If you run a digital agency, especially one that designs and builds websites, then what better way of showing off your talents than to build a wonderful website for your own company?
In the past couple of years many agencies have rebuilt and relaunched their websites using HTML5 and CSS3. The results can be eye-opening, highly engaging, and built to work on all kinds of devices.
It's not all good news though. Sometimes the use of HTML5 can be downright annoying: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Does it matter that some of these websites take half a minute to load? Personally I think fast loading times really matter, but I've heard arguments that people are prepared to wait for certain types of website. You can decide for yourself.
At any rate, there is plenty to admire here, and perhaps there is an acceptable trade off between optimal usability and the overall user / brand experience. Certainly it's always interesting to watch web design evolve, and agencies are naturally inclined to push the boundaries.
The following examples show what can be achieved, and mercifully not all of them are addicted to loading icons. Tuck in and see what you think.
Is there anybody on the planet who actually enjoys pre-roll video advertising? Research has shown that 94% of people skip pre-roll ads, though I can't believe the number is that low (presumably the other 6% are masochists).
Pre-roll ads are as loathed as pop-ups, which studies found to be damaging to both advertiser and publisher. I imagine that the same applies to pre-rolls. Have you ever watched one and wanted to buy the product or service that's being (badly) pitched to you?
You have to wonder why they're so popular. Certainly the YouTube experience has considerably worsened since it started putting pre-rolls on a far wider range of ads, and I for one would pay a small fee to have them permanently removed.
Why do pre-roll ads suck so badly? Partly it's the interruption, which is often a lot longer than five seconds, and partly it's because the creative tends to be beyond stupid, but there are plenty of other reasons.
The following quotes and videos reflect all that is wrong with the pre-roll format. If you're the kind of person who likes to snuggle up to Satan by commissioning pre-rolls then you might want to take some notes.
It has been a long-standing belief of mine that writers need to create headlines that sell, in order to persuade people to click.
A descriptive headline isn’t good enough, despite what the SEO Class Of 2006 might tell you, and neither is a clever pun, which will no doubt horrify traditional sports journalists all over the world.
Adding a punchy or emotive word to a headline is absolutely vital to enticing that all-important click, and it can really help encourage sharing.
This is where adjectives and verbs come into play.
I spotted this surprisingly useful infographic yesterday, over at Visually. It should come in handy for anybody who creates image-based content to add to their social profiles.
Five of the biggest social media platforms are covered, and it will help you to understand the various sizes needed for your profile pictures, cover images, backgrounds, and so on.
if you're anything like me you'll be yearning for some kind of cross-site standardisation in the future. For example, all of the profile pictures are different sizes, and one is a different shape. We can but dream!
Anyhow, it should make for a handy cut-out-and-keep guide for you...
A few years ago I compiled a list of things that I find abhorrent when using websites. Things that I cannot tolerate for more than a few seconds, and which invariably cause me to press the back button.
What am I referring to? Autosound, for starters. Pagination. Pop-ups. Slow loading speeds. And a whole bunch of other crimes against the user experience. You'll still encounter these things most days, unfortunately.
Now, let's get this out of the way: our own website leaves a lot to be desired, from a user experience perspective. I reckon that at some point or other we have been guilty of about half of the points on my original list. It's very much an area that we're working hard on to improve. In order to do so it's important to know what not to do, and to understand what users hate.
With that in mind, and given that web usage habits have evolved in the past three years, I thought I'd aggregate a few more pet hates, so we can steer ourselves away from bounce rate hell.
By all means add your own reasons for bailing out early in the comments section below. Ok, here goes...
Every month more than 100,000 people visit Econsultancy using a mobile device, but we're yet to launch a responsive site. This isn’t because we don’t want to make the user experience better for mobile and tablet users. It’s simply that we’ve had to prioritise other things, and tech resources are limited.
It’s pretty straightforward to make a business case for mobile-friendly design if you have a transactional but non-responsive website: simply look at your conversion rates by device. They’ll probably be fairly woeful for tablets, and even worse for mobiles (certainly if ours are anything to go by). Add a dollop of simple maths and you’ll have some idea of the opportunity cost of not making the customer experience better for mobile and tablet users.
I first made the case for mobile about three years ago, when about 5% of people used a smartphone to access our website. That wasn’t enough to make it a high priority, but by the end of this year around 20% of visitors will be browsing via a mobile device. That changes things considerably, and more so as our visitor numbers continue to grow.
In our case I reckon we’re missing out on six figures worth of annual revenue, and as such we’re busy working away behind the scenes on a number of initiatives, including a fully responsive website.
I have yet to hear about a decline in conversion rates following the roll-out of a responsive site. In fact, I only ever hear amazing things.
So, if you're making a business case and need some examples then here are a bunch of companies that have benefited from significant uplift in the key metrics following the implementation of responsive design.
Late last night I learned that Jeff Bezos had acquired the Washington Post, for what appears to be a very reasonable sum of money. I certainly didn’t see it coming, but then again I didn’t expect the Kindle to be a success. Never bet against Bezos.
I met the man himself in 2001: he was a ball of energy, despite just stepping off an overnight flight to London, and his vision for the future of his company, and the industry, was very impressive.
A year early, Matt Kelly interviewed him – the first European interview with Bezos – and having just read it, I find it totally striking that Bezos was so customer-focused, back in the day. It’s easy to think that the phrase ‘customer experience’ is relatively new. It’s not.
Here’s one excerpt from Matt’s interview:
I love improving the customer experience. I teach our staff to be really anally retentive in that regard - it's just so important.
That kind of focus on the customer is a big part of what makes Amazon – and other customer-centric companies - so successful.
I thought I’d compile a few other nuggets of wisdom from Bezos relating to the customer experience.
Many SEOs spend a lot of time trying to improve rankings for non-branded search terms, for all sorts of reasons. We do this too, but I've always kept a very close eye on branded search volume.
When we launched this blog in 2006 one of our primary aims was to improve our overall share of search. Another was to move the key brand metrics in a favourable way, not least because a visitor who adds 'Econsultancy' to a search term is 8-12 times more valuable than somebody who doesn't include our brand in their query.
As such, branded search traffic is very important to us, but the horror show that is 'Not Provided' means that it is increasingly hard to track it. In fact, you will be appalled if you only look at your analytics data.
With this in mind, I thought I'd show you our numbers, and provide a workaround for you to try.
Carl Edwards is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Chameleon, a London-based digital agency focused on the charity sector. I asked him to walk us through an average day, and to give us some background on what a CTO does.
If you're looking for a new challenge then be sure to take a look at the hundreds of open positions listen on Econsultancy's digital jobs board.
After a bit of a break I'm working on a new side project. It is in a very competitive space and I have decided that the user experience needs to be the core USP, for it to attract the kind of crowd - and content - required to establish a presence in the market.
This has made me think once again about what makes for a good user experience. Broadly speaking, it is pretty much all about reducing friction, to help people get from A to B in the most straightforward way possible.
But is 'good' what we should all be aiming for? Why not aim a bit higher?
So what makes a great user experience? I'd say it was all of the above - a friction-free journey - as well as a smattering of pleasant surprises along the way; surprises that delight the user. They say good design is invisible, but I think that great design can leave quite an impression on people.
I'm constantly amazed by my own reaction to the little details in life. The smallest of things can have a disproportionate influence on how I perceive things, both positively and negatively. I'm a stickler for detail, and have been looking for examples of micro design, as a source of inspiration for my own project.
To this end, two sites in particular have been particularly useful: Codepen, and CSSDeck. Many of these 17 examples can be found over there, and some are very lean indeed, using just CSS to achieve the desired effects.
Ok, let's check them out...