Posts in Design
Visual Appeal vs Usability

First Impressions Matter: The Importance of Great Visual Design:

A study examined the effects of visual appeal and usability on user performance and satisfaction with a website.

Users completed different tasks on websites which varied in visual appeal (high and low) and usability (high and low). Results show that first impressions are most influenced by the visual appeal of the site. Users gave high usability and interest ratings to sites with high appeal and low usability and interest ratings to sites with low appeal. User perceptions of a low appeal website were not significantly influenced by the site’s usability even after a successful experience with the site.

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Key takeaway: Invest in design – it’s what matters the most for pulling users in. Funny enough, great visual design will lead to higher usability ratings even. And actual usability will matter much less if the overall visual appeal is low.

There are a lot of folks in our industry that fly the usability flag high. The arguments they make are sound, but this study pours cold water on some of them. Perhaps a good first impression, via good design, sets the table for better performance - even if usability is lacking. At the end of the day, the real question remains:

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25 Principles For Designing A Mobile Retail Site

Mobile Retail Apps and Sites: Designing a Better Experience for Shoppers:

In a booming e-commerce market, you can rise above the pack by providing a mobile site or app with frictionless, simple experiences for omni-channel shoppers. From Google's UX Research Lead Jenny Gove and UX Design Lead Iram Mirza, here are 25 principles for designing a retail mobile site or app.

 A great resource for anyone taking their ecommerce site responsive.
"Fix Mobile Usability Issues Found On" Your Site

Have you received a message in your Google Webmaster Tools inbox like the one below recently? If so, you're not alone. Just a few days ago, Google started sending out large-scale notifications via email and Webmaster Tools, warning non-mobile-friendly sites that their pages "will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users."Fix mobile usability issues found on

So just what does this mean? Historically, Google has only notified supposed "mobile-friendly" sites when they had mobile usability issues. Now, with Google sending out these warnings in such a mass scale, it seems that the mobile-friendly ranking factors they've been testing for the past several months might be included into the overall algorithm in the near future. This move would make responsive web design more important than ever, as your mobile rankings could eventually differ widely from your desktop rankings.

To start fixing your problems, you'll want to follow Google's checklist:

  1. Find problematic pages.
    • Log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and navigate to the "Mobile Usability" section under the "Search Traffic" left-nav option.
    • Here, Google will give you a breakdown of the pages they deem to have mobile usability errors and will list out the specific errors so you can work on problems individually.
    • Also utilize the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool to test your site speed and usability issues on a per-page basis. Again, Google lists out errors individually and even offers a "show how to fix" option to help walk you through what needs to happen to make certain elements responsive.
  2. Learn more about mobile-friendly design
    • Google offers a pretty expansive "Web Fundamentals" reference guide for designing responsive sites. After you've made a list of all of your problematic pages from Step 1, use this guide to help formulate the best strategy for your site on fixing these mobile usability issues. This reference guide has 114+ sections including: general principles, look and feel, building multi-device layouts, forms and user input, optimizing performance, and more.
  3. Fix mobile usability issues
    • After you've compiled the list of pages with mobile usability errors and read up on how to fix them, start altering your site template/pages to improve their mobile usability as much as possible. After each improvement, re-test each site page with the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool and chart how your score improves. Every element you can improve will help better your score and can eventually work you back into Google's good graces net you the "Mobile-friendly" tag for mobile searches like the screenshot below.

Mobile-friendly tag Now, there's no need to panic. Lots of sites received the same warning you did and will all be working towards the same goal you are. In the meantime, you might see a small dip in your mobile rankings if Google's overall algorithm does start taking mobile-friendly sites into account. If you fix most/all of the issues that Google highlights and move your site to fully responsive design, you will very likely qualify for the above "mobile-friendly" tag and may benefit from better rankings than competing sites that still aren't mobile-friendly. If you have any questions about this post or would like to know more about our Responsive Design process, just let us know how we can help.

Spotlight: Variable Technologies

Here at Delegator, we’re slightly obsessed with the latest and greatest in geek technology.  Whether its our resident neck-beard painstakingly showing us every single android feature that is better than its iOS counterpart, or our yuppiest of project managers downloading the latest social aggregator on his iPad mini, we pretty much have an epic collection of techy toys. That’s why we are extremely excited about a local tech company that we’re working with: Variable Technologies.

These guys are the real deal.  Led by George Yu, a PhD engineering wiz out of Georgia Tech, Variable Technologies produces a modular sensory device called NODE.

NODE is a sleek and powerful bluetooth device that sends a wide array of data sets to your smartphone.

As illustrated, NODE is comprised of a core unit aptly named Kore, and has 2 open slots at either end which can be configured with any two modules.  Even without two modules attached, Kore is loaded, boasting a motion engine, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer.  Combine this with all the module offerings, and you’ve got yourself a powerhouse.

A sampling of the sensory options you have with NODE:

NODE features some differentiators that we think could be game changing:

1. It’s modular

Variable Tech produces a wide variety of sensors, with a ton still in R&D.  All of the module sensors are compatible with the central unit - Kore.  Simply screw on whichever sensor you are interested in using, and you can immediately start collecting data.

2. It’s smartphone based

These days, everyone has a smartphone; especially professionals.  Choosing a widely owned and popular platform lowers barriers to market adoption.  Whether it's for small, niche companies, or massive corporate quality control, it doesn’t take much to equip your team with this device and begin collecting valuable data.

3. It’s cheap

In the realm of handheld sensors, NODE costs a fraction of what other, enterprise level sensory devices cost, and it collects a comparable caliber of data.

Variable Technologies is on a hot streak right now - wrapping up second of two very successful Kickstarters.  They have been all over tech blogs (TechCrunch, Gizmag, and many more), and have recently interviewed with Forbes, Wired, and Popular Mechanics.

Based on current web trends and the rising obsession with mobile, it's hard to imagine that Variable Tech's NODE won't soon be changing the way businesses standardize their field data collection.  Heck, maybe we'll even see NODE on Mary Meeker's 2013 trends summary!

We hope you’ll be as excited to watch these guys evolve as we are!

 

Web - VariableTech.com

Twitter - @VariableTech

Facebook - NODE

 

Practical Tips to Improve Your E-Commerce Website - Part 2 of 2

(In case you missed it: Part 1 of 2)

5. Visible contact info establishes credibility.

While this might not be high on everyone's list, you must establish credibility to all of the users that have not bought from you before. You may know you are trustworthy, but that does not mean the user does. List a landline phone number somewhere clear on the homepage and every page if possible. I personally like when sites do this because it provides a reassuring sense that human help is only a phone call away. Below is a perfect example of this.

Great Example Of Clear Contact Information

Also, studies show that 79% of people still prefer phone calls for customer service and problem resolution versus other mediums. This is not surprising, given that a phone call can be much quicker than multiple back-and-forth e-mails or online chat assistance. Many people shy away from websites that have hard-to-find contact details. Don't be one of these sites.

6. The checkout process: Help them push the cart.

The checkout/order process is where the most potential customers will abandon a purchase. There are plenty of things you can do to help prevent this from happening though. One common tactic is to break-up the checkout process into multiple steps to keep from overwhelming the user with everything at once. That being said, many users still prefer it all on one page. In a study performed by The Official Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store, they found that a single-page checkout outperformed a multi-page checkout by 21.8% in having fewer users abandon their carts. Which strategy to follow is going to depend heavily on your target market but you should definitely put a lot of thought and testing into your checkout process.

Secondly, give the user a few recommendations. Don't drown them, but make sure you at least give yourself a few cross-selling and/or up-selling opportunities. Data shows that up-selling helps drive sales by as much as 4% and that cross-selling can drive sales by around 3% when shown on the check-out page.

Lastly, when it comes to credit card purchases be sure to use copy that increases credibility and ensures the user that all of their data is encrypted and as safe as possible. In an age of increasing fraud and identify theft this is the last thing you want to fall victim to. A little reassurance is always a good thing. Depending on your business size, I would heavily consider utilizing VeriSign encryption and having your checkout process done through a HTTPS URL to boost trust with potential first-time buyers.

7. Why yes, we do take PayPal.

This last one is my own personal recommendation. PayPal offers several benefits to a buyer but the primary one is the ability to make online transactions without divulging your payment info to a retailer. First, you place a credit card and/or bank account on file. Then, when you go to make a purchase from a retailer you simply complete the final steps of the checkout process through your PayPal account and the money is taken from your account and paid to the retailer on your behalf. It offers safety and convenience since you don't have to continually take out your credit card to key in info on websites where you have never purchased before. Both of these factors make PayPal invaluable to me and with well over 100 million users, clearly I'm not alone. Definitely consider it as a payment option if your business has the means to do so.

Target's Online Checkout System With PayPal Option

Conclusion

The E-commerce landscape is ever-changing and as the old adage says, you have to adapt to survive. My final piece of advice is to never be too content with your website. Many people are resistant to change, but where would Facebook be today if they didn't constantly strive to refine their service and make it easier for users to read and share information? Perfection may be unattainable but that does not mean you shouldn't strive for it. Utilize analytics software and seek out data on how customers interact with your website. Strive to make everyone's visit enjoyable by giving them an appealing site where they can find things quickly and easily. You want them to have a pleasant experience regardless of whether they are just window shopping or actually intent on buying. If you don't give them a sufficient reason to use your site versus competitor sites, then you should not act surprised when that's where they choose to spend their dollars.

Practical Tips to Improve Your E-Commerce Website - Part 1 of 2

Designing and building an e-commerce site is a massive undertaking for a business seeking to expand into the digital realm. E-commerce continues to grow year by year while brick and mortar retailers are forced to continually adapt to the changing landscape of retail sales. Many consumers clearly prefer the simplicity and convenience of shopping online. Here are a few tips to help ensure your site is as welcoming and efficient as possible in attracting business.

1. Simplicity

Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication." Think about some of the fastest growing companies on the market. Apple and Google are two great examples. They both have a core framework with user simplicity at the base. It's all about the experience. Apple's products, website, and ad copy are all very attention getting but do not drown you in an excess of information. The same can be said for Google. You should have a clean and simple hierarchy for navigation and never overwhelm the user with too much info on any given page. Be detailed, yet concise.

2. No hidden fees. No hiccups.

These constitute one of my biggest personal pet peeves. Taxes, freight, and other such costs should never be hidden in such a way that the user cannot see them until the final phases of checkout. Do NOT require a login or other such gateway for a user to get a freight estimate on your product or service. I cannot tell you how many times I have been ready to purchase something online and noticed an additional cost that was not initially included. This does not only apply to "hidden" fees but also to companies that only offer limited shipping options. The site below is a perfect example. With UPS Ground being the only service offered, a $2.80 bolt gets an $11 shipping charge. This will dissuade almost any customer from buying small items. Only a handful are willing to "bundle" small items into an order to justify the shipping costs.

3. Breadcrumbs - Keep the user continually informed.

Let's face it. At some point we have all been overwhelmed when trying to buy something. Whether in real life or online, shopping can sometimes be a hassle. If you have an e-commerce site that deals with multiple products across various categories then leaving the user "breadcrumbs" is a great idea to help them conceptualize where they are at any given time. Amazon, Office Depot, and NewEgg are all great examples of this. Breadcrumbs serve several different purposes. They let a user backtrack easily, show hierarchy, help eliminate additional (unnecessary) clicks, provide additional help, and generally lower bounce rates.

4. Search. Sort. Streamline.

It should go without saying, but having an efficient search tool on your website is an absolute must. I have visited a handful of sites before where it took me minutes to find an item either because their search was not working properly or there was no search function at all.

Sorting options are a must too. Most e-commerce sites do a fairly good job in this regard so you are going to be behind the curve if you don't allow your user to sort products by price, attribute, brand, reviews, etc. Lastly, make sure your interface is streamlined. Users don't like having to click four times to search something on your site if it takes two clicks on a competitor's site. The easier you make things for the user, the less likely they are to bounce to a competing site. Personally, I will return as a repeat user to a site if it is easy to search, organized well, and easy to checkout on. But you can count that if your checkout process is overly complicated or difficult, I will most likely avoid your site in the future.

Head right over here for Part 2!

What the Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 1 of 2

The Wire is everyone's favorite show for a reason. A deep well of characters, a sprawling narrative that felt intimate and alive, a searing critique of the drug war and a top to bottom post-mortem on the heart of a once-great city. It could only be described as, well, "Dickensian." Sorry, Gus! The Wire was one of those shows that kept you on the hook with long-developing plot lines (investigations, mergers, a series of major news reports) that typically extended over an entire season. It also delivered incredible quotes and moments of drama and comedy on a weekly basis - sometimes both in the same scene. It's what gave the show its weekly entertainment punch to go along with its historical level of sophistication and "reporting."

Here at Delegator we're big fans, and we even started using some of those quotes around the office to reference some of the things we were doing for clients related to AdWords, SEO, Analytics, and more. With a recent upswing in attention on the show (thanks Grantland!) we thought now might be a good time to share with our clients and readers what we've been talking about for years. Search Engine Marketing - As Explained by the Cast of The Wire. Sheeeeeeee...

“When you take a shot at the King, you best not miss.” - Omar Little

Omar Little

Taking aim at the number one Google ranking is a formidable task. That’s especially true when you happen to be going up against another entity that a) has a clearly more relevant relationship to the keyword than you do or b) can spend you under the table. Unfortunately for most companies, it’s not a realistic goal.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn't try, or shouldn’t at least set it as your goal. Sometimes toppling the king is easier than you thought (just ask Marlo). But more often than not, as Wee-Bey found out, you end up eating chicken salad across from Bunk and McNulty. What is realistic for most companies is getting a few corners of their own - corners the big boys  might not know about. The way to do this in SEO is by investigating and then investing in long tail keywords. Maybe Huge Company X has the market cornered on "The Wire Posters," but you could get a real foothold in "Michael K. Williams Posters," "Omar Little Wire Posters," or "Omar Little Season 5 Posters." You won't get quite as much traffic as you would for a generic term, but the traffic you do get will be specific, and motivated to convert.

The only way to achieve a ranking like that for a competitive keyword is perfect preparation, determination in the form of time and money, and luck.

“Look the part, be the part.” - Proposition Joe

Proposition Joe

Joe came in for some ridicule from Avon when he showed up to the annual East/West showdown in full “Pat Riley” suit and tie regalia, but his commitment to looking like a “real” basketball coach helped him coach with more authority and confidence. In other words, getting the look right helped him get the job right. That, and a hired ringer. This is a lesson that can be easily applied to SEM.

Everything starts with your site design. A newcomer to your site should immediately be able to understand what you’re about and trust that you can deliver the goods. Building that initial trust element and creating a homepage that effectively funnels users to the pages you want them to hit is a complicated, multi-faceted process, but it’s a time and design investment well worth making. When you look like a “real” site, you’ll see yourself start to perform like one.

“Our job is to report the news, not manufacture it!” - Gus Haynes

Gus Haynes and Scott Templeton Season 5 of The Wire was about the breakdown of professional ethics within the main character, Detective Jimmy McNulty, as well as the august offices of the Baltimore Sun (where series creator David Simon began his career as a journalist). McNulty, frustrated with the lack of institutional support for his wire investigations, (SPOILER ALERT) fakes the presence of a serial killer by “adjusting” bodies post mortem. Scott Templeton, a hotshot up and comer at the Sun, began his career making up innocuous stories about wheelchair bound children going to Orioles games, but he eventually begins to stretch the truth about the serial killer case - he is the only reporter the “killer” ever contacts.

In the end McNulty loses his badge and Templeton wins a Pulitzer.

When you go with “black hat” SEO - SEO that attempts to get around Google standards and practices through any one of a dozen illicit strategies - you’re taking the same chance. Maybe it will work, you won’t get caught, and your business will go up, up, up. But maybe you’ll get caught, blacklisted, and penalized indefinitely in the organic results, crippling and even killing your business. Is that really a chance you want to take?

At Delegator we only do “white hat” SEO. Be very careful before getting in bed with any firm that doesn’t, and make sure that if you’re running your own SEO operation you don’t cross the line. It’s not worth risking your entire business.

“If Snotboogie always stole the money, then why did you let him play?”

“Got to. This America, man.” - McNulty and Man on Stoop

Anybody can play the AdWords game. Doesn’t matter if they don’t understand it, try to cheat it, or run their accounts into the ground. Because it depends on the quality of your site much less than the value of your dollar, it’s as open as it gets in the land of SEM. The only thing you need to play is money - Google allows you to set up your account and start spending faster than you can run down to your neighborhood game of bones (though your ROI is likely to be higher with Google). You will almost certainly need an expert to guide you through the weeds with no pain and plenty of profit.

Active AdWords management is the best way to navigate the choppy waters of paid search. Active management means going in every day and making changes, re-organizing, raising and lowering bids, and identifying and exploiting new best practices. That's the only proven way to consistently stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the wide open AdWords game.

Come back for more Wire action next week!

Part 2 of 2.

Snow White and the Seven Commercials: Creating a Profitable Business Homepage

There is much ado about “selling” an e-commerce website within that initial millisecond when a shopper lands on a homepage, because losing a shopper in that moment will yield high bounce rates that shoot off red flags for web analysts. Immediately, designers are set off in a tizzy trying to figure out what could possibly be turning customers off from their efficient page design. Every company wants the visitor to feel as if he/she has stumbled into the fairy tale of all e-commerce websites, awestruck by the quality and selection of the products and also welcomed by the captivating site environ. An online business seeks to be the fairest maiden in the land, if you will, and companies should make this a big picture priority.

Essentially, the objective of any homepage is to get the visitor off the homepage. This means the visitor needs incentive to continue trekking through the forest. A recent method of ecommerce sites has been to embed a large scrolling banner above the fold on the homepage, exposing the shopper to the wide world of products that are only a click away. Though this method follows logically, many shoppers actually see these scrolling banners as picture commercials. Shoppers don’t visit your site to watch commercials. They come to shop, and it’s likely they’ll change the channel if your site is just another money-grubbing commercial.

Snow White Mac DecalPromotions are necessary on the homepage, but they’re most inviting when disguised as possible paths. Let the shoppers feel as though they have discovered the deals and made the accomplished bargains themselves. Streamline and clarify top navigation and/or sidebar navigation to make this process simple and available for shoppers. Show your featured sale lines above the fold, but dress them up as more avenues to explore, not promotions to ignore. Speak the language of your shoppers in true “choose your own adventure” form. The shopping adventure is first and foremost meant to fulfill the customer’s dreams, not the company’s quota.

If shoppers keep bouncing off your homepage, give this a thought. Put yourself in the shopper’s shoes and imagine the adventure that you, the shopper not the businessperson, would desire. You’ll see a difference in attitude once you’ve made your house a home.

(Image Source)

The Top Ten Ways to Optimize Your Wordpress Blog and Make It More Powerful than Ever - Part II

Welcome back campers to the exciting conclusion of our two part mini-series on juicing up your Wordpress blog. Hopefully you've had enough time to lay the groundwork with our last round of suggestions - now it's time to blow the roof off. Enjoy!

6. SEO Packs

Okay, most of the things on this list are good for any blog anywhere. But Wordpress has a few major advantages when it comes to SEO. One of the best is the All In One SEO Pack, a nifty plug-in that allows you to create meta data at the same time you write and post your blog entry (and you don’t have to mess with code at all). There’s a whole world of great plug-ins at Wordpress - take the time to dig through them and find the ones that are the best for you. (Hint: The ones that are the best for you are the ones that make running the blog easier and more efficient!).

7. Posting Regularity

Self-explanatory, but here we go for the back of the class - if you don’t post with regularity your readers will not keep coming back to see what you have to say. Even if no one is commenting, no one seems to be reading and you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall, post with regularity! It’s vital to your success. New folks won’t want to read through a blog started in 2010 that has four posts.

8. Posting Volume

Regularity is the most important thing, but volume is essential as well. Once a month is fine if that’s the best you can do, but the most successful and popular blogs post daily - usually many times a day. Do your best to write as much as you can. Remember, it’s okay to be a little bit unfiltered, or even occasionally wrong on a point of fact - your community will correct you, and a blog is a living document. You can always correct the record.

9. Comments

We’ve touched on comments earlier in the post, but they’re so, so important to your success. Allow them, and read them, and post and promote them if they’re worthy. When you listen to your readers they tend to listen to you, stay engaged, and keep your blog on their roster of daily reading. Yes, sometimes comments can get annoying. But they're an excellent way to engage.

10. Blog to Blog Partnerships

This is a fun and productive way of keeping up your volume and regularity, gain access to new and larger communities of readers, and of course make friends. When you can have online conversations with other blogs, go back and forth and mix and mingle your content, you spread your message. Go forth and befriend.

And now, go forth and conquer. Huzzah!

How to Run Your Own Blog

And lo, Delegator.com journeyed into the wilderness of the 156 million public blogs on the Internet, and returned to the people with commandments; and these commandments numbered 10.

I. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

The most important thing any blogger can do is to keep blogging. At first, you might get very little reader response. You might even (gasp) get none at all. But that’s no reason to panic! The only way you can create an engaged and communicative readership is by regularly updating your blog. People don’t congregate at or return to blogs that are infrequently or indifferently updated. It may be the last thing on your to do list, but it’s absolutely essential that you get it done. You might be talking to yourself at first, but if you keep talking and you actually have something to say, people will start to listen. Trust us.

II. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

This is by far the most important commandment. Brand it upon your brain.

III. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

We are willing to alienate and annoy you to ensure that you do not forget this commandment.

IV. Write what you know.

This is one of those true cliches about professional writing. As important as it is to novelists, journalists and script writers, it’s doubly important for bloggers. Bloggers don’t have to be single issue, but if they seek to gain a larger readership they need to be focused and expert. If you don’t understand a concept, link to it - don’t write about it. Your readers are coming to you for answers and/or entertainment, so write about things you know inside and out. Otherwise you risk losing credibility, respect for you or your companies ability, and worst of all, readers.

V. When readers have a strong response to a post, keep mining that vein of interest - hold their attention.

It’s in the best interest of a blog writer to be responsive to his or her readers. If you get a big response from a post of yours (even if you didn’t think it was that big a deal) listen to your readers. Keep posting about that same subject or in that same style (not exclusively, just regularly). The goal of a blog is to build readerships, transmit information, and connect with potential clients. When you touch a nerve, don’t be shy about pressing it.

VI. Create an editorial voice, and maintain it.

Even if your blog posts are being written by several different people and cover a few different areas of interest, keeping a clear editorial voice is important. It helps readers to feel they have a personal connection to the blog, and it makes your site distinctive and personal. Those are good things because they invite visits, correspondence, and a welcome sense of familiarity.

VII. Every once in a while, go off the cuff.

Having an editorial voice doesn’t mean you should speak in monotone. It’s good to give readers a few breaks from the serious work of digesting your thoughts and evaluating your advice. One of the most popular blogs on the internet, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, posts more than 300 times a week. But many of those posts are funny or moving pictures, silly videos, and palate cleansers like a daily “Mental Health Break.” You should think about fun ways to engage with your audience that don’t always include teaching them something. Your blog doesn’t need to look like it was designed by Martha Stewart, but it is important to give it a professional, cared-for appearance. If it’s sloppy, ugly, or too plain, savvy readers pick up on it and take their jaded eyeballs elsewhere.

IX. Spellcheck is your best friend.

Try not to get caught making mistakes in the realm of spelling, fact-checking, and grammar. It takes away credibility, and makes you look small-time.

X. Link to sources, and make sure to be up front about where you got information.

Nothing gets you worse press in the blogosphere than not attributing your sources of information on your blog. Do right by them and they’ll do right by you. Do otherwise, and you could get in real trouble (of the punitive kind, if not the legal).