What Was The Top Blog Post of 2016

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Top Blog Posts – What Happened in 2016?

Below are some of the top blog posts in 2016. This has been a great year for Conversion-Uplift as I now offer conversion rate consultancy services to a range of organisations. I also migrated from Tumblr to a WordPress and published a Glossary of Conversion Marketing. This has over 250 pages of definitions and examples from the commercial world.

But what caught your imagination most in 2016?

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2016:

1. How to use card sorting – Card sorting tools to improve website navigation. This blog post made it to the first page of Google and attracts a lots of visitors to the site.

2. Customer ratings – 6 top E-commerce rating and review platforms to build trust and credibility. This blog post also got to the first page of Google and is currently the most popular article on the site.

3. Optimisation solutions – Digital marketing toolbox – with over 300 solutions. A regular favourite blog post for anyone wanting to optimise their site or app.

4. Competitor analysis – 10 website audience comparison tools for competitor benchmarking. A popular blog post since it was published in August.

5. Testing solutions – Which A/B & MVT testing solution should you choose? Now includes AI solution from Sentient Ascend.

6. The EU referendum result – They psychology of Brexit – Why emotions won over logic? A topical subject and a psychological perspective of why the UK voted to leave the EU.

7. Cultural dimensions of optimisation – Cross-cultural website optimization. Cultural differences in visitor preferences can seriously upset the standard template approach to website design.

8. Address look-up solutions – 11 free and paid for address look-up solutions. A must blog post to read for any sign-up form or check-out process.

9. Referendum & democracy – Referendum a device for demagogues and dictators? Another Brexit post, this time about using referendum to make such important decisions.

10. Psychology of incentives – The psychology of reward and how to motivate your customers. What psychology tells us about creating automatic responses for marketing purposes. 

How To Use Buyer Personas To Improve Conversions

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Buyer Personas and website optimisation:

Why is it that there is so much talk about creating buyer personas and yet I often see little evidence that they are utilised effectively? Creating buyer personas make a lot of sense but rarely do they appear to be discussed when companies create website optimisation programs. Rightly or wrongly personas appear to be primarily the domain of UX people rather than optimisation teams.

This represents a missed opportunity for conversion optimisation as when used wisely buyer personas can help identify the gap between your brand narrative and the actual user experience. Such analysis can be invaluable for creating targeted content and for developing ideas for A/B test hypothesis and general improvements to the user experience.

In this post I cover:

  • Creating buyer personas,
  • How an innovative approach to customer journey analysis by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. Utilises personas to their full potential to improve conversions.

What is a Persona?

A persona is a detailed portrait of the characteristics, needs, motivations and environment of intended or important user segments. It should include their name, age, career, income and other relevant characteristics. Like goals and values.

Personas should not be made up of the average customer as there is no such thing as an average user. Averages are dangerous when employed for design or creating a user experience. They are overly influenced by extremes and don’t reflect the diversity of customer behaviour and needs.

A buyer persona created by personapp.io
Source: personapp.io

How do you create a persona?

Personas can be as simple or complex as you want them to be. The important thing is that you use data you hold on customers and interviews with customers or prospects to build your personas. The biggest mistake people often make is that they assume they already know who their customers are, what goals they have etc.

You don’t need a large budget to create a buyer persona. You can gather data on customers yourself and group your findings in a spreadsheet. There are many sources of data that you can use apart from customer account information. If you have the data analytics tools you can identify customer segments using cohort analysis. Or other data reduction techniques such as cluster analysis.

Google Analytics Affinity Category report

Look at your web analytics as the Audience section in Google Analytics has information on demographics, interests and geographical location and language. Contact your Customer Service agents as they talk with your clients on a daily basis and check out social media to see what they say and look at their profiles. Find out where your customer hangout (e.g. online forums or societies they are members of) as again there may be a wealth of free information available here.

Descriptive Headings

Use descriptive headings that relate to your area of interest, such as device, time of day, behaviour and career goals. As you build up data on different characteristics or behaviours you will start to see patterns emerge that could suggest relationships between the profile make-up of customers and their needs and motivations.

Don’t just look at demographics as often behaviour is the most important characteristic of individual customer segments. However, these patterns will help you begin to identify customer clusters that you can investigate to understand what they have in common and how they differ from each other.

Voice of Customer:

Now that you have an idea of potentially different customer segments you should get out and interview a small sample of customers or prospects who roughly fit the profiles you have so far. Ideally you should go and meet customers in their natural environment (i.e. where they normally browse your or your competitor’s website) as much of our behaviour is contextual and observation is often more insightful than asking direct questions.

Image of hotjar.com homepage
Source: hotjar.com

If for whatever reason you can’t visit your customers there are many low-cost Voice of Customer tools, such as Hotjar that allow you to recruit customers when they are on your website. You can then arrange for a Skype call or web meeting to conduct your interview. Draft a short discussion guide to ensure consistency of your interviews, but ensure you keep most of your questions open-ended to allow users to express their opinions.

Segments

If you give them a task to complete you can ask them to give a running commentary as they browse. This can help you better understand how they behave and identify potential pain points in your user journey. You may also pick up on the language they use for your sector.

Add this information to your spreadsheet to give more depth to the personalities of your customer segments and their buying style. Building personas is an iterative process and so your customer interviews are bound to result in some changes to your segments. However, try not to create too many different segments unless you have evidence that each is reasonably large and important to the sustainability of your organisation.

Persona Creators:

There are a number of free persona creators and templates available to use. I have summarised 11 persona templates in a separate post. It’s essential that you share your personas to get any benefit from the effort of creating personas. Use a suitable template to to present your persona in a professional format.

How can I use personas to improve conversion?

jane-brooks-buyer-persona

Personas need to be shared throughout an organisation if they are to have a significant impact upon how people think about your customers. However, they also have an important role to play in your optimization program.

Conversion experts Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg have created an agile business process for using personas that improves communications, execution, testing and makes more money for your organisation. Rather than following the normal approach of customer journey analysis of going down the happy path (i.e. the preferred user journey), they suggest assuming your prospect failed to convert with your brand. This allows your team to focus on what can go wrong rather than how great your preferred user experience is.

Image of Buyer Legends process

This is a team exercise so get stakeholders from all key areas that influence or control the user experience together in one place. Make sure you get the support of key stakeholders first as this often helps to obtain cooperation from different departments.

Step 1 – Buying style:

Firstly consider the buying style of your chosen buyer persona. It is important to define this as it will influence how your customer responds to the user experience. Normally it is a good idea to begin with a enquiring, deliberative, detail type personality as they are most likely to uncover issues with your user journey (which is what you want). It is also necessary to choose a conversion objective so that you have clarity on the end-goal. Below you will see the four buyer styles based upon the work of the American psychologist, David Keirsey.

Step 2 – Pre-mortem:

The pre-mortem involves evaluating the customer journey on the basis that the customer did not convert with your brand. This gives everyone permission to raise doubts and concerns about the current user journey so that you can generate a list of what went wrong with the existing customer experience.

Relate any frustration, wrong turn or dead end back to your chosen persona by imagining what would happen, how would the customer feel about it and at what point would the issue result in the customer dropping out of the conversion journey.

Once you have gone through the full customer journey focus on generating a list of possible changes, fixes or solutions for each failure point. They may not always be ideal, but they can be evaluated later on in the process.

Step 3 – Outline a user story:

Now describe the user story using reverse chronological order to work backwards from a successful conversion. This has the advantage that you have to be more thorough in specifying customer actions and their rationale for each step in the user journey. It also helps you view possible alternative user paths generated from the pre-mortem analysis. These may require additional interventions or new branch paths.

Step 4 – Write the Buyer Legends:

Now that you have outlined the user story it is time to write a draft of the Buyer Legends in chronological order. This allows you to create a narrative of a successful user experience which explains what happens to the customer and how it makes them feel at each step of the user journey. Use the check list below to ensure you cover all the key elements of the legend. As you go through this process also consider:

  • What actions need to be undertaken for the customer to complete your goal?
  • What opportunities may have been missed?
  • What shortcomings of the user journey might prevent them from purchasing?
  • Where are their opportunities for upsell or upgrade?
  • How could we reduce friction in the user journey to make it easier for the customer?

Buyer legend

1. Person

  • Use the persona to describe who the customer is.

2. Their purpose

  • What are their larger goals?
  • How do they define them self?
  • What are they trying to accomplish on a larger career-wise, personally or socially?
  • This defines the context of the purpose and motivation

3. Objective of interaction

  • What are they trying to achieve by dealing with company?
  • What is your conversion goal at this stage

4. Sequence of steps

  • Describe the story of what the customer is doing at every step of their progress through the process

5. Rationale behind identifying the problem & solution

  • Describe how the person is thinking at each step in the process

6. Key decisions

  • Outline the key decisions the customer has to make to complete and what she needs (features, benefits, testimonials, reviews)

7. Emotional struggles

  • What are the emotional dynamics – strongly felt need, pressure from others, trust, time vs money?

8. Anti-goals

  • What concerns and anxieties around what they don’t want to happen (reliability/break down)

9. Constraints

  • Any additional constraints or limitations that the customer has to consider?

10. Alternative options

  • What alternative options does the customer have?
  • What would an experience with a competitor look like?

Ensure the legend is easy to read as this will help everyone follow the story line.

Step 5 – Measuring the Buyer Legends:

To ensure the Buyer Legends is measurable and actionable here are some important definitions to use during the process.

  1. Catalyst: This refers to the place where the customer first identifies your brand or organisation.
  2. First measurable step: Usually a landing page, but this is the point where you customer enters the measurable part of the journey.
  3. Road signs: These are important stages in the user journey where customer expect and require certain information to continue with the process.
  4. Detours: Many customers will not blindly follow your preferred user path and so it is necessary to construct paths to deal with these forks in the road as otherwise customers may abandon your website and never return.
  5. Measurable step: Whenever a customer leaves behind evidence of an interaction (e.g. via web analytics) with your brand.
  6. Forks in the road: Decision points create forks in the road where customers have a specific question, need or concern that can lead them away from the desired path. People don’t like being forced down a path if they are not comfortable with it and so it is essential to create detours that can nudge the visitor back down the preferred path.
  7. Destination: The end game and final measurable touch point where the user converts.

Use these definitions to help dissect your Buyer Legends and generate discussion around potential improvements in the user journey.

Step 6 – Review and prioritise:

Going through this process will undoubtedly generate lots of ideas and discussion along the way. Ensure you capture these ideas and insights so that they can be fed into your optimisation program.

Interestingly Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg have found that the Buyer Legends is often the tipping point for a significant improvement in sales and for effectively communicating the marketing vision to the business as a whole.

Buyer Legends is Beneficial Because It:

  • Helps everyone see the user experience from the customer’s perspective.
  • Enables marketers, designers and other teams to visualise and better understand how the user experience differs for individual customer segments.
  • Allows marketers to consider the language your customers use to ensure content resonates with your target audience.
  • Segment content by different personas using the Buyer Legends to identify their specific concerns and hooks that motivate them most.
  • Improve the quality of content marketing as the Buyer Legends process brings out the personalities and interests of customers.
  • Identify missing content, steps or dead ends in the user journey that need your attention.

It is likely that you will have many more ideas than you can cope with and so it is worth using a prioritisation approach such as P.I.E to manage the flow of ideas and allocate resource accordingly. Once you have completed this process with one persona you can repeat it for other buyer personas to further enhance your understanding of key customer groups.

For more details about Buyer Legends get the book; Buyer Legends by Bryan & Jeffery Eisenberg with Anthony Garcia.

Although it requires a good deal of thought, and it will take some time to complete, it is definitely worth the effort as you should see substantial benefits for your organisation. If you need help in going through the journey yourself contact Bryan or Jeffrey via Twitter.

10 Conversion Rate Optimisation Strategy Secrets

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A successful conversion rate optimisation strategy has the potential to significantly improve revenues from your digital marketing and increase business growth. Companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Google, and Booking.com have mastered this process. They conduct thousands of experiments a year to improve the performance of their digital experience. Yet many other companies struggle to grow their business using CRO and fail to achieve significant uplifts in A/B tests and multivariate tests.

There are common mistakes companies make with conversion marketing. But what are the secrets of success that the likes of Amazon and other organisations embed into their conversion optimisation strategy? Below are some of the key strategies that these companies employ.

1. Start by listening to your customers:

Before even considering A/B testing it is important to understand your customers. What are their characteristics, needs, wants, desires, motivations and concerns? What is it that attracts customers to your proposition and why do prospects buy from your competitors? In CRO being customer centric is not an option, it is an essential ingredient for success.

Once you begin to get a better understanding of your customers. You can develop buyer personas of important customer groups to help you visualise your visitors. And develop hypothesis for why prospects don’t buy from your company. For more information on using personas to improve conversion see my post on the buyer legends process.

If you don’t have much demographic data on your website visitors use your web analytics as a starting point. But also try online survey tools such as Surveymonkey and Typeform to obtain feedback from visitors whilst they are on your website. You should also conduct usability testing to observe visitors attempting to complete important tasks on your website. This can be invaluable for identifying major usability issues or just generating ideas about how you can reduce friction on your site.

All high performing companies start with their customers as they are the people who ultimately determine the success or failure of your brand.

2. Get an emotional response:

Now you are ready to examine and refine your value proposition. People buy benefits, not features and yet many companies still focus on product/service features and treat people like they are purely rational beings. An effective conversion optimisation strategy considers how to target underlying customer needs to get an emotional response.

Conversion Rate Optimisation Consultant 8 step process

A product needs to fill some kind of rational need, but we choose a brand for the implicit (psychological) goals that generate an emotional response. From listening to your customers you should get insights into the kind of psychological goals that drive customer behaviour.

Use the psychological goals from the Beyond Reason model below which is based upon the latest neuroscience and psychological research. This has identified 32 primary psychological motivations that determine much of our attention as we seek to achieve current implicit goals.

Behavioural science provides us with a framework for behavioural change
This motivation model is the intellectual property of BEYOND REASON

3. Get senior stakeholder support:

It is important that senior management understand and sponsor your conversion rate optimisation strategy. HiPPO’s (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) get a hard time at many conversion conferences. An informed and engaged HiPPO can be an asset to your program, helping to develop a culture of evidence based optimisation.

An effective conversion optimisation strategy removes the need for subjective opinions to decide which design of a web page is most effective at achieving conversion goals. This does require a change in established decision making processes. You will need senior stakeholders to agree to such changes as otherwise you may find internal politics become a barrier to successful optimisation.

4. Follow a structured process:

An 8 step process for generating ideas to build an A/B testing plan

To avoid random and undirected optimisation it is necessary to use a tried and tested process for conversion rate optimisation. This helps to provide rigour to your program, but importantly it can assist in building credibility within your organisation. It allows you to communicate how you identify, evaluate and prioritise changes and tests. Having a transparent prioritisation process, such as P.I.E (Potential, Importance, and Ease) is critical because it sets expectations and removes subjectivity from the testing process.

5. Resource analytics:

Image of Google Analytics Solutions Hompeage
Image source: Google Analytics

The old saying, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve, certainly holds true here. Some start-ups might think they can’t afford such tools. Google Analytics has a free version, and Hotjar Insights provides visual analytics and online customer feedback for less than €1,000 a year.

What advanced CRO companies understand though is that analytics requires dedicated resource as someone won’t become an expert at web analytics if they only have time for an hour or two a day. They also appreciate that averages lie and that segmentation is essential for giving meaning to such data. Opportunities for personalisation are often driven by analytics. Once you begin to analyse the behaviour of individual sub-groups you will see how different they are and appreciate they have different needs.

Similar issues arise with user experience tools, but there are also opportunities to integrate such tools with customer facing software to help with customer services, complaint handling and fraud. Again segmentation is key to getting value from such tools. Integrating from analytics allows you to track individual input field completion and drop-off rates. Any conversion optimisation strategy is dependent upon good analytics and insights to inform decision making.

 6. Scale matters:

Failure rate of online experiments

Predicting human behaviour is very difficult, especially with a complex ecosystem such as a large e-commerce website. For this reason the likes of Netflix, Google and AppSumo find that around 80% of their A/B and multivariate tests fail to deliver significant uplifts in success metrics. Our intuition is generally not relied on as even experts are poor at forecasting the future.

This is why after dealing with the low-hanging fruit it is necessary to increase your testing and run multiple tests at the same time. There is limited evidence of interaction between tests. Provided you are not testing on the same area of the page or have the same objective running tests in parallel it should not be a major problem. A conversion optimisation strategy is much more likely to be successful if you can scale up your online experiments to allow for the low success rate.

7. Collaboration spreads the load:

A conversion rate optimisation strategy cannot be implemented by one person. It needs to be something everyone in an organisation thinks about. Whether it is how to improve page load speed, improving the findability of stuff, cutting down on information we request from users or providing a more personalised user experience. Companies that understand CRO ensure they nurture a culture of experimentation and collaboration across the organisation to generate and share ideas, tests and outcomes.

8. Use the 80:20 rule for your test designs:

Image of 80/20 Pareto principle

When creating test designs don’t seek perfection or be overly restrictive with which visitors are included in an A/B test. Yes, little things can matter, but at the same time bear in mind the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of the output will be generated by just 20% of the effort. Conversely 80% of the problems can be traced to 20% of the causes.

This suggests that once you have fixed the most important elements of a design the rest of the experience will probably have little impact on the outcome. If you also always ask for two designs for each hypothesis you will also have the opportunity to learn about how implementation of an idea influences the outcome.

9. Take risks:

Iterative testing is one of six kinds of testing that are used in conversion optimisation

One of the main benefits of online experiments is that you don’t have to test a new design on all your traffic. You can turn the design off in a matter of seconds. This allows you to effectively manage downside risk and should be the green light for developing radical new, innovative designs to test. It is also sometimes necessary to try something totally different to achieve the big uplift in conversion that CRO promises. And yet many managers see CRO as a risky exercise and frequently try to limit testing activity due to misinformed concerns.

10. Challenge everything:

I once worked for an organisation where I was told that I couldn’t test different CTAs, such as the colour or place additional text on the CTA because these were set in stone by the brand guidelines. Companies that understand CRO don’t allow such untested and subjective policies to restrict their CRO program. They take great delight in saying they can even test the colour of their CTAs, not because it’s allowed by their brand guidelines, but because they test anything if they think they can learn from it.

For CRO to reach its full potential it is important that even the smallest detail can be scrutinised and challenged through A/B and multivariate testing. It is sometimes the things that have never been challenged that can result in the step-change to higher conversion rates.

Finally:

Conversion rate optimisation strategy is a complex process and needs good planning. It requires a structured and rigorous approach that needs resource and support at the highest level of an organisation. The customer needs to be at the heart of your CRO program. A better understanding of customer needs and motivations is likely to lead to stronger hypothesis and more winning tests.

CRO should remove the need for subjective opinions and for that reason everything should be challenged. Management should not be allowed to hide behind untested policies if they want CRO to reach its full potential. CRO is a strategy, not a tactic to solve short-term problems.

Remember what users want from your website!

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What do users want from your digital experience?

We used the Hotjar user experience tool to place a poll on our homepage to find out what users want from the page. We then compared this with what was actually on the page. The Venn diagram above shows how so much of what was on the homepage didn’t match what users want from the page.

You might think that some of these are so obvious that nobody in their right mind would not put them on the homepage. Don’t assume anything. This site is mobile responsive and the desktop team decided to hide the account login details for mobile users without informing anyone. They wanted to push such users to download the app. What they hadn’t considered though was that the app didn’t allow users to amend their account details or validate personal details as part of know your customer (KYC). This meant users were being informed in the app to logon to the website to complete KYC but couldn’t complete this task as the login box was hidden. This is what happens when people work in silos and it’s often down to conversion optimisers to break these down.

Find out what they want!

So, what do users want from your website or app? Well, they normally come to your site to complete a task and if we don’t understand these tasks then we are going to struggle to deliver what they are looking for. That’s why it’s important to gather user feedback and there are plenty of online voice of customer tools that allow you to do this very easily.

Remote usability research tools can also be used to explore what is missing from a page. Use follow-up questions to ask participants what was missing from the page or user journey. Also look at real user journeys using your web analytics tool to identify if a large number of visitors are navigating to your About Us page or other non-transactional pages. This may indicate there is insufficient information on your landing pages about your reputation and what you offer.

User experience tools which record real users navigating on your site are also very useful. Schedule time to regularly watch browser recordings to see if users are finding your site intuitive or not. Are they clicking on assets that are not clickable, but should be? Don’t assume you know what users want from your site or app. Click heat maps can also be useful in identifying where users click and if they are trying to click on an asset that is not clickable.

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.

15 Address Lookup Solutions To Improve Conversions

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Address Lookup Solutions Speed Up Data Input:

Address lookup solutions allow customers to quickly input and validate address details as they go through a sign-up or checkout process. They shorten form length and can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete a form. There are even some free address lookup API’s available which you can test. Adding an address lookup solution will almost inevitably improve your conversion rate.

By allowing your visitors to enter their address more easily, especially on a mobile device, address lookup solutions can significantly improve form completion rates. Hotel Chocolat achieved a 19% uplift in each step of their basket funnel following implementation of a smart address lookup solution.

Image of Hotelchocolat.com address lookup in checkout
Source: Hotelchocolat.com

1. Improve Data Quality:

Real-time address verification also improves the accuracy of data by correcting typos at source and enhances the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Address lookup APIs also reduce delivery problems as they improve the quality of your customer database. Additionally, address lookup APIs help combat fraud by identifying when bogus information is being entered.

Call centres can also use address lookup API solutions to capture and validate customer details. Shelving retailer Tufferman significantly reduced both outsourced call centre costs and shopping cart abandonment on its website. Using PCA Predict’s address lookup API and validation solution the call centre was able to cut the time it took to take an order by between 30 to 60 seconds, making a huge cost saving and also improving the customer experience.

2. Test Address Lookup Implementation:

When implementing an address finder check it regularly. I recently came across this address finder on the betfair.com desktop site. When I selected the address from the drop down menu it only populated the first input field and the other fields were left empty. This triggered an error message because the Town and Postcode fields were not populated. This made the address lookup pointless and probably reduced their conversion rate as it would annoy visitors.

Image of Betfair.com address finder error message
Source: Betfair.com

For optimising online forms see our post ‘62 web form design best practices‘ to improve your form completion and conversion rate. Address lookup tools are a proven way of increasing your conversion rate, but there are many other aspects of web form design that also influence user behaviour and conversions. Make sure the whole user experience is optimised as much as possible. Otherwise an address lookup solution won’t make a difference if something else on the form is broken or not fit for purpose.

3. Address Verification Solutions:

We have summarised below 14 top address lookup solutions and APIs for address verification.

1. Address doctor from Informatica

Verifies addresses from over 240 countries. The Fast Completion service will verify an address as a visitor enters each part of it and will auto-complete with the best match. This is ideal for organisations that need to validate information quickly, such as online retailers.

image of informatica address verification homepage
Source: informatica address verification

2. AFDSoftware:

Offers a UK postcode lookup product and a global address lookup solution covering 230 countries. AFDWorldAddress validates international addresses on desktop, network or internet.

Image of AFD.co.uk homepage
Source: AFD.co.uk

3. CapAdresse:

Offers an address lookup solution that will verify addresses in 192 countries. It offers solutions for entering an address in a single line or multiple fields and uses real-time validation to improve data quality.

image of capadresse.com homepage
Source: capadresse.com

4. Fetchify (Previously CraftyClicks):

A UK and Global address look-up solution that uses the visitor’s post code in the UK to provide a list of addresses for the user to select from. Also offers a Geocoding API to calculate distance between any two postcodes in the UK. Updated from the Royal Mail PAF database. The global solution allows visitors to enter either their zip code or street name to provide a list of possible addresses.

Fetchify homepage
Source: Fetchify

5. Data8:

A global address lookup provider that offers a comprehensive range of data validation, cleansing, supply, and management solutions. Data8’s shopping cart web services includes auto-fill validation, address, phone, and email validation.

For web forms and checkout Data8 has two solutions; PredictiveAddress which uses predictive search technology to auto-complete addresses, and for the UK, PostcodeLookup, which retrieves addresses from the Royal Mail’s Poscode Address File (PAF). Data8 also integrates with leading shopping cart solutions including Magento, Opencart and Prestashop.

Image of Data-8-co.uk validation page
Source: Data-8-co.uk validation page

6. Google: 

Image of Google autocomplete address finder homepage
Source: Google autocomplete address finder

A free auto-complete address lookup solution for forms from Google Developers. You must include the Powered by Google logo when displaying any returns from the lookup tool. If you only require an address and have no other verification needs this solution is worth checking out as it’s free! However, the solution is not recommended for the UK as Google are unable to use the Royal Mail’s database.

7. Ideal Postcodes:

This is a UK address search and validation service using Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF). They provide a simple to use platform to power features such as postcode lookup and autocomplete. With postcode lookup, a user can simply search a postcode and select their premise from a list of addresses at that postcode.

With address autocomplete, once the user types in part of the address, they will be able to select the rest from a drop down selection of correctly formatted addresses. Optimise your address form further with additional datasets such as Not Yet Built (NYB) and Multiple Residence (MR) to capture buildings still under construction and premises with multiple households. Ideal Postcodes also offers a Magento extension.

Public sector organisations and charities can benefit from flexible and cost-effective licensing solutions. There are products and services for SaaS businesses or software development companies to remove complexities of integrating address search in an app and extending the services to third parties.

8. Matchcode: 

Image of Matchcodeglobal.com homepage
Source: Matchcodeglobal.com

Provides UK and global postal address lookup, email address, mobile and landline telephone number validation. Covers over 240 countries and includes commercial, names and geo-coding datasets. Software is easy to use, install and integrate across all major platforms and applications. 

9. Melissa Data: 

Their API parses, standardizes and validates U.S. and international addresses for over 240 countries and territories. The solution puts addresses in the standardised mailing format for each country and supports any UTF8 language. The tool will also add missing components, including post codes, region etc.

The Express Entry solution uses type-ahead search functionality that makes it easy to enter and complete accurate addresses with up to 50% fewer keystrokes. It works on both U.S. and international addresses.

Image of Melissadata.com homepage
Source: Melissadata.com

Real-time email inbox verification removes up to 95% of bad emails and ID verification will add missing address, email ad phone information. 

10. PCAPredict (Previously PostCodeAnywhere): 

The Capture+ is a global smart address finder which suggests results as soon as the user begins typing. Features a single click auto-fill for the whole address form and works in over 240 countries, correctly formatting international addresses. Other solutions include mobile number validation, email validation, store finder, Geocoding and payment validation.

image of PCApredict.com address lookup and validation homepage
Source: PCApredict.com address lookup and validation

11. Postcoder:

Offers solutions for address lookup, auto-complete, validation, geocoding, IP address to location and email validation in over 240 countries.

Image of Postcoder homepage
Source: Postcoder

12. Postcodes4u:

A pay-as-you-go UK postcode and address lookup service. Over 15 years of being a Royal Mail re-seller and updated from the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF) of over 28 million addresses.

Image of postcodes4u.co.uk homepage
Source: postcodes4u.co.uk

13. SimplyPostCode: 

A UK address lookup solution that uses the visitor’s post code to provide a list of addresses for the visitor to select from. Updated daily from the Royal Mail PAF database.

image of simplypostcode.com homepage
Source: simplypostcode.com

14. Smartystreets.com:

This is a global address look-up solution which performs look-ups in real-time to fill out missing information and standardise addresses. It offers an autocomplete service so that it can suggest addresses as the user types. It can also find and verify addresses out of arbitrary text.

Image of Smartystreets.com homepage
Source: Smartystreets.com

4. Conclusion:

Address lookup and verification tools are win-win solutions as you will improve the usability and conversion of your forms. At the same time you will also benefit from better quality customer contact data for your marketing activities. Not to have an address verification and look-up solution is definitely a false economy.

Address lookup solutions for the UK and international addresses is essential for a good user experience. Most people now expect sites to have an address lookup solution to minimise the data they input. This is especially the case for mobile devices. Don’t let you customers down and invest in an address lookup tool and API for creating the best customer experience you can.

Featured image from address finder on paddypower.com

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

Image Optimisation Tools To Improve Load Speed

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14 Resources For Image Optimisation:

Pictures are important for websites because studies indicate that a relevant image improves engagement and views of a page. Images grab our attention and can trigger emotions much more quickly than text. Our brains process images almost instantly, but it takes much longer to read copy. But do you need worry about image optimisation?

image of 2 weights
Source: FreeImages.com

Serving images has a cost as it increases the weight of a page and consequentially the page often takes longer to load. According to the latest HTTP Archive Report which collects technical data from half a million of the web’s most popular websites, the average page now weighs 2,262 KB, up by 16% during 2015. The average webpage has grown by 221% since 2010 and well over half (64%)
of the weight (1,443 KB) is comprised of images.

To keep pages to a manageable weight it is important that images
are optimised to avoid slow load speed which can be damaging to conversion. Google penalises sites with slow load speeds and visitors are more likely to abandon a site the longer it takes to load. Image optimisation directly influences SEO and conversion.

Research by Akamai and Gomez.com discovered that almost a half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and many will leave a site if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Etsy found that 160KB of additional images resulted in a 12% increase in the bounce rate on mobile devices.

To help alleviate these problems here are 14 resources, many of which are free, for image optimisation.

1. CompressNow
Compressnow.com homepage image
Source: Compressnow.com

Free online image optimisation tool that supports GIF, JPG, and PNG. Upload an image up to 9MB, select compression level, and view.2. FILEminimizer Pictures

Image of Fileminimizer homepage from balesio.com
Source: balesio.com

Offers Free software to reduce the size of your images, photos and pictures by up to 95%. Compress your JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG, and EMF images and pictures. Compress whole digital photo albums at once. Choose from four different compression levels. FILEminimizer also comes in a premium suite that integrates with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, and Lotus Notes.3. FileOptimizer

image of fileoptimizer homepage from nikkhokkho.sourceforge.net
Source: nikkhokkho.sourceforge.net

Free lossless file image optimisation tool for Windows that supports over 100 different formats. FileOptimizer has a simple interface that’s easy to automate. All processed files are copied to the recycle bin, so you can easily restore them. FileOptimizer is an open source application.4. ImageOptim

This is a Free application for Mac that optimizes PNG, JPG, and GIF images. To do so, ImageOptim integrates a batch of tools, including PNGOUTPngcrush, ZopfliJpegOptim, and Gifsicle. ImageOptim finds best compression parameters and removes unnecessary comments and colour profiles.

5. Image Optimizer
Image of imageoptimizer.net homepage
Source: imageoptimizer.net

Free tool that’s available online or as a download. Change image dimensions, quality, or file size. Choose an image or compress images in bulk.6. JPEGMini

image of jpegmini.com homepage
Source: jpegmini.com

A image optimisation and compression application that reduces (up to 80 percent) the size of photographs, while preserving their full resolution and quality. JPEGmini Pro supports photos up to 50 megapixels and includes a plugin for Adobe Lightroom. Lite is Free. 7. Kraken.io

Image of https://kraken.io/homepage
Source: kraken.io

Designed with the purpose of being a single, easy-to-use tool to optimise images. Offers multiple methods for resizing and cropping images, lossless and lossy options, and has a WordPress plugin. You can store optimised images directly in Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace Cloud Files.8. PNGOUTWin

Image of PNGOUTWin homepage from http://www.ardfry.com
Source: www.ardfry.com

An application for Windows that uses its own proprietary algorithms for image optimisation and compression. Convert and compress to PNG from TIFF, GIF, BMP, and other formats, or optimize your existing PNG files. Compress one or more files, and drag and drop multiple files on the main window.9. PNGGauntlet

Image of PNGGauntlet.com homepage
Source: uci.criosweb.ro

Free PNG shrinking application for Windows. It combines PNGOUTOptiPNG, and DeflOpt to create the small lossless PNGs. PNGGauntlet converts JPG, GIF, TIFF, and BMP files to PNG.10. PNGOptimizer

Image of PngOptimizer from PSYDK.org
Source: PSYDK.org

Free small Windows program that cleans and reduces PNG files. It also converts other lossless image formats (BMP, GIF, and TGA) into PNG. PNGOptimizer has a simple drag-and-drop interface and creates easily available PNG screenshots.11. PunyPNG

A Free online tool that supports JPG, GIF and PNG. Compress up to 20 files, with a max of 500KB each. The Pro plan offers higher compression and optional “lossy” (e.g. slight quality reductions) optimizations, with a 1MB max file size for 5,000 images per month.

12. RIOT
Image of http://luci.criosweb.ro/riot/ homepage
Source: uci.criosweb.ro

(Radical Image Optimization Tool) is a Free image optimisation programme for Windows to visually adjust compression parameters while retaining minimum file size. Compare the original image next to the optimised image in real-time and instantly see the new file size. Its features include batch support for multiple files, image adjustment tool, and colour reduction.13. TinyPNG

Free online tool that provides lossy compression to reduce the file size of your PNG files. By selectively decreasing the number of colours in the image, fewer bytes are required to store the data. TinyPNG also offers a plugin for Photoshop, for Windows and Mac.

14. Trimage

This is a Free cross-platform tool image optimisation for PNG and JPG files. Trimage uses OptiPNG, Pngcrush, AdvanceCOMP, and Jpegoptim, depending on the file type. All images are compressed on the highest available lossless-compression levels. Available for Linux and other Unix systems.

Featured image from jpegmini.com