Beware of the Robots!

By:
February 7th, 2014

How Internet Bots are Clouding Insight from Web Metrics: A Case Study in Screen Size for Responsive Design.

Google_web_crawling_bots

With our strong emphasis on the use of data in the digital experience design process, one of the first things we do when kicking off a new design process is to ask the data a key question: Who, using what devices, are we designing for?

We want to know the devices, browsers and Operating Systems that the current visitors are using so that we can optimize the experience to that mix, and deliver a responsive design that works best at the most common screen resolutions we are seeing (and will be seeing moving forward). Knowing the networks (mobile/fixed) and bandwidth are also helpful to determine the typical/sweet spot experiences a user will have with the new sites and apps we are designing.

We started working with a new client in the B2B technology space a few months back and started digging into their current Google Analytics data from the first day. First we wanted to take a look at the current typical screen sizes to determine if a responsive or adaptive (or hybrid) design was the best approach for them, and to determine which breakpoints were optimal.

Screen resolution settings in Google Analytics

(Screen resolution settings in Google Analytics)

Pulling the screen resolution out of Google Analytics for the last quarter, adding a secondary dimension of Device Category (so we could filter to just desktop, removing tablet and mobile) and then importing into Excel so we could extract and average the Horizontal and Vertical resolutions separately, we ending up with the following ‘average’ screen size:

1,119 x 798 pixels

With an aspect ratio close to 4:3 (4:2.8), this seemed low, compared to others we see, but was within the realms of the possible. However, the average screen size is not that helpful for determining design sizes, as we need to know the full distribution of screen size. Taking the raw horizontal screen resolutions and turning them into a cumulative chart produced this more visual representation of the data.

Screen Resolution 2

The chart basically shows, for each horizontal screen size, what % of users have a screen larger than that size – so 1 pixel has 100% of users with larger screens, etc. It also filters out mobile and tablet for now.

Instantly we can see a problem. 75% of all users seem to be at a screen resolution of 1024×768. And, as we have filtered out tablets, this must mean a lot of people have very small screens. In fact, a cursory glance at the Best Buy website shows that it’s not even possible to buy a computer or monitor with such a low resolution today.

So, we have a bot problem.

Some recent research from Incapsula (report here) showed that more than half of internet traffic is bots – some good (like Google’s search crawlers and monitoring tools) and some nefarious (like scrapers and malware). And both our friendly and less friendly bots tend to report as ‘standard’ agents, i.e., 1024×768 running on Windows and IE.

So, with our known infestation of bots we went back to Google Analytics and worked closely with the client to identify and filter out as many of these bots as possible. The easy ones (like Google) were already filtered. Some more were easy to spot, based on identifiers and IP networks. But for others we had to dig deeper and look at behavior on the site, such as visiting every page, something a real user would rarely, if ever, do!

The filtering had a dramatic effect, as the chart below with total traffic to the site over the last five months shows.

Visits per day 3

Once we had stabilized the data, we could revisit the screen resolution and other key data that would help inform the design. This chart below shows the “before & after” data for the horizontal screen resolution.

Horizontal Resolution 4

This totally transforms the view of the physical set up of our users’ desktop devices.  The data also looks more ‘natural’ with jumps at standard resolutions. The average resolution also moved from 1,119×798 to 1,501×922, a really significant change.

So, now that we were confident that we had killed off most of the bots (victory to the humans!) we could get back to the first question – what screens should we optimize the design to?

Merging the tablet and mobile data back in, and adding the vertical resolution to the horizontal chart we end up with this true picture of the users of the current experience.

Visits 5

Quickly we can see the main device resolutions and the share of users seeing each. The big takeaway for this project was that 65% of the users are seeing the site on a screen larger than 1,200 pixels, and almost 20% were using monitors at the full HD resolution of 1,920.

This changed our design strategy completely.  From maxing the screen resolution at 1,024 we are now focusing to optimize the desktop experience at 1,200, on tablets for resolutions closer to 1,000, and all within an overall responsive framework.

The lessons?

Always validate your web analytics to ensure your data is correct.  Bots are insidious on the web so filter them out. And as the actual desktop users are using big screens optimize for them, not just for tablets and mobile.

 

The Importance in Balancing SEO and Branding Terms on Your Site

By:
January 15th, 2014

SEO flow chart on blackboard

Keeping up with the changes that search engines such as Google make to their search algorithms is no easy feat, but one tip you can run with is the importance of using natural language in your web content.

Pros and Cons of Branding Word Play

Brand strategists are great at defining guidelines for the look, tone, and voice of a brand. Often brand strategists will use words and phrases that hype up the products, solutions, and the organization. However, in doing so, these brand strategists sometimes avoid the most obvious ways to describe a product in an effort to differentiate it from competitors. For example, if every company in an industry is selling “cement” then one company might choose to differentiate itself as a “provider of robust building materials.” Brand strategists will also change the description of an organization and its products to heighten the perceived value of a product and make it seem valuable to a broader set of audiences. For example, in an effort to make a specific bank stand out as superior, a brand strategist might describe the bank’s loan products as “highly competitive personal financing solutions.”

There are positive and negative examples of this sort of word play in the marketing world. A cynic can imagine the carnival barker screaming, “Step right up! See the most mysterious mystical sites to be seen. You’ll be amazed; In this tent is the eighth wonder of the world. Don’t dare to miss this!“ The strategy is understandable. If the carnival barker said, “Come see a bearded woman with a lot of tattoos and a tiny man wearing a dress,” the show would be appealing to a much smaller audience. There are examples of this type of showmanship all over the web.

Attempts To Differentiate May Be Too Alienating

There are two significant problems with hyping a brand in this way in the online world. First, for companies that do not describe the products and organization in the same vocabulary as the customer, SEO targeting becomes very difficult. Second, when prospective customers do get to the website, they may actually be confused as to what the company does, thereby driving abandonment up and driving actual conversion down.

Search phrase data from organizations like Google shows that prospects and customers don’t typically look for products and services using the type of vocabulary that brand strategists use. In fact, the data suggests that prospective customers start with the most common phrases (typically devoid of marketing hype words).

Finding the Middle Ground

So what is a brand strategist to do? Should brand marketers stop using phrases like “ultimate driving machine” because their prospects are Googling “sports cars”?

From a brand perspective, there needs to be a middle ground. Content strategists can push brand strategists to come to a happy compromise, including the vocabulary used by the prospective customers as well as the marketing hype. Make sure the audience knows that you are speaking their language while building value.

From an SEO perspective it can be argued in either direction. Search engines like Google put a lot of weight (and scoring) in the text surrounding referring links. Sites like Visa.com don’t mention the phrase “credit card” with a significant keyphrase density but they rank very well in search results for that competitive phrase. That’s because external sites such as media sites, blogs, Wikipedia, etc. that all link to Visa.com describe it as a site with information about credit cards. This allows Visa.com to use just about any language on its site and still rank very well for important phrases. Sure, this is not common, but if you happen to have this luxury and you have a good handle on the text that external sites use to describe your site, go ahead and speak more liberally.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that search engines typically favor exact matches. If you refuse to use common phrases to describe your products and services, you are likely missing opportunities in search.

 

Award Wins in 2013

By:
January 14th, 2014

 

awards

 

We are inspired to work hard at Extractable, seeking to provide our clients with the strongest possible solutions. We work passionately, utilizing user-centered methods and data insights to create compelling and personalized customer experiences that deliver measurable business value. While we are all aligned around this mindset, it is nice to receive praise from the wider industry. In the eleven years I’ve been with the agency, I’ve never been more proud of our accomplishments as judged by our peers.

In 2013, Extractable won 59 awards in 11 competitions:

- Horizon Awards (8)
- Content Marketing Awards (1)
- Internet Advertising Competition (3)
- Communicator Awards (8)
- Interactive Media Awards (6)
- Horizon Awards (8)
- Hermes Awards (4)
- Telly Awards (8)
- Web Marketing Association WebAwards (7)
- Davey Awards (4)
- RX Club (1)
- Pixel Awards (1)

Special thanks to our clients who entrust us to challenge conventional wisdom and propose innovative design and technology solutions. We’re looking forward to an even better 2014!

 

Designing the perfect wedding (using best practices from the UX world)

By:
December 4th, 2013

Since becoming a user experience designer, it is hard for me to enjoy poorly designed products or experiences. I walk around the world thinking to myself “if only they made this usability improvement, their product would be so much better!”

Sometimes, though, my user experience wiles come into handy. Like when I was planning my wedding, for example. I wanted to design an experience that would be memorable and fun for everyone – easier said than done! Luckily, the user experience design process helped me sort through the chaos of wedding planning. The similarities between wedding planning and creating a great digital experience were uncanny. And, what could have been a stressful journey actually came quite naturally to me.

Here’s how the wedding planning went:

Strategic Discovery

Discovery is always the first phase in the Extractable design process. In this stage, we strive to understand the core business goals and drivers of the experience. We meet with key business leaders to figure out what is working well (or not so well). It is important for us to understand what constitutes success in the eyes of our stakeholders so that we can put measures against these goals. At the end of an engagement, we evaluate the success of the project against these goals. The Logix Credit Union case study is a great example of when stakeholder interviews gave us key insights into business goals.

We started our discovery process for our wedding by talking with various wedding venus and vendors to understand what could be possible for our wedding day. We interviewed each vendor – from the DJ to the day-of event coordinator – about their knowledge of what has worked well for other weddings in the past. They were able to give us sample timelines and checklists that other brides had used in the past. This process helped us prioritize different aspects of the wedding and understand where to spend our budget.

theknot

User Research

In the design process, user research is the phase in which we dig deep into who the users are, what they care about, and how they think about the task or experience. We talk directly to users with interviews and solicit their input through participatory creation exercises. As a data driven agency, this knowledge about the users drives the user-centered design process. For one of our clients Micron, we conducted interviews with the primary users to understand which tasks and documents were most important to them.       See the Micron case study here.

Like many of our clients, there were many different kind of “users” for the wedding, each with their own needs and desires. My fiance and I had different ideas about where we wanted the ceremony – here in California versus in Texas, where our families live. Our families both had requests about incorporating family and religious traditions. Our friends had different music requests than our older family members. It was a task to understand exactly what was important to everyone and understand how to balance the conflicting desires without compromising anyone’s experience. In the end, we found a venue that gave us the flexibility to meet everyone’s desires: a beautiful vineyard in Central Texas.

spicewoodvineyards

Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis is a way for the design team to understand the landscape of digital experiences that users currently have. It helps us figure out how to position the experience and what users expect from similar digital experiences. Sometimes it helps us to carry good ideas out on the experience we design, and sometimes it serves as a warning sign of what not to design.

If you were one of my friends who got married between the time I got engaged and married, you were part of my competitive analysis. Fortunately, the Internet also provides a plethora of ways to explore different wedding celebrations and decorations. For example, we got the idea for our “Save the Date” card from one that we found on the Internet.

savethedate

Scenarios & Storytelling

After discovery, user research, and competitive analysis, the next step typically is to translate all these findings into an innovative and engaging experience. We start this process with high-level stories about how people will interact with the experience in the future. These stories serve as sketches of what the experience will feel like. By focusing on scenarios and key tasks in the experience, we ensure that the digital experience first serves the core needs of the users. Then we can build out the rest of the experience around the core experience. A good example of using scenarios is the Newport Group website, in which we focused on the primary scenario use cases for the most common tasks, such as checking the balance of a retirement account. Read more about the Newport Group case study here.

Once we had an idea of what we wanted for the wedding, we used storytelling to express the essence of the experience we were going for. Scenarios helped us to articulate how guests would move throughout the night between the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, and what kind of activities they might do throughout the night. Communicating to vendors with a story helped them understand the context of their service and the bigger picture of the desired experience. It also focused the vendors on what was most important to us, instead of details like what flavor the cake should be (although cake tasting was quite fun!) We told a story of a formal but rustic, refined but relaxed, Fall wedding at a vineyard.

Iterative Concept Testing (on Pinterest)

Once we have the core scenarios set out, the next step at Extractable is to iterate on concepts and test them with actual users. As we design, we are constantly checking in with users to make sure we are expressing the experience in a way that matches their mental model and fits their needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting a sketch of a website in front of users. At other times we get more involved and make fully functional prototypes to express flows through the experience. These sessions encourage users to participate, express their ideas, and convey any feedback.

For our wedding, we went to the ultimate participatory design tool – Pinterest – to iteratively try out different wedding concepts before committing to one direction. I started a wedding Pinterest board. I pinned ideas that I was seriously considering and encouraged family and friends to pint ideas to the board. By seeing which of my pins that others liked, I got a sense of what kind of activities and decorations that my guests would like, and which ones would fall flat.

pinterest

Conclusion

It’s been two months since we got married. As you can tell, I’m still floating from the amazing day we created. I’m certain that my user experience design expertise made our wedding day memorable and special to both our guests and us.

weddingphoto

 

The Surprise Bomb In Your Website Redesign

By:
October 28th, 2013

Award Winning Digital Agency

Many companies head into a website redesign with the belief that technology issues will pose this biggest potential threat to their project’s success. This may indeed be true in the case of very complex technology integrations. But more often, the factor that’s most likely to send your web project sideways is content. Surprised? If so, that just may be why it’s the factor to which you need to pay most attention.

The role that content plays in a website design is often underestimated and undervalued, which can lead to budget overruns, blown schedules and sites that underperform. Here, we’ll walk you through the four key web content pain points and how to avoid them.

Pain Point #1: Clueless About Current Content Effectiveness

Quick, what percentage of your webpages do you think gets less than five p in a month? The number is probably much higher than you think. In a quick study of a handful of our clients, including a Fortune 500 healthcare technology provider, we found that, on average, 87% of the total website pages receive five pageviews or less in a month. It might be easy to assume that those pages represent a tremendous amount of content that’s just not pulling its weight, and for the most part it would be a safe assumption. But if one of those five pageviews on a page led to sales, then that web page is not useless crap, it’s just not your lead dog. Understanding what content is working and what is not is essential to any website project. But the more important question is why is it not working?

If the content is just not being found, that could be because the page is not optimized for search engines or the information architecture doesn’t make it easy for the user to connect to that particular content. If the content isn’t desired, that’s another thing altogether. Whatever the reason, it’s something that needs to be addressed. At Extractable, we kick off our content strategy by performing a content audit and gap analysis where we examine:

  • The effectiveness of content
  • The depth and breadth of content available to various user types
  • The appropriateness of content type (text, images, charts, slideshows, tutorials, etc.)
  • The consistency of tone and voice
  • The relevancy to the site visitor (based on persona needs)
  • How well the site—and individual pages—are optimized for search performance
  • How well the site—and individual pages—nurtures leads and assists in the conversion process
  • How well the content aligns with stated site goals
  • The findability and accessibility of content

We also take a close look at site/page analytics and user flow analyses to uncover insights about how users are interacting with content.

And we test content messaging to see what resonates with users. It’s through this mining of information that we’re able to uncover valuable insights that can be used to shape the content strategy and the information architecture in very useful ways.

We may find that there’s a large bit of content that is decaying and no longer needs to be supported so it can be archived. Or maybe we find that there’s a requirement for a very specific type of content to address the needs of a certain user type. Knowing that early in the project means there is time for it to be developed without scrambling to find resources or budget.

Pain Point #2: Lack of Content Alignment

When it comes to content, everyone has an opinion. The trouble comes when those opinions don’t align. This can happen for several reasons. Maybe the business goals were not clearly defined or even agreed upon by the stakeholders at the start of the project. Maybe there wasn’t clear brand or positioning messaging from which to build content. Or maybe there are just differing opinions—content is subjective after all. The good news is that all of these can be avoided with some simple planning.

At Extractable, we conduct extensive stakeholder interviews in the first phase of the project as a way to define business goals and uncover and address any misalignment early in the process. We then undergo thorough user testing that enables us to map the business goals to the user needs and create a cohesive content strategy. Finally, we develop a creative brief and messaging matrix— which sets the tone and tenor for the content — that is agreed upon by the stakeholders before any creative is commenced. The ability to get early buy-in from key stakeholders on the business goals and creative approach combined with data from user research greatly reduces the likelihood that your project will be plagued by content misalignment issues.

Pain Point #3: Insufficient Resources for Content Development

It’s not unusual for clients to think that content development will be the easy part of their website redesign. Either they imagine they will have someone from Marcom write it or get a $50/hour contractor — and “and just bang out the pages.” The reality is that writing for the web is much different than for any other medium. And it’s changing all the time.

A year ago, one could estimate content development for the web fairly easily as a page was much more straightforward. Today, a page can be more like a complete, self-contained site experience all on its own. A single page may have 1,000 words of copy, multiple videos, interactive models and charts, rotating captions, animated illustrations and more. Each of these elements must take into consideration readability and scanability, the mindset of the user — (Where is he in the purchase process? What is his relative knowledge on this subject? What other products/services might he be interested in?) — search optimization factors, and more. Then you’ve got to decide what related content— such as related products, brochures, whitepapers, videos, case studies, etc. — will be displayed in promotional areas on the page. This takes a general understanding of the entire product and service offering as well as the content inventory. Add to that the need to develop traffic-grabbing metadata and content development for the web can be a very intensive endeavor. And because the websites that perform the best (both with humans and search engines) offer the richest experiences — video, images, illustrations, charts, etc. — you’ll also need to factor in extra time to create that content, too. Whew! That’s a lot more work than writing a few paragraphs of copy for each page.

If your website features a product or service that is especially technical or otherwise unique and subject matter experts are needed to help develop the content, you’ll want to factor in the SME’s time early in the process. We also like to hold a kickoff meeting with SMEs to walk them through the website functionality and get them excited about what we’re creating. We find that this level of inclusion leads to increased collaboration and engagement on the part of the SMEs. You can use the same technique with Legal teams. You might just find that you get through Legal review faster!

In short, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that content development will be easy. Use experienced professional web content developers and plan for it to take a significant amount of time. Do the math. If you think you can edit or create four pages per day and you have 100 web pages, that’s a five weeks of content development work.

Pain Point #4: Effort Associated with Content Migration is Undervalued

Just because you’re not rewriting or reworking content doesn’t mean that a content effort can be overlooked. Content migration can still be a significant effort, especially for websites with thousands of pages.

At Extractable we try to use automated methods whenever possible, but there are times when content needs to be migrated by hand. How long it takes to migrate content by hand depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The difficulty of building pages in the CMS
  • The complexity of the pages that are being migrated
  • The experience level of the person performing the migration

When working with a CMS that we know well, it’s easier for us to provide guidance around how long it will take for content entry. However, there are over 600 content management systems out there, and that’s not including the homegrown versions. So if we were asked to make an estimate for content migration on a new CMS with an inexperienced person performing the migration, we’d probably need to allow for additional hours to complete the migration. Understanding that content migration is as dynamic is the website project on which it’s being performed is an important step to ensuring that you properly resource this step.

All Hail the Content

At the end of the day, content is the reason users are coming to your website to begin with. It’s not the court jester. As has been said so many times before, content is king. So stop treating content strategy, content development and content migration as optional components of your strategy and go all in. You’ll avoid the royal pain that comes with budget and timeline overruns and be on your way to launching a website that delivers a top-notch user experience. Now that’s the bomb!

And if you need any help figuring out how to get there, let me know! I’m happy to answer any questions you many have.

Dana Larson, Chief Content Officer @ dlarson@extractable.com

 

Post-PC Digital Teams

By:
October 24th, 2013

Mark Ryan, Chief Analytics Officer of Extractable, and I were recently interviewed by Sam Stern, a Senior CX Analyst from Forrester for his new report “Digital Customer Experience Teams in the Post-PC Era” and I wanted to share a few thoughts on the topics raised.

Sam’s report looks at how companies are trying to shape their digital teams against an environment in which customers are moving between devices (PCs, phones, tablets) and channels in a very fluid manner, and demanding a consistent and functional experience across them all.

We had a great conversation, sharing anecdotes and strategies from our clients, comparing our thoughts against what Sam was hearing from others during his research.

There were many observations and opportunities that we shared with Sam, based on what we have been seeing with our clients and engagements over the last few years, but two major insights stood out that I wanted to discuss in more depth today:

#1 – The external / internal cycle

As we know, larger organizations find it hard to change quickly, and this is especially true when confronted with new technology that not just challenges the current way that business is done, but also requires new skills or ways of thinking to take advantage of the technology. So, what we often see is the creation of a new group or team, outside of the standard organization, with a remit to take advantage of the new technology. We saw it with the ‘web team’ in the past, and to a lesser extent with SEO and social media in more recent years.

Over time, as the technology becomes mainstream, the external team is absorbed back into the organization, changing it in the process.
Today, we are seeing some clients and organizations with ‘mobile teams’ as a reaction to the rapid growth of the new, post-pc multi-device world we are now in. However, it makes no sense to have a separate mobile team, as mobile devices are just one touch point that customers have with an organization. Of course, certain key mobile skills are needed to fully utilize mobile platforms, but that should be delivered within the context of the total customer experience.

One good question to ask of anyone proposing a separate team focused on mobile is: “If a social media tool is delivered to the customer via a mobile device, is that the responsibility of the mobile or social teams?”

The takeaway: Focus on the total customer journey and not the specific delivery device.

#2 – The business is the experience

In his report Sam talks about the importance of getting business stakeholders involved in the customer experience design process and how customer journey mapping can be a good tool to aide in that process.

We strongly agree.

With one of our clients in the financial services industry we are working on a major overhaul of the client’s b2b broker portal. The project’s business stakeholders deeply understand their business but are new to the customer experience design world. Consequently it is proving hard for them to clearly express experience requirements and give feedback on the more advanced interactions being contemplated.

Just last week during a call to review some wireframe concepts, one stakeholder asked a question, “I understand how the navigation is supposed to work, but how will our users interact with the menu on the left?” The menu on the left was just our index of the screens we were showing in the session, not part of the design, indicating a lack of familiarity with the process we live by every day. However it is our responsibility, as experience designers, to ensure those stakeholders are part of the success of the new experience not the other way round.

Journey mapping is one tool to help with this, allowing stakeholders to see the total customer journey and where digital can assist customers.

Customer Journey Workshop

(In progress Journey Mapping exercise)

Another technique we are using much more frequently is to put higher-fidelity concepts in front of stakeholders so we can gauge their reactions earlier in the process. Once they see how principles that sometimes seem esoteric come alive in a ‘real’ experience, it’s much easier for them to express valuable feedback.

Combining the customer journey maps with interactive concepts at key touch points can become a powerful tool to evangelize an organization behind digital change.

How has your digital team changed? Do you see big changes in the future?

And, thanks to Sam Stern for helping to drive an ecosystem-wide approach to building digital customer experience teams.

 

EXTRACTABLE Wins 7 WebAwards

By:
September 26th, 2013

There’s been a lot of great news for EXTRACTABLE this year and we’ve just learned about some more.

We are thrilled to announce that we have won 7 WebAwards for work with our clients Micron, GECU, Presidio and Logix! EXTRACTABLE now has a total of 39 awards for 2013.

Award Winning Digital Ageny San Francisco

 

Micron won three “Standard of Excellence” WebAwards in these categories:
-B2B
-Directory or Search Engine
-Technology
See the Micron case study
See the Micron WebAward wins

GECU (Greater El Paso Credit Union) won two “Standard of Excellence” WebAwards in these categories:
-Credit Union
-Financial Services
See the GECU case study 
See the GECU WebAward

Logix won the “Best Credit Union Website” WebAward
See the Logix case study
See the Logix WebAward 

Presidio won an “Outstanding Achievement” WebAward
See the Presidio case study
See the Presidio WebAward Win

More than 1,500 entries from 40 countries were judged during this year’s competition. Entries were judged on design, copy writing, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation, and use of technology. The EXTRACTABLE team is excited to be recognized for these accomplishments. Congratulations to the team and to our clients!

 

Just How Dated Is Your Digital Strategy?

By:
September 12th, 2013

strategy02Companies are starting to see the light. Many have come to realize that it’s possible to differentiate themselves from their competitors by delivering a superior experience to customers; not just by the products they sell.  Unfortunately there are still some brands that just don’t fully understand the importance of this. We hear this time and time again at client meetings:

We think our strategy is working well, or we’ve seen growth year-to-year and we’re happy with that.”

Truth is, if your digital strategy hasn’t been reviewed in the past six months, there is a good chance you’re missing out on some large opportunities with your current customers and perhaps even missing out on a whole set of customers you didn’t know existed – yes, really.

Forrester’s Recent Findings:
With the recently released report titled “The Business Impact Of Customer Experience” by Forrester, the results are undeniable.  The report states what many of us know already – there’s a strong correlation between customer experience and customer loyalty.

To conduct the study Forrester examined the statistical relationship between how customers rate companies in their Customer Experience Index (CEi).

Three key components were considered:

  • Willingness to consider the company for another purchase
  • Likelihood to switch business to a competitor
  • Likelihood to recommend to a friend or colleague

What is most likely to get your attention is the revenue increases that come along with enhanced customer loyalty.

In the section titled, “Better Customer Experience Can Be Worth Millions in Annual Revenue,” Forrester describes the correlation between a high-scoring CEi to these forms of revenue increases:

  • Increases in incremental purchases from existing customers in the same year
  • Revenue saved by customer loyalty (lower churn)
  • Increased sales driven by customer referrals

Yes, soon many will catch on. A customer experience strategy, design and execution will more frequently become a company’s core competency as well as a core practice of culture.  After all, the more interactions there are with customers, the deeper the relationships, the richer the data captured and the better the business gains. And, who doesn’t want that?

So what is it you’ll need to do, once you’re ready to move forward making Customer Experience a top priority?  First, congratulate yourselves, as getting there is half the battle. Next you’ll need to follow these guidelines:

  • Hire help! –  Find a partner who can guide you through the ever-changing landscape of technology and help you interpret data to develop user experiences that really deliver.
  • Start With Business And Brand Objectives
- If you have defined goals and objectives, review them to ensure they are still valid. If you don’t have them, this is a good time to establish some.
  • Know Your Target Users
- Is your target audience the same as it was a year ago? Are their needs different due to market, socioeconomic or other changes? Are you delivering what they’re looking for today?
  • Optimize The Strategy – With objectives and target users defined, you can develop a user experience strategy, but you’ll also need to test that strategy and optimize accordingly.
  • Continue to Optimize and Think Long Term – Put a plan in place that can grow with time and the needs of your customers. Remember, customer experience expectations evolve rapidly in response to variables that you may have no control over.

In today’s markets, customer experience has become a key business differentiator—but meeting the needs of the customers is not always easy. We know that customers expect firms to invest financially, intellectually and emotionally in understanding and consistently meeting their evolving expectations.

By focusing on the best practices outlined here, companies can deliver customer experiences that drive revenue, enhance bottom-line profitability and long-term brand value.

 

The Importance of Style Guides

By:
September 3rd, 2013

I realize the title of this blog may have already put you to sleep, but for those of you still with me, you may be interested in hearing that those annoying style guides that you haven’t paid much attention to really are important.

A little background:

Style guides are nearly as old as publications themselves. For print publications, style guides were necessary to establish consistent usage of language and layout across several different contributors. As media formats have evolved and publishing now takes place across a plethora of platforms, the need for businesses to create and maintain style guides has dramatically increased. Style guides must now cover every channel, from print to web to social media. With interactive media channels, style guides help to define the experience and interactions that are consistent with a brand.

Why is a style guide important?

In a nutshell, a style guide helps to ensure a continuous brand experience. It means that no matter how, when or where a customer experiences a brand, they are experiencing the same underlying traits. It’s this consistency across every touch-point that helps build a brand and brand loyalty. And with 2.4 billion Internet users around the world (and growing), it’s really more critical than ever for businesses to establish a comprehensive style guide.

Let’s review a great example. BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, has developed GEL (Global Experience Language).

BBC describes GEL as “the glue that ties all BBC services together.” This style guide covers everything from basic design philosophies, details of interaction, and interactions on various types of interfaces. It combines the visual specification alongside the guidelines for when to use a certain interaction.

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It provides the strategy behind the design principles and leaves designers and UX teams with great direction and little room to stray beyond core design principles.

As platforms are often developed from outside parties, style guides become the primary communication tool between hired production teams and clients.

Microsoft has developed a UX Guide to “establish a high quality and consistent UX and UI baseline for all Windows desktop apps.” This style guide is used as a reference for any Windows platform designer.

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In this example, the style guide creates a consistent experience for the customer, as well as unified the brand across business units internally within the organization. The style guide document itself brings key players from across the business together, around the same table to contemplate the customer experience.

What should be included in a style guide for digital?

This all depends on who you ask. A publisher would include specific grammar rules, writing tips, and guidelines for voice. A graphic designer would include fonts, colors, and sizes. A brand strategist would include appropriate usage of the logo and tagline.

At Extractable, we believe all of these components are valuable. We also believe that a style guide does not just include specifications around content and visual design but also calls for guidelines and specifications around interactive elements and functionality. This is especially important in today’s highly interactive, highly customer-centric environments. This level of detail helps to lay the groundwork for what types of interactions should be chosen.

For example, links and buttons are both ways for the user to move around a system. Functionally, these two interactive devices can accomplish the same action. How do you know when to use a link versus when to use a button? Here we have recommended that clients use buttons for the primary call to action on a page and links for secondary calls to action.

In this guided flow, the “Next” action is displayed within a button, while the “Cancel” is displayed as a link. These rules may seem minor, but it is a series of small interactions that make up someone’s holistic digital experience with a product.

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Many people believe that this level of documentation belongs in a technical specification document. But it’s more than just documenting a rule. It is about setting a consistent language for interaction aesthetic that can be extended as digital assets grow. Even after an engagement with a client is over, the style guide serves as a living document to help guide further digital growth efforts.

How is a style guide developed and maintained?

The evolved style guide is multidisciplinary. It means that the creative, content and UX teams work together to develop it. Some are simplistic, while some are highly complex with pages and pages of defined guidelines for a multitude of needs and platforms.

The style guide should be maintained by one group and distributed freely. The style guide should focus on standards but document exceptions to the extent possible. Also, a change log should always be kept attached to the style guide to help show how decisions evolved over time.

What do you do if you need an updated style guide?

Don’t panic! But consider creating a comprehensive style guide that will ensure a consistent customer experience across channels. Contemplate re-hauling any existing style guides by adding interaction pattern principles.

Some may think of a style guide as a low priority, but think about how much it shows when brands have put great thought and effort into creating a detailed style guide.

What brands do you think do a great job of consistency across platforms? Share your thoughts. I’ll bet they have a great style guide!

To see the full BBC Global Experience Language Document, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel

To see the full Microsoft UX style guide, visit: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/desktop/aa511258

 

Top Pain Points from the Forrester CX Forum

By:
July 29th, 2013

I just got back from the Forrester CX Forum in NY. The conference was an exploration of how companies can launch customer experience initiatives that can deliver measurable ROI. There were 1,300 attendees including high-level executive, product, technology and marketing folks. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I found that many attendees were feeling similar pain about their digital status and need for help in setting a sound digital strategy.

Of course everyone stated the obvious: their websites were outdated and they were looking for ways to provide a top-notch customer experience for website visitors.  Beyond that, here are the five more specific paint points I heard over and over:

#1 E-Commerce Customers Are Leaving Site / Bounce Rates High

There are many reasons a customer might leave your site—some are within your control and some are not. If you have a name that is similar to something else, users may leave due to a simple case of mistaken identity. Or sometimes users come with the intention of simply window-shopping on this visit, and that’s ok…if you have good lead-nurturing tactics in place (see #3 below), then you can catch them next time. But in many cases, users leave because the shopping experience was just too complex.

To address this, you need to:

  • Reduce the overall number of steps it takes to complete a purchase
  • Show progress—let users see where they are in the purchase process
  • Account for every possible purchase option, including combinations of offline and online merchandise and streamline the process
  • Offer ways to “save favorites” for window-shoppers who may want a method to purchase quickly on subsequent visits
  • Demonstrate that you offer a secure shopping experience

Featured Case Study: Webroot

#2 Content Is Hard To Find Or Not Relevant

This is becoming a more prevalent issue, as websites are growing bigger and more complex. In 2012 alone, the average web page became 35% larger with more text and objects on the page. No wonder users are having a hard time finding the content they want.

To address this, you need to:

  • Develop a strong content strategy that’s rooted in robust user research and data
  • Know what areas of your site are performing well today and what areas are underperforming to uncover opportunities
  • Understand the needs of the customer throughout the sales lifecycle and ensure you have appropriate content represented at all stages
  • Ensure that navigation is intuitive and matches customer needs/users personas
  • Personalize content based on user site behaviors to anticipate needs before the user even asks for them
  • Offer site search that delivers reliable results that can be filtered and otherwise manipulated/personalized to make it easier for the user to find the content they want

Featured Case Studies: MicronJohn Muir Health

#3 Lead Issues: Need To Generate More Leads & An Easier Way To Track And Nurture The Leads

For a few years now we’ve been hearing that people want their website to act as a lead-generation machine. Now they’re realizing that their website also needs to act as a lead nurturing device. When websites are optimized for lead generation and lead nurturing, it can be a very powerful tool. But often, companies who think they’re doing it well don’t even have the basics nailed.

To address this, you need to:

  • Ensure proper SEO strategies are in place to give you the best shot of capturing leads in the first place
  • Place strong, concise calls to action in all of the places that carry the biggest punch
  • Use content marketing to drive and nurture leads
  • Integrate social media to drive awareness, advocacy and repeat visits
  • Develop personalization tools that can be used for tracking and nurturing leads through multiple visits

Featured Case Studies: Bill.com , GE Money, Red Prairie 

#4 Brand Isn’t Presented Consistently Across The Website / Digital Properties

There can be many reasons that a brand isn’t presented consistently across properties. It may be that there isn’t a strong brand persona defined from the get-go, or there may be a lack of formal brand guidelines and communications, or maybe organizational growth has led to acquisitions where sites get “re-skinned for now” with the intention of a formal branding update later that doesn’t materialize. Whatever the reason, all the customer knows is that, right now as they are interacting with the brand they think you are.

To address this, you need to:

  • Define a voice, tone and brand guidelines, then communicate them widely
  • Consider developing a memorable brand personification (e.g., character, tagline, jingle, etc.)
  • Develop UX templates and guidelines that meet both user and business needs
  • Use rich media to tell your brand story in the most compelling format
  • Use brand-personalization to drive loyalty
  • Implement all guidelines into a website governance plan

Featured Case Studies: Logix, Presidio, GoPro, TRUSTe

#5 Want Better Organic Search Results

Everyone who has a website wants better organic search results. But just because it doesn’t cost anything to participate in organic search, doesn’t mean it doesn’t take effort and resources to rank high in search. Quite the opposite is true but the payoff is potentially huge. SEO is constantly changing. It’s part science and part art. But there are basic tenets every website owner should be following if they want to achieve better search results.

To address this, you need to:

  • Develop and maintain a list of targeted search keywords
  • Optimize your website’s metadata with your targeted keywords
  • Optimize your site for mobile traffic
  • Create landing pages optimized for a set of highly targeted keywords that you can own to help build authority
  • Implement a link-building strategy that’s integrated with your content marketing strategy

Featured Case Studies: Sunset, Logix

In closing, your website needs to do more than look good. It needs to deliver on a promise of meeting the customer’s need at every point of his or her journey. If you’re not sure what the journey is EXTRACTABLE can help you chart it out and build a digital strategy that will address all of your pain points. If you already know what you need to do, but need help getting started, we can do that, too. Your competition is only a click away. Don’t let them capture that lead. Let’s get started today!