As a conversion rate optimisation consultant I find dark UX interesting because it essentially puts the needs of the company before that of the customer. It is the opposite of normal UX principles as dark UX employs design improve your conversion rate by tricking people into taking a decision that may not be in their best interests. Sometimes this can be without them being fully aware of what decision they have made.
Dark UX has the potential to leave a bitter taste in your mouth when you realise what has happened. No one likes being mislead and the user experience may lead to high levels of distrust and dissatisfaction among customers. This may lead to a short-term uplift in your conversion rate, but in the longer terms this is likely to damage your brand and increase returns and cancellations.
In some cases a design breaks a web convention or norm to nudge you in the opposite direction to what you expect. Alternative choice options are sometimes hidden below the fold or reduced in prominence so that you may fail to notice them.
Depending upon your point of view you may see this as persuasive design or dark UX. How do we judge what is a great design as opposed to a manipulative design? Here are some interesting examples that could be perceived as great design or dark ux.
Good design or dark UX?
Amazon is seen as the gold standard in e-commerce and so it’s not generally associated with dark UX. However, I came across this interstitial page for Amazon Prime after clicking on proceed to checkout. The primary call-to-action (CTA) is clearly “Sign up and pay now”, but what if you just want to pay without signing up to Prime?
When a user clicks on the “Proceed to checkout” CTA they expect to be served the checkout. I was surprised and slightly confused to see this page the first time I came across it. I almost instinctively clicked on “Sign up and pay now” without thinking, but then realised the page was trying to get me to sign up to Prime.
At first sight it’s not obvious that there is an alternative CTA to “Sign up and pay now”. After a number of seconds scanning the page I found a hyperlink to the left of the primary CTA. It uses loss aversion to good effect as it reads “No thanks – I don’t want Unlimited One-Day Delivery”.
Is this just persuasive design or dark UX – it’s difficult to say. I can see how thoughtful the design is, but could it result in some users signing up to Prime without meaning to? Possibly.
Ryanair were the experts:
A more clear-cut example of dark UX was the old Ryanair travel Insurance section. This stated that “If you wish to purchase travel insurance please select your country of residence”. Below the list of passengers there was a further instruction; “If you do not wish to purchase travel insurance, please select ‘Don’t insure me’ in the drop-down box.”
The “Don’t insure me” was hidden between “Denmark” and “Finland”. You also had to select this separately for each passenger because it is under country of residence. This design was heavily criticised by various commentators and may be as a result it has since been replaced by a much more user friendly user interface.
I recently reviewed the Littlewoods.com registration form and was impressed with how it has been improved since I last looked at it. The design uses an accordion style form that initially displays three fields and then shows another field when you complete those first fields.
When I completed the form I came across the registration successful page below. The primary CTA – “Apply Now” is prominent and a benefit of being able to spread the cost is clearly communicated. However, what if you don’t want to spread the cost and apply for an account? Similar to the Amazon example the alternative action is not immediately obvious.
That’s because the alternative payment method is in low contrast text below the discreet horizontal line. The copy reads; “or if you’d like to pay by card just continue to shop. Then choose the pay by credit or debit card option when you’re in the checkout”. I’ve highlighted the copy below to confirm where it is located.
From a conversion perspective this is clearly a winner and probably generates a substantial return on investment. The alternative option is visible when you study the page. Many visitors may not notice it before they click on the primary CTA and apply to open a credit account.
It is a persuasive design. What they could test though is the use of loss aversion for the alternative CTA copy. Something like – “No thanks – I don’t want the ability to spread the cost – continue shopping.” This might help offset any drop in conversion if the CTA was made more prominent.
The final decision on whether a design meets an organisation’s standards and is consistent with its brand values rests with senior management. Inevitably this reflects the company culture and how customer-centric the organisation is. This explains why sometimes a design may be seen as persuasive in some organisations and dark in another.
When you are working on a new design it can be difficult to take a step back and review it objectively. That’s why usability testing and setting suitable success metrics is so important. If after implementation you see an increase in returns/cancellations. Or a rise in customer complaints related to the page that is probably giving you the answer.
In the end the customer has the final say. If users feel they have been mislead by how a website is designed they are likely to either complain or switch to a competitor. Provided customers have a choice to go elsewhere there will always be pressure to remove unsatisfactory design practices.
Web analytics tools allow you to track exactly where visitors go on your site, how long they spend on each page and how they interact with your site or app. This allows you to understand more about your potential customers and to measure, analyse and report on your traffic. Web analytics tools answer four key questions:
Who visits your website – in terms of number of visitors and their characteristics?
Where do your visitors come from – the source of traffic?
What do visitors do when they get to your site – which pages do they visit?
Where do they go afterwards – if you have links to other sites (e.g. you are an affiliate)?
This is useful to know so that you can begin to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and the performance of your website. Unless you measure something you won’t know if you are getting better or not and what changes to make to improve performance and revenues. This means using web analytics tools to set benchmarks and start monitoring changes over time.
Web analytics tools allow you to measure:
How many visitors land on your site every day?
Your audience and their demographic profile – the gender mix, their age, what are their interests?
What geographic location do your visitors come, such as the city or country?
What proportion of your visitors are new or returning visitors?
Audience behaviour – engagement levels and frequency of returning to your site?
What browsers are they using? Important to know so that you ensure you support old browsers if lots of your visitors are still using them.
Technology – what devices are your visitors using and their screen resolution? Again very useful because you want to optimize your site according to the devices & screen sizes of your visitors.
Landing and exit pages – what are they?
Which is your most popular content – which pages do they visit most? Critical for prioritising effort and A/B testing.
Which channels drive most visitors to your site – organic, direct, referral, paid, social?
Which campaigns generate most visitors to your site?
Referrals – Which domains are generating most visitors for your site.
Keywords used by visitors to find your site.
You can compare website traffic against your key competitors on metrics such as bounce rate, time on site and source of traffic by using a website audience comparison tool. These tools use information collected by ISPs, panels and other sources to track competitor website traffic and demographics.
Using Web Analytics Tools To Set Goals:
This is all interesting information, but what really matters is whether you are achieving your business goals. Web analytics tools allow you to set up your organisational goals to measure performance over time and identify reasons why you may not be achieving them .
One of the main tasks of conversion rate optimisation is to align each individual webpage with the relevant business objective. So for instance if you have an e-commerce site you will want to set up goals that lead towards a sale, such as view a product page, add to basket, enter checkout and finally complete a sale.
For a blog you will be more interested in engagement metrics, such as time spent on site and number of pages viewed. Once you have defined your key metrics you can set up automated reports to monitor your conversion rates and begin to investigate any changes that occur.
Next you need to better understand your visitor behaviour to identify user journeys and whether you can improve goal achievement through making changes to your site. You should monitor bounce rates and page load speed times to ensure any changes you make to your website don’t put visitors off browsing your site.
One of the most useful benefits of web analytics is the ability to look at the visitors’ path to purchase so that you can identify the drop-off rates at each step in the journey. You will be able to see if any particular stage is more problematic than the others so that you can consider what changes might help reduce this leak in the conversion funnel.
You should then begin to investigate whether your conversion rate at each step in the funnel varies across some of the metrics we have just listed. This might highlight that your website is not that user friendly for visitors on small screens or that your site doesn’t render properly in certain browsers. You can then use one of many cross-browser testing tools to view what might be causing the problem.
If your overall conversion rate is significantly lower in Germany than the UK and there is no obvious reason why this is the case you might want to review your copy as German tends to use more characters than English and direct translations can sometimes fail to allow for local cultural differences. A/B tests have shown that cultural differences can influence how visitors respond to a user interface and so ideally web optimisation needs to allow for cultural preferences in design and behaviour.
Source of Traffic:
Web analytics tools can tell you where your traffic is coming from and which channels are converting better than others. If you are paying for traffic this helps you to understand if you are getting a reasonable return on investment. Again, investigate why you see differences in your conversion rate to try and understand if it relates to your website or the nature of the traffic for each channel.
Find Broken Stuff With Web Analytics Tools:
If you see a sudden drop-off in conversion or decline in traffic from a reliable source this may indicate something is broken on your or a referrer’s site. Use your analytics to flag up when and where on your site there may be a problem with your site so that you can prevent it going unnoticed and costing your organisation significant sums in lost business.
With most subscription web analytics you can set up automated reports that will be emailed to you on a daily basis to help you monitor your key metrics. This will save you having to login every day and allow you to monitor site performance even when you are out of the office.
Web Analytics Tools – Recommendation:
I’ve used all the most popular web analytics tools on the market from IBM Core Metrics, Adobe Analytics to Google Analytics. The clear winner for me is the free version of Google Analytics because it’s by far the most intuitive solution, it’s fast, very little delay in reporting and it integrates so easily with other tools. The support in terms of documentation is second to none and there is a wealth of advice on the web as so many professional optimisers user it.
It is difficult to beat Google Analytics if you are on a limited budget. If want a more sophisticated product then Google 360 is worth considering as this has all the benefits of the free version with the advantages of a paid solution.
18 Website Analytics Tools Compared:
Below you will find the 18 most popular web analytic tools, some of which are free, and so there is no excuse not to start measuring your visitors and their behaviour.
Previously Omniture/SiteCatalyst. Adobe Marketing Cloud is one of the most popular of web analytics tools on the market. An enterprise solution with e-commerce sites that you can fully integrate with Adobe’s Test & Target A/B, multivariate testing and personalisation platform.
A comprehensive suite of features, including mobile, ad-hoc analysis, and the ability for real-time and rule-based decision-making tools to target key customer segments.
This positions itself as a behavioural analytics solution as its focus is on tracking events rather than simply visitors. Amplitude offers real-time monitoring of user behaviour and unlimited individual user timelines. Pathfinder, their user flow analysis, allows you to better understand how visitors navigate through your site or app by visualising the aggregate paths that they take.
The behavioural cohorting feature allows you to define a group of users based upon the actions they have or have not taken on your site. You can then apply cohorts throughout your analysis to understand how different behaviours impact specific KPIs such as retention and revenues. The Microscope feature allows you to click on any point in a chart and create a cohort of everyone who did or did not take a certain action to investigate what is driving their behaviour.
Amplitude offers a free plan for sites or apps with up to 10 million monthly events. For organisations with up to 100 million monthly events the Business Plan costs just $995 per month.
This offers a suite of analytical and testing tools for tracking and optimising editorial content and advertising spend. It focuses on helping organisations understand what content captures and holds audience attention and monetize inventory on the page.
Real-time web analytics tool with an extensive range of features including data at an individual visitor level, on-site analytics, heatmaps, up-time monitoring, a flexible API, Twitter analytics, Google search rankings, video analytics and big screen mobile mode. Free for single websites.
An enterprise level web personalisation and analytics platform which is popular with e-commerce websites. Used by many of Germany’s top 100 online retailers. This solution combines high-end technology with an intuitive user interface.
Econda’s Cross Sell combines a recommendation engine with an online sales tool and re-marketing suite. Product recommendations are context-sensitive and all entry pages can be tailored for your visitors.
Formismo is a state of the art form analytics platform to identify how users interact with your forms and checkout fields. The tool tracks every input field so that you can identify which fields users don’t complete, plus when they do and don’t use auto-complete.
Your form or checkout is unlikely to work as well on all browsers, devices or certain languages. Advanced filters allows you to view all reports for a segment of your visitors to identify and remedy cross-browser or other performance issues. A highly recommended tool by many conversion experts.
Gauges is positioned as a low-cost real-time web analytics tool for small to medium sized organisations. It was designed to be a website analytics API and the dashboard that you see on the Gauges front-end is a web client that consumes the API. 7 day Free trial available.
The default option for web analytics tools for many organisations. It’s free and being the most popular web analytics tool there is a constant stream of posts on how to get the best out of Google Analytics. What I love about Google Analytics is that the user interface is intuitive and because it’s from Google it integrates really easily with other Google solutions such as the SEO tool Google Search Console, their A/B testing tool Google Optimize and AdSense.
The tool is also generally fast to generate reports, no waiting around for data to be processed or sent to you via email. It’s a great tool to begin getting into web analytics.
The free version of Google Analytics offers most features that smaller organisations need and implementation is simple and quick. It uses sampled data when you have over one million unique dimension combinations in standard reports, or more than 500,000 for special queries, such as in custom reports.
The new enterprise suite of six applications which aims to directly challenge Adobe’s Marketing Cloud. It combines Google Analtyics Premium (now called Google Analytics 360) and Attribution 360 (previously Adometry) which it acquired in 2014. You will also get access to an enterprise version of Google Tag Manager.
It gives you access to Audience Center 360, a data management platform that integrates with Google’s own tools (including DoubleClick) and will take data from third-party tools. Of particular interest is the addition of Data Studio 360 which offers advanced data visualization and analysis solutions. This is powered by BigQuery – Google’s data analytics platform. This provides a native report building option for Google Analytics 360 with all the features of Google Docs (e.g sharing & multi-user editing).
Finally, Optimize 360 is a brand new A/B testing and personalisation tool which includes a visual editor interface to bring it in line with other leading A/B testing solutions. Optimize is the free version which allow you to run up to 3 A/B tests at any one time.
A real-time web analytics tools that gives you insights and access down to the individual user-level. A modern and intuitive user interface GoSquared offers business and enterprise solutions, together with a Free version for the small entrepreneur.
A unique real-time web analytics tool that doesn’t require any code to be implemented to setup event tracking. The Event Visualizer allows you to define analytics events by performing the action yourself and so anyone in your organisation can set up a conversion funnel or retention report in seconds. You can also search for an individual user to see every action they’ve done or find users based upon a specific behaviour.
Heap Analytics offers an integrated graphics solution to plot changes in key metrics over time. This allows you to adjust the range, granularity and visualisation as you require. The solution integrates easily with most popular data analysis tools and you can run your own SQL queries or export data to tools such as Tableau.
A free plan is available for up to 5,000 sessions a month or up to 50,000 sessions per month if you add their badge to your website. A 14 day free trial is available for the Custom Plan.
An enterprise web analytics tool incorporating near real-time web analytics, data monitoring and comparative benchmarking. The click-stream reports are very powerful and allow you to see how visitors navigate around your site.
You can expand the IBM Digital Analytics solution to include multiple sites, offline customer behaviour, ad relevancy, impression attribution and social media channels.
A highly recommended and powerful web analytics tool and digital marketing optimisation platform. The solution has three key advantages over traditional web analytics tools. It allows for flexible custom data with an easy to use API, it focuses on individual users and it tracks user behaviour on a multi-session basis.
By tracking user behaviour on a multi-session basis, and by aliasing anonymous cookie data with identifying information, (e.g. email address), Kissmetrics doubles as a customer database. You can collect detailed purchase information and analyse how it correlates with your behavioural analytics data. This provides a comprehensive view of an individual’s interactions with your site over time. This make it one of the most unique of the web analytics tools on the market.
The product is highly thought of for identifying holes in the conversion funnel. It allows you to build ad-hoc queries to drill down on very specific segments.
A comprehensive real-time web and conversion analytics tool. The free tool will show you how your Google Analytics stats match up with the industry standard. It offers a range of plans, including an enterprise solution. 30-day free trial available and a 60-day money back guarantee.
This is technically one of the most advanced of the web analytics tools on the market. It is superior to Google Analytics for behavioural tracking and is great for content-focused websites. It is also less relevant for e-commerce sites.
You can create easy funnels on Mixpanel and visualise them in the user interface. It also allows you to segment users based upon source of traffic or other characteristics (e.g. city) and how they interact with your site. The Explore feature enables you to create profiles for individual users which can be very useful for assisting Customer Services in supporting existing users.
Due to the complexity of the solution it requires a dedicated analyst who can manage it on a daily basis to fully understand the tool and ensure it is set up correctly to measure all your key metrics. To fully integrate API tracking within the solution also needs a fair amount of technical knowledge. It also requires frequent integration with your website if it has to measure specific events or you regularly update or release new features.
A self-hosted, open-source Free web analytics platform. Matomo is a comprehensive web analytics tool but unlike many packages, there is no limit to the amount of data you can store for free. It also has a mobile app. Because it is held on your own server you own the data and can integrate easily with your own internal systems.
A fully integrated and powerful enterprise web analytics tool that includes analytics, segmentation, testing, targeting and re-marketing. An excellent tool for tracking user segments, purchase funnels, scenarios, drop-off and bounce rates. The solution integrates with 3rd party data including app stores, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Webtrends analytics offers:
Unlimited data collection
Multi-channel measurement across social, mobile, web and SharePoint
Real-time tracking of customer activity across multiple channels including web, apps and emails. It provides a comprehensive profile for every user, customisable segmentation, funnels, retention and automated driven actions. A Free version is available.
Web analytics tools are critical to get visibility of what content your visitors are engaging with and to better understand visitor behaviour when they land on your site. For start-ups get yourself Google Analytics as this is a free and very comprehensive solution that will meet most needs. Other solutions often provide free trial periods and so if you are looking for more advanced web analytics tools there are plenty to choose from without having to commit to a major investment.
Is a one-page website a passing fad that participants will in time see as a ghastly mistake or do they have a place as a practical alternative to the traditional large website? Now, I’m not questioning the role of a single page website for a landing page for promotions or product announcements, special project, showcasing a portfolio or a website with minimal content.
What I’m talking about here is the site with more than a few pages. Where there is more than one layer of navigation and where there is a need for an archive of content and a desire for social sharing. The idea of a one-page website is to reduce clutter by only serving essential content. However, does this desire for simplification actually lead to greater user frustration because too much content has been removed and it makes sharing of content difficult?
What is a one-page website?
Initially one-page websites used a single page to dynamically load all pages at once. This allowed the user to scroll endlessly to view different sections of the site. However, increasingly such sites use CSS3 and AJAX to display navigation menus that take users directly to the section they are interested in.
What are the benefits?
Less is more is undoubtedly true sometimes. There is a danger that we present too much information to a user at any one time. This can create cognitive overload. A one-page website reduces the number of decisions users have to make. It removes the need for complex navigation to direct visitors to specific pages.
Easier browsing & no dead-ends:
As all content is on a one-page there is no need for multi-layer navigation. There is no risk of the user getting lost or finding a page with little or no content. This should speed up the browsing process and reduce the number of decisions users have to make.
Easier to keep content up-to-date:
Having substantially less content to maintain and all of it on a one-page significantly reduces the resources required to maintain a website. This should make the site less costly to run and allow what content is shown to be kept more up-to-date.
It is much easier to ensure your website is mobile friendly when you only have a single page to optimise. Since Google decided to give preference to mobile friendly websites this has probably given a big boost to the appeal of the one-page website. However, if all your content is not accessible by mobile devices (e.g. you use flash for some elements), then this is only a sticking plaster to hide a much bigger problem that needs addressing.
The limitation of only having a single page to communicate your value proposition and get a user to take action means that you only need essential messages and content. This may be a good discipline and is why single page websites are often used for landing pages to improve conversion rates. The risk for a multi-product website though is that some visitors require more detailed information about a product or service before they make a decision. For these types of visitors they are likely to become frustrated with a one-page website as they won’t be able to find the content they are looking for.
Take visitors on a journey:
One-page websites are more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing. They also encourage users to go on a journey rather than the traditional static experience of just looking at content on separate pages. Designers may create movement by triggering images or copy to appear as the visitor scrolls down the page.
If your whole website is designed for a single product in mind then you might get a small improvement in SEO ranking. Google will apply your page rank to the whole website. If you have more than one product or service this will not be the case and it could be detrimental to your search rankings.
So there are a number of potential benefits when creating a single page website, but what about the drawbacks?
Longer load speed:
Trying to serve all your content on a single page could reduce your site load speed. This may result in a higher bounce rate and lower conversion as a direct consequence of this change in the performance of your site. It could also affect your Google rankings as the search engine penalises slow loading sites. This should be a major concern for any marketer as people are impatient and don’t like to wait more than two or three seconds for a website to load.
A one-page website gives you little flexibility to add new content and so if you want to add new products or services you are going to be severely limited. It also doesn’t allow you to build up an archive of content, such as a blog. You will have to send visitors to another site to give them access to such an archive. This is not a great user experience and your main site doesn’t benefit from the SEO value of such content.
When a visitor first comes to your site it is important that you have sufficient content to draw them into your proposition before you can expect them to take action. Many first time visitors are not ready to sign up and this is why returning visitor conversion is often higher than new visitor conversion.
People need to be engaged and persuaded by relevant and interesting content. However, if you only have a one-page site, you can only have a limited amount of content in each section and there are no other pages to navigate to. This could mean you will experience a fall in engagement and time spent on your site as there is substantially less content to encourage visitors to browse the site. This may or may not be good for conversion.
SEO Keywords and Content Relevancy:
Google and other search engines look for relevancy through keywords in the content to match with the search query. With a single page website you may be fine with your primary keywords. It is likely that you will struggle to achieve relevancy on sub-topics and terms that would rank better on their own pages.
Google’s Hummingbird update aims to match the meaning of a query to relevant content, not just keywords on a page. By restricting yourself to a single page to cover all your products, features, benefits, technical details, testimonials, partners, market segments and more – you are severely limiting your opportunities to optimize content for SEO relevancy.
We live in the age of social media sharing, whether it is photos, video, quotes, Tweets, stories and more. However, one-page websites make it difficult to share specific content or snippets of a post, as you always land on the same page. If you have a blog you will have to take them away from your main site to where it is hosted.
Understanding Engagement Points:
As the whole site has a single URL it makes it difficult to identify what content your users are interested in and how they browse your site. You will also see an increase in your bounce rate as there is nowhere else for your visitors to go. However, this does not really help you understand how well visitors are engaging with your content.
There is undoubtedly a role for a one-page website as landing pages, promotions, special projects, web toys, stand-alone games etc. Given the number of disadvantages they exhibit they may not to be a sustainable alternative for multi-page websites. We should look to validate these risks with data. Many innovations don’t conform to existing best practices because we have data to support the status quo.
Maybe in time some of the major limitations of one-page websites can be resolved or mitigated. At present they create significant challenges for multi-page websites. Users are not going to thank you if they can’t find the content they are looking for. They are most likely to disappear off to a competitor website.
Designers of multi-page websites could look to incorporate some of the innovate ideas and discipline of the single page website. Learning to keep content to an absolute minimum might reduce some of the distractions and information overload. Single page websites definitely have their place and are pushing the boundaries for website design.
Most websites use a video of real person for their web presenter as this can have more impact than an animated figure, but animation is another option for you to consider.
A website presenter can be an effective way of getting engagement when a visitor first arrives or your site to assist the onboarding process. A website presenter can also help explain up-sell or cross-sell during a key step in a customer journey.
Virgin Holidays achieved a 30% uplift in seat upgrades by using a MWP web presenter, whilst Lettingref.com managed a 9% increase in online sign ups that went onto make a deposit by using
a virtual greeter to introduce and explain their service. Econsultancy on the other hand employed a web presenter to explain their membership plans and increased sign ups by 15%.
Real Human Website Presenter:
Here are some video website greeter companies that I have come across.
1. Bellmedia:Offers high quality video website presenter and video web banners. Cost includes 12-month free video hosting.
2.innovatemedia: Employs actors and actresses to deliver a real human website presenter for your website to improve engagement and increase conversion. Choose from their talent database or from 2 to 3 actors and actresses at each shoot day.
3.Model2web: Allows you to view and select from models on their website to create a virtual spokesperson for your website to improve engagement and sales. Prices start from $79 with no monthly fee, cost is a one off payment, with no hosting fee.
4. Studios1: Delivers video web presenter to engage visitors as they land on your site. Offers over 150 actors and actresses to choose from.
5. Vopres: Real-human video presenters to inspire trust, increase sales and reduce customer service costs. Prices start from £395 for a 60 second video (minimum order of 3 videos).
Animated Video Presenters:
1. SitePal:Displays an animated speaking avatar to greet visitors to your site to improve engagement and reduce bounce rates. 15 day Free trial available. Over 250 stock avatars which can be customized, including using your own uploaded images and have an API for advanced functionality.
2. CodeBaby:Offers a range of customized animated avatar solutions for both self-service and e-learning needs. Self-service includes conversion optimization which uses emotionally intelligent response segments to direct the customer experience towards your business goal. Other solutions include benefits, health and service adviser.
Minimising friction in the customer experience is crucial to conversion rate optimisation. User experience tools that show you where and how your visitors interact with your site can provide valuable insights into where the pain points are in your customer journey.
User experience tools allow you to watch real customers browse your site and produce click and mouse movement heatmaps to understand where they interact with a screen. You can also create and track conversion funnels so that you can see where the big drop-off points are on your site. Form analytics tell you which input fields visitors often miss out and exactly how long each input field takes to complete. Some user experience tools also provide on-site polls and surveys.
This is why user experience tools are useful for conversion optimisation and a must for anyone wanting to better understand the customer experience. At one time user experience tools would cost thousands of pounds a month. But now suppliers such as Hotjar are offering less than £100 a month and have expanded the market by targeting small and medium sized organisations. For native apps there are user experience tools like UXcam to understand your mobile customer experience.
Contentsquare offer a full suite of solutions, including heatmaps (mouse moves, clicks, attention, scroll reach & link analytics), session playback recordings, real-time monitor, conversion funnels, and form analytics.
For websites the advanced filtering feature allows you to search for recordings of specific scenarios or events and segment your heatmaps (e.g.by new and returning visitors).
The page console provides you with in-page web analytics about any individual page. Including engagement time, page views, bounce rate and lots more. Site reports can also show pages by load speed, engagement, clicks, scroll reach and errors.
No pricing information is displayed on their site, but the cost is based on page views. Data is saved for 30 or 60 days.
Primarily a heatmap tool that shows clicks, mouse movements, and scroll maps. The overlay tool shows you the number of clicks on each element on the page. Confetti displays every click on a page segmented by source of traffic. It is also able to handle multiple domains, iFrames and flash objects.
All plans are Free for the first 30 days, but if you to to Toole.io you can get 3 months free. The Basic plan costs just $9 a month for up to 10,000 visits a month, 10 active pages and daily reports. The Standard plan $19 a month goes up to 25,000 visits per month and 20 active pages. Pro plan costs $99 a month and offers up to 250,000 visits per month, up to 100 active pages, hourly reporting, advanced filtering, mobile heatmaps and multiple users.
An enterprise user experience tool with a full suite of solutions including dynamic heatmaps (clicks, attention, scroll, time and attribution), session recordings, form analytics, advanced segmentation, and email alerts.
Attribution heatmaps enable you to map interactions to content, and monitor clicks, goals and revenue. The time heatmaps allow analysis of visitor behaviour during your sites busiest time to spot and target the dead time.
The session recordings accurately records dynamic content interaction, drop-downs, responsive sites, carousels & forms. Decibel Insight also offers a mobile solution, and integrates with web analytics, voice of the customer and A/B testing tools.
There is a choice of either a Free plan oran Enterprise plan. The Free plan goes up to 5,000 page views per month and offers starter heatmaps, session recordings, date and device filtering and pre-built channels. Sessions recordings are kept for just 7 days and data is retained for 1 month.
Probably the fastest growing of the new user experience tools as it offers a great suite of features at a competitive price. Hotjar offers standard heatmaps, form analytics, session replays, conversion funnels, surveys, feedback polls and also recruits user testers. For more details see my review of Hotjar and sign up for free if you have less than 2,000 page views per day.
The Basic Free plan samples up to 2,000 page views per day, 300 session recordings, 3 funnels. Up to 1,000 visitors per heatmap and forms, plus 3 polls, surveys and recruiters.
The Business plan is priced on a sliding scale based upon daily page views. This starts from €89 a month for up to 20,000 views a day and goes up €589 a month for up to 400,000 views a day.
Conversion funnels allow you to define a series of pages that leads towards a goal. Form analytics features a hesitation report which shows how much time on average visitors are hesitating on each input field. The hesitation algorithm tracks a variety of signals that helps to determine whether a visitor is engaged or hesitating.
Inspectlet has a Free plan for a single website, and up to 100 session recordings a month together with the heatmap suite. The Micro plan costs $39 per month (up to 5,000 recordings) for a single website and account user.
Accelerate is their more comprehensive plan which is priced at $299 a month (up to 125,000 recordings & 20 websites). This plan allows for multiple account users and provides conversion funnel analytics and in-depth form analytics. They also offer an Enterprise plan for larger organisations.
Offers a full package including heatmaps (mouse movements, clicks and scrolls), session recordings, conversion funnels, form analytics, live chat and visitor polls. The dashboard allows you to monitor real-time analytics to see how many people are on your site, compare historical statistics and see what keywords, locations, referrers, tweets, languages and more are driving traffic and behaviour on your site.
The session recordings feature allows you to search by behavioural tags so that you can see for example visitors who abandon their basket or visited a product page but did not check-out. The form analytics provides data on which fields are most often the last abandoned, time to start, time spent on each field, the order visitors filled out each field and which fields are repeated the most.
7 day Free trial available on the Small plan. The Small plan costs $10 per month and gives you up to 50,000 page view per month across 3 sites and data lasts for 30 days. The X-Large plans is priced at $100 a month for 100,000 page views and 25 sites. All visitors are recorded until the monthly maximum is reached and will not re-start until you either upgrade or the month ends.
A comprehensive user experience tool with heatmaps (move movements, clicks and scrolls), session recordings (including mobile gestures), link analytics, and form analytics. The form analytics lets you watch visitors’ keystrokes and how the form fills as they interact with your site.
Offers a limited Free plan for up to 100 recordings a month for a single website. Subscription plans start with the Small plan for $15 a month. This provides up to 1,000 recorded sessions for one website and a month’s storage of data.
The Extra Large plan costs $299 a month and gives you up to 100,000 recorded sessions for 30 websites and 3 months storage. An enterprise plan is also available for over a million recorded sessions.
A full service tool which offers heatmaps (mouse movements, clicks, scrolls and browser attention), session recordings (including from mobile devices) , conversion funnels, and form analytics.
You can use their API to feed data recorded in real-time into your own CRM systems to respond automatically to targeted events. They also integrate third party solutions such as Google Analytics, Campaign Monitor, Cheetahmail and Olark.
Glassbox target organisations with over 500,000 page impressions a month and does not display any pricing on its site. Cost is based upon page impressions.
A recently launched user experience tool offers a comprehensive range of tools including session recordings, heatmaps, user polls and surveys, form analytics, and conversion funnels.
Pricing: The Basic plan costs just $41 a month for up to 110,000 monthly page views. The Plus plan costs $83 a month for up to 275,000 monthly page views and the Pro plan is $149 a month for up to 550,000 monthly page views.
Finally, Howuku is a popular budget alternative to Hotjar. Despite its low cost the solution offers a full range of features including session recordings, heatmaps, funnels, polls, A/B testing, event tracking and more. The website console is intuitive to use and it’s easy to set up heatmaps and start recording users. They give you an initial 14 day free trial period to allow you to fully evaluate the platform.
Plans start from just $16 a month for a single website and up to 20,000 pageviews. Their Growth plan costs just $36 a month for 5 websites and up to 100,000 pageviews. The Premium plan also allows you to track up to 15 websites for just $80 a month and to track up to 500,000 pageviews.
Research by the Nielsen Norman Group indicates that most visitors will take just 10 to 12 seconds to decide whether to exit a webpage if it doesn’t sufficiently engage them. Customer onboarding tools can help reduce anxiety and improve engagement. Users know that websites are of highly variable quality and are ruthlessly looking to abandon the dross as soon as they can. So if there is any room for confusion over what the next step in the user journey might be you can be sure this will adversely affect your conversion rate.
“People know that most web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.” – Jakob Nielsen – NNG
Why not try improve the onboarding process by giving visitors assistance with navigation guidance or tutorials? Why leave it to chance that users will understand how to use a new feature or know what the next step in the sign-up process is. Give them some help and improve your conversion rate by using one or more of the following customer onboarding tools.
13 Top Customer Onboarding Tools:
Here are summarises of top customer onboarding tools to guide and educate your new visitors. Reduce your bounce rate and improve engagement by giving your new customers all the help they need in real-time.
A customer onboarding tool that serves tooltip-style messages/action to provide a product tour to ensure visitors understand how to navigate or get the most out of feature. It also offers a full-screen ‘Welcome page’, a slide-out and in-app alert. You can inform your customers of new features using bold messaging with a video, gif or coach marks to engage visitors to try out your new enhancement. In addition, Appcues allows you to segment visitors using intelligent targeting so that you can show the right experience to the appropriate user at the best time to improve conversion.
Pricing: Plans start from $99 a month for up to 1,000 monthly
active users (MAUs) who are defined as visitors who sign-in to your platform in any given month. The ‘Growth’ plan starts from $699 a month for up to 20,000 MAU’s and there is a ‘Custom’ plan for large enterprises which offers unlimited MAU’s.
This is a real-time personalisation platform which offers the ability to record how visitors behave and respond to them to improve engagement and conversion rates. The platform monitors the actions of visitors to identify their intentions and needs. This allows you to send users messages to help promote demos to improve new customer engagement levels.
Pricing: Contact Evergage for a quotation based upon your specific needs.
One of the best free customer on boarding tools as this displays a visible bar that sits at the top of a web page to draw the web visitors’ attention. HelloBar acts as a primary website call-to-action. You can include HelloBar on one page, several pages, or across your entire website.
This is an online customer support tool that allows you to create interactive user guides and onboarding walkthroughs. It aims to create sequential instructions to interactively guide users on your website of app.
Pricing: 15 day free trial available. No costs shown on the website.
Offers the ability to create walkthroughs, tooltips, Launchers and support articles for web applications.
Pricing: The cost of the solution is dependent upon the number of active users you have and the plan you select. For 10,000 active users the Standard plan would cost $208 per month, the Standard Pro would be $307 per month and the Enterprise plan $1,220 per month.
Offers an extensive range of customer onboarding solutions from live chat, targeted email and in-app messages, gathering of customer feedback and providing customer support inside your web or mobile app, and by email. The platform provides real-time analytics of what is happening on your site and allows you to segment visitors to deliver targeted messaging when they return to your site or app (e.g. inform them about a new release or promotion).
Pricing: All single solutions (e.g. Live Chat) start from $49 a month and an additional product can be added from $4 a month.
Thiscustomer onboardingtool monitors and analyses browsing behaviour to serve prominent and relevant messaging to assist user navigation when likely to be most effective on your website. You can set rule-based messaging, including timers, triggers and conditions for your messaging to improve their relevance. Segment messages for specific groups or even individuals based upon rules and visitor activity on your website.
In addition the tool allows you to A/B test messages, text, design and timing to understand what works best. You can also sync across devices to ensure users can continue a user journey from where they left off. Free Net Promoter Score (NPS) also available.
Pricing: A free plan is available for up to 100 users and simple tooltips. The ‘Professional’ plan has a free trial period for you to try out the solution and agree a price with Iridize. The is also an enterprise ‘Customized’ plan for large organisation.
This is tool gives users a virtual tour or your website or app. It is programmed to be cross-browser compatible and Joyride version 2 has many new features. This includes responsive design, edge-aware tooltips that re-position based on proximity to the edge of the window, depreciated inline positioning of tooltips and better support for right and left aligned tooltips.
The company acquired Autosend and offers a messaging app and chat bots to create automated personalised behavioural and transctional communications with customers via email, SMS text or in-app messages.
Pricing: The cost is dependent upon the number of active users you have on your site. For 10,000 active users the cost would be $40 per month.
This solution uses in-app walkthroughs to guide users through the onboarding process and uses analytics to track their progress. Pendo offers in-app walkthroughs to guide users through common tasks and features to drive preferred behaviours. It can personalise the onboarding experience by using data to deliver individually personalised guidance to improve the relevance of the process.
If you are evaluating customer onboarding tools then you definitely should consider Walkme. The platform displays highly visible tabs adjacent to the next recommended navigation call to action. This encourages self-service, accelerates training and software adoption, improves conversion, reduces customer service costs and improve the customer experience. It can also be used to train employees to use online CRM and marketing tools to boost their productivity.
Pricing: A basic free plan overs 3 walk-thrus, up to 5 steps per walk-thru and 300 assists per month. The ‘Custom’ plan offers unlimited walk-thrus and assists, with multiple support options and multiple domains. Contact Walkme for a quote.
This solution allows you to design interactive product tours, onboarding task lists and deliver just-in-time contextual guidance. Whatfix helps users to quickly develop a high level of application competency to improve engagement and conversions. The solution also allows user-level segmentation to create a personalised user onboarding experience.
Pricing: Complete the form on the Whatfix website to get a personalised quote.
New customer onboarding tools can help educate and guide users to improve engagement and reduce bounce rates on landing pages. Customer onboarding tools have been known to significantly improve conversions when implemented appropriately. Whether it’s a website or an app, research has shown that unless users quickly become confident about how to navigate a site they will leave within the first 10 seconds. People are generally impatient and lazy browsers of the web. So, don’t leave anything to chance and see if one of these customer onboarding tools will help solve your new customer engagement problem.
Live chat can help improve visitor engagement, reduce bounce rates and cut operational costs by offering real-time interaction with customers whilst they are on your website. Why wait until visitors have left your site to try and contact them? This is a key tool for conversion rate optimisation and helps to improve your conversion rate in real-time.
Live Chat is the ideal solution for dealing with a number of issues with your website. There are six main benefits of integrating live chat on your site:
Benefits of Live Chat:
Pain points –
When a customer has a frustration or an unmet need, live chat can help resolve these ‘pain points’ by giving them instant access to a company representative. Web forms are common pain point for many visitors. By adding live chat to forms you can often significantly improve your conversion rate.
Increased sales –
Live chat is a proven tool for increasing sales because if a customer becomes confused or unsure about something they can be walked through the process. This helps reduce visitors dropping out of key revenue generating customer journeys and puts the company representative in a good position to recommend additional products.
It gives you a competitive advantage –
Many websites don’t offer live chat on their websites or only for a limited number of customers (e.g. registered customers). Given the benefits to your customers and your organisation you will be able to leverage it as a competitive advantage. Ensure it is available for new customers, whether on your sign-up form or on your homepage. They often need more assistance than existing customers.
It’s convenient and reassures customers –
A live chat system provides immediate access to help for customers who may be struggling to find what they are looking for on your website. The presence of live chat also provides reassurance to visitors that they will be able to contact someone easily and conveniently if they do get into difficulties on your website.
It reduces expenses –
Live chat can save on staff time and phone expenses by lowering average interaction costs and improve contact centre efficiency by enabling employees to handle multiple chats. As staff spend less time on the phone because customers can use live chat to contact Customer Services this means that contact centre operators can multi-task during chat conversations and reduce the waiting queue significantly compared to a traditional call centre.
Live chat allows you to gather feedback about your website –
Having the ability to communicate directly with visitors whilst they are browsing your website gives you the opportunity to gather feedback on your website and generate ideas for improving the user experience and revenues.
These services can lead to a significant uplift in revenues to provide a substantial return on investment. Here is a link to a great infographic that summarises many of the benefits of live chat.
All the providers listed below offer free trial periods and so you can test them out without making any financial commitment.
An enterprise chat software that offers innovative features including an automated, tiered chat routing that manages chats between agents and has extensive monitoring and reporting capabilities.
The open API allows surveys, chat windows and promotional pop-ups to be extensively customised. It allows agents to assist visitors to fill out forms, complete purchases in the shopping cart and access technical support. The dashboard also allows agents to see the customer’s referring webpage, keywords they used, their geographical location and their chat history. Free demo.
A fully customisable live-chat facility that offers a comprehensive range of features including extensive real-time monitoring, 1 or 2 way video chat, offer demonstrations, ask for feedback or gather leads, and design multiple fully configurable forms. Dashboard allows agents to view how visitor’s arrived at website, their location and much more. Offers full integration with CRM systems, social media platforms and Google Analytics. 21 dayFree trial.
A relatively new live chat solution that also offers light CRM functionality to proactively target customer segments according to their online behaviour. The chat button is customisable, with email alerts to keep you up-to-date with activity and you can even respond to messages when offline as Crowdstream will email you any messages whilst you are away.
The solution allows you to create smart segments with triggers based upon customer behaviour and you can also broadcast messages in a non-intrusive way to all visitors or just to specific customer segments.
The Starter plan (up to 2,000 profiles) is available for just £35 per month, whilst the Growth plan (up to 5,000 profiles) costs £75 per month. A Business plan (up to 25,000 profiles) is also available for £195 per month. All plans include a 14 day Free trial.
Offers an enterprise fully customisable live-chat facility including real-time monitoring, allowing chat windows and promotional pop-ups to be extensively tailored. Comprehensive dashboards at campaign-level for understanding how engagement is affecting your KPIs and operational level for how your agents are performing. 30 dayFree trial.
The UK’s leading small business telephone answering service provider also offers a live chat solution. It offers a 24 hour service and will email key chats directly to you so that you don’t miss out on any urgent business opportunities.
Enterprise and small business live chat software which is fully customisable allowing chat windows to be tailored to your business needs. Extensive dashboard enables behaviour of visitors to be tracked and monitored to improve engagement. The missed chat report allows you to view a list of all the times a chat request was made and how an agent responded to the request. Monitor agent login activity using an agent login report which tracks when agents are working, on a break or actively chatting. Has a Free trial offer.
Provides a suite of plans from 1 user to enterprise. Provides intelligent targeting for a personalized experience. Dynamically invite visitors with a personalized message based on their predicted requirements. Allows you to create rules and triggers – based on visitor behaviour – with specific actions allowing you to segment visitors into categories such as geographic location and repeat visitors. A 30 day free trial .
Offers a unique chat design along with a wide range of contact options to help build customer engagement. Zopim’s services also give you analytical tools for understanding your customers’ needs and making better business decisions. The chat window customisation options are limited to changing your window to match company brand colours.
Live chat solutions offer a win-win situation. Free trails give you the opportunity to work out which one works best for you and customers get a simple and instant means of contacting you when they need your help. That is not to say you don’t have to put the policies and procedures in place to manage live chat. However, live chat does give you an opportunity to engage with customers when it most matters and encourages a two-way conversation so that both parties benefit.
Usability research is essential for checking whether a site or app is intuitive and easy to navigate to create a great customer experience. It helps inform our decisions about the choice architecture. Remote usability research solutions or face-to-face user interviews identify the main usability problems. Do these methods of research reflect real behaviour?
How many usability research proposals acknowledge that the process of undertaking usability research can influence the behaviour we observe? We may have taken users out their natural environment and set them objectives that lead them to behave in a certain way.
Asking respondents direct questions is especially problematic as people over-think issues. They switch to their slow, rational brain when encountering a mentally demanding task. Unfortunately most of the time when we are browsing a website we rely on our fast, intuitive, unconscious brain to make decisions without really engaging our conscious thought process. The implication here is that we cannot even access the rationale behind much of our behaviour when interacting with a website.
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, fast and slow
“People don’t have reliable insight into their mental processes, so there is no point asking them what they want”.
Avoid taking people away from their natural environment if at all possible. Certainly don’t use focus groups as this is about far away of a normal browsing behaviour as you can get. How often do you search the web with a group of people you have never met and discuss your likes and dislikes of the site?
This is why remote user testing methods have an advantage over some face-to-face methods. Participants can be in their normal environment, with their normal distractions and so their behaviour is less likely to be influenced by the testing process. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be some bias as a result of the testing method. But it may be substantially less than techniques which take the user out of their normal browsing environment.
Observe and listen rather than ask:
You will get more meaningful insights from simply observing and listening to your users during a usability test as past behaviour is a more reliable indicator of future behaviour. Try to avoid verbal interventions as much as possible. People don’t like to admit when they do something wrong and you are likely to influence how they then behave in any future tasks. If you do want some verbal feedback, just ask your testers to say what they are doing as they go through the task.
But always keep in the back of your mind that usability testing is about informing your judgement, and not to prove or disprove someone’s opinions. It is also an iterative process that should begin early on in the development of a design.
Most of our daily choices are made by our fast, intuitive brain which means we don’t have time to rationalise why we are making those decisions. New implicit research techniques such as functional MRI, EEG, biometrics, eye tracking, facial decoding and implicit reaction time studies (IRTs) are allowing marketers to access the sub-conscious part of the brain to better understand how we respond to communications and designs.
Eye tracking research helps identify which specific elements of a page or message attract our attention, but also the communication hierarchy of messages. Heatmaps allows us to display this data to reveal the proportion of visitors who noticed each of the key elements on a page. Plus the frequency and duration of gaze on each element.
Click and mouse movement heatmaps from visual analytics solutions such as Hotjar and Decibel Insights can provide similar insights for existing pages. For true eye tracking research though solutions from Affectiva and Sticky allow for you to evaluate both new and existing web page designs.
In the final analysis the only way you will know if a change identified through usability research improved agreed success metrics is to conduct an online experiment in the form a A/B test. It is only when visitors are acting on their own impulses and with their own money that you will see how they behave.
Prioritise the insights you get from usability testing to decide which are worthy of A/B testing. A/B testing will give you the evidence to show exactly how much difference your usability testing has had on your conversion success metrics.
Pictures are important for websites because studies indicate that a relevant image improves engagement and views of a page. Images grab our attention and can trigger emotions much more quickly than text. Our brains process images almost instantly, but it takes much longer to read copy. But do you need worry about image optimisation?
Serving images has a cost as it increases the weight of a page and consequentially the page often takes longer to load. According to the latest HTTP Archive Report which collects technical data from half a million of the web’s most popular websites, the average page now weighs 2,262 KB, up by 16% during 2015. The average webpage has grown by 221% since 2010 and well over half (64%)
of the weight (1,443 KB) is comprised of images.
To keep pages to a manageable weight it is important that images
are optimised to avoid slow load speed which can be damaging to conversion. Google penalises sites with slow load speeds and visitors are more likely to abandon a site the longer it takes to load. Image optimisation directly influences SEO and conversion.
Research by Akamai and Gomez.com discovered that almost a half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and many will leave a site if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Etsy found that 160KB of additional images resulted in a 12% increase in the bounce rate on mobile devices.
To help alleviate these problems here are 14 resources, many of which are free, for image optimisation.
A Free online image optimisation tool that supports GIF, JPG, and PNG. Upload an image up to 9MB, select compression level, and view.2. FILEminimizer Pictures
Offers Free software to reduce the size of your images, photos and pictures by up to 95%. Compress your JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG, and EMF images and pictures. Compress whole digital photo albums at once. Choose from four different compression levels. FILEminimizer also comes in a premium suite that integrates with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, and Lotus Notes.3. FileOptimizer
A Free lossless file image optimisation tool for Windows that supports over 100 different formats. FileOptimizer has a simple interface that’s easy to automate. All processed files are copied to the recycle bin, so you can easily restore them. FileOptimizer is an open source application.4. ImageOptim
This is aFree application for Mac that optimizes PNG, JPG, and GIF images. To do so, ImageOptim integrates a batch of tools, including PNGOUT, Pngcrush, Zopfli, JpegOptim, and Gifsicle. ImageOptim finds best compression parameters and removes unnecessary comments and colour profiles.
A Free tool that’s available online or as a download. Change image dimensions, quality, or file size. Choose an image or compress images in bulk.6. JPEGMini
A image optimisation and compression application that reduces (up to 80 percent) the size of photographs, while preserving their full resolution and quality. JPEGmini Pro supports photos up to 50 megapixels and includes a plugin for Adobe Lightroom. Lite is Free. 7. Kraken.io
Designed with the purpose of being a single, easy-to-use tool to optimise images. Offers multiple methods for resizing and cropping images, lossless and lossy options, and has a WordPress plugin. You can store optimised images directly in Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace Cloud Files.8. PNGOUTWin
An application for Windows that uses its own proprietary algorithms for image optimisation and compression. Convert and compress to PNG from TIFF, GIF, BMP, and other formats, or optimize your existing PNG files. Compress one or more files, and drag and drop multiple files on the main window.9. PNGGauntlet
A Free PNG shrinking application for Windows. It combines PNGOUT, OptiPNG, and DeflOpt to create the small lossless PNGs. PNGGauntlet converts JPG, GIF, TIFF, and BMP files to PNG.10. PNGOptimizer
A Free small Windows program that cleans and reduces PNG files. It also converts other lossless image formats (BMP, GIF, and TGA) into PNG. PNGOptimizer has a simple drag-and-drop interface and creates easily available PNG screenshots.11. PunyPNG
AFree online tool that supports JPG, GIF and PNG. Compress up to 20 files, with a max of 500KB each. The Pro plan offers higher compression and optional “lossy” (e.g. slight quality reductions) optimizations, with a 1MB max file size for 5,000 images per month.
(Radical Image Optimization Tool) is aFree image optimisation programme for Windows to visually adjust compression parameters while retaining minimum file size. Compare the original image next to the optimised image in real-time and instantly see the new file size. Its features include batch support for multiple files, image adjustment tool, and colour reduction.13. TinyPNG
A Free online tool that provides lossy compression to reduce the file size of your PNG files. By selectively decreasing the number of colours in the image, fewer bytes are required to store the data. TinyPNG also offers a plugin for Photoshop, for Windows and Mac.
This is a Free cross-platform tool image optimisation for PNG and JPG files. Trimage uses OptiPNG, Pngcrush, AdvanceCOMP, and Jpegoptim, depending on the file type. All images are compressed on the highest available lossless-compression levels. Available for Linux and other Unix systems.
Poker is a game of strategy and just like conversion optimisation unless you have a clear strategy you are sure to lose.
When I was optimising a major poker website and app I decided I needed to get under the skin of the average player. One of the ways I did this was by learning to play poker and joining competitor sites to compare the user experience. As I became more experienced at the game, I realised that there are many lessons that can be applied to conversion optimisation strategy.
Understand the basic rules:
If you don’t know the hand rankings for poker you are going to make a lot of bad decisions and lose money quickly.
Similarly for conversion optimisation strategy you need to understand basic web conventions and have a clear process for optimisation and testing. This will help ensure that you can spot obvious problems with your site and you have a systematic approach to improving the performance of your sites. This will avoid random testing and improve your chances of making the best decisions to increase conversion. If you want to read up on this subject check out my post on the optimisation process and some awesome books to read.
Many good poker players can be very aggressive at times. This can unsettle their opponents. However, it can also put off novice players and make them abandon the game.
With conversion optimisation strategy you need to assume that most new visitors are unaware of your brand. If you are overly aggressive you may win over some brave souls, but you will probably scare off the majority of your new customers. People don’t like feeling they are being pushed into making a snap decision. Pop-ups are almost universally employed on poker websites in an attempt to get visitors to take action. But these can often just annoy visitors. Conversion should be a pleasurable experience for the visitor and we should avoid over reliance on any single approach.
To make the best decisions, it is essential to be calm, logical and to consider the probabilities of hand strength and the likelihood of other cards being revealed at each stage of the game. However, in reality many players struggle with the maths and let their emotions drive their decision making.
The behaviour of website visitors is no different to poker players. Visitors are heavily influenced by their emotional state, environment and what they think other people are doing. This all influences how they interpret content and functionality on your site. Conversion optimisation strategy should allow for the fact that most users are more concerned about potential losses than gains. Use money-back guarantees or free trials to reduce the perceived risk of customers making a poor decision.
We are generally poor at doing mental maths, so spell out bonuses or offers in simple terms so that users don’t have to work anything out. Use psychological hooks in your content to engage visitors at a non-rational level. This is often more important and influential than the purely logical reasons why we buy. This quote I recently came across sums up what we are dealing with:
“Few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy and pride.” Dale Carnegie
Predictable reduces cognitive strain :
A good poker player changes their tactics on a regular basis to avoid being too predictable. This works because people dislike having to deal with constant and random behaviour. It creates uncertainty which humans try to avoid at all costs. It also makes people impatient and prone to making irrational decisions.
For conversion optimisation strategy it is also important to get a balance. Ensure you don’t have too many surprises on your website that may distract or disrupt the user flow. Follow standard web-conventions when appropriate and don’t distract visitors with too much content. Clutter and offering too many choices can cause cognitive strain.
Have a clear strategy and be disciplined:
To be a successful poker player you must have a game plan as otherwise you will constantly be changing your approach in response to other players. Only play when your starting hand meets certain criteria and don’t bet unless your hand is strong enough to justify it. Review the probability of getting a winning hand at each stage of the game and know when to fold.
Conversion also requires a clear strategy to formulate hypothesis and prioritise budgets according to the chances and value of success. There must to be a potential for a significant ROI for any A/B test.
Ensure you don’t waste effort on trying to improve conversion on poorly performing pages that don’t have the traffic or potential to justify the resource. Know when to cut your loses and move onto a more promising opportunity. Sometimes it is more profitable to to focus on your better performing pages that don’t require a large up-lift to give a handsome ROI. Prioritisation is key to your success as you will never have enough time or resources to test everything.
Respect your opponents as in a majority of cases at least one competitor will have a better hand than you. Take time to observe your competitors to see what you can learn. Copy and adapt loosely, but don’t replicate what your competitors do as otherwise your site will look exactly like theirs.
It is naïve to suggest you should never copy your competitors because it won’t work on your site. Sure, not everything will work, but if you are selective and use ideas in the right context they may enhance your user experience and improve conversion. But don’t assume they have done their homework and tested new designs. A/B test them before you roll out things you copy. Also look outside of your competitors for inspiration. Most new features are likely to be adopted in other sectors first before they get to your small area of the web. You should then apply A/B testing when appropriate to validate whether an idea will benefit your site.
Don’t treat all visitors the same:
There are many different kinds of poker players and to get the best result you need to understand their tactics and behaviour. Good players will adjust their behaviour accordingly.
To improve conversion you also need to segment your customers to tailor and personalise the user experience. If you treat everyone the same you can expect average conversion. Employ customer research, web analytics, and analyse your data warehouse to better understand and segment your visitors. Develop a more relevant and personalised user journey.
Use game mechanics to engage visitors:
Poker is one of the most difficult games to master. It requires a good deal of skill, an understanding of human behaviour and a large amount of luck. However, we love games and mastery is one of our strongest motivations.
As part of your conversion optimisation strategy have you considered using gamification on to improve the user experience and conversion? Why not use gamification of steps in your user journey to engage visitors and to create interest towards your conversion goals. This can be as simple as providing regular and positive feedback or prizes (e.g. badges or loyalty points) to recognise task completion and reward behaviour that leads towards your conversion goals. Make your website fun and interesting when appropriate and visitors may want to return more often.
Poker sites bombard visitors with welcome bonus offers and tournaments with big prizes for the winners. However, for the vast majority of players who won’t be making a fortune out of poker the user experience is what matters.
This means a good conversion optimisation strategy needs to be built around a strong value proposition. Use a heuristic evaluation to check how well the user journey is relevant and provides clear directional cues on interacting with the game mechanics. This should also identify if the application has minimised friction by avoiding distractions and anxiety. Urgency is also often forgotten about to nudge players to act quickly when required.
The whole user experience needs to be pleasurable and aligned with customer expectations if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site or app. This is the same for any online business and is often forgotten in the rush to get short-term sales. The danger is that too much attention is given to fancy new product features and website changes when the basic game experience may also need some attention. Fix your user experience first before trying to be persuasive or personalise your site.
Ensure challenges are realistically achievable:
Poker sites have in the past been notorious for offering bonuses that require levels of game play that are totally unrealistic for the average user to attain. Pokerstars, and 888 now offer instant release bonuses.
Other companies, such as Betfair, continue to promote offers that are highly complex and difficult to release. Making a task too difficult to achieve for your average customer creates disappointment and resentment. Ensure your conversion optimisation strategy considers what is best for customers and not just your organisation.
Winning involves luck:
Poker involves a fair amount of luck as even the strongest starting hand can turn to nothing when new cards are revealed that link to what another player has in his or her hand. Conversion also requires a reasonable amount of luck.
In terms of conversion optimisation strategy we are also poor at predicting which new designs will perform better than an existing page design or user journey. For this reason companies like Google and Netflix, who are in the mature phase of testing, often have test failure rates of 80% to 90%. Scale matters when you can’t rely on low-hanging fruit and so it is important to ramp up the number of tests you run to generate a few big wins. The more tests you run the greater the likelihood you will get lucky.
For a customer to buy at any moment in time requires that they are ready to act. If your proposition is not perceived to have the highest chance of helping them meet a current goal they are likely to go elsewhere. If a visitor gets distracted by a more urgent and pressing goal you will also probably lose them. Competitors are also constantly trying to move the goal posts in their favour so don’t be surprised if your conversion rate is in a constant state of flux.