Steve Martin

Designer, Thinker, Student of Human Behavior

970 481 9682

SEO Rankings does NOT = Sales

Last year a local tree service, Fort Collins Tree Care, came to me with a problem:

  • Their website was #1 in Google for EVERY keyword they wanted
  • They were getting almost ZERO leads from this #1-ranked site

Shouldn't a #1 Google-ranked site be getting them some serious sales? Isn't SEO rankings what it's ALL about? Well, NO!

It was obvious from looking at the site that it needed an updated design (at the least), but that wasn't going to be enough. FC Tree Care's main goal was to get people to submit their information for an estimate which they could follow up on. Period.  So along with a redesign of their site, I developed the information architecture and conducted user testing to figure out in which direction we should go.

So using what we'd I'd learned through user research and developing an intuitive site flow, the site was redesigned.

The day the site launched, they started getting 2-3 requests for estimate per DAY, and now, 4 months later, they're STILL getting that many. It's become a vital part of their sales process, and their job estimator works almost exclusively on web requests.

The effectiveness of this site - or any site for that matter - isn't due to fancy graphic design (the design is nice, but nothing super special) - it's due to taking the business objectives, finding out what users wanted, and crafting the site around that desired experience.

How much of your content do people read?

Brian Cray has a great blog post on "Estimated reading time in web design". In it he references Jakob Nielsen's article last year on how much people actually read on the web, and I was blown away. Visitors to your site (on average) read only 20% of your content!! Wow!! This is a really important metric that we all - especially bloggers and copywriters - need to keep in mind at all times! (hint: bullet points!)

In the light of this (somewhat) depressing statistic, Brian came up with a great idea: give your users an idea of how long it will take to read your content. Simple yet brilliant. If users see "Reading time: about 1 min 14 sec", they're much more likely to go ahead and read it all because, hey - what's ONE minute, right? It's also a great way for you long-winded writers out  there to reign yourselves in (please, please reign yourselves in!). Unfortunately, there's no research on exactly what the tipping point is at which people WON'T read - is it 5 min? 3 min? Who knows (although for me it's probably around 3 minutes). It also varies based upon too many factors to count, but it's still a great way to nudge users on to read your brilliant insights. Why is this important? Simple: the more eyeballs, the more influence.

(Oh, and I've implemented his great php code snippet to calculate the reading time on all blog posts - the code is included in his post on the subject)

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: www.silverbackapp.com - 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)

Website Usability - Why & How to DIY

Last night I had the honor of speaking to the Fort Collins Internet Pros group about Web usability - what, why, and how to do it yourself. It was a packed house, and I think a fun time was had by all (everyone especially liked the flames in my Keynote presentation :) ) - oh, and everyone learned a lot!  I had a lot of requests in person, via Twitter, and email to put my slides up somewhere for all to see - so here you go!

FYI - This is a Quicktime video exported from Keynote. You can click on the video itself to advance the slides. If it doesn't act right, wait a bit for the whole thing to load (it's about 15MB total) and you'll be good to go.

[quicktime]http://www.clevercubed.com/wp-content/uploads/Website_Usability_Web.mov[/quicktime]

Should you want to download the FULL RESOLUTION of the slides in all their fiery glory, click here to download (42MB total)

I'd love to hear what everyone thought about the presentation - leave a comment!!

My visit to Frank Friday @CohereLLC

Last Friday the good folks over at Cohere (an awesome local coworking space) invited me to talk to their members about the new brand & new direction of my business!  Here's a great video they put together:

Cohere has attracted quite a group of REALLY smart REALLY talented people, and it was a lot of fun - and a lot of learning - talking to them. Besides me sharing my experiences with them, everyone had wonderful input for me on how to approach clients and great thoughts about the stuff I love: usability, information architecture, and user experience design. Thanks to Angel and all the folks at Cohere!

New direction, new name

Yes, it's true: Floating Point Media, Inc. has changed its name to Clever Cubed, Inc.

The question of the day: "WHY?" Well, let me explain… When web design as an "industry" really started out, one guy did the whole site: planning, design, coding, writing, SEO, marketing, etc etc. Over time, the term "web designer" wasn't so much about "design", rather, it had become a synonym for "guy who builds a website from the ground up". But, as you know, things change quickly in the world of the interwebs. As sites became more complex, and above all, business-critical, aspects of the web development cycle became more and more specialized. Businesses began to spring up that did only ONE aspect of "web design" as opposed to being a one-stop shop. My good buddy Jeff over at Rocket Jones Interactive told me that when they switched over to doing nothing but web programming 7 years ago, some people thought they were crazy - "What, now I need more than ONE company to get a site done?!" Well, yeah! And here's why: As web development gets more and more specialized, websites get better and better. It's the age-old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none." I don't know about you, but if my business depends on my website, I want some masters working on it, not someone who's just "okay" at a bunch of stuff. I founded Floating Point Media, Inc. as a full-service web design agency back in 2004. Back then I did what a lot of web design companies do: tried to be all things to all people - the proverbial "Jack." This worked out fine for the past 6 years, but as I took a hard look at my business this year, I asked myself some questions. Could I design? Sure - I did an okay job, but there are loads of designers out there WAY better than I am.  Could I code? Sure - front end stuff, at least, but I found it tedious. Could I do marketing? Sure - depending on your definition of "marketing." So what was my "sweet spot" in this whole website creation thing? Then it hit me one day (after saying it to loads of people for the past year): What I really love (and I'm really good at) is developing the underlying structure of the website and making it usable and effective. In other words, Information Architecture, Web Usability, and UX Design. So I took the leap and decided to change directions and go deeper instead of wider in the web development world. Leaving the graphic design, web marketing and programming to others more qualified, I decided to focus on my area of expertise.  Along with that change in direction came a change in name: Clever Cubed, Inc., and a new title for myself: "Website Architect" To say the least, I'm very excited about the change! It's very freeing to no longer worry about aspects of my job I'm not the best at, but to be able to focus on and improve the aspects that I love. Hopefully I can also enable my fellow web industry folks to do the same by taking a lot of those things off of their plates when we work on projects together. And through this change, I hope to be able to encourage you to do the same: Find out where your strengths lie and focus on those. And turn the aspects of your business that you dislike over to someone else, because believe it or not, those things are someone else's passion, too.

Using Gmail for your business

Google (in their plan to take over the world) has one of the best email systems you can find: Gmail.  Their spam filter cannot be beat, and the integration with all of their other apps (online documents, calendars, etc.) is amazing.  Plus - you can store MASSIVE amounts of data on there.  My accounts have around 7GB of storage - and it keeps growing!  I know people who use it as a backup hard drive - just email important docs to themselves. Lots of folks have an @gmail.com email address to take advantage of the above features, but did you know that you can funnel all of your business email through Gmail - for free?  That's exactly what we do here at FPM and what I recommend to all of our clients.

By using Gmail for your business email addresses, you get all of your email accessible from anywhere, it's backed up by the largest datacenter on the planet, and you will almost totally eliminate spam from your life.  Your address still stays as 'yourname@yourcompany.com' - so it still looks nice and professional.  You can stick to using Outlook or Mail.app if you like, or (as I've done) just use the online interface.  (If you're on a Mac, use Fluid to make your email page an app on it's own). If you use the online version to access your email, you can even get rid of the Gmail logo and insert your own, if you feel like it. Take a look at the screenshot of my emails:

To get started, just go to the Google Apps Standard Edition page and sign up. They have pretty good instructions, but you might need to get with your IT folks to get it going right.

So - happy emailing, and good luck!