As the technologies within our industry advance, websites and web applications slowly become more and more complex. What was once described as a one-way and static medium has since evolved into a rich and thoroughly interactive experience. Regardless of just how much has changed in terms of the production process for websites, success still hangs on just one thing: how a user views it. People will ask themselves whether they gain any value from the website, whether it’s easy or pleasant to use. These questions automatically run through the minds of users as they interact with a website and it’s the answers to these questions that allow them to form a decision on whether they’ll be a regular user or not.
User experience, or UX as it’s often referred to, is very much about doing everything possible to make your users answer “Yes” to all of these questions. The following guide is going to help you familiarise yourself with web design user experience fully and help you enhance your own. Let’s first begin by taking a look at what user experience actually is. Quite simply, UX is how a person feels when interacting with a system. This could be a website, a web application or even desktop software. Modern contexts describe it as more of a human-computer interaction or HCI. UX designers spend their time evaluating and studying just how users feel about your website by looking at things such as ease of use, perception of value gained from the website, efficiency in performing different tasks etc. UX designers will also take the time to look at the sub-systems and processes within the system itself.
A good example of this would be looking at the checkout process on an e-commerce website. This would allow them to see whether the process of buying products from the website is simple and/or pleasing. They may also study components of the sub-system such as the efficiency of any input fields on a web form for instance. In comparison to a number of other areas within web design, UX is fairly new.
Why is user experience important?
Before clients ever understood the great value of user-centered design, decisions within web design were based on two things and they were simply what we thought was great and what the client wanted to see. The interaction within our websites was based simply on what we believed would work and we therefore designed it ourselves. The focus was on the look and branding and very little thought was given to how people actually using the website would feel about it. Back then, there was most certainly no science behind what happened. The results merely came about because they looked good and were thought to be creative.
This recent decade however has seen a huge transformation of the Internet and websites. Not only has it become far more present but the websites themselves have become far more complex and rich in features. Due to this transformation, they must have a great user experience in order to be effective. On top of this, users are now accessing websites in a number of different ways from different devices, different browsers and even different Internet connections. We’ve also become hugely aware of the importance of accessibility not just for those who might have special requirements needing things such as screen readers but for those who may not have broadband or may use older devices.
During all of these changes, the websites that have stood out from the crowd were always the ones that were pleasant to use and as a result, the driving factor when it comes to building websites today has become about the experience we want our users to have when visiting our websites. It’s now easy to see just why user experience is so important.
What systems benefit from user experience
To say all web systems would benefit from an evaluation and user experience overhaul is easy simply because it’s so difficult to argue against it however we don’t live in a perfect world and there are of course a number of systems that would benefit from UX design more than others. These include:
- Complex systems –if a website is complex then it will be a lot more involved in terms of planning and design. While the idea of investing in a full UX study for a simple static website may seem a little excessive, multi-faceted websites or even e-commerce websites will really benefit from UX design. This is down to the fact that complex systems often involve a number of user tasks which means an awful lot riding on the fact that they’re perceived as valuable and efficient along with being a joy to navigate. If a good UX isn’t achieved then designers will risk big monetary losses.
- Start-ups – start-ups and small companies will generally lack the finances needed to hire someone specifically for UX design alone however, this doesn’t mean that you have to neglect the entire concept of user experience. By hiring a company such as Wecan Media, you’ll find yourself privy to a team of experts with knowledge within specific fields, including user experience. If you happen to be a web design company yourself then the possibility of training existing employees to “wear different hats” as it were would be hugely beneficial however you may find it much easier to contract out UX work specifically.
- Projects with average budgets – smaller companies and even smaller agencies need to keep costs low yet still deliver. In this situation, the focus tends to be more about the build process and less on planning, research and analysis. You may even find that projects with smaller budgets are very driven by the final product and launch but that certainly doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from decent UX. In practice it may not be possible to hire a UX specific employee however, yet again, contracting out some basic UX work may cost a lot less and still offer great benefits.
- Drawn out projects –simple logic states that by adding a cog to a process, the timeline will extend. Time needs to be allotted for user experience design however UX designers could, in theory, shorten the timelines by taking a number of tasks usually assigned to the web designers and web developers. This would then save not only time by money also.
Things you must know about UX design
As amazing as it is, UX design won’t accomplish everything. It’s not “one size fits all” and therefore won’t work in every situation simply because we’re all different. What may work for one person might have the complete opposite effect for another. The best that can be done is to simply design for very specific experiences and try to promote certain behaviours. Despite this, we still won’t be able to manufacture or predict the actual experience itself. Just as we can’t design an exact user experience, neither can we replicate one on another website. User experiences, despite your best efforts will be different from one website to another. This is also due to the fact that the user experience should be tailored to each and every goal, value and product of the website it’s for.
We must also remember that user experience can’t be measured using traditional metrics either. You won’t be able to assess its effectiveness based solely on statistics and as a result, a lot of assumptions are usually made. We can ask for users to give anecdotal evidence but we can’t install an app that will give us automatic readings about user experience directly. It should also be noted that user experience and usability are very different things indeed. Although they have become synonymous, they’re clearly distinct. UX looks at addressing how a user feels whilst usability looks at user friendliness and efficiency of the interface. Usability is however a big part of UX and will play a major role in creating experiences that are not only effective but pleasant also.
UX tasks and techniques
User experience designers perform a number of different tasks at differing points in the process. Here is just some of what they deliver:
- Evaluating current system –if the system already exists then the current system that’s already in place can be looked at. Reports of issues and future suggestions in order to fix issues will be based solely on their analysis and research.
- A/B testing –this could include devising a study in order to compare the effectiveness and quality of the experience of different users interfaces. This can often be done by creating a hypothesis such as “the red button’s more attractive than the blue button” and then proposing or creating a number of different versions of that design. They would then define what a better experience is and then conduct the testing. This would result in “the red button is better as users clicked on it more”.
- User surveys –this may include interviews with existing and/or possible users of the system. This will no doubt gain better insight into what would be the most effective design for them. You must remember that the user’s experience is completely subjective so the only way to gain valuable insight is to study and interact with them.
- Wireframes and prototypes – based on findings from their tests, specialists may be able to develop wireframes of various layouts along with higher-fidelity prototypes.
This list isn’t exhaustive; other such deliverables could include user flow, storytelling, design patterns, user profiling and personas along with content inventory and content style guides. For some, just taking a glimpse at what’s actually involved with user experience can really highlight just how much more it is than simply creating a nice feeling for your user. It also highlights just how important user experience is when it comes to helping your website do the job it was intended to do. If you’d like more information on user experience and how we can help at Wecan Media, contact us today.
Source - Garrett, J. 2002, Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web. New Riders Press, USA.
Source - Berry, D. 2000, The user experience - The iceberg analogy of usability. Technical library of the IBM Ease of Use Team.
For those who may not be familiar, digital marketing involves the use of a website and any associated marketing tools in order to promote your business online. Despite such an acceleration in terms of Internet use and the ease with which we now access it, the digital world is still a complete mystery to some and as a result, the importance of digital marketing is all but lost on them. What people seem oblivious to is the fact that digital marketing is so universal in that it gives consumers access to information any time of the day and in any place they may be in the world. Gone are the days when the only message about your business came from you and consisted of only what you wanted your consumers to know. Digital media took over long ago as the ever-growing source of entertainment, world-wide news, retail and even social interaction. Consumers now have access to not only what your company says about itself and its brand but also what the media has to say about it, along with friends, relatives and even peers. What’s more, your potential customers are more likely to believe exactly what everyone else has to say about you and your brand than you yourself. Your customers want to hear from people they trust and the companies that know them. Communication has now become personalised and more relevant with offers being tailored to people’s needs and personal preferences.
Digital marketing and all related channels are hugely important but not to the exclusion of everything else. Yes, you need to know your customers but that’s not enough. You need to make sure you know your customers better than anyone else in order for you to communicate with them more effectively. By communicating with them where, when and exactly how they want, they automatically become much more receptive to the message. In order to do that you need to almost consolidate a view or opinion of your customer’s preferences and expectations and in order to do this you need to gather information from across all channels including web, social media, direct mail, point of sale and mobile. This information can then be used to create, and in some cases anticipate, consistent and coordinated customer experiences that will help to increase your conversion rates. The deeper your insight into your customer’s preferences and behavior runs, the more likely it is that you’ll engage with them in successful and lucrative ways.
Blogs, newsletters and forums are all great ways of informing and engaging your visitors but what about the rest of your target audience that may not be aware of your existence? They need help finding you and search engines will be the first place they choose to look. With the global market drawing over 100 billion searches every single month, search engine optimisation and search engine marketing is now more important than ever before. It’s so important in fact that it’s now a vital part of any digital marketing strategy. While you could indeed learn some basic skills in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), in order to gain optimal results it’s advised you seek the help of professionals. To make things a little clearer we’ve put together some more information on just what digital marketing entails with the aim to provide you with more insight into search engine optimisation and search engine marketing.
Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation, or SEO as it’s otherwise known, is the art of influencing search engines so that you may improve the rankings of a website and secure a top position for it. When carried out effectively, SEO can help to improve the websites rankings as well as boost awareness of the brand and increase high quality website traffic subsequently increasing conversions. In terms of the search engine process, there are four main stages, these include:
· Planning and analysis – this initial stage will involve both internal and external analysis. A website analysis consists of a comprehensive analysis of the user interface and certain key success factors such as the website’s usability, its functionality and design. A thorough website analysis should go much deeper than user interface. It should look at how the website is helping or indeed hindering the business in terms of reaching its goals. Once these fundamental aspects have been looked at, the next point of call will be to determine the level of SEO and this will include things such as page ranking, the link building strategies in place along with keywords and meta tags. Heading tags, content, images and even website promotion strategies will all be included in the analysis at this stage. The results of such analysis should then be compared to that of your competitor. From this, an overall objective in terms of moving forward can be discussed and recommendations for planning and implementing said plan finalised.
- Website optimisation – the second stage will involve optimising a number of different areas of the website for their efficiency in terms of SEO. This will include optimising for keywords, meta tags along with website content and imagery once again. You should remove any search engine penalties that might be hindering you and your digital marketing strategy too. When optimising your website you should create some SEO maintenance files i.e. robot.txt files and sitemap.XML files. By creating robot.txt files you ensure sensitive files will be protected from crawling and indexing by the search engines. A sitemap.XML file will provide the search engines with structure for your website. This will assist search engines when determining the relevance of your website for any given search. The final portion of this stage involves creating a Google Analytics account that will help you to monitor all of your website traffic and visitor usage. You’ll also be able to track code of all your pages and your website along with any digital marketing campaigns in order to look at reach and usage. This will all help you to learn more about your website visitors.
- Link building –this is very important simply because link building will give your website credibility within the search engines. This has been shown to account for around 80% of ranking criteria. The link building process itself will include building forward links, backward links and even reciprocal links between other relevant and well-regarded websites and/or directories. It could even involve writing articles and blog posts in other relevant websites and social networks.
- Reporting – the last stage in this process includes benchmark reports. These should be produced before beginning the digital marketing campaign as well as throughout the duration of the campaign as this will offer tracking of your progress. Some great examples of reports you should be receiving include page ranking reports, keyword reports and even search engine penalty reports. There are even reports for domain issues, traffic, server types and IP status’. You may also receive website enhancement suggestion reports which should also include helpful suggestions for improving the usability.
The results that can be achieved by SEO aren’t permanent however and should be treated as an ongoing process. Fine-tuning of your SEO should be carried out regularly.
Search engine marketing
Search engine marketing or SEM helps to promote websites by increasing their visibility in terms of search engine results pages. It does so by using a combination of SEO, paid placement, paid inclusion and contextual advertising. SEM offers those with a smaller budget a less costly alternative to traditional marketing media. There are four main stages involved with the search engine marketing process and they include:
- Planning and analysis – the first stage within the SEM process requires some rather in-depth research of the organisation itself along with any competitors and your target audience. Some advanced keyword research should be carried out so the most descriptive terms can be identified. From this, an overview of the website and business objectives can be produced with reports and recommendations for planning and anything that may need to be implemented.
- Creating the ad campaign – the key to getting your target audience to move through to your website is to create an intriguing and relevant campaign. It must be creative, consisting of relevant and appealing content. Creating a successful ad campaign includes keyword selection and optimisation and this includes identifying negative keywords.
- Managing the ad campaign – to make sure you see the best results from your ad campaign, you must test and track the campaign. Evaluate it on a continual basis and include monitoring of your competition. Look at campaigns to help increase your conversion rates along with keyword grouping. Campaigns should be fine-tuned continuously and click fraud should also be looked at regularly to help prevent unwanted negative results.
- Reporting – the last stage of SEM should be benchmark reporting. Once again this should be produced prior to the digital marketing campaign beginning as well as throughout in order to provide up to date results on progress. Ad group, URL and digital marketing campaign performance reports should all be provided along with overall account reports. You may even take advantage of the information gathered from demographic, geographic and search query performance reports.
If you’d like more information on digital marketing and just how our expert team here at Wecan Media can help you and your website then contact us today. Here at our web design and SEO agency, we’ll help create the best possible digital marketing strategy for your website and catapult you to the top of Google.
Reference - http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo
As more and more people are beginning to use their smartphones to access the Internet as opposed to their desktop alone, one thing has become abundantly clear and that’s the fact that mobile internet surfing is taking over. When it comes to the Internet and mobile use, it isn’t just surfing either. It would appear that smartphone use is now ranging from browsing social media channels to checking emails and even making online purchases. Due to mobile Internet usage increasing steadily, it’s now more important than ever that your website is mobile friendly. While some choose the route of having a desktop specific website along with a mobile specific website (two very separate entities), it is now possible to have a website that caters for both and this is known as a responsive website.
A responsively designed website is simply a website that has the capability to display all content, images and even structure over a range of screen sizes. This means when the user accesses the website on a desktop, they’ll be getting the full view. When they visit the website from their smartphone or tablet, the website will merely retract in order to fit the screen size. In other words, a responsive website allows you the convenience of just one website to maintain while catering for a number of different screen sizes. The question is, how important is responsive website design? The short answer would be, hugely important. To explain further let’s look at some of the really important reasons why you should be making the switch to responsive website design.
Why is responsive website design so important?
Mobile usage is increasing –if you take a step out in the open, you’ll be hard pushed to avoid the fact that a lot of people are spending a lot of their time on their mobile phones. In fact it would seem just about everyone is pretty much attached at the hip withtheir smartphone. Despite this, there are a number of companies that haven’t yet picked up on this trend. Maybe the following statistics will be able to convince them of just how much the mobile world has skyrocketed:
- More than 20% of searches on Google alone are performed using a mobile device.
- In 2012, more than half of all searches covering all search engines were carried out on a mobile device.
- 25% of Internet users will only ever access the Internet via a mobile device.
- Just over 25% of all emails are read on some form of mobile device.
- Mobile Internet usage over took desktop usage in 2014.
- 1.08 billion of the 4 billion mobile phones in the world are smartphones.
It’s recommended by Google – we all know that Google’s a pretty big deal. It’s such a big deal in fact that they hogged a whopping 67% of the search market share in 2013 which made it the most popular search engine in the entire world. If Google then claims it prefers responsive website design in terms of mobile configuration then you should take the hint. The reason Google prefers responsive web design is due to the fact that it’s more efficient and the reason it’s so efficient is due to the fact that all websites (mobile, tablet or desktop) have the very same URL and the same HTML. This means that Google no longer needs to index multiple versions of the same website.
Increase conversion rate – besides the search benefits, responsive web design is great at increasing your conversion rates from all the mobile users in the world. The reason for this? If a website doesn’t work on a mobile or tablet then users obviously won’t be able to convert. With 69% of tablet users now shopping on their devices in the last few months alone, it makes perfect sense to have a responsive website that gives users an easy route to convert.
Better user experience – we’ve briefly touched upon this before but responsive web design will give your users a much better experience when they’re on your website. A great example of this would be the fact that users won’t need to zoom in and out of your website, shrinking text or images in order to see what you have to display and navigate their way around. Instead, all of the content will rather conveniently adjust to whatever screen size they’re using. A better user experience will also make it much easer for users to reach you and raise any concerns. If users are able to contact you and find a way to complain then there’s a much lower probability of them raising their issues publicly via social media and a much higher chance of them returning.
Easier to manage – if we scoot back briefly to SEO for a moment, if you have separate desktop and mobile websites then you’re going to have to run entirely separate SEO campaigns for each website. This will be much more time consuming than simply running and managing only one SEO campaign for one website. That wouldn’t just make your customers happy but it would make you extremely happy too. This makes responsive web design much more cost-effective also, especially if you’re employing experts such as ourselves as we’ll only be managing one website for you.
Keep ahead of your competition – in the great world of business it’s important that you stay ahead of your competition and if more and more users are reaching for their mobile devices to make purchases online then quite simply, you have to cater for that. If that doesn’t convince you enough that responsive web design is the way forward, then perhaps yourwebsite conversion rates going through the roof will? Stay ahead of your competition and have a website that really stands out and gets your brand the attention it deserves.
It’s true to say that not all content marketing will yield equal results however in the world of social media and SEO, shareable content is now a hugely important quality for any content marketing campaign. The question is however, just what makes content shareable and why does it matter so much?To put it simply, shareability is the potential for any given item of content to be shared or passed on by a third party. This usually manifests as a reader sharing a piece of content via their own social media profile in order for a wider audience to see but there are other forms of redistribution. The shareability of a piece of content will determine just how likely it is for it to be shared and passed on.
Shareability for SEO and inbound links
So why exactly is shareability so important for SEO and inbound links? Well, the more people who share your content, the more people that will get to see it and the more people who see it, the more visitors you’re likely to have on your website. The best way to think of it is if your content were a single light in a very dark forest, attracting people in. The more people who come in and turn on identical lights, the more your brightness will increase. You’re increasing brightness will then allow you to attract even more people. Whenever a link to your website is shared via a social media platform, Google will notice it and if you have 100 people individually sharing an identical link that leads back to your website then search algorithms will consider the particular piece of content more important and rank it higher. This is especially so if the links are gathered within a quick period of time. An effective social media presence will offer a lot of benefits that go beyond merely improving your SEO position. By complementing your content with genuine and personal engagements via social media (regularly at that) you’ll eventually build a loyal following. This will offer you another channel for communicating with potential customers and creating deeper relationships. The bottom line is that shareable content will essentially do your work for you instead of requiring you to post new links everywhere. Your audience will do the hard work for you making shareable content the key to opening doors.
Making content shareable
Although there’s no real measure of this, there are certain things you can do to give your content shareable properties that will increase its likelihood of being shared. If you take a look at the different pieces of content that your friends share, you’ll notice that they all have very similar characteristics. Writing content with these characteristics won’t necessarily guarantee success when it comes to it being shared but it will increase the likelihood of it happening. Qualities of shareable content include:
- Captivating titles – you want your title to stand out from the crowd and entice people in. Recent trends in titles include numbered lists i.e. “The 10 best…” as this will draw people in with the promise of an authoritative presentation. Other great examples include “You’ll never guess what…” as this will naturally play on people’s curiosity.
- Uniqueness – you want every single one of your articles to be unique and valuable in some way, shape or form.
- Communication with a specific audience – your shareable pieces ofwebsitecontent will communicate with a specific audience and in some cases, very specific such as a teenager that owns a cat who also suffers with diabetes. Although you may find yourself alienating the broader audience, you’ll dramatically increase the interest of the narrow audience you’re talking to.
- Concise material – if your material is concise it will make it much more easily read and understood in the one session. With bullet points, you’ll find your message will be understood more efficiently and this is very effective.
- Images and media – if your content features images and other such media then it’s far more likely to be shared than content without.
As with most new things however, a spark will be needed in order to set things off. In this case, that can come from one interested individual or even a business that takes that one step and forwards on your content to a much wider audience.
Consistency in content is key
When you begin writing and publishing your content, it’s vitally important that you stay consistent with what you’re posting. Keep your brand voice the same throughout as this will establish familiarity and lead on to an eventual brand following amongst your readership. Your subject matter and tone should all remain consistent too if you’re looking to build that audience who not only wants to read your work but wants to share it too. Search engines like consistency just as much as your audience. Releasing new content on a regular basis will show that you’re active. Post your content steadily too, with a regulartempo as this will catch the interest of more readers. Instead of simply spamming your readers with constant posts during one week and then leaving them to wonder where you’ve gone the next week, you should post a steady stream of content during peak times as this will maximize your chances of getting the content noticed.
Benefits of shareable content may not be noticeable immediately however it’s worth remembering that taking the time to create valuable and shareable content will lead to long-term benefits. Good content is permanent and unlike a magazine it won’t expire, nor is it vulnerable to fluctuations due to search engine algorithms. For these reasons alone, it’s worth putting the time in and creating good quality content as the benefits will far exceed the effort it took to create it.
Content marketing is a hugely important aspect for any online website and for it to be successful you must have a plan in place that ensures your content marketing strategy can support your particular goals. Content marketing isn’t just important; it’s central to your online success and for a number of reasons too. Firstly, shareable content will help create more awareness of your brand. It does this by allowing readers to engage and share your content via their social media accounts for example.
They can also choose to share it via email or even word-of-mouth. It’s important to remember that absolutely everyone is an influencer in this day and age. Your content will also help toward your SEO goals too. Google made content the king when it came to websites and it still is, very much so. Ultimately, being found relies on your website content. You may not be aware that content also helps drive purchases too.
As a visitor to your website, we base our decisions on online content for any online and offline purchases. User generated content will also help drive purchases too. Marketing and buyer behaviour has changed hugely and we now reference a much wider opinion about products and services whether that’s on our own websites, blogs or social networks and buyers will dig out this content when making their purchase decisions. Content, on whatever platform, can help to drive a number of purchases which is why it’s such an integral part of any website. Here we offer our very own expert tips on creating the ideal content marketing plan.
Tips to create the ideal content marketing plan
- Conduct audits – you should conduct an audit of your messages and compare them with your competition. This will help map out your messages and positioning. How much of this is topical and how much exactly can you use to drive the market and media with new ideas and different angles?
- Get input from the top – by speaking to the guys at the top of your company, you can see which are the very relevant topics that you might already be on the way to owning. Are there any big statements or calls to action? There’ll no doubt be plenty if you look for them and plant some ideas yourself. When doing this, make sure you go equipped with the relevant questions too.
- What about your customer’s viewpoint? – any content marketing strategy should be for the customers so ask yourself this, are you thinking from outside of the company’s view point? It doesn’t matter what channel you’re using, you should consider new pieces of content and look at just how segmented your plan needs to be. Look at what groups are living in your database, such as age differences, gender etc and ask yourself if they want different pieces of content?
- Content first and channel second – now that you’ve got your content (good quality content at that), you can now start looking at your distribution methods. All of your campaigns must be optimised for outbound marketing automation programmes as well as inbound PR and social media activities. You’ll also need to consider your social media channels and decide what types of content will work on which social media channel. Look at the channels your competitors are using to deliver their content and take a leaf out of their book. It may sound a little lazy but it’s a great way of augmenting your list and ensuring you aren’t missing anything.
- Regional differences – you must ask yourself what regions you need to consider as well as asking yourself whether specific regions need specific content created for them.
- Campaign timing - when it comes to campaign timing you need to think about the outside world a little. Are there events on the calendar or in the industry that will act as milestones or relevant points that’ll take your content even further? This works both ways too, are there any events that are worth avoiding incase they drown out your content and sink it completely? Your campaigns will be PR led however the more that everything can happen harmoniously together, the stronger your momentum will be.
- Map campaigns – along with using pen, paper and spreadsheets, you’re eventually going to want a visual representation of just how your campaigns will flow. This is where mapping and flowcharts will come in. Content wheels have been created in the past that determine the content by channel, event, product launch, customer segment and month. You can do just the same in a much easier format by using a matrix via Excel. The spreadsheet will have rows specifying content type and delivery along with channels and these will provide essential information.
- Share the plan…sort of – of course you need to share the content marketing plan once you’ve written it but don’t allow it to become fodder for everyone to have a say. Someone must be in charge and have the last word simply because everyone will want to have an input creating what’s known as ‘Frankencontent’ (far too much input and watering down of the originally strong message). You’ll also want to keep it open for comments for a limited amount of time in order to prevent delays. Far too often a piece of content gets delayed and by the time it’s actually approved it’s no longer topical.
- Set KPIs and benchmarks – you should at first begin with existing metrics from previous campaigns. This will allow you to measure healthy progress. If you aren’t able to do this then you should take some industry standard benchmarks and simply measure against them.
For more information or for help creating your perfect content marketing plan, then simply contact us today.