Google Glasses – You have to see to believe

Google Glasses – You have to see to believe.

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An Ad I Saw In Rolling Stone Magazine

As a subscriber to Rolling Stone Magazine I tend to like what they do. I came across an Ad earlier today as a flicked through it that grabbed my attention. It was on a heavy card like page and it simply said “drop this ad in water to change your world”. It was for Mio, which seemed to be a flavour you add to water to make it taste better.
I was immediately intrigued! Did they really want me to drop it in water? Was I missing something? Was I going to do it and realise straight away that I was a dumb ass as I tried to dig out a soggy page from my sink?
I had no immediate access to water which only added to the mystery!
Here’s what happened
Alternative Marketing, Rolling stone, water changing Ad, Mio
I’m not sure what I expected but I’m glad it did something!either way there hasnt been an ad in some time that has been on my mind for a few hours straight!
What do you think? Any thoughts?

The Next Pinterest or Twitter? Review of the next big Start Up Companies

Y Combinator was set up in 2005 and put into place a new model of funding for start up’s. They invest a small amount of money (average $18k) in a large number of start up technology firms. Each of these start ups’s will move to Silicon Valley for 3 months where Y Combinator will work intensively with them to get them in the best possible shape to pitch to investors. Each of the start up’s will then present to a large audience on Demo day.

To date they have assisted in the start up of over 385 companies. Here are my favourites from this years Demo Day which happened on March 27th.

the next big start up company, tech, silicon value, y combinator

Pair : This one is a little bit cheesy but it could be a lot of peoples dirty little secret!  A private social network for couples.  Pair lets two people create a private timeline where they share photos, videos, sketches, activities and more. The iPhone app, which launched just four days ago, has already garnered more than 50,000 registered users who have used Pair to send more than 1 million messages. Pair has received funding from SV Angel and Path founder Dave Morin, who told Pair’s team that Facebook has created social networking’s “cities,” Path is building its “houses,” and Pair is like its “bedroom.” I think the the one-click “Thinking of you” button could be a big hit with guys.

Priceonomics: With the ever blurring line between online and offline purchase decisions I think this one will be huge.  An online price guide for anything. Type in anything you want to own and it will tell you how much it should cost, like a Kelly Blue Book for smartphones, laptops, TVs, stereos, etc. Priceonomics crawls through hundreds of millions of transactions to find out what people are selling and how much they’re selling it for. It got 250,000 page views in March, plans to make money through targeted advertising, and already has funding from SV Angel, Andreessen Horowitz, CrunchFund, and several angels.

Sonalight: If anyone is on the road as much as me this will be great. I have even looked for an app like this before unsuccessfully so it is definitely going on my list.Touting itself as “Siri on steroids,” Sonalight is an app aimed at letting you send text messages while driving by using just your voice. The app purportedly works even while a phone is your pocket. Already, the app has been used to send 500,000 text messages at a rate of 50,000 per week since its debut back in October.

Midnox: Why is it that my perfect videos from a night out always seem so wobbly the next morning…?! Well  the Luma is an iPhone app that stabilizes the videos taken with a mobile phone in real time. The app also adds full resolution visual filters in real time, which are “non-disruptive,” meaning that they can be changed or removed after recording is over. The company has also built editing tools and sharing features for the videos taken with Luma.

Some really great start up’s there so keep your eyes open and I’m sure we will be seeing them in no time.

 

SXSW – What it’s all about and what start up’s that could make a splash

There’s no doubt you have noticed the abundance of web chatter over the last few days about SXSW, but if like me you are based far away from the hype, you might be wondering what it is all about.

 

SXSW is the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival which was first held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. The idea was to draw attention to the city’s vibrant music scene. despite the city not being among the top American metropolitans it had a very cosmopolitanism population because of the influence of the University of Texas which brought people from all over the world. Austin also had a reputation as a party city.

Whilst the festival started solely as a music festival in more recent years it has morphed into having a strong technology focus as well. In 2007 a totally unknown social media start up called Twitter came to the event. the rest is history. In 2009 it was FourSquare’s turn. With a track record like that there’s no wonder techies the world over watch with gleeful anticipation for the next start up super star when the event kicks off each year.

Industry big players get involved too. This year Google have built a replica of their famous headquaters on the outskirts of Austin named Google village. Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and many others all are ramping up their presence there this year as well.

Being a music festival by origin the event still attracts huge stars with Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprioMatthew McConaughey and Jack Black all making appearances in the Texas capital.

But are there any big hopes this year in the technology area? This year the theme appears to be “social discovery” smart technology that moves the user experience from an active “check-in” (like Foursquare) to technology that runs in the background and automatically notifies users when the situation calls for it.

When I originally read about this I thought we were getting closer to relevant deals and discounts being automatically pushed to people depending on their location. Whilst the concept of marketers knowing where you are at any given time does frighten a lot of people, being told that your favourite magazine, which you buy every week any way, is on sale at a discount in a store you are passing, seems like an exciting step forward to me. However most of the start ups that are being highlighted for attention seem to have networking and conferences as their main focus.

Apps like Sonar which operate similarly to Foursquare but uses filters to display to you people with similar interests to you that are in the same proximity.

Glancee mines Facebook and presents to you people close by that have common interests to you. It has a user interface which allows you to initiate chat with them through the service too.

Highlight tracks your location and then notifies you when people you have met are nearby. It stores their details and so I suppose works as a digital way to remember peoples names!

The one that I think is probably the most interesting is Roamz. It works like a kind of backward Foursquare. It tracks where you are and then suggests locations, sites and events that you may like to go to based on your own interests. What I think this does is remove the check in process, which in turn may increases up take by the masses. I still think ultimately though that there needs to be more reward to people for giving up their privacy and this will only come when businesses participate more widely and offer discounts and deals to those people using these services.

The Best blog Post I Ever Read – reblogged

I read this blog post today by Avinash Kaushik, and I have to say it is probably the single most useful post I have ever come across! I just had to re-blog it. It gives a great explanation of custom Google analytic reports and gives links that you can click on which will automatically create and save the reports for you to use in your own analytics account!

3 Awesome, Downloadable, Custom Web Analytics Reports

December 6, 2010 104 Comments

SustenanceIn a world where we are overwhelmed with data and metrics and key performance indicators and reports and dashboards and. . . sometimes all it takes to make some sense of all this “mess” is someone stepping up to share a tiny slice of wisdom from their experience.

That’s my plan for this blog post. To share with you three custom reports that I find to be super valuable when I am doing web data analysis. Not only will I tell you about them, I’ll give you downloadable links so you can get going right away!

I must forewarn you that my hidden agenda is also to expose to you metrics you might not be using, views of data that you might be ignoring, best practices that are of value and teach you how to fish. Consider yourself fully forewarned!

I love custom reports. They allow us to step away from the oppression of standard reports (/data pukes) and bring an increased amount of relevancy, calm and focus to our day-to-day work and to our beloved data consumers.

If your daily practice of web analysis does not hugely rely on custom reports (and advanced segments) then I am afraid you might be a lot more in the Reporting Squirrel mold and a lot less in the Analysis Ninja mold. Sorry.

With that motivational speech, :), below are three custom reports that are of incredible value. You can use them as is, or, better still, you can download and adapt them to your unique business needs. Either way I promise you’ll deliver actionable insights faster!

[While I am using Google Analytics here, you can do custom reporting in pretty much any tool you have access to, be it Yahoo! Web Analytics or Site Catalyst or WebTrends.]

#1: Page Efficiency Analysis Report.

I am often irritated by how fractured page level reporting is. Four or six or ten reports that all tell you how your website pages are doing, except that you don’t know which report to use and what the heck to do. So you, and I, do nothing. Faith rules.

My goal was to create one single report for you that would serve as a valuable starting point for page analysis for any type of website, especially a content rich non-ecommerce website. Here it is. . .

webpageefficiencyanalysisreport

Optimally, to judge a page you’ll look at three different pieces which are often not on the same report or not in any standard report. We fix that above.

First, what we want to know is: How often does this page act as our home page (Entrances) and how well is it doing its job (Bounces)?

I like reporting by Page Title (hopefully you are good at SEO and have taken care of this). I can quickly see which pages have high/horrible bounce rates. In an instant I know which pages need emergency surgery.

[For the minority of you who believe high bounce rates are ok, I encourage you to see this post:http://zqi.me/akbounce I especially recommend reading comments #153, #157 & #164. Thanks.]

Second, we worry about content consumption: How many Unique Visitors came, how many page views were generated and what content was more consumed more / less?

A lot of focus is on measuring Visits, which in this case I don’t find to be of any value. I want to know how many People (approximated by Unique Visitors, plus or minus a few) saw a piece of content. Pageviews gives me a great proxy for knowing how often they might have seen it (not surprisingly more than once for my looooooong blog posts!).

The final metric in this bucket – and this is lovely – focuses on which pieces of content are really consumed. I write really long posts; it is gratifying that people spend 14 minutes reading one, but I can also easily see posts/topics people just skip (not good!).

Super awesome right?

Third, (the part almost everyone ignores), “show me the money!!!!”: What value was created by the content for our business? And by business I also mean non-profit, university, newspaper, government websites and chicken farmers!

I don’t care about page views if I am not making money / adding value to my non-profit or university. The data in the last two columns shows-pay attention please-differences in value created (for you!) when that piece of content was consumed.

Per visit goal value column shows ultimately how much a page might have influenced impact on your business during a visit where someone viewed that page. So People who see Page 2 end up creating 0.82 value for you, and People who see Page 3 end up creating $1.15 worth of value. Hence content on Page #3 was more valuable to your users and your business during this time period.

I like having Total Goal Completions because sometimes raw $ value hides insights. For example see pages #3 and #4. See what I mean?

Initial job greatness, consumption / “engagement“, and value delivered to your business. Do you know this about your content?

Here’s how you can get this report:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Come back here.
  3. Now click on this link Page Efficiency Analysis Report. It will open in Google Analytics.
  4. Click on the Create Report button and it will save it in your account.

If you want to share this report with others (say via Twitter / email) you can use this url: http://goo.gl/SvhDx

Bonus Items:

You’ll note that I have pre-built two drill downs into this report. If you click on the Page Title you’ll see Visitor Type (New vs. Returning). I like to see for my great / awful pages if the behavior and data differs for those two segments. Then I like to drill down by City, again to see deltas. But you can change this to anything you want.

Remember you can apply segmentation (oh yesss!) to this report. Scroll all the way to the top of the report. Click the drop down next to Advanced Segments. Click on Mobile Traffic (or whatever) and. . . Boom! Mobile page efficiency analysis! Sweetness.

If you have an Ecommerce website you can replace Per Visit Goal Value with Per Visit Value and Total Goal Completions with Transactions.

If seven metrics seem to be too much to analyze click on the Comparison icon on top of the table (in Google Analytics) and you’ll magically get this:

uniquevisitorsvsavgtimeonpage

An easy peasy fast way to compare two metrics of most value to you and quickly identify the winners and losers. In this case I am answering a common question: Which content is consumed the most by People on my site and of that content which is most “engaging,” i.e. cause them to read all of it?

Play with this feature; it is to die for. Change the pairings. Faster insights, guaranteed.

#2: Visitor Acquisition Efficiency Analysis Report.

We tend to be far too obsessed about Search Engines and Twitter and the Next Shiny Object.

Or we are organized by silos. Daniel’s responsible for email and Gemma’s responsible for Bing and Harun’s responsible for display. They never talk (there is no incentive to). There are a ton of reports of course. But everyone’s optimizing for their local maxima rather than for the global maxima.

Hate that.

My goal was to create one report where I can review the efficiency and performance across all streams of traffic to the site. Paid media (PPC, Display etc), Earned media(Social Media), and Free media (SEO, Referring Sites etc). I don’t want the Next Shiny Object nor the Current HiPPO Obsession to drive our acquisition strategy.

Here’s the report that is a fabulous starting point. . .

visitoracquisitiontrafficsourcesengagementreport

Let’s break down a report you are soon not going to want to live without. 🙂

First, it shows all traffic sources. This is key. Organic and paid search, direct traffic, Twitter and Facebook, Facebook display ads, email marketing, top referring sites etc etc. No more silos! One place to judge how all streams perform. No egos.

Second, we focus on input metrics: How many sessions (Visits) by how many Unique Visitors and how many existing vs. new?

Senior folks seem to love Visits; I find them harmless. I really care about People. So one column for each of us. Are your marketing dollars chasing visits from people who have already visited your site, rather than prospects? New Visits to the rescue. For example notice the delta between Facebook ads vs. Facebook referrals. Ouch. Cute to know this key performance metric, right?

Third, this one’s really important: How many people engage in behavior we value?

Typically you would look at metrics like Average Time on Site or Page Views per Visit. In this context why not use something significantly more insightful? I have created a Goal for the site where anyone who spends more than x amount of time or sees more than y number of pages is really giving me a precious gift: their attention. Regardless of whether they buy or submit a lead or do anything else of value, for me it’s success.

Looking at this Goal, rather than Avg Time on Page, is significantly more insightful in judging the initial blush of success. You see even if these people don’t buy on the website they might buy offline. Or even if they don’t donate or download, they’ll at least be much better aware of my brand. Or even if my acquisition campaign (Paid, Earned or Free) did not result in conversion in this visit, maybe they’ll come back later.

Use this type of clever behavioral goal measurement rather than Avg Time / Pages.

[Important: When you download this report, below, this column might have a zero or show something incorrect – if you have Goal 6 defined. To use the smart strategy I am recommending you’ll have to 1. work with your business leaders to identify what “engaged” behavior is in your case is, 2. create a goal for it and then 3. add that to the report you’ll download here, then 4. celebrate.]

Fourth, outcomes baby! How much business value was added.

I don’t have to teach you the value of using Conversion Rates and Goal Values. The whole point of this report is to prioritize our focus.

A vein should have popped in your head when you saw the conversion rates between google/cpc and google/organic. Good lord!

You can quantify that your Twitter earned media efforts yield 21 cents of extra value for every visit when compared to Facebook earned media efforts, and a shocking 62 cents more than your efforts with Facebook display ads! OMG.

Will that help you prioritize your efforts better? As Sarah would say: You betcha!

Fifth, this is very important: What did it cost you to get this traffic to your site?

This column in the report will often be zero. If your AdWords account is linked to Google Analytics perhaps you’ll see Cost here. But most of the time it will be zero.

I still want you to have it.

Just to remind yourself, and your decision makers, that not all these rows have the same cost to bring that traffic to your site, to get it to engage and finally deliver the value you see in the Outcomes column.

Often we de-prioritize Earned Media and Free Media in favor of Paid Media (it seems sexy). That column is to encourage you to get cost numbers, even rough ones, and then, you’ll do this in Excel, add something like Cost Per Conversion or Cost Per Visitor to the report (in Excel). Then and only then will your company be making the smartest possible decisions.

Remember no acquisition is free. Even “Free Media”, it just costs less. It is your job to identify that and make your company smarter.

Are you providing this view of Acquisition Efficiency to your HiPPO’s?

Here’s how you can get this report:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Come back here.
  3. Now click on this link Acquisition Efficiency Analysis Report. It will open in GA.
  4. Click on the Create Report button and it will save it in your account.

If you want to share this report with others (say via Twitter / email) you can use this url: http://goo.gl/E4gjb

Bonus Items:

You’ll note that I have pre-built two drill downs into this report.

customreportcampaigndrilldown

If you click on the Source/Medium you’ll drill down to Medium. For your email / search / display / social media / video / whatever else campaigns you’ll now see the next level of detail (banner ad or rich media ad or. . .).

If you click on Medium you’ll drill down to Campaign Name (certain size, duration, destination, promo code, whatever you have coded).

So you can hold all your $$$ accountable.

If you have an Ecommerce website replace the Goal Conversion Rate metric with Conversion Rate and Per Visit Goal Value with my favorite Average Value.

As with the above report you can apply segmentation to this report (please do!) and you can also use the Comparison view and, another love of mine, Advanced Table Filtering.

Faster insights, and massive increase in hugs and kisses, guaranteed!

#3: Paid Search Performance Analysis Micro-Ecosystem!

Allow me to kvetch for a second.  I pull my hair out, and a small part of my soul dies, every time I log into someone’s Omniture or Google Analytics or Unica NetInsight account. For the thing that greets me is a massive data puke. Tons and tons of reports created for God knows what reason.

They are the bubonic plague of our existence.

It is as if our lives were not miserable enough with the 80 or 100 standard reports we have no idea what to do with. Now those not savvy in the first place about Visits and Visitors have to wade through even more irrelevant nonsense.

I have championed the elimination of standard reports (who the heck is “standard” anyway? you?) and instead advanced the creation of focused custom “micro-ecosystems” that 1. reduce the number of reports 2. provide a one-stop destination for most answers on one topic, and finally, most importantly, 3. are hyper relevant.

Here are the three steps to creating a self contained micro-ecosystem of relevant data:

STEP 1: Identify & understand who will consume the data.

STEP 2: You are not going to believe this. . ., talk to them (!) to understand their needs and success criteria.

STEP 3: Insert two ounces of your raw brain power. What do they need, beyond what they want?

That’s it. I know it sounds simple. Trust me everything below is easy (actually I am going to give you the report for free!), the steps above are really hard.

The micro-ecosystem I have created for you is to analyze the performance of a Paid Search Marketing program. The above examples have been non-ecommerce; this one is focused on ecommerce.

There are three key parties I need to satisfy (as might be the case in your company). The SEM team, who actually spend all the paid search marketing budget day-to-day. The second party is the person who owns the website (Director). Finally the VP of Digital who is responsible for all the spend, across multiple efforts.

Following my three step process above I have noted what each party wants, and, this is important, I have, from my experience, identified what they need.

Here is the micro-ecosystem. . . piece number one. . .searchmarketingdataanalysiPPCteam.png

Everyone in the company goes to just one report to analyze the performance of the paid search campaigns. When they log in they choose their relevant tab. It’s that simple.

The first tab is focused on the SEM team. Four metrics on this page are what they directly asked for, things they watch every day, things their bonus depends on. I have added two more from my experience to prompt good behavior (Bounce Rate) and tie them to the bottom-line (Average Value).

First, we look at the “input.” How many ad impressions were served? How did our ad perform in terms of Click-thru Rate? The team obsesses about this. Match types. Ad Copy. Quality Score. Ad Position. Campaign Structure. Search query. So many things in play, this is where you find out where to start looking for problems.

Second, we look at activity. It is exceedingly rare that the SEM team (or, even worse, the Search Agency) is responsible for Bounce Rate. I think this is criminal. They can’t just be responsible for spending money and dumping traffic on the site. However painful, they have to work with the site owner to ensure landing page relevancy, ad message consistency from Bing/Google to website and quality of their ad targeting. This humble metric is to force them to do that.

Third, I am sure you see a theme in all my work, outcomes! The team cares about Cost Per Click and total Cost. Give ’em that. But you’ll be shocked that most of the time they don’t care about conversions. So I add Average Value (essentially Average Order Size) so they can see which keywords to focus on more or less (see the range above from 82 to 211!) and not just clickthru rate, etc.

The SEM team / Agency will do lots of other reporting and segmentation and deep dive analysis. But they now have a simple and effective starting point.

Next up. . . the person who owns the process after the traffic shows up. This might be different in each company, but typically the website is owned by one person. Here is their tab. . . on the exact same report!

searchmarketingdataanalysisdirector

We shift our focus quite a bit as we move to the Director / Site Owner. They don’t care about all the upfront stuff. They care about what’s happening under their responsibility.

First, we focus on how many Visits occurred and what kind of Visitors they were? Specifically are we attracting just the same old visitors we have always seen or is our money being spent optimally to attract new people to our site? Percentage of New Visits is here as a conversation starter between the Director & the SEM Team / Agency.

Second, what’s happening on the website? Are the entry home pages great? Bounce rate is a joint responsibility. Then it is important to realize that sadly not everyone will convert (boo!). I have chosen Pages per Visit as a proxy for an activity of value completed by the Visitor to the site. We know what the Average Pageview per Visit is; this column tells us if by keyword the difference, and if people don’t bounce do they connect with our content? If not then why not? As a Director that is my job to figure out.

Third, surely my neck is on the line for ensuring that money (lots of it) is being produced. Hence the Revenue column. It takes less than ten seconds of eyeballing to figure out where there is a mismatch between crowds of visits and a mass of revenue (or not), and between non-bounce content consumption and revenue production.

Sweetness. One report. We are all on the same page!

The SEM team is probably logging into the system all day long; the Director perhaps a few times a week; the VP of Digital probably just a few times a month. But when She/He does they’ll go to the exact same report and click on Her/His tab.

Here’s what they’ll see. . .

searchmarketingdataanalysivpdigital

[Note: Here are things good Analysis Ninja’s worry about. You’ll notice Impressions in all three personalized tabs. The Director and VP don’t really care about this metric. It is there as an “anchor.” Whichever tab you go to the data will always be sorted the same! Tiny detail, but it matters so much.]

The VP is greeted with a lot fewer metrics (remember: always fewer relevant metrics!).

First, they might pay a cursory glance at the summary view provided in the scorecard(which will be on top of the above report but I have cropped for clarity). They do care about traffic. Just seeing the sorting of the Visits, in context of the Impressions, will give them pause. Note the questions that might pop up, even to a VP, as you compare the queries “accuracy vs. precision” and “kaushik”.  Or “customer service questions.” What is up with that?

Second, VPs care about cost and they care about productivity. These are two columns they use to praise you and get you and themselves a bonus. What is the Cost per Click and, for that expense, what is the Revenue per Click? I don’t have to tell you what to do with these two columns. Love them a lot.

Third, VPs care about their bonus. Sorry, I mean they care about company revenue. 🙂 Knowing RPC is important, having Revenue right there is fantastic context about overall achievement. You could have stuffed number of transactions or orders or conversion rate or all that other junk. You don’t need to. Remember: fewer relevant metrics!

Your effort into the three STEP process above pays off rich dividends by killing data pukes, focusing on what’s important, and creating one destination for everyone to go to and for everyone to point to.

It is so amazing when this works.

Here’s how you can get this report:

  1. Log into Google Analytics.
  2. Come back here.
  3. Now click on this link Paid Search Analysis Micro-Ecosystem. It will open in GA.
  4. Click on the Create Report button and it will save it in your account.

If you want to share this report with others (say via Twitter / email) you can use this url: http://goo.gl/JdPko

[Update: Rob Taylor has created a nice version of the above paid search report by applying filters to it, a feature of Google Analytics V5. You can download Rob’s version here: http://goo.gl/9jLTm ]

Bonus Items:

If you click on the Keyword you’ll drill down to Campaign. This is important because your campaign structure has so much influence on your ultimate performance. If you click on Campaign you’ll drill down to Ad Group level (which needs constant love and caring).

You can easily create a micro ecosystem for your Email campaigns. For your Social Media efforts. For your. . . any place your company is spending money.

This report is for Ecommerce. It will work just fine if you’re a non-profit or a government entity using AdWords or adCenter. Just swap the outcome metrics with ones mentioned in the first two reports.

You can do segmentation, advanced table filtering and all other good stuff here. Do it.

Extra Special Bonus Items:

Except for the last report, you can create all the above reports in five minutes in any web analytics tool you are using. You will not need to touch the JavaScript tag or go on a date with the IT team or update the contract with your Paid Vendor. If you are using Omniture or CoreMetrics etc you can still create the third report in Excel. Please do.

If you are using Google Analytics check out the delightful quick start guide to Custom Reporting. It covers designing, building and viewing a custom report. Tip: Check out the super useful graphic under Building Your Custom Report.

 

You will fail at all the above reports if you have not identified your Goals and Goal Values. If you are starting from scratch use the Web Analytics Measurement Model to identify your Goals. If you need more tactical examples from different types of websites please refer to my blog post on Macro & Micro Conversions.

Gentle reminder: No Goals, No Glory.

I had a lot of fun creating these special reports for you. I hope you’ll have just as much fun adapting them to your own companies and their unique needs. But most of all I hope you’ll release your data customers from the tyranny of data pukes and irrelevant standard web analytics reports!

Ok it’s your turn now.

Do you have a favorite custom report? Care to share a downloadable version with the super smart audience of Occam’s Razor? Do you have some version of one of my reports above that is even better? Care to share that one?

IncentiveThe person who shares the best report will get a personalized signed copy of Web Analytics 2.0!  Please share the report via comments, I know we all would love to benefit from your wisdom and experience.

There were some wonderful reports submitted, please see the comments, but the one I loved the most was by Peter van Klinken [comment #41]. It was a very clever report and the use of pivot tables in GA was particularly cool. I’ll be sending Peter a signed copy of W A 2.0.

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful submissions.

How websites should be designed – Don’t Make Me think!!

I was recently told that a book by Steve Krug called don’t make me think is the undisputed bible when it comes to web usability. With such a glowing reference I bought the book online for less than €5. When it arrived in the post I realised that it was the first edition of many and scolded myself for not seeing through the low price. However I am not one to be deterred and will read it until some glaring outdated advice forces me to abort!

The book is written in simple language and works off one very basic principle. When some one looks at a webpage it should be self evident, obvious and self explanatory..

The person should be able to “get it” – what it is and how to use it – without expending any effort thinking about it.

The image above, taken directly from the book, shows a site user asking themselves a series of questions when they visit the site.

When you are creating a site is is your job to get rid of these question marks.

Some examples that Krug gives about things that make us think are unobvious names (such as unfamilar technical names or jazzy terms that the marketing department came up with) or links or buttons that aren’t obviously clickable.

Sure these things can usually be figured out in a short period of time but the point is that every question mark adds to our cognitive workload, distracting our attention from the task in hand.

Making things self evident is like having good lighting in a store, it just makes everything seem better. The goal is to make things to seem as effortless as possible so as not to sap any energy or enthusiasm from visitors!

The book goes on to detail the difference between how people actually use the web in comparison to how we often think they use the web.

We often think that people read all the information on a webpage weighing up all their options before decided which link to click on next. This is clearly not the case. At best, most of the time people glance at web pages. The image above, again taken directly from the book shows the comparison really well.

There are 3 facts about real world web use.

1. We don’t read pages. We scan them.

We tend to focus on words and phrases that seem to match either the task at hand or our own personal interests. There are also some trigger words which are hardwired into our brain to stand out like “free” “sale” “sex” and our own name.

2. We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.

The term satisfice was first coined by economist Herbert Simon which is a cross between satisfying and sufficing. When designing web pages we tend to think that people will look at all the available options and weight them up before deciding which one to chose. In reality though we don’t chose the best option, we chose the first reasonable option.

3. We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through them.

The extent to which people use things all the time without understanding how they work. Faced with any sort of technology very few people take time to read the instructions.

So if people are only glancing at your site what things can you do to make sure they see and understand as much of your site as possible? There are 4 important things.

  1. Create a clear and visual hierarchy on each page
  2.  Break pages up into clearly defined areas
  3. Make it obvious whats clickable
  4. Minimize noise
Most of these are pretty self explanatory so I won’t go into to much detail but creating a clear and visual hierarchy has some steps worth mentioning
One of the best ways to make a page easy to grasp in a hurry is to make sure the appearance of the thing son the page clearly portray the relationships between things on the page ; which things are related and which things are part of other things.

Pages with a clear visual hierarchy will have three traits

  1. the more important something is the more prominent it is.
  2. Things that are related logically are also related visually
  3. Things are located visually to show whats part of what.

We encounter visual hierarchies all the time, in news papers or other media, but it happens so quickly that the only time that we become aware of them is when they don’t work. When a page doesn’t have a visual hierarchy  we are reduced to a much slower process of taking into the information as we need to scan the page for revealing words and phrases and then trying to form our own sense of whats important and how things are organised.

Well that’s as far as I have got in the book so far, so there will definitely be at least one blog post to follow after this. I would love to hear any feed back from people who have read  the latest edition!


 

Chirpify – Will People Buy Things On Twitter?

With Facebook’s IPO on the horizon and the success stories of other tech companies like Google, Apple and even Netscape still fresh in our minds, there seems to be increased media attention on the latest start up’s potential tech stars of the future. I recently blogged about Pinterest, the fastest growing social platform online, and today I wanted to have a quick look at another company which has caught my eye.

Facebook IPO Social Commerce, Start Up Companies, Chirpify

Chirpify enables businesses and consumers to buy, sell, donate and exchange funds on Twitter, turning Tweets into transactions. Everyone keeps saying social commerce is the next big thing. On a basic level this means giving people the ability to purchase products directly through social media sites. This is already relatively prominent through the likes of Facebook even if a lot of these products aren’t actually real. Last year Zynga made up 12% of Facebook’s massive revenue, and that was largely through the sale of virtual components for their games.

Looking to the not to distant future though companies are likely to leverage the concept of influencers by offering people the ability to earn discounts by sharing products they like or have bought and thus encouraging others to buy them too.

Lockerz, which has received a whole bunch of funding itself over the last two years has just recently launched a Pinterest like pin board platform, where users can actually gain points which can then be used for purchases, by pinning items to their own boards.

So with these media rich social platforms all trying to coax people out of bricks and mortar stores and online to make their purchases, what hope does a company aiming to use 140 characters to get people to buy have?

There is already a certain degree of selling happening through Twitter. Brands send out links to discounted offers, or celebrities use the micro blogging site to flog their own merchandise to their followers but all of this happens outside of Twitter. People click on a link and are brought some place else where they can make purchases. The whole process isn’t exactly seamless.

What Chirpify does is to allow people to buy, sell, donate and transact directly on Twitter simply by replying to a Tweet. This is done by integrating Chirpify and Pay Pal directly with your Twitter account. Users can then purchase an item on Twitter by simple replying to a Tweet listing with the word buy. This could certainly make for some interesting drunken purchases if it is in fact as easy as this to transact.

Social commerce, buying things drunk, Chirpify

There also seems to be potential for donations and with the every tech savvy Obama camp gearing up for another election campaign, being able to get set priced donations directly from people on Twitter simply by them replying donate, seems like a huge benefit.

Another feature which I thought was cool was that it provides an easy platform for people to exchange money. For example if you and a friend or splitting a bill. One of you can simply pay the other person by directly responding to a tweet.

However the fact of the matter is that most of these things can be done already,directly through Pay Pal, but leveraging the huge user base of Twitter might just catch on.

Some start up’s get millions in funding, and the fact that Chirpify, formally known as       sell simp.ly got their first investment of just $50,000 recently, might suggest it is small scale. But with social media sites determined to do all it takes to keep users on their site rather than sending them elsewhere, perhaps…Twitter themselves might come knocking?!

Twitter interest in start ups

Pinterest – Do we really need it?

Pinterest. Have you heard about it? You probably have. It is the fastest growing….. social platform on the web. I paused there because this is the thing. I am not quiet sure how to categorise it yet!! Is it a social networking site? Is it a photo sharing site? What exactly is a virtual pin board?!

what is pinterest

Using Google insights we can see the phenomenal growth in searches for information to the site over the last 3 and a half months.  A few interesting facts that can be revealed from my Google insights search are

  1. The country with the 4th highest regional interest in Pinterest is Macadonia (after USA, Canada and New Zealand)
  2. Ireland rates 8th
  3. The highest search term is “what is pinterest”?
  4. Search levels really began to grow in November 2011 and exploded in January 2012.
Pinterest explosive growth. Women users
The site’s mission statement is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” So their intentions are definitely to capitalise on people’s insatiable appetite for all things social. But the question has to be asked are we really able to find the time to squeeze in more social media especially when it is based largely on images of what other people think are cool?
 The site still operates on a semi closed basis with people needed to be invited by other members, or requesting an invite directly from Pinterest (which takes a few days) to get access. This is all the more reason why their 11 million unique visitors is so impressive as access isn’t granted automatically. There’s no doubt this has added to the hype around the site through increased curiosity, but making your potential user wait a few days could be risky! They want to see the site now, but might not be so bothered by the time they get around to accepting the invite! How and ever it seems to be working and I have no doubt the site will continue to grow rapidly for at least a certain period of time.
Right now it’s the early adoptors that I know that are on board and trying to find a usage for the site. Pinterest encourages you to follow people in your area of interest when you sign up to the site which makes sense. Exposing you to the types of “pins” you like will increase  the chance of you coming back.
But lets face it if a site wants to be social then it needs to connect people who know each other. Google+ is great, but only a few of my friends are on it which means Facebook is still the de facto location for connecting with people.
Currently I have 9 friends on Pinterest and their “boards” consist of a few haphazard cool photos, a few social media related infographs…and the odd image of books or films they think other people should know they like!
I’m no different too. I’m not arguing that the site isn’t extremely slick and easy to use. But right now anything I have posted there is simple to have something there. I have never once though wished there was someplace to gather random images online of the things I love!
Instagram and Pinterest Similar
But maybe I have it all wrong. Instagram is a place for people to post pictures to in a semi similar fashion and people are passionate about it. I never thought I would take so many pictures of random objects and landscapes, but instagram has changed that.
Pinterest is simple taking this a step further. In the same way they there is a whole tribe of people out there called instragramers where people are bonded through their common love of take instagram images, Pinterest recently held their first meet up in San Francisco where people could come together and reveal in the joy of this new application!
So when the dust settles from all this hype who is actually going to the main users of the site? Right now there seems to be a strong following amongst women. According to Ignite social media almost 80% of users are women and I suppose this makes sense. My girlfriend, and I will go out on a limb here and say she is not unique, spends an awful lot of time looking at pictures of what other women are wearing.
Whether its in fashion magazines or high street store websites she wants to see clothes. Pinterest allows users to easily take images from any (not Facebook actually) site and Pin them to designated boards in a cool aesthetically pleasing way. This could be very appealing to no end of people whether that is fashion magazines or stores themselves, or stylists, designers or simply enthusiasts who want to show their keen eye for good fashion.  It also allows people (girls) to pin items that they would like to their own boards as a kind of wish list.
80% of pinterest users are women
And this is where Pinterest stands apart from some of its counterparts in their early start up days. It is actually earning revenue. Each pin that is added to the site is a link, and Pinterest takes these links and modifies them by adding a affiliate tracker code. Through an existing company called skimlinks, retail sites will pay a small commission each time they sell a products to the site that has sent them that customer through a link. What that means in affect is that if my girl friend had a pin up of a lovely coat she wanted to buy, and some one clicked on that pin and went to the site it was being sold and then bought it, Pinterest would make a small commission from that. Now take into account that Pinterest directed more traffic to retailer sites than YouTube, Linkedin or Google+.  In the last six months, the retail deal site ideeli.com has seen a 446 percent increase in web traffic from Pinterest and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold.
So now I am beginning to see the potential of the site, how can businesses take advantage of this? From what I can gather from meandering through board after bored (!) of pins is that content is still king. Pin good images of what your target audience is interested in and you will get followers. But to really fully leverage Pinterest I think it is key to engage. Along with other social media sites having a dedicated person looking after engagement will allow businesses to follow people who follow them back, comm
enting on there pins, re-pining them and making people feel involved.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be working on my boards so be sure to follow me and I promise I will follow back! Any thoughts or feed back good or bad is really appreciated.

http://pinterest.com/barrytg/

 Accolades 
  • Development of Pinterest began in December 2009 and the site launched as a closed beta in March 2010.
  • On August 16, 2011, Time magazine published Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011” column.
  • In early 2011, the company secured a $10 million Series A led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Shortly thereafter, in October 2011, the company secured $27 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, which valued the company at USD $200 million.
  • The company was named the best new start up of 2011 by TechCrunch
  • In January 2012, comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark.
 

Location Based Marketing. Should You Be Using It?

One of my first blog posts was about location based marketing. The concept was fairly new to me and I saw a huge amount of potential because of the explosive growth of smart phones and the state of the world economy meaning that people were on the search for deals all the time. I decided to test two of the most famous applications and began avidly checking in on both Foursquare and Gowalla. But what were my expectations and what was I hoping to get out of this commitment to Geo-locating myself? A few months on I think its time to review my experience.

2011 has been a big you for LBM which is summerised nicely in this infograph

location based marketing 2011

I think the two things that are illustrated by this timeline is the consolidation of location based services as well as the impressive growth of Foursquare. From my own experiences based here in Ireland it became quickly apparent that Foursquare was the only show in town. The check in options available to me on Gowalla were few and far between and I ended up using places that were miles away from me just to try get more out of the service. It didnt take long for me to kick Gowalla to the curb and focus my intentions on Foursquare.

What makes a difference with Foursquare is that when you decide to check in some place, it is usually there. This is the minimum that users will expect if there service is to gain any sort of traction. So I went at it hammer and tong for a few months. Oh I was the mayor of plenty of places, I had badges and accolades stacked as high as the eye could see. I gained the satisfaction of ousting plenty of people and I even went to a few places solely so I could check in there. But after I while I began to think…why? Why bother going to all this effort? Not once in all this time did I benefit from discounted food or drinks or..anything. My mayorship never brought me any preferential treatment and to be honest ousting people never brought that much satisfaction. I will put this last element though down to the fact that in reality I don’t know the majority of my friends on Foursquare. I didnt much fancy using my own name when I initially began this LBS adventure because quiet frankly I didnt want everyone I knew knowing where I was all the time. My previous experience with check ins was through Facebook and whenever I saw someone trumpeting where they were to the masses I just thought it was sad! I needn’t have worried that much though because I quickly discovered that even if I had wanted to involve myself in a geo-tagging love affair with any of my friends…barely any of them used these kind of services because…why should they?!

Some maybe I missed the point of the whole process. Maybe I shouldnt have been so focused on gaining discounts and using my early adopter status to gain preferential treatment. I have found Foursquare useful when on occasion I have checked into a restaurant and found a friendly recommendation waiting for me suggesting something to try. Is this the really purpose of Foursqaure. Goodwill and advice? Admittedly I would value advice from people I knew more and it would be useful to know what my friends had thought of places when I am at them. But really is that enough to convince people to take out their phone from their pockets and go through the check in process? If me as an early (ish) adopter has already got sick of it, what chance was there really to convince higher numbers of the value of Foursquare?

There needs to be a carrot for people to consistently use the service and right now there ain’t no carrot for users in Ireland. There is only one venue within 5kms of where I am now who offer any kind of discount for checking in on Foursquare. It is a pub names O’ Dwyers in Kilmacud. I contacted them to see what kind of response they had to their campaign and the answer was short and to the point. NONE.

So if businesses aren’t seeing any return on offering discounts is there any hope for for increased business participation? I think companies like Foursquare and Geo-deals need to up their efforts in targeting business owners to explain the benefits and offer them advice. No doubt the service will prove more popular in a busy area where consumer decisions might be tipped in favour of a location based on the LBM that they offer.It is also vital for businesses to let people know about checking in. Foursquare signs and details on menus would certainly make a difference.

Like a lot of things here in Ireland I think we are going to have to wait some time for both businesses and consumers to buy into the whole location based marketing concept. 2012 promises to be another big year for the industry so what can America expect to see? Here are some of the big predictions being talked about right now by industry experts

  1. Foursquare hits the 30-million mark. Foursquare is growing at approximately 30,000 users a day, and we expect this to gradually increase during the upcoming year. After announcing its 15 millionth user last December, look for Foursquare to tally 30 million users by the end of 2012.
  2. Facebook will enable location-specific mobile advertising. As Facebook continues to grow revenue ahead of its 2012 IPO, look for the social network to finally turn on location-based advertising within its mobile application. This will enable marketers to deliver ads based on both current location and past check-ins.
  3.  New competitors emerge that automate the check-in process. Consumer growth has proven that users enjoy sharing their location, connecting with nearby friends and earning rewards. The largest headache with services such as Foursquare and Facebook is that users must still manually check in to each location. This creates opportunities in 2012 for innovative start-ups that automatically check users into venues when provided permission.
  4. Groupon Acquires Foursquare. With Groupon still flush with cash, and Foursquare continuing to drive more-and-more merchant transactions, we predict Groupon makes Foursquare an offer it can’t refuse. This would expand Groupon’s merchant toolset and give it access to millions of new consumers through Foursquare’s mobile app.
  5. Marketers embrace “big data” and integrate location-based marketing. As more marketers include location-based marketing in their 2012 campaigns, reporting will become a hot topic. Check-ins provide incredibly valuable data to marketers about what their customers do and when they do it. This will lead savvy marketers to begin integrating their location-based data into their existing marketing platforms, enabling them to learn even more about their customers and incorporate these learnings across all marketing channels.

How Valuable is Social Data?

I just read an article on Mashable which began with a quote from CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, stating “I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter Election,”.  I immediately thought that the article was going to be about social analytics and the power of information available freely online through social commentary.

However as I read down it turns out the article was more about Twitter being an essential platform for reaching voters in next years USA presidential election. I agree that this is the case. Something I have been looking a lot at recently is the future of social TV. We have all heard the figures bashed about but what it comes down to is simple. Most people watch TV with another device in their hand (smart phone, laptop, tablet). Whilst the availability of more content online is potentially driving people away from traditional TV in certain areas, live events such as sport, entertainment shows like The X factor and news events such as presidential debates are being complimented by the ability of viewers to participate in the social commentary as it happens. People want to find out what other people are thinking. I think more times than not what they are really looking for is confirmation or justification of what they are thinking!

This is something the candidates in the upcoming election will have to bear in mind. After a debate held in 1960 between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon people polled who had listened in on radio felt Nixon was the clear winner, while people who watched on TV felt Kennedy won. This is because Kennedy’s youthful good looks stood out against a tired, unshaven and disheveled Nixon. During this years campaigns candidates will have to  realise that a social commentary will take place on twitter as well as in the media. If a candidate makes a mistake, people will talk about it. Not after the event, but right when it happens. This can strongly through off a perception and sway opinion.

Twitter. Social commentary. Presidential debate

But coming back to what I originally thought the article was about. How much of a picture can we build up of future events based on social media analytics? I attended the Get Social Conference last year where James Ainsworth from SDL international gave a talk. SDL provide a comprehensive social analytic platform which no doubt costs a pretty penny. James was able to study data freely available online in relation to first the X factor and then the nominations for Time’s person of the year. Now it would be close to impossible to predict the winner of the X factor from the outset. That’s because public perception changes and people haven’t had enough time to make a decision. But as the competition went on and the less candidates there were, the data was there clear to see. With 6 candidates left more people were talking about Matt Cardle ( This was 2010 results), more often and more positively than any of the other singers. The same thing principle applied to this years Time person of the year, where a clear front runner could be found by analyzing what people said.

Both these examples show that where there is a definitive limited number of options available for people to vote, a very clear picture can be built up using data online. I have no doubt that harnessing this information will prove a big advantage to whichever candidate can do it best.

A final thought. With Facebook about to float publicly, it will be interesting to see if whether financial transparency brought on by regulations for public companies, reveals more information about how they use our data. I know they use it as a basis for targeted advertising on their social network platform, but man, with Information being power and them having so much of it, I have no doubt that its been used in other means too!