What Google’s Machine Learning Can’t Know About Us

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Google has its eye on the future as being the only destination for getting and delivering information as accurately as possible to whomever wants it, with whatever device they use.

Their techniques are invasive, as in collecting personal information on us every time we use one of their products, to creative, as in Google Glass. “Machine learning”, as Matt Cutts calls it, interests me as a human learner. What do I have to teach search engine bots and man-made boxes stuffed with circuit boards, cables and artificial brains that convert my actions and activities into mathematical data that form my user persona?

How can I translate who I am to machines whose only job is to follow me around the Web to see what I like?

Perhaps Google is asking too much.

Site Abandonment

If machines want to know the reasons I leave a website, how do I tell them? In this example, I like to shop at this store at our local shopping mall with my daughter because we both like their clothing and prices. I know where my part of the store is and she has her section. We are both women and yet their website navigation does not target women. It provides categories for men and girls.

There are other reasons why I might not stay on this site. I call them “mystery links”. What happens if I click on “21st St” or “Love 21”? Google’s machines will eventually figure out if I click mystery links, jump around and either leave or do something constructive but they can’t read my mind to understand that I dislike being referred to as a “girl”.
Forever 21

Trends and Fads

Many years before sliders and carousels took up all or most of the top half of web site homepages, I worked on a website that sold Teepee’s and Yurts. I’ll never forget the pictures they displayed. The Yurt shot was taken at night time and the inside was lit up. The effect was stunning. Teepee images showed interiors with colors, lighting and angles that made me want to run out and get one.

Whenever an image appeared it was sized to allow room for content nearby and a simple call to action. And, they were static shots at first. Later they could be changed if you refreshed your browser. Today, the fad would be to stick them into a slider that changes automatically with no way to pause it to stop and take in the scene. Today’s user experience is rushed. We’re not allowed to savor the moment and in fact, most people jump over sliders to get to the content sections below. Tree

What would hold our interest? How can you increase the time on your web pages? When you do, Google will be curious about what kept your visitors there. Search engines request  marketers and site owners to write quality content and be an authority, but they don’t explain how to connect to your site visitors on a human to human level.

This, for me, goes beyond text, terminology, language, link labels, alt attributes and blog posts. All of these are tools in the marketing pile but firstly, they can be manipulated for search engine results and secondly, unless your content is poetry, your visitors are not likely to be motivated. We all know we are supposed to “click here”, “buy now” and “log in” and we know which websites we can quickly scan through and purchase from.

Is there something else we can teach search engine machines about our behavior, likes, loves, what moves us, what makes us follow or disengage?

Let’s use me as the “searcher persona”. I have an above average curiosity about everything so in my case, the machines have a difficult time understanding my preferences for topics because I explore all of them. Providing accurate information to my search queries is no easy task.

    • I’m attracted to details.

Railings

  • I miss the obvious.
  • I marvel at how things work.
  • I sense unseen energy.

None of those things really translates into something useful for search engines or user experience design unless time is taken to explore how I might respond to the web pages I visit and there is a way to truly understand my actions while there.

Another way of looking at this is when we optimize title tags by adding a trigger statement like “Free shipping” to lure the click from SERPS. Searchers may explore promotion but click off because the page is confusing or they were not motivated to take any action.

Usability audits explore the causes of page abandonment but like Google’s machines, we are also left to ponder why our pages don’t convert because every single human being who lands has their unique personality, character traits, belief systems, and even sense of beauty.

We wrestle with self-worth, bad days, sad news, and fears. This means that not every search engine query is going to deliver the exact type of information we need when we may most need it. For example, on a day when I’m feeling low, I won’t care if Victoria’s Secret has a 50% sale going on. I would care if they could show they had something to make me look awesome in my size.
Parking garage at Hoover Dam

If you truly want to be an authority site, focus on the experience of being human.

Your inspiration is everywhere.


All photos taken by Kim Krause Berg at Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, Copyright October 2013

The post What Google’s Machine Learning Can’t Know About Us appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

October 30th 2013 Google, Usability

Growing Trend in Internet Marketers Investing in Website Usability Site Reviews

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At somewhere around 1:30 am in the Hard Rock Hotel bar on Day Two of the PubCon Vegas conference a man approached me to express his thanks that I was there.

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon I gave a talk on website usability and persuasive design techniques. The only conferences I speak at are Internet and search engine marketing conferences because my career began in SEO in the mid-1990. I understand the work and have enough interest, an industry related forum called Cre8asiteforums and small local work projects to keep me glued to the latest tools, technology and SEO. My friends are Internet marketers.

By the year 2001 my career path veered off into user interface engineering and later, online software application QA functional and usability testing. The company I worked picked me out of a group of an all-male team of user interface engineers and mentored me in Human Factors, while encouraging me to learn everything possible on usability so I could create our in-house methodology for usability testing. They said I had the eye for user experience design. I was fortunate to be noticed for a skill I wasn’t consciously aware I had, but management saw it.

It didn’t take long for me to see the immense power of creating understandable web pages, forms and online software applications while also optimizing for search engines. In those days, Alta Vista, Hot Bot, Yahoo!, and many other search engines, plus countless directories, made optimizing a competitive venture. All the money and focus was on ranking in the top 25 results and getting a high PR score. With Alta Vista, you could change a word in a title tag or in the body text, wait a few minutes and then refresh your browser to see you web page move up or down in search results.

When Google galloped into the scene, the rules changed. Not only were natural and non-natural search engine optimization techniques growing critically in importance, Google also demanded something the other search engines were not.

Google wanted their searchers to land on the best websites for their keyword queries. The only way to accomplish that goal successfully and consistently is to design a website that works for everyone who uses it.


Finally

Typically when I deliver a talk on website usability and user experience at a search engine marketing conference I’m lucky to attract an audience of about 20 people. Of that, I watch 1/3 leave before I’m done. Those who remain are truly interested in understanding how to make websites that people love and want to use. These are the folks who finally understand what I realized a dozen years ago. Marketing a broken, ugly or poorly conceived website is a gigantic waste of money.

At this PubCon, the session attendance wasn’t full but it was still impressive. My long-time friend and client when I was a private consultant, Christine Churchill of Key Relevance, may have been the reason. Christine went first. She’s well known, a pioneer in the industry and her talk was on tools, which is a wildly popular topic for SEO’s. She praised my work and notably my ability to be fully empathic about the users’ experience. She should know. She’s seen many of my website audits.

Despite what may be my best talk to date so far, I still watched about 7 people leave during my part of the session. Whenever this happens I wonder what their expectations were. After my talk my manager was ecstatic. I did well as a presenter but I had no idea if I had helped anyone.

If website usability and persuasive design aren’t part of the overall Internet marketing strategy, the bulk of the conversions work falls on the marketer. Should they be given, or own, a website that is not properly designed and built, nothing the marketer does is going to “stick” for long.

The man at the bar expressed being grateful that an Internet marketing conference included my work. His company struggles with promoting a website that has failed to convert. They don’t know where to get help.


Raising Awareness

I love what I do. I’m an advocate for everyone who visits your website, rather than a cheerleader for stakeholders. My job is take the stakeholders vision, requirements and attachment to things nobody cares about other than them, and turn that list into a website that delivers exactly what their target users expect in an experience that leaves a positive impression so they will return again and tell their friends about your company.

The funny thing about what I do is so obvious, but it seems to be taking a very, very long time to get website owners to understand that search engines don’t have credit cards to make purchases from their websites. Google doesn’t need your fancy new tools. Yahoo! isn’t researching your next car purchase or comparing auto dealerships. Bing isn’t comparing tablets and smartphones. None of the PPC ads you create and invest in are doing your holiday shopping for you. And sadly, no search engine or directory is going to book your trip to the Bahamas for you.

Every product, service, activity, task, and item of information your website provides must be conceived of, designed and built for your specific users. Your designers need to know as much about what’s inside the minds of your visitors just as much as your Internet marketers do. It’s still accepted practice to invest in budgets into promoting the brand rather than building a website that works once your prospects arrive.

During the question and answer part of the PubCon talk a man asked how to convince his CEO to invest in website usability and persuasive design. I suggest asking them to sit down in front of a computer, assign them a task and watch what happens. Ask them where the “number one money maker” is located on the homepage. Assign them a task. Remove all the images and ask your CEO to find a product or service. Finally, ask your decision makers to conduct tasks on their mobile devices.

Once they get over the shock and realize they are spending enormous money on PPC ads that lead to landing pages with high bounce rates, or the social buzz is to avoid your site because it can’t be trusted or used with confidence, or they see the data showing all that new glorious traffic isn’t converting, the ball is in your court.

Get a website usability review or persuasive design audit. Hire the best team of experts to make recommendations, design mockups, test that forms are not defective, etc. Be sure those experts know the other parts of the entire conversions plan, from making sure the URLS are healthy, links are innocent, content is mastered, compliance guidelines and standards are met and project managers know how to fit together each piece of the site design and marketing.

Tell your favorite Internet Marketing conference organizers that you want to invest in a holistic approach to design and marketing. With any luck, I’ll see you there.

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October 23rd 2013 Design, Usability

Say Yes To The UX: A Website Reality Show

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If website usability site audits were conducted on TV with an audience, host and emotional site owner, I would be famous for breaking bad news and crushing dreams.

reality showsHowever, by the end of the show my guests would be gushing and crying tears of joy because my recommendations turned their websites upside down and into money making, traffic busy, socially buzzed brands.


First, the Pain

The most memorable learning experiences are those where you are forced to release everything you thought you knew for sure and replace it with new thinking. This is what makes reality shows so popular. Each episode is designed to reprogram a person by a series of tests or guidance from someone who knows more than they do. The best characters to watch are the most stubborn and set in their ways.

In my show, “Say Yes to the UX”, the first harsh moments of truth come quickly and easily because I know where to look. The show’s guest will proudly boot up a computer to show me their website. The audience is hushed with anticipation.


Shock Value

shocked audienceReality shows thrive on their shock value. In front of the TV audience I find all the problems with the poor guest’s beloved website.

  • I’m looking at your homepage and still don’t understand what you do. (This means the terms used don’t make sense to me, or there is no text.)
  • Where is the main task on the page? (This means the page is cluttered and likely has a slider or carousel on it.)
  • Which call to action is your money maker? Ditto on the above. (None of the links or tasks appear to stand out in importance.)
  • I can’t see it. (This means the text is gray colored or worse, gray against a colored background. It may also indicate poor font sizes and color contrast.)

The longer I spend on the site, the more feedback I have because I’m attempting to use it while also knowing what the latest standards and compliance guidelines are for user experience and persuasive web design.

The audience is laughing at my confusion and mistakes, which are not my fault but due to the bad design. The site owner is not permitted to tell me anything or help in any way because in real life, site owners are not sitting next to each of us explaining how to use their website.

Half way through the show’s episode I tally up my list of recommendations for instant site repairs or if the site is in serious trouble, several episodes may be necessary to design a new site with mockups and a priority list of recommendations. Some shows may be special events where audience members are invited to conduct tasks on the site while the cameras roll. We would even invite the audience to bring up the site’s URL on their mobile devices to get more examples of how it renders.

Since by now the site owner is embarrassed or taking in the feedback with an open mind, I deliver suggestions from my arsenal of solutions to help improve conversions, increase return traffic, create brand and promote the best user experience.


The Gain or Not?

When we return, the audience is different and the timeline is several months from the first half of the show. I review clips of our first show and point out the critical areas of my guest’s website where the audience roared and the site owner wanted to crawl into a cave.

Then we take a look at the new site.

What happens next is typical of every website audit. The recommendations are followed or they are ignored. Data analysis will show the gains and where they are, and expose the areas that were not repaired. I never know how the show will end.

The best situation is when site owners implement the design changes and presents the results. They are thrilled and humbled. Many of them admit they never thought website usability mattered and so their budget went to search engine marketing.

I nod knowingly. I already know better. Search engines don’t buy your products or hire your services. They can help send people to your site but what happens after that is dependent on the user experience once searchers land there.


Avoid the Burn

Most of you would never submit to a public web site review or live user testing on a TV reality show unless you knew in advance your site rocked and the experience would benefit your brand. The question is….are you absolutely sure your website is ready for all your visitors? Can it be used by all computer devices? Can special needs persons and customers with eye sight problems use your site with ease?

Survive reality show

Can you prove to me that your website is ready?
Every website has usability problems. There are fads like gray text and flat design that wreak havoc on user experience. At Internet Marketing Ninjas, clients typically want a focus on the marketing strategies. We know better. Your financial investment and results matter to us, which is why we provide an expert team to review your website design.

We are discreet and rooting for your success. Wouldn’t it be a relief to know for sure if your website is really working as well as you want it to?


Learn more:

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October 16th 2013 Usability

Website User Experience Design and Google’s New Hummingbird Algorithm

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Google’s new algorithm, Hummingbird, is so named to represent a new “fast and precise” searcher experience. Is it a coincidence that website visitors wish this too in the form of user experience?

Google and Bing want to provide a good quality experience for each individual who types words into their search engine. To achieve this they need to know what you want and there’s the rub. We can’t be depended on to know what we want and we are not very good at asking for that thing we think we want.

Leaf stuck in concrete.

User experience varies depending on how we perceive the information presented to us.

Search engines have learned how to get most of us from point A to point B, even if it takes several ways to get us there. They’ve tried different placement opportunities on their pages, paid and natural, plus images. For years the way to get a web site to appear high in search engine results largely depended on how well words on pages were presented.

Everything I just wrote could be said about website usability and user experience design.


The SEO and UX Connection

Although I’ve been writing about and putting into practice how SEO and usability are kissing cousins, it has just been in the last two years that it has dawned on the people in charge of websites that their attention should be on search engines and user experience. For most site owners, all that’s ever mattered are choosing the most popular keywords and making landing pages for them. This limited thinking has made search engines wealthy but the same can’t be said for most businesses who depend on the Internet for their survival.

Search engines know inexperienced website owners and online marketers believe that if they have the right content worded in various ways that sooner or later a search result will click into place, or a PPC ad will appear or someone will follow the scent of their advertising programs and visit the site.

More importantly, search engines know that simply crawling the Web looking for new websites to provide for search results doesn’t help them generate revenue. The new algorithm, Hummingbird, is listening to all the ways people search from their various devices, including speaking into a cell phone and asking it a question. We type one and two words that we hope will convey exactly what we want into a search field. Search engine marketers track those search terms and content writers compose entire pages of text using the words that come up the most often in keyword analysis. The emphasis and over-use of keyword dependent text caused Google to put up a defense system known as Panda and Penguin.

We search differently based on what we use, whether we key into a web site search field or speak into a mobile device. When we speak, we tend to form sentences, like “Who sells local produce?”, “Local restaurants that use locally grown ingredients,” or “Find organic stores in my town.” Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is intended to respond to both one and two word search phrases and verbally spoken sentences with the same zest and understanding of what we really want.

For user experience design, the golden rule is to provide enough information in less than 5 seconds that answers these questions:

  1. Is this the correct place I was looking for?
  2. Does it have what I want, how I want it?
  3. Where do I start, to get that thing I want?

Knowing this user behavior, search engines have been trying to help searchers by providing the very web sites that answer those questions. They track how long searchers remained on the site, what pages they chose, when they left, if they completed a task or if they “bounced” off. They also follow our referrals, recommendations, ratings and reviews that we leave about.

Usability and SEO have been tied together ever since websites were born. There has been an odd disconnect between the two sides, like two families who are at war with each other and each believes they have the true methods to achieve online success. One family is attached to their ugly website that’s been pushed up the search engine mountain by hook or by crook. The other invests in the website experience which includes organic SEO and conversions design.

Even software application developers know that what they build has to please their end users because if their product doesn’t function as expected, or better, people will walk away with a negative experience and tell others. Bad use experiences lead to more expensive Internet marketing strategies.

The Hummingbird algorithm is a step forward for Google in their mission to deliver search results that make an instant, correct, useful connection. Your efforts at building user friendly websites that everyone can use, including special needs people, enables Google to place your site first.

Take advantage of these changes by designing your landing pages, homepage and entire website for the conversions you want, whether sales, providing information, quotes, subscriptions, registrations, online bookings, etc. How visitors respond and feel about your website matters more than ever in getting ranked well in search engines.

Not sure what to do to attract Hummingbird to your website? Ask for a usability and persuasive design site audit performed by IMN. We have the expertise and specialize in combining user experience design with organic SEO, plus you get the options of all the other top Internet marketing services.

To reach the top of search results and remain there, you will have to catch Hummingbird’s attention and earn its loyalty.

Let’s start.

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October 9th 2013 Google, SEO, Usability

Website Design for “I’m Too Busy” People

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If you were to hold a contest to find which site offers the best online deal for a new cell phone, which would win? The website targeting newcomers or the one with an established customer?

The answer is not so easy because people change. We lose trust. We change how we think and do things. We age.

Whenever it is difficult to come up with a topic to write about each week, I stop and listen to my world for hints. Since our websites are in sense simply extensions of us as individuals, groups of people, and businesses that reach even more people, I am able to see lessons for web design by studying how people act, react, feel, and what they want.

It doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in Neuroscience to see that the success of any website depends on understanding people. Human beings are curious. They love and invent new things that make their lives easier. They like to look good at certain times of their lives and other times they could care less about that. Their needs change. They are easily influenced. They feel things, even if they don’t actually see where that feeling is coming from. They are fickle, funny, frustrated and sometimes even frozen in time.

How can any website hope to please us?


I’m Breaking Up With You

The inspiration for this post came this morning. My house and property have been in the long process of being repaired and cleaned up. In addition to hired landscapers and the pool repair guy, my 20 year old son and two of his buddies work on and off as a team to do lifting and the jobs nobody else wants like tree stump removal. I know his buddies well. One is a Marine, one a pre-law student and my own son is a college student soon to be on his way to Marine boot camp.

The pre-law friend is going through a sad breakup with this longtime girlfriend. I’ve known these boys since they were little and they are like sons to me so I took a few minutes to listen to him tell me what happened. It’s the same old tale of being “too busy”. They are at different colleges and she suddenly ended the relationship. She was a cheerleader and he a football star at the local High School. He was accepted to play football at his college but was so traumatized by the breakup he quit the team.

What did I find in this real life moment that relates to website design?


Changing colors of leaves

Is your website designed for changes in relationships?

People Change

The top reason why website owners request Internet Marketing services without any concern for their website design is because they believe their websites are fine as they are. Even if it was designed and built five or two years ago, they insist all is well and the only place to invest their budget is on more keyword research, links and social marketing.

The one constant knowable factor we have to work with as website owners, designers, developers and marketers is that people change. You and I are not the same persons we were last year or 10 years ago and we won’t be the same five years from now. We may know more about different topics and that means how we search for information changes because our vocabulary has been updated. Some of us are looking for “cloud” as those white fluffy objects in the sky above us, while others look for “cloud” computing and “cloud servers”. A large number of you are still looking for “software” at a time when some software development companies don’t use that word at all on their websites anymore.


People are Busy

By now it is known that people are in a hurry when they are browsing online. Some verticals like financial, taxes, healthcare and education can be designed for a slower pace because the tasks are more involved and require more information and thought. Ecommerce is fast paced and competitive at every level, from a global reach to a local target market. Online shopping sites have to be designed for busy people and most are not.
How do I know this?

Sliders. Those gigantic jumbo images that move as soon as the homepage loads. The other signal are homepages that load up one or more mammoth images that provide no information and no call to action.

A website that forces visitors to figure out what to do when they arrive is not a site for busy people.


Relationships Change

I love to listen to people. I can listen to their stories all day. I’ve learned they don’t want my advice unless they ask for it and they don’t need to hear what happened to me in a similar situation. My son’s broken hearted friend and I talked about relationships between people with different interests and how sometimes opposites thrive, while other relationships would never survive if they didn’t have a lot in common. I didn’t say anything to him about what I’ve learned about relationships that came as a surprise.

People change. I’m not saying his girlfriend is not telling the truth. She’s a freshman and new to college life and she’s a very active outgoing young woman. My guess is that she’s away from home and our small town and thriving at school. Environments change us.

Circumstances change relationships too. I expected to marry my Lehigh University boyfriend whom I was dating when I was 20 years old. Soon after my 21st birthday, he graduated, moved on to law school in New York and broke up with me because he would be “too busy” learning to be a lawyer. I now understand that busy was the excuse and only way he could communicate what really mattered to him, and that was his needs changed because his circumstances did.
Website designs are most often designed for new relationships.

All new relationships are a big discovery. When we land on a web page from an advertisement we have a certain expectation about what will happen next and if that expectation is not met or there is a barrier thrown in our way, we move on.

Designing for regular visitors and customers is different because you are in a relationship with them and your goals now are to keep them interested and wanting more.


In Part Two next week I’ll provide usability and conversions support for established relationships in various types of websites. To increase conversions for first time visitors, I wrote an informative ebook on the topic, available for free download. Download and save The Secret to Natural Website Conversions now.

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September 26th 2013 Usability

It Is Known – Website Fads are User Experience Nightmares

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Isn’t it remarkable that all these years later, since the debut of the public Internet, websites are still designed that we are unable to use?

How many fads have you seen come and go? Remember thick cell padding borders around boxes before true border design? In the late 1990’s animated images were popular, and so were 3D rotating logos. Then, there was the two color web design – lime green and ocean blue. There are names for web design phases too. We experienced W1.0, W2.0, and W3.0 and if you believe in that, in the year 2020 we enter the W4.0 phase. (http://lifeboat.com/ex/web.3.0)
No matter what web designers dream up, the bottom line is that most of us still struggle with using web sites. Despite Google Analytics, traffic behavior is not understood. Eye, heat and gaze tracking offer some insight into user behavior but the most vital data isn’t free, nor is analyzing it from an expert.

It’s fun to be creative with web design. However, when web design interferes with user experience, someone has to stop the site from falling over the cliff.


It Is Known

These facts are known about people who use websites.

They don’t all have 20/20 vision.

Many men are colorblind.

Poor color contrasts interfere with reading online.

Small font sizes and sometimes serif fonts interfere with reading online.

Humans are lazy and creatures of habit who dislike change. They dislike inconsistent web pages and look for common information in the same places on all web sites.

It’s difficult to read with moving images close by.

It’s difficult to click on a moving image.

Great customer service means a usable web site.

People use web sites differently depending on where they are on the planet.

Don’t lie to site visitors.

Every web site fails at least one of these known criteria. Every web site.


Go Outside and Watch Your World

Whenever someone asks me for my top web design recommendation, I tell them to put down their computer devices and go outside.

I learn so much about human factors design, ecommerce, web design and usability by visiting a shopping mall, airport, library or sitting in the stands of a high school football game. For example, I had a revelation about global design one day in an airport when I saw a man reading a book from right to left instead of left to right. We tend to design based on the news that came from eye tracking that people read top to bottom, left to right.

Another example that stuck with me for years for ecommerce design came while shopping with my daughter at the mall. The sales clerk behind the counter of one of the clothing stores we stopped into was chewing gum, had her hair piled up on her head, piles of bangles on her arms, brightly painted finger nails, perfectly lined eyes and a dazzling smile. She chatted with us and talked my daughter into getting a store card and joked that I got stuck paying the bill. The experience was exactly that. An Experience. To emulate that on a web site is something most web site designers never strive for.


Sliders

Why do web designs seem so intent on chasing people away once they arrive?

Lands End

To their credit, at least the Lands’ End box has an “X” to get rid of the sign up form that covers the homepage. Other sites do this but remove the ability to remove the box. They force their visitors to sign up first and then they admit them into the site.

When was the last time you chased a sales person down a street as they threw you products, special deals, and they are screaming “click here” and “learn more” at the top of their lungs? This is the slider experience.

Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes recently ran a survey of their customers seeking feedback on their designs, which I felt was very smart. I used the opportunity to offer my opinions on their use of sliders that come with every template. When new template designs continued to be launched with sliders I decided I was outnumbered. However, they do seem to be trying to offer varying styles and better modification options for their sliders.


Do sliders convert?

OverstockThis is not a yes or no question. The answer is in the design of the slider. Overstock has large images above the “page fold” of their homepage but they don’t move. There is a large “Hero” image and several smaller images to the right. The call to action is the content itself rather than a “Click here”. They offer an incentive and clear description for where the click will take their visitors. Below this are more images, also static.

The public utility site, PPL, is an electric company in Pennsylvania. It has two sliders.

PPL

Why do people go to an electric company web site? It’s likely they have a question about their bill or wish to report an outage. If distractions are a problem, finding the text link to report an outage may be difficult. I tested the color contrast of the blue text against the colored background and it failed.

There are recommendations for making sliders user friendly. This recent article, Designing Effective Carousels: Create a Fanciful Amusement, Not a House of Horrors has a nice list.

Does your company have website designers skilled in user experience design for all users? Does your company consider accessibility compliance and do your designers understand what that is? Are you testing your web pages with the people you are targeting rather than segments of people who are not your target market? Where is the main path to conversions on your homepage and all landing pages?

There is a severe shortage of experienced usability and user experience web designers around the world. You would be wise to hire a company that performs persuasive design and usability web site audits. Following their recommendations could mean the difference between your business and your competition.

The post It Is Known – Website Fads are User Experience Nightmares appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

September 18th 2013 Usability

Why Websites Don’t Work

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The most common question I’m asked is, “Don’t companies know their web sites are awful?” It is difficult to answer that question with a quick answer. However, the best answer is simply “No.” They don’t know.

Whether the web site is from a Fortune 100 company, brand new start up business, or if the web site was designed by a professional web design company or an in-house staff, the investment in building a usable web site sits at the bottom of the budget. It’s more than common to allocate budget monies between user interface designers, social marketing, search engine inclusion and marketing strategies. Of this, advertising gets the lion’s share.


Build It and They Will Come and Leave

Is your website the perfect balance of design and usability?

Is your website the perfect balance of design and usability?

Why do websites perform poorly? It seems clear that top tier of corporate have no idea if their website works for everyone who uses it. In their defense, they believe they hired the right people to design and build their website. Did they?

I recently heard my first success story of my entire career. A large department store that has never had a website hired a company to build an ecommerce site. They chose a company that had the skilled staff and stayed out of the process rather than making demands and micro-managing each step. The result is a website that is performing extremely well, both functionally with a proprietary shopping cart and for their customers with a user friendly, customer oriented design. The company that built it is staffed with programmers, testers, and designers whose salaries are over $100,000 a year, so you can just imagine the cost of getting that perfect website.

It’s interesting to see how many tools are developed for usability and accessibility testing and yet we continue to muddle through websites as users. The tools are not the solutions and in fact, they often point to the need for solutions that no one on the staff has the skills to deal with. So the result of using these tools results in a dead end.


In Search of the Wizard

When Dorothy went in search of the Wizard in the hopes he would send her home, she had to perform the difficult task first of getting the broom that belonged to the evil witch. To do that she needed a plan, which she didn’t have. In fact, Dorothy needed to be rescued by a clumsy but devoted group of friends. In the end, the Wizard presented each of them with something logical and simple. Each of his gifts met a particular need.

This is why websites fail. User needs are not met.

Every site needs a plan and most do not, or if they do, it is not properly created. This is beginning of the tragedy of the infinite steam of poorly designed websites. The people assigned to rescue the website may not have the right skills. Decision makers are likely to not even know the plan is wrong and the team they have are not capable of producing what’s expected. Or, they are and someone along the way thinks they know better and blocks their efforts. The needs of users are lost.


See No Evil

Does your website plan include testing and maintenance?

Does your website plan include testing and maintenance?

Web sites don’t work for everyone who uses them because the talent needed to build them are not found in one or two people, or one or two departments. Consider the fact that companies hire usability professionals who know nothing about persuasive design and conversions. Most programmers and website designers have no idea how to code for accessibility compliance. Stakeholders and project managers don’t know what they need to know to direct the project. Most companies don’t bother to test their sites before going into production and it’s far more likely an entire advertising and Internet marketing campaign is ready before the web site is.

The amount of knowledge and skills required to build a web site that works for all people on all devices is either not understood or ignored by company decision makers. Tens of thousands of dollars are wasted on band aid solutions and panic fixes after their data indicates that marketing alone is not generating the revenue they seek.

According to UX Specialists are Hot Commodities http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9237419/UX_specialists_are_hot_commodities

“… in this age of mobility and user-driven technology, IT shops that don’t have a user experience expert onboard need to get serious about begging, borrowing or stealing to find one — and that’s an increasingly difficult proposition.”

However, when most companies think of “devices”, they aren’t considering screen readers and other assistive technology needed to use websites. And web designers trained in usability are not trained in organic search engine optimization. User experience design does not automatically conversions design. A web site may be easy to use but lacking in a long list of reasons to choose it for products and services.

Websites fail because it is expensive to build and maintain them properly from the start. Choose companies willing to work with you, such as Internet Marketing Ninjas, who provide fully integrated services with teams of advanced skilled people. When you hire an SEO company, the risk is a website your customers will find frustrating to use. It’s rare to find a company that does requirements gathering, functional development and testing, user interface design and testing, accessibility design and testing, conversions design and testing, plus mobile, SEO, PPC, social and Internet marketing.

But this is the company you want to choose if you want your website to work for everyone and be the brand everyone is talking about, in a good way.


Free Download

Free Download

For a free boost to your website design that also works magic in search engines, please read my new ebook,

The Secret to Natural Website Conversions

With under five seconds to make a connection with site visitors, your web site must present value, trust, authority, ease of use, main tasks, and answers to top questions, inspire and motivate. This book explains how to decrease site abandonment and bounce rates, increase page views and conversions and send happy signals to search engines.


Photo credit: Taken by Kim Krause Berg

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September 4th 2013 Usability

Branding With Parallax Design: 5 Questions With The Minnesota Timberwolves

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A powerful — and meaningful — site design is more important than ever; it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form an opinion about a brand. Expectations to be entertained and involved by online media are only rising, and one way to captivate an audience is…



Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

August 23rd 2013 Usability

Prevent Barriers to Conversions By Choosing The Right Color Contrasts

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Remember when the web design fad was to use two colors, sky blue and lime green? Today the new color is gray, and many of you can’t see it.

Recently I audited a web site that failed color contrasts above the usual one or two that I usually find. The site’s owner went with whatever his hired web designer chose, not understanding what he was paying for was a website most people would struggle to see and use. A bit frustrated with me, he asked why he needed to change the colors to one’s I tested and recommended for him. I explained that for his target user base, which is people of all ages and whose first language may not be English, his web site had to take the needed steps to readable. How can a visitor sign up for something they struggle to see? Why make it difficult to read your content?


Why Do We Need Colors That Contrast?

Accessibility testing has what’s called “Success Criterion”. Compliance standards create a much better user experience and not just for special needs users. Take this example from the WCAG Guidelines:

1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum): The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following: (Level AA)

“The intent of this Success Criterion is to provide enough contrast between text and its background so that it can be read by people with moderately low vision (who do not use contrast-enhancing assistive technology). For people without color deficiencies, hue and saturation have minimal or no effect on legibility as assessed by reading performance (Knoblauch et al., 1991). Color deficiencies can affect luminance contrast somewhat. Therefore, in the recommendation, the contrast is calculated in such a way that color is not a key factor so that people who have a color vision deficit will also have adequate contrast between the text and the background.”

Some of my tests result in a “partial fail”. In these instances, the colors can stay as long as the font size is increased. Again, from the WCAG:

“Text that is larger and has wider character strokes is easier to read at lower contrast. The contrast requirement for larger text is therefore lower. This allows authors to use a wider range of color choices for large text, which is helpful for design of pages, particularly titles. 18 point text or 14 point bold text is judged to be large enough to require a lower contrast ratio.”


Examples of Failed Color Contrasts

The examples below are the most common color choices I find on web sites. Every one of them fails the color contrast test. What’s interesting is that we often see call to action buttons that use green, blue or orange against white background. I typically let these slide with a suggestion that the button be a minimum of 175 pixels, contain an 16 to 18 pixel font size and have a strong beveled edge.

Failed colors one
Failed colors 2
Failed colors 3
Failed colors 4


Examples of Acceptable Color Contrasts

Sometimes color contrasts that pass surprise me, as in the cases below.

Passed color 1
Pass color 2

This one is very close to blue and white color combos that fail. This is why it’s important to test.

Passed color 3


Recommendations to Follow

Sailboat
1. Use dark colored text against a white background for paragraphs of text. This is especially important for product descriptions and text that contains value propositions and user instructions.

2. Avoid colored text against colored background unless it passes contrast tests.

3. Test color choices by using your favorite color picker, (I use a Chrome plug-in or
Photoshop), and the Free Color Contrast Comparison Tool.

Web designers cringe at the idea of limitations to their creativity, especially when asked to sacrifice a cool trick for the sake of improving the user experience or conversions. Their challenge is build a web site experience and since they know humans respond to color, they like to play with it to create a mood or send sub-conscious prompts to relax, go, stop, caution, or dwell in dark gloom and doom.

It’s fun to paint the sky. Choose your palette wisely.

The post Prevent Barriers to Conversions By Choosing The Right Color Contrasts appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

July 24th 2013 Design, Usability

Google Says Stand on One Leg

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Whenever Google announces a new algorithm update or change in guidelines, there are two typical reactions from site owners. Fear or fiddle sticks.

Google GameA quick look at threads in Webmasterworld and Cre8asiteforums illustrate the Google Game. The game is a combination of Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. When Google says, “Don’t buy links”, there’s a massive scramble of panicked site owners trying to hide months of costly investments in buying high PR links. When Matt Cutts announces a new algorithm enhancement to take advantage of, everyone takes a step forward. If that algorithm change is intended to clean up old SEO tactics that no longer work, everyone takes a step backwards.

Monkey in the Middle is another popular Google Game. Have you received an email request to remove links from your blog or web site? This game never ends. No matter what type of Internet Marketing technique is applied to web sites, sooner or later Google will start hitting you with kick balls of new rules and reasons to tag you for doing whatever it is you are doing to perform better in their search engine.


Google Says Put Your Hands on Your Head

The trick to the Simon Says game is to call out demands quickly and always precede them with “Simon Says”. The moment “Simon Says” is not said is when a portion of players will still carry out the demand, even though they didn’t have to. This is why web site owners are so fed up with Google. The search engine changes its rules frequently. Unless you stay on top of these updates or pay someone to do it for you, there’s a good chance you are applying old practices that no longer work or can get your web site into trouble.

Whisper Down the Lane is a childhood game that thrives in the web site design and marketing industries. For example, a long time ago someone suggested that search engines use links to tell them a story about a web page. A link to a site meant a referral. A link was a generous tip to a good writer. The first links were innocent connections between friends or admirers referring sites they found helpful to their own.

It didn’t take long for friendly linking to become a way to outwit search engines. Links became math scores with metrics tied to them, as well as money. Linking grew into a global marketing strategy that took on a life of its own. Suddenly there were no ethics or ground rules for linking. Today there are two key approaches to getting good link nourishment for web sites. One is to establish credible relationships with leading web sites. The other is to “Disavow” all links and pretend nothing ever happened.


Bear Hunt

When I was young I had a next door neighbor who taught Sunday and Bible school and was my Brownie Leader. Her name was June and I loved one particular game she played with us, called Bear Hunt. It started off with “We’re going on a bear hunt…” and for the next 20 minutes or so she would lead us on great journey where we crawled through fields, swam in rivers, went over and under bridges, and as we met and tackled each obstacle in our path, we were instructed to make noises and act out each one. We’d “swish swish”, move our arms like we were swimming, stomp on the bridge and scream like crazy when we found the bear and it started to chase us. June would lead us on a frenzied rush to escape the bear by repeating everything we just did, only backwards. By the time we were safely “home”, we were all giggling and breathless.

The Bear Hunt game took time. A really good hunt took patience to go through each step. We were told to stop and look around before taking the next step. This is the ultimate key to playing the Google Game. It takes patience to rank high in search engine results and a plan to remain there that includes stopping to look around and checking data. Every search engine marketing company has had the screaming client who reached the top, only to fall and back track in a frantic race to go back and see what went wrong.


How to Win the Google Game

No matter what game we play, the objective is to win. Have you ever played a game where someone keeps insisting on new rules? This is what every web site owner puts up with when they want their web site to perform well in search engines.
Conversions Testing
Have you ever played a game or sport where you didn’t like your coach? Something about them made you cautious. Many times we’re stuck with a bad coach or teacher. To win the Google Game, you must pick the right coach and do whatever it takes to get one that has the correct game plan for your web site. You want to hire a company that has your best interests in mind, will never take any risks that might hurt your reputation and relationship with search engines and most important, an established leader with the ability to bring in any techniques that will meet your web site goals.

This is where you must stop and think about your next move. What is the leading clue for high rank that Google looks for in a web site above all else? Is it PR score? No. Is it inbound links? No. Is it article submissions to directories? Blog comments with links to your site? The number of directories the site is listed in? No to all of these. What Google is looking for are web sites that people like to use.

Web site owners can improve their site rank in search engine results by creating high-quality sites that their visitors will want to use and share. There is no other technique stronger or more accurate than this and to be frank, this has always been the key marketing driving force. Expert marketers know this and combine usability, persuasive design, information architecture, organic SEO, quality linking, expert content writing, and smartly targeted social networking strategies all into one giant ultimate winning process. Some of them have to do the Bear Hunt going backwards to get a fresh start on a new hunt for success.

Persuasive Design

Internet Marketing Ninjas Offers Persuasive Design Services

Do you want to play the Google Game? Choose your team with care. To win this game your web site design has to pass usability standards, be designed for strong conversions and make an impact on your visitors so they will refer it and return again. Most web sites are not ready to play with Google.

A usability and conversions web site review by Internet Marketing Ninjasis a critical piece of the entire marketing services packages. Start here if you want to win.

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July 17th 2013 Google, Usability