Why marketers need to do website UX testing

Don't Make Me Think book by Steve KrugUX (user-experience) testing is the forgotten part of the website creation process.

Often, websites are needed in a rush and testing seems like a luxury (and given that the design choices have already been made, what’s the point?).

Moreover, marketers, if they’re doing any real measurement at all, are focused more narrowly on testing around things like click through rates on search results (which is important, too).

The problem with not doing UX testing is that design choices are made according who shouts loudest internally, or simply because web designers think a design looks elegant. Also, people internally can have fanciful ideas about how the public want to interact with a site – and testing helps move the discussion from personal feelings about how the site should work.

Two big ideas jump out of Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think. The first, which is right there in the title, is that website user interfaces shouldn’t make visitors think. Don’t design the site so that users have to make conscious decisions unless you really need to.

The second is that, like in all forms of marketing, you should test – and regularly. Steve deliberately avoids giving answers to what he calls “religious wars”, such as whether pull-down menus are good or bad. Instead, he says you should test things and see how they work in usability testing.

What’s good about the book is that it doesn’t suggest you should just pay a consultancy £25,000 to run the testing: it shows how you can do it on a shoestring yourself.

Other useful takeaways:

  • Single-sentence paragraphs are perfectly acceptable online. I picked this trick at The Telegraph, where we would routinely insert extra paragraph returns into copy for online publication, to help readers absorb the material.
  • Use lots of headlines and bullet points to help readers scan the page. (Those things that help readers scan direct mail work well online.)
  • Put key terms in bold the first time they appear on a page to help scanners find them.
  • It’s really important to help visitors who are several levels deep into the site and who have never seen the home page understand where they are on the site.
Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 29th, 2017, In Categories: Conversion rate optimization

Email etiquette: how to deal with emails that are copied to everyone unnecessarily

City AM article on the art of deflecting pointless emails

In an Office Politics column in City AM, the free London newspaper, I wrote about the problems of workers who try to add authority to their requests by cc-ing in lots of executives. I mischievously suggested a way of replying to such emails.

The fact is, emails copied to lots of people unnecessarily are ineffective as a form of communication. They put people’s backs up and the main recipient often ends up wasting a lot of time replying in great detail for the benefit only of the people cc-ed in.

Besides, effective executives don’t actually want to copied into unimportant correspondence because they’re already bombarded with stuff, and they need to focus on the commercially important.

How can you make internal emails more effective?

  1. Copy newspaper reporters and put the gist of the whole story up the first sentence or paragraph, so that recipients get the important information first. The point of the email should be obvious, not a ramble.
  2. Don’t hide actions. I once worked with someone who would send 1,000-word emails to lots of people, with actions hidden in the last paragraph. It’s best to send each individual in your team an email specifically with actions for them individually. But if you can’t highlight their names with a yellow background (like with a highlighter pen) and put them in bold. You can also state up top that their are actions in the email for Bob, Lucy and Tom.
  3. Use sub-heads and bullet points. People may not initially read your email word for word: adding this sorts of formatting help people scanning your email to be pulled in.
  4. Be civil – and obviously so. It’s difficult when you’re tired and in a rush to do all the courteous stuff, like thanking people for their contributions. We all balls this up from time to time. But being obviously nice even when dissecting idiocy does help. “I may be wrong, but…”.
  5. If email exchanges are becoming muddled or heated, thank people for their comments and offer to meet for a coffee to discuss further.
  6. Consider a system like Slack for group collaboration, which can free up inbox space and help people dip in and out of discussions.
Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 29th, 2017, In Categories: Internal communication

Serif vs sans serif fonts: what should marketers use online?

What do font choices do for conversion rate optimisation?

In print, research has found that using a serif font in print can increase how many people retain the information they’ve read. The idea was shown authoritatively in a 1990 piece of research by Colin Wheildon (summarised here), which provocatively asked the question: “are you communicating or just making pretty shapes?” Direct marketers found that Courier and Times New Roman were more effective than sans serif fonts – perhaps because they made readers feel the letters were has the authority of proper letters.

Nonetheless, when the web arrived, serif fonts were a big no-no. In the days of cathode rate tube screens people said that serif typefaces didn’t render well. Indeed, through the 90s PCs had noticeably jagged rendering of type on the screen: it was only when Microsoft introduced its ClearType technology in Windows XP that fonts started to look good.

But in the LCD world, and where screen resolutions are growing, is this still true? Well, in a paper from 2008, researchers at Google and IBM looked at this exact issue. In comparing a Georgia, a serif font, and Helvetica, a sans serif font, “there are no statistically significant reading or retention differences between the two font types.” But the research did say that “the reaction to the small 10 pt font was fairly negative”.

Another study found that: “Generally, Times and Arial were read faster than Courier, Schoolbook, and Georgia. Fonts at the 12-point size were read faster than fonts at the 10-point size”.

The effect of font size echoes the findings of Click Laboratory, who found in a test that increasing the font size from 10pt to 13pt, and increasing line space, while keeping the font (Arial) exactly the same, cut the bounce rate and delivered a 133% increase in the number of people who entered their details into a form.

Quite simply, there seems to be no good reason to avoid serifs online them any longer, but there also doesn’t seem to be data showing that they ought to replace sans serifs, either. As ever, the quality of strategic thinking behind the marketing (segmentation, targeting and positioning) and the quality of the copy are what’s important.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 27th, 2017, In Categories: Conversion rate optimization

Review: Jellyfish Advanced SEO training course

Coffee machine at Jellyfish trainingI don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a cup of coffee made by an iPad before. It even let you set how much coffee vs how much milk you wanted, thanks to a series of sliders on the screen. Anyway, the reason I came across this wondrous machine – which no doubt will soon become commonplace – is that I was doing a training course at Jellyfish on advanced SEO.

This SEO course, led by Chris Hutty, was strong and the delegates were at the senior end of spectrum in terms of responsibility. The content was well-structured, there was a good course booklet and I came away with a whole range of things to implement.

The reason why I am a passionate believer in the importance of studying in marketing and public relations is two-fold. One of which is that in digital marketing things are moving sufficiently quickly that it is easy for your skillset to become dated. It’s really not possible to succeed without doing a great deal of learning each year.

The second is that there’s a huge body of knowledge out there that other people have created and written about. Questions like “How long will my advertising campaign continue to deliver results after I stop advertising?” are can be found in Rosser Reeves’ 1961 book, Reality in Advertising. Yet because many people in marketing don’t study, all sorts of fanciful ideas are bandied about, and people create marketing materials that are clearly poor to an educated eye. The result is that those paying for marketing end up disappointed.

Drayton Bird, the doyen of direct marketers, says that “the biggest mistake in management is failure to train”. He’s right – and it’s why I believe it is so crucial that heads of marketing and comms departments both invest in training and encourage their teams to value learning, such as through CPD schemes, reading and time spent checking out latest best practice.

And if you or your team needs SEO training, I can give Jellyfish’s course the thumb’s up.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 26th, 2017, In Categories: SEO

Circle Rehabilitation

Circle Rehabilitation website

An exciting project that I’ve been working on at Circle Health over the past few months is Circle Rehabilitation. The service is a game-changer in UK healthcare, because it will help fix the flow of patients through acute hospitals – at present, patients too often have nowhere more appropriate to go than stay in an acut

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: January 26th, 2017, In Categories: Blog