Co-Founder at Eisenberg Holdings
08 March 2004 11:39am
If I may kick in my two cents:
1. Download Speeds.
I am a big proponent of text versus images but not at the expense of credibility. The perception of download speed is related to the previous brand experience, the visitors expectations and task and of course the website design and servers. Since only one of those things is easily controllable by us I suggest we take advantage of it. If we can't contol visitor's feeling our site is fast, why not code it to load quickly and do everything we can to helpthem accomplish their task which enhances brand experience (hence the concept of Persusasion Architecture). We must doour best at controlling what we can to satisfy our diverse goup of visitors.
2. Long Vs. Short Text .
I've always been a proponent that copy should be short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the essentials. I don't believe endless drawn out copy is most effective but many of the sites that do this spend more time trying to answer all of their visitors questions better than ones that write shorty choppy copy. My idea is to compromise. First off Search Engines (and we love 'pull', self qualified traffic) do two things well follow links and index text. The more text the better chance they will understand the context of your copy. I suggest pages between 300 and 500 words that link to the rest of the points that need to be covered.
3. "Persuasive" Design / Architecture.
Ashley as you say "The problem is that to do this well requires orchestrating a complex range of elements to create that natural-feeling flow for the customer. It requires doing that AND taking into account the contingent needs for search-engine friendly pages, the content management system, the web analytics and tracking elements and so on." You could not be more correct, we spend all the time up front so that we can be very deliberate at planning out all the variables that influence conversion. It takes longer but like any other structure that gets fully architected upfont correctly we spend a lot less time on maintenance, we enjoy much higher success rates, clients are thrilled that they got the right thing, their customer's are thrilled they get the experience they deserve and everything experiences on the site is intentional rather than inferred. We just posted a white paper on our site this morning (scroll to the bottom) http://www.futurenowinc.com/designforconversion.htm.
BTW our site is currently valid XHTML with CSS to speed up download, is quite search engine friendly, is being managed by a content managment system and sells more leads than we can handle. Spend some time on the site and let me know if you think it is user-centered. Enjoy the resources.
Director of Content at Econsultancy
08 March 2004 14:19pm
Good comments, particularly interested to see you suggest an optimum 300-500 word count per page, with links to allow users/crawlers drill down into expanded content where necessary (certainly this is good news from a search perspective).
I find personally that links within blocks of text allow me to sort of anchor myself to the page, so I can easily get back to my spot when distracted.
As for Persuasion, well, this is going to be a big deal as people look beyond usability to see how they can improve conversion/retention rates.
Persuasive design links the user buying experience to a company's sales process, theoretically bridging the buy/sell vacuum that we see so often. You really need to know how users behave to generate sales growth - and surely if you can influence that behaviour then the journey from the landing page to the 'thank you for your order' page should happen more frequently and more effectively.
By considering the user journey at a micro-level it is possible - given some time to research, implement and experiment - to turn more users into customers, to keep them happy and to ensure that they stay with you for longer.
How can one seemingly tiny element of a web page prevent a user from reaching the checkout? How might one poorly-constructed sentence have a disproportionately large negative impact on the decision to buy? How is it possible to act on what you know about your users, given that they must all be different people with different wants and needs? It sounds impossibly complex to bring all these things together, but surely it is more about attention to detail, good copy and perhaps a sprinkling of user-guided personalisation?
I can't help but think of persuasion architecture as one of those multiple choice ending books that I last read twenty years ago - 'turn to page 121 if you think A, turn to page 84 if you think B...' etc. There are a number of scenarios on each page and a persuasive writer would be able to channel readers towards the right decision.
The more you understand about user perception then the easier it is to influence and persuade them towards the best mutual outcome (always, always the checkout!).
We've now added the Future Now report on Persuasion Architecture here for users wanting to learn more: http://www.e-consultancy.com/knowledge/whitepapers/89548/persuasion-architecture-a-strategy-to-map-the-selling-process-to-the-buying-process.html.
Would be interested to hear from anyone actively implementing elements of persuasive design...
Director of Analytical Consulting at Foviance
08 March 2004 15:53pm
I think that the role of the Home Page in particular inevitably varies with the role of the site, depending whether the site is for B2C commerce, B2B lead generation, customer service etc.
For retail e-commerce sites, I agree that there is a common tendency for too much to be put onto the home page and the analogy with putting all the products in one shop window holds up well.
When at QXL we had the advantage of being able to benchmark our 12 European sites against each other and understand best practice in a number of areas. One of the areas that we spent a lot of time on was the design of the Home Page. I found that generally those sites which subjectively were felt to have the clearest home pages (where there wasn’t too much information crammed on to it and looked structured) tended to have the lowest “bounce rates”. The bounce rate was defined as the percentage of visits to the site where the visitor looked at the home page and left immediately. This varied by a factor of 3 between the best in the Group and the worse.
If you can’t do A/B testing, then maybe alternative approaches could be to investigate some of the optimisation technologies on the market or indeed run a short term test with the right metrics in place to look at the results.
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