Tags: Business, design, IA, Information Architecture, Usability
Information architecture isn’t sexy. In fact, good information architecture (or “IA”) shouldn’t be something your website visitors even notice.
Information architecture is basically how your site is designed. We’ve all seen site maps – those are basically outlines of your IA. It’s the organization of your website, how things are arranged, and it needs to make sense to your visitors.
Unfortunately, not enough businesses focus on their IA or they assume their customers use their site in the same way they would. This blog post explains why you must pay attention to your IA and includes some handy hints to figure out if it’s working.
I Can See Clearly Now
The non-profit Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA) recently released a study called Finding Information: Factors that improve online experiences. One of the main findings was that visitors are looking for “simple, accurate, fast, and easily navigable web sites.” Visitors to websites reported feeling lost on websites or not knowing where their desired information was in much higher percentages than the designers of the websites.
Your designers may have the best of intentions and be highly creative, but it’s up to you to ensure your customers can find the information they need and know where they are on your site at all times.
Website navigation starts with your IA. Here are some handy hints to help you determine whether your website is easily navigable and, if not, how to start fixing it.
Tags: analytics, bounce, bounce rate, Communication, Marketing, metrics, Online marketing, ROI, Search, SEM, SEO, Usability, Web Analytics
Someone lied to you if they told you statistics were boring. Website metrics show just how your audience is using your site and you ignore this data at your own peril.
A bounce rate is when someone comes to your site and immediately leaves. They bounce off of your website for whatever reason. A bounce is undesirable – you want people to come and stay on your website! Bounce is the opposite of sticky.
Time vs. Pages
I had always understood bounce determined by time – that this figure was measured from people leaving a site in a certain increment (usually 2, 5, or 10 seconds). So I was surprised when I read in Website Magazine that they asserted that bounce rate “is calculated by dividing the number of total page visits by those visits that did not result in an additional page view.”
Tags: Advertising, Communication, concert, concerts, Disney, Hannah Montana, HP, integration, Marketing, Miley Cyrus, music, OfficeMax, Online marketing, Usability
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I have a confession: I attended the Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana show on Saturday evening. I am not a fan – suffice it to say I attended for the benefit of others. My future cousins in-law had a blast and I got to see a friend doing what he does best (thanks Jason!). Though difficult to concentrate in the midst of 10,000 pre-teen girls shrieking at top volume, I did see some rather striking examples of marketing done right. All of it was so smooth and so integrated into the show, I think it was an example of what entertainment will be like in the years to come.
- Props to sponsor HP for recording video segments run during breaks in the show that integrated their sponsorship with their (and Miley’s) charity work. It was the normal thing (“X percent of your new printer will be donated to Y”), but the production value was great and both kids and parents got the message.
- Award for the most ingeniously simple marketing scheme: OfficeMax. You might be asking yourself why HP and OfficeMax would be sponsoring a kid’s show, but the sheer volume of well-off parents was proof enough. I saw more limousines (Hummer limos included) than I have for any rock show. Regardless, OfficeMax was giving away signs at a table outside the main doors with a word balloon printed on the front. The idea was that the kid wrote something (“We LUV you Hannah!”) and held it up during the show. However, OfficeMax also included their logo prominently on the back of the sign. That way, each little kid was jumping up and down promoting OfficeMax to every person behind them.
- I noticed several un-uniformed young adults handing out what appeared to be surveys so, of course, I grabbed a couple. They start out pretty innocuous – age, gender (boy or girl, rather), frequency of interaction with Hannah Montana/Disney.com, excitement to see the show, etc. Then it asks you to name the sponsors of the show. A little weird, but ok. It only started to perk up my interest when out of the blue it asks about my printing frequency. Then the subsequent four questions are about my printing habits, with HP prominently in the first position of the multiple choice. The survey is a great touch-point, makes the child (or more likely the parent) notice HP’s sponsorship, and it provides valuable information to the sponsor.
In all, well done by the sponsors of the show. None of the marketing was too invasive, but it certainly did not get lost either. There were lots of chances to wrote down the URLs displayed on the video screens during breaks, most of which included a situation where the sponsor was providing content or an opportunity, rather than encouraging parents to visit the website and see our exciting new line of, uh, printers (snore…).
Of course, no Hannah Montana marketing article could fail to mention the PR stumble regarding MileyWorld.com getting sued for false promises, but let the parents fight that out. And I learned that the t-shirt sales (occurring inside the venue) were not sanctioned by the Miley or Disney – so the bootleggers were making tons of money off her image. The girl might only be 15, but her handlers should be all over this if it is true. They are needlessly tarnishing her reputation and losing tons and tons of money.
But regardless, I commend the marketing at the show. (And if you haven’t seen MileyWorld.com, check out the great benefits of membership – click on the “Tickets” tab, for instance.) Plus, I never would have listened to those songs otherwise, but many actually had a good message for kids, especially little girls. There was a song entitled “Nobody’s Perfect” and others that talked about the power of friendship and self-confidence. Sure, it’s a little schmaltzy, but the kids ate it up. And that’s what matters.
Tags: ads, Advertising, Guitar Hero, Joseph Jaffe, Marketing, Online marketing, Second Life, SL, Usability, user experience, Video Games
Joseph Jaffe has a post from earlier this month that is worth a read: Who’s responsible for SL’s lack of reach? First, I recommend that you buy his new book Join The Conversation (and send me one – money’s tight right now!) and subscribe to his podcast Jaffe Juice on iTunes. He has great, down-to-earth marketing advice and insight that you should not miss. (A link to his blog is to the right in my blogroll.)
Some background on SL (Second Life): It’s a virtual, 3-D world where users explore, build, socialize and participate in their own economy (that’s marketing-speak from the website). When it came out, there were a rush of articles proclaiming this to be the next new world, much like The Lawnmower Man was to herald in the new virtual reality. However, it did not all work out that way. While Linden Labs (the creators of SL) claim that membership is still growing, there is widespread belief that it is actually stalled. The avatar controls are notoriously difficult. Most important to us, many users felt the paid marketing/advertising was either ubiquitous or simply over-the-top.
And these are not unfair criticisms. But Jaffe makes a case that as adventurers in the virtual world, we, the online marketers, are to blame for an unsatisfactory user experience. Sure, we cannot change the controls of SL, but we do have considerable power over the type of experience people have.
For example, was their experience integrated into the SL life or was it jarring? If you create an island where everything is a branded advertisement, do not expect visitors to return. Create some reason why the users would want to return to your branded area. If they buy something today, it’s worth pennies. If you snuggle with that customer for life, it’s worth millions.
[Coke is a good example (disclaimer: this campaign was designed by Jaffe’s company, crayon). MTV is kind of in between with good intentions, but a few trip-ups along the way. You can find any number of bad examples just by poking around (start with H.R. Block, yawn).]
On a similar note, I was talking to a neighbor the other day and was mining him for information about ads integrated into new game systems. I’ve read several articles about the failure of ads to have any effect, often the type like pixelated billboards in racing games. Of course gamers block that out. But he was gave me two other examples – one I think is decent and another I think is great. He said on Guitar Hero 3 that some car company (Honda?) built a secret level where you preform a song on the bed of one of their trucks. He felt it was over-done with all of the ads for the car company in the background. The lesson, of course, is that if you over do it, the user feels cheapened. However, he also told me about a skateboarding game where, when you customized your board and equipment, you were given a short explanation of a certain part, sponsored by the company that produces it in the real world. This “ad” was subtle, didn’t interrupt game flow, and actually enhanced the gaming experience.
Whether in SL or gaming or any experience where you communicate something to someone else, think of the interaction from their perspective. Would you find this ad jarring? Can this message be integrated to a smoother way? Could it even enhance the experience? Why is this so rarely (or so poorly) done? Is it simply because it’s more difficult, or is it just a different mind-set than churning out the 30-second one-way advertisement?
Fear (to be left out) gets us into new venues like SL or video games. And fear makes us panic when our brands are not immediately embraced. Jaffe is right – if you’re going to be an adventurer in this virtual world, it’s going to take some balls (that’s my paraphrase). Go for the gusto, but don’t forget the experience.
Tags: Communication, Google, Marketing, MSN, Online marketing, Search, simplicity, Usability, websites, Yahoo
John C. Dvorak has a good article in PC magazine about web site entropy and website usability. I listen to Dvorak when he joins Leo Laporte on “this WEEK in TECH” – a podcast I highly recommend. This weekly podcast covers everything you need to know in tech which relates to marketing which relates to communications and on and on and on…
I like Dvorak’s examples that illustrate “keep doing what works.” It’s amazing how often I hear about a company that develops a great website, maybe even knows why they’re doing great, and their first inclination is to change it. There is something about the internet that encourages constant change. Granted this is preferred over stasis, but change for the sake of change is not always good. If people enjoy your site, do not change the things they value. It seems self-explanatory, but it is shocking how often this happens.
Dvorak also mentions something at the end of his article that I think needs more illumination is that simple is better than complex most of the time. Why is Google one of the most popular sites? Take a look. Seriously, go to the site and don’t search; just look at it. So much white space, so simple. I remember hearing an interview with Marissa Mayer discussing what an application had to go through before being posted to the front page (hint: it’s A LOT). So when you go to Google.com and notice Maps and Images and such, those links have proved themselves to take up that space.
Compared to Google though, try out Yahoo or MSN. Try using one of these the next time you need to actually do something. They try to be everything to everyone and hence are doomed to be nothing to everyone (hyperbole, of course, since these two aren’t hurting, but the theory remains sound).
The point is not to dumb-down everything; it’s just to 1) do what you do really well and 2) don’t worry about a whole lot else unless your audience wants it. When people (and more importantly, companies) start to think of their website as a tool, things will start to improve. If your website is a means rather than an end, you’re one step ahead.