Testing Your Web Site

Do you like to take tests? How about give tests? For many of us testing is something we did a long time ago when we were in school.

But it shouldn’t be. We should be testing things on our web sites all the time. There are two powerful reasons why:Test 1

  1. Testing your web site leads to a better site and a better understanding of how it works (in other words, it helps you make more money).
  2. Testing your web site doesn’t have to be a big, expensive endeavor and neither does it have to be time consuming.

We all have opinions about what works best visually but when we test these opinions, surprises abound. I came across a test that surprised me on the Which Test Won web site this week: http://whichtestwon.com/archives/18744. Breaking up the visual monotony by alternating photos from left to right seems like a no-brainer.  Only that isn’t what actually engaged people. Having all the photos down the right side is what worked – even with the right column having other images.

If your site doesn’t get a ton of visitors, you can still do testing – the tests just need to go a bit longer. You can test simple things like does making the button green instead of blue get better results. You can test whether your call to action should be to fill out a form or to call you. You can test different copy. Take a look at your site or better yet get a colleague to look at your site and see what is clear for them and what isn’t. Then create a test based on that.

And it doesn’t have to cost you anything. Simply create the two versions you want to test and use a free tool like Google Analytics to set your test up. The more traffic you have to your site, the sooner you’ll get results that are valid but if your traffic is low, you can simply run the test for a bit longer.

Sometimes the answers you uncover will surprise you. But isn’t it better to be surprised and understand what not to do than to just sail along, never quite understanding what is working and what isn’t?


Standing Out in a Crowd

2012 04 10 11 32 54 559 E1334356285339Most business owners understand the value of having a Unique Selling Proposition, that special something that sets them apart from the rest of the competition and makes folks choose their company when there are lots of choices.

Only some folks get it better than others. Look at the picture on the left.

The wearer of this tuxedo will definitely stand out in the crowd. But will he leave the impression he desires? Will the ladies think “Wow, I can’t wait until I see that guy again?” or are they more likely to think “Wow, I hope I never see that guy again?”

Are you giving out that kind of an impression to your customers? What is it that sets you apart from the crowd?

We all want to stand out in the right way. Look at the picture of an iPad.

Something about it makes you think “ohh, cool” It looks elegant. If you’ve touched anything techy in the last couple of years and look at one of these, you want to pick it up and start using it. It really is a nifty little contraption that lets you do all manner of cool and useful things.Ipad

That’s how we all want people to interact with our brand. Whether it’s a tagline, a logo, or a product we make exclusively, we want to generate that same good emotional feeling.

Your web site evokes an emotional feeling in visitors. I encourage you to take a look at your site with fresh eyes. What feeling does it evoke? Tired eyes? Get a colleague or customer, someone who hasn’t been to your site (or not in a while) and see what their response is.

For example let’s take an example of whitewater rafts. It’s that time of the year to plan your trip and it just so happens that one of our customers, www.downriverequip.com sells them. Take a look at their site. What emotions do you get?

The idea we are targeting here is that you’re right there on the river. Seasoned rafters will recognize a river map in the background. And yet you can also see the menu and wide range of products available.

Contrast that with this site I just found: http://www.boatstogo.com/. They too sell rafts. What emotions does this site bring up? What is memorable about it? What makes them stand out?

Take some time to contrast your site with the competition. Does it stand out? If so, is it in a good way or is it more like the orange tuxedo?

If it seems like you’re not projecting the right image, give us a call and we’ll help you out  – 303 268-2245 ext. 4.



Change Your Perspective

I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet.  Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.Lunch With Brian

So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.

And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.

We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.

So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.

What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.

Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:

  • FirProcessst and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
  • Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
  • How can I find your contact information?
  • How can I find your physical location?
  • If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
  • Is it easy to check out?
  • If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
  • Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
  • If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
  • If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to twitter.com instead of to a user’s page)

Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.

  1. I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
  2. I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
  3. I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
  4. The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
  5. I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
  6. Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
  7. I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
  8. I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
  9. I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.

Test Your Way to Success

Are you doing any testing on your web site? You ought to be. The testing, in fact, can be outside of your side whether through email marketing, social media or a variety of other options.

I subscribe to Which Test Won (www.whichtestwon.com) and I learn something new each week.  This week I was sure I had it nailed. They ran an email campaign for an ecommerce store and I was sure the “On Sale Now” heading would draw attention and close the deal.

Nope. Wrong again. The subtle approach wins. But here is what the folks running the test did that I want to talk about: The contents of the email were identical except for this one part (the call to action). So they were pretty confident in the results.

Because the “subtle” approach took less space, this also pulled up the video link beneath it which may have made the whole thing more visual and drawn attention first to the video link and then to the call to action.

And the other key thing is that the company is testing to see what is more effective. If you aren’t testing, you’re not learning what works. Simple A / B testing can be done on your web site very easily through Google Website Optimizer. Most email marketing programs have this built in as well.

So what can you test?

  • Sales Copy
  • Images
  • Buttons
  • Colors
  • Button colors
  • Image colors
  • Calls to action
  • Position of elements on the page / email
  • Heading
  • Subject line
  • Bulleted text vs. free flowing sentences

What do you need to get started? Simply an understanding of how much traffic you have to the page or email and one item to test.

Been testing? Don’t stop. Once you figure out what “the winner” is, keep that and test some other aspect.

Need help? Let us know.Православни икони


Design for Usability

икониWe spend a lot of time talking about web site usability with our customers. But the first question we have to answer is “What is web site usability?”

So let’s figure out what it is. As a web design firm we work hard to make our sites visually pleasing but a good web site is far more than pretty. It needs to be usable. In a nutshell, that means that the web visitor needs to be able to EASILY take the next step. A good negative example is, if you are trying to capture more subscribers to your newsletter and the sign up form requires them to give their physical address, your site is not very usable. To add people to your newsletter list, the only thing required is a valid email address. A positive example would be to have a simple form asking only for their email address.

The easily part of the description is very important. I’ve been on web sites where every possible thing you can do is displayed on the front page. With dozens of choices, people likely make the choice to leave to find a site with fewer choices. A good way to remedy that is divide your choices into three groups and then give visitors three choices instead of 40. Once they’ve made that first choice you can then divide up the remaining choices under that group and have them select again or you can present all the remaining choices.

Let’s take a number example to see how people think. Can you imagine remembering dozens of 10 digit numbers? 3,032,682,245 is a long number to remember. But if I tell you it is my phone number (303) 268-2245, I suddenly only have 3 sets of numbers to remember. Fewer choices work better when remembering phone numbers and they also work better when building web sites.

So to make your web site more usable, remember these two points:

  1. Make it easy for visitors to take the next step – give them the information they need and don’t ask for information you don’t need.
  2. Give them only a few choices (2 – 5) or they will be overwhelmed and probably not make the choice you want them to.

Good Design Can Get in the Way of a Great Web Site

One of the most common mistakes in web site design today is the design itself. The most common “abuser” of this is the firm that comes out of the graphic design world and decides to start doing web sites (but there are other perpetrators as well).

How does this happen? It’s simple actually. A stunningly beautiful or moving design is put together. And it looks really good. But when it becomes the web site two things don’t happen:

  1. There is no next step. It looks good but the web site visitor has no idea what to do once they get there. Every good web site and even every good web page should have a next step. But with just a nice design, there often is no call to action or next step for the visitor to take. So they leave.
  2. There is nothing for the search engines to see. With a design that has complete control over what the user sees, there is no content for the search engines to index. With a heavily graphic web site, even written content becomes a part of the image – that way you can show the precise font – but then the search engines either don’t index it or index it differently than they do written content.

So don’t let a good design get in the way of a great web site. Instead incorporate the elements of your good design into the site but also make sure that it is usable (has a next step) and that it is searchable (search engine optimized). Then you’ll be on your way to success.икони


Choosing a Domain Name

There are still good domain names to be had if you are looking either to start a new business or to claim a better domain name for your existing business.

First let’s examine why it is important to choose a good domain name.  Say you were a church called Mt. Zion Christian Church. You decide to go with mtzionchristian.org. Seems pretty straight forward at first. But then once you start telling people you realize they’re going to mountzionchristian.org. Oops. So it is important to get a domain name that is descriptive of where you are or what your business does.

We had a client whose last name was one of those difficult to pronounce east European names. Though that was the name of their company, we went with a much more generic denvertreeservices.com for their domain. This served them well when they later changed the company name. And “Denver” “tree” “services” rolls off the tongue much more easily. It is more memorable as well.

Sometimes it is OK to have a long domain name if it is descriptive. Imagine if you worked at the Colorado Historical Society and decided to go with coloradohissoc.org to make the domain shorter. How would you say that domain? “Colorado” “his” “sock”? You’d spend all your time trying to spell it out and folks would undoubtedly still get it wrong. But if you went with coloradohistoricalsociety.org it is easy to say and easy to remember.

Not long ago I strongly advised a client to not use hyphens in their domain name. So instead of two, they used one hyphen and thought that was a pretty brilliant idea. Then just the other day while we were meeting with them, they realized how the domain doesn’t roll off the tongue when they have to insert a dash. Just listen in your head: “mybusiness” “dash” “mysecondbusinessname”.  Or, to reuse the example above – “Colorado” “dash” “historical” “dash” “society” “dotorg” doesn’t roll off your tongue very easily.

So here’s what we recommend for choosing a domain name:

1.       Do NOT use dashes or hyphens

2.       Do NOT abbreviate

3.       Do NOT use a name if it is easily misspelt

4.       Do use longer names if necessary and if memorable

5.       Do use something descriptive if the company name is not a good choice

6.       Do consider whether to buy other top level domain names such as .biz, .net and .org to protect your brand.


Test Your Site across Browsers

When I worked in Tokyo (in the late 90’s) I remember looking at a web site affiliated with where I worked and it looked terrible. Worse than terrible. When I went to talk to the designer (this was not his job) I understood the problem even before we began to talk – he worked on a huge monitor (21 inch CRT) and the site looked great on his monitor and while using Internet Explorer.

The lesson I learned that day was the importance of testing a web site in a variety of browsers, resolutions and monitors.

There are more browsers out there than some realize. The main ones are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. When testing with Internet Explorer you get the joy of testing several different versions as well. The much despised Internet Explorer 6 has finally dropped in usage to the point where designers can design without all the goofy restraints that come with it.

So for Internet Explorer flavors, you should test with IE7 and IE8 and perhaps even the test version of IE9. Basically since the demise of IE6, you get a similar look no matter which version of IE you are using but it doesn’t hurt to check different ones to be sure.

With the other browsers, testing across different versions isn’t as important as making sure you at least take a look at the site with a current version of the browser. The vast majority of Firefox users are on version 3.6 so that would be a good one to test with (at least in January of 2011).

Chrome is an up and coming browser, primarily because it is a Google product. Between September of 2009 and September of 2010, Chrome nabbed about 8% of the browser market from Internet Explorer.

Safari and Opera account for 4.4% and 2.0% of browsers being used so it isn’t a bad idea to check in these browsers as well.

Except for multiple versions of IE, it is relatively easy to install and run these browsers, all within the same system – I’m writing this on a system with IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari installed.

Other factors to check to make sure your web site displays correctly include testing it on different operating systems and testing it on handhelds. The biggest problem we’ve heard so far is about Apple’s decision not to support Flash. There goes your nice Flash presentation if you’re getting a lot of visitors using Apple’s iPad, iTouch or iPhone to view your site.

A little bit of testing can save you the embarrassment of having your site look like it was designed by a middle school student.

Need help making your site look right across browsers? Turn to EduCyber and we’ll help. Give us a call at (303) 268-2245.


Are You Paying Attention?

Everybody is so busy. We have to – or at least we feel like we have to – multi-task throughout the day. But does it really work? This morning I realized that my fruit shake wasn’t going to keep me going until lunch time so while I was out and about I swung through McDonald’s drive thru.

First I heard a voice that was so soft I couldn’t hear what was said. I asked her to repeat what she said. She was ready for my order! So I ordered the breakfast meal I wanted and asked for coffee for the drink. A few seconds later she asked for my order. A bit confused I ordered again. She repeated my order and asked if that was all. I said yes. Then she asked what I wanted to drink with my meal. At that point I realized that she was not paying attention to me at all. She was so busy taking money from the customers in line ahead of me that she had no idea where I was in the ordering process. I pulled out of line and moved on.

Arriving at Starbucks I had to get out of my car but the staff inside were friendly and polite and they only paid attention to one customer at a time. I was struck by the difference as I ordered only once and got what I ordered.

So how does that apply to a web site? Too often web sites try to be all things to all people. In fact, it is not infrequent that a client or potential client will tell me, with a straight face, that their target market is everybody or at least every business.

If everybody is your target then you’re like the lady at McDonalds that is so busy taking money from customers that she couldn’t really pay attention to me as I ordered. She couldn’t figure out where to focus.

Take a look at your web site today. Think about it not as a business owner but as a potential customer. Are you paying attention? Is it clear what the next step is? Or in an effort to be all things to all people are you paying attention to no one?


Building Better Web Sites

We often have people come to us looking for a web site and they start off with, “Here’s the content and here’s the logo.” That would be like starting off your home construction with interior design and where the furniture is going to be.

To design a good web site, you need to start with a good foundation. What is your goal? Be SPECIFIC. Being specific means going much deeper than “I want more business.” Being specific means thinking about how many new customers you’d like / can handle each week or month or quarter. Being specific means thinking about how your web site goals fit in with your overall marketing goals.

By being specific in your goal setting, you can then begin to build your foundation. If your specific goal is to get 15 calls a week via your web site (which you will then turn at least one into a customer) then you can look at your site plans and answer the very specific question, “What am I doing to entice or encourage the visitor to give me a call?”

There are many many ways to accomplish this but with that question in mind, you can begin to craft the site or a particular page in such a way that you’re helping the visitor to reach the conclusion that they should indeed give you a call. And don’t forget the obvious. The same week we put our phone number in the banner of our site, I closed a deal where the customer expressed thanks that we were so easy to get in touch with by having the number at the top.

But having your number at the top of the page is NOT a call to action. A call to action would be much more like “Have a pressing tax question? Call one of our advisors for a free 15 minute consultation” or “Call to schedule your consultation and we’ll give you a free _______ when you come in.” The blank could be a blender, USB drive, book, domain name or any other appropriate gift for your business.

So even if you’re not a web designer, you can still build a better web site.


We are proud members of many community organizations and chambers. See Our Community Involvement.

©1998-2024 EduCyber - All rights reserved. | 4251 Kipling Street, Suite 340 Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 USA | info@educyber.com