We have a new video to share with you. It’s the all-too-common story of a company that goes to their ad or marketing agency with what they want. And the agency gives them what they ask for.
Sounds OK so far, right? Not really. Many clients have incorrect assumptions about what they need. Most advertising and marketing agencies don’t offer or do UX research to determine what the real problem is. Oh, you think your customers don’t like your graphs? Here are new graphs. But what if the problem isn’t the graphs?
A UX agency is designed (no pun intended) to figure out the problems as well as the solutions. The problem you think you have may not be the problem you actually have… or perhaps not the only problem.
More after the video. Enjoy!
That story comes from every day life.
We’ve freelanced and contracted at enough ad agencies to know what really goes on… no matter what they’ve told you. Sure, some of them have UX people on staff. But most don’t. They reach out to their revolving door of consultants when a UX project arrives.
However, the most painful would be the agencies where we watch a CEO or important sales guy tell the client UX isn’t that important. It’ll just take time and add expense, so we can just blow past it.
Or yeah, we do UX. One of our artists will make very pretty wireframes. Some agencies where we’ve worked actually believe that UX is really just wireframes, anybody can make those, so they might as well be something pretty created by an artist.
Your UX project deserves a UX specialist.
You can’t go to your main doctor for everything. Sometimes you need a specialist. Your marketing agency might be great at lots of things. But is UX really their strength? And who’s doing the work? It might be me, and wow, I’ve seen what agencies bill for me. I know you can get me for less. 🙂
You need a UX agency. Ptype is here for your company and projects. Whatever your budget, whatever your timeline and deadlines. We do it.
A friend recently asked me what I thought of background videos on websites. I often think they are distracting. I think of the PayPal website. It used to have a background video of a woman using a smartphone. What did that tell me? How did that enhance my experience? Could it be a distraction from the real messages on the page? But it’s already gone, replaced by a static stock image.
My friend sent me to look at a website of a company I’d never heard of. Their “who are we” page had a background video. The amazing thing was that I still didn’t know what they do. The video could have been real people who work there and really their office… or it could be stock images or actors. I have no idea.
The video is vanilla. It’s just people walking around, looking at devices, being pretty pleased, and agreeing with each other. But what does that tell me about the company? And since my brain wants to look at the movie (and not read words), is it a distraction? Or does it enhance the experience?
Let’s Watch It
I Camtasia’ed a video on a webpage. I have no idea who this company is. They might be the best company in the world at what they do. I don’t know. But before they take this off their site, I wanted to share it so we can ask ourselves some important UX, branding, attention span, and other questions.
You’ll also see when I start paging down, the “dynamic elements” that pop up as you scroll don’t pop up. Why? I was hitting page down instead of smoothly scrolling. Not everybody smoothly scrolls.
Video has no sound, so don’t turn your volume up. And YouTube picked that still as the pre-play image.
What’s The Point?
What’s the point of having that video there? I kept waiting for it to tell me something about the company. This is the Who We Are/What We Do page, and I’m not sure what they do. They make information available to you quickly and you can make dashboards. I didn’t know I wasn’t getting information fast enough and in too few dashboards. With the cloud and SaaS and so many apps, what info am I having a problem accessing? How will using whatever you are change my day or processes? I get the feeling this site is for people who already know they want this company.
Videos are “in style” right now, but we’re already watching sites take them OFF their pages. Square and others have already taken the parallax off their long scroll pages.
Visual design styles change once or twice a year. If you chase trends, make sure you have time and money budgeted to redo the visuals when the style changes again. Last year, you rushed to build a parallax page with background videos. This year, you’ll budget to undo those and replace them.
Bonus: Tell Me Something Meaningful
It might have gone by quickly in the video, but the page has the following description of their product:
… organization-wide platform capable of aligning your company, its conversations, and its actions around business objectives that deliver real business results. And it transforms the way you manage business.
Ptype is a UX agency capable of aligning your company, its conversations, and its actions around business objectives that deliver real business results. And we transform the way you’ll manage your business.
Could every SaaS, enterprise tool, or consultancy say that about themselves? Copy like this doesn’t really sell me on what you do, how you are different, and where you will change my work life. You might also choose words that are more compelling than “capable.” And why start a sentence with and? 🙂
You’re on a website you like. Maybe you’re reading an article. When all of a sudden…
I don’t have to show you too many of these. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about popups and overlays that stop me from reading the article and ask me to do something else. Typically, it’s “join our email mailing list” or “like us on Facebook.”
Is this “good marketing”?
Recently, a friend asked me which WordPress plugin I’m using for these kinds of popups. I said I don’t have them on the Ptype website (or anywhere). I believe that nearly 100% of the time people see those, they are frustrated, NOT happy to see the overlay, and just want to X it out as fast as possible.
I asked my friend how HE feels when he is on a website that interrupts what he’s doing to try to get him to join a mailing list, like them on Facebook, or something else.
He replied, that they were “good marketing.” I would disagree. To me, “good marketing” is something that is successful in making a user do what you want them to do (in the name of your business goals). How many people joined that email mailing list so they can be emailed who knows how often compared to how many closed that popup as fast as they could?
Once upon a time, these overlays didn’t come with close buttons. Remember those days? Remember when you HAD to join a mailing list to see certain content? And then you struggled to get off that mailing list later?
We can’t do that to people anymore. We can only offer them the option to do what we want (join the mailing list, like us on Facebook, etc…) rather than put up a brick wall with one way out.
“Good marketing” can be measured.
If you think the popup is good marketing, I suggest you measure it. This is something we CAN measure and know. This isn’t a guess or anecdote. Decide what percentage of visitors should be doing what your popup says as a measure of popup success. Perhaps you believe 10% of page visitors should sign up for the email list. Perhaps you expect 20% of your visitors to like your Facebook page because an overlay pushed that on them.
Bonus: also measure over X period of time how many of those new mailing list subscribers UNsubscribe. How many of those new FB page likes UNlike you. Because real marketing success would be that new potential customer who opts in to hear from you and STAYS, right?
Come up with what you will measure, how you will measure it, how you define success vs failure, and how much time you will give it. And then determine for REAL if that’s good marketing and working for you… or if it’s mostly an intrusion that people want out of their way ASAP.
If you are not reaching your marketing goals with popups and overlays, improve the UX and remove them.
Google Helpouts shuts down on April 20th, 2015. I was in the group of the first instructors they approved for the platform. I predicted the failure of the Helpouts platform early and often, but not here. 🙂 I hoped Google would get it together.
First let me say that I appreciated the opportunity to be among the first batch of instructors. It not only lead to me putting video courses on Udemy but then lead to me decide to start my Masters degree this year so I can teach college in my field of expertise (on the side or eventually full time). It was the first domino that made me realize how much I LOVE teaching… and how else can I provide instruction.
While I am grateful for that, I’m also disappointed by the outcome, even though it’s the outcome I thought would happen.
When I look at why any company or startup fails, I am looking at the following criteria:
The concept (which often sucks but I think this is a good concept).
The execution and UX (which were bumpy but had some good things going for it). This also includes does the product or service rely heavily on people changing the way they do things now. Because people rarely like to change how they do something now, especially if they are telling themselves it works for them.
The marketing (which was close to non-existent from what I saw).
The user response (which seemed to range from abusive to teachers to thrilled people who used it with some frequency).
The competition (which is vast from the point of view of easily-accessible online education but not vast from the perspective of live video-based possibly-paid help).
In this case, you have working against Helpouts:
* Competition. I am still more likely to read discussion forums and watch YouTube videos than pay someone to help me over video. Yes, Helpouts worked for some of you. I didn’t do a Helpout on singing lessons (though I could have) because posture is too important to singing. I need to be WITH someone and really take in everything they are doing to do it right.
And when you don’t require someone in person, will forums and YouTube videos suffice? What about posting to Facebook asking people how to do or fix something? Forums, videos, and Facebook are great especially if you want to get a lot of different ideas on how to do something.
I knew about Helpouts and *I* didn’t use them. I went to local cooking classes. I watched videos on installing that accessory on my motorcycle. I contacted tech support and waited for answers. I asked the guys at Orchard Supply Hardware the best way to do it.
* Execution, UX, and Natural Human Behavior. Helpouts required a new behavior, and that’s one of the hardest things to overcome in any new product or service. “People need us, but will need to learn a new way of looking for help, asking for help, and (potentially) paying for help to get it.”
I see Craigslist ads for people saying basically, “OMG please help me right now with Axure,” which is the software on which I train people in real life, online, and through Helpouts. So people are hitting Craigslist before they’re hitting Helpouts.
There were also serious UX problems. I created an hour-long Helpout that Helpouts consistently booked as 15 minutes. I once had Helpouts charge someone for three hours at $90/hr. They FREAKED out at the charge to their card, and I ended up with NO Helpout (cancelled out of fear of the charge) and spending a LOT of time being customer service (because they were sure I charged the card, I had their money, etc…).
Years ago, there was a wave of angry eBay sellers who hated eBay so much, they were going to sell on a site called Bonanza. You probably haven’t heard of it. You’re not shopping online at a place you never heard of. So why sell where your audience isn’t shopping? Sounds like wasted time and potentially wasted fees if you’re charged to list item or have a “store.”
Bonanza is unlikely to get people to drop their eBay and Amazon habit and start shopping there. Helpouts wasn’t able to get people to drop their other habits of pursuing help, so it didn’t become someone’s new habit.
Which is also because of…
* Marketing. For the most part, nobody knew about Helpouts. Google didn’t do a Google job in making sure they knew about it. Google definitely has the power to get Helpouts in front of anybody using Chrome, Android, Gmail, Google search, or other Google products. Someone looking for a how to on YouTube could have been shown messages that a live trainer is ready to help with this topic. Without “going there,” how will people even know about this? I know Google did a little, but if they had done “enough,” it might not be shutting down.
I also knew marketing was a major afterthought when I saw two things:
1) Google seemed to expect us teachers to spread the word (as the main method of marketing). We were given codes. We were given contests. We had to let people know about it. Hey, you’re freaking Google. You tell people about it!
Bonanza did this too. You’ve never heard of it. That’s because they told sellers YOU promote it. You tell people to come to your Bonanza store. Unless your product or service is naturally viral in some way, don’t expect what are basically your customers to do your marketing.
2) My lovely green hoodie that I love so much didn’t say Google. But more importantly, it didn’t have a URL. I think one main thing we’ve all learned about marketing since 1996 was get your URL on stuff so curious people know where to go to check it out. The hoodie said Helpouts (whatever that is since it had no slogan), no URL, and what looks like a waving dude grabbing my butt. 🙂
That’s not helping visibility or awareness. To me, it shows me what kind of attention Google is giving the visibility and awareness of Helpouts. If we send instructors cool cards and a nice hoodie, THEY will spread the word for us.
Bonus problem: competition for your instructors plus the marketing “problem.”
If you want ME to market it and send people to Helpouts, but Helpouts takes a cut, well why should I send people to Helpouts? Why not send them to Hangouts or Join.Me or something else, and work out payment before or after the session? The main advantage of Helpouts was: I KNOW I will get paid. Working with people directly, I have to worry that they will stiff me, which is solved by getting them to pay up front. I have new people pay up front and recurring students pay before or after, though many now pay for “Session Packages” up front and we work against their pre-paid package.
Udemy handles this interestingly. If I send someone from my website or URL to my Udemy video course, I get 100% of the income and Udemy takes NO cut. If they come from browsing the Udemy site, Udemy takes a cut. If they come from an affiliate link, the affiliate and Udemy take a cut (and I end up with very little). That would have been more enticing for Helpouts… let me use your platform but let me keep the money when I bring the customer there. That’s MY customer.
If you build it, don’t expect me (your customer) to market it. I have no horse in the race of your product’s success. I was doing OK before you and will do OK if you go extinct. Don’t expect me to be as dedicated as you are and promote it with all my might and budget.
IN CONCLUSION, to me, this is unfortunate. Google had the platform built, the teachers checked out, and people willing to give time and expertise for free or paid. Google had Google in its pocket to potentially make sure everybody knows about this. This SHOULD have gone better.
Perhaps we can try this again someday when it has a fresh plan behind it. It needs a major marketing plan to ensure visibility and awareness that can lead to traction and adoption. Without that plan, what’s the point?
This has been a marketing tactic for some time. I can think of web pages I saw at least 10 or 15 years ago that wouldn’t let you “learn more” until you agreed to join their email mailing list and in same cases also give up your mailing address. I never thought it was a good practice.
Businesses and services don’t really connect more with people they force through hoops and obstacles. Especially in this modern world of quick unsubscribing from email lists, I can easily join your list with an email address I made 5 minutes ago, get what I came to get, and never check that Hotmail again. Or unsubscribe. And then what do you REALLY have? You didn’t grow your list. You just taught me that if I want to work with you, you will put self-serving interests first, and delay me getting what I came to get. Maybe I can get what you have from someone else who will act like my time and personal information are more valuable.
Another of these approaches is like-gating on Facebook. In case you’re new to the term, this is where you offer something to people but they can only see it or have it if they like your Facebook fan or business page.
The interesting thing about that is that it assumes that people who are interested in your business don’t already like your Facebook fan page. So either your Facebook page isn’t that interesting or people aren’t really that into you (or something else). Unliking a fan page is really easy. One click, maybe 2, and it’s easy to find. Which means it only ends up serving as a temporary obstacle.
And all those likes can work against you.
Facebook looks at your fan page and sees how many people interact with it. Do you get likes? Comments? Shares? And when you get a low percentage of those, Facebook says aha this page isn’t that interesting, let’s show it to fewer people. That means that if you have more likes but from mostly uninterested people, you are potentially killing your ratio of engagement. Now, instead of 20 people out of 100 being involved in your page, it’s 25 out of 200. That will actually work against you on Facebook, where algorithms rule, and in a bad way.
Facebook previously dropped the hammer on forcing people to approve a Facebook app (that grabs all your personal info and possibly your friends’ personal info) in order to see or get something or enter a contest. Now, you won’t be able to force people to like something to get the scoop, get something, or enter a contest.
That’s a win for user experience. Let your Facebook fans or mailing list subscribers be people who naturally want to opt in and might stick around and be engaged.
A consulting client recently told me that the point of his upcoming marketing consultant’s campaign idea was buzz.
I define “buzz” as people talking about you. People mentioning you. People saying, “Hey did you hear about this website?”
I may be old fashioned, but if I’m going to spend money on a marketing campaign, I think the goal should be something that drives the bottom line a bit more. New customers. More sales.
And more importantly, I’d want to be able to track this. If our goal is buzz, how are we tracking buzz? Is there such a thing as bad buzz? Will we track that? How much good buzz do we need to feel like this campaign were a success? How will we decide if the campaign is a failure?
And if someone follows the buzz to your website, are we tracking how those people got there? Will we know when new customers or sales come because of buzz from this marketing campaign?
To Me, Buzz Might Be The Consolation Prize
Like oh, you barely got any customers or sales but boy we saw some tweets out there! You got some buzz! It’s got a consolation prize ring to it.
And Without Tracking, What Do We Really Know?
If this isn’t easy to track, what will we really know when this campaign is over? Without coded URLs, will we really know who generated what buzz? Who are the influencers? Who generated sales? Through which social network this happened?
Because you can’t rely on a hashtag only. That’s just seen on Twitter. Maybe on Facebook, but only for public posts. If I Facebook post to friends only, even if I use your hashtag, you’ll never see it. If I use a coded URL that measures who hits your website because I (and only I) shared it, now we’re cooking with gas.
So I say upgrade your marketing from “we want to generate buzz” to “we want to actually improve our bottom line.” That might be more new customers. It could be more sales to existing customers. It could be lots of things that can be measured and put money in the bank. Buzz should be the consolation prize, not the goal.
A client recently connected me with his marketing person, hoping we’d work together directly. I had a number of questions for her. She seemed to be offended by the questions and rather than answer them, she sent a bunch of emails trying to throw me under the bus. Before we even worked together. Classy! I don’t take kindly to games and misdirection, so I called her out on it. And you can imagine how that went.
Why would she react so strongly to an email with questions? Because in my opinion (and you can disagree), some marketing and SEO consultants hope you will never ask these questions. Marketing and SEO can sometimes be bottomless pits of investment. Did they work? Not sure. Why aren’t we sure? What are we tracking?
Make this easy for yourself by asking the right questions.
Here’s basically what I emailed her to ask:
What are you tracking in this campaign?
(This particular marketing campaign was going to be a contest via social media shares so I also wanted to ask) Do we know what customers or sales will come from these social shares? Will we be able to identify key influencers after the contest has run its course?
How will you be able to tell the difference between sales and new customers this contest generates vs. sales and new customers that might be generated some other way (like SEO efforts)?
Do we have a baseline for how many new customers and $sales$ [client] tends to make in a week?
What are you defining as success criteria for this campaign? How much per week, month, date range would [client] have to see in sales, customers, or something else above his baseline?
What other ways are you measuring success vs failure of a campaign?
These are absolutely fair questions that you should feel comfy asking marketing consultants, SEO guys, and other people you bring in. Ask these or appropriate variations of them. Also notice that I didn’t tell her how to define success, what the goals should be, or what she needs to track. I asked what her plan is.
Because without these answers, how will you know what’s working, what’s not working, how, or why?
How will you know what kind of marketing campaign to try next if you don’t have a way to measure what worked or an agreed-upon definition of what success would look like?
Without these agreed upon (and hopefully in writing), marketing and SEO can end up a money pit where consultants tell you we’ll just have to keep doing it, try it again, try something different, etc… Your consultant might keep getting paid to generate reports, analyse data, and advise on next steps. But how will you really know if goals are met if you never agree on goals?
I lose a lot of trust for someone who won’t answer ANY of these questions, not a one. In addition to that, this person tried to make me look bad to the client in emails she sent him privately (that he let me know about) as well as emails that went between us on which the client was copied. She did a few other dirty things too that she was probably hoping I wouldn’t notice. I’m the type of person that watches the hand the magician doesn’t want you watching.
I’m definitely never in the mood to watch a consultant fleece my client by wanting to run untracked marketing campaigns that have no goals and no definition of success or failure. You have a right to quality consultants. If they won’t answer these questions, take your business elsewhere. There are plenty of marketing people out there who will answer these questions and work with you to craft goals and definitions of success.
About a week ago, I stumbled on the So Easy Rider product when searching for how people attach smartphones/GPS/satnav to a Piaggio MP3 (which I drive). I found a YouTube video where a British guy had attached a So Easy Rider v3 to his Piaggio MP3. I was sold!
I then had to make my way out to Google to find who sells this and how much it is. Amazon had it from a Chinese seller so I’d get it in X weeks (who really knows). And there was a French site. The French site was so strange that screen shots won’t tell the story of the interaction. So I shot a video! Enjoy my first video blog entry. 🙂
Long story short: Ordered it from Amazon. Hoping to see it by the end of the month. 🙂