Steve Martin

Designer, Thinker, Student of Human Behavior

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Filtering by Tag: user experience

Conversions 'R' Us

I was recently asked to give a webinar (although I hate that word, just for the record) about how to increase conversions on your website. The organizers wanted to call it "Website Optimization: How to increase conversions & boost revenue", but that sounded kinda boring and dry. So I called it "Conversions 'R' Us" - much better, I think. Then I asked myself, "Steve, what's the most effective way to increase conversions on a website?" to which I responded, "A killer user experience!" to which I agreed.  I checked with Whitney Hess for permission to use the 4 steps she outlines in her "DIY UX" talk, to which she kindly agreed, and the presentation turned out pretty good (if I do say so myself). I also borrowed a couple slides from my DIY Usability talk, to which I also kindly agreed. (Oh, and I stole the "Zune vs. iPod" idea from Jared Spool)

If you'd like to see me give this presentation in person, stay tuned for an announcement of where and when (hint: Art Lab, Fort Collins, Colorado - sometime in the future).


Great UX Design = Surprise Them!

Providing your website visitors with a wonderful experience is way more than great usability, proper information architecture, or just beautiful design. The best thing you can do on a website is to make users smile. That's good UX design. One great way to do that is to surprise users from time to time. NO - not the "Oh, what a surprise, the navigation's moved to the other side of the screen" type of surprise, I mean little things thrown in there that not even everyone will notice, but everyone who does will love. Case in point: - go there and slowly resize your browser window & see what happens to the vines hanging down. Go ahead - I'll wait…


Good - you're back. Admit it - you smiled, didn't you! That's what I'm talking about. It doesn't change or add to the functionality of the site at all, but it DEFINITELY adds loads to the users' experience, and a happy user is MUCH more willing to pull out their wallet, no?  The man who designed that site, Paul Annett, has been playing around with other fun CSS trickery - check out his cool "channel 4" logo. It's another great example of how something small can be big in UX. (by the way, he's now available for freelance work)

200% increase? What?!

Lest you question the importance/validity of user testing, listen to this: I was recently listening to the Boagworld podcast (great podcast, by the way) and they mentioned a conversation that one of the guys had with Jason Fried (of 37 Signals fame).  37 Signals has a whole range of online services, all of which have a "Free" option and/or a "xx Days Free Trial" option.  They decided to do some A/B user testing (sounds more like 'multivariate' testing, actually), and discovered something astonishing:  Changing the text on their call-to-action button from "Free Trial" to "See Plans & Pricing" increased sales by 200%!!

Wow!!  Conventional wisdom says that throwing the word "Free" out there is going to get a LOT more action than saying ANYTHING about pricing, but I guess not.  Apparently, people were a bit scared off by the "Free Trial" terminology, thinking that they'd be somehow roped in to something they couldn't get out of (however unfounded those fears might be).  But, if you just ask people to look at the pricing, etc., it pulls them one step closer to understanding it all and feeling more comfortable with signing up.

So, there ya go.  Another example of how conventional wisdom is NOT web wisdom.  Be sure to do multivariate/A-B/user testing on your sites - even if you THINK they're humming along just fine.  You never know what you might have missed.

Semantics vs. Presentation

The other day one of my coder buddies and I were having a discussion about getting a site to look right in IE, and he says to me, "Semantics trumps presentation." ...


Maybe I'm missing something here, but when I go to a website, I'm looking at the PRESENTATION, not the code.  Yeah yeah, good code is important, yadda yadda, but let's take off our geekster hats for a minute and look at the real world of the web.  When someone comes to your website, and it doesn't LOOK good, they're gone - and gone waaaaaay before they have a chance to scroll down and see your W3C compliancy badges at the bottom of the page.

Let's focus on good design that works.  That should be the focus of any site out there.  Is the design working for the site?  "Working" could mean driving sales, encouraging feedback, conveying information, or whatever the purpose of the site is.  Nobody cares what the markup is - it's the presentation that matters.  Get the presentation where it ought to be, then go under the hood and tune the engine.  And if the only way to adjust the carbeurator is with a piece of wire, then more power to ya.