Tag Archives: usability

Focus key elements of your landing page

13 Feb

Landing page exampleSummary: A landing page is a specific page on a website crafted for visitors and designed to achieve a marketing outcome (and we love outcomes, don’t we?). Any exposure to branding (TV/billboard/trade) will prompt consideration (search for website info – dates, times, prices and extra activities) and affirmation (checking social media for opinions). The campaign landing page focuses interest while being supported by branding and other navigation.

Top 10 elements (and absolute essentials) I track on every landing page:

  1. Headline – Clear, simple, supports nonline efforts in print, trade media *
  2. Sub-headline – No marketing, supports search accuracy
  3. Benefits – Why does it matter? Applications make most sense to user. **
  4. Primary Calls-To-Action – Above fold
  5. Features – Short bulleted list supporting Benefits
  6. Customer Examples/Proof – Short text and image (if possible); specific to product if possible
  7. Success Examples/Proof – Awards and recognition
  8. Navigation – To decrease bounce rates. This is now the homepage. Can user navigate?
  9. Supporting Image – Must clearly indicate the offer (video or image) – no stock images
  10. Content Offer – Whitepaper, eBook or Guide
  11. Resources – 96 percent of visitors are not ready to buy (consideration mode) Link to resource center to learn more.
  12. Secondary calls to action: Bottom of page opportunity to call out realtime (social) media channels





Web is a cruelly literal place

3 Jan
core website statement

Many web users will be introduced to your brand through search. They will scan the heavens for an answer to their question or search query and they are expecting a specific answer or at least enough detail that they believe they are in the ‘right place.’

Yes, I highly recommend ‘literal’ core statements for the digital experience. State your case clearly on the homepage (and every page) of your website.

The web is a cruelly literal place. Many people will be introduced to your brand through search. They will look for an answer to their question or search query and they are expecting a specific answer or at least enough detail that they believe they are in the ‘right place.’ I would minimize the marketingese as web users are turned off by overt marketing.

Look at the heat map in this example. Video that is tailored for television is for a passive audience (thinking sitting back and consuming). Video that is optimized for the web is active (think sitting forward and looking for detail). What the heat map is showing is the web user not just playing the video, but scrubbing through it and checking out supporting links and other descriptive detail. Very different from a classic TV experience.

This information focus is something that I constantly coach creative and account people as to how different a print, billboard, brochure or other passive experience is in relation to a digital experience. The user is active, in control and relentless about ‘affirming’ the information that they are researching.

So keep this in mind when you write text that communicates the website’s purpose. You are writing not for your own people, but for the users of your website.

From my favorite usability expert, Jakob NielsenInclude a tag line that explicitly summarizes what the site or company does. Tag lines should be brief, simple, and to the point. For example, Global Sources’ tag line, “Product and Trade Information for Volume Buyers,” is a good, straightforward summary of what the site offers. Vague or jargonistic tag lines only confuse users, or worse, make them mistrust the site, especially if users perceive them as marketing hype. For example, Ford’s tag line, “Striving to Make the World a Better Place,” while pluckily optimistic, doesn’t describe Ford’s automotive business in any way.

It’s OK to be pluckily optimistic, just don’t be cruel to web users.



Why test landing pages after site launch?

23 Oct
Click Test Heat Test

Click test (like the heat map shown here) for task oriented success, then update your landing pages.

Why do we test landing pages after site launch?

Landing pages are critical to overall website goals in that they direct users to a result or goal. Our best AdWords and retargeting efforts merely move users into this discovery position. The next step is to determine how effective the opportunity – that is a website landing page – delivers.

Card Sorting is the most basic entry level test of usability (often conducted during a website build). More detailed website usability testing like Tree Sorting and Click Tests help us evaluate ‘next steps’ for users.

Examples of usability tests

Here are some examples of this ‘next step’ testing:

Once we have feedback, it’s on to creating a great landing page with maximum task oriented success.

Case for no auto-play video or audio

18 May
Auto-play video cat

A polydactyl cat strongly reacting to auto-play video on a website.

Audio-play video or audio will immediately get a website added to negative usability example lists, incessant mocking, as well as, post-dating the website (what is this, 2002?). The major reasons for avoiding auto-play are:

  • Screen Readers: Usability annoyance (especially for handicapped/blind users)
  • People already listening to music
  • Users viewing page in an office setting

Auto-play media went out of fashion in 1998-2002 when more developers started to pay attention to their analytics and noticed that users bounced in droves when encountering auto-play (video or audio).

The correct way to display audio or video content is to introduce user to this content on a landing page (images, text and link) or your homepage and then allow the user to determine whether they will click on and play the media.

Need another opinion?

Auto-play is annoying.
Auto-play is really annoying.
Jakob Nielsen thinks it’s annoying.


4 reasons that make me open your email

22 Sep

Email strategy and web writing strategyWe all want others to like us. People like us when we provide something useful and something unique.

Most people have an average of 3.1 email accounts (2.9 billion email accounts worldwide) so you are probably part of the group that sends out 188 billion messages each day.

Each day we’re subjected to a firehose of information, but what people really want is content that is clear, concise and delivers value. Since email is the primary touchpoint for most people each day make yours more effective.
Don’t make readers struggle through dense, cluttered and unorganized writing. Users can delete or ignore your email exactly like search mode when users click the back button. Every reader who comes across new email content asks these questions:
  • Can this information solve a problem or answer a question for me?
  • Is this information good enough to share with others?
  • Can I quickly understand, react and process this request?

4 keys to email

Regardless of your desired outcome each of these email messages must have:
  • Clear, accurate and “non-spammy” subject line: Most mail servers use third party software to scan the subject lines. Make certain that your subject line accurately describes the content.
  • Summary message: Email is not long-form. Resist the urge to produce every detail. Keep your message short and on-point. In fact, repeat and boldface the subject in the first line.
  • Complete email signature: Add appropriate URLs for your website, blog, portfolio or product. Verify that the links are functional so that the reader can connect to you in one click.
  • Clear formats and fonts: Use standard capitalization and spelling; avoid odd typefaces; use 10 or 12 point text (Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are solid, easy-to-read fonts).

Email Subject Lines: Your starting point

Don’t begin with odd, cheesy or spammy phrases. These will invariably result in your email being ignored. Keep your subject lines simple and to the point.
MailChimp prepared a study that analyzed the open rates for over 200 million emails. Open rates ranged from 93% to 0.5%. Personal messages top interest, followed by affiliations and timely news. Stale newsletters, requests for money and offers too good to be true bring up the rear.
  • Avoid these words: Help, Percent off, Reminder and Free. Trigger spam filters.
  • Be Local: Personalization, such as including a recipient’s first name or last name, doesn’t significantly improve open rates. Providing localization, such as including a city name, does help.
  • Newsletters: Newsletters tend to start with high open rates, but all experience some reduction in time. The challenge to the newsletter writer is to keep the content fresh. Repeating the same subject line for each newsletter accelerates the drop in open rates.
  • Subject Line Length: The general rule of thumb in email marketing is to keep your subject line to 50 characters or less.
  • Promotional Emails: Keep the message straightforward and avoid using splashy promotional phrases, CAPS, or exclamation marks in your subject lines. Subject lines framed as questions can often perform better.
Summary: Be consistent and build all your digital copy for maximum readability and usability. Start with email.

Basic user testing for the intro on your website

1 Sep

Basic user testing

Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M

Questions answered by non-clients help us discover how others think about your business and what language they use to describe what you do. Basic user testing answers to these questions will make our content clear and precise and give people more opportunity to discover our ideas via word-of-mouth.

Think of your homepage language as your elevator speech. You have a small window of opportunity to capture someone’s attention. Will they be able to understand exactly what you do and then care enough to repeat your story?

What do you do?

We’re a next generation innovative company that is seamlessly merging world class, value added, and cost effective outcomes for clients. We make things worth talking about.

Try again.

We provide local restaurants and bars with a strong social media base that includes monitoring, analysis and coaching in order to increase sales, visibility, and customer service.

Tell us exactly what you do.

Use this quick survey with friends and non-clients to tune your ear for a good introduction.

Basic survey questions about your business

Provide a complete description: “Our business  does this . . . . . . . . .”

  • What does this business do?
  • What services do you think this business would offer clients?
  • What two questions do you want answered on your first visit to the website?
  • Use three words to describe this business.
  • Use one keyword phrase or search query that you would type to discover this business.
  • What are you surprised to learn about this business?

Now build a better introduction based on words and phrases that your customers use, the web patterns that they are comfortable with and include something that ‘they’ found interesting or essential.

What are the best website intros that you have read? Can you think of any examples of awful website intros?

Good web writing protects the narrative

19 Aug

Chalice by Joelk75

Photo by Joelk75

It was a meeting of old school/new school when I suggested to my friend Rod how to improve his music review on John Mellencamp with better web writing.

I love his writing and understand his style and pace, but attention deficit-driven listeners might ping-pong right past (I noted the 0 comments and only 8 tweets that the review produced).

Let’s keep the narrative in the chalice. I love the part about Mellencamp’s travel studios and retro recording, but let’s add elements to the top and bottom to satisfy the scan readers and web writing best practices.

Summary paragraph

You can think of it as a deck head. It tells the reader what’s coming. Jakob Neilsen is a web usability guru who has done wonderful research on how people use  websites and how they read on websites.

Subheads every six paragraphs

Search robots and spiders scan web content for H1 heads, H2 heads, copy, links, etc. So when you build subheads you not only give the page better readability but make it more searchable.

Layered links

Build pop-up hyperlinks into your story? When people scan content they might come across an idea or reference that they want to explore. Old school thinking was that it was dumb to give people the opportunity to leave the page. New school is that you become a trusted reference source and people will scan a pop-up box and return to your content, satisfied and convinced that you are a credible source.

Bottom call to action

After your brilliant closing thought, you ask a question or reference more information. Don’t exit softly into the night, leave me wanting more.

Don’t bruise a great narrative by stuffing it into rigid format. Keep the narrative in the chalice (keep it pure), but liberate the content for web search and readability.

Read Rod Lockwood’s review and let us know what you think.