Thursday, May 23, 2013

Time to get specific

One of the most valuable pieces of advice to increase conversions is: Make your calls to action clear.  

On the surface it seems logical enough, but what does it mean?  Where do you start?

I was at a restaurant and a sign in the bathroom read, "If this restroom is in need of service, please let us know."  This is a real world Call to Action (CTA), and a common one.  

If there is a glaring problem, ie. a toilet is overflowing or the bathroom is completely unusable, this CTA probably works fine.  You would run out of the bathroom and tell the first employee you find.  However, you would probably do the same even if this sign didn't exist.  

Suppose you find that 1 of the soap dispensers is out of soap, or that one of the stalls has been vandalized by a person with poor aim.  Chances are that you aren't going to tell anyone.  There are other stalls and soap dispensers available for your use.

Like water in a stream, we tend to choose the path of least resistance.  The purpose of a CTA is to get us to take an action that we may not naturally take.

So, how do you change the restroom sign so that most people will take action, no matter how small the needed service is?  Get specific.

Let's break down the original:

"If this restroom is in need of service, please let us know."

"In need of service," can mean many different things.  Does it mean when a soap dispenser is low? or when there is no soap?

"Let us know," is also vague.  Who do I tell?  Should I tell my server? or wait until I see the manager?

Consider the following edit:

"We take great pride in having a clean and fully stocked restroom.  Please let your server know if anything is running low."

It demonstrates a purpose and is specific and actionable.

How clear are your Calls to Action?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hero Shots and Sliders

In the web 2.0 craze, almost everyone put a giant slider or hero shot at the top of their homepage.  Why not?  They're big, sexy, and provide a way to show off your company.  

Conversion experts say you should kill your slider.  

Designers say you need something to anchor the page.  

The problem is that most companies don't do or get anything useful with their slider.  They put up a slider for the sake of having a slider.

If you really want to get some mileage out of your slider, see what your marketing team thinks.  A large canvas that moves, grabs attention, and is best suited for visual media?  Sounds like a marketing wet dream.  (Look how well SlideShare is doing.)

Not all sliders are created equal.

Your slider should be clickable, encourage a single action, and respond to your visitors.  (Think of it more like a presentation than a web slider.)

There is nothing worse than a wordy slide that moves before I'm done reading it.  So many times, I have clicked back to the previous slide to finish reading and it slides again!  You got my attention.  I'm reading your copy.  Why would you want to interrupt that?

A slider should have a single purpose.  If your goal is to get someone to buy something from your boutique, your slider may feature various items from different categories, but it shouldn't also ask them to sign up for the newsletter.  

Finally, once you have captured someone's attention and convinced them to take action, you need a clear path to success.  A big "CLICK HERE!" button might be overkill, but making the whole slide clickable so they can't miss, isn't.

Sliders suck... but they don't have to.  What's on your slider?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Confidence Graphing

The job of an analyst isn't to find stories in the data.  It's a given that they exist.  The real job of an analyst is to be able to effectively communicate and convey those stories in a way that can be understood without elaborate explanations.

One of the biggest problems when presenting data on a graph, is being able to eliminate statistical outliers without modifying the data.  If you plot them the same way that you plot all the other points, they will invariably raise eyebrows and require explanation.

I was playing around with a graph this morning and I came up with a way to graph the confidence of my results.

The graph above has two lines.  The blue line is the conversion rate, and the red line is the number of visitors who saw that variation (the variation is page load time in seconds).

The blue line makes it look like 26 is a clear winner, and 18-20 convert twice as well as all other options.  Unfortunately, the red line tells a completely different story.  Effectively, the higher the red line, the more confident we are that the blue line is correct.

It takes a well trained analyst to be able to ignore the outliers in a graph like this.

My final result is a bar graph where each bar is given the opacity that corresponds with our confidence level. The darker the bar, the more confident we are that it is correct.  The outliers are still there (and going off the chart), but at 1% opacity, they don't warrant any attention.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Complexity is the hobgoblin of time

The entropy, or disorder, of the universe is constantly increasing.  Entropy is the measure of possible arrangements within a system.  In an isolated system, entropy never decreases.  This means the older something gets, the more disordered it gets and ultimately less work it can do.  (This is why perpetual motion machines don't work and a pendulum will eventually stop swinging.)

To fight entropy, you must constantly reduce disorder.

Entropy is primarily used in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, but it applies to businesses and software too.

As time wears on, complexity and disorder increase.  You have to fight to keep things simple and organized. 

We've all seen companies that grow too big too fast and lose control over their internal entropy.  This results in a less productive and ultimately less profitable company.  If the system is not corrected, it will eventually stop.

Websites and software are the same way.  They start out clean and organized, but as time passes, they get cluttered with content, widgets, bells and whistles.  This clutter isn't all bad.  It's basically the equivalent of adding weight to the end of a pendulum.  The extra weight makes the pendulum swing faster, but it also makes it stop faster, and makes it harder to get moving again.  

When creating or revamping a website, the trick is to find the weight (level of complexity) that produces the speed (business results) that you can handle, and that doesn't require too much work to keep it moving.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Networking on social sites

Lots of companies have social profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  The problem with social profiles is that they are a lot of work to maintain and often produce very little value to your bottom line.  

Most companies think they can use their social profiles to generate interest and traffic to their site.  While this is possible for some companies that have a vast reach or "share-able" product, it doesn't work for the large majority.  The primary reason it doesn't work is because specialized products need a specialized audience.  Sharing specialized content to my 800 friends isn't a natural use of Facebook.

Many other companies try to provide customer support.  The idea is that you monitor the social websites for any mention of you and when something good or bad shows up, you respond.  Customer support, especially the extremely transparent social sort, is never a bad thing, but it takes a lot of time and effort.  Some companies have found wild success through creatively solving their customers' problems with YouTube videos etc. but they are the exception.

If you don't really have the time to keep up with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al. but think your business should have a presence, I suggest you use them as they were designed, to network.  Every company can benefit from being connected to leaders and passionate individuals in their industry.  Connect with rock star employees from other companies, avid bloggers, and anyone you meet at a conference.  

Having a network of industry specific "friends" is invaluable.  Your profiles become low maintenance because  your network doesn't expect or want you to spam them with 30 tweets a day or 10 pictures of new products.  Rather, it's the modern day Rolodex.  When you have an opportunity or infographic you want to share, you have the perfect network to distribute it to the right people.

How do you use social?