Monday, May 4, 2015

Content first - Design second

The user experience of websites (desktop,  tablet,  mobile,  whatever) has had a bit of a shake up recently and I think we need to reassess how we approach the development of online content.

Back in the old days of web design and development things were a lot easier. You created a single set of user personas & wire-frames, created a set of designs for the optimum desktop resolution and then coded it up for a handful of recently released browsers.

But that's all changed now and website owners now have to consider a multitude of devices and specifications to gain the most compatibility. In fact, 'mobile first' is now the new mantra for a lot of agencies and in-house teams, who recommend that you get the experience for smallest screen worked out first and move on from there.

But I think they also have missed a trick....It is not just the user experience of your site you have to make sure is usable for all devices, it is the content too. Yes, I am referring to the humble old words and pictures that a lot of digital projects leave to the very last minute, before cramming into a few templates that 'sort of work'.

If we just took more care over the actual content of our sites and planned the user experience around it, rather than considering what we are actually saying and showing to users only towards the end of the process, I think things might be somewhat different. And I'm not just talking about the typical content sites (news, publishers, etc.) here but also brands, eCommerce vendors and other companies with online functionality.

So before you start to plan how your new site will be designed, consider that:
- content has a key role to play in Search Engine Optimisation
- users with low bandwidth (e.g. with a mobile device) will usually have text downloaded first
- having readable text is a major accessibility feature
- introduction, help and error messages can significantly affect your conversion rate

In other words: Content first - Design second 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Do you optimise for organic conversions?

I read recently that on average 70% of website traffic comes from the results that are obtained from online search engines.  This aligns with with my own experience and means that site owners really need to make sure they are making the most of their organic website traffic.

Conversions are the common industry term for a task that ends in success, a goal. And it is about time you ensure your search engine optimisation efforts are focused around conversions generated by the organic results you get from Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

But if your site exists to generate online leads or actual sales for your company, then you shouldn't just be optimising your site for visits, you should be optimising your site for conversions.

But how do you do this?
1. What if you don't know what search terms are actually landing and converting?
2. What if you have no control over which pages are actually displayed in the SERPs (search engine results pages)?
3. What if your SEO efforts are more 'suck it and see' than structured?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is A High Bounce Rate Always Bad?

If you have any form of contact with website reports, you will no doubt be familiar with the phrase ‘bounce rate’.  Google defines Bounce Rate as “the percentage of single-page sessions”, in other words the ratio of site visitors who came to your site and didn't go anywhere else. 

It is one of the most popular online web metrics quoted and is typically cited by website managers as good or bad depending upon the figure…. With “High” usually meaning “bad”.

But is that really the case?

Those with some understanding of bounce figures usually claim that a high rate is a sign of poor design or bad usability. That users have not found what they wanted and then gone elsewhere.
This may indeed be true, however the opposite may also be the case. You see a user may have arrived at exactly the right page they wanted (either via marketing activity or good deep-linking search engine optimisation) and got everything they wanted (such as the right information or a view of a video).

Note: If you only have a single page site, such as a microsite or a holding page for a larger forthcoming site, then you can obviously expect a very high bounce rate.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Counting the cost of Public Sector Channel Shift

A lot of Public Sector organisations are now getting serious (or at least semi-serious) about Channel Shift. Most have by now realised that the potential savings are real and significant.
So coupled with a central Government agenda of cost-cutting, whatever the Administration in place, the digitisation of public services looks set to continue. In fact a recent survey by Goss Interactive highlighted that on average public sector organisations plan to save £1.75m each through Channel Shift in 2015.

But how much does it actually save your organisation to shift customers to online channels?

Back in 2009 Socitm (The Society of IT Managers) worked out the cost to serve for each of the channels being provided by a UK public Sector organisation (in this case a Council). The benchmarking work they carried out showed that the costs per visitor were:

  • £7.40 for face-to-face
  • £2.90 for the telephone
  • £0.32 for web enquiries
However, the direct costs of channel shift can also be supplemented by additional benefits such as:
  • Increase customer service and satisfaction
  • Building engagement and loyalty
  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Freeing staff to be re-deployed on more "low tech / high touch" activities
It is still worth pointing out that providing digital content and self-service functionality only helps a percentage of the population you are trying to help. For example there are 10.8 million people in the U.K. who do not use the Internet and therefore any 'digital first' self-service options for businesses and citizens should not be 'digital only'. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Serious About Channel Shift?

The whole topic of Channel Shift is something that is being discussed in most businesses. Yet very few organisations I speak with actually have a documented strategy of how this shift will be realised.

Firstly, what do I mean by the term?
In my opinion... Channel Shift is the managed process of migrating customers to self-service channels (typically digital ones) to reduce cost and increase availability of service.

Reduced cost:
Back a few decades, it was humans that were cheap and computers that were expensive. Now, computers (or more specifically: computing power) is cheap compared to the cost of a person. Using self-service functionality via websites and mobile applications has a much lower cost-to-serve than a trained person, even a lower paid one in an off-shore outsourced contact center.

Increased availability:
The web never sleeps and your customers expect that they can now access your site at a time that suits them, not your company. Whereas a decade or so ago you may have had a telephone line staffed to deal with purchases, amends and refunds... not most of this functionality has now moved to a 24/7 online presence. In fact, as far as seasonal eCommerce goes, some of the most high volume times are public holidays (e.g. Black Friday and Christmas & Boxing Day) - days when most staff are either on holiday or otherwise unavailable.

So if your organisation is serious about Channel Shift, what should it do?

The first thing, as I mentioned in my opening paragraph is to have a written strategy. This needs to clearly document:
  1. Who are your user & customers?
    Think you know who your customers are? Think you know what motivates them to engage with your organisation and purchase from it? Think all your customers are the same and have the same needs? Think again! 
  2. What are the user tasks your want to move to lower cost channels?
    It may be easy to say "all of them", but in reality this may be either too much to do at once, or there may be business rules & restrictions that stop you from doing this. It may therefore by better to prioritise and understand the dependencies between these tasks first.
  3. What channels do your customers use?
    This may not be as simple as you think. Different customers may use a specific mix of channels to: build awareness, inform & educate themselves, transact and then carry out subsequent self-service tasks. 
  4. What are your actual current cost-to-serve figures?
    For example, what does it actually cost to serve your customers via each of your channels
This is the easy part... once you have this, the hard part is then working out what you want these customers to do in the future and what channels you actually can manage them to.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The O2 shop is busy - come back soon

What message do you give your online eCommerce customers when your site gets too busy?

Here's an example from mobile phone provider O2.

Oh, it should be noted that this wasn't midday during a sale / promotion or part-way through a new product launch, but around 11pm at night on a normal trading day...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guest blogging on a new site - why do it?

My guest blog post for went live today.
How to Get 6800% ROI from a Single E-commerce Marketing Campaign

It is already getting quite a few mentions on Twitter and the post has had one positive comment so far.  This is my first post for this site and it will be interesting to see if this builds followers or traffic to my site.

One question I have mostly asked myself recently is why I decided to write this post for SEMRush rather than: my own blog (this one), my column on The Drum or even as a direct post on Linkedin (which I have yet to do yet, but for some reason I am apprehensive about doing).

In short.. I wanted to try something different and in a slightly vain way I wanted to be read by a different audience.

Let's see if this actually happens