Web Design

Usability and the utility, not the visual design, determine the success or failure of a web-site. Since the visitor of the page is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore decides everything, user-centric design has become a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist.

We aren’t going to discuss the implementation details (e.g. where the search box should be placed) as it has already been done in a number of articles; instead we focus on the main principles, heuristics and approaches for effective web design — approaches which, used properly, can lead to more sophisticated design decisions and simplify the process of perceiving presented information.

Principles Of Effective Web Design

In order to use the principles properly we first need to understand how users interact with web-sites, how they think and what are the basic patterns of users’ behavior.

How do users think?

Basically, users’ habits on the Web aren’t that different from customers’ habits in a store. Visitors glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for. In fact, there are large parts of the page they don’t even look at.

Most users search for something interesting (or useful) and clickable; as soon as some promising candidates are found, users click. If the new page doesn’t meet users’ expectations, the Back button is clicked and the search process is continued.

  • Users appreciate quality and credibility. If a page provides users with high-quality content, they are willing to compromise the content with advertisements and the design of the site. This is the reason why not-that-well-designed web-sites with high-quality content gain a lot of traffic over years. Content is more important than the design which supports it.
  • Users don’t read, they scan. Analyzing a web-page, users search for some fixed points or anchors which would guide them through the content of the page.Screenshot
    Users don’t read, they scan. Notice how “hot” areas abrupt in the middle of sentences. This is typical for the scanning process.
  • Web users are impatient and insist on instant gratification. Very simple principle: If a web-site isn’t able to meet users’ expectations, then designer failed to get his job done properly and the company loses money. The higher is the cognitive load and the less intuitive is the navigation, the more willing are users to leave the web-site and search for alternatives. [JN / DWU]
  • Users don’t make optimal choices. Users don’t search for the quickest way to find the information they’re looking for. Neither do they scan web-page in a linear fashion, going sequentially from one site section to another one. Instead users satisfice; they choose the first reasonable option. As soon as they find a link that seems like it might lead to the goal, there is a very good chance that it will be immediately clicked. Optimizing is hard, and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient. [video]ScreenshotScreenshot
    Both pictures show: sequential reading flow doesn’t work in the Web. Right screenshot on the image at the bottom describes the scan path of a given page.
  • Users follow their intuition. In most cases users muddle through instead of reading the information a designer has provided. According to Steve Krug, the basic reason for that is that users don’t care. “If we find something that works, we stick to it. It doesn’t matter to us if we understand how things work, as long as we can use them. If your audience is going to act like you’re designing billboard, then design great billboards.”
  • Users want to have control. Users want to be able to control their browser and rely on the consistent data presentation throughout the site. E.g. they don’t want new windows popping up unexpectedly and they want to be able to get back with a “Back”-button to the site they’ve been before: therefore it’s a good practice to never open links in new browser windows.

1. Don’t make users think

According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web-page should be obvious and self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks — the decisions users need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives.

If the navigation and site architecture aren’t intuitive, the number of question marks grows and makes it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual clues and easily recognizable links can help users to find their path to their aim.

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Let’s take a look at an example. Beyondis.co.uk claims to be “beyond channels, beyond products, beyond distribution”. What does it mean? Since users tend to explore web-sites according to the“F”-pattern, these three statements would be the first elements users will see on the page once it is loaded.

Although the design itself is simple and intuitive, to understand what the page is about the user needs to search for the answer. This is what an unnecessary question mark is. It’s designer’s task to make sure that the number of question marks is close to 0. The visual explanation is placed on the right hand side. Just exchanging both blocks would increase usability.

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ExpressionEngine uses the very same structure like Beyondis, but avoids unnecessary question marks. Furthermore, the slogan becomes functional as users are provided with options to try the service and download the free version.

By reducing cognitive load you make it easier for visitors to grasp the idea behind the system. Once you’ve achieved this, you can communicate why the system is useful and how users can benefit from it. People won’t use your web site if they can’t find their way around it.

2. Don’t squander users’ patience

In every project when you are going to offer your visitors some service or tool, try to keep your user requirements minimal. The less action is required from users to test a service, the more likely a random visitor is to actually try it out. First-time visitors are willing to play with the service, not filling long web forms for an account they might never use in the future. Let users explore the site and discover your services without forcing them into sharing private data. It’s not reasonable to force users to enter an email address to test the feature.

As Ryan Singer — the developer of the 37Signals team — states, users would probably be eager to provide an email address if they were asked for it after they’d seen the feature work, so they had some idea of what they were going to get in return.

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Stikkit is a perfect example for a user-friendly service which requires almost nothing from the visitor which is unobtrusive and comforting. And that’s what you want your users to feel on your web site.

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Apparently, Mite requires more. However the registration can be done in less than 30 seconds — as the form has horizontal orientation, the user doesn’t even need to scroll the page.

Ideally remove all barriers, don’t require subscriptions or registrations first. A user registration alone is enough of an impediment to user navigation to cut down on incoming traffic.

3. Manage to focus users’ attention

As web-sites provide both static and dynamic content, some aspects of the user interface attract attention more than others do. Obviously, images are more eye-catching than the text — just as the sentences marked as bold are more attractive than plain text.

The human eye is a highly non-linear device, and web-users can instantly recognize edges, patterns and motions. This is why video-based advertisements are extremely annoying and distracting, but from the marketing perspective they perfectly do the job of capturing users’ attention.

Enso

Humanized.com perfectly uses the principle of focus. The only element which is directly visible to the users is the word “free” which works attractive and appealing, but still calm and purely informative. Subtle hints provide users with enough information of how to find more about the “free” product.

Focusing users’ attention to specific areas of the site with a moderate use of visual elements can help your visitors to get from point A to point B without thinking of how it actually is supposed to be done. The less question marks visitors have, the better sense of orientation they have and the more trust they can develop towards the company the site represents. In other words: the less thinking needs to happen behind the scenes, the better is the user experience which is the aim of usability in the first place.

4. Strive for feature exposure

Modern web designs are usually criticized due to their approach of guiding users with visually appealing 1-2-3-done-steps, large buttons with visual effects etc. But from the design perspective these elements actually aren’t a bad thing. On the contrary, such guidelines are extremely effectiveas they lead the visitors through the site content in a very simple and user-friendly way.

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Dibusoft.com combines visual appeal with clear site structure. The site has 9 main navigation options which are visible at the first glance. The choice of colors might be too light, though.

Letting the user see clearly what functions are available is a fundamental principle of successful user interface design. It doesn’t really matter how this is achieved. What matters is that the content is well-understood and visitors feel comfortable with the way they interact with the system.

5. Make use of effective writing

As the Web is different from print, it’s necessary to adjust the writing style to users’ preferences and browsing habits. Promotional writing won’t be read. Long text blocks without images and keywords marked in bold or italics will be skipped. Exaggerated language will be ignored.

Talk business. Avoid cute or clever names, marketing-induced names, company-specific names, and unfamiliar technical names. For instance, if you describe a service and want users to create an account, “sign up” is better than “start now!” which is again better than “explore our services”.

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Eleven2.com gets directly to the point. No cute words, no exaggerated statements. Instead a price: just what visitors are looking for.

An optimal solution for effective writing is to

  • use short and concise phrases (come to the point as quickly as possible),
  • use scannable layout (categorize the content, use multiple heading levels, use visual elements and bulleted lists which break the flow of uniform text blocks),
  • use plain and objective language (a promotion doesn’t need to sound like advertisement; give your users some reasonable and objective reason why they should use your service or stay on your web-site)

6. Strive for simplicity

The “keep it simple”-principle (KIS) should be the primary goal of site design. Users are rarely on a site to enjoy the design; furthermore, in most cases they are looking for the information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.

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Crcbus provides visitors with a clean and simple design. You may have no idea what the site is about as it is in Italian, however you can directly recognize the navigation, header, content area and the footer. Notice how even icons manage to communicate the information clearly. Once the icons are hovered, additional information is provided.

From the visitors’ point of view, the best site design is a pure text, without any advertisements or further content blocks matching exactly the query visitors used or the content they’ve been looking for. This is one of the reasons why a user-friendly print-version of web pages is essential for good user experience.

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Finch clearly presents the information about the site and gives visitors a choice of options without overcrowding them with unnecessary content.

7. Don’t be afraid of the white space

Actually it’s really hard to overestimate the importance of white space. Not only does it help toreduce the cognitive load for the visitors, but it makes it possible to perceive the information presented on the screen. When a new visitor approaches a design layout, the first thing he/she tries to do is to scan the page and divide the content area into digestible pieces of information.

Complex structures are harder to read, scan, analyze and work with. If you have the choice between separating two design segments by a visible line or by some whitespace, it’s usually better to use the whitespace solution. Hierarchical structures reduce complexity (Simon’s Law): the better you manage to provide users with a sense of visual hierarchy, the easier your content will be to perceive.

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White space is good. Cameron.io uses white space as a primary design element. The result is a well-scannable layout which gives the content a dominating position it deserves.

8. Communicate effectively with a “visible language”

In his papers on effective visual communication, Aaron Marcus states three fundamental principlesinvolved in the use of the so-called “visible language” — the content users see on a screen.

  • Organize: provide the user with a clear and consistent conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, relationships and navigability are important concepts of organization. The same conventions and rules should be applied to all elements.
  • Economize: do the most with the least amount of cues and visual elements. Four major points to be considered: simplicity, clarity, distinctiveness, and emphasis. Simplicity includes only the elements that are most important for communication. Clarity: all components should be designed so their meaning is not ambiguous. Distinctiveness: the important properties of the necessary elements should be distinguishable. Emphasis: the most important elements should be easily perceived.
  • Communicate: match the presentation to the capabilities of the user. The user interface must keep in balance legibility, readability, typography, symbolism, multiple views, and color or texture in order to communicate successfully. Use max. 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes — a maximum of 18 words or 50-80 characters per line of text.

9. Conventions are our friends

Conventional design of site elements doesn’t result in a boring web site. In fact, conventions are very useful as they reduce the learning curve, the need to figure out how things work. For instance, it would be a usability nightmare if all web-sites had different visual presentation of RSS-feeds. That’s not that different from our regular life where we tend to get used to basic principles of how we organize data (folders) or do shopping (placement of products).

With conventions you can gain users’ confidence, trust, reliability and prove your credibility. Follow users’ expectations — understand what they’re expecting from a site navigation, text structure, search placement etc. (see Nielsen’s Usability Alertbox for more information)

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BabelFish in use: Amazon.com in Russian.

A typical example from usability sessions is to translate the page in Japanese (assuming your web users don’t know Japanese, e.g. with Babelfish) and provide your usability testers with a task to find something in the page of different language. If conventions are well-applied, users will be able to achieve a not-too-specific objective, even if they can’t understand a word of it.

Steve Krug suggests that it’s better to innovate only when you know you really have a better idea, but take advantages of conventions when you don’t.

10. Test early, test often

This so-called TETO-principle should be applied to every web design project as usability tests often provide crucial insights into significant problems and issues related to a given layout.

Test not too late, not too little and not for the wrong reasons. In the latter case it’s necessary to understand that most design decisions are local; that means that you can’t universally answer whether some layout is better than the other one as you need to analyze it from a very specific point of view (considering requirements, stakeholders, budget etc.).

Some important points to keep in mind:

  • according to Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than testing none and testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end. Accoring to Boehm’s first law, errors are most frequent during requirements and design activities and are the more expensive the later they are removed.
  • testing is an iterative process. That means that you design something, test it, fix it and then test it again. There might be problems which haven’t been found during the first round as users were practically blocked by other problems.
  • usability tests always produce useful results. Either you’ll be pointed to the problems you have or you’ll be pointed to the absence of major design flaws which is in both cases a useful insight for your project.
  • according to Weinberg’s law, a developer is unsuited to test his or her code. This holds for designers as well. After you’ve worked on a site for few weeks, you can’t observe it from a fresh perspective anymore. You know how it is built and therefore you know exactly how it works — you have the wisdom independent testers and visitors of your site wouldn’t have.

Bottom line: if you want a great site, you’ve got to test.

Web Marketing

5-key-principles-to-results-driven-web-marketing

We find it takes as much or even more time and money for companies to create poor designs – and thus poor user experiences – as it would take to create good designs and good user experiences. We hate seeing all that money being left on the table.Here’s our take:

1. Know what you want

  1. What you trying to accomplish with your web site?
  2. How satisfied are you with the design and usability of your current site?

The first question you need to ask about any website is, “how can we use our site to achieve organizational objectives?” Some common answers:

  • Increase sales
  • Generate leads
  • Reduce support costs
  • Foster loyalty among customers
  • Generate increased credibility

Because your website is likely among many in your industry another questions to ask is, “what opportunities are we missing because we have a poor or mediocre website compared to our competitors?” Answers to this question highlight the real cost with settling for a below average website… the opportunity cost.

2. Know your Audience

  1. Why are people coming to our site?
  2. What are they expecting to find?
  3. How can we make our site easier for them to use?

Organizations that “get it” start by asking these types of questions. They focus on looking at things from the visitors perspective, which is actually NOT an easy process.

3. Create a website strategy

To optimize a website investment, we believe every organization should create a website strategy. A website strategy spells out the game plan for your site much like a business plan does for your entire business. The absence of a site strategy is a critical omission. To put it another way, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there. The most important elements include:

  • Objectives (primary organizational objectives for the site)
  • Audience Profile (characteristics of target audience for site)
  • Audience Questions (most important list of questions for target audience)
  • Competitive Assessment (list of 3-5 major online competitors for site)
  • Traffic Sources (brief summary of how site will be marketed)
  • Strategies (strategies that will be used to achieve your objectives)
  • Metrics (detailed metrics that will be used to measure your success)

4. Measure the right metrics

How does your website contribute measurably to your organizations objectives? Like many important tasks, measuring web site success is an art and a science unique to each organization. The best advice we can give regarding the general principles for tracking success relate to the following:

  • Conversion rate
  • Most visited pages
  • Time on site
  • Traffic

Overall, the best metrics are usually a combination of business metrics (revenue,transactions,profit,gross margin), site metrics (the list above), and user metrics (user testing, satisfaction, focus group).

5. Test, learn and repeat

Websites are never done. Except for a few exceptions, web sites should be viewed as a long-term strategic initiative. Technology is always changing, your competitive environment is changing, and most importantly, user expectations evolve. The potential upside for most organizations using this sort of process is tremendous. Yes, it takes serious discipline to adopt this approach to web design and testing, but the benefits are substantial. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Having a partner like GLIDE to help you through this entire process is what we’re here for. We truly want to become your profit-focused web guys who just happen to design really great looking websites. I’ll look forward to your thoughts and please expect the site review by tomorrow morning.

Search Engine Optimization

The SEO fundamentals are: back links, quality site content, good title tags, no javascript for page content, no frames, no hidden text, no duplicate text. Let’s briefly look at each of these. Lack of any one will result in poor ranking for popular search phrases.

Back Links
These are links to your site from other sites. See Getting External Links for an analysis of the difficulty level in getting good links – there is no shortcut, and in our organisation every member of the team is committed to a daily routine of link requests, however senior they are. Links from external sites need to be carefully crafted to be valuable as links for search engine positioning.

Quality Site Content
If you build it they will come – but only if it’s great – only if it solves some problem or satisfies some want or need. Make the site good, make it fill that need/want and sit back and enjoy the results. Well, almost. You have to obey the other rules too, and you have to get some initial links to the site. But look at sites like xe.com – they don’t even have to ask for links – their site is one of those sites everyone uses to see the current exchange rates. They provide some tools that other sites use that results in an automatic link back to them – but if they didn’t, people would come anyway because it fills a need. Examine sites like this to see how they do it.

Good Title Tags
Covered in some detail in our section SEO and Title Tags, title tags are one of the three most important facets of search engine optimisation. It should ocmply with the theme of the page and be slightly, not overtly, promotional – since it will appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and will serve to attract potential visitors to click to your site. Make each title different per page.

No Javascript for Content
Notwithstanding the fact that the search engineswill pick up any Javascript that offends any SE rules (like a mass of site links to the same place), any content provided by javascript is not indexed. The simple rule to follow is to look at your public source page – whatever is there is what will be indexed by the SE’s. If you can’t see any actual content (just function calls and html furniture), then neither can the search gods. Which brings us to the next section…

No Frames
If you are thinking of using frames, think carefully about it, and then decide not to. Unless you’re implementing the equivilent of Googles gmail program (in which they use frames) where content is supposed to be hidden and you’d not be too interested in search engine traffic anyway, forget all you learned about frames and start developing sites in a different way, like tables or CSS. The content needs to be seen, and frames are difficult for search engines to grapple with. There comes a point where they (the bots) try so much then give up – and score the site as best they can. Same as the above – look at the public source file – if you can easily see the information then it’s OK.

No Hidden Text
Look at it this way – pessimistic though it is. The SE’s are looking for a reason to not index you or to penalise you in the rankings. If they come accross hidden text, their cyber noses start sniffing and they think they’ve found a bad site – they’ll look a little further and decide on that basis. Rest assured with one thing – they will never come to you to query the hidden text. So be careful. Don’t link elsewhere, whether internal or external with text that is too small to read, or text that is coloured the same or close to the background colour. The SE’s have hired the smartest people on earth – don’t try to outsmart them. If the hidden text is genuine, it should be evident – but if in doubt don’t hide any text at all.

No Duplicate Text
Don’t have the same or very similar text on yor site that you know exists elsewhere on the web. Don’t even do this internally to the site. Don’t make calls to translation sites that result in pages hosted with them that read the same or similar to content you already have. If material you have is copied – do occasional checks (through copyscape.com) to see if it has been copied. It will have been copied – but it’s up to you to see if it presents a danger. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if you have a higher PR (or expected to be higher) on the page in question than the one showing the content (include the expected PR by looking at parent pages), you’ll be OK. Otherwise you’ll have to get out the riot act – people generally oblige. Duplicate content is the current public enemy of the search engines, especially Google. They want to refine the search experience by having distinct material – they don’t want different sites appearing in the SERPs with substantially the same content. This is even true of adwords – how much more so with organic results!

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing isn’t just about optimizing your website for the search engines. Search engine marketing is a complete marketing strategy including search engine optimization, as well as marketing with pay per click.

Although pay per click is optional, if you want to market using the search engines, you need to develop a complete and ongoing strategy for ranking well. You need to give constant attention to your search engine marketing efforts. This means creating a marketing plan to market in the search engines and analyzing the results.

These three principles will help you get started:

1. Do your keyword research.

Keyword research goes far beyond just finding keywords to describe your topic. You need to search for keywords to optimize your website, as well as write other promotional content like articles. Finding the right keywords is also important. You don’t want to optimize for keywords no one is looking for.

The best way to find the right keywords to optimize your website is start with keyword tools and do a comparison of the words you find. Compare the number of searches to the amount of competition. Putting a particular keyword phrase in quotes and searching for it in the search engines will tell you how many sites are optimized for a specific keyword phrase.

This will help you choose the right keyword phrases for your site. Use longer keyword phrases when optimizing your site. This is because those who search using longer keyword phrases are looking for solutions. What you offer on your site is more likely to solve visitors’ problems.

2. Submit to the major search engines manually.

Although some search engine marketers will tell you to wait for the major search engines to find you, there are so many web pages and sites on the internet now that search engine spiders may never find you, or it may take months for them to find you.

The way around this is to do your submissions manually. Google is especially good at indexing sites quickly provided you create a sitemap. A sitemap is simply a file that lists all of the links on your site in a format that is more accessible to search engine spiders.

Eighty percent of your search engine traffic will come from the major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and MSN. With Google and Yahoo, you need to sign up for an account, but it’s free. Both offer some form of statistics to help you find out if your site is being indexed or not. It’s worth it to submit manually.

3. Use linking to make your site relevant.

Linking is a strategy where you build back links to your websites. It’s like a referral system. The more back links you have pointing back to your site, the higher your site will rank.

You don’t want to get links from just anywhere though. You want links that are relevant to the content of your website.

To find relevant link partners, search for sites that are related to yours and ask for a link exchange. Look for directories related to your topic and submit your site there. Write articles on your topic and submit them to article directories. Build an affiliate program using affiliate program management scripts that include your domain name in the link.

Link building is an ongoing process, and it should be something you are doing all of the time, even if you only build one backlink per day.

Continue to add content to your website. Your ultimate goal is to provide relevant content, as well as related products and/or services that solve your visitors’ problems. Then you will make the sale.

Web Analytics

You’ve probably heard about the Pareto Principle, more commonly called the “80-20 rule”. This principle states that, “for many events, 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes.” For example, 80% percent of your productivity comes from 20% of your effort and 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your clients and 80% of your sales come from 20% of your market share.

Obviously, to get the most out of any web site, you need to know as much as you can about the lucrative 20%, and make the best use out of that data.

Here are five principles of web site analytics and measurement that will help you make the most of your best 20%.

1. Hits vs. Page Views: Tracking The Wrong Data Can Be Misleading

In the early days of the commercial Internet, circa 1996, the technical folks were in charge and created a way to get qualitative data on web site usage via web server logs or the record of requests for and delivery of files. The focus was on technical data such as:

  • Hits – Requests for a file on the server.
  • Kbytes – Number of 1024 byte, or kilobyte, chunks delivered to users.
  • Files – Distinct files delivered to users.
  • Pages – Distinct files, specifically HTML, delivered to users.
  • Sites – Distinct other web sites sending traffic to yours. Also known as a “referrer” or more commonly known as the misspelled “referer.”
  • Visits – Number of user “sessions” recorded.

Here are some examples of what this data looked like using a log analyzer called Webalizer. This tool is still in common use today and is a great first step in getting an understanding on whether your web site is being utilized.

One significant drawback to this method is the vague nature of the terms and what they mean. How is a ‘hit’ valuable to your business? Should I be excited about a high number of ‘visits?’ Could there be misguided excitement and therefore mislead decisions?

This gets to our header for this section, “hits vs. page views.” The tendency is to look to the high numbers and count them as successes. In a race, the goal is not to count the number of strides but to gain a favorable position at the finish line and ultimately to win. Since a ‘hit’ is a request for a single file and since a given ‘page view’ or user viewing a singe web page, could generate hundreds of hits, the number becomes meaningless. In this scenario thousands of hits could be created from just a few page views which could have been from a single user.

Is this worthy to be branded success?

No, not yet anyway.

How This Relates To Real, Bottom Line Value.

Understanding whether your web site is being used is a great first step. However, due to increased costs related to the maturity and growing complexity of the Internet, a web site’s central role in sales and marketing, and the rise of the search engine as the gateway to future prospects, more detailed questions require answers to justify the resources given to modern web solutions.

Have you ever had any of these questions?

  • How many first time visitors did I have this month?
  • How long did users stay on my web site?
  • Once they got to my site, where did they spend most of their time?
  • If I received any users via a search engine, what words did they use to find me?

Or even better:

  • How many users submitted my contact form today?
  • Of the users who came via google.com this month, how many of them filled out my offer form?
  • How much money did the web site make me this month?

These questions require focusing attention on the right data for your situation. Today there are hundreds of markers or key performance indicators (KPI) measured but here are a few commonly used ones:

  • Page Views – The number of actual web site pages that have been viewed.
  • Repeat Visitors – The number of visitors who have visited two or more times.
  • Referring Sites – The other web sites that have sent users your way.
  • Entry/Exit Pages – The pages that users start and end their time on your site.
  • Average Duration Spent On Site – The average amount of time users spend in total on your site.

Notice ‘hits’ is not on the list as it is not useful in measuring success yet I hear many people tout this high number as though it is important. Additionally, this information is now available in many different time periods such as daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly besides just monthly and sometimes only lifetime, or from the time tracking was started or the time period of the analyzed log file which makes gathering intelligence challenging.

 

I also wanted to highlight some very powerful markers that can add significant intelligence to a web marketing campaign, especially when it comes to the vital use of search engine marketing:

 

  • Search Terms – The terms or keywords users are finding your site with.
  • Pages By Search Engine – The specific pages that are being found by specific search engines.
  • Pages By Search Term – The specific pages that users are finding when using specific terms or keywords.

Here are some examples of what this data looks like in the analytics service we offer our web solution clients. We believe it is vital to have better data if we are going to answer these important questions. We go into a little more detail on some of these aspects below and will certainly follow up with more here in the future.

 

2. Three Types Of Visitors And What They Tell You About Your Web Traffic

In order to really grasp the effectiveness of your web and email marketing campaigns, you can’t simply measure the traffic to your web site. You need to understand the kinds of visitors you’re attracting, and why they were brought to your page.

As a baseline, you need to be able to separate out your unique visitors and repeat visitors. Here’s an example.

Suppose you look at your analytics and you see that your web page got 1,000 views this week. The amount of unique and repeat views in this number will lead to different interpretations.

Let’s say they were all unique views. This means that each view represented a single individual who came to your web site once. You attracted 1,000 new people to that web page, and if this is a high number you know that your advertising, Search Engine Marketing/Optimization (SEM/SEO) and other efforts to build traffic are paying off.

But this isn’t always good news. If you’re trying to create a social network where people bookmark your site and return to it often, a large proportion of unique views is bad news. These visitors only came once, and didn’t feel the desire to return during the time period selected.

Now let’s look at the opposite scenario. Suppose that out of 1,000 views, 800 were repeat visitors. This suggests you only attracted a few hundred visitors at best, a much smaller number. It suggests you need to find ways to bring in more traffic.

On the other hand, a large number of repeat views shows your web site has something to offer. People are coming back.

This can provide a lot of important clues. Repeat views of a product description might indicate people are thinking about buying, but are indecisive. You could respond by posting additional information, or emailing a special promotion to convince these red hot prospects. If the visitors are viewing an article or other source of information, you now know what’s popular and you can give them more of the same.

A third variation on web traffic is campaign visitors. These are visitors who click through to your site in response to a specific campaign. Somewhere, somehow, in a book or a seminar or an email or an ad campaign you asked them to go to a campaign related web address, and they did.

Obviously, this is an important measure of the success of your campaign and a way to differentiate traffic. But you can learn more even beyond this.

If campaign visitors tend to convert better than visitors from other sources, this could be a sign that your web pages alone don’t convert, and you may want to tweak your copy. If the campaign conversion is lower, it suggests your campaign isn’t bringing in the best prospects, and perhaps you should target a narrower niche.

3. Duration And Navigation Path

Before you’ve really made the most out of your web analytics, you need to interpret the length of time spent at your site, a particular page, and the navigation path the user followed.

User visits with a long duration show that your prospects are giving a lot of thought and attention to the content on your page. Sometimes this might be a fluke (they took a coffee break while your page was on their browser) and other times it might happen because you have a lot of content for them to get through.

But consistently high durations show sincere interest and thoughtfulness. About the only time this could be a bad sign is on a conversion page such as a contact form, where it could suggest indecisiveness or even trouble filling out the form!

Along with measuring how long a visitor stays on a page, you need to know where they clicked from, and where they go after they arrive at your site. This navigational path gives you a lot of clues on how to improve your site: If visitors don’t click through the link that you want them to follow, you may need to revise your copy. If they hit the back button a lot, there might be some important information on another page that isn’t clearly spelled out.

Knowing where visitors were before clicking though to a page also gives you valuable insight into ways you can drive traffic to that page.

4. Entry And Exit Pages

Your visitors’ navigation paths are only half of the equation. To maximize your web site marketing, you should understand where and how they enter and exit your site.

The default entry page is usually your home page but can also be a specifically tailored landing page. This page welcomes the visitor, delivers on something promised in a web search or campaign, and directs your visitor to click somewhere else next. But not everybody enters your site at the appropriate landing page.

Some visitors may go directly to a product page, or a popular article or blog entry. Maybe a random, seemingly insignificant page gets a lot of visits because it happens to be optimized well for certain keywords.

All this entry page data has important implications for the way you run your search engine marketing. It can also give you clues about new ways to drive more traffic to your site.

If entry pages help you uncover hidden opportunities, exit pages are a good way to search for problems. An exit page is the last page a visitor views before leaving your site. If it happens to be a “Thank-you for your order” page, then you might be satisfied with your navigation. Or you could add something to the page that will encourage future visits and sales.

If people are leaving your site from other pages, you need to examine them carefully for changes. Is your content too long, irrelevant, offensive, or boring? Do you need a more aggressive prompt or offer to have viewers click through to another page? Can you make the navigation bar more prominent or usable?

5. Action Points And Transactions

Finally, you should understand how to track your visitors’ activity at key action points. Whenever they have a chance to do something — watch a video, download a free report, sign up for a newsletter, or make an appointment — your visitor will either do it or not. And then they’ll do something else after they’ve made their choice.

You need to monitor these choices. If too few visitors are taking the desired action, you have to reevaluate your copy, your content, and whether or not it’s realistic to expect them to take action.

Transactions offer a special case. If a lot of shopping carts are abandoned, is this a usability issue or a marketing problem? Are clients more likely to make a transaction after viewing certain web pages?

Putting Together The Five Principles Of web site Analytics

As you can see, maximizing the most productive 20% of anything is both an art and a science. The science is collecting the data and measuring the numbers. The art is interpreting the data and making changes based on what you learn.

If you want to get the most out of your web site marketing, you’ll need to do both. But by mastering the five principles we’ve described here, you’ll have a framework that will make the job a lot easier.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/641260

User Experience

5 Guiding Principles for Experience Designers

    1. Understand the underlying problem before attempting to solve it

Your work should have purpose—addressing actual, urgent problems that people are facing. Make sure that you can clearly articulate the core of the issue before spending an ounce of time on developing the design. The true mark of an effective designer is the ability to answer “why?”. Don’t waste your time solving the wrong problems.

    1. Don’t hurt anyone

It is your job to protect people and create positive experiences. At the very minimum you must ensure that you do not cause any pain. The world is filled with plenty of anguish—make your life goal not to add to it.

    1. Make things simple and intuitive

Leave complexity to family dynamics, relationships, and puzzles. The things you create should be easy to use, easy to learn, easy to find, and easy to adapt. Intuition happens outside of conscious reasoning, so by utilizing it you are actually reducing the tax on people’s minds. That will make them feel lighter and likely a lot happier.

    1. Acknowledge that the user is not like you

What’s obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious to someone else. Our thought processes and understanding of the world around us are deeply affected by our genetics, upbringing, religious and geographical culture, and past experiences. There is a very small likelihood that the people you are designing for have all the distinctive qualities that make you you. Don’t assume you innately understand the needs of your customers. How many people do you think truly understand what it feels like to be you?

    1. Have empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s perspective and feelings. Step outside your box and try really hard to understand the world from another person’s point of view. Go out of your way to identify with their needs. If certain things just don’t make sense to you, ask more questions. Ask as many questions as you need to until you finally understand. When you really get what makes people tick and why they do what they do, you’ll have a much easier time going to bat to make their lives better. If you aren’t trying to make people’s lives better, what are you even doing here?

20 Guiding Principles for Experience Design

    1. Stay out of people’s way

When someone is trying to get something done, they’re on a mission. Don’t interrupt them unnecessarily, don’t set up obstacles for them to overcome, just pave the road for an easy ride. Your designs should have intentional and obvious paths, and should allow people to complete tasks quickly and freely.

    1. Present few choices

The more choices a person is presented with, the harder it is for them to choose. This is what Barry Schwartz calls The Paradox of Choice. Remove the “nice to haves” and focus instead of the necessary alternatives a person needs to make in order to greatly impact the outcome.

    1. Limit distractions

It’s a myth that people can multitask. Short of chewing gum while walking, people can’t actually do two things simultaneously; they end up giving less attention to both tasks and the quality of the interaction suffers. An effective design allows people to focus on the task at hand without having their attention diverted to less critical tasks. Design for tasks to be carried out consecutively instead of concurrently in order to keep people in the moment.

    1. Group related objects near each other

Layout is a key ingredient to creating meaningful and useful experiences. As a person scans a page for information, they form an understanding about what you can do for them and what they can do for themselves using your services. To aid in that learning process, and to motivate interaction, don’t force people to jump back and forth around disparate areas in order to carry out a single task. The design should be thoughtfully organized with related features and content areas appropriately chunked, and…

    1. Create a visual hierarchy that matches the user’s needs

…by giving the most crucial elements the greatest prominence. “Visual hierarchy” is a combination of several dimensions to aid in the processing of information, such as color, size, position, contrast, shape, proximity to like items, etc. Not only must a page be well organized so that it’s easy to scan, but the prioritization of information and functionality ought to mimic real world usage scenarios. Don’t make the most commonly used items the furthest out of reach.

    1. Provide strong information scent

People don’t like to guess. When they click around your site or product, they aren’t doing so haphazardly; they’re trying to follow their nose. If what they find when they get there isn’t close to what they predicted, chances are they’re going to give up and go elsewhere. Make sure that you use clear language and properly set expectations so that you don’t lead people down the wrong path.

    1. Provide signposts and cues

Never let people get lost. Signposts are one of the most important elements of any experience, especially one on the web where there are an infinite number of paths leading in all directions. The design should keep people aware of where they are within the overall experience at all times in a consistent and clear fashion. If you show them where they came from and where they’re going, they’ll have the confidence to sit back and relax and enjoy the ride.

    1. Provide context

Context sets the stage for a successful delivery. By communicating how everything interrelates, people are much more likely to understand the importance of what they’re looking at. Ensure that the design is self-contained and doesn’t break people out of the experience except for when it’s entirely necessary to communicate purpose.

    1. Avoid jargon

Remember that the experience is about them (the customer), not you (the business). Like going to a foreign country and expecting the lady behind the counter to understand English, it’s just as rude to talk to your visitors using lingo that’s internal to your company or worse, expressions you made up to seem witty. Be clear, kind and use widely understood terminology.

    1. Make things efficient

A primary goal of experience design is to make things efficient for the human before making things efficient for the computer. Efficiency allows for productivity and reduced effort, and a streamlined design allows more to get done in the same amount of time. Creating efficiency demonstrates a great deal of respect for your customers, and they’ll be sure to notice.

    1. Use appropriate defaults

Providing preselected or predetermined options is one of the ways to minimize decisions and increase efficiency. But choose wisely: if you assign the defaults to the wrong options (meaning that the majority of people are forced to change the selection), you’ll end up creating more stress and processing time.

    1. Use constraints appropriately

Preventing error is a lot better than just recovering from it. If you know ahead of time that there are certain restrictions on data inputs or potential dead ends, stop people from going down the wrong road. By proactively indicating what is not possible, you help to establish what is possible, and guide people to successful interactions. But make sure the constraints are worthwhile—don’t be overly cautious or limiting when it’s just to make things easier for the machine.

    1. Make actions reversible

There is no such thing as a perfect design. No one and nothing can prevent all errors, so you’re going to need a contingency plan. Ensure that if people make mistakes (either because they misunderstood the directions or mistyped or were misled by you), they are able to easily fix them. Undo is probably the most powerful control you can give a person—if only we had an undo button in life.

    1. Reduce latency

No one likes to wait. Lines suck. So do delays in an interface. Do whatever you can to respond to people’s requests quickly or else they’ll feel like you aren’t really listening. And if they really have to wait…

    1. Provide feedback

…tell them why they’re waiting. Tell them that you’re working. Tell them you heard them and offer the next step along their path. Design is not a monologue, it’s a conversation.

    1. Use emotion

Ease of use isn’t the only measure of a positive user experience; pleasurably is just as important. Something can be dead simple, but if it’s outrageously boring or cold it can feel harder to get through. Designs should have flourishes of warmth, kindness, whimsy, richness, seduction, wit—anything that incites passion and makes the person feel engaged and energized.

    1. Less is more

This isn’t necessarily about minimalism, but it is important to make sure that everything in the design has a purpose. Some things are purely functional; other things are purely aesthetic. But if they aren’t adding to the overall positivity of the experience, then take it out. Reduce the design to the necessary fundamentals and people will find it much easier to draw themselves in the white space.

    1. Be consistent

Navigational mechanisms, organizational structure and metaphors used throughout the design must be predictable and reliable. When things don’t match up between multiple areas, the experience can feel disjointed, confusing and uncomfortable. People will start to question whether they’re misunderstanding the intended meaning or if they missed a key cue. Consistency implies stability, and people always want to feel like they’re in good hands.

    1. Make a good first impression

You don’t get a second chance! Designing a digital experience is really no different than establishing a set of rules for how to conduct yourself in a relationship. You want to make people feel comfortable when you first meet them, you want to set clear expectations about what you can and can’t offer, you want to ease them into the process, you want to be attractive and appealing and strong and sensible. Ultimately you want to ensure that they can see themselves with you for a long time.

    1. Be credible and trustworthy

It’s hard to tell who you can trust these days, so the only way to gain the confidence of your customers is to earn it—do what you say you’re going to do, don’t over promise and under deliver, don’t sell someone out to fulfill a business objective. If you set people’s expectations appropriately and follow through in a timely matter, people will give you considerably more leeway than if they’re just waiting for you to screw them over.

The above principles are general and can be applied across many types of experiences. However some products require a more focused set of directives due to their specific audiences or brand goals. Below are examples of Guiding Principles that have been made public by some of the best known organizations. Use these as inspiration, but don’t think that just following the same instructions will yield the same results.

6 Easy-to-Get Insights That Can Boost Conversion Rates on Low-Performing Pages

Would you like to know the secret to lowering the bounce rate on your web pages at the same time increasing their conversion rate?

It’s not that hard to do if you can match your web visitors with the goals of your web page…and the way to do that is to use these six insights I’m about to share with you.

Click for more info on Boosting Conversion Rates