41 posts categorized "interactive creative"

November 05, 2013

But what if they leave my site?!

Small- to mid-sized companies may have a heck of a time getting attention. Because of their size, they likely don't have the resources to afford integrated, enterprise-level solutions, and therefore rely on third parties to fulfill certain functions in a potential customer's web experience. These third party solutions may, in the short term, take users to a different domain or subdomain. They may or may not include:

  • eCommerce storefront
  • Loyalty programs
  • Application process

And small- to mid-sized companies aren't alone. Even larger companies looking to be efficient with their budgets may run a trial program and hope to curtail some of the up-front development costs by leaning on the companies that specialize in these sorts of things. 

So the question inevitably arises -- When people try to access these services, should we open a new window/tab, or should we direct them to the service in the same window/tab?

Marketing professionals tend to think that they lose something if the user navigates away from their site. Over the years, they've learned to focus on the wrong things.

Let's go ahead and put that baby to rest. People will leave your site. They will always leave your site. In fact, they'll probably spend most of their time on sites other than yours. Now relax. And focus instead on delighting your customer. 

If you really think there is an opportunity to delight your users by increasing their pageviews and time on site (and there may be), give them something that delights them. Don't annoy them by making it difficult to manage their windows and tabs.

How annoying is it? In my years of observing and moderating usability studies, I've met people who have expressed...

  • ...satisfaction that a link opened in the same window
  • ...satisfaction that a link opened in a new window
  • ...disappointment that a link opened in a new window

What I've never once seen is someone who has expressed disappointment that a link opened in the same window. 

Ultimately, how you handle outside links depends on a number of factors that I won't go into here, but don't automatically assume that linking them off is going to harm your brand. - Cam Beck @cambeck


August 05, 2010

It's Alive!

In my latest article for Insights from the Click Here Blog, I was happy to reference one of my favorite movies from childhood, Young Frankenstein, starring one of my favorite actors, former Marine Gene Hackman. As a little afternoon diversion, here is his scene from the movie.

When you get a chance, stop by to learn the 3 ways to make your undead website sing and dance. - Cam Beck

October 20, 2009

Beware of Zombies

Facing a deadline for my contribution to the Click Here blog, I finally settled down on a subject. However, it was a bit different from the one I previously said I'd write about. John Keehler asked to see it before I posted it, so I took the opportunity to tell him that I had changed subjects, but -- not to worry -- he'd love it.

"Is it about zombies," he asked.

And I thought about it.

No, it really wasn't, but it with a tweak here and an insertion there -- it very well could be. Or at least I could use them as an analogy to make the point.

Home pages have historically been a hotbed of contentious debate.  Because of this, they are what Steve Krug called “The First Casualty of War.”

Why are they so controversial?

Because everyone wants a piece of the action. Because organizations typically work in silos, different departments feel slighted if their discipline isn’t “adequately” represented on the home page. One would think by all the name-calling and weepy eyes that the home page is kind of a big deal.

And they’re right. The home page is – kind of – a big deal. But not for the reasons people tend to get worked up about. After all, typically, only 40% of traffic to a website comes through the home page.

But as a consequence of their inability to set boundaries and priorities, they compromise the very purpose of the page. Every piece of real estate is up for grabs. The result of all the haggling may actually, as Krug suggests, kill the home page. But unlike a typical dead thing, it doesn’t go away. Like a zombie, it is reanimated into an unrecognizable abomination of its formal self.

Read the rest of Your Home Page is a Zombie at the Click Here blog. - Cam Beck

May 08, 2009

Steve Krug: Keeping it Real

April 23, 2009

Great Marketing by Way of ... Interruption?

"Friction" in physics refers to resistance between two or more things. In interface design, it refers to the resistance a user experiences when trying to accomplish a task. Companies often ask that a process or flow's friction be reduced -- what they call making the experience "seamless."  However, seams have their uses, and reducing it too much in the interface can actually cause cognitive friction that makes the experience more confusing and less enjoyable. Though we typically interruption marketing on this blog, introducing interruption at key intervals in a user's experience can actually increase customer satisfaction and delight.

Why We Hate Interruptions
In the course of their day, American's are supposedly exposed to over 3,000 marketing messages, and most of them are irrelevant to their actual needs. Even with demographics research and the various things marketers do to "target" a customer, successfully communicating with large numbers of people requires a wide reach and heavy repetition.

John Wanamaker famously said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half." I think he was being optimistic.

We hate interruptions because they stop us from doing what we intended to do. Interruptions stop us from watching our favorite show. They stop us from reading the article we wanted to read (See ad below for an example of an interruption ad on USA Today's website -- I wanted to see the weather).


Advertising is not the only troublemaker. So is clever for clever's sake -- such as that 30 second Flash animation the user must sit through just to access the otherwise awesome site you built. Is it worth the wait (or the effort it takes to find the "skip intro" button, if you included one)?

You'd better hope so, but one way or the other, they'll make up their mind in just a few seconds, and they could be wrong.

Why not just build the site for people instead of for clever?

Why We Need Interruptions
It's often good to let people know when something has ended and when something else begins.

For instance, say you want to buy a pair of shoes from Zappos. You click on shoes, Oxfords (under Mens Shoes), and then finally the pair of shoes you want. You select a size and add it to your cart. What happens?

The system has to somehow inform you that what you wanted to do (add the item to your cart) actually occurred, so it takes you to your shopping cart and lets you decide what to do next.


(This isn't the only way to accomplish this, but it serves the example's purpose).

A system should always provide clear, concise, visual feedback about where the user is -- even if necessity demands interruption.

But Hey, Nobody's Perfect
Although I used Zappos as an example of how to correctly interrupt someone, I could have just as easily used them as an example of how not to do it. I'm not a big fan of their checkout process.

(It isn't terrible. It just could be better.)

If you wanted to purchase the shoes at Zappos, the system would give you a pretty strong example of what not to do: It forces you to either call or to create an account.


Except for a password, all of the information Zappos needs to create an account they also collect when they get your billing and contact information.

It makes good sense to give the user a very easy option to create an account, store the personal data and therefore reduce buying friction for future purchases. However, they ought not require the user create an account, since it is not as necessary to complete a purchase as it would be required for, say, a Netflix purchase (which is membership-based anyway).

Still, Zappos has been pretty successful. They scored higher in satisfaction and purchase intent (78) than the average for top 100 online apparel & accessories retailers (74), and their revenues from web sales ($850,000,000) placed them at #27 in the 2008 Edition Top 500 Guide for Internet Retailers.

This tells us two things:

  1. Don't let perfection be the enemy of good. You can still be successful even if you aren't perfect.
  2. Everyone is vulnerable. If a retailer were to come along to make shopping for books remarkably easier than it is at Amazon (literally: easily enough for people to make remarks about it), with enough time, they could take some chips at Amazon's market share.

Bear in mind, though, that everyone is watching, and it's a copycat Web. If you're successful, it won't be long before other retailers follow suit.

As the Amazon experience clearly shows, the more quickly you're able to reduce the buying friction for repeat customers and get them used to your system, the more difficult (and costly) it will be for competitors to break your customers from the systems to which they've become accustomed. Changing would just cause too much of the wrong kinds of friction.

So How is This Marketing, Exactly?
Whether you actually sell anything online or not, your website may be the first and only interaction your audience has with your company. You need to make a good impression by delivering something of value that makes sense according to your business strategy. 

While there are many ways you can and should reduce friction in this process, there are going to be times that you will want to reintroduce it. Be courteous. Interrupt only when doing so will aid in the user's understanding of where they are. Those seams caused by judicious interruptions are useful. Don't neglect them. - Cam Beck

March 23, 2009

Good design isn't just pretty, it's beautifully useful

Here's a video of Dan Willis' address at this year's SXSW in Austin, TX. If you're in any way involved in design of websites in particular or problem solving in general, watch it. Be sure to let us know what you think.

- Cam Beck

March 16, 2009

The Ostrich Approach to Interface Design


I saw this Dilbert comic over the weekend. I looked it up today to print it out and hang at my desk and noticed that dilbert.com actually allows people to embed the image in their websites.

I was so impressed by this venture into distributable content when others seem to be looking for ways to lock down their content or charge for it, I thought I'd share it here.

Way to go, Dilbert! - Cam Beck

January 30, 2009

Ambivalence is the price of innovation

At a recent professional gathering, our speaker disparaged the "best practices" argument because, as professionals, we should advise to aim for something better than what everyone else is doing. "Best practices" is the entry fee. Innovation is the goal. I understand her point, but there are instances (particularly amidst the group of interface and application designers and developers she was speaking to), when "best practices" do indeed have an important role in building a company's brand.

When a Best Practice Isn't Enough

(Excerpted from an email to Cece Solomon-Lee)
In the late 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell his telephone patent to Western Union for $100,000. They refused, believing the telephone to be a novelty — a kids toy — and focused on more "practical" pursuits such as multiplexing telegraph lines. Two  years later, they would have paid $25 million for Bell’s patent.

At the time, Western Union — and everyone else for that matter — knew so completely that the infrastructure did not support everyone having a telephone line run to their home, that they could not imagine the potential for Bell's device.

Buying into such unproven technology was not a "best practice," and as a result, they missed out on a huge opportunity -- perhaps THE opportunity of the century.

When a Best Practice Is a Best Practice

Graphical user interfaces built for the public — in websites or applications — present a challenge not unlike Western Union's, because of the need for differentiation, each one has unique properties.

Since normally the user is seeking the content he hopes to get on your site and because he visits a lot of sites, he doesn't want to learn a brand new interface each time. That would take too long to be useful.

The challenge, then, is to give each user something that is familiar without being ordinary. That is where "best practices" prove their utility and how good interface designers earn their money.

Many times decision-makers at companies charged with shepherding the website redesign process favor glitz and pizazz in the interface in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, their efforts would often be better spent developing either a useful, usable utility or unique and useful content within an interface that makes the content easy to access, transport, and share. - Cam Beck

January 21, 2009

The Thing About Hope

Hope2228331745_8a8b55f1be_o Seth Godin claims that marketers sell hope. I suppose it's true, in a way, but we should make the distinct point that the only thing worse than not selling hope at all is selling hope and not delivering the results the hope demands.

Usability: An opportunity to promise hope and deliver the expected result

Marketers aren't the only ones who sell hope, by the way. This should remind us of another of Godin's maxims: Marketing is too important to be left to the professional marketers.

Periodically I must explain to people -- clients and managers alike -- how a usable website improves their brand. Almost all of them politely listen, often they believe it, but occasionally someone in authority will laugh at the concept and insist replacing that usability with marketing fluff that no one will read anyway.

They call it "branding."

I've read enough by now that I can cite chapter and verse of several usability experts who have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that this is most often useless and frustrating. But, to these few, such objections are futile, and they are quick to dismiss the studies carried out by "usability experts" because, hey, after all, they're the "brand experts."

But if we're to take Godin's advice to heart, then we'll realize that no qualified individual comes to a website without purpose -- a hope in finding value in the form of information, entertainment, a little of both -- any number of things.

We have it in our power to make it easy on those people to find an answer they have every right to expect to find easily.

Or we can make it hard.

If we make it hard, they'll either muddle through it for as long as their hope reservoirs still contain enough goodwill to continue, or they'll deplete their supply of goodwill, leave the site, and never come back (or at least think twice about sticking around for as long as they did the first time, if they do).

So by all means, whatever it is you do for a living, sell hope. But make sure you understand what people really hope for, rather than what you hope to do in order to justify to yourself that you're providing real value. - Cam Beck

January 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Teams

Polamalu-si-cover Troy Polamalu is one of the most versatile safeties in pro football. A deeply humble and religious man, he's just as likely to pray for his opponent's health as he is to knock the snot out of them or return an interception for a touchdown -- and attribute it to "luck." Historically, he has played more like a linebacker with the range of a safety, but this year, he's played more like a safety who can hit like a linebacker. When asked if he prefers playing this way more than he enjoys playing as he did in previous seasons, in what can only be described as vintage Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers all-pro safety said, "I prefer winning."

The result? Partly as a result of Polamalu's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the AFC Championship game against the stout Baltimore Ravens, the 14-4 AFC north and conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers are heading for their 7th Super Bowl, and their 2nd in 4 years.

A Texas Ranger throws a tantrum

Michael Young is a gifted baseball player for the Texas Rangers. He's also well-paid. He makes over $6 million per year.

I don't watch baseball, but I've heard on ESPN Radio that he was a phenomenal 2nd baseman who acquiesced to being moved to shortstop, where he also played very well.

But when the Rangers asked he move to 3rd base, to make room for an up-and-coming shortstop team management might help the team win, Young had enough. He asked to be traded rather than move to a position he didn't think he could thrive in.

In what I doubt is a coincidence, the Rangers finished the 2008 season with more losses than wins. Young reluctantly agreed to move, but reports say he isn't happy about it.

Are you Michael Young or Troy Polamalu?

Are you married to your tactics, or would you rather you (or your clients) simply win? 

There is no panacea of marketing. A lot of marketers in this space -- who read this and other blogs in our blogroll -- believe in what they do. They look at the landscape of traditional marketing and witness  account executives and brand creatives who go on exotic "business" trips on the client's dime and put out tv ads (sometimes even entertaining, award-winning work) that simply don't solve the client's problems.

They resist pushing the client over to another tactic or medium because that's not what they do. That is handled by a different department, and pushing it off will mean fewer exotic business trips, or less money for their team's expense account.

Maybe the right solution is being handled by a different agency altogether, and they're too worried about their own survival to countenance the loss of revenue to a rival agency.

The same can be said of more "progressive" marketers, too -- those who so fanatically believe in Internet advertising or social media and modern Internet technologies that they eschew all traditional methods of communication.

The right solution is the one that helps your company and your clients succeed. If you haven't considered alternatives to the tactics you offer simply because you don't offer them, then hire someone who can. You can decide what to do about it later.

Your clients will appreciate (and reward) your dedication to their well-being. - Cam Beck