Author: Chris Lake

Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy.

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A helpful image sizing guide for social media profiles

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...


22 more reasons why I’ll leave your website in 10 seconds

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...


14 brands that increased conversion rates via responsive design

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. 


10 customer experience soundbites from Jeff Bezos

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.

How to measure branded search

How to measure branded search traffic in the 'Not Provided' age

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, CTO

A day in the life of a... Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

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.


17 delightful micro UX effects and transitions for your website

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...


A Day In The Life of a News Editor

Jimmy Coultas is News Editor at Skiddle, the ticket sales company based in Preston.

Here he explains what he does in a typical day in the office.

If you're looking for a new challenge in the digital industry then be sure to check out our internet / marketing jobs board, which lists hundreds of open positions.

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How should BBC Radio 4 grow audience engagement via digital?

In the past few years broadcasters of all shapes and sizes have accelerated their investment into digital as an audience development channel. 

But what should they be focusing on? Content distribution via digital? Social? Second screen engagement? Big data? Mobile? What are the big opportunities on the horizon?

This is a question that our friends over at the BBC Radio 4 are mulling over, to try to extend engagement beyond the linear listening experience, and to portray itself in a different light to new audiences. So what is the future of radio in an age of digital content?

To help find some answers the BBC Radio 4 team has decided to host a kind of hack day, to mine the brains of digital experts. 

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Picture this: web design is no longer 95% typography

A decade and a half ago Jakob Nielsen announced to the world that people don’t actually read websites in a linear way. Instead, they prefer to skim read, scanning the page to find what they’re looking for. 

As such, content creators were advised to format articles in a way that encourages readers to avoid reaching for the back button. This meant using bullet points, meaningful sub-headers, and highlighting key phrases / words in bold. 

Roll things forward a few years, and Oliver Reichenstein published an article that contains one of my favourite quotes: “Web Design is 95% Typography.”

In his article he says: “A great web designer knows how to work with text not just as content, he treats text as a user interface.” This still resonates so strongly with me, as a creator of content, as somebody who is deeply interested in web design, and as a heavy web user. 

But does the 95% quote still stand up? I fear that recent design trends have stomped all over text and typography, and that pictures have deposed words.

Maggot Brain

Six powerful domain name brainstorming tools worth bookmarking

Have you tried to dream up a brand name recently? It's harder than ever. Not only is there domain name availability to contend with, but you also need to bag the appropriate user profiles on the main social platforms.

I have been trying for some considerable time to brainstorm a domain name for a new side project, and having identified one I've had second thoughts (it contains the word 'freak' in the title, which might be perceived negatively by some people).

As such, I wanted to change it prior to the launch, and I've unearthed some new (at least to me) domain name tools that are proving rather useful. I thought I'd share them with you.

Trigger: a very smart horse indeed

25 powerful triggers for laser-guided marketing campaigns

I recently wrote about agile marketing, focusing on reactive campaigns. Many of the 26 examples I highlighted in my post used a news trigger as a kind of jumping off point for a marketing campaign (‘campaign’ isn’t quite the right word for some of them, e.g. a single tweet). 

This made me think about the other types of triggers that exist, which provide brands with the opportunity to reach existing and prospective customers. I was surprised by how many there are, and no doubt I have missed dozens of others. 

What’s a trigger, exactly? It is, simply, an opportunity to contact somebody. Trigger-based marketing is all about being reactive, and targeted, rather than just pushing out arbitrary brand messages to big audiences. 

Triggers might be based around individual or group behaviour. They could be time-specific. Triggered comms may be activated post-purchase, or post-abandonment. They often factor in customer data and will be highly personalised (though let’s not write off segmentation). They can be automated, or they can produced manually, and made to measure.

As with all forms of marketing communication, there is a balance to strike. Everybody loathes spam, but people do like to be rewarded, to be entertained, and to feel valued. So be careful, be meaningful, and be generous. And test, test, test.

Before we look at the triggers, let’s first think about some common formats for marketing campaigns / comms. How, exactly, might you communicate to a customer (or customers) once a trigger has been pulled?

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