Monday, 17 March 2014

What's new? Avoid using 'What's new?' as link text

Let's be honest: when was the last time you made a bee-line for the 'What's new?' section of a website?

You might argue that 'What's new?' is a clever tease but if you really want me to click through, you've gotta give me a clue what the new thing is - so I can decide if it's for me or not.

The information scent

If you don't give me a hint, I could end up somewhere I don't want to be.

Design guru Jakob Nielsen described this as information scent. He wrote:

"The most obvious design lesson from information scent is to ensure that links and category descriptions explicitly describe what users will find at the destination."

As vague as a vague thing

Consider this: an organisation's What's new section could house literally anything:
  • 5 new flavours of frozen yoghurt 
  • our apps are now on Android
  • we've removed most of the bad fat from our products
  • we've a new chief executive officer
And you won't know until you get there.

Be explicit

If you've done something important and new, you need to make it properly prominent. It needs a headline and a section in its own right. To make it promote-able, searchable and findable.

Industry commentators like Gerry McGovern say we're trawling websites to get our questions answered and to carry out tasks.

And with a heading like 'What's new?' it's not clear whether anybody's gonna get their questions answered or not.

How new is new?

You also have to ask how new is new? When does something stop being new and become normal?

If people click through to see 'What's new' and find things that aren't new, then they might feel disappointed.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Which has more impact: 'Donate now' or 'Be a donor'?

Change your button from 'Donate now' to 'Be a donor' and get more donations to your charity.

And if you want more people to join your organisation, ditch the 'Join now' button in favour of 'Be a member'.

"Make these changes and it's much more likely to lead to action," says behavioural psychologist Susan Weinschenk, aka the Brain Lady, who works in the area of design and user experience.

Why does this simple formula work? Because saying 'Be a donor' makes us feel like we belong to a group. And we all want to belong to a group.

I'm a chocolate lover

"We all have a strong urge to be part of a group. We really identify with various groups, whether consciously or unconsciously," said Susan, in her workshop this week on 'How to get people to do stuff'.
"When we say 'I'm a chocolate lover' rather than 'I eat chocolate', it invokes the group identity," said Susan.
The workshop, in London, was hosted by the UK branch of the User Experience Professionals' Association (UXUPA).

To be or not to be?

This topic was first researched by psychologist Gregory Walton of Stanford University, who looked at voting patterns in US elections. Walton called people up the night before an election and asked people either:
  • How important is it for you to be a voter in tomorrow's election?
  • How important is it for you to vote in tomorrow's election?
When Walton asked 'How important is it for you to be a voter?', more people ended up voting, presumably seeing themselves as part of a group of engaged citizens.

Verbs or nouns?

There's a debate in the Comments section of Susan Weinschenk's blog about how to categorise the difference between 'Be a voter' and 'vote'. But even if the grammar's not nailed down perfectly, Susan's/Gregory's findings could still help content editors create messages with more impact.

I'll be A/B testing two versions from now on, as long as I've got enough space in the design - 'Be a member' takes up a lot more space than 'Join'.

Guerrilla Editor is Suzanne Amos, freelance content editor for social enterprises.

Friday, 18 October 2013

MeasureFest: 5 top quotes on analytics and measuring your digital marketing

5 top quotes from yesterday's MeasureFest conference on analytics, marketing measurement and conversion rate optimisation (CRO).

1. Dogfooding

"You should be dogfooding. You need to start using your own website so you experience what your customers do. If you haven't used your site to the same extent as your users, how can you expect to optimise it? You need to spend your own money and go through the same thought processes as your users."
Stephen Pavlovich of Conversion Factory, an agency with clients such as easyJet and

2. Ask 'So what?' 3 times in a row

"If someone says 'We've put all our effort into driving 10,000 more Likes', ask 'So what?' In fact, keep asking it  - 3 times in a row - until you get somewhere. We've got to start talking about outcomes."
Philip Sheldrake, spokesman for the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), a trade body for PR and digital marketers. 

 3. Germish and Franglais

"Many of your customers have already adapted to the anglophone web and use hybrid phrases. For example, in Italy people search for low cost flights with the phrase 'voli low cost' instead of 'voli economici'."
 Joe Doveton of GlobalMaxer, whose tool tests multiple versions of a website.

4. Cross-device purchase paths play havoc

"A single user might browse a website en route to work, compare prices on their work PC then make a purchase that evening on their home laptop. Google Analytics sees that as 3 different users. Google's Universal analytics will help tie together a user's interactions but it depends on people identifying themselves in some way."
Dara Fitzgerald, head of insight at Fresh Egg, a digital marketing agency.

5 . Mobile personas

"Identify your mobile personas, as they may have different goals to your desktop users. An example might be 'I'm in a taxi on my way to a party or to hospital to visit someone and I can't pick up flowers so I need a delivery now.' So for mobile customers you'd highlight express deals." 
Stephen Pavlovich of Conversion Factory, an agency with clients such as easyJet and

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Don't be more dog: how to outthink the competition in advertising

89% of advertising goes unnoticed or is not remembered, according to advertising guru Dave Trott, of The Gate London and formerly of Gold Greenlees Trott.

"Everyone presumes their advert will be noticed, just because they've made it. But 89% of ads don't have impact. They're invisible, like wallpaper," said Dave.  

Exposed to 1,000 ads a day

It's no wonder we don't notice or remember ads when we're exposed to around 1,000 advertising messages a day, as we move from home to workplace and back home to the tele.

So how can you make sure your messages stand out in a competitive world?

The answer, said Dave, in his lecture at the London School of Economics, is predatory thinking - outthinking the competition, doing different so you have an impact.

Don't be more dog

But there's a conundrum. An advertising agency's clients often want to copy what other brands are doing - they often don't like radically different ideas.

"After Be more dog (current TV ad from O2), I expect we'll see Be more giraffe or Be more fruitfly," joked Dave.
"Creative people have a fear of the obvious and they're selling to clients who love the obvious. The client wants safety."

But taking an entirely new approach is the only way to get society's opinion formers to talk about you to the rest of society - opinion followers.

"Opinion formers always need fresh stuff to talk about,"said Dave.

Opinion followers and opinion formers come from psychographics, which has taken over from old-fashioned demographics (ABC1s etc).

Creative problem solving

Dave's philosophy is to look at a challenge you can't solve and 'get upstream of it', changing it into a challenge you can solve.

Take the government's fire safety campaigns in the decades when chip-pan fires were a regular occurrence. Dave said:
"For years there were TV ads showing you how bad it is to have a fire. Ad after ad. But our job wasn't to stop people having fires, it was to stop fire station callouts.
"So we showed how to tackle a chip-pan fire. Turn the gas off, wet a tea towel and put it over the pan. And then walk away and leave it to cool down. Call-outs went down dramatically." 

Please wear out your tyres

Or take the origin of the Michelin travel guides and Michelin star rating system for restaurants.

"Michelin, the tyre maker, brought out guides to show people places they could visit - places they could drive to in their cars. It was about finding a way of getting people to wear out their tyres," said Dave.

You can listen to a podcast of Dave's LSE lecture. Read more on or see Dave's book Predatory thinking: a masterclass in outthinking the competition

By Suzanne Amos, freelance content editor

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Migrating to a new CMS: don't redesign at the same time

Migrating content from one content management system (CMS) to another? Here's a new approach suggested recently by a business analyst friend who works in the newspaper industry.

"If you're migrating existing content into a new content management system and you're trying to redesign your website at the same time, don't!" he warned.

"Migrating and redesigning templates means you're trying to do 2 big things in one go. It's too much change at one time. It makes it hard to project manage, as it radically increases the number of  things that can go wrong.

"Much better to recreate your existing web design in the new CMS and transfer all the content over as is. You can redesign the website after you've migrated all the content over."

Recreate the old site 

Recreating your clunky old website design in a brand new CMS is hard advice to stomach, though, as you're probably itching to launch revamped content in a brand new design.

After all, many migrations to new CMSs are prompted by a redesign: your design agency creates snazzy new page designs that are not supported by your existing CMS.

And you're probably thinking it's double the workload: you have to create 2 sets of templates in a short space of time - the clunky old ones, then the sparkly new ones.

Migration and redesign = separate

"Resist the temptation to introduce a new CMS and a new design at the same time," advises the business analyst, "You wouldn't start designing the curtains and wallpaper before you'd built a house.

"You first need to get the new CMS plumbed in and stable. Then you can start redesigning. Migration and redesign are 2 separate projects.

"Another issue with doing the redesign and content migration together is that you end up with the editorial team having to use 2 CMSs for a period of time. Harder on them."

Tidy up first

That's not to say that you should migrate out-of-date content. It's best to always spring clean your website before you migrate your content.

So, according to my business analyst friend, ideally the approach would be:

  1. Clean up the content in the old system
  2. Migrate the existing content to the new system and add synchronisation so that new content created in the old system gets automatically copied to the new system
  3. Redesign and launch in the new system - this can either be 'big bang' or section by section

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Small business, bad content management system


What's shocked me recently in the digital world are the unusable content management systems (CMSs) that some small companies end up with.

If your website admin system has badly labelled fields and content blocks that give no clue to their purpose, how can you possibly update your content?

Fathoming out how to change the page title and meta description in Drupal CMS recently took a lot of Googling, squinting and cursing. It shouldn't have to be that hard.

Pay-as-you-go updates

In the worst cases companies find themselves unable to carry out even small tweaks, having to pay their designer each time something needs changing.

And if you're forking out for pay-as-you-go updates, does that not wipe out some of the benefit of using free open source software like Drupal?

Never heard of CMSs

It's sad that small businesses end up with unusable CMSs. Often it's because they have no clue how bad an admin system for a website could be. I mean, we're all used to pointing, clicking, dragging and dropping in our desktop packages, so why would you suspect that the software that manages websites is so unfriendly?

If people did have an inkling how geeky CMSs can be, they could specify in their web design contract that they wanted a more usable admin system.

Focusing on the visible front end

Small companies often focus all attention on the visible front end of their site - the visual design. They don't pay enough thought to life after launch and the need to update their website after the designer has gone.

Specify CMS in contract

Small companies would do well to specify the CMS features they need in the contract they sign with their web designer. So they'd make a wish list of everything they wanted to do:

  • create new page
  • upload new images
  • change content blocks on home page
  • move blocks up and down
  • change page title
  • etc

And they should insist on a usable CMS and a training session.

Unknown unknowns

But I guess that's unrealistic. After all, if you've never heard of CMSs or page titles, then how are you going to make that wish list?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Content marketing: how to create content people want to read

Want a quick summary of this article? 
1. Know your audience
2. Ask your audience what they want 
3. Employ trained writers
4. Ditch desk research and interview experts over the phone

Know your audience 

The golden rule of content is: the better you know your audience (or 'personas'), the easier it is to cater for them. 

It holds true whether you're doing journalism or content marketing, where you're offering customers useful information rather than showering them with marketing messages.

So how do you know what people want to read? 

Simples: ask people what they want to read. In the world of print, some magazines do this really well. Take Condé Nast's Easy Living magazine. It uses reader panels: a bunch of readers who are representative of their target audience. 

The panel members enjoy getting involved in the glamorous world of magazines - and get a few freebies too. And in return, the reader panel suggests ideas for content and keeps the magazine in touch with the issues that affect their target audience.

It means that Easy Living's content hits the spot for its target audience: women aged 30 to 60 who are 'young at heart'.

Recruit engaged individuals

Even if you don't set up a formal panel, you could still consult individuals interested in your subject area, whether you're a contact lens manufacturer, an eco-fashion designer or the marketing department of a university.

In a similar way to recruiting for user testing apps and websites, you need to make sure:

  • it doesn't take too much of people's time
  • they don't have to travel far (if at all)
  • the incentive is right

Look on forums

If you've not got a panel of pet readers, you'll need to look on forums and social media sites to see what people are saying about your subject area.

And cross check it with the long tail search terms people are using.

Employ trained writers

Once you know what content you need, commission someone to create it.

At a recent seminar 'The truth behind SEO' by the Digital Marketing Academy the presenter talked about content as if it were a commodity that could be thrown together at the click of a mouse.

The seminar, at Google Campus, was a great round-up of everything you need to know about search engine optimisation. It's just that it made content sound like it was something that happens casually, incidentally.

Great content doesn't just happen 

Great content takes time and effort. You need to employ people who can hook the reader in from the first sentence. And who can make an article flow from start to finish.

And content needs to be factually accurate, and not plagiarised, so forget about cobbling together chunks of content from other people's websites.

Proper editorial processes

If you want quality content, you should stick to the tried and tested editorial processes that the print world invented.

  1. Research your idea
  2. Write a clear commissioning brief
  3. Use a known writer from your contacts book
  4. Use a sub-editor to fact check before you publish 

In fact there's a whole content lifecycle to think about.

Ditch the desk research

Somewhere along the line, we stopped interviewing people and started relying on 'desk research' for content marketing. With desk research, you spend hours combing websites for useful nuggets.

What takes time with desk research is working out which websites you can trust and which you can't. And then reading through masses of text to find out the one fact you need. It's like panning for gold, without the gold.

Whereas a 10-minute phone interview with a human can give you enough material for your whole article. You ask: 'Who, what, why, where, when?' Then bish, bash, bosh, you write an article. Might only take a couple of hours, from start to finish.

Interview a human

As a paid-by-the-day writer, there's nothing I like better than getting access to a client's business experts and interviewing them. That's when things get interesting: you find out the true story. You get a proper angle.

And it can be deeply satisfying if you're given access to a client's customers - you can get real quotes from real people to write a proper story.

In the charity world, it's rewarding to interview a charity's 'beneficiaries' - those who have benefited from the charity's work. It makes for compelling human interest case studies.

If I'm inspired by the people I'm interviewing, it always leads to an interesting article.