21 July 16 -

Big Digital Adelaide 2016.

With a huge selection of presenters covering a gargantuan spread of digitally focussed topics across an extensive 48-hour schedule, I could easily describe ‘Big Digital’ using those two words alone.

Although it might be fitting, a two word event wrap-up just wouldn’t be that interesting. Plus, it definitely couldn’t do justice to the variety of fascinating ideas on offer at the conference – with a smattering of industry leaders and luminaries talking all things SEO, paid search, social media marketing, blogging, and content development.

So, instead of writing a two word event wrap-up, I’m going to make like the SEO specialist I am and focus on two key words: user experience.

They’re not frequently mentioned in the same breath as SEO, but a couple of speakers managed to touch on some interesting techniques for improving user experiences through optimisation practices.

Here’s my take on those presentations, with Tania Cavaiuolo of the Leukaemia Foundation, and Woj Kwasi of Kwasi Studios, talking tips for better UX.

A not-for-profit-perspective on digital-first thinking.

Tania Cavaiuolo, Head of Marketing & Communications at The Leukaemia Foundation, walked through some thought-provoking insights from her experience running multiple campaigns for the World’s Greatest Shave. Specifically, Tania touched on the importance of testing campaigns and ads. By testing and refining, we can develop better user experiences and more meaningful brand interactions.

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Tania takes the stage. Photography via Big Digital.

The not-for-profit space is not without its challenges. Traditionally, it is not an easy market to break into. Consider that there are over 50,000 charities registered in Australia today.

Many of them are yet to embrace digital channels for fundraising initiatives. The majority rely on tried-and-true tactics like volunteer coin collection, direct mail and above-the-line advertising campaigns.

Up until a few years ago, The Leukaemia Foundation was no different. That is, until they identified an opportunity to innovate and improve the traction of their World’s Greatest Shave campaign.

The catalysing insight was this:

‘Less than 15% of people who signed up to the World’s Greatest Shave enrolled to do it again.’

Every year, the fundraising team were essentially tasked with finding a completely new crop of participants. It wasn’t the most sustainable or effective approach.

In the hope of alleviating the yearly effort involved in sourcing new donors, the Foundation developed some new options for campaign creative and engaged in a wave of A/B testing.

The objective? Appeal to a new target audience of ‘younger contemplators’ with the goal of encouraging repeat participation.

Two campaigns were tested against one another.

The famous and much-loved ‘Welcome to Chinville’:

And the new creative, ‘Feel the Joy’:

The Foundation ran a ten day split test on digital with video and display advertising.

Chinville came up trumps at the end of the testing period, with 89% of the clicks.

Tania reported that the shot of the participant crying (at the 42 second mark of the Feel the Joy campaign above) created feelings of discord and discomfort. It was therefore less effective.

That’s a pretty powerful insight, but still, the marketing team at the Foundation tested on. The next campaign element they analysed was language – writing different variations of copy for their ads.

‘91% of people responded to language around ‘helping people’, while only 9% responded to language geared towards ‘helping research’’.

In terms of overall conversions, there was a 3x higher success rate for ads using the ‘Chinville’ concept, but there were still some non-converts. As a means of targeting those potential participants, the team developed a secondary landing page for click-through from remarketing ads. This brought visitors to a custom site page with alternate messaging that was more relevant to the user’s context within their overall experience of the campaign. The segmented approach proved more successful than blanketing varied audiences with the same communications.

And it was only identified and implemented thanks to the insights gleaned from user testing.

Streamlining signups.

Another goal was to streamline the signup process. Best-practice dictates that minimising friction points will result in improved conversion, so the team created a process that facilitated one-step signup straight from the ad click.

But best-practice isn’t always necessarily best practice. With testing, the team identified an 80% drop in conversion rates after implementing those one-step ads.

As it turns out, many people prefer to read information about the charity they’re supporting – even if only a small amount – before they sign up. Equipped with that insight, the team switched off the underperforming one-step landing page to create a process that better met audience needs.

Although they might seem relatively small in isolation, the cumulative effect of all of these measures was significant. Throughout this period, the wider not-for-profit sector saw a decline in participation rates. The Leukaemia Foundation managed to contain the drop to 5%. This was largely thanks to both increased involvement in digital initiatives, and constant testing and optimising of the user journey.

The key takeaway? Testing times call for testing your campaign collateral – experiment and analyse your users’ preferences, to provide an ideal experience that improves traction with your audience(s).

Optimising for people: the importance of measuring user behaviour.

We often optimise for click-through; or readability; or accessibility. I know for a fact that I spend a lot of time optimising for search engines. These are all worthwhile endeavours.

But they’re only really worthwhile when they’re seamlessly coordinated to achieve a common goal – contributing to improved experience.

Increasingly, optimisation is ineffective unless we optimise for people: to provide a better overall outcome for the way users interact with brands, sites or services.

We have to take a holistic approach to optimisation, because the ‘typical’ user journey… search, find, buy… doesn’t really exist anymore. People are becoming less predictable in the way they research, interact and purchase. As a result, it’s essential to measure what those people are doing, and design experiences to ensure they can do it more easily or enjoyably.

According to Woj Kwasi, of Kwasi Studios, measuring user engagement is a key part of optimising user experience. In order to create the best possible experience for people transitioning from Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) to websites, we need to understand their motivations and desires as they make the jump.

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Woj Kwasi on stage at Big Digital Adelaide. Photography via Big Digital.

Ideally, we should:

  • Study user journeys.
  • Use tools to track and analyse those journeys.
  • Develop content and design that is contextually appropriate to the user.
  • Nurture the user through their entire experience.

It’s surprisingly common for marketers to focus a significant amount of energy on getting people to a site, without equal consideration of what happens once they’re there.

‘90% of site visitors aren’t at a point where they’re ready to buy yet.’

We need to ascertain what users are doing, why and when. Woj identified the following tools as being handy resources for this purpose:

Learning through measuring.

Woj listed a couple of recurring insights from a range of user studies.

Don’t just beat your chest. Think about what the user wants.

Heatmap tracking can highlight what your users engage with most – what they care about. It’s tempting to dedicate energy and real-estate to articulating your brand philosophy. But sometimes people just want what they’re looking for, fast. Develop insight and give your users the information they want: not the information you want them to see.

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Constantly beating your chest can lead to disappointment.

Web developers sometimes build features that only appeal to web developers.

Woj used an example of an enormous mega menu. It took up 50% of the site code, but only 3% of users actually ever interacted with it. Developers sometimes add features without consideration of how people actually use a site. Conversion Rate Optimisation tools can help streamline and improve your designs.

Site designs frequently underutilise real estate.

Websites frequently misuse screen real-estate. It sounds basic, but a consideration of content significance and hierarchy can yield serious results. Take the time to establish your most important categories, services, and pages. Make them prominent. Create feature sections or hero images for essential content or products. Bang the drum for your big ticket items.

Sliders are on the skid – they’re only relevant in very specific applications.

Homepage sliders and carousels are a popular design feature in websites. Why? They’re only relevant in specific, functional instances. In most cases, studies have confirmed that removing banners/sliders improves conversion rates. See the point above – spend your real-estate more wisely.

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Sliders don’t always function as intended, in all their forms.

People tend to ignore homepage content located below the fold.

Heat mapping software shows that most people don’t bother scrolling below the fold – if the information was important enough to warrant immediate attention, it would have primary priority. Make sure essential material is immediately visible on a homepage.

Delivering on user desires.

Creating a great user experience involves adopting a user’s perspective. What do they want? How do we best provide it? Where might they be coming from? Even if you execute other singular aspects well, failing to consider both needs and context can lead to a failed experience overall.

For example, you can still offer a second-rate user experience even if you rank first on a SERP. A website can rank highly for competitive terms, but if your site doesn’t offer what the user needs then you’re effectively shooting yourself in the foot.

As an example, Woj used the search query ‘bus shelter advertising’. Despite ranking well, the site listed as the top result on the SERP actually offered no instance of that phrase in site copy. A site search revealed that the phrase was not found a single time.

The website for the second best result, however, offered a clear heading on the landing page, with content that meets the contextual needs of the user. There is also clear navigation directing users to the bus shelter section, if they happen to enter the site from a different page.

Losing internal lingo is a key part of providing an improved user experience. Many businesses fail to realise that the internal language they use doesn’t necessarily reflect the language used by their target audiences. Use basic keyword research to identify how your audience articulate your service or product, and then learn to speak their language.

Lastly, Woj touched on the importance of matching content to the customer journey. Once we’ve identified how and why people are interacting with certain touchpoints, we need to treat them appropriately given their status.

‘The goal of a marketing interaction isn’t to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married. No, the opportunity is to move forward, to earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversion.’ – Seth Godin

Woj identified a framework that caters for three basic stages of a customer’s conversion funnel: issue, fix and deal.

The issue stage involves people at the top of the conversion funnel. They’re likely in the early stages of the research phase. People in this stage are often looking for materials to help them self-qualify before seeking action: ‘9 reasons you have a sore back’.

When people move into the fix stage, they transition into the middle of the conversion funnel. In this stage, content should offer solutions and guidance to help progress through the problem. For example, ‘Different cures for back pain’.

Upon entering the deal phase, people have identified their problem and they have a specific solution in mind. By now, they’re towards the bottom of the conversion funnel. Content geared towards conversion is most effective at this stage. To continue with the example: ‘Pain relief medicine for back pain’. Deals and special product offers could also help to get them across the line into conversion.

With everything considered, Woj’s primary point was clear. Take an empathetic approach to creating user experience – put yourself in your audiences’ shoes and take steps to deliver on their desires. And make sure you constantly measure their interactions.

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That’s my user experience of the 2016 edition of Big Digital. How was yours? If you were at the conference, or you watched via livestream like I did, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!