Tag Archives: UX

Your Website Isn’t a Block of Concrete

“If houses were built the way software is built, the first woodpecker would bring down civilization.” (Anon.)

A building and a website aren’t so different, really. Someone had to design it, and many more people have to use it. In this post, we’ll look at 4 ways to work with UX experts, rein in design ego, and build a website that’s made for change.

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In the late 1990’s, author (and founder of that pre-internet wonder, the Whole Earth Catalogue) Stewart Brand wrote and starred in a documentary series for the BBC called How Buildings Learn. In the series, Brand looks at some of the most iconic examples of western architecture, and comes to a few simple conclusions:

  1. A building must be able to adapt to the people who use it.

  1. Architects must take responsibility for their buildings, and the problems they will inevitably encounter.

  1. Evolutionary – as opposed to visionary – design guarantees longevity.

Sound familiar? How Buildings Learn comes as highly recommended watching for online marketers, web designers, developers, UX, and usability pros. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that the BBC has created a series entirely dedicated to website optimization.

Testing, reviewing, questioning

Humans are fallible beings. Inevitably, everything we do will have its share of bugs. The key is to anticipate them, and to be prepared to fix them when they arrive (preferably before your users are left stranded).

In How Buildings Learn, Brand points his attention early on to MIT’s Media Lab, built by acclaimed architect I.M. Pei. As soon as its doors opened to researchers in 1985, the building began to encounter formidable problems: an elevator caught fire, the revolving door repeatedly jammed, and, from Brand’s own experience, “an unfaceable stench of something horribly dead filled the public lecture hall for months.”

Solemnly, Brand notes that, “. . . this is normal”.

Buildings often hire surveyors (optimization translation: UX/Usability experts) to find out what the people use the building think about its conditions. Just like in web optimization, though, this often happens too little, too late. A surveyor interviewed for How Buildings Learn provides this unsettling statistic:  “Only 1 in 10 buildings have been revisited by the architect after they’ve been in occupation. It begs the question: how can we know how people react to detailed design features if we don’t revisit the scene of the crime?”

mitmedialab

The Media Lab at M.I.T.

Before a building is opened to the public, vast inspections and use tests are ran. Pre-testing a website before launching is an excellent way to get a sense of needed technical and design modifications before you find out the hard way. There are a number of ways to test design flaws, but a combination of subjective (Usability/UX consultation) and objective (predictive eye-tracking analysis to measure whether your users’ visual attention will flow to the right places) will serve to alleviate the often unanticipated costs and time of post-launch tweaks.

Key takeaways:

  • Pre-test your website before it’s live using a combination of predictive attention analytics and a good dose of subjective usability testing.

  • Having a hard time convincing a client or a boss to spend the money on optimization? Ask them what would happen if they never performed any repairs to their home.

Build with change in mind

While pre-testing a website’s design before it launches can save valuable time and money, iteratively improving your site once it’s live is another story. Many site owners avoid testing solely for fear of the time and effort it will take to implement the results.

palazzo

The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena

Building a website with a view to eventual changes from the beginning is the key to alleviating future headaches. In How Buildings Learn, Brand speaks of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena as an enduring example of successful architecture; revised and adapted to contemporary use over 700 years, this building remains relevant – and beautiful – because it has been built to accommodate constant modifications.

We often speak about how to find what to change about a website’s design, but rarely talk about building a website that is built for change.  You may have done predictive attention analyses, click-tracking, UX consulting, and user surveys; you may have taken this information and formulated some brilliant A/B testing hypotheses then performed the tests and got the results; but excuses and problems often arrive when the reality of implementation sets in.

To solve this problem, a practical, adaptable, and powerful CMS is needed – one in which content and design modifications can be implemented frequently. Here are few content management systems we would like to give shout-outs to for doing a great job of this:

  • Cloud Cannon: Cloud Cannon is an unusual CMS that syncs with Dropbox to easily modify to content and regions on a page. Designers and clients can update Dropbox folders, and then view automatic updates online.

  • Optimizely: We all know Optimizely as a cloud-based software that allows us to run A/B tests and receive data reports, but it also offers tools directed to developers to smoothly deploy changes. We’ve also heard that their technical support is excellent!
  • Contentful: EyeQuant’s software engineers had nice things to say about this cloud-based content platform. The beauty of Contentful lies in its adaptability throughout the office: it’s equally friendly to designers as it is to developers.

Key Takeaways:

  • A great website needs a great infrastructure. If you’re planning on redesigning your site, do your research to find a CMS that facilitates collaborative, quick changes.

  • The content management systems above help facilitate both collaboration and constant improvement with their intuitive UX.

  • You can do all the testing and data analysis you want, but if you don’t have a reliable CMS, you’ll never implement changes.

Design for your users, Not for your team

Despite the massive influence of UX over web design in recent years, it never ceases to amaze us how few landing pages actually take their users into account. Rather, other befuddling aspects tend to creep in; boardroom compromise overtakes actionable goals.

There’s a strange looping effect that exists between more opaque, design-driven websites, and more aggressive, conversion-driven sites, the two poles of web design: at a certain point, they both seem to forget that users are just people trying to complete a task. While subjectivity in any optimization process is inevitable (and lends to brilliant ideas), the end-result often neglects the user in favour of the idea. Designing solely with data, meanwhile, can stifle the design process, and create endless contradictions. The best solution, it seems, is to promote creative decisions, but test them to see what works with users best.

An ongoing theme in How Buildings Learn is a wariness of the architect’s ego. Brand notes, “the renowned French architect Le Corbusier once argued that people should adapt their lives to suit his modernist buildings”. Most of us spend the majority of our lives in a handful of buildings, yet on any given day, we move through possibly dozens of websites. At each moment, our knowledge of how to navigate them, how to interact with them, and how to get what we need from them must adapt to the forms given by the sites’ designers and developers.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s easy for your design and optimization team to let their own ideas get in the way of the user’s best interest.

  • Find a balance between creative, subjective design and data-driven, objective design with A/B testing.

  • Just because your optimization process isn’t intuitive, doesn’t mean your user experience shouldn’t be.

Building a Garden Shed (or a PPC Landing Page)

As Stewart Brand says, when a building doesn’t work, owners have three choices: “Put up with it, try to change it, or…”

Kaboom – blow up the whole thing and start from scratch.

Luckily, web optimizers don’t have to cough through dust clouds when we want to start from scratch.

An overlooked way to try out new design formats is to build dedicated and PPC landing pages. Think of them like garden sheds and garages – places to hold useful yet pointed content. The undisputed champion of PPC landing page building is (but of course) Unbounce, where their easy-to-use templates and drag-and-drop editors allow you to build and optimize a landing page in less than a day – with no need for I.T. support.

Here’s an example of an EyeQuant PPC landing page, developed using Unbounce:

Key Takeaways:

  • Building PPC landing pages is dead simple and an excellent way to direct traffic more pointedly, try out designs, and experiment with content.

So,

When a building is commissioned, organizations often choose an architect for their creative flare as opposed to their reputation in creating user-friendly, adaptable spaces. Unfortunately, the same occurs in web design; designers and data analysts are often pitted against each other, and as a result, their positions are polarized – as opposed to harmonized. Ultimately, the loser of this battle of strategies is the user. Whether it’s a building, a toaster, or a web page, design is universal.

While there’s always room for trailblazers and pioneers, innovation comes most steadfastly from iteration as opposed to ego.

By Bitsy Knox

EyeQuant is now available on ExactTarget’s HubExchange

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ExactTarget customers, we have news for you!

EyeQuant has partnered with ExactTarget to create an app for their new marketplace, HubExchange. The EyeQuant app is specially developed to show marketers precisely what readers notice first when they open an email – simply, and within seconds.

ExactTarget customers can download and install the EyeQuant app from directly within the Interactive Marketing Hub, HubExchange.

What does the EyeQuant’s ExactTarget app do?

51.1% of users spend less than 2 seconds on an email before deciding to read on or hit delete. In other words, if users don’t instantly see a reason to read on, you’ve likely lost them…

Enter EyeQuant for ExactTarget HubExchange.

Like EyeQuant’s existing software, the EyeQuant app provides ExactTarget marketers with three mapping tools to analyze user attention on any email campaign.

Simply upload any campaign from your ExactTarget account, and within seconds you will receive unique, highly accurate visualizations just like this:

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EyeQuant’s ExactTarget app is a new way to analyze and improve upon reader engagement and click-through rates. Fabian Stelzer, EyeQuant’s co-founder and CEO, explains:

“Research continually shows that if an email’s core message visually pops out to a reader, engagement and click-through rates significantly improve. In partnering with ExactTarget, the EyeQuant app provides marketers with the unique ability to test their email designs and receive objective, precise heatmaps of reader attention – within seconds.”

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Join us for a live demo of the new app on Friday July 18th at 1pm EDT. Register here:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7348541235999504640

For more information on ExactTarget and HubExchange, visit:

http://www.hubexchangeweek.com

http://www.ExactTarget.com

http://www.HubExchange.com

How Many Seconds Does Your Website Have to Capture User Attention?

“You only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention.”

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Bet you’ve heard that one before. It rings true in landing page optimization as much as it does at a cocktail party.

Since the dawn of the Internet age, talk of dwindling web-user attention-spans has become common-place. Whether the actual number is one second or ten, the fact of the matter is that landing pages only have a moment to draw the user in.

In this EyeQuant blog post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Why these precious seconds count
  • Why users might be leaving your landing page before you’ve had the chance to tell them your story.
  • How to capture – and maintain – user attention with scientifically-informed hints!

Why the first moments are important:

This is Your Brain on Internet

If you’ve read the EyeQuant blog before, you’ve likely come in contact with themes like the “attention economy” and “cognitive load”, terms that describe the difficulty for the human mind to deal with the scope of information available to us at any given time. On a daily basis, the Internet presents its users with an unquantifiable measure of content for potential browsing behaviour.

The problem is, our attention spans to process all this information are finite, and our ability to multi-task isn’t as good as we’d like to think it is.

Seasoned internet users and internet addicts’ neural pathways have been shown to have altered as they experience heightened activity in their pre-frontal cortexes (the area of the brain that is mostly responsible for processing complex thoughts, personality expressions, decision making, and social behaviour), and as a result tend to improve on their hand-eye coordination and processing visual cues. However, this fundamental “re-wiring” of our brains as a result of heightened Internet use means that “we read faster and less thoroughly as soon as we go online”, according to Nicholas Carr in his seminal Wired article from 2010. Carr reported that it is not only the span and scope of information that is detrimental to our ability to focus, but the speed and simultaneity at which we are exposed to it. Hyperlinks, advertisements, share buttons, and cues to related content are just some of the distracting influences that drive users away from the seemingly simple act of reading and exploring, not to mention the constant pressure of open chat windows, email updates, and social media connectivity. The bottom line: Attention is a limited resource, so use it wisely and avoid superfluous visual pathways and exits.

The Weibull Distribution Theory

In 2011, the always insightful Nielsen/Norman Group posted an article explaining Weibull Distribution (a theory originally formulated in 1951 to calculate the likelihood of “system failure” in machines) in online marketing terms. Researchers at Microsoft used the Weibull Distribution theory as an analogy to talk about the likelihood that a user will abandon a page early. The research revealed intriguing data, suggesting that around 99% of websites are susceptible to “Negative Aging”.

What does that mean? Simply put, users typically “screen and glean” a website during the first moments of their visit in order to assess whether they have come to the right place. If a website passes this initial skimming test, the site is more likely to be explored longer and more thoroughly. Meanwhile, if a website is deemed by the user to be unhelpful, the user is likely to leave within the first moments of their visit, and not wait around to see if their minds can be changed.

Microsoft and N/N Group’s research is significant because they demonstrate a quantifiable reason why users leave a website, and what the benefits of capturing initial attention are. N/N Group concluded their article by suggesting that “bad” websites would be abandoned in the first 10 seconds, while “good” websites tend to be explored for 2 minutes or more. The shortcoming of their otherwise excellent research is clear: We need to understand what makes a good website good, and what makes a bad one bad to a user.

So, we’re inundated with information and distractions, and as web designers, marketers, and UX/UI professionals, we need to figure out a way to capture and maintain user attention by understanding what makes a user decide to stay longer. How do we do that?

  1. Make your most important information the most attention grabbing.


In Proctor & Gamble’s world, the “First Moment of Truth” is the most crucial time-frame to engage consumers; their research suggests that the moment a consumer encounters a product is approximately the moment they will make up their mind to buy it or not. As our frequent readers will know, EyeQuant scientific board members explained why this was the case in a study from 2012, effectively suggesting that a product must visually “pop out” for it to be noticed. If it pops out, it’s likely to be chosen. In web design, the name of the game isn’t to make your entire website bright and shiny, but to recognize and select only the most important elements (like your value proposition, or call-to-action), then make them stand out against everything else. How do you do that? Understanding and creating contrast is one thing, but here’s another:

  1. De-clutter unnecessary elements on your page.

De-cluttering draws attention to the important elements on your page by removing inessential information like pop-up ads and secondary value propositions/ call-to-actions. The more space you give to your important content, the more visible it becomes – just think flickr, twitter, airbnb, or even Facebook’s new design.

But wait, there’s another reason why you should give your page a Spring cleaning: The more information you hurl at your users, the more often they will have to shift their focus. De-cluttering your landing page provides a debris-free navigational path, and will direct them more quickly and more efficiently to what is important.

  1. Simplify: give users with one task, not dozens.

We humans aren’t really able to simultaneously juggle information and tasks, our brains must simply switch back and forth between differing information, which is a taxing endeavour, to say the least. Giving your user at calm environment in which they can explore your offer reduces stress and simplifies the task-at-hand. How do you know if you’re demanding too much of your users?

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Do you have multiple call-to-action buttons and multiple offers scattered all over the page?

  • Is the important information on your page consistently organised in terms of color and size?

  • Does a user need to machete their way through a lot of other content to go from your value proposition to your call to action?

EyeQuant just released a case-study with fashion site SalesGossip that does a great job of illustrating this need for a singular and easy-to-follow flow. By simplifying and consistently organizing the content on their page, SalesGossip improved its navigational flow – and achieved an instant 30% boost in sign-ups along the way. Take a look at these EyeQuant perception maps showing the site before and after its design change. The success of the attention flow in Version B is clear:


But what about websites that require a lot of information available at any given time, like an e-commerce site? Part of Spring cleaning isn’t just throwing out the page elements that you don’t need anymore, it’s also about organising the remaining contents in a consistent, understandable manner. Despite its slow loading time, Spice Girl – cum – lauded fashion designer Victoria Beckham just launched a strikingly simple, consistently organised e-shop. Part of simplifying the path your user can take is, once again, to remove distraction-worthy elements. Too many hyperlinks, buttons to click, or alternate pathways provide too many options to leave the process you want your users to go through.


Don’t worry, we’re not all web zombies…yet.

In past blog posts, we’ve spoken a lot about attention-driven design. Designing a website with user attention in mind isn’t just about directing their focus to your most important content, it’s also about creating and promoting a calm place for users to concentrate.  Think of your users as Lawrence of Arabia, and you are an oasis amongst the chaos of shadowless, scorpion-ridden, sand storm-prone desert! Designing conscientiously with the overarching stresses of the web in mind won’t only help boost your own usability and conversions, but will play a part in helping the Internet become a calmer, easier place to exist in.

Here at EyeQuant, we’ve figure out that the easiest and most precise way to make sure that a user’s attention is being directed to the right places is through automated attention analysis. Our neuroscientific A.I. provides instant insight into the ways in which users see your website within the first moments of their visit. Give it a try – the first time is free, all you need is a URL!

How to Find a Common Language in Design Meetings

DATA


When we set out to build EyeQuant, our primary objective was to build the world’s best tool to instantly optimize user attention on websites. Along the way, though, we found that our customers often employ our software in an additional context, using their EyeQuant results as an objective voice during face to face conversations, bridging the gap between intuition and analytics. To this end, we weren’t surprised to find that others – namely a research team at MIT – share this finding.

Ruth Rosenholtz is a senior researcher in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and focusses her research on human visual perception and the impact of visual clutter on task performance, using computational models and behavioral studies to research user interface (UI) and information visualization (infovis) solutions. One of her main goals is to study tools that provide “guidance on perceptual aspects of design”.

In a recent field study, Rosenholtz and her colleagues collaborated with designers and design teams to determine how effective these perceptual models are in guiding the design process.While her prototypes certainly achieve this aim, they also yielded another intriguing result:

“The most powerful potential use of perceptual tools”, says Rosenholtz, “is as a facilitator of conversations among multidisciplinary team members about design intuitions and design goals.”

How Come?

Because quantitative design models and tools help create what Rosenholtz calls a “common perceptual language”. In other words, with a simple and objective design visualizations of otherwise intuitive and often difficult to grasp processes, designers are able to cross disciplinary communications boundaries.

At EyeQuant, our A.I. was designed to be used online, but its impact is also felt when it is used offline in design and brand meetings. Everyone in a meeting possesses their own expertise, intuitions, and personal tastes, but few have objective, compelling data to back up their arguments.

We believe that artificial intelligence and neuroscience make the designers’ and marketers’ lives easier, not just because the software we build provides highly accurate, data-driven insight into online user attention, but also because the visualizations our customers receive as results create a common language for the whole office, from marketing and sales teams to designers and developers.

When someone tests their web page with us, four predictive visualizations of initial user attention – a perception map, a heat map, a click map, and an interactive ‘regions-of-interest’ map – are instantly produced, all of which can then be easily exported to .pdf format for use in presentations and pitches.

There is a not-so-quiet revolution occurring in meeting rooms all over the world: It is the evolution of data not just as a slide in a keynote presentation, but as a new, highly rational member of the team who is able to unite the complex, creative world of design with the analytics-rich galaxy of marketing and conversion rate optimization.

EyeQuant is excited about our leadership role in this new field, and are currently working on features that support this use case, particularly for agencies. Stay tuned!

Image credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-gSxWCdXAsOo/T4coY8Y-_EI/AAAAAAAABHs/x6EiNUzb4VY/s1600/ST-TNG-10.jpg