Sunday, July 03, 2011

Embarking Upon My Site Redesign

I've procrastinated long enough! What example am I setting for my clients and colleagues, when my own site lies neglected? So this summer, I will embark upon my own site redesign.

I will start by interviewing myself, researching the competitive landscape (I'm looking at you, fellow Site Optimizers) and identifying my goals for the new site. I hope to use this space here to share my experience with you.

Being the visual thinker that I am, I couldn't resist diving into some sketches to generate ideas. These serve as an initial brain dump, nothing more. See below.

Stay tuned...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friends from Social Network Pursuade Couple's Purchase

My wife and I regularly check-in to retail stores, restaurants and night spots via Foursquare and Facebook. This isn't normally newsworthy for me, but yesterday it proved to be influential on a large purchase we are planning.

Shortly after leaving the retail store of a specialty mattress manufacturer, I noticed that a few comments were left on my Facebook status (which I previously used to check-in) cautioning me to not proceed with the purchase. The comments ranged from tales of manufacturer defects, loopholes to their warranty, and suggestions for alternative mattress manufacturers.

It's funny, because I typically study and share research with my clients about consumer social networks influencing purchase decisions. Guess it's... validating, to experience something like this first-hand.

Thanks friends.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Top 5 Listening Tips from Jeffrey Gitomer

Some sound advice on "listening" from Jeffrey Gitomer which I find worth repeating for my readers, as well as my own reference:
  1. 1. Listen with the intent to understand. A sermon. A movie. In a classroom.
  2. 2. Listen with the intent to take action. Someone giving instructions.
  3. 3. Listen with the intent to learn. A teacher. A trainer. A seminar leader.
  4. 4. Listen with the intent to enjoy. Music. Sounds of nature. Waterfalls. A crackling fire.
  5. 5. Listen with the intent to remember. Driving directions. A website address. A phone number.
This post can be found here in its entirety.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things To Do in NYC

Had an out-of-town colleague visiting today, so I sent her a short list of destinations, activities and restaurants. Thought this would be worth sharing:

UCB Theatre – some of the best live comedy improv in the world! Shows are dirt cheap. Go dressed casual and comfortable. Check website for show listings, and reserve tix online.

MoMA – most gorgeous museum you’ve ever seen. And they’ve got the Tim Burton exhibit still going on. You can spend all day here, so reserve this for a rainy day.

Museum of Arts & Design – small museum is a nice spot either before or after dinner. Allow only 1-2 hours to soak it all up. Oh, and stroll around Columbus Circle – gorgeous.

Terra Blues – great live jazz and blues way downtown. Check it out Wed / Thurs or Fri night. This place has been my favorite spot for years and years.

Flavorpill Recommends – comprehensive list of trendy night spots.

The Red Cat – beautiful little restaurant tucked away in Chelsea. Intimate setting, great wine list, reasonably priced. My wife and I love this spot.

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine – with a couple of locations in NYC, this is a great lunch spot. You get lots of delicious, authentic Cuban food for a good price. It gets crowded, so get there no later than noon sharp!

Shake Shack – this place must have been featured in every movie, sitcom and food review. Go here for snack or lunch. Make sure its not too cold or raining, because the line is loooooong.

Bookmarks Lounge at Library Hotel – this lounge is on the hotel rooftop. Heat lamps and enclosures will keep you warm. Go on a clear night to get some memorable views. Dress professionally. Network with other NY media folks, who consist of 90% of the crowd.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

6 Examples of Data-Informed Site Changes that Increased Conversions

You're not one of those designers still resisting the use of data to inform site changes, are you?

If you are, I'll let you in on a little secret: I was too just a few short years ago. I would make prolific statements, like: "Who needs data? I'm a designer, dammit! I craft websites based on my intuition, design aesthetic and vast experience." Sound familiar?

In hindsight, I was not taking the time to understand site visitor behaviors, friction points they encountered or frustrations they harbored. I was far from being an advocate for the user. As a matter of fact, I didn't have a solid understanding of what was working and what wasn't, and certainly not 'why'. This resulted in a lopsided balance between user needs and business goals. The business almost always won.

Embracing Data
Fast forward to today: I'm growing my agency's client relationships and winning new business by evangelizing data-informed design. Of course, we don't let user data drive all of our design decisions. That could translate into emotionless, marketing-driven garble. But there is a happy place where a quantitative and qualitative approaches live harmoniously together! I've been there and have seen how it can result in delighted clients, satisfied users and an invigorated design team.

Success Stories
Let me share some quick examples of how we got to that happy place. Below are 6 challenges I faced with a few select clients. For each, I've listed the evidence we found within the analytics + survey data and the design changes that helped achieve dramatic increases in conversion:

Client Question #1: Are our visitors sufficiently motivated to start the checkout process?
Evidence: 10% of visitors abandoned before proceeding to checkout, although self-qualifying themselves as "ready to buy."
Result: Set expectations around checkout process length, as well as improving the visibility of shipping and return policy.

Client Question #2: Why is there a high abandonment rate so late in the checkout process?
Evidence: Nearly 20% of visitors never clicked "Checkout," but did click "Update Cart," possibly mistaking this button as a means of continuing.
Result: Designed clearer visual distinctions between calls-to-action.

Client Question #3: Within checkout, are visitors confused by our process?
Evidence: Multiple page views of billing and shipping pages, with a high rate of visitors clicking "Help" within them, then abandoning shortly thereafter.
Result: Improved error messaging and contextual instructional copy.

Client Question #4: Are we appropriately allocating page real estate to our features, such as gift card redemption?
Evidence: 90% of visitors never attempted to redeem a gift card during their session.
Result: Removed gift card feature and re-allocated page real estate to revenue-generating features.

Client Question #5: Why are our visitors making only single-item purchases?
Evidence: Only 30% of visitors scrolled down far enough on product pages to see cross-sell functionality. For those that did scroll to see the cross-sell functionality, less than 50% of them interacted with it.
Result: Moved the cross-selling functionality along the right rail and added explanation of why the products are "recommended."

Client Question #6: What are the optimal number of pages for our application process?
 Is our current long 1-page design optimal?
Evidence: A/B test showed that over 70% of visitors to the 1-page control application scrolled and then abandoned, without any other type of page interaction. The 2-page design showed higher interactivity and 10% higher conversions.
Result: Put 2-page application process in market and conducted further multivariate tests to lift conversions another 8%.

Of course I have to write the disclaimer: "your results may vary." We apply best practices to every site we build. But more often than not, we identify a multitude of distinct user behaviors that are specific to each of our clients. Hence the embracing of an iterative and data-informed design process.

(Note: this post was originally intended to run on Carsonified's Think Vitamin blog in the late summer. But since they procrastinated, I decided to post it here on my own blog.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Adobe Buys Omniture = BIG DEAL

I've been asked by clients and colleagues alike to share my POV on Adobe's acquisition of Omniture. So why not share it with my readers?

First of all, Adobe knows how to do acquisitions better than anyone else. They turned a small WSYWG application called GoLive CyberStudio into an Adobe-branded, best-selling web developer app. And not long ago, Adobe made the game changing, industry consolidating move of acquiring Macromedia.

Bottom line – Adobe is a master of product development, marketing and integration. Remember, through their own (ahem, clumsy) acquisitions, Omniture also has testing, targeting, surveys and site personalization capabilities. That can make Adobe an even larger dominating force in web development. What's next, a content management system (I'm looking at you, ATG)?

In my opinion, there are huge changes ahead for the web design industry as a result of this acquisition.

Monday, August 17, 2009

8 Reasons Why Your New Site Isn't Performing

Tell me if this has happened to you. Client says: "I don't get it. We just spent tons of money redesigning our site. It looks so much better. How could online sales be down?"

And you say: "It's the economy, stupid."

Now hold your horses there, Junior. Let's not jump to conclusions. The economy can be blamed for plenty (see: Housing Collapse and Demise of Auto Industry). eMarketer forecasts that retail e-commerce sales (excluding travel) will likely be flat in 2009.

There could be many reasons why your shiny and new transaction-based site isn't performing so well. Sure, some will be healed over time. But the good news is that most can be overcome with better planning.

Here are 8 traffic and site-side client challenges that I've recently observed:

  • 1. New site architecture can take weeks or months for your visitors to adjust
  • 2. New SEO tactics could take weeks or months for organic traffic to pick up again
  • 3. Login module was moved to new position on page and visitors can't find it
  • 4. Primary call-to-action was moved to a new position
  • 5. RSS feed was changed and now it's broken for past subscribers
  • 6. New site is so different, that visitors immediately abandon because they think they're in the wrong place
  • 7. Familiar past site functionality was removed (for better or for worse)
  • 8. New site has either too hard or too soft of a selling approach in comparison to prior design
Flickr Image: kevindooley

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How Shall I Share? Let Me Count The Ways...

Here's the scenario: I read an interesting story online and decide to share it with others. What distribution method should I choose?

Well, if it's an article on the NYTimes, I can "recommend" it within their proprietary network. And in most cases, I have plenty of other options to share my find. I may Tweet it, post it to Facebook or LinkedIn, bookmark it in Delicious, save to Read It Later, Digg it, email to friends or write about it on my blog.

Sure, solutions have come along to ease some of my pain — enter: TweetDeck, Feedly and FriendFeed. But none of these are really scalable across all platforms and reach the majority of my intended audience.

So you see my dilemma? I'm not sharing very efficiently. There must be a better way...