Tag Archives: communication

15 Steps To Creating a Successful Event Marketing Campaign

event marketing

We know what events are. We know what marketing is. But when these two words come together, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Event marketing is a versatile and impactful marketing channel that is increasingly becoming more critical across various industries. According to Forrester research, events make up for 24% of the average CMO’s B2B marketing budget. This trend only seems to be growing with projections showing that 3.2 million global professional events will be taking place annually by 2020. Statistics like these should come as no surprise. In a digital age where consumers are inundated…

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15 Steps To Creating a Successful Event Marketing Campaign

Design an Insanely Memorable Conference: From Branding to Signage (And Every Detail in Between)

Attendees from last year’s Call to Action Conference

From busy trade show floors to professionally-lit celebrity panels, it seems every marketing brand wants a South by Southwest-style event all their own these days.

But, with so many conferences for your target market to choose from, it’s risky running a large-scale event as a mid-sized brand. It’s the ultimate faux pas to host a forgettable, generic conference, so how can you stand out from the rest and leave attendees smitten?

At Unbounce, we’ve learned that a good conference is a designed experience: your attendees need to feel the effort that went into the event with every single detail. With Call to Action Conference, we work for months to book unparalleled experts and ensure quality talks. But, as an interactive designer here at Unbounce, I’ve learned that the visual branding of your conference, from the typeface to the venue’s wayfinding is just as important. 

This year I’m responsible for CTAConf’s branding and can share that part of our event’s strategy is to stand out. We want you to remember exactly where you were when you heard remarkable speakers on our stage, built important relationships at our after parties and received valuable insights (not to mention cool swag).

In this post I’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at our 2017 branding, and 5 design tips to ensure every event your brand hosts is unforgettable.

CTAConf 2016

1. When branding your conference, prep a solid pitch

To meet our goals this year, our team decided we wanted to create a new image for our event based on last year’s feedback and key learnings. Ultimately, we want to:

  • Increase brand awareness: It’s essential people remember the conference’s name and associate it with us.
  • Deliver a stunning 360 experience: We want to offer an online and offline cohesive experience for our attendees from touchpoint A to Z. Everything should feel integrated.
  • Use resources wisely: We’ve got a large marketing team, and we need to optimize the use of our internal resources to balance time, effort and impact.

If you’ve run an event before and have decided on developing a new visual look (or you’re running your first in-person event), I find it’s useful to start by reviewing last year’s learnings and/or your upcoming conference goals. This review puts everyone on the same page for understanding the reasoning behind your future design choices.

Once you have your art direction concepts ready to present it’s all about how you sell the story of your vision to your key stakeholders internally. People can’t evaluate a design without knowing its intention, so as a designer—or a marketer working with a designer—ensure you use a kickoff meeting to guide your stakeholders with storytelling and a proper visual presentation.

Here’s an example of the presentation I gave to our internal stakeholders around my proposed brand concepts for this year. In this deck I painted a clear picture for everything from concept development to moodboards to an exploration of the Instagram ads:

Pitch deck
Stakeholders pitch deck.

By sharing the rationale behind each concept and putting together some quick explorations I was able to clearly explain my choices. This helped to generate internal buy in for our refreshed look.

This year’s Call to Action Conference is a designed experience you don’t want to miss (and you don’t have to!). You’ve found the blog readers 15% discount — use the code “Blogsentme” at the checkout from May 8 to 12 to join 1,300 of your marketing peers.

When running your branding kickoff, you’ll want to include all stakeholders who have input or final say in the conference’s look and feel. It’s best to get the majority of feedback at the beginning of your design process instead of during execution.

Also, use real content instead of lorem ipsum in the quick explorations of your design. Presenting banners, posters or landing pages with actual words forces you to explore the branding further and will help you present stronger ideas.

2. Details matter: Build a consistent experience

Perfect execution of the visual design for an event falls on the shoulders of the designer, so you’ll want to define the brand guidelines of your conference early and apply these guidelines across every asset. Using a grid system, and agreed upon typography, colors, photographic and graphic styles will help you maintain visual consistency and you’ll increase the learnability of your brand.

Here’s a look at how we planned our consistent visual treatments this year:

Visual treatments
Example of Illustrations and photograph treatment

As you can see, every single detail counts — from the napkins at the snack bar to the precise measurements of the screen on the stage. As we’ve found, if you don’t pay attention to details, your audience will. To catch inconsistencies that don’t make complete sense, we’ve found it helpful to invite people from other teams to review our design and confirm:

  • Is the message clear?
  • Is every asset pixel perfect, with no spelling errors? (When printing massive banners and expensive materials, you can’t afford mistakes.)
  • Is every photograph, illustration and logo in high resolution?
  • Does every asset feel part of the same universe?

When your running an event, start with a massive list of all possible design needs and go from there. Invite people from many different departments who think differently to review and refine.

You’ll often find there are (literally) hundreds of tasks you or your designer needs to work on, so instead of cutting things from the to-do list as you get closer to the event, sacrificing your vision, plan ahead with these design recommendations:

Develop a clear brand guideline document

This offers internal and external direction should other designers or teams need to jump into the project and ensures a cohesive look no matter who helps with design work.

Brand guidelines for CTAConf
Example of logo, typography and color palette guidelines

Create a Creative Cloud asset library

This provides an easy-to-follow, organized structure for files and folders. The libraries are available in every design app and you can even use them when you’re offline.

Asset Library

Use artboards and smart objects in your Photoshop files

Using social channel banners as an example here, having individual artboards for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all in the same document speeds up your workflow. These artboards facilitate fast content replication, ensure cohesive design across platforms and speed up the export process. As a marketer or designer, you only have to modify your smart objects to quickly create completely new banners where needed.

Smart objects

3. Consider online and offline for every attendee touch point

Event organizers and designers must work together to craft an educational and emotional narrative before, during and after the event. This begins online with the conference’s website, landing pages, app and social channels but extends to offline curation: posters, venue wayfinding and swag items.

To plan exciting journeys through physical spaces at your conference venue, you need to jump into your attendees shoes — but also those of the speakers, media, sponsors and staff. This will help you think of every single touchpoint you need to design for, both online and offline. What are the main tasks attendees want to achieve? And how does each step enable someone to get to the next one?

Here are two examples of user journeys we’ve designed this year:


online journey


offline journey

Besides a better understanding of your attendees needs, this 360 approach also indicates where every design element needs to be located and how individual elements can work together in a larger ecosystem.

For this year’s online experience pre-event, we’re promoting CTAConf in our regular owned channels including our website, monthly newsletter, social accounts and blog, but we’re also trying exciting new approaches you can experiment with for your events too. Here are a few we think are especially cool:

  • Lead gen, traffic shaping and rev gen Convertables – we’ve designed overlays to appear on various pages of our site to increase tickets sales and redirect traffic to our conference site.
Want to try overlays on your own site? Overlays are modal lightboxes that launch within a webpage and focus attention on a single offer. Learn more here.
  • Personalized banners for all social media channels. These branded banners appear in Unbouncer Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to help promote the event and link to the conference’s homepage.
social banners
  • CTAConf viewfinders and personalized letters. Recently we sent VIP media invitations out with these custom retro viewfinders. Each wheel contains photos that tell a story from last year so potential attendees can get a sense of what’s just around the corner.
CTAConf Viewfinder

4. Make info prominent to strengthen conference awareness

It’s critical to remind attendees what event they’re attending — verbally and visually.

In our case, it’s tricky because our company’s name is not included in our conference’s name — so many people have called the event the “Unbounce conference.” We want to minimize that awareness gap, which is why this year’s visuals reinforce our conference name (yes, those big letters you might have seen on our emails, banners, landing pages or in our our social channels).

Email banner
Here’s an email banner example.

As a conference planner, look for ways to use all design real estate to communicate key info around the event. When is it? Where is it? Who’s organizing? As obvious as it might sound, always include your company and conference’s logos because this is the only way people will begin associating them together. You want these two things to be synonymous.

Finally, look for ways to ensure all the conference details are clear. Make the session titles, speakers, times and locations very prominent, accessible from multiple locations and keep them up-to-date.

5. Integrate design in your event strategy from the start

Designers are a key part of conference creation, so it’s best to involve us early, often, and continuously instead of turning to us as asset generators on a whim. Involve designers from day one to discuss the message and feeling you need to convey with your event. Additionally, ensure designers feel free to explore new ideas for accomplishing goals.

A key part of a successful collaboration is feedback and how it’s delivered so create a process that works for both parties and stick to it as this will strengthen your communication and boost the quality of your work.

As an example, in early designs of our conference, name badges were focused on communicating the attendee’s category (speaker, sponsor or attendee). This was a communicated requirement, but we realized it’s way more important to facilitate personalized conversation at an event, so for the next round of name badges we made everyone’s name prominent and legible. As simple as this example sounds, it illustrates the importance of focusing on the function of assets rather than just the visual.

Overall, avoid telling a designer exactly how to design, but instead, communicate the key goals of an asset.

Tip: Consider gathering feedback from your attendees, too. Gathering instant feedback is a great opportunity to continuously improve your conference design and branding. This year we’re going to run concise face-to-face surveys to dig deeper and understand which design aspects worked or what could be improved. We’ll ask questions like: What was memorable about this year’s design? Was anything unclear or confusing? What was your favorite piece of swag?

Don’t miss this incredible experience

Overall, designing a conference for 1,300 attendees is not an easy task, but when you see every detail connecting to create a delightful experience, it’s totally worth it. Hopefully my tips have inspired you to design your very own large-scale event and pay careful attention to opportunities you have as a host.

As I mentioned, this year’s CTAConf is truly a 360 experience, and you you’ll want to see it with your own eyes. You can join us and your marketing peers on June 25th – June 27th in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. It’s going to be full of exciting takeaways and well-planned surprises. Hope to see you there.

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Design an Insanely Memorable Conference: From Branding to Signage (And Every Detail in Between)

Infographic: How to Engage People Through Storytelling

storytelling infographic fi

Storytelling is primal. As humans evolved, night time storytelling around the fire pit became ingrained in human communication as did scratching out drawings of animals on cave walls. As marketers and conversion optimizers, storytelling is a key weapon in your communication arsenal. Take a look at the infographic below and glean some tips on how to improve the way you communicate with your prospects and customers. This infographic was originally published on Quicksprout.com

The post Infographic: How to Engage People Through Storytelling appeared first on The Daily Egg.


Infographic: How to Engage People Through Storytelling

Conversational Design Essentials: Tips For Building A Chatbot

Human interactions are incredibly fascinating if you take a close look at them — the social awkwardness, the communication styles, the way knowledge is transferred, the way stories are told and trust is built. But what happens when a machine evokes the same response?

Conversational Design Essentials: Tips For Building A Chatbot

Conversational interfaces have become the new hotness in UX design. Google is about to release a new virtual assistant chatbot; Facebook has already launched the updated Messenger platform with chatbots; and Microsoft went as far as to claim that the operating system of the future isn’t Windows, but “conversation as a platform.”

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Conversational Design Essentials: Tips For Building A Chatbot

How to get your users to take action with compliance gaining

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Cars are scarce in my group of friends.

Most of us are in our late 20’s, living in Downtown Vancouver, where there’s plenty of public transit, parking is difficult, and expenses are high. Owning a car doesn’t really make sense.

Until one of us needs help moving, of course.

My boyfriend, Andre, owns a 1997 GMC Sierra 1500; needless to say, he gets hit up constantly for truck-related favors.

This truck is a hot commodity during moving season.

We hear a lot of:

“Hey Dre, can you help me move on Saturday? I’ll buy you beer!”
“Dre! Can you help me move on Saturday? I hate to ask, but you’re my only option.”
“Andre, can you help me move on Saturday? No pressure, of course, if you can’t do it…”

The initial request (“Can you help me move?”) is almost always accompanied by something else: a bargain (“I’ll buy you beer”), a reason (“you’re my only option”), an out (“No pressure”).

For our friends, it seems instinctual to cushion the request somehow, to urge Andre to say “Yes” and dissuade him from saying “No”.

Think about all of the times you’ve asked a friend for a favor. Do you ever simply ask for the favor, or do you find yourself negotiating in some way? I, for one, try to frame my requests in ways that make them almost impossible to refuse.

As marketers, we do the same thing. After all, most of what we do revolves around trying to get our users to take an action. In the social science community, these ‘negotiations’ are referred to as compliance gaining techniques.

Four compliance gaining techniques you should test

Get this list of 4 of our favorite “Loss Aversion”-specific compliance gaining techniques. Learn how these techniques work and get ideas for how to test them on your website.

By entering your email, you’ll receive bi-weekly WiderFunnel Blog updates and other resources to help you become an optimization champion.

In this post, I’m going to examine the concept of compliance gaining through a marketing lens.The question is: How can you leverage compliance gaining techniques in your marketing to get your users to say “Yes” rather than saying “No”?

What is a compliance gaining technique?

In laymen’s terms, compliance gaining interactions occur whenever a message source tries to get a person to do something they might not otherwise do.

When your mom gently advises you to wear your helmet or when a friend asks you to set him up, the message source (mom, friend) are trying to get you to do something.

To clarify, compliance gaining is often confused with persuasion, but they are different. While persuasion is often concerned with changing a person’s attitudes or beliefs, compliance gaining seeks to change behavior.

There are numerous (read almost 900) strategies you could categorize as compliance gaining, from “bargaining”, to “complimenting”, to “persistence”, but here are some of the more pervasive compliance gaining techniques you may have heard of as a marketer:

Types of compliance gaining techniques


compliance gaining_foot-in-the-door
Foot-in-the-door: start with a small request and build to a larger request.

You ask your user for something small first that they will most likely say yes to, then ask for something larger (the actual action you want them to take) at a later time. Researchers have several theories as to why this is effective, one of them being your user’s desire to remain consistent with what they previously said.

Example: If your web page features a form, you can break the form into multiple steps. Start by asking for easy-to-give information; save bigger asks for later steps when there is more to abandon. Once your user starts saying “yes”, they are more likely to continue to do so.


You ask your user for something big that they will most likely say “No” to, followed by a smaller, more reasonable request (the actual action you want them to take). Guilt and self-presentation help explain why this is effective: Your user has already said “No” once, and won’t want to say “No” twice.

Example: On a non-profit website, you might start off by asking your user to sponsor a child for $20/month. This is a fairly large request. Your user may feel badly for saying “No” to this initial request, making them more receptive to your next request for a smaller, one-time $20 donation. This is your intended request.


You ask your user for something in a confusing or strange way the first time around. You immediately follow-up by re-framing your request or giving your user a reason to say “Yes”.

Example: Some brands use a catchy, clever headline that isn’t clear at first, that they reframe with informative copy just below the main headline.

A disruptive headline from Apple.
The subsequent copy reframes the offering with appealing adjectives.

In this example from Apple, the headline reads “Light. Years ahead.” The dots disrupt our thinking framework and the copy below helps reframe with adjectives such as “lighter”, “better”, “thinner”. We are less likely to resist the reframe because our brain is busy with the initial disruption and the adjectives help to convince us.

Note: Be careful about making your content too disruptive. You could lose visitors due to a reduced information scent.

Dump and Chase:

You ask for something and your user says “No”. You respond by asking “Why not?”, repeating your request in a slightly different way. Urgency and guilt are at play here: You’ve created a sense of obligation by asking “Why not” and the repetition of your request can make it seem more important, more urgent.

Example: Your user may decide they are not ready to buy from you. That’s where mailing lists come into play. If they sign up for your mailing list, you are able to repeat your offer (via email) in various ways until that user’s concerns have been met and they finally do buy.

There are many more compliance gaining techniques. But my favorite of the moment is referred to as But You Are Free or BYAF.

But You Are Free to refuse…

But You Are Free refers to a situation where I ask you for a favor followed by a gentle reminder that you are free to refuse my request.

Wording can vary, but the key to this technique is to acknowledge the target’s freedom to say “no”.

In 2000, French researchers Guéguen and Pascal published a study that demonstrated the BYAF technique for the first time. In the study, experimenters asked passersby if they could have some change for the bus, followed by the statement “But you are free to accept or to refuse”. The Control group of passersby was simply asked for change for the bus, sans compliance gaining technique.

compliance gaining_but-you-are-free
“Will you give me change for the bus? You are free to accept or refuse.”

Their findings showed that passersby who heard the follow-up phrase were more likely to comply with experimenters’ request and gave twice as much change as those in the Control.

This experiment was based on psychological reactance theory. Introduced by Jack Brehm in the 1950’s, the theory states that “individuals have certain freedoms with regard to their behavior. If these behavioral freedoms are reduced or threatened with reduction, the individual will be motivationally aroused to regain them.”

Freedoms once granted will not be relinquished without a fight.

– Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Guéguen and Pascal proposed that the phrase, “but you are free to accept or refuse”, weakens the target’s perception that their freedom to say “no” is being threatened by the initial request. Instead of being motivated to refuse, in order to protect their own freedoms, the target is reminded that their freedoms are still in tact, allowing them to say “yes”.

Recently, I asked a coworker for a favor via Slack, followed by the phrase “No pressure, of course.” Even though I really needed this favor, I added the phrase “No pressure” to my request—it was automatic. It was the BYAF compliance gaining technique. (My coworker said yes.)

Now, before you go adding a “You are free to accept or refuse” sub-head to all of your calls-to-action, let’s go a little deeper…

BYAF in a marketing context

In 2013, Christopher Carpenter published a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of the BYAF compliance gaining technique in Communication Studies. He wanted to know, given the research that has been published on this technique, whether or not BYAF is effective in a sales situation (among other questions).

Carpenter cited past researchers who theorized that “people are more suspicious of self-interested requests and cognitively process such requests more thoughtfully,” which would render the BYAF technique less effective when a request is being made in a sales context.

However, when Carpenter completed his meta-analysis, he found that the effect of BYAF on a target was equal for both prosocial requests (compliance benefits some worthy cause rather than the requester) and self-interested requests (compliance benefits the requestor) e.g. a sales request.

The BYAF technique has the virtue of being adaptable to potentially any context. That the effect size was consistent for both prosocial and self-interested requests in a variety of contexts…is reflective of a technique that has widespread value. All that is required for the BYAF technique is that the key phrase is added to the request.

– Christopher Carpenter

So, is BYAF a compliance gaining technique you can use when you’re talking to your prospects? Quite possibly. You should test that!

A BYAF spin-off test

Have you heard the term “Locus of Control”?

In personality psychology, individuals with an internal locus of control believe that their behavior and actions are guided by their decisions and efforts, while individuals with an external locus of control believe their behaviors and actions are guided by external forces.

People with an internal locus of control are more proactive and self-motivated, while those with an external locus of control are often more passive.

compliance gaining-locus-of-control
Internal vs. External Locus of Control

One theory as to why BYAF works is that the requester is giving control back to the target by adding the phrase “but you are free to _____” to a request.

For one WiderFunnel client, DMV.org, our Strategy team wanted to test giving control back to the prospect, just like the BYAF technique does. Rather than emphasizing a prospect’s freedom to refuse, however, the team wanted to emphasize the prospect’s freedom to choose.

DMV.org is a privately owned publisher of helpful information about the DMV. The company earns revenue through performance-based advertising on their thousands of content pages. For example, on a license renewal information page, a banner within the content offers visitors an opportunity to check car insurance rates.

When we tested the BYAF spin-off, we were testing on the second step of DMV.org’s funnel, where visitors select a provider.

We tested a single sub-headline isolation on this page, adding the phrase “The one you choose is up to you!” This phrase was meant to remind visitors that they are in control, they are free to choose exactly what they want to choose. Our Strategists were targeting the same mental sweet spot that the BYAF technique targets.

“The one you choose is up to you!”

The addition of this phrase led to a conversion rate lift of 28.9% for DMV.org.

Testing compliance gaining in your marketing

Persuasion principles and compliance gaining techniques are extremely helpful to consider when you’re planning your digital experiments. Of course, persuasion principles are just one source of information you should look to when planning a test.

Related: For more sources of information, check out Chris Goward’s post outlining WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process. Pay particular attention to the section on “The Explore Phase”.

It is always helpful to de-construct the persuasion principle or psychological trigger itself to try to get at the heart of what is actually motivating someone to act. In the case of BYAF and “the one you choose is up to you”, the motivating factor might be the simple fact of reminding a visitor that they are in control of their decision.

What might your users respond to?

What are your favorite compliance gaining techniques to test? Have you seen success with the BYAF technique in your testing? Tell us about it in the comments!

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How to get your users to take action with compliance gaining

Stretching The Limits Of What’s Possible

Designing with “big data” is a challenging task. Matan Stauber, however, took it to the next level. With an impressive outcome. Having studied Visual Communication at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Israel’s national school of art, Matan realized a very ambitious final project: an interactive timeline of our galaxy’s history — 14 billion years, from the Big Bang to today.

An Interview With Matan Stauber: Stretching The Limits Of What’s Possible

We talked to Matan about Histography, about the idea behind it, and how he managed to bring it to life. An interview about stretching the limits of what’s possible.

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Stretching The Limits Of What’s Possible

Building A Real-Time Retrospective Board With Video Chat

If you’ve ever worked in an agile environment, chances are you’ve had your share of “retrospectives” — meetings where people write what made them “glad,” “mad” or “sad” onto different-colored notes, post them onto a board, arrange them in groups and — most importantly — talk about them.

How To Build A Real-Time Retrospective Board With Video Chat

These meetings are straightforward, as long as everyone is in the same room. But if you’re working with a locally distributed team, things can get a bit tricky. Let’s address this by creating a virtual version of our board to allow team members in different locations to hold their retrospective just as if they were in the same room.

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Building A Real-Time Retrospective Board With Video Chat

The 4-Hour Website Optimization Challenge: What Would the Experts Do?

You’re being lowered into a pit of anacondas over four hours, and only a lift of 0.01% or more could stop it — best get optimizing! Image by Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.

As marketers, the clock always seems to be against us.

So when it comes to conversion optimization, most of us simply don’t have enough hours in the day to plan and execute a proper strategy — even if we do have the necessary skills and resources in place.

This led our team to a simple question: Is it possible to generate a sustainable lift for a website in just a few hours?

We each had our own opinions, but to dig deeper we reached out to five colorful characters in the CRO space — Brian MasseyAngie SchottmullerPeep LajaNeil Patel and Unbounce’s own Michael Aagaard — and asked them a simple question:

“If you could spend only four hours optimizing the marketing performance of a website, what would you do?”

The criteria

First, I must get this out of the way: There’s no such thing as a “get conversion-rich fast” approach.

Conversion optimization (CRO) is synonymous with continuous improvement, and with a few exceptions, simple changes won’t drive long-term results.

And further, mastering CRO takes time and a wide range of skill sets: analytics, marketing, user understanding, user experience, design, copywriting, development and project management.

So when I talk about having four hours to optimize a site, I’m not implying that a site could be fully optimized after a four-hour period. Rather, we wanted to know how our experts could demonstrate the power of optimization in a short period of time.

Will going to the gym five times get you into shape? No. But if you saw results after 5 sessions, would it inspire you to keep going? Yes.

And that’s the purpose of this post — to help marketers get their feet wet in CRO, so they can get excited about the awesome potential it holds.

So here we go!

1. Brian Massey: “Try a headline test.”

Brian Massey

Brian Massey is the founder of Conversion Sciences, a company that helps clients improve revenue and leads from existing traffic.

Brian is a regular speaker at corporate events, universities and conferences worldwide, and is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas of The Conversion Scientist.

When I first asked Brian the question, here’s what he told me:

If I had only four hours to optimize a website, I would spend five minutes making myself a coffee, then three hours and 55 minutes looking for another job. Optimization doesn’t happen in four hours.

Ouch, not a good start. But I took his advice, and spent four hours applying for “management” positions at Best Buy and Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

No dice.

I pressed Brian, and asked him to imagine he was being lowered into a pit of anacondas over four hours — and only a lift of 0.01% or more could stop it — surely there’s something he could do?

He relented, and offered me this:

Here are some ideas of what I could do in the four hours: Write 25 headlines for each of my landing pages. Pick the best for each and make the change. Setup Google Analytics and CrazyEgg on my site. Create some awesome, relevant content. Take a course in Web analytics. Spend four hours reviewing my ad campaigns to ensure I’m getting quality traffic. Collect the resumes of professional copywriters and hire one.

He then offered a strategy that involved breaking up the four hours.

Hour 1: Write 25 headlines for your best performing landing page and pick four that are very different from each other.

Hour 2: Create four pages (or four page variants), one with each headline.

Hour 3: Setup Unbounce, Optimzely, Visual Website Optimizer or Convert.com to send a quarter of the traffic to each. Up all of your ad spends to ensure you get several thousand visits over a week or two.

Wait at least one week, until the test reaches statistical significance.

Hour 4:  If there’s a winner, make the change permanent.

“If I had only 4 hrs for #CRO, I’d create and test 4 pages with different headlines.” ~@bmassey
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Our take

Content matters more than anything else, and within the broad content sphere, headlines and value propositions are the heaviest hitters.

Brian’s approach is perfect for time-starved marketers seeking CRO results, because it gets straight to the point: Testing how users react to changes in your value proposition.

If you perform A/B tests on your value proposition, I can almost guarantee your conversion rate will change. It may go down, but failed tests provide almost as much insight as winning tests.

2. Peep Laja: “Tackle pages with the biggest drop-off.”


Peep Laja is the founder ConversionXL — one of the most popular (and respected) online marketing blogs on the web. He’s a popular speaker on the CRO circuit, and if you happened to catch his presentation at CTAConf 2014 in Vancouver, you know he tells it like it is.

When I asked Peep how he would spend his four hours, he responded in less than five minutes:

I would check Google Analytics to find where the biggest drop-offs are happening and would focus all my efforts on those pages. Heuristic analysis would reveal a bunch of insights, and this combined with some user tests via Usertesting.com would give some validation to my experience-based assessment findings. All of these things would be doable within a couple hours.

If @PeepLaja had just 4 hrs for #CRO? “I’d tackle pages with the biggest drop-off.”
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Our take

We like Peep’s approach because it mixes instinct (developed from years of work in CRO) with qualitative data.

Google Analytics is still the best tool for finding actionable data that sets you on the path toward a successful treatment.

Thanks for the insight, Peep!

3. Angie Schottmuller: “Interview your customers.”


Angie Schottmuller is a growth marketing consultant, author and speaker. She was recently named one of Forbes’ top 10 online marketers to follow in 2015 — so she’s no stranger to CRO.

I first met Angie at CTA Conference 2014 in Vancouver, where she gave an incredibly informative and entertaining presentation called “Optimizing Persuasion with Buyer Modalities.”

When I asked Angie how she would optimize a site in four hours, here’s what she said:

I would use an hour or two to better understand the audience. That means interviewing actual customers or prospects to learn why they DO and why they DON’T buy. Talk with customer service or sales reps at the “business front lines” for insights as well. Review the feedback to surface top recurring questions, concerns, interests or objections. Score hypothesis opportunities using the PIE framework. (I adapt this model to PIER — where “R” measures reusability of the learned insight.) Then use the remaining time to implement a fix or A/B test for the top scoring hypothesis from opportunities the audience specifically called out.

Video via WiderFunnel.

A rapid fire four-hour fix isn’t quite practical. However, nothing is more practical than going direct to the source — the customer — for some actionable qualitative feedback. The underlying objective of conversion optimization is to learn more about the customer: preferences, pain points and interests. The more you understand about the customer and how you can assist achieving their goal, the more likely you’ll be to achieve your own.

“In #CRO, nothing’s more practical than asking customers for actionable feedback.” ~@aschottmuller
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Our take

We love how Angie dives straight into a very important — yet often overlooked — aspect of conversion optimization: Understanding your customers.

All high-converting websites do one thing really well and that is answering the customer’s questions. But without interviews, we’re left to guess what those questions are.

Altering your site copy to address the questions of your customers is one of the simplest, least expensive and quickest conversion-focused changes you can make to a web page or landing page.

4. Michael Aagaard: “Focus on heuristic analysis.”


Self-confessed “split-test junkie” Michael Aagaard lives and breathes conversion. He’s spent the past several years conducting hundreds of copy-based A/B tests, which he shares in the many interesting case studies on ContentVerve.

Michael recently joined Unbounce as its Senior Conversion Rate Optimizer (catch him live at CTAConf 2016!).

So how would Michael optimize a website in four hours?

If I had four hours to optimize a website, I’d spend one hour digging through analytics data to identify areas that represent the biggest potential lift. Then I’d spend an hour conducting a heuristic analysis. After that, I’d spend 30 minutes coming up with an optimization hypotheses. Finally, I’d spend the last hour and a half actually creating the treatment.

#CRO in just 4 hrs? “Check Analytics for areas with the biggest potential lift.” ~@ContentVerve
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Our take

Europeans always stick together, don’t they?! Michael echoes Peep’s sentiments by zeroing in on areas with the greatest potential lift.

Michael’s approach shows that even if you’re experienced in the CRO space, you still must test your assumptions. With time and experience, your “gut” will become more reliable in making assumptions, but will never give you a definitive answer without testing.

5. Neil Patel: “Focus on your tags.”


Neil Patel runs the well-known blog Quicksprout, and is the co-founder of both KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. He’s a major influencer in all things online marketing.

Neil answered the question a bit differently than our other experts, instead choosing to focus on SEO and page performance. Here’s what he told us:

If I had only four hours, I would go through Webmaster Tools and fix any of the basic errors that they are showing. This would include crawling errors, 404 pages and even duplicate title tags or meta description tags. Sure these things seem small, but fixing them will help you generate more search traffic in the long run.

Next, he delved into performance.

In addition to that I would set up Google Pagespeed. One major reason websites don’t convert well is because they load slow. By using Google Pagespeed, you can improve your load speed, which should help increase your overall traffic and conversion rates.

“If I had just 4 hrs for #CRO, I’d fix crawling errors, 404s and duplicate title tags.” ~@neilpatel
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Our take

Neil gets right to the heart of an issue marketers often neglect. If your site is slow, or people can’t find it, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve optimized the on-page experience. Optimization should be about the bottom line, and sometimes you can get a tremendous ROI from looking at broader infrastructure or visibility factors.


A common thread throughout all our experts’ answers is the need to focus on changes that actually make a difference to your overall bottom line. When you only have four hours, you don’t have time to test low-impact hypotheses.

There are several simple and fast techniques to identify where you can get a large ROI. The right one for you will depend on what you have immediate access to.

If you can, start by talking to your customers. If that’s not an option right now, dive into Google Analytics and understand where people are exiting and if there are any slow pages.

Finally, you can’t go wrong testing vastly different headlines and value propositions. After all, conversion optimization is really about the art and science of communication, and your words matter.

So, if you had just four hours to optimize a website, what would you do? Drop us a comment.

And once again, many thanks to Brian, Peep, Angie, Michael and Neil for participating in this post.

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The 4-Hour Website Optimization Challenge: What Would the Experts Do?

Hey Designers: Stop Being An Afterthought

There are reasons you’re still saying the same thing after all these years — still talking about how it always seems like design gets tacked on to the end of the process. You should be at the concept meeting, you say, where you can make a real difference.

Hey Designers: Stop Being An Afterthought

I’ve been hearing it for 15 years. I once had a job where I got to say it myself a few times. I got tired of that pretty quickly. I don’t say it anymore. You shouldn’t either. Primarily because it’s not true.

The post Hey Designers: Stop Being An Afterthought appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Hey Designers: Stop Being An Afterthought

Designers And Developers: No Longer A House Divided

As the web continues the evolve at a breakneck, Moore’s-law pace, the divisions between traditional design and development are increasingly shifting. The “learn to code” movement is also gaining momentum among designers, but you’d be hard pressed to find a similarly strong movement for other disciplines within a team. Perhaps there should be.

We should all be striving to learn, but the question remains, what exactly should we learn? Maybe it isn’t as simple as “learn to develop” or “learn to design,” but is about learning to communicate and collaborate, to respect the nuances of each other’s craft — and the artistry and reason that they both demand in equal measure — without attempting to master it for oneself.

The editor’s draft of CSS 41 arrived in early February, and while the possibilities are exciting and plentiful, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by them. We’re still fully exploring the fringes of CSS3; for those just starting in the coding world, just knowing where to start can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. This growth and progress is both a blessing and a curse, and it raises questions about the lines between design, development, creativity and logic, how the disciplines fit together and where we fit in.

Design and code: not altogether different.
Design and code: not altogether different.

These days, both design and development are fragmenting into more and more specialized, nuanced disciplines. There is almost no such thing as a web designer anymore; one is an interaction designer, a visual designer, a user experience designer or something else entirely. The word “developer” ceases to carry meaning, too. What kind of developer? Back end, front end, full stack, iOS, Android, web or something else entirely? Job titles have become more specific, and yet skill sets are expected to broaden.

Developers needs to understand design, and vice versa, but neither wants to give up what they love most about their own discipline. It’s easy to fall behind, to feel pressured to keep a foot in each world. We might want to learn to code or design, but code what? Design what? Each framework or design principle has its own unique dependencies, an entirely separate set of balls to juggle while we learn. Furthermore, without a way to practically apply it — within our work or outside of it — that knowledge is easily lost. A designer or developer looking to learn the other discipline can easily become intimidated and confused about where to begin, no matter how many initiatives and resources are out there.

Cameron Moll tweeted about this feeling2 in early January, capturing very well the expectation of designers and the emotions that come with it. It also begs the question, why is there no similar expectation of developers, of teams, managers, project managers or any other member of the team? Why is the emphasis not being placed on teamwork and collaboration, on fostering a shared understanding based not on technical knowledge, but on interpersonal knowledge? Surely, strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration would create far more effective teams than teaching designers a coding language or teaching developers the ins and outs of Illustrator.


Four years ago, way back in 2010, Elliot Jay Stocks tweeted his surprise3 that web designers still exist who can’t code their own designs. Treehouse cited that tweet in its article “5 Good Reasons Why Designers Should Code4” and in the context of the time, it made sense. CSS3 hadn’t happened yet. HTML5 was still a twinkle in the W3C’s eye, reaching its first public working draft only in 2008. The term “responsive web design” would be coined only four months later5.

While it was an exciting time, the idea of a designer learning to code wasn’t entirely overwhelming, at least in retrospect, and it was about to become the norm. But the expectation was clear: “Learn to code” meant “learn HTML and CSS,” or learn enough of it to bring designs to life. Similarly, “design” was restricted to the Adobe suite and creating flat comps of website designs. There was a solid line between disciplines, but that is no longer the case.

… And Now

Things have changed, and quickly. The landscape of learning is shifting, too. Along with the aforementioned CSS 4 specification, which offers even greater control of styles, a whole host of resources are now popping up that are encouraging designers to learn how to code — and code everything. It’s not just about bringing a static web page design to life anymore. There are courses for iOS development6 and prototyping7, and places such as Fast Company offer guides on how to get started, in case you’re at a loss. There’s Ruby on Rails, too, and the data visualization movement is continuing to gain traction.

It’s not just about turning PSD to HTML anymore, but about developing for iOS and creating web applications in Ruby or AngularJS or whatever else your company or customer is using. Design and code blur into one another with exciting concepts such as SVG animation8 and the various data visualization libraries. But this is just a drop in the ocean of possibility, and we can’t possibly be expected to traverse it all. Susan Robertson writes on A List Apart9 about being overwhelmed by code, by “the constant pressure to learn new things and keep up with all the latest ideas.”

With so many options, how do we choose what to learn?

This pressure isn’t surprising, but it is avoidable. To make sure that what we learn will be useful to us, we have to ask ourselves why the learn-to-code movement exists in the first place. It exists to foster inter-departmental communication, to make the process of creating a product that much smoother. So, perhaps, rather than focusing on understanding the mechanics of each other’s work (coding languages and Photoshop etiquette), we should focus on softer skills, on improving collaboration and communication from a holistic perspective. Learning each other’s discipline is only a part of this.

Finding A Common Foundation

As a starting point, we need to balance the expectations on both sides. Yes, designers should understand the workflows of development, but the same is true of developers (and project managers and whoever else is involved in a project). They don’t need to learn the details of Photoshop or Sketch or color theory, but knowledge of general design principles and processes is useful and will ease collaboration and communication. We can only become better designers and developers by learning to communicate better with one another.

Stephen Caver at Happy Cog agrees10, saying that developers need to acquire an eye for design and encourage this empathy among teams. Stephen made the transition from design to development himself and offers the perspective of someone who has been on both sides of the fence, and he understands that the fence needs to be torn down. Similarly, Sam Hernandez, also a developer at Happy Cog, acknowledges the unique communication challenges of developers in particular, but he also says that star developers do not avoid them; rather, they find ways to communicate and collaborate with the non-technical team. These developers are empathetic not just towards design, but towards the product and client as well. They see beyond the minimum viable product.

Meanwhile, the design world is now seeing movements such as Brad Frost’s atomic design — design initiatives that borrow concepts from object-oriented programming. Designers can (and should) leverage tools such as Zeplin and Specctr to better communicate their designs to developers. Smashing Magazine offers a guide on creating design specifications that would be useful to the developer but not too time-consuming for the designer. The co-creation of style guides is an exercise that helps both designer and developer and that promotes understanding of each other’s discipline. The act of creating the style guide together is what is most valuable to this relationship between designer and developer, not necessarily the end product.

We forget sometimes how similar design and development are, both of which boast creativity as their foundation. Great designers and developers see creativity as a key part of their craft, but the connection between the two is rarely made. The term “creative” is used exclusively (and erroneously) to mean “designer.” Great code is its own form of artistry, and it is expressive and beautifully elegant when done well. In my opinion, a great solution to a development challenge shows ingenuity and imagination just as much as a design challenge shows logic and science.

Specialize and generalize in equal measure.

Developers look at designers and see artists, while designers look at developers and see mathematicians or scientists. While this may be true at the surface, it does both professions a disservice. During a project, an excuse of “I’m not artistic” is accepted from a developer who isn’t interested in design, while “I’m not a coder” is not accepted from a designer. These excuses are reductive and unnecessary; creativity is an undercurrent of both disciplines, and the sooner we appreciate this, the better.

Mindsets, Not Technical Details

So, once we scratch the surface, we begin to realize that the learn-to-code movement, despite its ubiquity, is a small cog in a much larger collaborative machine. Picking up a language or grasping the basics of Photoshop is arguably easier than learning effective collaboration and communication. It is more quantifiable, more discrete, with a beginning and an end, but it might not always be useful. The emphasis should be on empathy, collaboration and shared understanding — softer skills that aren’t quantifiable, but far more wide-ranging.

Paul Lloyd states, “Instead of viewing ourselves in terms of discrete roles, we should instead look to emphasise our range of abilities, and work with others whose skills are complementary.” We should bring developers into kick-off meetings, and designers to backlog meetings. Brad Frost reminds us, “The modern web design process requires intense collaboration between designers and front-end developers,” and though he advocates for HTML and CSS specifically, this can be expanded to other languages and frameworks, as projects require them.

This communication and cross-disciplinary empathy are just as important as the techniques, methods and development frameworks used to take apart a problem. If a designer learns FramerJS to better communicate their ideas to developers, or if a developer jumps into Photoshop or Invision or CodePen to illustrate why a particular solution would or wouldn’t work, this is an example of using the tools around us to expand not just our own internal knowledge, but our knowledge of others. We focus so much on technique and method that we sometimes forget to remember and to internalize what was learned from the process on a human level, rather than a technical one.

We want to demystify development for designers, and vice versa, build bridges rather than burn them, get rid of the reductive excuses and gain an appreciation for the alchemy of creativity and logic that both designers and developers are products of. This is the kind of learning I want to see in the future. So, let’s learn not how to code or design, but how to communicate. Let’s meet each other halfway.11

Meeting Halfway And Moving Forward

In this environment, becoming overwhelmed is easy. It’s difficult to choose what to spend our spare time learning, to make sure that our career benefits in the long run. Designers should learn as much code as they’re interested in learning. The same goes for developers with design: Grasp just enough to foster a relationship, not to be a great designer — you don’t have to be. Mastering each other’s discipline doesn’t matter as much as learning each other’s process and quirks. There is also no guarantee that the coding or design we learn for one project will be useful (or even relevant) in the next, which can be disheartening. There’s no need for a designer to go through a full course on Ruby if none of their forthcoming projects would benefit from that expertise.

Make no mistake, however, the efforts required to better collaborate and empathize are hard. An interpersonal learning effort is just as (if not more) difficult than taking a class on development or design. We don’t finish it with a project or an app prototype, something that is easily evaluated. It is continuous, but just as important. Designers and developers share so much — creativity, passion, a genuine motivation to create great digital experiences, apps and interfaces — and we have spent too long creating a cultural divide between us. We should work next to each other and share wins as well as losses, share processes and mindsets, ask questions in order to learn our coworkers’ quirks, strengths and curiosities. Balance12 specialization and generalization.

Personally, I’ve been afraid to specialize. The favor exhibited towards jack-of-all-trades, particularly in job postings, is implicit and is often overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what would be most useful to learn, and it all takes time — I didn’t want to make the wrong choice of language, paradigm or framework. Learning interpersonal skills wasn’t even on the agenda; it should have been.

How realistic is the “unicorn,” and should we aspire to it?

Having arrived at Myplanet13, I’ve found the sprint retrospective to be an incredibly useful guide for my own development, be it in code, interaction design or interpersonal relationships — I can ensure that I’m improving in areas that matter. Within our retros, we discuss what’s gone well and how to build on it, what hasn’t gone well and ways to improve. This kind of constant adaptation was new to me, but it was exactly what I was looking for. In this way, I’ve learned that whatever skills I develop are of practical use, and I’ve found myself worrying far less compulsively about specialization, generalization and the myth of the unicorn. Whatever I learn on the side, I learn because I want to, not because I feel I have to.

For example, as a result of retros, our team has co-located in order to facilitate communication. I brought up some worries I had about the technical side of a project, and as a result got the opportunity to learn more about Drupal. I also know which method of communication to use (verbal, email, Skype, NERF gun), according to whether my developer colleague has headphones on or what time of day it is. This seems obvious, but it’s the kind of information that we don’t get unless we ask for it, and I find it just as valuable as learning to code. Retrospectives aren’t always easy, and they’re just one example, but whatever technique we use, learning that empathy is important.

As the industry fragments further and further into specialization, unicorns no longer exist, and nobody should aspire to be one. Instead, specialize in what you love, and learn what sparks your creativity and curiosity. Learn whatever helps you to execute your vision or opens up a world of possibilities. Foster appreciation for each other’s craft, rather than attempt to learn something you don’t care for. Resources crop up every day: Bret Victor’s Learnable Programming14 and Dynamic Pictures15, as well as iulang16, HackDesign17 and many others. Use them to get to know your team, to collaborate with them, rather than mirror them.

This personal knowledge is far more transferable than any one programming language or design principle. Learn how your colleagues think and why they indent code the way they do or why they choose certain typefaces over others. This is the kind of learning that is invaluable, the kind of personal improvement that I believe makes us far more accomplished than learning the intricacies of coding frameworks or typographic differences when the person next to us already knows that. Learn collaboration and appreciation, and we’ll all be the better for it.

(ds, il, al)


  1. 1 http://dev.w3.org/csswg/selectors-4/
  2. 2 https://twitter.com/cameronmoll/status/554641024640098304
  3. 3 https://twitter.com/elliotjaystocks/status/9227592793
  4. 4 http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/5-good-reasons-why-designers-should-code
  5. 5 http://alistapart.com/article/responsive-web-design
  6. 6 https://designcode.io/
  7. 7 http://framerjs.com/
  8. 8 http://tympanus.net/codrops/2013/11/05/animated-svg-icons-with-snap-svg/
  9. 9 http://alistapart.com/blog/post/overwhelmed-by-code
  10. 10 http://cognition.happycog.com/article/why-developers-need-to-learn-design
  11. 11 http://blog.godynamo.com/post/75583162679/if-designers-should-learn-to-code-shouldnt
  12. 12 http://alistapart.com/article/the-specialist-generalist-balance
  13. 13 http://www.myplanet.com
  14. 14 http://worrydream.com/LearnableProgramming/
  15. 15 http://worrydream.com/DynamicPicturesMotivation/
  16. 16 http://uilang.com/
  17. 17 https://hackdesign.org/

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Designers And Developers: No Longer A House Divided