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Landing Page Optimization: Best Practices, Tips and Tools (2018)

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Landing page optimization doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why marketers get frustrated — and often give up. If you want better landing pages, focus on collecting data. You should design your landing pages based on what you already know about your audience, but don’t stop there — make sure you collect even more information as more people visit your website. Converting that data into informed decisions about your marketing funnel can produce more leads and sales. Today, I’m going to teach you my best landing page optimization tips and tricks so you can attract more prospects and convert more customers. If…

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Landing Page Optimization: Best Practices, Tips and Tools (2018)

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8 Effective Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Conversions

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My email list is one of my most valuable assets. I have tons of email subscribers even though I regularly scrub my list, and I’ve converted many subscribers to paying clients. I started in the same place as everyone else, though: zero email subscribers. Whether your list includes 10 subscribers, 100 subscribers, or 1 million subscribers, you probably want more. That’s the nature of marketing. So, how can you increase conversions to build your email list further? That’s the question I’m going to answer today. I’ll cover several topics, so here’s a list in case you want to skip around:…

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8 Effective Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Conversions

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Are You Optimizing Your SaaS Conversion Funnel? Don’t Forget These Essential Steps

saas conversion funnel

If you have a strong conversion funnel, you’ll generate more sales. Optimizing your SaaS conversion funnel allows you to visualize the buyer’s journey, collect the right data, and apply what you learn from reports, recordings, and other analytics. The conversion funnel is often misunderstood, though, which is why we need to break it down into stages, figure out what data to track, and optimize accordingly. Your conversion funnel contains the general steps your prospective customers take to reach a buying decision. Narrowing the conversion funnel and pushing prospects through faster can result in higher profits. To do so, you must…

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Are You Optimizing Your SaaS Conversion Funnel? Don’t Forget These Essential Steps

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Are AMP Landing Pages All They’re Cracked up to Be? A Look Into Page Speed

AMP landing pages worth the fuss?

For a while now you may have heard the buzz surrounding Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and—if you haven’t already done some research—you might be wondering what all the fuss is about (or wondering why a landing page and conversion platform like us hasn’t mentioned this trendy topic yet).

Well, we’ll get to all of that! Today we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about AMP as a marketer and why your Google rep has likely been singing its praises.

First up: What is AMP?

AMP is a project that was first announced by Google back in 2015 as a means to serve up mobile pages faster. Accelerated mobile pages use a restrictive HTML format to serve up web pages almost instantly to your visitors, with the added benefit of pages being cached and pre-rendered by third parties (like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing News, and Cloudflare).

This is a stark change from waiting for every single element on your page to load and, at its core, it’s a way of developing simple web pages that meet strict guidelines for preventing slow load times. It’s helping bring the internet back to basics.

AMP pages on mobile
How AMP pages look in mobile search results.

Early adopters of AMP included publishers like The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. Much like Facebook’s Instant Articles, AMP gave these publishers a way to reach audiences in an almost-instant way (ultimately important for decreasing bounce rate, and signalling to Google your content is satisfying visitors). Since publishers run their business on page views, this was a natural place to start and great fit for AMP.

Google then created extra incentive for publishers by prioritizing AMP articles in their “top stories” carousel. You can currently spot AMP articles in your own mobile search results by looking for the AMP thunderbolt symbol.

Some AMP myths, debunked

The AMP Project has come a long way since 2015, but it’s still having a hard time shaking some of its roots. Here are a few of the myths floating around:

Myth 1: AMP is only for online publishers
AMP landing pages are a perfect match for publishers, but serving up news faster is not its only use case. Believe it or not, even eCommerce brands are increasing their revenue with the same traffic by converting their product pages to AMP.

While this giant conversion over to AMP may sound like a massive undertaking, remember: You don’t need to create an entire AMP mobile website like Aliexpress. You can start with a single landing page that lots of customers reach from organic or paid search. Simply decreasing your bounce rate on the visitor’s first entry and speeding load time up can have a big impact on first impressions, and ultimately your conversion rate.

Myth 2: AMP is owned by Google
We can’t deny that Google has been the driving force behind the AMP technology and its adoption around the world. But despite its massive role in driving AMP forward, the team is insistent that AMP is not a Google project, but rather an open-source project. Although the lion’s share of the more than 500 contributors on GitHub are Googlers, they’re not the only ones.

Myth 3: AMP is only for mobile
It’s true mobile is a huge part of Accelerated Mobile Pages (it’s in the name, after all), but that can be a little bit misleading. As Paul Bakaus from Google explains, AMP HTML is mobile first but not mobile only. He believes you’ll see better gains from AMP on mobile pages, but recommends trying AMP on desktop as well.

What are AMP landing pages good for?

We know that fast-loading pages equal lower bounce rates and higher conversions, and AMP provides an almost foolproof way of achieving fast mobile landing pages. Its strict guidelines for what can be included have speed best practices built in, which is why AMP landing pages have a medium load time in under one second. And let’s be honest: We could all use some extra conversions on our landing pages via speed increases.

So what does AMP mean for SEO?
While an AMP landing page does not necessarily equal a higher search ranking, Google recently announced that, starting this summer, page speed will finally become a ranking factor in its mobile search algorithm.

While Google has always favored content with a positive user experience (speed being a part of that) speed did not previously have a direct effect on the ranking algorithm. Before July 2018, it might be a good idea to do some spring cleaning of your mobile landing pages (swapping out massive images and keeping things small)—whether these pages are accelerated or not.

What do AMP landing pages mean for PPC?
For a long time now, “landing page experience” has played into your Ad Rank on AdWords, and we know that page speed factors into this experience. One of AdWords’ five tips for improving landing page experience is to “decrease your landing page load time,” for which they suggest to “consider turning your landing page into an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP).”

AdWords expert and ex-Googler Frederick Vallaeys has even called AMP landing pages “the best kept AdWords secret” due to the opportunity for improving conversion rates.

It’s really all about page speed

At the end of the day, the reason you’d create an AMP landing page is to improve your page speed. By creating these pages, you ensure fast load time, but this doesn’t guarantee your content is good enough to keep people around. Page speed is only one factor in a positive landing page experience, and won’t solve the problem of bad content.

Moreover, if page speed is what you’re after, AMP is only one way of achieving it. Even the AMP Project’s website admits that the format puts user experience above the developer experience. Simply put, it’s not the easy way to do things. So before jumping straight into AMP, consider whether or not you can reduce page speed in simpler ways, like cutting back on scripts and image sizes.

Not sure where to start, try running your landing page through our free Landing Page Analyzer for some actionable tips.

What are the limitations?

AMP can do wonders for your page speed, but it doesn’t come without a few caveats. In fact, the reason the AMP framework creates a fast page is because it is so restrictive. AMP is constantly being improved, but it’s still far from perfect. Here are a few limitations to consider before going all in on AMP:

Scripts are often not supported

landing pages built with AMP sacrafice scripts
Photo by Henri L. on Unsplash.

Scripts are a speed killer, period. Support for JavaScript is incredibly restricted in the AMP framework, so if you build an AMP landing page, you won’t be able to add all the scripts you currently use. As an example, if you want to connect your page with your CRM (a pretty common integration via a script), you’d need an AMP version of this script to be supported. Scripts are supported currently on a case-by-case basis and more often than not they’re unsupported at this time.

Analytics aren’t straightforward

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash.

One of the best features of AMP is also one of its biggest drawbacks. Since the AMP pages are pre-cached, they are served from a different domain than your own. That means that your website visitor might click an ad, then visit your AMP landing page served up pre-loaded from Google.com, and then click through to your website.

This can really throw off your site’s analytics, splitting up your user sessions between your domain and third-party domains. If you’re not comfortable giving up perfect analytics for gains in load time, AMP might not be for you.

Worried about your website visitors seeing inconsistent domains? As of last month, AMP released an update that will keep the display URL as your own domain even if the page is being served from another domain such as Google.com.

Even though AMP Analytics are available, there are a limited amount of options available. Here’s what you’ll be able to track:

  • Page data: Domain, path, page title
  • User data: client ID, timezone
  • Browsing data: referrer, unique page view ID
  • Browser data: screen height, screen width, user agent
  • Interaction data: page height and page width
  • Event data

Setup isn’t super quick
Just because AMPs format is restrictive doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park to implement. Developing AMP pages could take your developers significantly longer to create than a non-AMP page. They’ll then need to validate that their code ticks all of the boxes of the AMP format and also upkeep the pages to make sure they continue to comply with these restrictions.

Browser versions are limited
A smaller restriction (but one nonetheless) is that AMP only supports the most recent two versions of major web browsers. This means if your visitors are hanging onto a circa 2014 version of Chrome, they won’t see your AMP page.

What naysayers are saying

Like anything, there are two sides to the AMP story. Because of its close ties to Google, some think the company has too much control, using its power to shift the internet to a new way of developing web pages altogether. Some think it’s unfair for Google to pressure companies to adopt the framework in order to reach the top stories carousel or maintain their organic rankings. Others worry that Google could abandon AMP at any moment, after more than 1.5 billion web pages have already been published using the format.

On the other side of the argument, web users are speaking for themselves by abandoning slow pages at a faster rate. They’re also choosing Google more than any other search engine. Although there are alternatives, Google holds 90% of mobile market share. There must be a reason for this, and I’d hazard a guess that it’s because Google gives a better user experience than its alternatives.

From the AMP Project’s website:

“The companies involved in the project want to make the mobile web work better for all — not just for one platform, one set of technologies, or one set of publishers, or one set of advertisers. Making the project open source enables people to share and contribute their ideas and code for making the mobile web fast. We are just at the beginning of that journey and we look forward to other publishers, advertisers and technology companies joining along the way.”

What Unbounce is doing about AMP

This info’s all well and good, but you’re probably wondering: what’s Unbounce—best known as a conversion and landing page platform—going to do about AMP?

I’m glad you asked.

We’re happy to share that we’re currently building AMP capabilities into the Unbounce builder.

We’re premiering this functionality with a tight-knit group of customers in an alpha test before we open up to a wider closed beta of additional customers. The reason we’re working with a small group first is to ensure that we are able to get early feedback while we work on adding more capabilities. We’ll be closely monitoring conversion data from the alpha participants to ensure customers are seeing the value that we think they’ll see with AMP.

Here’s a taste of what it might look like in the Unbounce builder:

What took us so long?

By now you’re likely convinced that fast pages are critical to your conversion rates, and AMP can help, so you may be wondering, what took Unbounce so long to build (let alone talk about) it?

Well, we began investigating AMP and how it would work in the Unbounce builder back in 2017, and our friends at Google have been supporting us along the way. We made the decision not to publicly share our progress on AMP until we officially kicked off the development of our alpha program last month.

Trust us, page speed is something that’s been on our mind for quite some time. Last summer, our team became one of the first to complete Google’s Mobile Site Certification, and in September we returned to Google’s Canadian HQ in Toronto to join the search giant in co-hosting a mobile speed hackathon. Most recently, Google mentioned our alpha at their annual developer conference, and in a few months, they’ll be hosting the very first Canadian West Coast date of the AMP Roadshow right here in our Vancouver office.

Sign up for the AMP Roadshow at Unbounce HQ hosted by Google, on September 5, 2018.

We had hoped to bring you AMP a little bit earlier, but our team has been heads down for the past several months focused on the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Keeping your data safe and secure is our top priority, and we believe it is important to provide you a landing page solution that is GDPR compliant as this sets a critical foundation.

We are proud to say after months of hard work, Unbounce is GDPR compliant. Less than a month ago, AMP also released an update designed to help AMP pages become GDPR compliant as well.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Learn all about GDPR and how it affects your business here. (It’s a big deal).

Our next steps with AMP

Now that we’ve got your data safe and secure via GDPR compliance, our team is full steam ahead experimenting and developing AMP capabilities in the Unbounce builder. We’ve made some great progress and it’s looking pretty darn cool if I do say so myself (seriously, we can’t wait to show you). Once we’ve completed our alpha test, we’ll be widening the scope to a closed beta test.

The progress will look something like this:

  • Alpha >> Closed Beta >> Open Beta >> General Availability >> Public Launch

We’ll be sharing our progress right here on the Unbounce blog, and—if you’re a current customer (or about to create landing pages with us)—we invite you to sign up for early access to the beta once it’s launched.

Not sure whether AMP is for you? You can still achieve faster pages without this markup. Try running your landing page through our free Landing Page Analyzer to get some quick tips on how to improve your landing page today.

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Are AMP Landing Pages All They’re Cracked up to Be? A Look Into Page Speed

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3 Best Ways to Increase Conversions Through Influencer Content

The power of a word of mouth is incredible and it should never be underestimated. People refer other users’ recommendations way too often to neglect them. That is where the power of influencer content comes into play. Due to the massive reach and engagement, the opinion of a thought leader helps build brand awareness and increase conversion rates for your brand. The outcome however will depend on how well you formulate your influencer marketing. Working with the niche influencers is not only a good way to promote your product, but also to create quality content. Focus on long-term benefits, and…

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3 Best Ways to Increase Conversions Through Influencer Content

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Landing The Concept: Movie High-Concept Theory And UX Design




Landing The Concept: Movie High-Concept Theory And UX Design

Andy Duke



Steven Spielberg once famously said, “If a person can tell me the idea in 25 words or less, it’s going to make a pretty good movie.” He was referring to the notion that the best mass-appeal ‘blockbuster’ movies are able to succinctly state their concept or premise in a single short sentence, such as Jaws (“It’s about a shark terrorizing a small town”) and Toy Story (“It’s about some toys that come to life when nobody’s looking”).

What if the same were true for websites? Do sites that explain their ‘concept’ in a simple way have a better shot at mass-appeal with users? If we look at the super simple layout of Google’s homepage, for example, it gives users a single clear message about its concept equally as well as the Jaws movie poster:


Google homepage


Google homepage: “It’s about letting you search for stuff.” (Large preview)

Being aware of the importance of ‘high-concept’ allows us — as designers — to really focus on user’s initial impressions. Taking the time to actually define what you want your simple ‘high-concept’ to be before you even begin designing can really help steer you towards the right user experience.

What Does High-Concept Theory Mean For UX Design?

So let’s take this seriously and look at it from a UX Design standpoint. It stands to reason that if you can explain the ‘concept’ or purpose of your site in a simple way you are lowering the cognitive load on new users when they try and understand it and in doing so, you’re drastically increasing your chances of them engaging.

The parallels between ‘High-Concept’ theory and UX Design best practice are clear. Blockbuster audiences prefer simple easy to relate concepts presented in an uncomplicated way. Web users often prefer simpler, easy to digest, UI (User Interface) design, clean layouts, and no clutter.

Regardless of what your message is, presenting it in a simple way is critical to the success of your site’s user experience. But, what about the message itself? Understanding if your message is ‘high-concept’ enough might also be critical to the site’s success.

What Is The Concept Of ‘High-Concept’ In The Online World?

What do we mean when we say ‘high-concept’? For movies it’s simple — it’s what the film is about, the basic storyline that can be easy to put into a single sentence, e.g. Jurassic Park is “about a theme park where dinosaurs are brought back to life.”

When we look at ‘high-concept’ on a website, however, it can really apply to anything: a mission statement, a service offering, or even a new product line. It’s simply the primary message you want to share through your site. If we apply the theory of ‘high-concept’, it tells us that we need to ensure that we convey that message in a simple and succinct style.

What Happens If You Get It Right?

Why is ‘high-concept’ so important? What are the benefits of presenting a ‘high-concept’ UX Design? One of the mistakes we often fall foul of in UX Design is focussing in on the specifics of user tasks and forgetting about the critical importance of initial opinions. In other words, we focus on how users will interact with a site once they’ve chosen to engage with it and miss the decision-making process that comes before everything. Considering ‘high-concept’ allows us to focus on this initial stage.

The basic premise to consider is that we engage better with things we understand and things we feel comfortable with. Ensuring your site presents its message in a simple ‘high-concept’ way will aid initial user engagement. That initial engagement is the critical precursor to all the good stuff that follows: sales, interaction, and a better conversion rate.

How Much Concept Is Too Much Concept?

The real trick is figuring out how much complexity your users can comfortably handle when it comes to positioning your message. You need to focus initially on presenting only high-level information rather than bombarding users with everything upfront. Give users only the level of understanding they need to engage initially with your site and drive them deeper into the journey disclosing more detail as you go.

Netflix does a great job at this. The initial view new users are presented with on the homepage screen is upfront with its super high-concept — ‘we do video content’ once users have engaged with this premise they are taken further into the proposition — more information is disclosed, prices, process, and so on.


Netflix


Netflix: “It lets you watch shows and movies anywhere.” (Large preview)

When To Land Your High-Concept?

As you decide how to layout the site, another critical factor to consider is when you choose to introduce your initial ‘high-concept’ to your users. It’s key to remember how rare it is that users follow a nice simple linear journey through your site starting at the homepage. The reality is that organic user journeys sometimes start with search results. As a result, the actual interaction with your site begins on the page that’s most relevant to the user’s query. With this in mind, it’s critical to consider how the premise of your site appears to users on key entry pages for your site wherever they appear in the overall hierarchy.

Another key point to consider when introducing the message of your site is that in many scenarios users will be judging whether to engage with you way before they even reach your site. If the first time you present your concept to users is via a Facebook ad or an email campaign, then implementation is drastically different. However, the theory should be the same, i.e. to ensure you present your message in that single sentence ‘high-concept’ style way with potential users.

How To Communicate Your High-Concept

Thus far, we’ve talked about how aiming for ‘high-concept’ messages can increase engagement — but how do we do this? Firstly, let’s focus on the obvious methods such as the wording you use (or don’t use).

Before you even begin designing, sit down and focus in on what you want the premise of your site to be. From there, draw out your straplines or headings to reflect that premise. Make sure you rely on content hierarchy though, use your headings to land the concept, and don’t bury messages that are critical to understanding deep in your body copy.

Here’s a nice example from Spotify. They achieve a ‘high-concept’ way of positioning their service through a simple, uncluttered combination of imagery and wording:


Spotify


Spotify: “It lets you listen to loads of music.” (Large preview)

Single Sentence Wording

It’s key to be as succinct as possible: the shorter your message is, the more readable it becomes. The true balancing act comes in deciding where to draw the line between too little to give enough understanding and too much to make it easily readable.

If we take the example of Google Drive — it’s a relatively complex service, but it’s presented in a very basic high-concept way — initially a single sentence that suggests security and simplicity:


Google Drive

Then the next level of site lands just a little more of the concept of the service but still keeping in a simple single sentence under 25 words (Spielberg would be pleased):


Google Drive


Google Drive: “A place where you can safely store your files online.” (Large preview)

Explainer Videos

It doesn’t just stop with your wording as there is a myriad of other elements on the page that you can leverage to land your concept. The explainer video is used to great effect by Amazon to introduce users to the concept of Amazon Go. In reality, it’s a highly complex technical trial of machine learning, computer visual recognition, and AI (artificial intelligence) to reimagine the shopping experience. As it’s simply framed on the site, it can be explained in a ‘high-concept’ way.

Amazon gives users a single sentence and also, crucially, makes the whole header section a simple explainer video about the service.




Amazon Go: “A real life shop with no checkouts.” (Large preview)

Imagery

The imagery you use can be used to quickly and simply convey powerful messages about your concept without the need to complicate your UI with other elements. Save the Children use imagery to great effect to quickly show the users the critical importance of their work arguably better than they ever could with wording.




Save the children… “They’re a charity that helps children.” (Large preview)

Font And Color

It’s key to consider every element of your site as a potential mechanism for helping you communicate your purpose to your users, through the font or the color choices. For example, rather than having to explicitly tell users that your site is aimed at academics or children you can craft your UI to help show that.

Users have existing mental models that you can appeal to. For example, bright colors and childlike fonts suggest the site is aimed at children, serif fonts and limited color use often suggest a much more serious or academic subject matter. Therefore, when it comes to landing the concept of your site, consider these as important allies to communicate with your users without having to complicate your message.




Legoland: “A big Lego theme park for kids.” (Large preview)

Design Affordance

So far, we’ve focused primarily on using messaging to communicate the concept to users. Still, what if the primary goal of your page is just to get users to interact with a specific element? For example, if you offer some kind of tool? If that’s the case, then showing the interface of this tool itself is often the best way to communicate its purpose to users.

This ties in with the concept of ‘Design Affordance’ — the idea that the form of a design should communicate its purpose. It stands to reason that sometimes the best way to tell users about your simple tool with an easy to use interface — is to show them that interface.

If we look at Airbnb, a large part of the Airbnb concept is the online tool that allows the searching and viewing of results; they use this to great effect on this landing page design by showing the data entry view for that search. Showing users how easy it is to search while also presenting them the with simple messaging about the Airbnb concept.


Airbnb


Airbnb: “It let’s you rent people’s homes for trips.” (Large preview)

How To Test You’ve Landed It

Now that you’ve designed your site and you’re happy that it pitches its concept almost as well as an 80s blockbuster — but how can you validate that? It would be lovely to check things over with a few rounds of in-depth lab-based user research, but in reality, you’ll seldom have the opportunity, and you’ll find yourself relying on more ‘guerilla’ methods.

One of the simplest and most effective methodologies to check how ‘high-concept’ your site is is the ‘5 second’ or ‘glance’ test. The simple test involves showing someone the site for 5 seconds and then hiding it from view. Then, users can then be asked questions about what they can recall about the site. The idea being that in 5 seconds they only have the opportunity to view what is immediately obvious.

Here are some examples of questions to ask to get a sense of how well the concept of your site comes across:

  • Can you remember the name of the site you just saw?
  • What do you think is the purpose of the page you just saw?
  • Was it obvious what the site you just saw offers?
  • Do you think you would use the site you just saw?

Using this test with a decent number of people who match your target users should give some really valuable insight into how well your design conveys the purpose of your site and if indeed you’ve managed to achieve ‘high-concept’.

Putting It All Into Practice

Let’s try implementing all this knowledge in the real world? In terms of taking this and turning it into a practical approach, I try and follow these simple steps for every project:

  1. Aim For High-Concept
    When you’re establishing the purpose of any new site (or page or ad) try and boil it down to a single, simple, overarching ‘High-Concept.’
  2. Write It Down
    Document what you want that key concept to be in 25 words or less.
  3. Refer Back
    Constantly refer back to that concept throughout the design process. From picking your fonts and colors to crafting your headline content — ensure that it all supports that High-Concept you wrote down.
  4. Test It
    Once complete use the 5-second test on your design with a number of users and compare their initial thoughts to your initial High-Concept. If they correlate, then great, if not head back to step 3 and try again.

In this article, we have discussed the simple rule of making blockbuster movies, and we have applied that wisdom to web design. No ‘shock plot twist’ — just some common sense. The first time someone comes into contact with your website, it’s vital to think about what you want the initial message to be. If you want mass market appeal, then craft it into a ‘high-concept’ message that Spielberg himself would be proud of!

Smashing Editorial
(ah, ra, yk, il)


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Landing The Concept: Movie High-Concept Theory And UX Design

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How to Choose the Right Testing Software For Your Business

Every customer base is unique. Your ability to win your own marketing victories depends on understanding the users visiting your website each and every day. If you’ve spent any amount of time on The Daily Egg or similarly focused blogs, you know that thorough testing is paramount to your web business’ success. You might be intuitive (or lucky) enough to correctly read your customers on any given campaign, but over the long run, success WILL depend on data analysis. Despite the hundreds of voices claiming that marketing is an art, you’ve heard of Neil Patel, Avinash Kaushik, Danny Sullivan, and…

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How to Choose the Right Testing Software For Your Business

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How to Make Your Unbounce Landing Pages GDPR Compliant

You might not wake up each morning thinking about data privacy and security but, like it or not, Facebook’s recent move makes it an issue you can’t dismiss. Long before Mark Zuckerberg sat before congress in the face of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, explaining how Facebook uses personal data, the European Union started getting especially serious about data protection and privacy.

And so, on May 25 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect.

In a nutshell, the GDPR legislation gives everyone in the EU greater privacy rights, and introduces new rules for marketers and software providers to follow when it comes to collecting, tracking, or handling EU-based prospects’ and customers’ personal data.

Moreover, the GDPR applies to anyone who processes or stores data of those in the EU (i.e. you don’t need to be physically located in Europe for this to apply to your business and can incur fines up to 4% of your annual global turnover or €20 million [whichever is greater] for non-compliance).

But Beyond Potential Fines, Here’s Why You Need to Care

On Tuesday April 3rd, Zuckerberg said that Facebook had no plans to extend the GDPR regulations globally to all Facebook users. But, fast-forward a few weeks later and Facebook completely changed its tune, now planning to extend Europe’s GDPR standards worldwide.

This move sets a precedent, showing all of us that no matter where we are in the world, personal data and privacy laws aren’t optional. Compliance is table stakes.

If you’re located in Europe, process lead and customer data from Europe — or just happen to believe in high standards for data privacy and security, this post will help you navigate:

  • What Unbounce has done to become GDPR compliant, and
  • Some of what you need to do to make sure your landing pages, sticky bars, and popups adhere to the new rules.
Note: This post isn’t the be-all-and-end-all on EU data privacy, nor is it legal advice. It’s meant to provide background information and help you better understand how you can use Unbounce in a GDPR compliant way.

Data Protection by Default for You and Your Customers

For several months now, Unbounce has been investing heavily in the necessary changes to be GDPR compliant as a conversion platform. We believe that to build trust and confidence with your customers, you need to make their privacy your priority.

As of the day of GDPR enforcement, you can be sure we’ve got your back when it comes to processing and storing your data within Unbounce, and giving you the tools you need to run compliant campaigns.

To see exactly what Unbounce has been doing, why it matters and where we’re at in development, check out our GDPR FAQ page.

But while we’re a GDPR compliant platform with privacy and security safeguards built into our business practices and throughout our platform, this is only part of the equation. There are still a few things you are responsible for to use Unbounce in a compliant way, including:

  • Obtaining consent from your visitors (lawful basis of processing)
  • Linking to your privacy policy (informing visitors of your data protection policies)
  • Deleting personal data if requested (right to erasure)
  • Encrypting lead data at transit and in rest (using SSL) and
  • Signing a data processing addendum (DPA) with Unbounce

Here’s what you’re gonna want to watch for as you build landing pages, popups, and sticky bars.

Obtaining Consent From Your Visitors

Before collecting someone’s data the GDPR states you must first have a legal basis to do so. There are six lawful bases of processing under the GDPR, but if you’re a digital marketer, your use case will most likely fall into one of the following three:

  1. Consent (i.e. opt-in)
  2. Performance of a contract (eg. sending an invoice to a customer)
  3. “Legitimate interest” (eg. Someone is an existing customer and you want to send them information related to a product or service they already have.)

If you are using Unbounce for lead gen, then you must gather consent via opt-in to collect, use, or store someone’s data. When building your landing pages in Unbounce, you can easily add an opt-in field to your forms with the Unbounce form builder:

Keep in mind: Your visitors must actively check your opt-in box to give consent. Pre-checked checkboxes are not a valid form of consent.

Related But Different: Cookies And The ePrivacy Regulation

In many posts you’ll see Europe’s ePrivacy regulations tied in with GDPR, but they are, in fact, two separate things. While the GDPR regulates the general use and management of personal data, cookie use is core to the ePrivacy regulation (which is why you’ll sometimes see it called the “cookie law”). ePrivacy regulations are still in the works, but it’s certain they will be about visitor consent to cookies on your site.

We know the ePrivacy directive requires “prior informed consent” to store or access information on your visitors’ device. In other words, you must ask visitors if they consent to the use of cookies before you start to use them.

Last year Unbounce launched sticky bars (a discreet, mobile-friendly way to get more conversions), but they do double duty as a cookie bar, notifying your visitors about cookies.

You can design and publish a cookie bar using Unbounce’s built-in template, as shown below, embed the code across all of your landing pages using script manager, then promptly publish to every landing page you build in Unbounce. You can even have it appear all across your website.

Informing Visitors of Your Data Protection Policies

It’s not enough to just obtain consent, the GDPR also requires you to inform your customers and prospects what they are consenting to. This means that you need to provide easy access to your privacy and data protection policies (something Google AdWords has required for ages).

Sharing your privacy and data protection policies easily and transparently can help you earn the trust and confidence of your web visitors. Every visitor may not read through it with a fine tooth comb, but in a web littered with sketchy marketing practices, sharing your policies shows that you’re legit and that you have nothing to hide.

In the Unbounce landing page builder you can have any image, button or text link on your page open in a popup lightbox window. This means that you can link to the privacy policy already hosted on your website in a popup window on-click, and still keep visitors on your page to boost engagement and conversion rates.

This is a great example of how doing right by your customers can also help you achieve your business goals.

Here you can see a button being added to an Unbounce page linking through to a privacy policy. Something you need to do going forward to be compliant.

The Right To Be Forgotten

At any point in time a customer or lead whose data you have collected can request that you erase any of their personal data you have stored. There are several grounds under which someone can make this request and the GDPR requires that you do so without “undue delay”.

As an Unbounce customer, simply submit an email request to our support team who will ensure that all information for a specific lead or a group of leads are deleted from our database.

As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting data privacy and security, we are inspecting alternate solutions to deletion requests, but you can rest assured that even as of today, we will fulfill deletion requests within the time limit enforced by the GDPR.

Preventing Unauthorized Access to Data

Unbounce has supported SSL encryption on landing pages for years, and we’re proud that we made this a priority for our customers before Google started calling out non-https pages as not secure and giving preferential treatment to secure pages.

Presently Unbounce customers can already adhere to the GDPR requirement to process all data securely.

When you build and publish your landing pages with Unbounce, you can force your web visitors to the secure (https) version of your pages, even if they accidentally navigate to the unsecure (http) version.

In the upper right corner you can toggle to force visitors to the secure HTTPS version of your page.

This forced redirect will ensure proper encryption of your visitor lead data in transit and at rest. And as an added bonus, it’ll keep you in Google’s good books and prevent ‘not secure’ warnings in Google Chrome.

Signing a Data Protection Addendum (DPA) With Unbounce

According to the GDPR, when you collect lead information with Unbounce, you are the data controller while Unbounce serves as your data processor. To comply with GDPR regulation when using a tool like a landing page builder or conversion platform, you need a signed DPA between you (the data controller) and the service provider (your data processor).

Without getting too deep into the weeds on this one, let me just say that if you’re using Unbounce, we’ve got you covered and that you can complete a form on our GDPR overview page to get your DPA by email.

Privacy = Trust = Great Marketing

At Unbounce we view data privacy and security as two cornerstones of great marketing. At their core they are about a positive user experience and can help make the internet a better place.

The GDPR puts more control in the hands of users to determine how their information is used. No one wants their personal data falling into the wrong hands or being used in malicious or intrusive ways. Confidence and trust in your brand is at stake when it comes to privacy, so we aren’t taking any chances. Using Unbounce as your conversion platform, you can assure your customers that you take their privacy and data security seriously.

Increased regulation around data privacy may provide short term challenges for marketers as we establish new norms, but long term they can provide a more positive experience for users — something we should always strive for as marketers.

Continued: 

How to Make Your Unbounce Landing Pages GDPR Compliant

Designing For Accessibility And Inclusion




Designing For Accessibility And Inclusion

Steven Lambert



“Accessibility is solved at the design stage.” This is a phrase that Daniel Na and his team heard over and over again while attending a conference. To design for accessibility means to be inclusive to the needs of your users. This includes your target users, users outside of your target demographic, users with disabilities, and even users from different cultures and countries. Understanding those needs is the key to crafting better and more accessible experiences for them.

One of the most common problems when designing for accessibility is knowing what needs you should design for. It’s not that we intentionally design to exclude users, it’s just that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” So, when it comes to accessibility, there’s a lot to know.

How do we go about understanding the myriad of users and their needs? How can we ensure that their needs are met in our design? To answer these questions, I have found that it is helpful to apply a critical analysis technique of viewing a design through different lenses.

“Good [accessible] design happens when you view your [design] from many different perspectives, or lenses.”

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

A lens is “a narrowed filter through which a topic can be considered or examined.” Often used to examine works of art, literature, or film, lenses ask us to leave behind our worldview and instead view the world through a different context.

For example, viewing art through a lens of history asks us to understand the “social, political, economic, cultural, and/or intellectual climate of the time.” This allows us to better understand what world influences affected the artist and how that shaped the artwork and its message.

Accessibility lenses are a filter that we can use to understand how different aspects of the design affect the needs of the users. Each lens presents a set of questions to ask yourself throughout the design process. By using these lenses, you will become more inclusive to the needs of your users, allowing you to design a more accessible user experience for all.

The Lenses of Accessibility are:

You should know that not every lens will apply to every design. While some can apply to every design, others are more situational. What works best in one design may not work for another.

The questions provided by each lens are merely a tool to help you understand what problems may arise. As always, you should test your design with users to ensure it’s usable and accessible to them.

Lens Of Animation And Effects

Effective animations can help bring a page and brand to life, guide the users focus, and help orient a user. But animations are a double-edged sword. Not only can misusing animations cause confusion or be distracting, but they can also be potentially deadly for some users.

Fast flashing effects (defined as flashing more than three times a second) or high-intensity effects and patterns can cause seizures, known as ‘photosensitive epilepsy.’ Photosensitivity can also cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Users with photosensitive epilepsy have to be very careful when using the web as they never know when something might cause a seizure.

Other effects, such as parallax or motion effects, can cause some users to feel dizzy or experience vertigo due to vestibular sensitivity. The vestibular system controls a person’s balance and sense of motion. When this system doesn’t function as it should, it causes dizziness and nausea.

“Imagine a world where your internal gyroscope is not working properly. Very similar to being intoxicated, things seem to move of their own accord, your feet never quite seem to be stable underneath you, and your senses are moving faster or slower than your body.”

A Primer To Vestibular Disorders

Constant animations or motion can also be distracting to users, especially to users who have difficulty concentrating. GIFs are notably problematic as our eyes are drawn towards movement, making it easy to be distracted by anything that updates or moves constantly.

This isn’t to say that animation is bad and you shouldn’t use it. Instead you should understand why you’re using the animation and how to design safer animations. Generally speaking, you should try to design animations that cover small distances, match direction and speed of other moving objects (including scroll), and are relatively small to the screen size.

You should also provide controls or options to cater the experience for the user. For example, Slack lets you hide animated images or emojis as both a global setting and on a per image basis.

To use the Lens of Animation and Effects, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any effects that could cause a seizure?
  • Are there any animations or effects that could cause dizziness or vertigo through use of motion?
  • Are there any animations that could be distracting by constantly moving, blinking, or auto-updating?
  • Is it possible to provide controls or options to stop, pause, hide, or change the frequency of any animations or effects?

Lens Of Audio And Video

Autoplaying videos and audio can be pretty annoying. Not only do they break a users concentration, but they also force the user to hunt down the offending media and mute or stop it. As a general rule, don’t autoplay media.

“Use autoplay sparingly. Autoplay can be a powerful engagement tool, but it can also annoy users if undesired sound is played or they perceive unnecessary resource usage (e.g. data, battery) as the result of unwanted video playback.”

Google Autoplay guidelines

You’re now probably asking, “But what if I autoplay the video in the background but keep it muted?” While using videos as backgrounds may be a growing trend in today’s web design, background videos suffer from the same problems as GIFs and constant moving animations: they can be distracting. As such, you should provide controls or options to pause or disable the video.

Along with controls, videos should have transcripts and/or subtitles so users can consume the content in a way that works best for them. Users who are visually impaired or who would rather read instead of watch the video need a transcript, while users who aren’t able to or don’t want to listen to the video need subtitles.

To use the Lens of Audio and Video, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any audio or video that could be annoying by autoplaying?
  • Is it possible to provide controls to stop, pause, or hide any audio or videos that autoplay?
  • Do videos have transcripts and/or subtitles?

Lens Of Color

Color plays an important part in a design. Colors evoke emotions, feelings, and ideas. Colors can also help strengthen a brand’s message and perception. Yet the power of colors is lost when a user can’t see them or perceives them differently.

Color blindness affects roughly 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. Deuteranopia (red-green color blindness) is the most common form of color blindness, affecting about 6% of men. Users with red-green color blindness typically perceive reds, greens, and oranges as yellowish.


Color Blindness Reference Chart for Deuternaopia, Protanopia, and Tritanopia


Deuteranopia (green color blindness) is common and causes reds to appear brown/yellow and greens to appear beige. Protanopia (red color blindness) is rare and causes reds to appear dark/black and orange/greens to appear yellow. Tritanopia (blue-yellow colorblindness) is very rare and cases blues to appear more green/teal and yellows to appear violet/grey. (Source) (Large preview)

Color meaning is also problematic for international users. Colors mean different things in different countries and cultures. In Western cultures, red is typically used to represent negative trends and green positive trends, but the opposite is true in Eastern and Asian cultures.

Because colors and their meanings can be lost either through cultural differences or color blindness, you should always add a non-color identifier. Identifiers such as icons or text descriptions can help bridge cultural differences while patterns work well to distinguish between colors.


Six colored labels. Five use a pattern while the sixth doesn’t


Trello’s color blind friendly labels use different patterns to distinguish between the colors. (Large preview)

Oversaturated colors, high contrasting colors, and even just the color yellow can be uncomfortable and unsettling for some users, prominently those on the autism spectrum. It’s best to avoid high concentrations of these types of colors to help users remain comfortable.

Poor contrast between foreground and background colors make it harder to see for users with low vision, using a low-end monitor, or who are just in direct sunlight. All text, icons, and any focus indicators used for users using a keyboard should meet a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 to the background color.

You should also ensure your design and colors work well in different settings of Windows High Contrast mode. A common pitfall is that text becomes invisible on certain high contrast mode backgrounds.

To use the Lens of Color, ask yourself these questions:

  • If the color was removed from the design, what meaning would be lost?
  • How could I provide meaning without using color?
  • Are any colors oversaturated or have high contrast that could cause users to become overstimulated or uncomfortable?
  • Does the foreground and background color of all text, icons, and focus indicators meet contrast ratio guidelines of 4.5:1?

Lens Of Controls

Controls, also called ‘interactive content,’ are any UI elements that the user can interact with, be they buttons, links, inputs, or any HTML element with an event listener. Controls that are too small or too close together can cause lots of problems for users.

Small controls are hard to click on for users who are unable to be accurate with a pointer, such as those with tremors, or those who suffer from reduced dexterity due to age. The default size of checkboxes and radio buttons, for example, can pose problems for older users. Even when a label is provided that could be clicked on instead, not all users know they can do so.

Controls that are too close together can cause problems for touch screen users. Fingers are big and difficult to be precise with. Accidentally touching the wrong control can cause frustration, especially if that control navigates you away or makes you lose your context.


Tweet that says Software being Done is like lawn being Mowed. Jim Benson


When touching a single line tweet, it’s very easy to accidentally click the person’s name or handle instead of opening the tweet because there’s not enough space between them. (Source) (Large preview)

Controls that are nested inside another control can also contribute to touch errors. Not only is it not allowed in the HTML spec, it also makes it easy to accidentally select the parent control instead of the one you wanted.

To give users enough room to accurately select a control, the recommended minimum size for a control is 34 by 34 device independent pixels, but Google recommends at least 48 by 48 pixels, while the WCAG spec recommends at least 44 by 44 pixels. This size also includes any padding the control has. So a control could visually be 24 by 24 pixels but with an additional 10 pixels of padding on all sides would bring it up to 44 by 44 pixels.

It’s also recommended that controls be placed far enough apart to reduce touch errors. Microsoft recommends at least 8 pixels of spacing while Google recommends controls be spaced at least 32 pixels apart.

Controls should also have a visible text label. Not only do screen readers require the text label to know what the control does, but it’s been shown that text labels help all users better understand a controls purpose. This is especially important for form inputs and icons.

To use the Lens of Controls, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are any controls not large enough for someone to touch?
  • Are any controls too close together that would make it easy to touch the wrong one?
  • Are there any controls inside another control or clickable region?
  • Do all controls have a visible text label?

Lens Of Font

In the early days of the web, we designed web pages with a font size between 9 and 14 pixels. This worked out just fine back then as monitors had a relatively known screen size. We designed thinking that the browser window was a constant, something that couldn’t be changed.

Technology today is very different than it was 20 years ago. Today, browsers can be used on any device of any size, from a small watch to a huge 4K screen. We can no longer use fixed font sizes to design our sites. Font sizes must be as responsive as the design itself.

Not only should the font sizes be responsive, but the design should be flexible enough to allow users to customize the font size, line height, or letter spacing to a comfortable reading level. Many users make use of custom CSS that helps them have a better reading experience.

The font itself should be easy to read. You may be wondering if one font is more readable than another. The truth of the matter is that the font doesn’t really make a difference to readability. Instead it’s the font style that plays an important role in a fonts readability.

Decorative or cursive font styles are harder to read for many users, but especially problematic for users with dyslexia. Small font sizes, italicized text, and all uppercase text are also difficult for users. Overall, larger text, shorter line lengths, taller line heights, and increased letter spacing can help all users have a better reading experience.

To use the Lens of Font, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the design flexible enough that the font could be modified to a comfortable reading level by the user?
  • Is the font style easy to read?

Lens Of Images and Icons

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Still, a picture you can’t see is speechless, right?

Images can be used in a design to convey a specific meaning or feeling. Other times they can be used to simplify complex ideas. Whichever the case for the image, a user who uses a screen reader needs to be told what the meaning of the image is.

As the designer, you understand best the meaning or information the image conveys. As such, you should annotate the design with this information so it’s not left out or misinterpreted later. This will be used to create the alt text for the image.

How you describe an image depends entirely on context, or how much textual information is already available that describes the information. It also depends on if the image is just for decoration, conveys meaning, or contains text.

“You almost never describe what the picture looks like, instead you explain the information the picture contains.”

Five Golden Rules for Compliant Alt Text

Since knowing how to describe an image can be difficult, there’s a handy decision tree to help when deciding. Generally speaking, if the image is decorational or there’s surrounding text that already describes the image’s information, no further information is needed. Otherwise you should describe the information of the image. If the image contains text, repeat the text in the description as well.

Descriptions should be succinct. It’s recommended to use no more than two sentences, but aim for one concise sentence when possible. This allows users to quickly understand the image without having to listen to a lengthy description.

As an example, if you were to describe this image for a screen reader, what would you say?


Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night


Source (Large preview)

Since we describe the information of the image and not the image itself, the description could be Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night since there is no other surrounding context that describes it. What you shouldn’t put is a description of the style of the painting or what the picture looks like.

If the information of the image would require a lengthy description, such as a complex chart, you shouldn’t put that description in the alt text. Instead, you should still use a short description for the alt text and then provide the long description as either a caption or link to a different page.

This way, users can still get the most important information quickly but have the ability to dig in further if they wish. If the image is of a chart, you should repeat the data of the chart just like you would for text in the image.

If the platform you are designing for allows users to upload images, you should provide a way for the user to enter the alt text along with the image. For example, Twitter allows its users to write alt text when they upload an image to a tweet.

To use the Lens of Images and Icons, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does any image contain information that would be lost if it was not viewable?
  • How could I provide the information in a non-visual way?
  • If the image is controlled by the user, is it possible to provide a way for them to enter the alt text description?

Lens Of Keyboard

Keyboard accessibility is among the most important aspects of an accessible design, yet it is also among the most overlooked.

There are many reasons why a user would use a keyboard instead of a mouse. Users who use a screen reader use the keyboard to read the page. A user with tremors may use a keyboard because it provides better accuracy than a mouse. Even power users will use a keyboard because it’s faster and more efficient.

A user using a keyboard typically uses the tab key to navigate to each control in sequence. A logical order for the tab order greatly helps users know where the next key press will take them. In western cultures, this usually means from left to right, top to bottom. Unexpected tab orders results in users becoming lost and having to scan frantically for where the focus went.

Sequential tab order also means that they must tab through all controls that are before the one that they want. If that control is tens or hundreds of keystrokes away, it can be a real pain point for the user.

By making the most important user flows nearer to the top of the tab order, we can help enable our users to be more efficient and effective. However, this isn’t always possible nor practical to do. In these cases, providing a way to quickly jump to a particular flow or content can still allow them to be efficient. This is why “skip to content” links are helpful.

A good example of this is Facebook which provides a keyboard navigation menu that allows users to jump to specific sections of the site. This greatly speeds up the ability for a user to interact with the page and the content they want.


facebook


Facebook provides a way for all keyboard users to jump to specific sections of the page, or other pages within Facebook, as well as an Accessibility Help menu. (Large preview)

When tabbing through a design, focus styles should always be visible or a user can easily become lost. Just like an unexpected tab order, not having good focus indicators results in users not knowing what is currently focused and having to scan the page.

Changing the look of the default focus indicator can sometimes improve the experience for users. A good focus indicator doesn’t rely on color alone to indicate focus (Lens of Color), and should be distinct enough to easily allow the user to find it. For example, a blue focus ring around a similarly colored blue button may not be visually distinct to discern that it is focused.

Although this lens focuses on keyboard accessibility, it’s important to note that it applies to any way a user could interact with a website without a mouse. Devices such as mouth sticks, switch access buttons, sip and puff buttons, and eye tracking software all require the page to be keyboard accessible.

By improving keyboard accessibility, you allow a wide range of users better access to your site.

To use the Lens of Keyboard, ask yourself these questions:

  • What keyboard navigation order makes the most sense for the design?
  • How could a keyboard user get to what they want in the quickest way possible?
  • Is the focus indicator always visible and visually distinct?

Lens Of Layout

Layout contributes a great deal to the usability of a site. Having a layout that is easy to follow with easy to find content makes all the difference to your users. A layout should have a meaningful and logical sequence for the user.

With the advent of CSS Grid, being able to change the layout to be more meaningful based on the available space is easier than ever. However, changing the visual layout creates problems for users who rely on the structural layout of the page.

The structural layout is what is used by screen readers and users using a keyboard. When the visual layout changes but not the underlying structural layout, these users can become confused as their tab order is no longer logical. If you must change the visual layout, you should do so by changing the structural layout so users using a keyboard maintain a sequential and logical tab order.

The layout should be resizable and flexible to a minimum of 320 pixels with no horizontal scroll bars so that it can be viewed comfortably on a phone. The layout should also be flexible enough to be zoomed in to 400% (also with no horizontal scroll bars) for users who need to increase the font size for a better reading experience.

Users using a screen magnifier benefit when related content is in close proximity to one another. A screen magnifier only provides the user with a small view of the entire layout, so content that is related but far away, or changes far away from where the interaction occurred is hard to find and can go unnoticed.

GIF of CodePen showing that clicking on a button does not update the interface
When performing a search on CodePen, the search button is in the top right corner of the page. Clicking the button reveals a large search input on the opposite side of the screen. A user using a screen magnifier would be hard pressed to notice the change and would think the button doesn’t work. (Large preview)

To use the Lens of Layout, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the layout have a meaningful and logical sequence?
  • What should happen to the layout when it’s viewed on a small screen or zoomed in to 400%?
  • Is content that is related or changes due to user interaction in close proximity to one another?

Lens Of Material Honesty

Material honesty is an architectural design value that states that a material should be honest to itself and not be used as a substitute for another material. It means that concrete should look like concrete and not be painted or sculpted to look like bricks.

Material honesty values and celebrates the unique properties and characteristics of each material. An architect who follows material honesty knows when each material should be used and how to use it without tarnishing itself.

Material honesty is not a hard and fast rule though. It lies on a continuum. Like all values, you are allowed to break them when you understand them. As the saying goes, they are “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.”

When applied to web design, material honesty means that one element or component shouldn’t look, behave, or function as if it were another element or component. Doing so would cheat the user and could lead to confusion. A common example of this are buttons that look like links or links that look like buttons.

Links and buttons have different behaviors and affordances. A link is activated with the enter key, typically takes you to a different page, and has a special context menu on right click. Buttons are activated with the space key, used primarily to trigger interactions on the current page, and have no such context menu.

When a link is styled to look like a button or vise versa, a user could become confused as it does not behave and function as it looks. If the “button” navigates the user away unexpectedly, they might become frustrated if they lost data in the process.

“At first glance everything looks fine, but it won’t stand up to scrutiny. As soon as such a website is stress‐tested by actual usage across a range of browsers, the façade crumbles.”

Resilient Web Design

Where this becomes the most problematic is when a link and button are styled the same and are placed next to one another. As there is nothing to differentiate between the two, a user can accidentally navigate when they thought they wouldn’t.


Three links and/or buttons shown inline with text


Can you tell which one of these will navigate you away from the page and which won’t? (Large preview)

When a component behaves differently than expected, it can easily lead to problems for users using a keyboard or screen reader. An autocomplete menu that is more than an autocomplete menu is one such example.

Autocomplete is used to suggest or predict the rest of a word a user is typing. An autocomplete menu allows a user to select from a large list of options when not all options can be shown.

An autocomplete menu is typically attached to an input field and is navigated with the up and down arrow keys, keeping the focus inside the input field. When a user selects an option from the list, that option will override the text in the input field. Autocomplete menus are meant to be lists of just text.

The problem arises when an autocomplete menu starts to gain more behaviors. Not only can you select an option from the list, but you can edit it, delete it, or even expand or collapse sections. The autocomplete menu is no longer just a simple list of selectable text.




With the addition of edit, delete, and profile buttons, this autocomplete menu is materially dishonest. (Large preview)

The added behaviors no longer mean you can just use the up and down arrows to select an option. Each option now has more than one action, so a user needs to be able to traverse two dimensions instead of just one. This means that a user using a keyboard could become confused on how to operate the component.

Screen readers suffer the most from this change of behavior as there is no easy way to help them understand it. A lot of work will be required to ensure the menu is accessible to a screen reader by using non-standard means. As such, it will might result in a sub-par or inaccessible experience for them.

To avoid these issues, it’s best to be honest to the user and the design. Instead of combining two distinct behaviors (an autocomplete menu and edit and delete functionality), leave them as two separate behaviors. Use an autocomplete menu to just autocomplete the name of a user, and have a different component or page to edit and delete users.

To use the Lens of Material Honesty, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the design being honest to the user?
  • Are there any elements that behave, look, or function as another element?
  • Are there any components that combine distinct behaviors into a single component? Does doing so make the component materially dishonest?

Lens Of Readability

Have you ever picked up a book only to get a few paragraphs or pages in and want to give up because the text was too hard to read? Hard to read content is mentally taxing and tiring.

Sentence length, paragraph length, and complexity of language all contribute to how readable the text is. Complex language can pose problems for users, especially those with cognitive disabilities or who aren’t fluent in the language.

Along with using plain and simple language, you should ensure each paragraph focuses on a single idea. A paragraph with a single idea is easier to remember and digest. The same is true of a sentence with fewer words.

Another contributor to the readability of content is the length of a line. The ideal line length is often quoted to be between 45 and 75 characters. A line that is too long causes users to lose focus and makes it harder to move to the next line correctly, while a line that is too short causes users to jump too often, causing fatigue on the eyes.

“The subconscious mind is energized when jumping to the next line. At the beginning of every new line the reader is focused, but this focus gradually wears off over the duration of the line”

— Typographie: A Manual of Design

You should also break up the content with headings, lists, or images to give mental breaks to the reader and support different learning styles. Use headings to logically group and summarize the information. Headings, links, controls, and labels should be clear and descriptive to enhance the users ability to comprehend.

To use the Lens of Readability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the language plain and simple?
  • Does each paragraph focus on a single idea?
  • Are there any long paragraphs or long blocks of unbroken text?
  • Are all headings, links, controls, and labels clear and descriptive?

Lens Of Structure

As mentioned in the Lens of Layout, the structural layout is what is used by screen readers and users using a keyboard. While the Lens of Layout focused on the visual layout, the Lens of Structure focuses on the structural layout, or the underlying HTML and semantics of the design.

As a designer, you may not write the structural layout of your designs. This shouldn’t stop you from thinking about how your design will ultimately be structured though. Otherwise, your design may result in an inaccessible experience for a screen reader.

Take for example a design for a single elimination tournament bracket.


Eight person tournament bracket featuring George, Fred, Linus, Lucy, Jack, Jill, Fred, and Ginger. Ginger ultimately wins against George.


Large preview

How would you know if this design was accessible to a user using a screen reader? Without understanding structure and semantics, you may not. As it stands, the design would probably result in an inaccessible experience for a user using a screen reader.

To understand why that is, we first must understand that a screen reader reads a page and its content in sequential order. This means that every name in the first column of the tournament would be read, followed by all the names in the second column, then third, then the last.

“George, Fred, Linus, Lucy, Jack, Jill, Fred, Ginger, George, Lucy, Jack, Ginger, George, Ginger, Ginger.”

If all you had was a list of seemingly random names, how would you interpret the results of the tournament? Could you say who won the tournament? Or who won game 6?

With nothing more to work with, a user using a screen reader would probably be a bit confused about the results. To be able to understand the visual design, we must provide the user with more information in the structural design.

This means that as a designer you need to know how a screen reader interacts with the HTML elements on a page so you know how to enhance their experience.

  • Landmark Elements (header, nav, main, and footer)
    Allow a screen reader to jump to important sections in the design.
  • Headings (h1h6)
    Allow a screen reader to scan the page and get a high level overview. Screen readers can also jump to any heading.
  • Lists (ul and ol)
    Group related items together, and allow a screen reader to easily jump from one item to another.
  • Buttons
    Trigger interactions on the current page.
  • Links
    Navigate or retrieve information.
  • Form labels
    Tell screen readers what each form input is.

Knowing this, how might we provide more meaning to a user using a screen reader?

To start, we could group each column of the tournament into rounds and use headings to label each round. This way, a screen reader would understand when a new round takes place.

Next, we could help the user understand which players are playing against each other each game. We can again use headings to label each game, allowing them to find any game they might be interested in.

By just adding headings, the content would read as follows:

“__Round 1, Game 1__, George, Fred, __Game 2__, Linus, Lucy, __Game 3__, Jack, Jill, __Game 4__, Fred, Ginger, __Round 2, Game 5__, George, Lucy, __Game 6__, Jack, Ginger, __Round 3__, __Game 7__, George, Ginger, __Winner__, Ginger.”

This is already a lot more understandable than before.

The information still doesn’t answer who won a game though. To know that, you’d have to understand which game a winner plays next to see who won the previous game. For example, you’d have to know that the winner of game four plays in game six to know who advanced from game four.

We can further enhance the experience by informing the user who won each game so they don’t have to go hunting for it. Putting the text “(winner)” after the person who won the round would suffice.

We should also further group the games and rounds together using lists. Lists provide the structural semantics of the design, essentially informing the user of the connected nodes from the visual design.

If we translate this back into a visual design, the result could look as follows:


The tournament bracket


The tournament with descriptive headings and winner information (shown here with grey background). (Large preview)

Since the headings and winner text are redundant in the visual design, you could hide them just from visual users so the end visual result looks just like the first design.

“If the end result is visually the same as where we started, why did we go through all this?” You may ask.

The reason is that you should always annotate your design with all the necessary structural design requirements needed for a better screen reader experience. This way, the person who implements the design knows to add them. If you had just handed the first design to the implementer, it would more than likely end up inaccessible.

To use the Lens of Structure, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I outline a rough HTML structure of my design?
  • How can I structure the design to better help a screen reader understand the content or find the content they want?
  • How can I help the person who will implement the design understand the intended structure?

Lens Of Time

Periodically in a design you may need to limit the amount of time a user can spend on a task. Sometimes it may be for security reasons, such as a session timeout. Other times it could be due to a non-functional requirement, such as a time constrained test.

Whatever the reason, you should understand that some users may need more time in order finish the task. Some users might need more time to understand the content, others might not be able to perform the task quickly, and a lot of the time they could just have been interrupted.

“The designer should assume that people will be interrupted during their activities”

— The Design of Everyday Things

Users who need more time to perform an action should be able to adjust or remove a time limit when possible. For example, with a session timeout you could alert the user when their session is about to expire and allow them to extend it.

To use the Lens of Time, ask yourself this question:

  • Is it possible to provide controls to adjust or remove time limits?

Bringing It All Together

So now that you’ve learned about the different lenses of accessibility through which you can view your design, what do you do with them?

The lenses can be used at any point in the design process, even after the design has been shipped to your users. Just start with a few of them at hand, and one at a time carefully analyze the design through a lens.

Ask yourself the questions and see if anything should be adjusted to better meet the needs of a user. As you slowly make changes, bring in other lenses and repeat the process.

By looking through your design one lens at a time, you’ll be able to refine the experience to better meet users’ needs. As you are more inclusive to the needs of your users, you will create a more accessible design for all your users.

Using lenses and insightful questions to examine principles of accessibility was heavily influenced by Jesse Schell and his book “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses.”

Smashing Editorial
(il, ra, yk)


Taken from – 

Designing For Accessibility And Inclusion

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