting online surveys, both in keeping people engaged and on track, and in designing the questions so that you get quantifiable and useful feedback. I’m sure there’s plenty that I don’t know about what United were trying to achieve here, but as a customer being asked about my satisfaction levels, it left me even more unhappy.

Oh well, hopefully I’ll enjoy spending the 250 miles!

Customer says “Can you Help Me?” You say “Nope!”

I’m working with a b2b client on a major redesign of their Website. As part of this, we’re installing the Google site search engine (paid version!)

I wanted to see what happened if I searched for a product that isn’t listed on their site. Predictably, I got the following result:

    “Your search – [ search term ] – did not match any documents.

    Suggestions:

      Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
      Try different keywords.
      Try more general keywords.”

Now, I do think that in general Google Search is an excellent product.

However, this feels to me like the ultimate in “Non-Customer Service”.

Imagine a customer or prospect sitting across from you in the real world, and asking if you can help them with a particular product or service. Would you just say “No” and stop talking until they tried to ask their question again differently? Would you really make it sound like it’s their fault that they can’t find what they’re looking for in your store?

I certainly hope not – and yet, this is exactly what the standard “no results found” search utility does. This might be fine for Google itself, which is a generic search engine serving a huge and largely undefined audience, but it shouldn’t be how individual businesses respond to their visitors. At the least we need to be providing links to our knowledge bases, phone numbers or live chat access, and e-mail forms for easy enquiries.

My client’s Web developers are concerned that reprogramming Google’s source code so that we can do this would make it difficult to implement updates. So we’re stuck with giving our prospective customers a brusque “No” when they ask for help. I’m not happy . . .

You Can’t Herd Cats On Your Website!

Last week I was talking with a company which helps owners of intellectual property to register trademarks and copyrights.

The client had requested a “Pick My Brain” session to talk about his plans for the reworked version of the site (which is still in process at time of writing this).

We discussed at length how visitors coming to his site will make decisions, how they might be persuaded to interact with him, and hopefully to make a purchase. Visitors will have different levels of knowledge about the law in this area, about the registration process and its benefits, and they probably also have different levels of readiness to buy. Some might be very price conscious and looking for the best deal (there are other companies who offer similar services), while some might be more concerned about the credibility and trustworthiness of the company that they choose to do business with.

My client started our conversation hoping that he could guide visitors down a fairly set path – that if they read Page A, they’ll naturally progress to Page B, etc. Along the way, he could provide answers to questions, and address their concerns in a logical sequence.

I had to tell him that in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way! People can come into your site at lots of different entry points, and they have all sorts of ways of thinking and emotional response. The best you can do is to ensure that they can access all content that will help them and drive them towards your goals on every page of your site.

Creating user personas can help you understand how various types of visitors might interact with your site, but trying to get every visitor to follow a set path is like herding cats – and I have a calico, so I know never to try that!

Why Do We See Our Own Sites Differently?

So I have a new client who is a major landscaping firm in the Chicago area. And I’m talking with her last week about the plans for the reworking of their Website.

Question: “Do we include bios and pictures of our designers?”

At first, my client said that more of their business is on the maintenance side, and she thought that this type of content would be overkill.

Then I reminded her that plenty of research shows that people respond to information about a company’s personnel, their history, photographs, etc. After all, “people do business with people . . .”

And she said: “Now that I think about it, I do click on those sections when I go to a Website where I don’t know much about the business”.

Which brings up one of my favourite questions: Why are we so convinced that people will behave differently at our site? Why do we lose sight of everything that we know – even about our own behaviour – in making assumptions about what visitors will or won’t like? If we know how we instinctively move around other sites, why don’t we apply that knowledge when designing our Web presence?

After all, we’re all human . . .

The Trap of Linear Thinking

Today I provided a “Pick my Brain” session for Gavin Burt, from the UK site Running Injury Oracle (thank you, Skype!)

Gavin is a leading osteopath in the UK, and he has developed an online system to help runners diagnose and work with their injuries. Depending on their needs, he provides advice, checklists and videos for a monthly or annual subscription. So far, the response has been very positive, and he’s about to get major PR from the British running press.

So far, so good. But today we looked at his Google Analytics and discovered a problem that he hadn’t thought of. The site was designed for visitors to start at the home page and move logically through the process of self-diagnosis to get to their type of injury.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Visitors who find the site through search engines are entering at inside pages which are focused on specific keywords. These visitors don’t have any context for what they see – the content immediately jumps into the diagnosis and subscription information, which is fine if they’ve been down the logical path, but not if it’s their first impression.

Luckily, this is a new site and still very much a work in progress, so we can figure out how to make the concept of each page clear to all visitors.

I told Gavin that he’s not alone – so many people make assumptions about how their site will be traveled, and don’t think about visitors getting to pages in all sorts of random ways.

But right now, many of Gavin’s visitors who enter at inside pages are leaving the site too quickly – so we need to plug that leak!