When you create sales pages that convert, you take some of the burden off your team. You don’t have to constantly be hustling to find prospective customers. They come to you. But let’s face it: Traffic doesn’t mean much without conversions. You need people to buy what you sell. Today, we’re going to talk about how to create sales pages that convert. I’ll provide you with some strategic tips and show some examples. We’re going to cover lots of information, so feel free to skip around: What are sales pages? Sales pages versus landing pages Long-form versus short-form landing pages…
There has been a surge of conversations about the tech industry lacking diversity. Companies are therefore encountering barriers in innovation. The current state of technology faces inequality and privilege, a consequence of having limited voices represented in the design and product development process. In addition, we live in a challenged political and socio-economic state where it’s easier to be divided than come together despite differences.
Design’s role in companies is becoming less about visual appeal and more about hitting business goals and creating value for users. Therefore, the need to build teams with diverse perspectives is becoming imperative. Design will not only be critical to solving problems on the product and experience level, but also relevant on a bigger scale to close social divides and to create inclusive communities.
Creating a team who can work well together across different disciplines can be hard. Rachel Andrew solicits some suggestions from the speakers at our upcoming SmashingConf in Toronto. Read article →
What Is Diversity And Why Is It Important?
Diversity is in perspectives and values, which are influenced by both inherit traits (such as ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation) as well as acquired traits that are gained from various life experiences (cultural influences, education, social circle, etc.). A combination of traits shape people’s identity and the way they think.
In particular, conflicts and adversities experienced by people have a significant influence on how they develop their values. The more an individual has stepped outside their comfort zone, the more unique of a perspective they bring to the table and an expanded capacity to be compassionate towards others.
Diversity is important because it directly affects long-term success, innovation, and growth. Advantages of working on a diverse team include increased collaboration, effective communication, well-rounded sets of skills represented, less susception to complacency, and active efforts for inclusivity are made earlier in the process.
What Is The Competing Values Framework?
The positive correlation between diversity and innovation are undeniable. So how exactly does it work? Having differing and oftentimes clashing perspectives on a team seems to hinder progress rather than drive it. But with the right balance of values, this dynamic is extremely advantageous. Design, as a problem-solving discipline, uses insights to drive innovation, which can only manifest between differences, not commonalities. When different perspectives and values are represented, blind spots become more apparent and implicit biases are challenged.
This is illustrated in the Competing Values Framework, a robust blueprint that was devised by Quinn and Rohrbaugh, based on researching qualities of companies that have sustainably produced a steady stream of innovative solutions over the years. This model for organizational effectiveness shows how different perspectives translate into business values, as well as show where their weaknesses are.
These are categorized into “quadrants” as follows:
People with characteristics from the Collaborate quadrant are committed to cooperating together based on shared values. They foster trust with each other and with their audience through compassion and empathy. Their priorities are long-term growth of communities and commit to learning and mentoring. While a sense of unity might help a team be more purpose-driven, this can discourage individuals who think differently to bring new ideas to the table because they are averse to taking risks. People here also lose sight of the realities of constraints because they look too far ahead.
While most people are hesitant to change and innovation, those in this quadrant embrace it. They’re extremely flexible with a shifting landscape of user and business goals and aren’t afraid of taking risks. Creatives see risk as an opportunity for growth and embrace different ways of thinking to come up with solutions. Trends are set by creatives, not followed. In contrast, however, those in this quadrant aren’t as logical and practical with the execution needed to bring ideas to life. Their flexibility can become chaotic and unpredictable. Taking risks can pay off significantly but it’s more detrimental without a foundation.
As the name implies, people here are competitive and focus on high performance and big results. They’re excellent decision makers, which is why they get things done quickly. They know exactly how to utilize resources around them to beat competitors and get to the top of the market. Competitors stay focused on the business objectives of increasing revenue and hitting target metrics. On the other hand, they’re not as broad of a visionary in the long run. Since they prioritize immediate results. Because of this, they may not be as compassionate towards their audience and not consider the human side of company growth.
People in this quadrant focus on creating systems that are reliable and efficient. They’re practical and can plan strategically for scaling, and they constantly revisit their design processes to optimize for productivity. They are extremely detail oriented and can identify areas of opportunities in the unexpected. They’re also experts at dealing with multiple moving parts and turn chaos into harmony. But if there are too many Control qualities on a team, they become vulnerable to falling into complacency since they depend on reliable systems. They are averse to taking risks and fear the nature of unpredictability.
People and their values don’t always neatly fit into categories but this framework is flexible in helping teams identify their strengths and weaknesses. Many individuals have traits that cover more than one quadrant but there are definitely dominant qualities. Being able to identify what they are on an individual level, as well as within a team and at the company level is important.
How Do We Use The CVF To Build Diverse Teams?
There are already many great design processes and frameworks that takes aspects of the CVF to help teams take advantage of diverse perspectives. The sprint model, developed by the design partners at Google Ventures, is an excellent workflow that brings together differing values and skill sets to solve problems, with an emphasis on completing it in a short amount of time. IDEO’s design thinking process, also referred to human-centered design, puts users at the forefront and drive decisions with empathy with collaboration being at the core.
The CVF complements many existing design processes to help teams bring their differing perspectives together and design more holistically. In order to do this, teams need to evaluate where they are, how to fit in the company and how well that aligns with their priorities. They should also identify the missing voices and assess areas for improvement. They need to be asking themselves,
What has the team dynamic been like for the past year? What progress has been made? What goals (business/user/team) are the most important?
The Competing Values Framework assessment is a practical way to (1) establish the desired organizational outcomes and goals, (2) evaluate the current practices of teams within the organization/company and how they manage workflows, and (3) the individual’s role and how they fit into the context of the team and company.
For example, a team that may not have had many roadblocks and disagreements may represent too much of the Collaborate quadrant and need people who represent more of the Compete quadrant to drive results. A team that has taken risks has had failures, and has dealt with many moving parts (Create) may need people who have characteristics of the Control quadrant for stability and scaling on a practical level to drive results and growth.
If teams can expand by hiring more, they should absolutely onboard more innovators who bring different perspectives and strengths. But teams should also keep in mind that it’s absolutely possible to work with what they already have and can utilize resources at their disposal. Here are some practical ways that teams can increase diversity:
Hire For Diversity
When hiring, it’s important to find people with unique perspectives to complement existing designers and stakeholders. Writing inclusive job descriptions to attract a wider range of candidates makes a big difference. Involving people from all levels and backgrounds within the company who are willing to embrace new perspectives is essential. Hiring managers should ask thoughtful questions to gage how well candidates exercise their problem-solving skills and empathy in real-life business cases. Not making assumptions about others, even with something simple like their pronouns, can establish safe work environments and encourage people to be open about their views and values.
Step Outside The Bubble
Whether this would be directly for client work or for building team rapport, it’s valuable to get people out of the office to experience things outside of their familiar scope. It’s worthwhile for design teams to interact with users and spend time in their shoes, not only for their own work as UX practitioners but also to help expand their worldview. They should be encouraged to constantly learn something new. They should be given opportunities to travel to places that are completely different from their comfort zone. Teams should also be encouraged go to design events and learn from industry experts who do similar work but in different contexts. Great ideas emerge when people experience things outside their routine and therefore, should always get out and learn!
Drive Diversity Initiatives Internally
Hosting in-house hackathons to get teams to interact differently allows designers to expand their skills while learning new approaches to problem solving. It is also an opportunity to work with people from other teams and acquire the skills to adapt quickly. Bringing in outside experts to share their wisdom is a great way for teams to learn new ways of thinking. Some companies, especially larger organizations, have communities based on interests outside of work such as the love for food or interest in outdoors activities. Teaching each other skills through internal workshops is also great.
Foster A Culture Of Appreciation
Some companies have weekly roundtable session where each person on the team shares one thing he or she is appreciative about another person. Not only does this encourage high morale but also empowers teams to produce better work. At the same time, teams are given a safe space to be vulnerable with each other and take risks. This is an excellent way to bond over goals and get teams with differing perspectives together to collaborate.
What Should Diverse Teams Keep In Mind?
Acknowledging that while different ideas and values are important, they can clash if conversations are not managed effectively. Discrimination and segregation can happen. But creating a workspace and team dynamic that is open to discussion and a safe space to challenge existing ideas is crucial. People should be open to being challenged and ask questions, rather than get defensive about their ideas. Compromise will be necessary in this process.
When diversity isn’t managed actively, or there is an imbalance of values on a team, several challenges arise:
Communication barriers — How people say things can be different from how others hear and understand them. Misunderstandings could lead to crucial voices not always being heard. If a particular style of communication is accepted over others, people fear speaking up. They might hold the wisdom to make design decisions that could impact the business. If a culture of openness doesn’t exist, a lot of those gold mines never get their opportunities to see the light of day.
Discrimination and segregation — As teams become more diverse, people can stray away from or avoid others who think differently. This can lead to increased feelings of resentment, leading to segregation and even discrimination. People might be quick to judge one another based on stereotypical references, rather than mustering the courage to understand where they come from.
Competition over collaboration — People on design teams need to work collaboratively but when different perspectives clash and aren’t encouraged to use their perspectives to create value for the company, they become competitive against each other rather than have the willingness to work together. It’s important to bring the team back to the main goal.
Embracing different perspectives takes courage but it’s everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of one another. Being surrounded by people with different perspectives is certainly uncomfortable and can be a stretch outside their comfort zones. Design teams are positioned advantageously to do so and be role models to others on its impact. Conversations about leveraging differing perspectives should happen as early in the process as possible to limit friction and encourage effective collaboration.
Conclusion And Next Steps
Rather than approach it as an obligation and something with a lot of risk, leaders should see it as a benefit to their company and team’s growth. It is often said that roadblocks are a sign of innovation. Therefore, when designers in a team are faced with challenges, they are able to innovate. And only through the existence different perspectives can such challenges emerge. Assessing where the company, teams, and individuals are within the CVF quadrants is a great start and taking steps to building a team with complementing perspectives will be key to driving long-term innovation.
I’d like to personally thank the following contributors for taking their time to providing me with insights on hiring for and building diverse design teams: Samantha Berg, Khanh Lam, Arin Bhowmick, Rob Strati, Shannon O’Brien, Diego Pulido, Nathan Gao, Christopher Taylor Edwards, among many others who engaged in discussions with me on this topic. Thank you for allowing me to take your experiences and being part of facilitating this dialogue on the value of diversity in design.
We’ve all heard the term “less is more”. And we’ve been told this applies for landing pages too. I.e. your forms should be short and only ask for only the bare minimum of required information if you want to convert.
However, when used across the board, this advice can backfire.
As an example, one of the main questions someone typically has when faced with a landing page is is how much your offer will cost. But if the offer on your landing page is for a free quote, you can’t necessarily disclose pricing on the page. When there’s no pricing, but instead a form requiring a name, phone number, and email, the visitor knows:
They’re going to need to talk to someone to get an answer to their question (they’re well aware you can’t give a customized quote from such limited info), plus, prospects are very reluctant to give their information out to just anyone.
They can click the back button and find a competitor that will give them what they want faster.
So why would we expect a form with super generic fields to be compelling enough for someone to engage with us in all cases?
As we’ve found at our agency KlientBoost, by increasing the amount of steps and the amount of form fields, we could actually increase conversion rates. The key here for us has been the order in which we present our steps and what info we ask for first.
Can more form fields really increase conversions?
As you may know, adding form fields goes against everything we’ve typically been advised to do:
You can find the sources for the above here, here, and here.
And while there are certainly cases in which fewer form fields are best, we’ve found adding more of the right form fields in progression can help ease conversion anxiety. When done correctly, it can take your free quote/lead generation landing pages to the next level.
At our agency we call our multi-step form approach the Breadcrumb Technique – think Hansel and Gretel where the breadcrumbs lead them in the right direction.
Experimenting with the Breadcrumb Technique
This is the landing page version of the sales technique called the “Yes Ladder”. It’s the art of eventually getting to what you want (the conversion) as a marketer, by getting visitors to say yes to much smaller requests first.
Click above to see a larger image of our landing page form flow. As each step progresses, the questions become more personal in nature.
Instead of having one page and one form to capture leads, you spread the form fields across two or more steps. So potential leads that visit the first page via your ads will fill in a short form and, after clicking the CTA button, they’re directed to the next step.
The first step starts with the least personal questions that allow the visitor to stay anonymous, whereas the second (and possible additional steps) ask for more, (albeit) reasonable, personal information. Here’s an example from one of our clients ZipLending. Their landing page offers a quote for rates on mortgages:
Notice the questions being asked in the step one form:
What kind of property are you considering?
What is your estimated credit score?
What is your desired loan amount?
All fairly low threat questions that allow the prospect to stay anonymous but feel like they’re going to get a quality answer they’re looking for, tailored to them.
Next, they’re directed to the second step form fields:
This step asks for more personal information, but logically reminds the prospect we need this information to send custom rates their way.
And while I can’t share the nitty gritty numbers of this test, I can share some high-level results. After the multi-step changes were made in the form above, we were able to bring in 35 more leads for ZipLending from March 2017 to May 2017. The client also noticed they were really high quality leads because of the qualifying questions we had included in our first step.
When we experimented with a multi-step form for another client, Garza Law, we were able to steadily increase the number of leads, bringing in 66 more in March 2018 than in December 2017, for example. Here’s a look at that:
Depending on the industry you’re working with and the typical value of a lead, 35-66 more leads in a given month can be a huge upgrade for a client and it’s why we’re thrilled to be able to deliver this via the multi-step form approach.
Why the BreadCrumb Technique is a cool experiment
If you want to try this with your landing pages, on the first step form, you set up questions pertinent to what the prospect might ask had they called you on the phone. This establishes the custom nature of what they will receive in return.
In the particular example we’ve outlined above, the visitor is interested in getting a no-obligation quote. So surely we’d need certain information on what they’re looking for to be helpful, and because the prospect understands this they’re more willing to participate for the perceived, increased value.
Replacing highly personal, red-flag-raising questions in the first step with questions that help the prospect hone in on exactly what they’re looking for will not only grow your conversions, but often improves lead quality as well.
Additionally, on the ZipLending page, notice the the headline changes between step one and two to let people know that they’re not yet finished with the process.
The “get rates” CTA button text also changes to “send rates”. If the language does not differ from your step one to step two, this could cause a drop in conversions as people may think the form just refreshed and they’re done with the process.
Remember: all your landing page forms need to be GDPR compliant by May 25, 2018 (featuring privacy policies and opt-in checkboxes). Learn how to make your landing pages compliant by design here.
The psychology backing up this technique
After filling out the initial questions in step one, the last step of filling out the more sensitive fields like name, email, phone number becomes much easier because of compliance psychology.
In other words, once you commit to small things, you’re more likely to continue onto bigger commitments aligned with your initial decision.
Scott Fraser and Jonathan Freedman also conducted research on how to get people to say yes. They went door to door asking people to put up a sign that read: “Drive Carefully” in their front yard, but only 20% of people agreed to this.
They then did the same test in a nearby neighborhood, but this time they asked people to put much smaller signs in their yard. This created the opportunity to get them to eventually say yes to putting up the original, larger signs.
Next time around, 76% people agreed to put up the larger signs compared to the original 20%. Psychology baby!
Following the multi-step model designed to ease visitors into a commitment, here’s another successful built-in-Unbounce landing page example from one of our clients:
The first step
The first form step asks about what the prospect needs.
The second step
The second step, reminding the prospect that what they want is almost ready to go.
Notice how the first step asks for make, model, and year of the car. In this first step, make sure to ask questions that are super easy for the visitor to answer, but also strongly relate to your offer.
Successful multi-step forms weren’t a one-time thing for us
What’s cool is that this multi-step landing page technique has worked for us at KlientBoost several times for different clients.
Below you can see our client Mention’s Unbounce landing page offering their free demo, Auto Buyer’s landing page for their offer on your vehicle, and Watchex’s estimate for purchasing your Rolex. These campaigns all followed the same breadcrumb technique:
Client example: Mention.
Another client example: Auto Buyer’s.
Another client example: Watchex.
Progress bars can help light the way
When it comes to multi-step landing pages, something to consider testing is adding a progress bar, or a step wizard. This is especially handy when you have more than two steps, like the following example:
Step 1 says 0% complete.
Step 2 let’s the user know that this is the last step before completion.
The wizard signals to people just how much they will need to fill out, which can help ease any uncertainty about how much information is required.
In our experience, we’ve found it works best to include the wizard starting on the second step form fields and not the first. Visitors are more likely to continue through the whole process if they start the process, as per compliance psychology.
How do you try out The Breadcrumb Technique on your Unbounce landing pages?
It’s easy! Instead of having your usual one-step form, head to your form confirmation dialog and make your first-step’s form destination direct to the url of your second step (See below).
When you select the form in the Unbounce builder, you will see options on the right of where the form confirmation goes. Under confirmation, select “Go to URL”, then paste in the url of the second step form, and make sure that the “Append form data to URL” is checked.
For the second step of the form, you must make sure a very crucial step is completed, otherwise the information from your first step will not pass over and you will not receive a full lead. See below:
You will need to create hidden fields with the same field IDs of the form fields on your first step. If they don’t match, the information will not pass over. As long as you have all fields from the first step as hidden fields on the second step, you should be just fine.
Now that your first and second step are linked together correctly, you can continue with your regularly scheduled programming of sending the second step form to your form confirmation dialog (or a thank you page). All done!
Unbounce has an easy multi-step function
There’s always more than one way to do something! Although this requires some development work, Noah Matsell from Unbounce has some helpful tips on creating multi-step forms within the same page/url. This means you won’t need to paste in the second form url as the destination of your first form.
Note that this workaround allows you to create a form with one field per step, so this may not work for those who would like to have several form fields appear in a given step, however you can test out what works for you.
To create these multi-step forms on the same page:
Create your form in Unbounce.
Create a new button element for your ‘Next’ button and one for your ‘Previous’ button. Keep in mind when positioning these buttons (and your form submission button) that only one field will be shown at a time.
Update the script with the ID of your ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ button elements. Tip: Make sure you exclude the ‘#’ in the ID.
Copy the CSS from ‘multistep_form.css’ and paste it into the Stylesheets section of your page.
That’s it! See the whole process and the required code here.
Test out the technique on your next landing page
It might take a bit of practice to figure out the correct questions to be asking on your first step, or to find out the type of language to use on your form; but that’s what conversion rate optimization is all about: testing and trying new things to see what sticks. Ask the questions your visitors want answers to, and ask the questions your sales people need answers to to give a prospect a more personal answer.
If you give this a try, we would love to hear about your experience with a comment below.
Remember, all your forms (multi-step or otherwise) need to be GDPR compliant by May 25, 2018. See how to make your landing pages compliant by design and allow a visitor to opt-in here.
Managing SVG Interaction With The Pointer Events Property
Try clicking or tapping the SVG image below. If you put your pointer in the right place (the shaded path) then you should have Smashing Magazine’s homepage open in a new browser tab. If you tried to click on some white space, you might be really confused instead.
This is the dilemma I faced during a recent project that included links within SVG images. Sometimes when I clicked the image, the link worked. Other times it didn’t. Confusing, right?
I turned to the SVG specification to learn more about what might be happening and whether SVG offers a fix. The answer: pointer-events.
Not to be confused with DOM (Document Object Model) pointer events, pointer-events is both a CSS property and an SVG element attribute. With it, we can manage which parts of an SVG document or element can receive events from a pointing device such as a mouse, trackpad, or finger.
A note about terminology: “pointer events” is also the name of a device-agnostic, web platform feature for user input. However, in this article — and for the purposes of the pointer-events property — the phrase “pointer events” also includes mouse and touch events.
Outside Of The Box: SVG’s “Shape Model”
Using CSS with HTML imposes a box layout model on HTML. In the box layout model, every element generates a rectangle around its contents. That rectangle may be inline, inline-level, atomic inline-level, or block, but it’s still a rectangle with four right angles and four edges. When we add a link or an event listener to an element, the interactive area matches the dimensions of the rectangle.
Note: Adding a clip-path to an interactive element alters its interactive bounds. In other words, if you add a hexagonal clip-path path to an a element, only the points within the clipping path will be clickable. Similarly, adding a skew transformation will turn rectangles into rhomboids.
SVG does not have a box layout model. You see, when an SVG document is contained by an HTML document, within a CSS layout, the root SVG element adheres to the box layout model. Its child elements do not. As a result, most CSS layout-related properties don’t apply to SVG.
So instead, SVG has what I’ll call a ‘shape model’. When we add a link or an event listener to an SVG document or element, the interactive area will not necessarily be a rectangle. SVG elements do have a bounding box. The bounding box is defined as: the tightest fitting rectangle aligned with the axes of that element’s user coordinate system that entirely encloses it and its descendants. But initially, which parts of an SVG document are interactive depends on which parts are visible and/or painted.
Painted vs. Visible Elements
SVG elements can be “filled” but they can also be “stroked”. Fill refers to the interior of a shape. Stroke refers to its outline.
Together, “fill” and “stroke” are painting operations that render elements to the screen or page (also known as the canvas). When we talk about painted elements, we mean that the element has a fill and/or a stroke. Usually, this means the element is also visible.
However, an SVG element can be painted without being visible. This can happen if the visible attribute value or CSS property is hidden or when display is none. The element is there and occupies theoretical space. We just can’t see it (and assistive technology may not detect it).
Perhaps more confusingly, an element can also be visible — that is, have a computed visibility value of visible — without being painted. This happens when elements lack both a stroke and a fill.
Note: Color values with alpha transparency (e.g. rgba(0,0,0,0)) do not affect whether an element is painted or visible. In other words, if an element has an alpha transparent fill or stroke, it’s painted even if it can’t be seen.
Knowing when an element is painted, visible, or neither is crucial to understanding the impact of each pointer-events value.
All Or None Or Something In Between: The Values
pointer-events is both a CSS property and an SVG element attribute. Its initial value is auto, which means that only the painted and visible portions will receive pointer events. Most other values can be split into two groups:
Values that require an element to be visible; and
Values that do not.
painted, fill, stroke, and all fall into the latter category. Their visibility-dependent counterparts — visiblePainted, visibleFill, visibleStroke and visible — fall into the former.
The SVG 2.0 specification also defines a bounding-box value. When the value of pointer-events is bounding-box, the rectangular area around the element can also receive pointer events. As of this writing, only Chrome 65+ supports the bounding-box value.
none is also a valid value. It prevents the element and its children from receiving any pointer events. The pointer-events CSS property can be used with HTML elements too. But when used with HTML, only auto and none are valid values.
Since pointer-events values are better demonstrated than explained, let’s look at some demos.
Here we have a circle with a fill and a stroke applied. It’s both painted and visible. The entire circle can receive pointer events, but the area outside of the circle cannot.
Disable the fill, so that its value is none. Now if you try to hover, click, or tap the interior of the circle, nothing happens. But if you do the same for the stroke area, pointer events are still dispatched. Changing the fill value to none means that this area visible, but not painted.
Let’s make a small change to our markup. We’ll add pointer-events="visible" to our circle element, while keeping fill=none.
Now the unpainted area encircled by the stroke can receive pointer events.
Augmenting The Clickable Area Of An SVG Image
Let’s return to the image from the beginning of this article. Our “amethyst” is a path element, as opposed to a group of polygons each with a stroke and fill. That means we can’t just add pointer-events="all" and call it a day.
Instead, we need to augment the click area. Let’s use what we know about painted and visible elements. In the example below, I’ve added a rectangle to our image markup.
Even though this rectangle is unseen, it’s still technically visible (i.e. visibility: visible). Its lack of a fill, however, means that it is not painted. Our image looks the same. Indeed it still works the same — clicking white space still doesn’t trigger a navigation operation. We still need to add a pointer-events attribute to our a element. Using the visible or all values will work here.
Using bounding-box would eliminate the need for a phantom element. All points within the bounding box would receive pointer events, including the white space enclosed by the path. But again: pointer-events="bounding-box" isn’t widely supported. Until it is, we can use unpainted elements.
Using pointer-events When Mixing SVG And HTML
Another case where pointer-events may be helpful: using SVG inside of an HTML button.
In most browsers — Firefox and Internet Explorer 11 are exceptions here — the value of event.target will be an SVG element instead of our HTML button. Let’s add pointer-events="none" to our opening SVG tag.
Now when users click or tap our button, the event.target will refer to our button.
SVG supports the same kind of interactivity we’re used to with HTML. We can use it to create charts that respond to clicks or taps. We can create linked areas that don’t adhere to the CSS and HTML box model. And with the addition of pointer-events, we can improve the way our SVG documents behave in response to user interaction.
Browser support for SVG pointer-events is robust. Every browser that supports SVG supports the property for SVG documents and elements. When used with HTML elements, support is slightly less robust. It isn’t available in Internet Explorer 10 or its predecessors, or any version of Opera Mini.
We’ve just scratched the surface of pointer-events in this piece. For a more in-depth, technical treatment, read through the SVG Specification. MDN (Mozilla Developer Network) Web Docs offers more web developer-friendly documentation for pointer-events, complete with examples.
Design has a large impact on content visibility — so does SEO. However, there are some key SEO concepts that experts in the field struggle to communicate clearly to designers. This can create friction and the impression that most well-designed websites are very poorly optimized for SEO.
Here is an overview of what we will be covering in this article:
Design mobile first for Google,
Structure content for organic visibility,
Focus on user intent (not keywords),
Send the right signals with internal linking,
A crash course on image SEO,
Penalties for pop-ups,
Say it like you mean it: voice search and assistants.
Design Mobile First For Google
This year, Google plans on indexing websites mobile first:
Our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.
So, How Does This Affect Websites In Terms Of Design?
Well, it means that your website should be responsive. Responsive design isn’t about making elements fit on various screens. It is about usability. This requires shifting your thinking towards designing a consistent, high-quality experience across multiple devices.
Here are a few things that users care about when it comes to a website:
Flexible texts and images. People should be able to view images and read texts. No one likes looking at pixels hoping they morph into something readable or into an image.
Defined breakpoints for design changes (you can do that via CSS media queries).
Being able to use your website on all devices. This can mean being able to use your website in portrait or landscape mode without losing half of the features or having buttons that do not work.
A fluid site grid that aims to maintain proportions.
We won’t go into details about how to create a remarkable responsive website as this is not the main topic. However, if you want to take a deep dive into this fascinating subject, may I recommend a Smashing Book 5?
Do you need a concrete visual to help you understand why you must think about the mobile side of things from the get-go? Stéphanie Walter provided a great visual to get the point across:
Crafting Content For Smaller Screens
Your content should be as responsive as your design. The first step to making content responsive for your users is to understand user behavior and preferences.
Content should be so riveting that users scroll to read more of it;
Stop thinking in terms of text. Animated gifs, videos, infographics are all very useful types of content that are very mobile-friendly;
Keep your headlines short enticing. You need to convince visitors to click on an article, and a wall of text won’t achieve that;
Different devices can sometimes mean different expectations or different user needs. Your content should reflect that.
SEO tip regarding responsive design:
Google offers a mobile-friendly testing tool. Careful though: This tool helps you meet Google’s design standards, but it doesn’t mean that your website is perfectly optimized for a mobile experience.
Test how the Google bot sees your website with the “Fetch and render” feature in Google Search Console. You can test desktop and mobile formats to see how a human user and Google bot will see your site.
Content Structure For Organic Visibility
SEO experts think of page organization in terms that are accessible for a search engine bot. This means that we look at a page design to quickly establish what is an H1, H2, and an H3 tag. Content organization should be meaningful. This means that it should act as a path that the bot can follow. If all of this sounds familiar to you, it may be due to the fact that content hierarchy is also used to improve accessibility. There are some slight differences between how SEO and accessibility use H tags:
SEO focuses on H1 through H3 tags whereas accessibility makes use of all H tags (H1 through H6).
SEO experts recommend using a single H1 tag per page whereas accessibility handles multiple H1 tags per page. Although Google has said in the past that it accepts multiple H1 tags on a page, years of experience have shown that a single H1 tag is better to help you rank.
SEO experts investigate content structure by displaying the headings on a page. You do the same type of check quickly by using the Web Developer Toolbar extension (available on Chrome and Firefox) by Chris Pederick. If you go into the information section and click on “View Document Outline,” a tab with the content hierarchy will open in your browser.
Bonus:If the content structure of your pages is easy to understand and geared towards common user queries, then Google may show it in “position zero” (a result that shows a content snippet above the first results).
You can see how this can help you increase your overall visibility in search engine result pages below:
SEO Tip To Get Content Hierarchy Right
Content hierarchy should not include sidebars, headers or footer. Why? Because if we are talking about a chocolate recipe and the first thing you present to the robot is content from your sidebar touting a signup form for your newsletter, it’s falling short of user expectations (hint: unless a newsletter signup promises a slice of chocolate cake for dinner, you are about to have very disappointed users).
If we go back to the Canva page, you can see that “related articles” and other H tags should not be part of the content hierarchy of this page as they do not reflect the content of this specific page. Although HTML5 standards recommend using H tags for sidebars, headers, and footers, it’s not very compatible with SEO.
Content Quantity Shifts: Long Form Content Is On The Rise
Creating flagship content is important to rank in Google. In copywriting terms, this type of content is often part of a cornerstone page. It can take the shape of a tutorial, an FAQ page, but cornerstone content is the foundation to a well-ranked website. As such, it is a prized asset for inbound marketing to attract visits, backlinks and position a brand in a niche.
In the olden days, 400-word pages were considered to be “long form” content to rank in Google. Today, long-form content that is 1000, 2000 or even 3000 words long outranks short form content very often. This means that you need to start planning and designing to make long-form content engaging and scrollable. Design interactions should be aesthetically pleasing and create a consistent experience even for mammoth content like cornerstone pages. Long form content is a great way to create an immersive and engaging experience.
A great example of the power of long-form content tied-in with user search intent is the article about intrusive interstitials on Smashing. Most users will call interstitials “pop-ups” because that is how many of us think of these things. In this case, in Google.com, the article ranks right after the official Google guidelines (and it makes sense that Google should be number 1 on their own branded query) but Smashing magazine is shown as a “position 0” snippet of text on the query “Google pop up guidelines” in Google.com.. Search Engine Land, a high-quality SEO blog that is a pillar of the community is ranking after Smashing (which happens to be more of a design blog than an SEO one).
Of course, these results are ever-changing thanks to machine learning, location data, language and a slew of other ranking factors. However, it is a nice indicator that user intent and long-form content are a great way to get accrued visibility from your target audience.
Search engines have evolved in leaps and bounds these past few years. Google’s aim has always been to have their bot mimic human behavior to help evaluate websites. This meant that Search engine optimization has moved beyond “keywords” and seeks to understand the intent behind the search query a user types in Google.
For example, if you work to optimize content for an Android banking application and do a keyword research, you will see that oftentimes the words “free iPad” come up in North America. This doesn’t make sense until you realize that most banks used to run promotions that would offer free iPads for every new account opened. In light of this, we know that using “free iPad” as a keyword for an Android application used by a bank that is not running this type of promotion is not a good idea.
User intent matters unless you want to rank on terms that will bring you unqualified traffic. Does this mean that keyword research is now useless? Of course not! It just means that the way we approach keyword research is now infused with a UX-friendly approach.
Researching User Intent
User experience is critical for SEO. We also focus on user intent. The search queries a user makes give us valuable insights as to how people think about content, products, and services. Researching user intent can help uncover the hopes, problems, and desires of your users. Google approaches user intent by focusing on micro-moments. Micro-moments can be defined as intent profiles that seek information through search results. Here are the four big micro-moments:
I want to know. Users want information or inspiration at this stage. The queries are quite often conversational — it starts with a problem. Since users don’t know the solution or sometimes the words to describe their interest, queries will always be a bit vaguer.
I want to go. Location, location, location! Queries that signal a local intent are gaining ground. We don’t want any type of restaurant; the one that matters is the one that’s closest to us/the best in our area. Well, this can be seen in queries that include “near me” or a specific city or neighborhood. Localization is important to humans.
I want to do. People also search for things that they want to do. This is where tutorials are key. Advertising promises fast weight loss, but a savvy entrepreneur should tell you HOW you can lose weight in detail.
I want to buy. Customers showcase intent to buy quite clearly online. They want “deals” or “reviews” to make their decision.
Uncovering User Intent
Your UX or design strategy should reflect these various stages of user intent. Little tweaks in the words you make can make a big difference. So how does one go about uncovering user intent? We recommend you install Google Search Console to gain insights as to how users find you. This free tool helps you discover some of the keywords users search for to find your content. Let’s look at two tools that can help you uncover or validate user intent. Best of all, they are free!
Google Trends is a great way to validate if something’s popularity is on the rise, waning or steady. It provides data locally and allows you to compare two queries to see which one is more popular. This tool is free and easily accessible (compared to the Keyword Planner tool in AdWords that requires an account and more hassle).
Answer The Public
Answer The Public is a great way to quickly see what people are looking for on Google. Better yet, you can do so by language and get a wonderful sunburst visual for your efforts! It’s not as precise as some of the tools SEO experts use but keep in mind that we’re not asking designers and UX experts to become search engine optimization gurus! Note: this tool won’t provide you stats or local data (it won’t give you data just for England for example). No need for a tutorial here, just head on over and try it out!
Bonus Tool: Serpstat “Search Questions”
Full disclosure, I use other premium tools as part of my own SEO toolkit. Serpstat is a premium content marketing toolkit, but it’s actually affordable and allows you to dig much deeper into user intent. It helps provide me with information I never expected to find. Case in point, a few months ago, I got to learn that quite a few people in North America were confused about why bathtubs would let light shine through. The answer was easy to me; most bathtubs are made of fiberglass (not metal like in the olden days). It turns out, not everyone is clear on that and some customers needed to be reassured on this point.
If you head on to the “content marketing” section, you can access “Questions.” You can input a keyword and see how it is used in various queries. You can export the results.
This tool will also help you spy on the competition’s content marketing efforts, determine what queries your website ranks on in various countries and what your top SEO pages are.
Internal Linking: Because We All Have Our Favorite Pages
The links you have on your website are signaling to search engines bots which pages you find more valuable over others in your website. It’s one of the central concerns for SEOs looking to optimize contents on a site. A well-thought-out internal linking structure provide SEO and UX benefits:
Internal linking helps organize content based on different categories than the regular navigation;
It provides more ways for users to interact with your website;
It shows search engine bots which pages are important from your perspective;
It provides a clear label for each link and provides context.
Here’s a quick primer in internal linking:
The homepage tends to be the most authoritative page on a website. As such, it’s a great page to point to other pages you want to give an SEO boost to.
All pages within one link of the home page will often be interpreted by search engine bots as being important.
Stop using generic keyword anchors across your website. It could come across as spammy. “Read more” and “click here” provide very little context for users and bots alike.
Leverage navigation bars, menus, footers and breadcrumb links to provide ample visibility for your key pages.
CTA text should also be clear and very descriptive to encourage conversions.
Favor links in a piece of content: it’s highly contextual and has more weight than a generic anchor text or a footer or sidebar link that can be found across the website.
According to Google’s John Mueller: a link’s position in a page is irrelevant. However, SEOs tend to prefer links higher on a page.
It’s easier for search engines to “evaluate” links in text content vs. image anchors because oftentimes images do not come with clear, contextual ALT attributes.
Is there a perfect linking structure at the website level and the page level? The answer is no. A website can have a different linking structure in place depending on its nature (blog, e-commerce, publication, B2B website, etc.) and the information architecture choices made (the information architecture can lead to a pyramid type structure, or something resembling a nest, a cocoon, etc.).
Image SEO is a crucial part of SEO different types of websites. Blogs and e-commerce websites rely heavily on visual items to attract traffic to their website. Social discovery of content and shoppable media increase visits.
We won’t go into details regarding how to optimize your ALT attributes and file names as other articles do a fine job of it. However, let’s take a look at some of the main image formats we tend to use on the web (and that Google is able to crawl without any issues):
JPEG Best for photographs or designs with people, places or things.
PNG Best for images with transparent backgrounds.
GIF Best for animated GIFs, otherwise, use the JPG format.
The Lighter The Better: A Few Tips On Image Compression
Google prefers lighter images. The lighter, the better. However, you may have a hidden problem dragging you down: your CMS. You may upload one image, but your CMS could be creating many more. For example, WordPress will often create 3 to 5 variations of each image in different sizes. This means that images can quickly impact your performance. The best way to deal with this is to compress your images.
Don’t Trust Google Page Speed (A Quick Compression Algorithm Primer)
Not sure if images are dragging your performance down? Take a page from your website, put it through the online optimizer and see what the results are! If you plan on using Google Page Speed Insights, you need to consider the fact that this tool uses one specific algorithm to analyze your images. Sometimes, your images are perfectly optimized with another algorithm that’s not detected by Google’s tool. This can lead to a false positive result telling you to optimize images that are already optimized.
Tools You Can Use
If you want to get started with image compression, you can go about three ways:
Start compressing images in photo editing tools (most of them have an “export for the web” type of feature).
Install a plugin or module that is compatible with your CMS to do the work for you. Shortpixel is a good one to use for WordPress. It is freemium so you can optimize for free up to a certain point and then upgrade if you need to compress more images. The best thing about it is that it keeps a backup just in case you want to revert your changes. You can use a service like EWWWW or Short Pixel.
Use an API or a script to compress images for you. Kraken.io offers a solid API to get the job done. You can use a service like Image Optim or Kraken.
Lossy vs. Lossless Image Compression
Image compression comes in two flavors: lossy and lossless. There is no magic wand for optimizing images. It depends on the algorithm you use to optimize each image.
Lossy doesn’t mean bad when it comes to images. JPEGS and GIFS are lossy image formats that we use all the time online. Unlike code, you can remove data from images without corrupting the entire file. Our eyes can put up with some data loss because we are sensitive to different colors in different ways. Oftentimes, a 50% compression applied to an image will decrease its file size by 90%. Going beyond that is not worth the image degradation risks as it would become noticeable to your visitors. When it comes to lossy image compression, it’s about finding a compromise between quality and size.
Lossless image compression focuses on removing metadata from JPEG and PNG files. This means that you will have to look into other ways to optimize your load time as images will always be heavier than those optimized with a lossy compression.
Banners With Text In It
Ever open Pinterest? You will see a wall of images with text in it. The reality for many of us in SEO is that Google bot can’t read all about how to “Crack chicken noodle soup” or what Disney couple you are most like. Google can read image file names and image ALT text. So it’s crucial to think about this when designing marketing banners that include text. Always make sure your image file name and image ALT attribute are optimized to give Google a clue as to what is written on the image. If possible, favor image content with a text overlay available in the code. That way, Google will be able to read it!
Here is a quick checklist to help you optimize your image ALT attributes:
ALT attributes shouldn’t be too long: aim for 12 words or less.
ALT attributes should describe the image itself, not the content it is surrounded by (if your picture is of a palm tree, do not title it “the top 10 beaches to visit”).
ALT attributes should be in the proper language. Here is a concrete example: if a page is written in French, do not provide an English ALT attribute for the image in it.
ALT attributes can be written like regular sentences. No need to separate the words by dashes, you can use spaces.
ALT attributes should be descriptive in a human-friendly way. They are not made to contain a series of keywords separated by commas!
Google Lens is available on Android phones and rolling out to iOS. It is a nifty little addition because it can interpret many images the way a human would. It can read text embedded in images, can recognize landmarks, books, movies and scan barcodes (which most humans can’t do!).
Of course, the technology is so recent that we cannot expect it to be perfect. Some things need to be improved such as interpreting scribbled notes. Google Lens represents a potential bridge between the offline world and the online design experience we craft. AI technology and big data are leveraged to provide meaningful context to images. In the future, taking a picture of a storefront could be contextualized with information like the name of the store, reviews, and ratings for example. Or you could finally figure out the name of a dish that you are eating (I personally tested this and Google figured out I was eating a donburi).
Here is my prediction for the long term: Google Lens will mean less stock photography in websites and more unique images to help brands. Imagine taking a picture of a pair of shoes and knowing exactly where to buy them online because Google Lens identified the brand and model along with a link to let you buy them in a few clicks?
Google has put into place new design penalties that influence a website’s mobile ranking on its results pages. If you want to know more about it, you can read an in-depth article on the topic. Bottom line: avoid unsolicited interstitials on mobile landing pages that are indexed in Google.
SEOs do have guidelines, but we do not have the visual creativity to provide tasteful solutions to comply with Google’s standards.
Essentially, marketers have long relied on interstitials as promotional tools to help them engage and convert visitors. An interstitial can be defined as something that blocks out the website’s main content. If your pop-ups cover the main content shown on a mobile screen, if it appears without user interaction, chances are that they may trigger an algorithmic penalty.
As a gentle reminder, this is what would be considered an intrusive interstitial by Google if it were to appear on mobile:
Tips How To Avoid A Penalty
No slide ins;
No interstitials that take up more than 20% of the screen;
Replace them with non intrusive ribbons at the top or bottom of your pages;
Or opt for inline optin boxes that are in the middle or at the end of your pages.
Here’s a solution that may be a bit over the top (with technically two banners on one screen) but that still stays within official guidelines:
Some People May Never See Your Design
More and more, people are turning to vocal search when looking for information on the web. Over 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search. The surprising thing is that this pervasive phenomenon is very recent: most people started in the last year or so.
Users request information from search engines in a conversational manner — keywords be damned! This adds a layer of complexity to designing a website: tailoring an experience for users who may not ever enjoy the visual aspect of a website. For example, Google Home can “read” out loud recipes or provide information straight from position 0 snippets when a request is made. This is a new spin on an old concept. If I were to ask Google Home to give me the definition of web accessibility, it would probably read the following thing out loud to me from Wikipedia:
This is an extension of accessibility after all. This time around though, it means that a majority of users will come to rely on accessibility to reach informative content.
Designing for voice search means prioritizing your design to be heard instead of seen. For those interested in extending the design all the way to the code should look into the impact rich snippets have on how your data is structured and given visibility in search engine results pages.
Design And UX Impact SEO
Here is a quick cheat sheet for this article. It contains concrete things you can do to improve your SEO with UX and design:
Google will start ranking websites based on their mobile experience. Review the usability of your mobile version to ensure you’re ready for the coming changes in Google.
Check the content organization of your pages. H1, H2, and H3 tags should help create a path through the content that the bot can follow.
Keyword strategy takes a UX approach to get to the core of users’ search intents to craft optimized content that ranks well.
Internal linking matters: the links you have on your website are signaling to search engines bots which pages you find more valuable over others on your website.
Give images more visibility: optimize file names, ALT attributes and think about how the bot “reads” your images.
Mobile penalties now include pop-ups, banners and other types of interstitials. If you want to keep ranking well in Google mobile search results, avoid unsolicited interstitials on your landing pages.
With the rise of assistants like Google Home and Alexa, designing for voice search could become a reality soon. This will mean prioritizing your design to be heard instead of seen.
MDN Web Docs has been documenting the web platform for over twelve years and is now a cross-platform effort with contributions and an Advisory Board with members from Google, Microsoft and Samsung as well as those representing Firefox. Something that is fundamental to MDN is that it is a huge community effort, with the web community helping to create and maintain the documentation. In this article, I’m going to give you some pointers as to the places where you can help contribute to MDN and exactly how to do so.
If you haven’t contributed to an open source project before, MDN is a brilliant place to start. Skills needed range from copyediting, translating from English to other languages, HTML and CSS skills for creating Interactive Examples, or an interest in browser compatibility for updating Browser Compatibility data. What you don’t need to do is to write a whole lot of code to contribute. It’s very straightforward, and an excellent way to give back to the community if you have ever found these docs useful.
Contributing To The Documentation Pages
To start editing, you need to log in using GitHub. As is usual with a wiki, any editors of a page are listed, and this section will use your GitHub username. If you look at any of the pages on MDN contributors are listed at the bottom of the page, the below image shows the current contributors to the page on CSS Grid Layout.
What Might You Edit?
Things that you might consider as an editor are fixing obvious typos and grammatical errors. If you are a good proofreader and copyeditor, then you may well be able to improve the readability of the docs by fixing any spelling or other errors that you spot.
You might also spot a technical error, or somewhere the specs have changed and where an update or clarification would be useful. With the huge range of web platform features covered by MDN and the rate of change, it is very easy for things to get out of date, if you spot something – fix it!
You may be able to use some specific knowledge you have to add additional information. For example, Eric Bailey has been adding Accessibility Concerns sections to many pages. This is a brilliant effort to highlight the things we should be thinking about when using a certain thing.
Another place you could add to a page is in adding “See also” links. These could be links to other parts of MDN, or to external resources. When adding external resources, these should be highly relevant to the property, element or technique being described by that document. A good candidate would be a tutorial which demonstrates how to use that feature, something which would give a reader searching for information a valuable next step.
How To Edit A Document?
Once you are logged in you will see a link to Edit on pages in MDN, clicking this will take you into a WYSIWYG editor for editing content. Your first few edits are likely to be small changes, in which case you should be able to follow your nose and edit the text. If you are making extensive edits, then it would be worth taking a look at the style guide first. There is also a guide to using the WYSIWYG Editor.
After making your edit, you can Preview and then Publish. Before publishing it is a good idea to explain what you added and why using the Revision Comment field.
Those of us with English as a first language are incredibly fortunate when it comes to information on the web, being able to get pretty much all of the information that we could ever want in our own language. If you are able to translate English language pages into other languages, then you can help to translate MDN Web Docs, making all of this information available to more people.
If you click on the language icon on any page, you can see which languages that information has been translated into, and you can add your own translations following the information on the page Translating MDN Pages.
The Interactive Examples on MDN, are the examples that you will see at the top of many pages of MDN, such as this one for the grid-area property.
The content for these Interactive Examples is held in the Interactive Examples GitHub repository. For example, if you wanted to locate the example for grid-area, you would find it in that repo under live-examples/css-examples/grid. Under that folder, you will find two files for grid-area, an HTML and a CSS file.
An Interactive Example is just a small demo, which uses some standard classes and IDs in order that the framework can pick up the example and make it interactive, where the values can be changed by a visitor to the page who wants to quickly see how it works. To add or edit an Interactive Example, first fork the Interactive Examples repo, clone it to your machine and follow the instructions on the Contributing page to install the required packages from npm and be able to build and test examples locally.
Then create a branch and edit or create your new example. Once you are happy with it, send a Pull Request to the Interactive Examples repo to ask for your example to be reviewed. In order to keep the examples consistent, reviews are fairly nitpicky but should point out the changes you need to make in a clear way, so you can update your example and have it approved, merged and added to an MDN page.
The Interactive Examples are incredibly useful for people exploring the web platform, so adding to the project is an excellent way to contribute. Contributing to CSS or HTML examples requires knowledge of CSS and HTML, plus the ability to think up a clear demonstration. This last point is often the hardest part, I’ve created a lot of CSS Interactive Examples and spent more time thinking up the best example for each property than I do actually writing the code.
Browser Compat Data
Fairly recently the browser compatibility data listed on MDN Pages has begun to be updated through the Browser Compatibility Project. This project is developing browser compat data in JSON format, which can display the compatibility tables on MDN but also be useful data for other purposes.
The Browser Compatibility Data is on GitHub, and if you find a page that has incorrect information or is still using the old tables, you can submit a Pull Request. The repository contains contribution information, however, the simplest way to start is to edit an existing example. I recently updated the information for the CSS shape-outside property. The property already had some data in the new format, but it was incomplete and incorrect.
To edit this data, I first forked the Browser Compat Data so that I had my own fork. I then cloned that to my machine and created a new branch to make my changes in.
Once I had my new branch, I found the JSON file for shape-outside and was able to make my edits. I already had a good idea about browser support for the property; I also used the live example on the shape-outside MDN page to test to see support when I wasn’t sure. Therefore making the edits was a case of working through the file, checking the version numbers listed for support of the property and updating those which were incorrect.
As the file is in JSON format is pretty straightforward to edit in any text editor. The .editorconfig file explains the simple formatting rules for these documents. There are also some helpful tips in this checklist.
Once you have made your edits, you can commit your changes, push your branch to your fork and then make a Pull Request to the Browser Compat Data repository. It’s likely that, as with the live examples, the reviewer will have some changes for you to make. In my PR for the Shapes data I had a few errors in how I had flagged the data and needed to make some changes to links. These were simple to make, and then my PR was merged.
You can get started simply by picking something to add to and starting work on it in many cases. If you have any questions or need some help with any of this, then the MDN Discourse forum is a good place to post. MDN is the place I go to look up information, the place I send new developers and experienced developers alike, and its strength is the fact that we can all work to make it better.
If you have never made a Pull Request on a project before, it is a very friendly place to make that first PR and, as I hope I have shown, there are ways to contribute that don’t require writing any code at all. A very valuable skill for any documentation project is that of writing, editing and translating as these skills can help to make technical documentation easier to read and accessible to more people around the world.
Using Low Vision As My Tool To Help Me Teach WordPress
When I say that I see things in a different way, I’m not kidding. It’s literally true.
For almost 30 years, I’ve lived my life with macular degeneration, a destruction of my central vision. It is the leading cause of legal blindness in the United States and I’m one of those statistics.
Macular degeneration is a malady of old age. I see the world much as a very old person does. You could say that I am “hard of seeing.”
Since my condition is present in both eyes, there is no escape. Facial recognition, driving (looking forward to driverless cars), reading, and watching movies or TV are difficult or impossible tasks for me.
Since my peripheral vision is intact, I have no problem moving about without bumping into things. In fact, if you met me you would not immediately know that I have a serious vision impairment.
Sharing this is not easy. It’s not just that I don’t want to be branded as that blind WordPress guy or to have people feel sorry for me. I don’t like to discuss it because I find it is as interesting as discussing my right-handedness. Besides, I’m hardly the only person who has a disability or illness. Many people have conditions which are far worse than mine.
I have discovered that for most people technology makes things easier. For others, like me, it makes things possible.
I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do. Then I figure out a way to do it better than anyone else. I use what I have learned from my disability as a tool to help me communicate.
Everyone works with WordPress differently. Me, even more so. Here are some of the adjustments I’ve made as a WordPress instructor and site developer.
1. How I Do It: Zoom/Talk/Touch
Let me show you how I really work with WordPress as I zoom in and out and let the machine talk to me.
What you don’t see here is how I use space and touch to know where objects are on a screen. It’s easy to understand this for mobile devices, but the same is true — especially for me — when it comes to knowing how far I need to move the mouse to do something. When a major change takes place on a site or in the WP Admin, it takes me time to re-orient myself to a new UI.
My visual impairment has improved my sense of touch for everything including finding and interacting with screen objects.
2. I’m Prepared
I can’t wing it. When I teach in class or do a presentation I need to know exactly what I’m going to say because I can’t read notes about what I will demonstrate. I need to have order.
The same holds true for working with clients or doing live webinars. Everything I do is structured.
I think of stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. When I teach or speak in public, I take you on a journey. I know where I will start, where I will finish, and how I got there.
Being a prep freak has made me better at everything I do.
3. I Recognize Patterns
Take HTML. Its hallmark is that it is a symmetrical, containerized markup system. Open tags usually need to be closed. The pattern is simple and easy for me to recognize:
<tag>Some Text Here</tag>
CSS is much the same. Its very predictable pattern make it possible for me to teach and use it. For example:
Think of it this way. I can read most fonts on a screen given proper illumination and magnification. Handwriting — which is so unpredictable — is impossible to read.
My abilities give me just enough skill to create WordPress child themes.
Since vision and memory are so closely connected, you could say I have a memory disability more than any other. Pattern recognition — an aid to memory — makes it possible to work with things like code.
4. A Little Help From My Friends
If I need it, I get assistance. If a class size is large enough, I’ll get someone to sit with a student who needs attention. If I do a presentation with a laptop — something I have a hard time with — I’ll have someone work the laptop. When I need someone to spell check and work over my words, I have a friend that does that too.
5. WordPress — More Than Alt Tags
You’d think that, given my disability, I’d be an expert on accessible web design. I’m not. However, 16 years ago when user agents and assistive technologies were more hope than reality, I taught classes at Pratt Institute in New York City on design which worked for the greatest number of people on the greatest number of devices.
To be sure, WordPress has a lot of built-in accessibility awareness, either in its core or because of its enlightened plugin and theme developers. It has an active group, Make WordPress Accessible, that ensures WordPress is compliant with the WCAG 2.0 standards.
While I stress the use of the Alt attribute (it’s misunderstood as an SEO signal), I rarely discuss features such as keyboard shortcuts and tabindex. Though I’m a stakeholder in ensuring that the WordPress admin is accessible, no one would mistake me for an expert in recognizing and knocking down all barriers to access in web design.
And What About Gutenberg?
WordPress will be rolling out its new content editor, Gutenberg, in 2018 replacing its well known but aging WP editor. It features a block editing system akin to what SquareSpace, WIX, and MailChimp use.
Gutenberg has a cleaner, sleeker user interface. Many of the user options are hidden and appear only after certain mouse over actions occur. This doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for me. What is distracting is that in certain instances the Gutenberg interface will cover up parts of the page copy.
A bigger issue is how keyboard shortcuts will work. Beyond the needs of disability communities, many power users prefer shortcuts. Currently, many but not all of Gutenberg’s functions are available as a shortcut. Equally troublesome, there are no indications of shortcuts in the menus or as tooltips. Nor is there any way to easily see all shortcuts in a single list.
7. Look Ma’, No Script! Creating Videos For My Online WordPress Course
I need to memorize just about everything. While creating my training course, “The WP A To Z Series,” I could not use a script for my screen capture videos. When creating videos I have to know the material cold. I try to make you wonder if I’m reading when I’m not. The result are videos that have a personal feeling to them which is what I wanted (and the only thing I could do).
8. I Never Use More Than I Need
If I need help — be it with tech or with a human — I ask for it. If I don’t need it, I don’t ask. I get and use as much help (human and tech) as I need and never more.
Since I don’t need JAWS, a popular screen reading program, I don’t know JAWS. I don’t need speech to text software, so I don’t use Dragon Dictate.
And that is the point.
People with — or without — disabilities work with tech in ways that will help them accomplish tasks in the most efficient matter. If something is overkill, why use it?
My Way Is Probably A Lot Like Your Way — Or Is It?
Turns out, I use WordPress a lot like everyone without a disability uses it. At least I think so. Sure, I have to zoom in to see things and I don’t care for radical changes in design. But, once I understand a UI, finding or manipulating things after a redesign is similar to the challenge a blind person faces in a room where the furniture has been moved or replaced.
As you saw in my video, I need text to speech software to make it easier to understand what is on the screen. And zooming in and out is as common to me as a click is to everyone. All this takes a little more time but it’s how I get things done.
As you may have surmised — and what I can’t stress enough — is that a disability is a very personal thing in more ways than one. The things I do in order to teach and work with WordPress are probably very different from what another person does who also has macular degeneration. It’s the idiosyncrasies that make understanding and working with any disability very challenging for everyone.
Today, I’d like to return to a subject that has already been covered in Smashing Magazine in the past — the topic of the print stylesheet. In this case, I am talking about printing pages directly from the browser. It’s an experience that can lead to frustration with enormous images (and even advertising) being printed out. Just sometimes, however, it adds a little bit of delight when a nicely optimized page comes out of the printer using a minimum of ink and paper and ensuring that everything is easy to read.
This article will explore how we can best create that second experience. We will take a look at how we should include print styles in our web pages, and look at the specifications that really come into their own once printing. We’ll find out about the state of browser support, and how to best test our print styles. I’ll then give you some pointers as to what to do when a print stylesheet isn’t enough for your printing needs.
Key Places For Print Support
If you still have not implemented any print styles on your site, there are a few key places where a solid print experience will be helpful to your users. For example, many users will want to print a transaction confirmation page after making a purchase or booking even if you will send details via email.
Any information that your visitor might want to use when away from their computer is also a good candidate for a print stylesheet. The most common thing that I print are recipes. I could load them up on my iPad but it is often more convenient to simply print the recipe to pop onto the fridge door while I cook. Other such examples might be directions or travel information. When traveling abroad and not always having access to data these printouts can be invaluable.
Reference materials of any sort are also often printed. For many people, being able to make notes on paper copies is the way they best learn. Again, it means the information is accessible in an offline format. It is easy for us to wonder why people want to print web pages, however, our job is often to make content accessible — in the best format for our visitors. If that best format is printed to paper, then who are we to argue?
Why Would This Page Be Printed?
A good question to ask when deciding on the content to include or hide in the print stylesheet is, “Why is the user printing this page?” Well, maybe there’s a recipe they’d like to follow while cooking in the kitchen or take along with them when shopping to buy ingredients. Or they’d like to print out a confirmation page after purchasing a ticket as proof of booking. Or perhaps they’d like a receipt or invoice to be printed (or printed to PDF) in order to store it in the accounts either as paper or electronically.
Considering the use of the printed document can help you to produce a print version of your content that is most useful in the context in which the user is in when referring to that print-out.
Once we have decided to include print styles in our CSS, we need to add them to our workflow to ensure that when we make changes to the layout we also include those changes in the print version.
Adding Print Styles To A Page
To enable a “print stylesheet” what we are doing is telling the browser what these CSS rules are for when the document is printed. One method of doing this is to link an additional stylesheet by using the <link> element.
<link media="print" href="print.css">
This method does keep your print styles separate from everything else which you might consider to be tidier, however, that has downsides.
The linked stylesheet creates an additional request to the server. In addition, that nice, neat separation of print styles from other styles can have a downside. While you may take care to update the separate styles before going live, the stylesheet may find itself suffering due to being out of sight and therefore out of mind — ultimately becoming useless as features are added to the site but not reflected in the print styles.
The alternate method for including print styles is to use @media in the same way that you includes CSS for certain breakpoints in your responsive design. This method keeps all of the CSS together for a feature. Styles for narrow to wide breakpoints, and styles for print. Alongside Feature Queries with @supports, this encourages a way of development that ensures that all of the CSS for a design feature is kept and maintained together.
Overwriting Screen CSS Or Creating Separate Rules
Much of the time you are likely to find that the CSS you use for the screen display works for print with a few small adjustments. Therefore you only need to write CSS for print, for changes to that basic CSS. You might overwrite a font size, or family, yet leave other elements in the CSS alone.
If you really want to have completely separate styles for print and start with a blank slate then you will need to wrap the rest of your site styles in a Media Query with the screen keyword.
On that note, if you are using Media Queries for your Responsive Design, then you may have written them for screen.
@media screen and (min-width: 500px)
If you want these styles to be used when printing, then you should remove the screen keyword. In practice, however, I often find that if I work “mobile first” the single column mobile layout is a really good starting point for my print layout. By having the media queries that bring in the more complex layouts for screen only, I have far less overwriting of styles to do for print.
Add Your Print Styles To Your Pattern Libraries And Style Guides
To help ensure that your print styles are seen as an integral part of the site design, add them to your style guide or pattern library for the site if you have one. That way there is always a reminder that the print styles exist, and that any new pattern created will need to have an equivalent print version. In this way, you are giving the print styles visibility as a first-class citizen of your design system.
Basics Of CSS For Print
When it comes to creating the CSS for print, there are three things you are likely to find yourself doing. You will want to hide, and not display content which is irrelevant when printed. You may also want to add content to make a print version more useful. You might also want to adjust fonts or other elements of your page to optimize them for print. Let’s take a look at these techniques.
In CSS the method to hide content and also prevent generation of boxes is to use the display property with a value of none.
Using display: none will collapse the element and all of its child elements. Therefore, if you have an image gallery marked up as a list, all you would need to do to hide this when printed is to set display: none on the ul.
Things that you might want to hide are images which would be unnecessary when printed, navigation, advertising panels and areas of the page which display links to related content and so on. Referring back to why a user might print the page can help you to decide what to remove.
There might be some content that makes sense to display when the page is printed. You could have some content set to display: none in a screen stylesheet and show it in your print stylesheet. Additionally, however, you can use CSS to expose content not normally output to the screen. A good example of this would be the URL of a link in the document. In your screen document, a link would normally show the link text which can then be clicked to visit that new page or external website. When printed links cannot be followed, however, it might be useful if the reader could see the URL in case they wished to visit the link at a later time.
We achieve this by using CSS Generated Content. Generated Content gives you a way to insert content into your document via CSS. When printing, this becomes very useful.
You can insert a simple text string into your document. The next example targets the element with a class of wrapper and inserts before it the string, “Please see www.mysite.com for the latest version of this information.”
content: "Please see www.mysite.com for the latest version of this information.";
You can insert things that already exist in the document however, an example would be the content of the link href. We add Generated Content after each instance of a with an attribute of href and the content we insert is the value of the href attribute – which will be the link.
content: " (" attr(href) ")";
You could use the newer CSS :not selector to exclude internal links if you wished.
If your printed version fits neatly onto one page then you should be able to create a print stylesheet relatively simply by using the techniques of the last section. However, once you have something which prints onto multiple pages (and particularly if it contains elements such as tables or figures), you may find that items break onto new pages in a suboptimal manner. You may also want to control things about the page itself, e.g. changing the margin size.
CSS does have a way to do these things, however, as we will see, browser support is patchy.
The CSS Paged Media Specification opens with the following description of its role.
“This CSS module specifies how pages are generated and laid out to hold fragmented content in a paged presentation. It adds functionality for controlling page margins, page size and orientation, and headers and footers, and extends generated content to enable page numbering and running headers/footers.”
The screen is continuous media; if there is more content, we scroll to see it. There is no concept of it being broken up into individual pages. As soon as we are printing we output to a fixed size page, described in the specification as paged media. The Paged Media specification doesn’t deal with how content is fragmented between pages, we will get to that later. Instead, it looks at the features of the pages themselves.
We need a way to target an individual page, and we do this by using the @page rule. This is used much like a regular selector, in that we target @page and then write CSS to be used by the page. A simple example would be to change the margin on all of the pages created when you print your document.
You can target specific pages with :left and :right spread pseudo-class selectors. The first page can be targeted with the :first pseudo-class selector and blank pages caused by page breaks can be selected with :blank. For example, to set a top margin only on the first page:
To set a larger margin on the right side of a left-hand page and the left side of a right-hand page:
The specification defines being able to insert content into the margins created, however, no browser appears to support this feature. I describe this in my article about creating stylesheets for use with print-specific user agents, Designing For Print With CSS.
Where the Paged Media module deals with the page boxes themselves, the CSS Fragmentation Module details how content breaks between fragmentainers. A fragmentainer (or fragment container) is a container which contains a portion of a fragmented flow. This is a flow which, when it gets to a point where it would overflow, breaks into a new container.
The contexts in which you will encounter fragmentation currently are in paged media, therefore when printing, and also when using Multiple-column layout and your content breaks between column boxes. The Fragmentation specification defines various rules for breaking, CSS properties that give you some control over how content breaks into new fragments, in these contexts. It also defines how content breaks in the CSS Regions specification, although this isn’t something usable cross-browser right now.
And, speaking of browsers, fragmentation is a bit of a mess in terms of support at the moment. The browser compatibility tables for each property on MDN seem to be accurate as to support, however testing use of these properties carefully will be required.
Older Properties From CSS2
In addition to the break-* properties from CSS Fragmentation Level 3, we have page-break-* properties which came from CSS2. In spec terms, these have been superseded by the newer break-* properties, as these are more generic and can be used in the different contexts breaking happens. There isn’t much difference between a page and a multicol break. However, in terms of browser support, there is better browser support for the older properties. This means you may well need to use those at the current time to control breaking. Browsers that implement the newer properties are to alias the older ones rather than drop them.
In the examples that follow, I shall show both the new property and the old one where it exists.
break-before & break-after
These properties deal with breaks between boxes, and accept the following values, with the initial value being auto. The final four values do not apply to paged media, instead being for multicol and regions.
The older properties of page-break-before and page-break-after accept a smaller range of values.
To always cause a page break before an h2 element, you would use the following:
To avoid a paragraph being detached from the heading immediately preceding it:
The older page-break-* property to always cause a page break before an h2:
To avoid a paragraph being detached from the heading immediately preceding it:
On MDN find information and usage examples for the properties:
The Fragmentation specification also defines the properties orphans and widows. The orphans property defines how many lines can be left at the bottom of the first page when content such as a paragraph is broken between two pages. The widows property defines how many lines may be left at the top of the second page.
Therefore, in order to prevent ending up with a single line at the end of a page and a single line at the top the next page, you can use the following:
The widows and orphans properties are well supported (the missing browser implementation being Firefox).
The final property defined in the Fragmentation module is box-decoration-break. This property deals with whether borders, margins, and padding break or wrap the content. The values it accepts are:
For example, if my content area has a 10-pixel grey border and I print the content, then the default way that this will print is that the border will continue onto each page, however, it will only wrap at the end of the content. So we get a break before going to the next page and continuing.
If I use box-decoration-break: clone, the border and any padding and margin will complete on each page, thus giving each page a grey border.
As already mentioned, browser support is patchy for Paged Media and Fragmentation. Where Fragmentation is concerned, an additional issue is that breaking has to be specified and implemented for each layout method. If you were hoping to use Flexbox or CSS Grid in print stylesheets, you will probably be disappointed. You can check out the Chrome bugs for Flexbox and for Grid.
The best suggestion I can give right now is to keep your print stylesheets reasonably simple. Add fragmentation properties — including both the old page-break-* properties as well as the new properties. However, accept that these may well not work in all browsers. And, if you find lack of browser support frustrating, raise these issues with browsers or vote for already raised issues. Fragmentation, in particular, should be treated as a suggestion rather than a command, even where it is supported. It would be possible to be so specific about where and when you want things to break that it is almost impossible to lay out the pages. You should assume that sometimes you may get suboptimal breaking.
Testing Print Stylesheets
Testing print stylesheets can be something of a bore, typically requiring using print preview or printing to a PDF repeatedly. However, browser DevTools have made this a little easier for us. Both Chrome and Firefox have a way to view the print styles only.
Open the Developer Toolbar then type media emulate print at the prompt.
Open DevTools, click on the three dots icon and then select “More Tools” and “Rendering”. You can then select print under Emulate CSS Media.
This will only be helpful in testing changes to the CSS layout, hidden or generated content. It can’t help you with fragmentation — you will need to print or print to PDF for that. However, it will save you a few round trips to the printer and can help you check as you develop new parts of the site that you are still hiding and showing the correct things.
What To Do When A Print Stylesheet Isn’t Enough
In an ideal world, browsers would have implemented more of the Paged Media specification when printing direct from the browser, and fragmentation would be more thoroughly implemented in a consistent way. It is certainly worth raising the bugs that you find when printing from the browser with the browsers concerned. If we don’t request these things are fixed, they will remain low priority to be fixed.
If you do need to have a high level of print support and want to use CSS, then currently you would need to use a print-specific User Agent, such as Prince. I detail how you can use CSS to format books when outputting to Prince in my article “Designing For Print With CSS.”
Prince is also available to install on your server in order to generate nicely printed documents using CSS on the web, however, it comes at a high price. An alternative is a server like DocRaptor who offer an API on top of the Prince rendering engine.
There are open-source HTML- and CSS-to-PDF generators such as wkhtmltopdf, but most use browser rendering engines to create the print output and therefore have the same limitations as browsers when it comes to implementing the Paged Media and Fragmentation specifications. An exception is WeasyPrint which seems to have its own implementation and supports slightly different features, although is not in any way as full-featured as something like Prince.
You will find more information about user agents for print on the print-css.rocks site.
Due to the fact that printing from CSS has really moved on very little in the past few years, many older resources on Smashing Magazine and elsewhere are still valid. Some additional tips and tricks can be found in the following resources. If you have discovered a useful print workflow or technical tip, then add it to the comments below.
Year round Liz and Bill Farrell, a husband and wife team, work the dirt at Fat Stone Farm in Lyme, Connecticut with their two kids.
After making the move from cubicles to the great outdoors, the Farrells realized they loved growing fresh food, and creating healthy, farm-grown products ranging from elderberry apple shots to their own maple syrup.
Now—when you think of a typical farmer’s marketing strategy—you might picture a hand-painted sign at a local market, but Liz and Bill run a digital elderberry empire.
The couple started as Shopify merchants and then partnered with digital agency Webistry to take their business to new heights. They wanted to see better return on ad spend, and prepare for winter (their best sales season of the year).
It was a perfect partnership from the start, but nobody could predict that a combo of Unbounce landing pages, popups, a Shopify integration, and near obsessive audience building and retargeting on Facebook would:
Lower cost-per-acquisition from $145 (at its highest) to just $1.55(!) for the company’s Elderberry Apple Shots and DIY Gummy kits.
Increase return on ad spend for their Elderberry Apple Shot campaigns from 1.66X to an incredible 33.12X.
Deliver a cost-per-lead for a sweepstakes campaign of just $0.51.
See sweepstakes conversion rates from ad click to entry of up to 79.55%.
And garner Facebook relevance scores of 8s and 9s.
Overall, with Webistry’s help, Fat Stone Farm tripled ROAS in just five months (December ‘16–April ‘17), and—via continued optimizations—reached returns of 33X over a year and three months.
Here’s their epic ecommerce story, and the paid media tactics that could work for you too.
Winter is Coming
Historically, sales of Fat Stone Farm’s Elderberry Apple Shots go up in winter to help fight off flu season. So in early winter 2016, Bill and Liz approached Jonathan Naccache, Co-Founder at Webistry to prep some advertising.
The agency discovered that they couldn’t look to AdWords for a huge win. The search volume for elderberries or related products wasn’t super high, and this approach simply wasn’t scalable. Instead, they needed to generate extremely targeted custom audiences on Facebook (which can be difficult because prospects on Facebook aren’t necessarily screaming about their love of elderberry – these prospects need to be uncovered).
In Webistry’s approach, each ad campaign would target a group of interests that could coincide with elderberry products. They’d target Facebook users who’s interests included: alternative medicine, natural remedies, homesteading, or those engaging with popular health blogs like Mother Earth News and Wellness Mama.
It took a lot of research, and as Jonathan says this is where the agency advantage comes into play: “having access to several strategic minds, resources and thorough research gets you a significant edge right off the start.”
The First Ad to Shopify Landing Page Combo
From December 2016 to January 2017, Webistry ran campaigns on Facebook targeting each of the audience segments they’d identified might be interested in the elderberry shots.
Here’s an example of some of the ads (corresponding to fall and winter seasons):
Pictured above: the ads Webistry ran to the associated landing page.
All elderberry apple shots ads led to this Unbounce-built PPC landing page, which converts at 4.7% (lifetime average conversion rate). A conversion in this case was a purchase via the ‘add to cart’ button):
Notice the benefit copy from the ad headlines is carried through to the Unbounce landing page. Click to see a larger version.
Two months into this campaign, return on ad spend was 1.66X, and cost-per-purchase was fluctuating between $19 and $145. Jonathan knew they could improve upon these early results and began targeting audiences of vegetarians, vegans, healthy eating affectionados, and homesteaders.
And so, in April 2017 the agency launched a new landing page campaign for smoothie lovers.
The idea was to position the elderberry product as the ideal ingredient to add to a smoothie. Here’s a sample ad used to launch this campaign:
And of course, the landing page this ad pointed to:
This beautiful landing page converts traffic to purchase at 9.44%
Beyond driving sales, the agency realized there was potential for lead capture here too (as a means of remarketing to especially interested prospects later), so they added an on-exit popup to this page. It offered up a free smoothie recipe book and integrated with a Mailchimp autoresponder.
With an 18% conversion rate, here’s the popup built in Unbounce:
The smoothie campaign helped drop cost-per-purchase down to ~$9.65, and Bill and Liz saw a return on ad spend of 3X from their initial investment after just five months of executing this strategy.
This was great, but Webistry wanted to help Fat Stone Farm stay present in their potential buyer’s world year round. They could lie low waiting for winter again all summer, or they could start developing highly refined retargeting and lookalike audiences to reach all year long.
The Sweepstakes That Raised the Stakes
In May 2017, continuing in the off-season, it was time to start preparing for their next winter. Fat Stone Farm was seeing major benefits from refined Facebook audience targeting, so Jonathan and the team extended this strategy with sweepstakes.
They used weekly sweepstakes as a means to gauge and track prospect’s interest in the products, then later in the winter, they created Facebook lookalike and retargeting audiences to get in front of similar groups of interested people regularly.
As Jonathan shares, this allowed the team to generate even better target audiences:
“Our goal was to create campaigns that helped us measure different levels of interest, and to identify these audiences by tracking every event with a pixel. We had a drip campaign setup, and non-winners of the first sweepstakes were given access to a second sweepstakes.”
That is – those who didn’t win each week were offered access to another sweepstakes prize (either the breakfast pack or gummy pack product). This helped introduce prospects to other Fat Stone Farm products and gauge interest for these versus a complementary offering like smoothies.
Here’s a sample ad for the sweepstakes:
And here’s the first landing page touchpoint:
Click the image above for a closer look.
If you didn’t win, you might be sent a second offer in the sweepstakes, with a chance to win an Elderberry Gummy Kit via the landing page below:
Click the image above to see the full landing page.
Of the people who clicked through on the Facebook ad and reached the first landing page above, 18.79% converted. Moreover, of the people who did not win the first sweepstakes, but clicked through the email announcing the second sweepstakes, 79.55% converted via the landing page.
Hot tip: Webistry embedded a third party tool called ViralSweep on these pages. It’s a sweepstakes application to help manage entries, select a winner at random, and allows people to win bonus entries by referring friends via social.
Not only did this campaign collect over 15,000 relevant leads that Fat Stone Farm could remarket to year long with terrific offers, but it reduced cost-per-lead down to a mere $0.51.
Which brings us to…
Winter Season, 2018
After all the ad testing, landing page alterations, and lessons along the way, Webistry re-launched the sales campaigns using six months of audience-segmented data.
They launched the gummy kits as a standalone product landing page (vs. the sweepstakes page) and continued to sell the Elderberry Apple Shots. The best part? From January to March 2018 Webistry achieved the highest return on ad spend for Bill and Liz since starting to work with them: a whopping 33.12X.
Additionally, this season they saw the lowest cost-per-acquisition of just $1.55.
As Bill Ferrell says of the partnership with Webistry:
“These guys are worth every penny. Excellent results (very high CTRs, good CPA, [and] lots of new customers!). The Webistry co-founders are hands-on, creative, and keep tweaking throughout. Their attentiveness to the campaigns and my crazy ideas have exceeded my expectations month after month.”
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)
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:
Consent (i.e. opt-in)
Performance of a contract (eg. sending an invoice to a customer)
“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.
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.
This is a great example of how doing right by your customers can also help you achieve your business goals.
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.