Say hi to the Loop11 team at the Big Design Conference & UPA International

Hey everyone!

We have some exciting news. We’ll soon be on the road in the US and are fired up to meet you!

We will be at the Big Design Conference from May 31 to June 2nd just outside of Dallas, Texas. Stop by and say hello at Booth #12! We would love to chat. The biggest ideas in strategy, UX, design, gaming, mobile, usability and development will be discussed here!

Right afterwards, we will be in Henderson, NV from June 5-7 at the UPA International Conference. Come visit us at Booth #20 and be a part of the most interactive usability & UX conference in the world!

Hope to see y’all there! Don’t be shy.

Toby Biddle and the Loop11 Team

What website usability is – and why you need to user test for it

How many millions of people in the 80s and 90s had trouble figuring out how to program their VCRs?  My older sister was the only one in our house who knew how to do it, and that’s because she was a little nerdy and read the manual.

This is one of the most classic examples of a usability problem.  No one wants to read a manual or call a support line – or even spend more than five minutes trying to figure things out on their own; people want and expect to be able to use products out of the box.  This is the essence of effective usability design, and the same principle applies to website usability.

What is website usability?

Website usability has two aspects:

1. The primary aspect is about meeting your users’ goals and delivering a satisfying user experience.  Is your site clear, concise, and intuitive to them?  Can they quickly and easily find what they’re looking for?  Are the consequences of pressing buttons and clicking links unambiguous to them?

The email management tool Mailchimp.com is one of my favorite examples, because usability is one of its main selling points.  And indeed all of the most common things that you’d want to do with it are laid out clearly on the front page: Create a Campaign, Manage a List, View a Report.  The button for the most common action – creating a campaign – is distinguished by its orange color and large label.  It’s hard to miss.

Ideally your site is so intuitively laid out that the question of usability never enters your users’ minds; it simply works the way they expect it to.  (In fact, users generally only think about usability when they’re frustrated by something that is not usable to them.)

2. The secondary aspect of website usability is more subtle; it’s about fulfilling the goals your company has for the site.  Does your site’s design nudge visitors in the direction you want them to go?  Are the features that are most important to you front and center?

Here’s a quick example: Laura Roeder Studios (lauraroeder.com) offers social media training and tips to small business owners. Building its list of weekly newsletter subscribers is important to them – as shown by the fact that the email newsletter sign-up is given prime real estate on their site:

The value of user testing

Of course we designed our site to be usable, you might be thinking.  Why wouldn’t we? Here’s the thing: you will never know how usable your site truly is until you test it with people outside of your organization.

Is usability subjective?  Could something be intuitive to one person and not another?  Absolutely, and therein lies one of the two main values of user testing: testing across groups reveals quantifiable trends.  If 7 out of 10 people can’t figure out how to navigate to checkout on your website, that tells you something very valuable which you will want to address.

The other main value of user testing is that it’s unambiguous.  Ask a user an open-ended question – Is our website usable to you? – and you will likely get a general reply.  But give someone a set of specific tasks to execute on your website, and look at the results, and you will see unambiguously where the stumbling blocks are, if any.  And that means you can fix them.

User testing enables you to get inside your users’ heads and create a site that will truly be easy and pleasant for them to use.  And that, of course, is win-win for both them and you.

Go ahead and create your first user test to get a quantifiable, unambiguous handle on your site’s usability (it’s both easy and free).

3 critical business questions CEOs can answer using Google Analytics

We marketing geeks have a certain way of trolling an analytics account — but there’s an executive-level look, too — business owners who prefer to leave this in-the-weeds analytics stuff to their underlings are missing several things critical to the way they understand their business.

In this post, I’m going to talk about a few critical business questions which CEOs can and should answer for themselves, on an ongoing basis, through a shallow-dive look at Google Analytics.

Where is my most valuable traffic coming from?

When a website is your baby, traffic gets you excited. You know what I’m talking about. Somewhere nerdy within, you silently squeal with joy when your traffic numbers are riding high. Perhaps you’ve had a record day!

Well that’s great. But what if it means nothing for your business?

The thing is, web traffic is little more than bits and bytes clicking away in an electronic ant farm you’re hoping will pay your bills. They’re numbers. Why do we think they’re so important? Because they might convert into customers, and customers pay us, right? Precisely. And that’s why, if there’s just one analytics report business owners keep a pulse on, it must be the Traffic by Source report.

Engagement metrics

First, understand which sources are sending you visitors who actually give a sh*t about your site and what you’re up to. Pages/Visit and Avg. Time on Site measure whether a visitor even wound up on your site on purpose, and if they did, how long they’re willing to stick with you in the attention-sparse web landscape.

Personally, I tend to get particularly enthusiastic about new organic traffic. If you’re suddenly bringing in 150 new visitors every day as a result of your awesome blog post unveiling a new curried eggplant recipe, that’s super — unless their engagement metrics are a fraction of what you see from folks who found you through other channels. Right?

Conversion metrics

Pay attention to your conversion rates by traffic source. You might notice that 10% of your traffic accounts for 50% of conversions. All referrers, ad channels and social media outlets are not created equal.

New blood

Some sources of traffic will bring you fresh eyeballs and other sources will yield more returning visitors. Which does your business value more? If you’re an e-commerce site, does your average first-time shopping cart differ significantly from that of a returning customer’s?

Look carefully at the propensity of each traffic source to bring you new visitors. Once you have a returning customer, it’s likely you’re touching them through other marketing channels, but a brand new prospect — that’s gold.

How are people experiencing my site?

What proportion of your visitors see your site on their iPad? Their mobile device? Chrome or Internet Explorer (do people still use that browser)? Knowing the breakdown is part of understanding your customer base.

Maybe 30% of your users come to your site on a Mac, and your development team uses nothing but PCs. Sure, they might QA the site on a Mac, but this 30% slice of your prospect pool might not be getting the love they deserve. Maybe your homepage looks awful on the iPad, or your paid search landing pages don’t load the proper information above the fold for all users. If you don’t pay attention to how potential customers are experiencing your business on the web, you can’t control the message.

What content do people care about?

By understanding what pages on your site people spend time on, how they behave there, and what they do next, you can gain unparalleled insight into your business.

Just as a brick and mortar store owner would find it useful to develop an understanding of which store aisles draw the most customers and how the organization of her store impacts revenue — “did you find everything okay today?” — similarly, you as a business owner with a website should understand how your prospects spend their time there.

At a minimum, you should be able to recite:

1) Which pages are most visited? (your homepage, your blog, your shopping cart, your “about us” page, etc.)

2) Which pages attract the most repeat visitors? What about first timers?

3) Is new content appearing in this report, or has your website succumbed to content idleness?

Keep your site fresh by blogging and creating new content. You’ll get more organic search traffic and give your browsing population a treat to come back for. You want to see new pages indexing in this report, every few weeks at the very least.

4) Which pages have the highest bounce rate?

Is it because they suck, or because they’re a natural “exit point” for your site, like the order confirmation page? If they’re an exit point, are you providing a natural next step for your visitor? What should they do after purchasing — tell their friends to get a gift card? Share via social media? In general, analytics are a necessary and low-effort way to gather this data, but you’d also be wise to find a deeper understanding of how your users explore your site via usability testing.

All in all, here’s the bottom line. You’re busy. You’ve got a business to run, and minutes you spend in the weeds digging through statistics are minutes you could be spending elsewhere. But if you just have one hot minute to review your site analytics, I’m positing there are three places to keep your focus: traffic sources, browsers/devices, and site content.

About the author

Igor Belogolovsky is cofounder of Clever Zebo, a group of online marketing strategy experts dedicated to helping businesses grow revenue quickly and measurably by making smart moves on the web. For more good stuff, hang out with the Zebo on Twitter and peruse the Conversion Optimization blog.

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