Five Design Mistakes That Kill Conversion Rates

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Good web design is usually simple and intuitive. That doesn’t mean web design is easy or that design mistakes don’t occur. This is why it’s important to bring together specialists. Such as UX design, conversion optimisation and user research to help create a great user experience that delivers a high conversion rate.

Design mistakes occur because even with the best intentions things are missed or compromises are made that can have a huge impact on the user experience and conversion rates. That is why it’s important to track user behaviour and monitor the customer experience on a continuous basis. A heuristic evaluation of a site will often uncover a multitude of sins and areas of interest that need further investigating.

Here are a five common mistakes that can affect your conversion rate.

1. Dead end:

Providing additional resources or tools is a great way of engaging visitors and encouraging them to return to your website. It is still important though to include relevant call to actions to guide users where to go next after they find the resources they are searching for.

For example, the insurer Vitality Health offers users calculators and tools, including an age calculator. This is a great idea given their target audience. When visitors complete the age calculator they are taken to a page without any call-to-action. This is a dead-end for the user and a lost opportunity to give visitors clear guidance on where to go next.

Image of design mistake 1 - a dead end
Source: Vitality.co.uk

2. Unnecessary Friction:

When users are trying to complete a transaction on a secure page it is important to avoid unnecessary friction. Users may get frustrated and abandon the page. Here Tesco asks users to verify their account before completing a purchase using Clubcard vouchers. Customers are asked to enter three digits from their sixteen digit account number. This may be straightforward if customers have a Clubcard. If they have a Tesco credit card it is more of a challenge as the account number is using a small low contrast font at the bottom of the card.

Image of design mistake 2 - unnecessary friction
Source: Tesco.co.uk

A simple text message or email with a verification code would be much easier for users to deal with here. However, when I first completed this process I couldn’t understand why I kept being asked to order a new Clubcard. That’s because I naturally clicked on the CTA that is just below the image of the Tesco credit card.

The primary CTA is tucked away on the far left and not immediately below the input boxes. Users will naturally click on the CTA that is closest to their mouse position on a form. We associate items that are close to each other as being related. Furthermore, in the West when faced with multiple CTAs users will naturally click on the CTA on the right. Ensure your primary CTA is where users expect to see it as they don’t anticipate searching for a form submission CTA.

3. Excessive Negative Space:

Excessive negative or white space can push engaging content below the fold and create the impression of a false bottom. The flooring site Atrafloor.com below uses so much negative space on its “Our Story” page it looks like the page is broken and has no content. This is wasteful and reduces engagement. It also discourages users to explore the page further.

Image of design fault 3 - excessive negative space
Source: Atrafloor.com

4. Breaking web conventions:

Web conventions are the designer’s friend because they allow users to navigate and learn from experience. This means they don’t have to re-learn how to browse around a site provided it conforms to basic web conventions. Yet many sites appear to ignore this benefit of web conventions and don’t locate their primary navigation at the top of their page or down the left hand-side of the screen. See below a few examples of homepages where the primary navigation is not located where users expect it to be.

Image of design mistake 4 - breaking web conventions

Does it really matter? Well, yes it does as lots of studies and tests have shown breaking strong web conventions reduces usability and often adversely affects conversion rates. Below is an A/B test on partypoker.com. In the default experience the secondary navigation was on the right hand-side of the page. In the challenger variant the navigation had been moved to the left hand-side of the page to conform to the web convention. The variant was the clear winner with clicks on the secondary navigation up by 17% and clicks on the primary CTA (which varied according the page) up by 12% and 27% respectively.

Image of design mistake 4 - break web conventions

5. The Hamburger Icon:

Sometime we see something so often we assume that it must be working because of its popularity and we may even adopt it for our own site. This is called the bandwagon effect and unfortunately this can lead to design trends that have no evidence to support them. That’s what happened to the hamburger icon on mobile and why it can be classed as a design mistake.

Facebook adopted the hamburger icon for its mobile side menu in 2010 and after that many designers assumed it was an approved design element. However, most A/B tests and usability studies have shown that the hamburger icon reduces discoverability and conversion. A study by Whatusersdo confirmed this is 2016. For this reason companies that have testing culture have tended to either remove their hamburger icons or add a label to clarify its purpose (see Netflix below).

Image 5 - hamburger icon on mobile apps and websites
Source: Netflix.com

Another recent trend that lacks any real logic is using the hamburger icon on desktop sites. Apart from being a stupid idea, it is totally unnecessary as on a desktop screen there is no need to reduce the primary navigation down to single icon. I suspect this trend may reflect an obsession for consistency of design between mobile and desktop sites. But as I explained in a post about commitment and consistency, consistency for its own sake is not a good reason to strive for it. Consistency needs to have a benefit as otherwise it can harm the user experience.

Conclusion:

Conversion optimisation is not a simple process. It requires a culture of experimentation and evidence based decision making. However, you can prevent unnecessary problems by ensuring you always give users a clear call-to-action at the end of any user journey. Don’t let account verification create unnecessary friction through poor design and difficult tasks. Automated account verification makes this process simple and painless.

Negative or white space can be a powerful directional cue to draw the user towards a desired action. However, excessive white space creates the wrong impression and can hinder browsing activity. Web conventions assist user navigation and browsing and so avoid breaking them unless your idea improves the user experience. Breaking conventions relating to navigation are especially problematic and so should be avoided at all costs.

Finally, avoid following new design trends unless you have evidence that they improve conversions. Many design trends only become popular because designers and web masters jump on the bandwagon without first testing their impact on user behaviour. This approach to web design can seriously damage your conversion rate. If you don’t have the expertise internally consider hiring a conversion rate optimisation consultant to help guide you and transfer skills to your staff.

Conversion Rate Optimisation Strategy Mistakes

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10 Top Conversion Rate Optimisation Strategy Mistakes:

There is plenty of advice on Twitter and other social media about conversion rate optimisation strategy. ConversionXL, Widerfunnel, and Hubspot to name but a few. Despite this many organisations continue to make some basic errors that limit their ability to improve sales and revenues from their conversion rate optimisation strategy. Below are nine of the most fundamental mistakes that organisations tend to make with conversion rate optimisation strategy:

1. Don’t fully integrate web analytics tracking and reporting

Image of Google Analytics behaviour flow report

The saying that if you don’t measure something you can’t identify if you are improving or not, rings true with website optimisation. Unless you have reliable web analytics monitoring and reporting of your KPIs from the beginning to the end of the user journey. You will never really know how your site is performing and what impact tactical changes have on your revenues. You will also struggle to prioritise effectively as you need web analytics to identify the value of each step in the user journey. Conversion optimisation strategy depends upon comprehensive and reliable web analytics to inform decision making.

They are also important to validate test results and check the robustness of uplifts. A/B testing solutions only support certain browsers and devices and need to be configured to ensure they cover all important use cases. What if your test doesn’t include an alternative user journey? Your web analytics can help identify these kinds of problems so that you can fix them.

2. Conversion Rate Optimisation Strategy = A/B Testing:

Although A/B testing can be a useful optimisation technique, it is only one of many activities that an organisation needs to use for an effective conversion rate optimisation strategy. The chart below shows the many activities companies use to improve conversion rates. Companies that have an effective strategy will do all of these and more. Furthermore, they won’t begin A/B testing until they have completed a thorough user experience audit to identify and fix problems with the customer experience.

conversion rate optimisation strategy from Econsultancy

Source: Econsultancy

3. Rely on Before & After Measures:

This kind of measurement can be misleading because conversion rates continuously fluctuate due to many factors. Competitor activity, website bugs, traffic source, advertising spend and the weather are just a few that can cause your conversion rate to change. Because of this you can only be confident that a change to your website is the reason for a significant uplift or decline in conversion by running an A/B or multivariate test.

These kinds of experiments allow you to isolate the impact of the difference in the customer experience by having control. This is achieved by randomly splitting traffic to both experiences and so all other drivers of your conversion rate should influence both variants equally.

4. Don’t A/B Test.

Source: Freeimages.com

Source: Freeimages.com

OK, you’ve fixed your user experience problems. What’s next? Provided you have enough traffic and conversions A/B testing allows you to learn from your mistakes and identify what improves conversion. There are many reasons why organisations don’t conduct A/B testing, but the lack of online experiments can hinder your ability to reduce acquisition and retention costs.

A/B testing enables you to remove subjective opinions from decisions about which design or journey is better at meeting the organisation’s objectives. They also help develop an evidence based decision making culture. Which is key to a successful conversion rate optimisation strategy.

5. Only track a single measure of conversion:

Image of tape measure

Source: Freeimages.com

It is beneficial to agree a single success metric for your conversion optimisation strategy. This is especially useful for A/B tests as it provides clear direction to everyone creating experiments. But if your success metric is total revenues or sales leads, that doesn’t mean you should ignore other metrics that could suggest a change is counter-productive. For example if you are optimising to increase sales it would be appropriate to also measure average basket value and total revenues to understand how this affects overall profitability. For a conversion rate optimisation strategy to be sustainable it needs to improve long term profitability and not just short-term sales. This means having a long-term vision and suitable metrics to target.

For ecommerce this means monitoring metrics such as average order value, number of items per basket, sales from returning customers and returns. You will then get a better understanding of how the new customer experience influences user behaviour and your bottom line.

A High Bounce Rate

With content marketing a high bounce rate is often seen as an indication of low engagement. But because of the way most web analytics calculate bounce rates and time on page this may not be the case. Google Analytics defines a bounce as a single engagement hit and counts the session time for such a visitor as zero. What if some of those visitors are spending a number of minutes engrossed in a post and then exit your site? Are they not engaged?

To understand true levels of engagement you need to also track how long bounced visitors spend on a page. This can be done by adding some extra script to your GA tag and setting up events in your web analytics. The point here is that no single metric will ever give you the whole story and it is essential to delve deeper into customer behaviour to truly understand the impact of changes you make to your site.

It is also essential to segment metrics as there is no such thing as an average customer. Device, browser, new visitors and returning visitors are all metrics that can significantly influence how your conversion rate performs. It’s important to analyse the conversion rate by these metrics as otherwise you could draw the wrong conclusions.

6. Don’t have a dedicated team for CRO.

Image of skills required for website optimization

Without a dedicated conversion rate optimisation ( CRO) specialist (or a team in larger enterprises), you will not achieve the full potential from optimisation because generalists will struggle to develop the necessary skills or allocate sufficient time to the task. CRO requires specialist skills (e.g. web analytics and heuristic analysis) that take time to acquire and benefit from regular updating.

Developing strong hypothesis for testing is also a time consuming process. As your A/B testing programme matures you may notice that between 50 to 80% of tests will fail to generate a significant uplift in conversion. As a consequence you will need to run more tests to generate a reasonable return on investment (ROI).

Marketing generalists should be able to deliver landing page and other tactical tests, but they are unlikely to have the time or expertise to develop a more strategic optimisation roadmap that is required to achieve the full benefits of CRO. Generalists also often fail to develop strong hypothesis or have the time to build more complex tests as their time horizons may be too short.

Strong Test Ideas

It is essential to have a continuous supply of strong test ideas in your pipeline to achieve the necessary scale of testing required for a good ROI. A centralised CRO team can easily allocate the necessary resource for the development of test ideas and ensure priority is given to websites or pages with the most potential for generating a high ROI. This minimises duplication of effort and facilitates the sharing of test results with all CRO specialists in the organisation.

A fragmented or silos based approach to CRO is prone to failure because of its inefficient use of resources, often resulting in duplication of effort, and a focus on tactical rather than strategic optimisation. A lack of co-ordination and control of CRO also tends to prevent the implementation of a structured approach to optimisation as silo develops its own ad-hoc processes and KPIs. This is generally a recipe for disaster and a reason why CRO will fail to deliver a good ROI.

7. Put junior people in charge of optimisation. 

Source: Freeimages.comA/B testing is a form of experimental research and as such should be seen as part of your innovation strategy. It needs to be headed up by a senior person to deal with all the obstacles that prevent change in an organisation. A junior person is unlikely to have the clout to deal with office politics, and almost certainly won’t have the authority to optimise product, sales channels, Customer Services or prioritise development projects.

This is something that few companies get, for website optimisation to achieve its true potential you need to look at the whole customer journey, and optimise all the inputs, not just the new customer sign up to buy process. Look at the companies that excel at optimisation. Organisations like AmazonSpotifySkyscanner and Netflix, they all have directors or senior managers in charge of their testing strategy and don’t limit themselves to new customer journeys.

If you you don’t have a senior role in your organisation for conversion rate optimisation consider hiring a conversion rate optimisation consultant. They can review your processes and ensure your conversion rate optimisation strategy is on solid ground.

8. Don’t formulate hypothesis.

Image of a question mark

Source: Freeimages.com

When generating ideas for A/B tests it is important to base the experiment on a hypothesis about how and why the change will influence user behaviour. A hypothesis explains the rationale and also predicts the outcome of the test so that you know which success metrics to set for the test. The hypothesis needs to be based upon evidence gathered from an agreed optimisation process rather than pure gut feeling as otherwise you may struggle to learn from successful tests. Without strong hypothesis A/B testing becomes a random and undirected process that will fail to generate the full benefits of CRO.

9. Don’t have a clear strategy for testing.

6 types of tests to optimise a website page

There is no point relying on low hanging fruit and best practice to direct your A/B testing as these sources will soon run dry and you will lack direction in your testing programme. It’s important that you follow a recognised and structured optimisation process that draws insights from a range of sources, especially from customers.

And yet companies are often more concerned about competitors and copying their ideas than listening to customers. This is a serious mistake and will lead to a sub-optimal testing programme. Customer insight and usability research is vital because to develop strong testing ideas you need to have a good understanding of customer personas, goals, tasks that lead towards goals and how users interact with your website or app.

Otherwise how can you expect to develop hypothesis to predict user behaviour? You could be making assumptions about customers which might not have any basis in reality. The more insights you can get from your customers the greater the chance you have of identifying a significant problem or improvement you can make to improve conversions.

10. Think it’s all about design.

Image of craigslist.co.uk homepage

Source: craigslist.co.uk

I’ve heard this so many times, but do your visitors really come to your site to look at its design? I don’t think so. People come to your site to complete a task and are rarely interested in your “cool” design. In fact most conversion rate experts agree that all too often ugly wins over beautiful designs.

Just look at Amazon.com and ebay.com, none of them are what anyone would call aesthetically great designs. They are functional, they offer a great deal maybe and most importantly of all they let users do what they want to do without having to think too much. Conversion rate optimisation strategy must focus on the customer first and not the subjective opinions of designers.

Designers may be good at composing a new webpage or app screen, but that doesn’t mean they understand your main customer segments or know what improves conversions or revenues. Conversion optimisation strategy requires a collaborative process and so designers must work closely with CRO experts to deliver new experiences based upon evidence rather than subjective opinions. Otherwise you will end up with new experiences that are based upon design principles rather than CRO insights and there will be limited, if any, learning from the process.

18 Top Web Analytics Tools Compared

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Why Are Web Analytics Tools Important?

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:

  1. Who visits your website – in terms of number of visitors and their characteristics?
  2. Where do your visitors come from – the source of traffic?
  3. What do visitors do when they get to your site – which pages do they visit?
  4. Where do they go afterwards – if you have links to other sites (e.g. you are an affiliate)?
Google Analtyics Demographics report
Source: google analytics

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.
Google Analytics Audience overview report
Source: google analytics

Competitor Benchmarking:

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.

Visitor Behaviour:

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.

Google Analytics Behaviour Flow report
Source: google analytics

Conversion Funnel:

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.

Image of conversion funnel report from Woopra.com analytics
Source: Woopra.com

Variations in Conversion Rate:

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.

Crossbrowsertesting.com homepage
Source: Crossbrowsertesting.com

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.

Image of Google Analytics report showing conversion rate
Source: google analytics

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.

1. Adobe Analytics – Marketing Cloud:

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.

Image of Adobe Marketing Cloud Analytics
Source: adobe analytics

2. Amplitude:

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.

3. Chartbeat: 

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.

Image of Chartbeat.com Analytics homepage
Source: Chartbeat.com Analytics

4. Clicky:

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.

Image of Clicky.com analytics homepage
Source: Clicky.com analytics

5. Econda: 

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.

Image of Econda.com home page
Source: Econda.com

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.

6. Formisimo:

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.

Formisimo form analytics homepage image
Source: Formisimo form analytics

7. Gauges:

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.

gauges analytics homepage image
Source: gauges analytics

8. Google Analytics: 

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.

Ensure you migrate your Google Analytics implementation to Google Tag Manager to give you the full benefits of an agile and flexible tag management platform. Once you have installed Google Analytics you will need to set it up and this article takes you through the basics. For reports to use here are 12 Awesome custom Google Analytics reports created by experts.

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.

Google Analytics 360

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.

Google Analytics homepage image
Source: Google Analytics

9. GoSquared: 

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.

Go Squared analytics homepage image
Source: Go Squared analytics

10. Heap Analytics:

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.

11. IBM Digital Analytics (formerly Coremetrics) is part of IBM Enterprise Marketing Management

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.

IBM Digital Analytics homepage image
Source: IBM Digital Analytics

12. Kissmetrics:

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.

Image of Kissmetrics.com homepage
Source: Kissmetrics.com

13. Maxly:

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.

Maxly Analytics homepage image
Source: Maxly Analytics

14. Mixpanel:

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.

Image of Mixpanel.com homepage
Source: Mixpanel.com

15. Matomo (Formerly Piwik):

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.

Image of Piwik.org homepage
Source: Piwik.org

16. Oribi:

A more advanced alternative to Google Analytics which offers insights without the grind required with GA. It automatically tracks all button click and pageview without any need for developer resource.

17. Webtrends:

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
  • Configurable digital dashboards
  • Standard and customized analytics reporting
  • Extensive data export
  • Custom and calculated metrics
  • Ad-hoc data exploration to unlimited dimensions
Image of Webtrends.com homepage
Source: Webtrends.com

18. Woopra:

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.

Woopra Analytics homepage image
Source: Woopra Analytics

Conclusion:

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.

Why Do One-Page Websites Suck?

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What Is A One-Page Website?

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?

Simplicity:

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.

Mobile friendly:

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.

Focus on key content and messages:

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.

image

Source: Cameron’s World:

Google SEO page rank applies to the whole site:

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.

The disadvantages:

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.

Growing content:

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.

Reduced engagement:

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.

Sharing Specific Content Is Difficult:

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.

image

Source: Braking Badly:

Conclusion:

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.

Does A Website Presenter Improve Conversions?

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What Are The Benefits Of A Website Presenter? 

If you visit the websites for Virgin Holidays, IoEE, Lettingref.comSheraton Hotels, Surefit Carpets, or many other sites you may come across a virtual website presenter or greeter. A video spokesperson normally features a transparent background to create the impression that they are standing on your website and this means they grab attention. It can also reduce your bounce rate and improve your conversion rate.

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.

Source: Bellmedia

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.

Source: Innovatemedia

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.

Source: Model2web

4. Studios1: Delivers video web presenter to engage visitors as they land on your site. Offers over 150 actors and actresses to choose from.

Source: Studios1

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).

Source: Vopres

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.

Source: SitePal

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.

Source: CodeBaby

Does Usability Research Reflect Real Behaviour?

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Does Usability Research Measure Reality?

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.

Behavioural scientists have found that many of our decisions are made automatically by our unconscious brain. The context and our underlying psychological goals heavily influence the choices we make. We also behave differently when we are aware that we are being observed.

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”.

UserZoom.com prototype testing methods

Source: UserZoom: 

Context is important:

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.

5 second test UsabilityHub.com

Source: UsabilityHub:

Implicit Research Methods:

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.

Clicktale.com heatmaps

Source: Click Tale:

A/B Test Usability Testing Results:

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.

Featured image from Usability Hub now called Lyssna

Conversion Optimisation Strategy & Poker

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Conversion Optimisation Strategy:

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.

Image of PokerStars.com new player tutorial

Source: PokerStars

Don’t be overly aggressive with your approach:

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.

ClubWPT Cruise imageSource: ClubWPT

Players are emotional creatures:

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.

Competitor analysis can give you an advantage:

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.

Skypoker.com promotion image

Source: Skypoker.com

Remember the importance of the user experience:

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.

Credit:

https://www.flaticon.com/search?word=gambling

Does Low-Contrast Text Kill Conversion Rates?

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Low-contrast text is a concern because much of the information we glean from a website is in the form of letters, words, sentences and paragraphs. They communicate how the site can help visitors complete a task or achieve a goal.

This is normally assisted by the use of high contrast fonts and typefaces that make the text clear and legible. However, sometimes for various reasons designers use more complex and/or dark backgrounds with non-white fonts which are more difficult to read. Low-contrast text designs are certainly popular in certain sectors such as gaming.

Disrupts User Flow:

Psychologists have noticed that making copy more difficult to read disrupts the mental flow that characterizes most of our thinking. To understand if this affects how people think and behave the psychologist Daniel Kahneman conducted an experiment. The questions are designed to encourage an immediate but incorrect answer that appeals to our fast, intuitive brain that we rely on for our daily decisions.

One of the questions is the bat and ball question below. Don’t try and calculate the answer, just say what first comes to mind.

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball? How much does the ball cost?

The intuitive answer that the majority of people respond with is 10 cents, but this is wrong as that would make the total cost $1.20, not $1.10 as outlined in the question. The correct answer is 5 cents, but a majority of us arrive at 10 cents because we use our fast, intuitive brain. Which conserves mental resources for more complex and difficult decisions. Indeed, over 50% of students at MIT, Princeton and other top US universities also incorrectly answered the question.

What Kahneman found was that when the questions were printed in a less fluent low-contrast text (e.g. small, italicised, and grey font) only a third of people got at least one question wrong. Compared to 90% of those who were given the test paper in a normal fluent print. The psychologist Adam Alter replicated these findings and found the same affect with complex logic problems. People were again more likely to accurately answer logic questions when they were printed in a disfluent font.

“Complex fonts that populate modern environments function like an alarm, signalling that we need to recruit additional mental resources to overcome that sense of difficulty”. Adam Alter, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Low-Contrast Test Rings Alarm Bells:

As well as making us think more deeply, low-contrast text leads to more conservative behaviours as it warns our brain that the environment is potentially risky and dangerous.

The same cognitive alarms that dissuade people from being honest about past transgressions also raise concerns about immorality. People are more judgemental and critical of offensive or immoral behaviour when communicated using disfluent formats. When identical behaviour was described
using fluent copy people rated such incidents as much less morally offensive.

User Experience:

Usability research supports these findings as they have demonstrated that people don’t read they scan text on websites. To scan quickly people rely on recognising word and character shapes rather than consciously processing each letter and the order in which it appears. Low-contrast text disrupts this strategy and creates cognitive strain by forcing people to slow down and analyse each letter as the shape may not be instantly recognisable. Low-contrasts text sites therefore suffer because:

Legibility is sub-optimal:

Visitors experience eye strain as they try to process the words and as we have already discovered people are less trusting of copy that is hard to read. You can test your website for contrast using a Google plug-in.

Try reading this promotional page on the PokerStars.com app and it will give you a headache.

image of PokderStars mobile promotional page with low contrast text
Source: PokerStars.com mobile app.
Conversion suffers:

If an asset is difficult to see, users are going to struggle to notice it and therefore will not interact with the element. This is a known conversion killer.

Confidence suffers:

When people struggle to notice or read text on a website this can reduce their confidence about the site and hinder their chances of completing tasks they set out to achieve. Lack of confidence in a site though will increase the chance that a user will abandon your site and go to a competitor’s site instead.

Accessibility is reduced:

Low-contrast text severely affects visitors with low vision or cognitive impairments. Our vision declines with age and many people have some kind of vision impairment. Further, cognitive conditions that affect short-term memory (e.g. dyslexia) and our ability to focus our attention (e.g. ADHD) also make low contrast text very difficult to process.

Mobile visitors get frustrated: When a user is on the move even high-contrast text can be difficult to read on a mobile device when the sun is shining, but with low contrast-text it becomes practically impossible. Here is a page from the Betfairpoker app which has a progress indicator that has such poor contrast it is difficult to tell whether it is working or if no progress has been made.

image of Betfair.com app bonus info page with progress indicator
Source: betfair.com
Increasing cognitive strain:

When we are unsure about how to interpret a web page this creates uncertainty and anxiety which slows down decision making. As inactive features are greyed out or dimmed. Low-contrast text and colour schemes can give users the wrong message about the availability of a feature.

Don’t let low-contrast text & designs kill conversion:

The evidence is pretty conclusive, low-contrast text environments may create a mysterious and dark atmosphere, but they also interfere with the brain’s natural processing strategies and influence our behaviour to the detriment of many website’s goals. If you have inherited a low-contrast site try A/B testing high-contrast designs to see if engagement and conversion improves.

Challenge inane excuses such as ‘it conforms to our brand values’ and use evidence to remove low-contrast text. Don’t accept the status-quo as all too often it has no scientific basis and is frequently the result of copying the competition or the highest paid person person’s opinion (HIPPO).

Recommended reading:

Drunk Tank Pink: The Subconscious Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

Featured image Titanbet.co.uk

Establish Trust To Improve Traffic & Conversions

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Trust is just as important online as it is offline. That’s why many people use website rating reputation tools to check out websites, links and files before they decide to interact with them. Website owners can also use these tools to check the rating of their own sites to identify if they have a potential problem with how their site is rated by users or search engines.

Sites can leverage user generated content via customer ratings and reviews to display customer feedback on adverts and on your website. This can help build your brand reputation and improve your conversion rate. However, let’s first look at website reputation checkers which many people rely on to check if they can trust a website.

Customer Rating & Review Software:

Online word of mouth or user generated content can be a powerful influence on visitor behaviour. Due to our social nature people are heavily influenced by the behaviour and opinions of others. This is why indicators of social proof, such as testimonials and product ratings and reviews can be so persuasive on websites. Customer review software therefore facilitates social sharing and influencer marketing.

Customer Review Software Builds Credibility:

People use social proof as an indication of trust. If a site appears popular and has good ratings and reviews it provides trust and reassurance to visitors that it is likely to be a genuine site. Customer review software helps to automate this process and can deliver a good return on investment through increased sales.

When there are no rating and reviews visible on a site this can raise anxiety in the minds of users. Why are there no reviews? Is this a genuine site as there are no customer ratings and reviews? Customer review software has become so well established on major sites like Amazon and AO.com that the absence of such software can cause concern among website visitors.

People also know that a site with a good reputation is less likely to sell faulty or sub-standard goods or services because they might damage their brand reputation if they did so. Customer ratings and reviews are especially influential when we are faced with uncertainty, such as when buying something for the first time. This is why displaying ratings and reviews using customer review software can be so powerful.

A large number of ratings and reviews can help build trust and credibility of your site and provides guidance for customers on which products people are most satisfied with. This helps to reduce anxiety about your site and the suitability of the products you sell.

Recommended Customer Review software:

Our recommendation for a customer review software is Trustist Reviews as this is an innovative, but competitively priced solution which has been developed by people who have previously worked in e-commerce. They understand how users respond to reviews and the challenges faced by marketers to effectively use product ratings and reviews.

E-Commerce Customer Review Software:

Here are ten of the most popular e-commerce customer review software platforms to help build trust and credibility on your site.

1. Trustist Reviews:

Image of Trustistreviewer.com rating and reviews platform home page
Source: Trustistreviewer.com

A new but innovative approach to customer rating and reviews platforms. It will set up and aggregate existing reviews and customer testimonials from the web and social media to immediately get stars in your search results. The simple copy and paste code snippet integration means that all maintenance, including making changes to respond to policy updates from Google, is handled by Trustist.

You will also get stars in your natural search results for your website (not on their site). This will generate more traffic and higher click through rate. Trustist will provide you with a platform to collect on-going reviews using email and your websites. This helps keep the content current and will provide SEO benefits.

No costs are shown on the site, but I understand they are highly competitive and it is well worth getting a quote for comparison purposes. It is ideal for large and small e-commerce retailers.

2. Bazaarvoice:

Image of Bazaarvoice.com rating and reviews plaform homepage
Source: Bazaarvoice.com

Offers a suite of applications via a cloud based user generated content engine that helps you capture, manage and respond to customer input to grow your business by displaying ratings and reviews.

This covers 5 core products;

  1. Conversations encourages customers to review products, ask questions, give answers and share stories.
  2. Connections manages responses to shopper questions & reviews across their network of retail sites.
  3. Local makes authentic customer reviews available on your website and on the sites of local providers that carry your brand.
  4. Curations pull authentic, moderated social media content into your buying experience by displaying it on your website.
  5. Media engages active shoppers online and in-store via their ad targeting technology.

Bazaarvoice claim their clients see an average 65% lift in revenue per visit and 52% uplift in conversion on product pages with ratings and reviews. They also see a 98% average conversion uplift when shoppers engage in Q&A on major retail sites. Has over 3,500 clients.

3. Feefo:

Feefo rating and reviews plaform Homepage image
Source: Feefo

A customer ratings and reviews software solution that provides qualified reviews from real customers who have made a purchase from your organisation. Every review can be shared across social platforms and with the Feefo Facebook app you can automatically position reviews into the heart of your social engagement strategy.

As a Google Licensed Content Partner, Feefo submits ratings and reviews on behalf of merchants to be included in to Google’s listings. Offers a Free trial period to try out the service.

4. Powerreviews:

Image of Powerreviews.com rating and reviews platform homepage
Source: Powerreviews.com

Provides a consumer engagements engine for over 1,000 brands to collect customer reviews and answer questions from consumers.

  1. The consumer engagement engine powers ratings and reviews and Q&A solutions that have resulted in more than 22 million reviews.
  2. Their syndication network distributes reviews to all major retailers and search engines.
  3. Measures social traffic, engagement and content generation and determine how they drive traffic, conversion and sales.
  4. Provides strategy, implementation, moderation and management services to ensure best practices are established.

5. Reviews.co.uk:

A single platform for company, product and in-store customer ratings and reviews.

  1. Product and merchant reviews to increase trust online.
  2. Retain control of the process via real-time moderation, reply function and customisable review request emails.
  3. Review booster – delivers star ratings in Google by contacting previous customers to obtain a boost in the amount of reviews you collect.
  4. Social integration – links up to your Twitter account so that you are constantly updating fresh content. Every time you recieve a 4 or 5 star rating it will update your Twitter feed.
  5. Their iOS & Android app allows you to manage and receive email alerts shortly after a customers leaves a 1 or 2 star review to provide the opportunity for an immediate response.

Has over 3,000 customers using their platform.

6. Reziew:

Image of Reziew.com rating and reviews platform homepage
Source: Reziew.com

A customer ratings and reviews software that allows companies to collect, manage and benefit from consumer reviews/feedback. It can be used by anyone with a website who wants to capture, manage and display customer reviews and ratings. Integration only requires you to paste a small JavaScript tag onto your product template to start capturing and displaying consumer reviews.

The system is available in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Free 30 day trial available.

7. TestFreaksdata:

Image of Trustfreaksdata.com rating and reviews platform homepage
Source: Trustfreaksdata.com

TestFreaks is a Swedish-based ratings and reviews platform that allows organisations to proactively collect customer reviews. Seller reviews are also collected and moderated by TestFreaks to ensure impartiality in maintained.

The platform allows you to instantly achieve critical mass for product rating and reviews as thousands of expert and consumer review sources and will match them to your product feed. Their question and answer feature allows site visitors to post questions and receive answers directly from your customer support team. It is used by online retailers in over 30 countries.

8. Trustpilot:

Image of Trustpilot.com rating and review platform homepage - trust
Source: Trustpilot.com

Trustpilot is a community-driven customer review platform from Denmark, but is now established in over 60 countries, including the UK and U.S. The software allows organisations to proactively collect both product and seller reviews from customers.

In the UK the e-commerce retailer AO.com extensively uses Trustpilot reviews on its whole site, including on category and product pages. Trustpilot offer a free basic version to create a profile page and collect customer reviews. The subscription service allows you to create customisable review invitations, share content on social media and integrate the platform with your internal business systems.

Trustpilot collects 20,000 new reviews each day or over 750,000 each month. It has a total database of over 26 million reviews of 152,000 businesses and counting.

I’ve read some mixed reviews on Trustpilot if your site doesn’t have a high volume of visitors. The service costs from around £10,000 a year and so calculate your likely response rate to ensure it is value for money.

9. TurnTo:

Image of TurnTonetworks.com rating and reviews platform homepage
Source: TurnTonetworks.com

Customer ratings and reviews software that captures four types of user generated content; ratings and reviews, community questions & answers, visual reviews (phone-based capture) and micro-reviews at point-of-sale. The platform integrates with your business systems to deliver a personalised user experience that captures more content than most other review software on the market.

10. Yotpo:

Yotpo customer rating and reviews platform page image
Source: Yotpo

A suite of solutions including product ratings and reviews that is deeply integrated with social media which means that it is easy to share customer reviews with your business’s Facebook page and Twitter account which drives qualified traffic.

The core features cover:

  1. Review generation – Delivers automated, fully-customisable and mobile responsive emails after purchase which includes upsells in all review request to increase lifetime value. A one-step submission process also increases the number of reviews received.
  2. On-site – Full customization of widgets, with all reviews labelled with a trust badge, the ability to ask buyers questions and includes in-depth information on each reviewer to help buyers qualify relevance.
  3. Retention – Focus on lifetime value of each customer through the use of post-purchase coupons, ability to comment on reviews and community Q&A.
  4. Marketing – Social integration allows you to automatically share your best reviews on Facebook and Twitter to increase their reach. Yotpo ads and email upsells leverage your reviews to bring quality traffic to your site.
  5. SEO – Increases your SEO visibility by showing your reviews and ratings on Google and offers the ability to display your reviews across Google Shopping and search with product listing ads.

11. SoftwareHow:

Unlike other customer review and rating platforms, SoftwareHow has an expert team testing each piece of software and writing an honest review about that product. Their reviews, tips and how-to guides are all based on thorough testing and personal experience. Even if a great software has an annoying problem, they won’t hide the fact from you. Their reliability and thoroughness are what makes their reviews valuable, and different from most review sites.

SoftwareHow home page
Source: SoftwareHow

Website Rating Software & Reputation Tools:

These tools protect your online browsing from malicious websites that can attempt to steal data or infect your device. Many of the tools are backed by professional security software companies and allow users to surf without having to worry about security. The browser extensions are often free and give users an additional level of security when browsing.

1. AVG: 

The free version of this website rating software provides protection against fast-moving web threats. It verifies the safety of web pages and links returned from web searches. This includes:

  • Real-time scanning of links you click on.
  • Scanning of links on search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Real-time scanning of web based threats when you click on a link.

2. McAfee WebAdvisor:

One of the most popular website rating tools which blocks malware and phishing sites if a user clicks on a malicious link by mistake. It protects users if they mistype a web address and helps direct them towards the correct site. Download protection scans downloads and alerts users if there is a known risk. Finally, security check notifies users if their firewall and antivirus are activated before they surf.

3. MxToolbox:

A free website rating reputational lookup tool that will check the domain or URL for phishing and malware issues against the Google Safe Browsing and Phishing Tank lists. It also checks if the domain or URL is containing malicious code, harmful programmes or is a phishing site.

4. Norton Safe Web:

A free website rating tool developed by Symantec Corporation which identifies malicious websites. Safe Web provides information on websites based upon automated analysis and user feedback.

5. Talos Intelligence:

A free website reputation checker site that allows you to search by IP, domain or network owner for real-time threat data. The Talos IP and Domain Reputation Center claims to be the world’s most comprehensive real-time threat detection network.

6. TrendMicro:

This a free website reputation checker which scores websites based upon factors including the site’s age, historical locations, changes and indications of suspicious behaviour identified through malware behaviour analysis. The tool is adept at keeping pace with new types of criminal attacks that appear and then go very quickly or try to stay hidden.

7.Virus Total:

A free website reputation rating tool which runs a file or domain name against several dozen search engines at once and so provides an overall detection rating. Virus Total’s main strength is that it receives around one million submissions a day. New problem files and domains should be identified very quickly.

8. URL Void:

A free website reputation rating service which analyses domain names through multiple blacklist engines and online reputation tools to detect fraudulent and malicious websites.

9. Webroot BrightCloud:

A free website rating tool from Webroot which offers web classification and reputation rating, IP reputation, real-time anti-phishing, streaming malware detection, file reputation checking, mobile security SDK and mobile app reputation checking.

10. Web of Trust (WOT):

This is a free Chrome extension for a secure browsing environment which displays a website security icon next to every URL and reputation alerts for suspicious sites. The tool relies on user generated trust and reputation and users can rate a site on reliability, privacy, child safety and overall trustworthiness.

Conclusion:

Finally, website reputation rating tools are increasingly capturing feedback from users to rate the trust and reliability of websites. This means that website owners needs to monitor these tools to ensure they are not penalised by these service providers.

Visitors have also become accustomed to major websites such as Amazon displaying product ratings and reviews on relevant pages. This has led to a huge increase in user generated content and an expectation that genuine sites automatically display ratings and reviews to assist users.

This means that sites that fail to encourage customer ratings and reviews may be less trustworthy. It also likely that conversion rates will not be as high on sites that fail to display customer ratings and reviews. We recommend Trustist Reviewer, but always check out other solutions to get comparative quotes and gain that trust.

For more of our blogs visit conversion-uplift.co.uk/post/.

How Culture influences Website Design

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This post explores the science of how culture influences website design and conversion rate optimisation. Marketing is about persuading visitors to take action. But what if your visitors come from a range of different countries and cultures? Will one strategy work for all visitors even though they come from different cultures? Design and culture are highly interrelated and yet little allowance is often made for cross-cultural differences.

Culture: 

Culture has a deep and pervasive influence on how people perceive and react to web content. For global brands it is important to consider how culture influences website design because they attract visitors from many different countries and cultures. They need to understand how people from different cultures interpret, and respond to such variants as colour, language, images and technology to be able to serve optimal content.

Design does not evolve in a cultural vacuum. For example, McDonald’s has a separate website and uses different colours for every country they operate in. They do not attempt to have a consistent brand design and website for consistency’s sake. They appreciate that culture influences website design because culture affects how people respond to different design and communications.

Singapore/Russia

Image of McDonalds homepage for Singapore and Russia showing how design and culture are interrelated

Germany/Brazil

Image of McDonalds hompeage for Germany and Brazil showing how design and culure are interrelated

The most influential research studies on cultural differences in communication were conducted by the anthropologists Geert Hofstede while at IBM and Edward T Hall when he taught inter- cultural communications skills at the US State Department. Their research studies are a must for anyone wanting to understand how culture influences website design. Their work provides many important insights into how design and culture are highly interrelated.

A Framework for Understanding Culture:

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted probably the most comprehensive study of how cultural values vary by country between 1967 and 1973. Whilst working for IBM he analysed data from over 70 countries. He has since used studies, such as the World Values Survey, to validate and refine his cultural dimensions theory. This identifies 6 cultural dimensions that can be used to explain observed differences between cultures. This can be used to help align design and culture to avoid mistakes when creating an experience for a specific culture.

Hofstede’s 6 Cultural Dimensions: 

1. The Power Distance Index

How is power distributed in a culture? The Power Distance Index is the degree to which people accept and expect inequality in a society. Cultures that score low on this dimension will seek to reduce the level of inequality and expect justification for where it does exist.

2. Individualism versus collectivism

Is a person’s self-image defined by “I” or “we”? In Western cultures, we tend to focus on the needs and wants of the individual. Conversely, Eastern cultures place the needs of the collective ahead of individual.

3. Masculinity

Does a culture have a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards? If so, to what degree? In this context, femininity translates to collaboration, modesty, caring and quality of life.

4. Uncertainty Avoidance

How comfortable does a society feel with uncertainty and ambiguity? A high score indicates a society that has formal rules and policies and are often intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. They also like to plan for every eventuality and are more concerned about product specifications than societies that score lower on this dimension.

5. Long Term Orientation

This describes a culture’s time orientation – long-term vs short term. Scoring low means a culture favours long-standing norms and is suspicious of societal change. Cultures that score high are pragmatic and take a long-term view of business.

6. Indulgence versus Restraint

Does a culture restrain or indulge in fun and instant gratification? A high score means a culture
encourages instant gratification and enjoying life and having fun. Low scores reflect strict social norms which suppress indulgent behaviour.

Free Resource on Cultural Differences:

By measuring how different cultures compare on these six dimensions we can better understand the common ways culture influences website design. Data from over 100 countries has been made available by the Hofstede Centre. This is very useful if you’re trying to boost conversions by aligning design and culture to improve the customer experience in a cross-cultural context.

For instance, this chart shows us that Japan scores much lower on individualism than the United States. This suggests that web content in Japan needs to focus more on the community and relationships, rather than showing pictures of individuals in isolation. Japanese people don’t like to stand out from the crowd and are more likely to put the needs of society before personal preferences.

Their high score for masculinity reflects their competitive drive for excellence and perfection, together with a strong work ethic. These values should be reflected in web content through both high quality imagery and messaging about how the product quality cannot be beaten.

At 92, Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries in the World as they like to plan for every eventuality. This means Japanese people usually won’t make a decision until they have reviewed all the facts and figures. Risk assessment and planning tools, as well as detailed and fact based information, could help boost conversions in this cultural context. Design and culture must be aligned here as otherwise visitors will seek the information they are looking for elsewhere.

6 Dimensions of Culture – Country Comparison

Image of table showing Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimension values by country that can be used to align design and culture

Cultural Preferences and Facebook

Art preferences are affected by cultural norms and tends. For example, a study of over 400 Western and East Asian portraits found that the subject’s face on average made up around 15% of the total area of the picture in Western art compared to just 4% on average in East Asian portraits.

However, one study that analysed Facebook profile photos found that 12% of Americans’ photos lacked any background – compared to only 1% of photos from the Far East. Both our art and Facebook profiles reflect our cultural ideals and preoccupations that influence our behaviour in all kinds of ways. This is just another way that design and culture are interrelated and this occurs in all aspects of society.

Western culture emphasizes individualistic and independent traits. People focus on their own face and pay less attention to the background. Eastern culture emphasizes communal and interdependent traits. There is more of a tendency to include context (e.g. the background) and other people in their pictures.

Image of how culture influences how people frame photos - design and culture

Low Context vs High Context Cultures:

The anthropologist Edward T Hall identified differences between high and low-context cultures in how they communicate routine messages:

  • High-context cultures (e.g. China and Japan) have many ‘unwritten rules’.
  • Low-context cultures (e.g. the United States) leave little left to interpretation. “It is what it is.”

Low context and high context cultures relate to a number of cultural traits, including commitment, trust, overtness – and even time. Design and culture can be easily aligned here by identifying whether the society has many unwritten rules or people leave little to interpretation.

Monochronic vs Polychronic Cultures:

People in low context cultures often have a monochromic perception. This means they see time as tangible and sequential. They follow strict time schedules, focus on one task at a time and set deadlines that they aim to meet at all costs.

High context cultures tend to have a polychronic perception of time where it is more fluid. Punctuality and structure is less important and deadlines are seen as more flexible and people work on multiple tasks at once.

Monochronic Societies Prefer Simplicity:

So how can we apply these insight to ensure culture influences website design when we launch in a new country?

Since monochronic societies dislike clutter and fluidity, a simple design with a clear action should work well. Things like:

  • A clear hero image.
  • Short bullet point messaging.
  • Clear focus on the product.
  • In polychronic cultures, rich context can be displayed using:
  • Multiple graphics, icons, boxes, and animation
  • Animated navigation.
  • Greater complexity.

Check out Chinese e-commerce website Taobao on the left and compare it with the UK’s John Lewis site. Both are very successful e-commerce sites, but vastly different website design approaches due to the cultural values of the countries they operate in. It is wise to consider monochronic and polychronic cultures when designing a user experience for cross-cultural websites. This will ensure culture influences website design in an appropriate and sympathetic way.

Taobao – China/John Lewis – UK

image of Chinese and UK ecommerce homepages from Taobao and John Lewis - design and culture

Colours of our culture:

Colours have different meaning according to where you are in the world (nope, there’s not a colour that converts best). Yet many organisations insist on consistent brand colours across different markets. It could be that you’re losing conversions by not accounting for cultural variations in the associations of colours in different countries .

Brands that align design and culture are normally more successful because their websites and apps are designed according to local cultural preferences rather than trying to impose the cultural norms and traditions of the brand’s home country.

In his book, Drunk Tank Pink, the American psychologist Adam Alter suggests that colours have meaning partly because they are associated with practically every pleasant and unpleasant object on Earth.

As a result our interpretation and preference for colours is strongly influenced by factors such as language, climate, gender, age and context. For example, the way languages categorise colours are not universal (e.g. Russian has two words for blue). Some colours are also used to express moods and feelings in some languages which inevitably affects how we perceive them.

If you’re curious, you can see which colours mean what here: Colours Across Cultures, Translating colours in interactive marketing communications by Global Propaganda.

Colours Mean Different Things to Different Cultures: 

In 1999 American researchers investigated how people from 8 countries perceive different colours. The analysis allowed researchers to generate a colour spectrum of meaning with red at one end and the blue-green-white cluster at the other end. Red is associated with hot/vibrant and the spectrum gradually moves towards calm/gentle/peaceful that the blue-green-white cluster is associated with.

Testing by international search and conversion agency Oban International suggests that cultural preferences for particular colours may also be driven by strong national associations and brand identities taken from individual sectors of the economy. Joe Doveton tested this hypothesis in Germany where brands such as Siemens, Mercedes and Audi are renowned for promoting engineering excellence as an integral part of their USP.

In tests for global air charter company Chapman Freeborn, they discovered a strong preference among German visitors for a silver button and a big dislike for a red button. Silver in Germany is synonymous with the Mercedes brand. Red may be associated with the old Soviet Union which at one time controlled East Germany. Again, this is why it is important to align design and culture.

Germany – Silver CTA/UK – Red CTA

image of Chapman-Freeborn.com homepage for Germany and UK with different CTA colours according to cultural preferences - design and culture

Use Localised Copy For Personalisation & Conversions:

Your value proposition is the most important element of your communication. The danger of using direct translation, especially for keywords, is that you will end up with copy that uses words out of context. The term “mobile” for example is fine in the UK, but people in the United States refer to mobile phones as “cellphones”. In Germany people use a different word again, “handy” and in France “portable”. The same term can also have multiple meanings in a language.

Understanding your customers is the best way to craft a great value proposition. However, your customers preferences’ will likely vary according to their culture. This is where you can use qualitative research to learn new insights and validate or challenge your existing ideas on how to improve conversions by aligning design and culture. You can then use A/B testing to evaluate different copy and images to identify the best performing messages.

Pro tip: use loanwords in your copy – they’re often left out of copy that is directly translated.

Fonts and Font Sizes:

Fonts often have visceral connotations behind them, and they often vary culture-to-culture. For example in the United States people relate Helvetica with the US Government and the IRS because it is commonly used on tax forms. This again demonstrates how design and culture can heavily influence how visitors view something as simple as a font.

Another example is how logographic language cultures use smaller, tightly packed text, confusing American readers. That’s because the language itself (e.g. Japanese) communicates a lot of information in just a few characters. Further, as Japanese doesn’t have italics or capital letters it is more difficult to create a clear visual hierarchy to organise information. So web designers often use decoration or graphic text to create emphasis where required.

For more on font psychology read this post by Alex Bulat.

Further complicating the issue of conversion across cultures, we have the distinction between bi-culturalism and multi-culturalism.

Bi-Culturalism and Multi-Culturalism: 

In the 2010 US Census over 6 percent of the population (over 2 million citizens) associated themselves with two or more ethnic or racial groups. Psychologists have discovered that bi-cultural people engage in frame switching, which means they can perceive the world through a different cultural lens depending upon the context of the situation and whether it reminds them of one culture or another.

So we can’t assume people coming from a different culture (e.g. Vietnamese Americans), will retain all the same preferences as individuals still living in their native culture. Web analytics may help you identify potential bi-cultural visitors.

Even across monocultural people there are strong contrasts in values and behaviour. The concept of honour tends to be more strongly associated with East Asia than the West. However, even in the United States honour is known to influence behaviour more in southern and western states than in the northern states. All this goes back to understanding your customer’s journey and aligning design and culture.

Other Considerations: 

Technology:

We can’t assume people will all be using the same technology in different geographical markets.

  • In Africa, for example, mobile commerce is much more established in certain sectors, (e.g. banking), because of a lack of fixed-line internet infrastructure.
  • For various reasons, iPhones have failed to establish a large market share in Spain, so Android and other operating systems more relevant to the Spanish mobile user.
Browsers:

Browser usage is also fragmented at an international level.

For more detailed information check out data from StatCounter.

Search Engines:

The major search engines use different algorithms for different countries and languages.

  • Although Google has increased its penetration in Russia, the local search engine, Yandex, is still an important search engine in the country.
  • In China, Google is not used at all, with Baidu being the top search engine with a market share of over 50%.

For more details of search engine market share see an article from extraDigital.

Payment Methods:

There are different payment methods. This means having a single cashier or ecommerce check-out design is unlikely to be optimal for a global audience.

  • In Europe, credit card penetration is much lower in Germany, Netherlands and Poland. For cultural reasons many Germans dislike credit and as a result the single most popular payment method (38%) is (ELV).
  • In the Netherlands a similar payment option, iDeal, is the referred method of payment for 55% of online shoppers.
  • Security-conscious Russians still like to use cash as a quarter of them use Qiwi to make online payments. This allows people to deposit cash into ATM style machines and then make payments online without having to transmit sensitive bank or credit card numbers over the internet.
  • Even in Turkey where credit and debit cards are very popular (87% market share) you won’t see Visa or MasterCard on most cards.
  • In Islamic countries Sharia law prohibits the acceptance of interest or fees for loans and so potentially limits the use of credit cards and other Western style financial products. The expansion of Islamic banking is making e-commerce more accessible to Muslims, but again adds to the complexity of online payment processes and demonstrates the importance of aligning design and culture.

6. Culture Implications for Optimisation:

Websites that use identical content and colours across all countries and cultures are at a major disadvantage because of the impact diversity of values, norms and other differences have on how we interpret the world. Here are the key takeaways for optimising a global website by aligning design and culture:

1. Research competitors:

To obtain a feel for whether your website is out of sync with the local culture conduct a competitor review of sites in the country concerned. This will give you the opportunity to look for similarities across your competitors’ websites that may indicate areas for A/B testing. (Just don’t copy your competitors; they don’t know what they’re doing either).

2. Focus on colours and words:

There is sometimes a tendency to focus on purely transactional matters (e.g. payment methods) when adapting websites for an international audience. This is a mistake and I would recommend paying attention to your website colours and the language you use to ensure the site conforms to local preferences.

3. Use qualitative research to get a local perspective:

In addition, use local contacts, such as colleagues and suppliers to obtain feedback on your site in different countries. I’m surprised how often I come across websites and apps where it is obvious that a key page or journey has not had input from someone in the targeted country. Don’t fall into this trap as it is dangerous to rely solely on website experts who are not embedded in local culture.

4. Consider cultural dimensions and context:

Utilise the country comparison tool to understand the cultural dimensions of your audience and how contextualised your website needs to be. The more your website can reflect local cultural preferences the more likely your visitors will happily engage and interact with your content. However, use testing to ensure you validate your hypothesis as there needs to be a return on investment as otherwise you may be better spending your money elsewhere.

4. Serve targeted content:

A/B testing is also ideal for evaluating the use of dynamic content to target images and messages that are responsive to how different cultures see the world. This allows you to increase conversions by using geo-targeting (i.e. based upon country IP address) or other cultural indicators and let the data guide your website design.

Singapore/Chile

Image of Hertz homepage for Singapore and Chile - design and culture
Source: Hertz.com

Both of these Hertz websites are on the same domain and root directory (Hertz.com), but have different languages, visuals and appropriate text.

5. Analyse customer behaviour:

Cultural targeting has perhaps the greatest potential for your existing customers where you can track and analyse their behaviour over time. Use your customer database to analyse behaviour by cultural indicators to see if you can identify key cultural drivers to their behaviour. Alternatively try A/B testing personalisation based upon cultural differences to see what impact this has on your KPIs.

6. Multiculturalism:

Due to the increasing influence and spread of cultural preferences across the globe there are likely to be opportunities to segment by cultural indicators even in your home country. There are strong cultural and racial indicators, such as customer names, that you can utilise to segment your customers by and test the performance of targeted content.

Given the complexity of the human psyche and the pervasive power of cultural influences on our behaviour it is dangerous to assume anything when trying to improve website performance. Make A/B and multivariate testing your friend and guide in the multicultural jungle.

For more of our blogs visit conversion-uplift.co.uk/post/.

Featured image from Amazon – China