Big brother is watching Make your site easy to use with usability favorite Morae

Posted by tom klein June 29, 2007 at 2:30 am

Do you know what your customer is thinking while using your website?  Well, that’s nearly impossible. But, given the rage of ethnography in marketing research, what if you had the ability to get instantaneous feedback by watching not only their actions on the screen, but also their expressions as they point and click?

Techsmith’s Morae software gives you the ability to do just that.  Via the internet and this software, you can now identify precisely where your web site fails your customers – causing everything from abandoned shopping carts to expensive conversations with the call center.  With Morae for usability testing, you can gather all of the data you need, including wrinkled brows and expletives. To see some of the Morae software in action, check out their online demo or view a few screen shots of some of the new features available.

For $1495 you can get the Morae bundle (1 manager, 1 recorder and 1 observer) to create one usability station, through which you can rotate an unlimited number of users. It’s not super cheap, but smart players like E-trade, eBay, and Expedia use it.  What’s your plan for delivering the optimal user experience?

Morae uses Rich Recording Technology (PDF overview of RRT) to chronicle events when a user interacts with a site. Mind you, this data includes the clickstream (where your user moves and clicks on your site), interactions with the computer's operating system or desktop software (say, using a printer), and the video input. It then fuses all of this information together, so you can analyze how your site performs versus the expectation or norm.

This type of testing puts your customer in the driver's seat. Before you hand over the keys, make sure that you're working with customers who represent your targeted customer segment(s). There can be an enormous difference between how a web site performs with mom compared to a game-savvy teen.  Usability testing, like almost everything else you do to grow your business, will add the most value when you have a clear understanding of your target.

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Do you smell smoke? Promote RSS feed subscriptions with Feedburner

Posted by tom klein June 21, 2007 at 2:30 am

We know better than anyone that you can only handle so many emails a day (have you seen the signup for the weekly feed growth! journal). With the explosion of web content, the best way to stay on top of what’s hot in the blogosphere is to use an RSS reader as we described in Bring it on. If you are trying to grow a business with help from a blog, of course you need to create an RSS feed so that your customers or prospects can subscribe.

Assuming you’ve made this basic step, you can use Feedburner as a way to publicize, optimize, and analyze the presence of your RSS feed throughout the web. Feedburner, purchased this month by Google, has been growing faster than MySpace and now manages over 750,000 RSS feeds. For a blogger, they make it easy to publicize (let other services know about you), optimize (make sure your RSS feed is easy to use), and analyze (figure out who’s subscribing and clicking through to your site). If you have enough traffic, you may even be able to monetize.

As the transition from email to RSS feeds continues, are you putting an RSS feed to work for your brand?

As you'll see in this guide to creating an RSS feed, like many things on the web, you can create an RSS feed by hand or just buy some software, such as Create RSS or FeedForAll. Many content management systems create an RSS feed automatically - so be sure to ask your webmaster.

You'll want to promote your RSS feed with the same tenacity you apply to managing email subscriptions. Remember that feed subscribers have expressed an interest in staying on top of what's new from your company or brand. They're likely to be loyal customers, so don't disappoint them. Think about how you might apply these 11 easy ways to find new RSS feed subscribers.

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  Walk on by Web enabled LCD’s change outdoor ads

Posted by tom klein June 18, 2007 at 2:30 am

A 32 inch LCD HDTV can be yours at Wal-mart for just $597. Did you realize that these low LCD prices are also changing the outdoor advertising game?

Clear Channel’s  Taxi Media has created a network of 32 inch LCD screens (connected by satellite) that ride around on top of Boston and New Orleans taxis. These taxi-top LCD’s don’t feature static ads – they can carry 5 or 10 second animations (the feed growth! candidate).  What’s different here is the level of control.  You can change the graphics on the fly or even run different ads on different streets or at different times, opening up opportunities for optimization (we mentioned the web equivalent in The dating game).

With rates running at $450 / month for a 20% sign share, are you taking advantage of opportunities to rethink digitally enabled outdoor?

This geo-targeting ad system (developed by Vert) uses GPS to identify the taxi’s location and a rooftop wireless modem to transmit up to the minute adjustments to the ads served by the ad-server network.

Consider how you could use such a system to optimize what you know about the effectiveness of outdoor ads. Combine more dynamic ads, geo-targeting, and variations by day-part and you have a rich opportunity for learning. 

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  The dating game Use Google’s website optimizer to let data drive your site design

Posted by tom klein June 8, 2007 at 2:30 am

As with any communication or advertising, your website has a split second to work its magic – or your customer will just click away (what’s called a bounce). When you agreed to the design of your site, was that decision backed by data or was it shoot from the hip?

Now you can use Google’s website optimizer to inform your design decisions with knowledge of what worked and what didn’t. And for you research nerds like us, this tool replaces A/B testing (comparing version A to version B) with multivariate testing (comparing unlimited versions at once).

Once you’ve designed and tested the different versions of your page(s) (everything – photos, text, headlines, lay-out), you receive a detailed comparison report that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. How long are you going to rely on your gut when (did we forget to say free!) tools like this exist?

In this superb video overview of how to put Google's website optimizer to work, you’ll learn everything you need to know. While multivariate testing is a long word, remember that just like any testing, it’s not perfect. It’s most useful when your site has a very specific, measurable goal.

When you’re working with your design firm, be sure to include in your detailed brief the requirement to develop several different designs for different portions of your site. But be cautious to prevent using this optimization ability to weed through designs that are clearly off-strategy. You’re showing alternative designs to customers, not guinea pigs.

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  Follow the yellow brick road Use analytics to track online customer behavior

Posted by tom klein May 23, 2007 at 2:30 am

Web site hits don’t mean anything. What’s important is creating the customer outcomes you want.

Google offers a free tool called Google Analytics. It lets you see if your website users are exhibiting desired behavior and achieving specific goals. Two days ago, the feed growth! idea entitled Two Thumbs Up generated 33 click throughs (as shown on this report) to the intimidatingly cool website of Toolbox Design – our graphic design partner.

Consider what the desired outcomes are for your site and use tools like Google Analytics to determine if you’re getting the behavior you want. We could have just as easily tracked listening to a podcast or downloading a PDF sales brochure. Do you know what your customers did on your site on Monday?

Implementing the Google Analytics capability requires putting code on each of your web pages (which isn't visible to users). This code will also help you track many other important data - including location of visitors (what state), length of visit, number of pages visited, etc. You can learn more at this feature overview.

For almost every company, the website is a strategic asset - not just something that the IT department does. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer to determine the objective for every page of your site. Once the objectives are clear, apply metrics to determine if your site is delivering or not. We'll be returning to this topic to cover what to do when the site doesn't do what you want it to.

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