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Google Search – Is Your Website Mobilegeddon Ready?

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Google Algorithm Update

Come 21st of April, Google will roll out its new “Mobile Friendly” algorithm update which will preference search results for web sites that are mobile friendly.

For your websites, this simply means you’ll get left out in mobile search results unless your website is deemed by Google bots to be mobile friendly.

But wait!

How should you know if my site is ready for mobilegeddon? Fortunately Google, being Google, has already foreseen the outcry of website owners if they opted to bring their algorithm guessing game to such an important update so they’ve actually rolled out more than enough tools to help you prepare for this big day.

Without further delay, here are the tools and information you’ll need to be able to do a self-diagnosis of your site in preparation for mobilegeddon:

  1. Mobile-Friendly Test – just simply put in your website URL and hit analyze and you’ll know within seconds if your site is up to speed. Hopefully you’ll get a result like so:Mobile-Friendly Test
  2. Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report – This is another tool that will help webmasters identify elements of your website that does not fit Google’s mobile friendly standards, because it could be that some NOT ALL your pages have problems. Errors here should be addressed if you want to keep up on mobile search results.Here’s an example result for good measure:Mobile Usability
  3. Mobile Friendly Guidelines – In the case you’ll find yourself in the undesirable side of this update, after using the previously mentioned tools, fret not as here’s all you need to be able to get back in the good light of Google mobile search results.

Remember, this is not just about penalties but also about rewards. A more mobile friendly web site will be rewarded as much as a non-mobile site is penalised.

And as always, if you need help in keeping up with all these changes, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us any time.

Questions To Answer When Designing Website Navigation

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Organising content for a website calls for designers to ask key questions on their planned Information Architecture (IA). Usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) broke down these problems, providing answers to the 3 most persistent questions many designers today struggle with when building sites.

How Many Categories do you Need?

The general rule of thumb is to have enough categories to show all the information offered on your site or app. However, what’s considered ‘enough’ will greatly depend on the content and intention of a site.

Most simple sites with a small range of content will usually do fine with a few categories. This minimalist approach helps users find the information they want as quickly as possible. Take for instance, Dyson’s website for their Airblade line of products (the Dyson Airblade is the company’s take on the quick hand dryer). The entire website has a solid IA scheme since all variations of the Airblade fit into 5 categories.

Dyson airblade homepage

Dyson Airblade Homepage

At the other end of the spectrum is RestroomDirect, a site that also sells hand dryers as well as a bunch of other fixtures for public bathrooms. Condensing all information on the site down to 5 categories makes it difficult for customers to find information on the company’s full range of products, which is why the site features 7 links in the top horizontal navigation, and 17 product categories in the vertical navigation. This combination allows users to easily access all relevant information on the site as efficiently as possible.

Restroom Direct

www.RestroomDirect.com

Both examples show the basic principle behind determining the appropriate number of categories in a website: go with what makes it easiest for users to access the information they need; don’t box yourself in by trying to hit a predetermined number.

Should you List Categories in Alphabetical Order?

Organising categories by a certain order is another issue frequently tackled by designers, many of whom feel that sorting categories alphabetically makes the most sense.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem, but what you can do is consider the following factors:

  1. What organising principle would be more meaningful than sorting alphabetically?
  2. Will visitors be familiar with the category names
  3. How many categories do you have?

More Meaningful Organising Principles

One approach that makes more sense than alphabetical organisation is frequency of use, which helps the majority of visitors on a site access the information they’re most likely looking for.

An example of this can be found on RightMove.co.uk, a property listing that has the categories For Sale and To Rent as the first two items in the navigation panel. This setup saves users a tremendous amount of time, since it makes sense to highlight content users are most likely to click on.

Rightmove

If you were to organise categories on this site alphabetically, you would get the unintuitive result below.

Rightmove labels

Standard Labels

However, there are instances when alphabetical organisation is more efficient. If you have categories under just one label (e.g. product names or brand names), users naturally look for information they know, like a particular word—alphabetical organisation is more helpful in this situation.

Do you Need Hover Menus with Touch Devices

With the advent of mobile devices that rely on touch interfaces, UX designers are wondering whether sites should still have hover nav menus.

Hover activated menus are unwieldy for touchscreen users. Even with menus adapted for use with a tap instead of a hover, touchscreens are just too small to display an entire menu. This can result in problems scrolling the menu without deactivating it by touch something else on the page.

However, just because a part of your audience can’t use this feature, doesn’t mean you should withhold it from everyone else. Hover activated menus are still easy to use on conventional desktop interfaces.

The key here is graceful degradation: ensure that customers who can’t use hover activation still have a means of accessing your content. A good example of this setup can be found on the Fedex website, which provides both hover and tap options for all their users, whether on traditional desktop interfaces or touchscreens.

Fedex

The full Fedex website has hover-activated menus

Fedex mobile version

The mobile version of the Fedex site automatically replaces hover menus with a simpler tap interface

As always good website design is about taking in to account your audience and how you can get them to the information they are looking for quickly and easily. It is worth spending time in the initial concept phase on these types of questions to avoid costly redesign and coding later on.  Need help with your site, want an objective review? Contact Enform today.

Web Design – A Humorous Look at Some Potential Pitfalls…

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Inspired by Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal with his blog “How a web design goes straight to hell

Web design starts with the best intentions however sometimes personal taste can de-rail the process. At Enform we believe there can be a compromise between what the client wants and what the designer delivers.  But, most importantly focusing on what the user or usomer might want or need.

It is our role to inform our clients on current best practice and provide advice on what will and won’t work  – keeping in mind modern web design needs to:

  • Engage visitors – be visually appealing and easy to navigate
  • Relevance to what the visitor wants – within the first few seconds it should be obvious who you are and what you offer
  • Allow the above irrespective of device they use to access your site – mobile responsive

With all the best intentions in the world the process sometimes goes off track.

Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, once worked as a web designer. He is now a comic artist with considerable influence, and he compiled his experiences with difficult web design in a comic featured below.

In it, Inman describes the nine steps to the making of a web design disaster, and how clients unwittingly (or wittingly) cause it. We shortened those steps into four for you:

Step 1. All Is Well

Inman writes: “Everything is cool in the beginning.” It’s like the start of many relationships – the clients summarize their needs and the designer tells the client what to expect. If the clients have an existing web site for improvement, they show it to the designer, telling him or her that the previous designer was an idiot.

Toast_original

Step 2. The Initial Design

The designer shows the clients the initial design for comments and approval. Initial designs are expected to be further improved based on the clients’ input. To Inman, this is the high point of the whole process. Then everything goes downhill from there.

Toast_design

Step 3. The Client “Helps Out”

The client suggests his or her ideas for improvement. The designer complies. The client suggests more changes. They may even bring in other people to comment. These can happen several times in the web design process and indeed this step is normal in any collaboration. The result can be something both the client and the designer can be proud of. Or as is sometimes the case, the whole thing can turn into a proverbial “dogs breakfast” trying to satisfy too many different tastes, agendas resulting in a loss of clarity on key concept of the initial design.

Web Design - Some Potential Pitfalls

Step 4: The Design Fails

Intial Design VS Final Design

 

At this point, the designer may be having a nervous breakdown. Get another designer and repeat.

 

A mouse cursor controled by speaking

 

Takeaway

A lot of anguish could be avoided if clients, at the outset, treat a designer as an expert with valuable experiences and opinions that can help the clients achieve the needs of their web site. Designers should not be treated as mere helping hands or worse, just tools to do the clients’ bidding:

Too many cooks spoil the broth – especially when the cooks do not know how to cook.

The main point is this: respect designers as experts in their field. They know what works and what doesn’t. Sure, you could collaborate with the designer to create the best site ever but, if you don’t actually possess good design sense (and you must be honest enough to recognize this), do not hobble the designer with requests that are impossible.

Right at the start of the project, communicate your needs for the web site clearly to the designer. Usually, he or she will tell you if what you want is OK or not.

Whatever you do, always have mutual respect between you and the designer. It is a key ingredient to every successful design project.

At Enform we believe in delivering what a client wants but ensuring we advise and understand any implications that may affect our 3 initial key points on what a web design needs to achieve:

  • Engage visitors – be visually appealing and easy to navigate
  • Relevance to what the visitor wants – within the first few seconds it should be obvious who you are and what you offer
  • Allow the above irrespective of device they use to to access your site – mobile responsive

Contact us if you need advice on your design.

3 Tips on Getting Website Product Descriptions Right

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product description matters

E-commerce solutions like PARts B2 provide detailed product descriptions and details from the supplier using a database 

The basic tenet of e-commerce: Help the customer find your product and get what they want. If a potential customer can’t find your product, you obviously won’t get a sale.

However, connecting with relevant product pages is just the initial phase of the purchase process. And while it’s true that many sites have made improvements to their navigation and information architectures, many product pages on e-commerce sites are still in need crucial improvements.

Enform’s clients already know that product pages should do more than just have a product image, a generic description, and an option to add to the cart. Instead, the page should sell the product, convincing users that the product on the page is exactly what they’re looking for.

Yet as simple as that sounds, many pages fail to do this.

Product pages are especially important since they fill the gap of the traditional shopping experience, where users are normally able to touch the product, examine its packaging, and test or fit it before the purchase. Online, users can only go by what they see on the product production.

Multiple e-commerce studies by web usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) show that as much 20% of all observed task failures, or times when users abandoned or failed to make a purchase, were caused by poorly written or incomplete product information.

NN/g recommends the following tips for website product pages.

 

  1. Pages Should Answer Customers’ Questions

NN/g’s research specifically indicates that many users simply couldn’t find enough information to make an informed purchase decision. Now, there’s no way to guarantee that your product pages will answer all questions by potential customers, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for the bare minimum either.

answer_question

The J. Peterman Company is a company known for using lengthy, verbose stories for product descriptions, in their print catalogs as well as online.  They also follow their more eloquent prose with standard facts about the item for sale, such as “pointed collar,” “shell buttons at center front,” “1-inch grosgrain ribbon (antique white) at neckline and left front placket,” and “adjustable cuffs.”

 

Besides the most obvious features of the product, shoppers also want to know the smaller details on products they’re eyeing, and that can be anything from accents on clothes; furniture dimensions; product care information; size of toys; storage recommendations for edibles, to whether or not a hotel has a heated outdoor pool working all year.

Where many sites get it wrong is in their focus on basic information, or sometimes even the wrong information.

 

  1. Go Straight to the Point

Just because we told you not to settle for basic information, doesn’t mean you should input long-winded descriptions of your products. There’s a difference between a complete product description, and a wordy one. Users want information that describes the product, not incessant please to buy. One or two calls to action will suffice, don’t go too overboard with the marketing messages.

to_the_point

Forever21’s brief description covered key details about the product, its construction, and how a customer could wear the item. This was followed by a bulleted list of product details, including fabric, measurements and care which is quite a good example of going straight to the point.

 

Users often skim through text when browsing and reading online, and are more likely to read at the beginning of the text than the end. Given the importance of the first few lines of your product description, don’t waste it on text that doesn’t help the user.

Another great way of conveying the specifics of a product is to use product photos. NN/g’s found out that large and detailed images are a tremendous help to users wanting to know more about a product. Unfortunately, many sites settle for small images that fail to show sufficient product details.

 

  1. Make Comparisons Easy

Several online shoppers view the ability to compare multiple products as a crucial factor in shaping their purchase decisions. It’s imperative that you offer a facility to help users decide which of several products is best for them in a smooth and easy manner.

make_comparisons

Pottery Barn listed information about dressers in a consistent and descriptive way. Two bedside-tables descriptions began with brief overviews, and then bulleted lists that provided comparable details about the products, listed in the same order for each. Each listed dimensions, followed by materials, features, finish information, and hardware details.

 

It also helps if you can reduce the need for comparisons by making your product line simple if your catalogue allows for it. For those that can’t, such as e-commerce sites that carry multiple vendors, some help with tools is needed.

Many e-commerce sites already have tools that enable shoppers to compare products side by side. Some of these are effective, others not so much. According to NN/g, the key here is to offer comparable information in an easy to compare manner between similar products. It also pays to be consistent in the volume of information featured for every product; customers don’t like seeing plenty of information on one product, and hardly any on another.

Overall, remember that many customers are actually looking for a reason or confirmation to buy your product or transact, try not to disappoint.

How to Tell Web Navigation and Information Architecture Apart

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People in web design and development know that navigation design and information architecture (IA) concepts go hand in hand. In particular, IA is used to feed information towards usable navigation design.

Still, they are not the same. In fact, the reach of information architecture goes far beyond website navigation, which has been described as being only the tip of the iceberg that rests atop the site’s information architecture.

Information Architecture Defined

A site’s information architecture consists of two major components.

  1. The identification and definition of the site’s content and its functionality
  2. The basic organisation, structure, and classifications that define the connections between a site’s content and functionality

When you view a website, you’re not really seeing its information architecture (IA). Instead, IA informs the user interface, the part of the site you interact with. The IA is documented in diagrams and spreadsheets, not in prototypes, comprehensive layouts, or wireframes.

example of an information architecture site map

Here is an example of an information architecture site map by the Nielsen/Norman Group’s (NN/g) website. The blue nodes show tier-one information objects, while green nodes show tier-two objects, and tier-three objects are shown in yellow. 

While IA itself may not be visible to users, it definitely has a crucial impact on the site’s User Experience (UX), defined as the totality of everything the user encounters while on a website. However, users will feel  the structure of the site, depending on how its content is divided and connected in ways that meet their needs.

Website Navigation Defined

A website’s navigation is comprised of several user interface components. Navigation is designed to help users locate information and functionality, hopefully leading them towards favourable actions. Main components of navigation include local navigation, global navigation, utility navigation, facets, filters, footers, related links, and more.

example of navigation components

Examples of navigation components shown above

Some decisions have to be made when thinking of each navigation component. For instance, when usage priority is concerned, you need to ask yourself how much users depend on a particular navigation component. Placement is also another factor, calling for answers on which pages a navigation component should be present in. Lastly, the pattern is a factor that calls for questions on which navigation design patterns best support discoverability, whether it’s carousels, megamenus, or more.

IA and Navigation Relationships

The mistake many designers make when building a site is that they ignore IA and focus only on navigation. Doing so is inefficient, not to mention dangerous. Navigation that fails to address the full scope of content and functionality of a site can be a costly mistake.

For instance, imagine a design team opting to use the common inverted-L style navigation consisting of a top navigation bar and a left navigation rail, because they like how it looks. This template can be used on sites that have no more than 4 tiers, so you can only imagine the headache the design team has when they realise later on during a site inventory that many parts of the site will be more than 4 tiers deep.

IA First Before Designing Navigation

That being said, it’s important for designers to first define or redefine the site’s IA before even thinking of a design project. While it’s true that the IA has to be flexible to accommodate new information, it doesn’t have to be final before wireframing and prototyping—a first pass is enough to get an idea of the volume and complexity of the content.  Making choices on your navigation components based on appearances alone can force you to remodel your IA, or cram too much information in a navigation component, ending up in your website failing to accommodate the needs of users.

Making Sense of Responsive Web Design For Mobile

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responsive web design

Responsive web design, or RWD for short, is a relatively new approach in web development wherein a website is designed to be capable of making dynamic changes to its appearance depending on the screen size and orientation of the device used to view the site/page.

RWD was conceived as a solution to designing for the growing number of devices capable of connecting to the web, which range from small smartphones, tablet devices, to traditional, large desktop monitors.

Designers use breakpoints in RWD to determine a site/page layout’s appearance, with one design above the breakpoint, and another used below it. These breakpoints usually depend on the browser’s width.

The same HTML code is used across all kinds of devices, with CSS used to change the layout and appearance of the page depending on the device used. Instead of creating a completely separate website and code for each device and screen size out there, RWD offers a single code base to support differently sized view ports.

This results in a design wherein page elements reshuffle depending on the view port’s size. For instance, a 3-column design for a desktop will shift to a 2-column design when viewed on a tablet, or into a 1-column design on a smartphone. Responsive design is hinged on proportion-based grids to reshuffle web content and design elements.

Common Problems

While responsive web design can be an effective solution to provide equal access to users on different devices, it can also lead to hiding some design elements out of necessity. This is common with background images, which have to be omitted when moving to smaller screens. When faced with the problem of hiding content and page functions, as well as altering the appearance of pages for device types, it’s important to base your decisions on information about your users and their needs.

Figure a. -3-column Design

Figure a. – 3-column Design

Figure b. -2-column and 1-column Design

Figure b. – 2-column and 1-column Design

An example of responsive design. Figure a. shows a 3-column design for desktop screens, while Figure b. shows a 2-column and 1-column design for tablets and smartphones respectively. 

Performance Issues

Performance can be a problem with RWD. Because it offers the same code regardless of device type, meaning a 5-inch phone gets the same code as 24-inch desktop display, it’s possible to run into performance problems, what with smartphones relying on a slower data connection.

It’s important to remember that changes in design occur on the client-side, so don’t test your designs in a controlled environment. Test your RWD in real environments, like outside where connectivity can be spotty and several factors come into play.

Usable Responsive Web Design

Since responsive design involves shuffling elements on a website, both design and development teams need to work together in order to create a usable web experience across all devices. RWD can be akin to solving a puzzle—figuring out how to shuffle around elements on larger screens to fit into smaller, longer displays, and vice versa.

However, it’s not just about making sure things fit. More importantly, it should be about making the design usable across different screen sizes and resolutions. With various site elements moving around the page, the user experience can be fragmented between devices, hence the importance of design and development teams coming together to evaluate the result of an RWD.

Responsive web design

Responsive web design options

Prioritizing Content

Another important aspect in RWD is content prioritization. This usually isn’t a problem with desktops, since more content is visible without scrolling on a large display. On smartphones however, the limited real estate eliminates the choice users have of looking around the page to find the content they want; designers and developers must now serve the content they deem most important to users, and place in an area of premium visibility.

The last thing mobile users want is to scroll endlessly down a page to find information of interest.

Bottom Line

It’s important to remember that responsive design is only a tool, not the final cure to device fragmentation. Many webmasters make the mistake of believing RWD to be perfect, it’s a solution and it doesn’t always ensure a usable experience. The techniques for common user experience are there, but designers and developers must hone them to support users across multiple devices.

 

Google Analytics reports UX specialists should pay attention to

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image1 (4)

Contrary to popular belief, Google Analytics doesn’t just provide information about website traffic, it also provides useful data to UX strategists, helping them set goals, and create strategies and concepts for a sound web design.

Of the 95 reports Google Analytics provides, a few offer incredible useful information ranging from how visitors interact with your website, where visitors came from, to the best channels to use for your goals. Ironically, Google Analytics suffers from a lack of web usability—it can be confusing to navigate your way through the service. Worse, finding which report can help you with your usability goals can be a nightmare.

Usability experts the Nielsen/Norman Group compiled a list of the Analytics reports you can turn to for UX applications.

Mobile Access Growth

This information is key when trying to figure out whether or not your site should also be friendly to mobile devices. How much should you invest in an adaptive web design? What kind of priority level should your mobile initiatives receive?

To compare the quantity of mobile traffic between two similar periods, say February 2014 against 2013, turn to Google Analytics’ date comparison feature, and combine it with some easy calculations offline.

Report: Audience Overview

  1. Go to Audience > Mobile > Overview
  2. Choose a date range, then add  comparison date range
  3. This report’s % Change line represents the change in percentage of absolute mobile visits for the specified date ranges. This is not the information you’re looking for, so ignore this
  4. To find the growth rate in percentage of mobile visits, perform a simple calculation by taking the number of mobile visits, dividing it with the number of total visits, finally calculating the rate of change.

Social Network Impact

Google Analytics also provides a useful report if you want to find out just how much your social network activities impact your goals, particularly when it comes to your content strategies (e.g. what content is shared most often and where it’s shared).

Report: Network Referral

  1. Go to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals
  2. The report gives a detailed view on referral traffic coming from social networks. You can even click on the indicated networks to see which specific content people are sharing on that social channel.

Conversions

This report offers granular information on the way certain channels add to acquisition, how users originating from these channels act on your site, as well as how these channels contributed towards reaching your goals defined on Google Analytics.

Report: Goals Overview
1) Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview
2) Choose Source/Medium
3) Click on ‘View full report’

4) Upon reaching the full report screen, choose your ‘Source’ and then choose the goals you want to filter.

Number of Visits Prior to Conversion

When assessing and conceptualizing website usability, many UX teams like to build customer-journey maps designed for their target personas. These maps indicate interactions prospects are most likely to take before a conversion (before they become a customer).

Report: Path Length

  1. Conversions > Multi-channel funnels > Path length.
  2. Choose your desired goals to filter

The Path Length report provides a good idea on the number of visits to your websites before users convert or move on to other desirable actions (which you will define in your Analytics account).

Knowing the right reports to base your UX decisions of is the first step towards improving the usability of your website. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, so it is very important to know how to wield it.

The good, bad, and ugly e-commerce web design trends

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Web design trends are a double-edged sword. On one hand, using a trendy but well executed web design gives your visitors a new and better web experience. On the other hand, new designs simply add new features for the sake of having something new, instead of fixing old problems.

In the latest update to their E-Commerce UX report series, usability experts the Nielsen/Norman Group (NN/g) saw new web design improvements, but also spotted some bad design trends and even downright ugly concepts.

The Good – Larger Product Images

The jury’s still out on why larger product images are becoming more widespread across e-commerce sites, but whether it’s due to continually increasing screen resolutions and sizes, or visual designs that allow for more space, many sites are featuring large product images.

This of course, has allowed sites to show more product details, which is always a good thing for customers who naturally want to see more and as much of a product they like on a website. NN/g’s usability tests show that several users like to obtain additional details about a product from images, searching for things that may not have been included in the product description.

This also highlights the importance of using photos of the actual products in use or in context, instead of settling for stock images. NN/g’s tests found that based simply on product images, a user was able to tell if a toaster could fit bagels, while another was able to identify the feet on coasters that would protect wooden furniture.

image1 (2)

Coldwater Creek’s large product images give customers more details about their products.

The Ugly – Disorganized Customer Support

Many e-commerce designs exude minimalism, or a sense of space and openness, that is, until you go to the customer service section of the site. Unfortunately, many sites have failed to fix problems with their customer service/support sections, leaving them disorganized and hard to navigate through.

Common sense tells us that when a customer feels compelled to go to the customer support section of a site, it’s because of some problem or unanswered question. Naturally, a customer support page that fails to solve a customer’s problems only creates even more frustration.

You’re going to have problems when the areas of your site where you ask for payment are clean and easy to use, but the areas where customers can go to for help are a mess.

image2 (2)
Foot Locker’s customer service section, an unflattering wall of text.

When implementing design updates to your site, don’t forget to apply the similar changes to your customer service section. Keep things consistent with the rest of your site, and be sure that your FAQs are actually accurate and updated for questions that may accompany a redesigned website.

 The Bad – Shopping Carts

NN/g found that while several sites added small design quirks to their respective shopping cart systems, they still failed to provide enough feedback on whether a product has been added to the shopping car

It’s unfortunate that something so simple is so commonly ignored.

Don’t make your customers jump through hoops by scouring the page to see if they actually flagged an item for purchase or not. Neither do you want them to abandon the shopping process just to check if they added something to the cart. This kind of information needs to be immediately available and easy to find.

image3 (2)

And no, simply adding a short line of text beneath the “Add to cart” like Costco did on its site isn’t enough.

Showing shopping cart feedback on can be done in a variety of ways, whether through an overlay or modal, or an automatic redirect to the shopping cart (with a button to return to previous page). Nothing can spoil a shopping experience more than finding out you just bought multiples of the same product, or wasting 5 minutes navigating your way to the shopping cart.

To summarise, the do’s and don’ts of the current UX Trends:

Do’s:

  • Provide Larger, representative product images
  •  Create richer product information and show the product in its context

Don’ts:

  • Have inconsistent changes across your website. It’s important to update all sections, especially customer support and FAQs
  • Leave the customer hanging at the checkout. Provide solid feedback that an item has been added to their shopping cart, and make this easy to navigate.

Majority of Email Opens Take Place on Mobile Devices Studies Show

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image1 (2)

Over the last year we have seen multiple studies from firms like Experian Marketing Services and Yesmail showing an interesting and important trend: the number of people opening their emails on mobile devices continues to rise, with 50 percent or more email opens occurring on the mobile platform.

As the year comes to an end, yet another study by Return Path, yields similar findings. Their research shows that in December 2013, 51 percent of email opens happened on some kind of mobile device. The study also marks the first time ever that Return Path has observed mobile email opens getting a majority of the platform share.

Most notably, the highest percentage (62 percent) of mobile email opens occurred over Christmas, likely caused by the deluge of holiday greetings and shopping transactions made by consumers. Perhaps

Similar Findings by IBM: Online Shopping

tablet

Further supporting this, IBM also reported having 48 percent of all online shopping traffic coming from mobile devices on Christmas day. Results are up by 28.3 percent compared to Christmas Day in 2012, while also surpassing the traffic share of last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping blitzes. Mobile also accounted for 29 percent of all online sales on Christmas Day for IBM, showing a significant increase of 40 percent compared to last year.

Other noteworthy findings by IBM include a clear pattern—and a continuing trend—indicating more purchases happen on tablet devices, with browsing occurring predominantly on smartphones. IBM’s research shows smartphones account for more traffic compared to tablets, at 28.5 percent and 18.1 percent respectively, but account for only half as many sales, at 9.3 percent and 19.4 percent respectively.

More Shopping Traffic on iOS than Android

android-caotic-android-vs-ios-1

Another interesting find by IBM is how iOS devices reportedly drove more than twice as much shopping traffic, compared to Android devices on Christmas Day, at 32.6 percent versus 14.8. Return Path also showed a similar disparity, this time on the email front. The market research firm found that 86 percent of mobile opens happened on an iOS device on Christmas day—58 percent of opens occurred on an iPhone, 28 percent on an iPad.

A similar study by Movable Ink also found a major imbalance between emails opened on Android and iOS mobile devices.

More Findings

It also comes as no big surprise that Return Path found that the majority of email messages on mobile devices were opened on weekends and holidays, while emails opened on traditional desktop computers spiked during Mondays. In other words, mobile opens happened when people were away from work, and desktop opens while at work.

For Internet service providers (ISPs) and email service clients in the United States, vast increases in email opens occurred on Gmail in December, which Return Path correlated to a recent change Google made to display images, which are now enabled by default.

If anything, these findings show what we’ve been telling our clients throughout the previous year, that is, not to forget to design emails for the mobile format. Mobile email opens are no longer just a trend—they’re here to stay, and will only continue to grow.

Why it Pays to Display Product Prices on your B2B Website

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What’s the one thing a prospective customer wants to know when visiting an e-commerce website?

Prices.

When dealing with displaying pricing, businesses need to ask them selves; Is it better to not be judged, or to be ignored completely?

Yet it’s interesting to note that multiple usability studies by experts like the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) show that many websites still haven’t done anything to respond to people’s frustrations on not seeing the prices of products and services.

What’s more, usability experts NN/g  point out that business customers see pricing as the most important piece of information online, yet several B2B sites don’t seem to acknowledge this as they continue to obscure prices.

Adapting to New Shopping Habits

B2B webmasters and developers should adapt to the new ways consumers of the 21st century shop and research information about products and services. Gone are the days when consumers had to interact with sales agents; DIY is the way to go, with consumers now empowered with the information to make decisions on what to buy and not.

Many B2B site owners make the mistake of assuming customers will contact them to ask about pricing—they probably will, but it’ll be an inconvenience. In fact, studies by NN/g found that many participants in their research opted to go to competitor sites when websites failed to show prices. In the end users ended up viewing and purchasing from sites that did show pricing information.

Why Hide Prices?

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For companies, the most common reason behind keeping pricing hidden from consumers is to obscure it from competitors. Other reasons include:

  • Having varying prices for different customers
  • Prices constantly fluctuate, making it difficult to show fixed prices
  • Special services have unique prices

While the reasons above are legitimate excuses, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still excuses. The simple fact is that failing to be open with pricing works against the needs of customers, creating a poor shopping experience. What’s more, one person’s impression on a brand (e.g. they’re hiding their prices) can ripple out to other consumers. This effect completely negates all of the reasons stated above.

And besides, all of the issues mentioned above are also tackled by brick and mortar establishments, which still openly display their prices.

Here’s an insightful look on why you shouldn’t be bother hiding your prices.

For Those That Really Can’t Show Exact Prices: Sample Prices 

For B2B companies that have unique products and services, it’s true pricing structures can be complex, with rates varying between clients based on their specific situations. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t show pricing, as prospective customers still need something to go on during their initial research.

When providing exact prices becomes impractical, the next best option is to provide estimates in the form of a price range, typical pricing packages for usual situations, or the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). To avoid running into legal hiccups with displaying prices, it’s best to consult with legal counsel to find the most accurate ways of displaying this information.

 Provide Prices for Typical Scenarios

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For companies that structure their prices according to the unique services different clients need, the most prudent course of action is to provide pricing information for a handful of scenarios your company commonly encounters. You might hear of tools like cost calculators that allow customers to input what they want, and in the end, get the corresponding cost for the service package.

While useful, studies show these pricing calculators are often too complex, unwieldy, and prone to mistakes. Pricing calculators are not entirely useless; they can still appeal to some highly engaged customers eager to enter the required data to get the information they want.

In any case, it’s best to employ the rule of averages and offer sample prices for typical situations, which are sufficient to provide inquiring customers with a rough idea of what they want and how much it should cost.

Example: Automotive Parts Pricing

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In the context of automotive parts, we believe that showing the price of parts and accessories is crucial for attracting prospective customers who are searching for an item they already know they want or need, but don’t know the price of. Often, these customers are conducting pricing comparisons between vendors, and transparent pricing provides the convenience of seeing the information they need immediately, and hence increases the chances of these customers making a purchase a decision.

Showing prices on your B2B site also boosts consumer trust in your brand. Consumers see vendors that openly display their pricing as being straightforward and honest, and transactions are more likely to occur when people get the information they want right away.

For the average consumer, the fewer the number of steps it takes to make a purchase (e.g. make a phone call to inquire price, make a reservation), the better the shopping experience will be, and the more successful your business will be at gaining and retaining their business.