Transition Points

This morning our little part of the world was recovering from a brief snowstorm. As I left the building for a client meeting and again as I returned to my office, there were people (different folks each time) standing at the door talking. I noticed it because the atrium was getting cold as they stood there, door ajar, discussing whatever it was they were discussing.

Businesspeople Shaking Hands In Doorway 42 17077066 1
Transition to a new website!

But it got me thinking about transition points. When you leave a room or a building, it is a transition point. And something catches your attention which is why folks often stop to talk right then. Visiting a web site is a transition point. For most of us, we’ve been engaged in a different activity but now we are suddenly looking at a web site – perhaps it is your web site.

This is the opportunity for us, as web site owners, to have a conversation with the visitor. To engage them and help them understand what is in store for them as they move deeper into the site. In my experience above, the change in temperature was something that caught the attention of folks and made them stop to talk.  What is your site doing or what should it be doing at this key Transition Point?

One mistake that many website owners make at this point is to show lots of pretty pictures without asking the visitor to step deeper into the site. These are the “sliders” or rotating images that make up the top part of so many web sites. Site owners love them because it is such a great way to showcase all the great features of their product or service. The only problem is visitors are usually not looking for features, they’re looking for benefits.

Transitions present opportunities. To take full advantage of the opportunities presented, we, as website owners, need to carefully consider what our visitors want. No matter what your business is, a great way to understand what your web site visitors are looking for is to ask your existing customers. What benefit do you get from our service / our product / working with us? Use what you learn to redo your front page and possibly to redo your site structure.

The conversation need to continue to change (your front page needs to change over time) in order to keep engaging people as they come through your door (enter your site). We have a customer whose site brought in 45% more revenue the first year we redid it. But as we have continued to make changes, it has averaged more than 20% increase in revenue each year. The key to success is to grab the visitor at the transition point and engage them. Then just keep moving them along until you’ve successfully won their business.


Mobile Goes Wild

As we monitor our customer’s sites we are seeing, understandably, a huge increase in traffic from mobile devices. What does that mean for your web site? What does that mean from a design perspective?Mobile Increase 1

First it is important to understand that tablets (iPad, Kindle, Surface, and a variety of Android tablets) are considered mobile devices. So when we’re talking mobile devices, we’re talking everything from a BlackBerry (probably having the smallest screen) to the iPad and larger tablets.

It can be a nightmare trying to make things work across all these platforms. “it can’t be that bad.” You might be thinking. But you’re wrong. One of our sites has had over 350 mobile devices visit their site. 350.

Once upon a time we designed and tested our sites in three to five browsers and at least two different platforms (like Windows and Apple). Now the rules have changed.

If you are changing or updating your site, you’ll want to ask your web firm if your site will be mobile-friendly. But that phrase “mobile-friendly” can mean a lot of different things.

Here is what you should be aware of when planning for mobile:

  1. Often it is fine if your site simply appears small and can be pinched or unpinched to zoom in and out
  2. Navigation is different. If you have drop down menus on your site, test them on mobile. Often dropdowns work with a hover or mouseover. There isn’t a hover or mouseover on mobile.
  3. If you need a look substantially different from the desktop view for mobile devices, be prepared to spend more as you’ll essentially be designing two versions of your web site
  4. Make sure your web firm is using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that detect browser version and can serve up the mobile changes for a mobile device
  5. Be prepared for additional changes in the way people interact with their mobile devices (and therefore your mobile-friendly website) over the next 18 months. The only constant in web site development is change.

Is Your Site Performing?

Have you looked at the stats for your web site lately? If you haven’t you should. There are two sets of statistics I recommend looking at. One is the stats from your web logs – we like to use AWSTATS as they provide a nice overview of stats but also allows you to drill down to specifics very quickly.

The other set of stats is Google Analytics. By using both GA and AWSTATS, you can get two different looks but also keep in mind that they should be fairly similar. Why two instead of one? Mainly to “keep them honest” in making sure they are indeed close to the same. But also because sometimes one look will give you an insight that you may not notice with the other look.

Some of the stats to look at include:

Webstats 1Unique Visitors – how many unique visitors do you have coming to your site on a monthly basis? The goal is always to keep that number climbing and is the goal of Seach Engine Optimization campaigns.

Pages Viewed – which pages on your site were viewed. If your goal is to get people to complete checkouts, for example, you’ll be happy if the checkout page is getting viewed a lot and if it isn’t that can give you some insight on which pages you need to check on.

Browsers – this stat is increasingly important as the variety of mobile browsers continues to explode. If you see lots of Android or ios views, you’ll want to pay extra attention to how your site looks and performs on mobile platforms

Traffic Sources – this stat helps you see how people get to your site. If you’re running an SEO campaign, you’ll expect to see lots of organic search traffic. If you’re running a paid search campaign like Google AdWords, you’ll be looking to see lots of Google paid visits. And the list goes on through Facebook, and a variety of social media sites as well as direct visits – folks who already know you and your brand.

Search Keywords or Key phrases – this stat shows what your search traffic was actually searching for when they arrived at your site. It is not a bad thing to see lots of search hits for your business name – that means you have built your brand. But it is much better to see more generic key words about your industry or products. That means that people who don’t know you specifically are finding your site as they search for your what you offer.


The Importance of Being Heard

How do you get your message out? More importantly, how do you get your message out so that it is heard above the cacophony of others struggling to get their message out?

That is the trial of the age in which we live. People are constantly exposed to messaging whether it be via TV, radio, online music, Internet browsing, Facebooking, email campaigns, ads in your favorite apps, or a combination thereof (for example, we just signed up for HuluPlus and one of my kids first questions as we were enjoying reruns of a favorite program was, “How come there are commercials? Aren’t we paying for this?”). Now there is group texting as a targeted way to get your message out – this supposedly requires the end user to opt in but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So what is the best answer? There is no single BEST WAY. But it is very important for you to understand who you are trying to reach and what that particular audience is most likely to respond to. In other words, you should not try the shotgun approach. I recommend, instead the artillery approach: carefully determine where your message needs to go, and then fire away, but don’t stop there. Find out if you were on target and if not, then readjust your settings and fire again.

How does that work?

Well in actual artillery you usually have a forward observer who scouts out the location and communicates the coordinates back. This forward observer is crucial. Without one, the artillery has no idea where to fire. In your campaign, you need to do some forward observing. Where is your target? Where will they be when you begin your campaign? How are they “outfitted”? Do they use smart phones? Do they text a lot? How do they receive news and information? Via the Internet? TV? Radio? How do they interact with various media? All of this information should be gathered as part of your forward observing.

In real artillery the forward observer communicates with the fire direction center which actually computes the distance from the target, the precise direction to the target and handles all the other data calculations. For you this means you need to evaluate the data you discover or receive about how your target actually behaves so you can determine which forms of communication are most effective for your target.

The command post is where the power lies – it is the command post that controls the firing of the guns. For you this means now you get to make the decisions: What venues will be used (provided the input from the fire direction center); when the campaign will start; whether it will be shooting only once or “walking the fire” onto the target with multiple shots.

But the story too often ends there. What you need, just like real artillery, is to go back to the forward observer and make sure you hit the target! For your business, that means you need to measure the results of your campaign. Did you hit your target sales? Did you get the right number of leads? Did the phone ring enough times? Whatever you determine, at the outset you want to measure, you have to actually measure. If need be, now is the time to readjust your sites and fire again. If you scored a direct hit, you can determine whether it makes sense to go after the same target again or whether to shift your sights to another, similar target.

While the goal of an actually artillery campaign is to rain down death and destruction, the goal of a business communication campaign is to grow your business. So in your case, collateral effects aren’t damaging. If you focused on one specific area of communication and got lots of collateral effects such as people close to the target area calling, buying  or otherwise doing business, this is even more data you can take into account with your next artillery campaign.

(Details on artillery taken from


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 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 ( 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


Measuring Up

What do you measure on your web site? Do you measure the number of hits? The number of unique visitors? The number of visits from search engines?
All of those might be useful to you. The key is to take in the big picture. It would be a shame to be ranked number 1 in the search engines for your key phrase and drive hundreds or thousands of visitors to your site but not get any business from it.
After all, aren’t we all in business to make money?
So when you measure, make sure that you measure throughout the funnel. How many calls or sales or submissions do you get through your web site? These are measurables that create direct contact with a potential customer. Once the web site has accomplished that, then it is up to you and your processes to close the deal.
So if you see that your web site traffic has doubled or tripled, or perhaps had a 20% increase, that should translate into an increased amount of direct contact measurables. If it hasn’t, it’s time to re-examine your site.
Now you will want to measure things like bounce rate and time on site to see what is and is not working. If your home page has a really high bounce rate, for example, then you need to look at what isn’t working on the home page. Is it difficult to navigate? Is it unclear what the next step is?
By evaluating what you’re measuring, you get the big picture and can make meaningful changes that will positively affect your bottom line.
During the cold war, the key US phrase was “Trust but Verify”. When it comes to your web site, the phrase should be “Measure but Evaluate”.


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?


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