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Wireframing: Yes, You Can! (And Should)

5 Oct

The Blueprint for Web Success

designer drawing website development wireframe

bradley1

Guest Contributor:
Bradley Williamson, Interactive Developer

In putting together a new website or app, there are many business decisions to be made along the way. Sometimes businesses are tempted by change for the sake of change, adding in tech just because it’s cool, or a “modern” design just because it’s trendy.

But if your website is neither functional nor user-friendly, it’s not going to increase sales, traffic, or conversions. Though there is a time and a place for focusing on fanciful designs and flashing animations, the heart and soul of your web user experience is what matters, and wireframing can begin to solidify that. Build from a blueprint using these tips, and your website will be fleshed out with purposeful simplicity.

Wireframing 101

A wireframe is a basic, visual concept of a user interface that defines key user goals and content hierarchy. Often, they’re unrefined sketches or concepts made on grid paper, whiteboards, desktop programs, and other web-based tools. There is no perfect way to perform this vital step.

Wireframes are done with “block diagrams” to house content.

Wireframes are done with “block diagrams” to house content.

 

Acting as a “blueprint,” wireframes serve as the bones of your design and development processes. Wireframing should come after discovery and before getting into the nitty-gritty details of design.

Wireframe concepts are meant to be thoughtful, fast and fluid, representing a kind of visual brainstorm for internal and external teams. They enrich the conversation around how users will engage with your interface. Wireframes help answer those brewing questions of functionality by taking the abstract ideas from the planning phase and arranging them meaningfully.

Talking with a “Wiry” Voice

Wireframes are often developed in black and white; it’s not the time for discussing color palettes, font choices, imagery, and even branding. The discussion around wires includes:
Content: deciding what should and shouldn’t be displayed
Information hierarchy: arranging that content meaningfully
Functionality: investigating potential action-oriented components
Structure: interconnecting all parts to work seamlessly together
Behavior: evaluating how the user is impacted in their product experience

Wireframing is a time-saver in the long-term, keeping usability headaches or graphical head-scratchers down the road at bay. In other words, you’ll know very early what’s going on your B2B site, where it’s going, and why it’s important. By taking the time to work through wireframes, it’s much easier to throw out large blocks of content and alter key sections, instead of having to change the design concept down the road.

Wiring in the Right People

User interface and user experience designers or information architects are primarily responsible for the creation of wireframes by balancing the larger goals against the user’s needs. During this time, wireframing can inspire the creative and development processes. Developers and designers will use the wires to reduce the learning curve around site implementations and enhancements. Internal project managers assess the wires to ensure the process is within scope and strategy.

Down to the Wire: Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever jumped into a website and realized it was challenging to navigate, or been part of a website development project that went awry, a wireframe should become your new best friend. The process of wireframing a website is a tried and true method to help tackle the challenges for your B2B website.

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Concoct the Perfect Recipe for B2B Personalization

21 Jun

B2B Buyers Seek Personalization Efforts

B2B_mix

It is no secret that personalization is essential when marketing to B2C buyers. In fact, according to a recent article, 80% of marketers believe personalized content is more effective. So then why is there a lack of personalization within B2B marketing? This is something that those in highly personal industries (like building products) must especially consider. One of the biggest challenges facing B2B personalized marketing is that there is no perfect recipe consisting of equal parts strategy, data, and technology usage. But as someone who knows a thing or two about making concoctions, here’s one that virtually any B2B marketer can use:

Take 1/3 Parts Strategy…

It is important to keep in mind that B2B buyers have different needs and desires than that of B2C buyers, and therefore they need to be approached differently. B2B buyers are more understanding as to how the industry works, and they are looking for transparency and recommendations, as well as content that will educate them and solve a problem.

According to an Accenture survey, 54% of B2B buyers want personalization and “personalized recommendations across interactions.” This allows you to establish a relationship with your client before a sale even takes place, creating loyalty amongst clients.

No matter how flashy your marketing ploys may be, they won’t mean anything to a customer if they don’t have a need or desire for it. Knowing your audience and their demographics, purchasing behaviors, motivations, and location can change how you garner content for each client.

Add 1/3 Parts Data…

To help capture useful data and to better understand your target audience, you can create a brief survey for them to fill out. When personalizing content for B2B buyers, including data attributes such as their name, company, and role within their company can be the deciding factor in whether or not your client is initially engaged. This can also be helpful when generating leads or creating a personalized lead-nurture campaign. It can even help you tailor emails to those specific buyers and even include imagery and links that will create a personalized touch.

Mix with 1/3 Parts Technology…

While content and strategy are essential to personalization, so is technology. According to Rapt Media, 94% of B2B buyers say better content technology is crucial to creating personalized content that is measured and optimized. So what does that mean? Technology can be used to simplify your company’s message and can be used across different platforms that relate to your audience. For example, content from whitepapers can be repurposed for short, digestible videos and then the audio from the video can be used to make a podcast for clients who don’t have the time in their day to watch a video.

Shake Well and Serve

Granted, my preferred concoctions usually involve a shaker and a cold glass, but the perfect personalized B2B marketing campaign can taste pretty satisfying. And with a fresh strategy that is geared toward B2B buyers, you can satisfy your customers’ needs while also gaining new revenue and retaining reoccurring revenue. All you need is three ingredients and a shaker.

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3 Reasons to Renovate Your Website (And 3 Sites That Are Getting It Right)

18 May

An Outdated Website May Have Bigger Consequences Than You Think

web design

ChrisGuest Contributor:
Chris McCutcheon, Interactive Manager

Websites. We see and interact with them every day, and it seems there is one for just about everything. As an interactive manager at ER Marketing, I’ve seen it all when it comes to websites—the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly.

Not too long ago I had someone ask me to look at their website. I pulled it up on my phone and nothing showed up. Thinking it was a little strange, I waited until I got home and found it on my iPad. Still nothing. I knew then that something was definitely going on with this site. She said it was new, so why wouldn’t it come up? Turned out the entire site had been done in Flash, which I discovered after I pulled it up on my laptop. She was extremely disappointed and had no idea the person she hired to do her website built it using old technology.

So, ask yourself a few questions about your own website. Does it look good on mobile? Is the site built in Flash? Still using clipart from 1999? Still relying on misguided keyword stuffing? Is it supporting your brand? Unless it’s been updated recently, it might be time to rethink your website.

Here are 3 reasons why it may be time to renovate your website:

1. It’s not mobile friendly.

  • Two-thirds (64%) of adults own a smartphone, which means if your site doesn’t render properly, or delivers a bad user experience, potential customers may go elsewhere.
  • Google will ding you. They announced last year that sites will be penalized in the rankings if they aren’t mobile friendly. According to research by online ad network Chitika, Google page one results enjoy a whopping 95% of all search traffic, while 91% of searchers never reach page two.

2. Unknown security vulnerabilities.

  • Security flaws affecting an older website are much more likely, as these sites rely on older technology.
  • Even if you might not have confidential information you are worried about being stolen, there are other reasons you should be concerned, like letting unfiltered data insert into your database. This can cause a high risk of SQL Injection, which leads to your site being hacked—and unwanted links being injected into your site.
  • If you use any kind of third-party software—meaning your IT department didn’t code it—you must make sure it is always up-to-date. Any outdated software with security flaws can cause your site to be at risk.

3. High page abandonment rate.

  • Many older sites take forever to load. Sure, you may love the large images and the huge slideshow, but it’s probably making your site lag. 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. [1] Google values the length of time someone stays on your page, so if your website has a high abandonment rate, your SEO will be negatively impacted as Google puts delivering the best and most relevant content to users first and foremost above all else.
  • Poor navigation. If the user doesn’t know what to do or where to go, you are missing out simply because there isn’t any clear direction for the user.
  • Many websites fail to deliver a clear sense of what the company offers. Unless you are a well-known brand, you need to let people know who you are and what you can offer them in a way they can understand and easily access.

Here are a few sites in the building products industry to inspire you and get you thinking about your own site:

Blu Homes

  • Site is responsive and mobile friendly
  • Good user experience
  • Nice, easy to navigate design

Royal Building Products

  • Loads fairly quickly, even with a full screen slider
  • Offers a clear sense of who the company is and what they offer
  • Displays well on mobile devices

Guardian Building Products

  • Utilizes a card-style layout for chunks of content
  • Mobile friendly
  • Easy to navigate

[1] https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

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Content Marketing & SEM: Stats Any B2B CMO Should See

5 May

Why Content Marketing Should Be Part of Your Digital Strategy

SEO and Content

Content marketing. Heard of it? If not, you probably haven’t been reading much Navigate-the-Channel. We’ve spoken a lot about how content is an incredibly effective B2B strategy to provide more information to customers at the early stages of their buyer’s journey, establish companies’ trust and expertise, and ultimately, drive more sales.

That’s all well and good, but there are other issues that B2B companies need to consider when it comes to their content strategies. Issues like Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, in which major search algorithm updates will affect the way search engines deliver the highest-quality results to their users. If your website can’t offer relevant content to those users, you can bet that your website will literally be bumped down the page, hidden under a pile of search results from companies that were just a little smarter than you about integrating content marketing into their strategies.

A recent article from Search Engine Land drew my attention because of its insights regarding content marketing and SEM. Here are a few standout facts that B2B companies should read before planning their content strategy:

  • More than 60-70% of content goes unused, meaning companies need to work to better understand who they’re writing for and why by conducting an audit of buyer personas and journeys.
  • B2B companies should prioritize utilizing a Content Management System (CMS) that integrates authors, topics, and keywords. For Adobe, switching to an SEO-friendly CMS resulted in a 307% increase in organic traffic within a year and a 287% increase in rankings on Page 1.
  • Don’t forget design—content needs to capture attention to be effective. Images, video, website design, and aesthetics are important contributing factors when it comes to “moving the needle” and shouldn’t be underestimated.

As Google continues to demand more and more from websites, it will become critically important that B2B companies fill their sites with the high-quality, relevant content users are searching for. You need to make sure that you’ve not only done the research to find out what your audience is looking for online, but that your content is written and created to deliver to those needs. SEO, therefore, is a critical component of your content marketing strategy.

Or it’s not. But if it’s not, you better enjoy Page 2.

 

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Lead Attribution & the Customer Journey (Part 1)

2 May

Use the Data Available to You to See the Whole Picture

Lead Generation

CoreyMorrisGuest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

Lead attribution and the customer journey. Yes, these are two of the most commonly used buzzwords in digital marketing right now. This is not a lazy blog post to latch onto what others are saying and to give you a fluffy, rosy version of how you should be considering both the customer journey and lead attribution to make your digital marketing drive results 10x over what you got last year. This blog is to make sure we’re all on the same page and using the data available to us to help make these topics attainable and realistic before we get too “pie in the sky” with our conceptual thinking.

But first, we must answer this question: what is lead attribution? Lead attribution is the practice of giving credit to the source who provided the lead. For example, if you are running a PPC campaign in Google AdWords and that person comes to a landing page on our site and completes the form, then they are a conversion—consequently, that lead gets attributed to PPC via AdWords.

This example sounds like typical and solid tracking; however, it could also be short-sighted when we’re talking about “last-click attribution.” By counting this lead as a lead specifically for AdWords PPC, we’re potentially not considering the other potential ways the user might have found us—and the other ways they interacted with our content before coming back. In this case, PPC is getting the credit.

The customer journey can be defined as the process a user takes to go from their initial step in researching, all the way to the point of conversion. If we’re using the Google AdWords PPC landing page form completion example noted above, then we’re also talking about how that same individual (yes, they’re a person, despite all of our “persona talk” about site visitors and users) ultimately decides to fill out a form, which is recorded as a conversion.

The challenge in all of this is that we don’t often work to connect the dots to attribute a lead to all the channels that had a role in the conversion— not just the one that received the last click. It can be tricky as it often isn’t linear or very trackable; however, that doesn’t let us off the hook. We have some data at our fingertips that helps us start the process of working toward building a system. If you have Google Analytics, then you have a tool that has two reports you should start looking at as your first step.

The first report in Google Analytics to get familiar with is the Multi-Channel Funnels Overview under the Conversions section. If you have conversion goals set up in your account, then you’ll have data in this report by default.

You can use the checkboxes to update the Venn diagram to mix and match, so you can understand how the different channels were involved in user journeys that ultimately led to a conversion. You can also see how many total assisted conversions there were.

The second report to take a look at is the Assisted Conversions report (also under the Conversions section in Google Analytics).

There’s a lot more you can do in this report. At a basic level, it shows a breakdown of assisted conversions, which are channels that were part of a user journey but didn’t get the last click or direct conversion at the end of the journey. If you have values set for your conversion goals or have eCommerce tracking on in Google Analytics then you also can see dollar values for each channel, which can be incredibly helpful in measuring the cost of your efforts against revenue generated. You can customize the data in this report by changing the number of days in the window prior to conversion as well as look at the value of first interaction versus last click.

Bonus: If you want to take another step and get into more advanced territory, take a look at the Attribution Model Comparison report in Google Analytics. There are some fun ways to compare models and see how the data and your perspective on conversions might change. We’ll get into this and go deeper with the next post in this series.

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