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Could the Breadcrumb Technique Help Boost Your Landing Page Conversions?

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.

Dr. Robert Cialdini said it best:

“Once we’ve made a choice, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.” Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion

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:


Step 1.
Create your form in Unbounce.

Step 2.
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.

Step 3.
Copy the JS from ‘multistep_form.js’ and paste it into the Javascripts section of your page with placement ‘Before Body End Tag’.

Step 4.
Update the script with the ID of your ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ button elements. Tip: Make sure you exclude the ‘#’ in the ID.

Step 5.
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.

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Could the Breadcrumb Technique Help Boost Your Landing Page Conversions?

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Contributing To MDN Web Docs




Contributing To MDN Web Docs

Rachel Andrew



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

The first place you might want to contribute is to the MDN docs themselves. MDN is a wiki, so you can log in and start to help by correcting or adding to any of the documentation for CSS, HTML, JavaScript or any of the other parts of the web platform covered by MDN.

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.


A list showing names of people who contributed to this page


The contributors to the CSS Grid Layout page. (Large preview)

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.


A screenshot of the Accessibility Concerns section


This section highlights the things we should be aware of when using background-color. (Large preview)

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.


Screenshot of this field in the edit form


Add a comment using the Revision Comment field. (Large preview)

Language Translations

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.


A screenshot showing the drop-down translations list


Translations available for the background-color page. (Large preview)

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.

Interactive Examples

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.


Screenshot of an Interactive Example


The Interactive Example for the grid-area property. (Large preview)

These examples allow visitors to MDN to try out various values for CSS properties or try out a JavaScript function, right there on MDN without needing to head into a development environment to do so. The project to add these examples has been in progress for around a year, you can read about the project and progress to date in the post Bringing Interactive Examples to MDN.

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.

grid-area.html


<section id="example-choice-list" class="example-choice-list large" data-property="grid-area">
    <div class="example-choice" initial-choice="true">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: a;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div>
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: b;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div>
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: c;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div> 
    
    <div class="example-choice">
        <pre><code class="language-css">grid-area: 2 / 1 / 2 / 4;</code></pre>
        <button type="button" class="copy hidden" aria-hidden="true">
        <span class="visually-hidden">Copy to Clipboard</span>
        </button>
    </div> 
</section>
    
<div id="output" class="output large hidden">
    <section id="default-example" class="default-example">
        <div class="example-container">
            <div id="example-element" class="transition-all">Example</div>
        </div>
    </section>
</div>

grid.area.css


.example-container 
    background-color: #eee;
    border: .75em solid;
    padding: .75em;
    display: grid;
    grid-template-columns: 1fr 1fr 1fr;
    grid-template-rows: repeat(3, minmax(40px, auto));
    grid-template-areas: 
    "a a a"
    "b c c"
    "b c c";
    grid-gap: 10px;
    width: 200px;
    
    
    .example-container > div 
    background-color: rgba(0, 0, 255, 0.2);
    border: 3px solid blue;
    
    
    example-element 
    background-color: rgba(255, 0, 200, 0.2);
    border: 3px solid rebeccapurple;
    

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.


Screenshot of a tweet asking for help with HTML examples


MDN looking for help with HTML Interactive Examples. (Large preview)

With pretty much all of CSS now covered (in addition to the JavaScript examples), MDN is now looking for help to build the HTML examples. There are instructions as to how to get started in a post on the MDN Discourse Forum. Check out that post as it gives links to a Google doc that you can use to indicate that you are working on a particular example, as well as some other useful information.

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.


An example screenshot of the old tables on MDN


The Old Browser Compat Tables on MDN. (Large preview)


An example screenshot of the new tables on MDN


The New Browser Compat Tables on MDN. (Large preview)

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.

Get Started

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.

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Contributing To MDN Web Docs

Why Web Application Maintenance Should Be More Of A Thing

Traditional software developers have been hiding a secret from us in plain sight. It’s not even a disputed fact. It’s part of their business model.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about high-end enterprise software vendors or smaller software houses that write the tools that we all use day to day in our jobs or businesses. It’s right there front and center. Additional costs that they don’t hide and that we’ve become accustomed paying.

So what is this secret?

Well, a lot of traditional software vendors make more money from maintaining the software that they write than they do in the initial sale.

Not convinced?

A quick search on the term “Total Cost of Ownership” will provide you with lots of similar definitions like this one from Gartner (emphasis mine):

[TCO is] the cost to implement, operate, support & maintain or extend, and decommission an application.

Furthermore, this paper by Stanford university asserts that maintenance normally amounts to 60% to 90% of the TCO of a software product.

It’s worth letting that sink in for a minute. They make well over the initial purchase price by selling ongoing support and maintenance plans.

We Don’t Push Maintenance

The problem as I see it is that in the web development industry, web application maintenance isn’t something that we focus on. We might put it in our proposals because we like the idea of a monthly retainer, but they will likely cover simple housekeeping tasks or new feature requests.

It is not unheard of to hide essential upgrades and optimizations within our quotes for later iterations because we‘re not confident that the client will want to pay for the things that we see as essential improvements. We try and get them in through the back door. Or in other words, we are not open and transparent that, just like more traditional software, these applications need maintaining.

Regardless of the reasons why, it is becoming clear that we are storing up problems for the future. The software applications we’re building are here for the long-term. We need to be thinking like traditional software vendors. Our software will still be running for 10 or 15 years from now, and it should be kept well maintained.

So, how can we change this? How do we all as an industry ensure that our clients are protected so that things stay secure and up to date? Equally, how do we get to take a share of the maintenance pie?

What Is Maintenance?

In their 2012 paper Effective Application Maintenance, Heather Smith and James McKeen define maintenance as (emphasis is mine):

Porting an application to a new server, interfacing with a different operating system, upgrading to a newer release, altering a tax table, or complying with new regulations—all necessitate application — maintenance. As a result, maintenance is focused on upgrading an application to ensure it remains productive and/or cost effective. The definition of application maintenance preferred by the focus group is — any modification of an application to correct faults; to improve performance; or to adapt the application to a changed environment or changed requirements. Thus, adding new functionality to an existing application (i.e., enhancement) is not, strictly speaking, considered maintenance.

In other words, maintenance is essential work that needs to be carried out on a software application so it can continue to reliably and securely function.

It is not adding new features. It is not checking log files or ensuring backups have ran (these are housekeeping tasks). It is working on the code and the underlying platform to ensure that things are up to date, that it performs as its users would expect and that the lights stay on.

Here are a few examples:

  • Technology and Platform Changes
    Third-party libraries need updating. The underlying language requires an update, e.g. PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.1 Modern operating systems send out updates regularly. Keeping on top of this is maintenance and at times will also require changes to the code base as the old ways of doing certain things become deprecated.

  • Scaling
    As the application grows, there will be resource issues. Routines within the code that worked fine with 10,000 transactions per day struggle with 10,000 per hour. The application needs to be monitored, but also action needs to be taken when alerts are triggered.

  • Bug Fixing
    Obvious but worth making explicit. The software has bugs, and they need fixing. Even if you include a small period of free bug fixes after shipping a project, at some point the client will need to start paying for these.

Hard To Sell?

Interestingly, when I discuss this with my peers, they feel that it is difficult to convince clients that they need maintenance. They are concerned that their clients don’t have the budget and they don’t want to come across as too expensive.

Well, here’s the thing: it’s actually a pretty easy sell. We’re dealing with business people, and we simply need to be talking to them about maintenance in commercial terms. Business people understand that assets require maintenance or they’ll become liabilities. It’s just another standard ongoing monthly overhead. A cost of doing business. We just need to be putting this in our proposals and making sure that we follow up on it.

An extremely effective method is to offer a retainer that incorporates maintenance at its core but also bundles a lot of extra value for the client, things like:

  • Reporting on progress vs. KPIs (e.g. traffic, conversions, search volumes)
  • Limited ‘free’ time each month for small tweaks to the site
  • Reporting on downtime, server updates or development work completed
  • Access to you or specific members of your team by phone to answer questions

Indeed, you can make the retainer save the client money and pay for itself. A good example of this would be a client’s requirement to get a simple report or export from the database each month for offline processing.

You could quote for a number of development days to build out a — probably more complex than initially assumed — reporting user interface or alternatively point the client to your retainer. Include within it a task each month for a developer to manually run a pre-set SQL query to manually provide the same data.

A trivial task for you or your team; lots of value to your client.

A Practical Example

You’ll, of course, have your own way of writing proposals but here are a couple of snippets from an example pitch.

In the section of your proposal where you might paint your vision for the future, you can add something about maintenance. Use this as an opportunity to plant the seed about forming a long-term relationship.

You are looking to minimize long-term risk.

You want to ensure that your application performs well, that it remains secure and that it is easy to work on.

You also understand how important maintenance is for any business asset.

Later on, in the deliverables section, you can add a part about maintenance either as a stand-alone option or bundled in with an ongoing retainer.

In the following example, we keep it simple and bundle it in with a pre-paid development retainer:

We strongly advocate that all clients consider maintenance to be an essential overhead for their website. Modern web applications require maintenance and just like your house or your car; you keep your asset maintained to reduce the tangible risk that they become liabilities later on.

As a client who is sensibly keen to keep on top of the application’s maintenance as well as getting new features added, we’d suggest N days per month (as a starting point) for general maintenance and development retainer.

We’d spread things out so that a developer is working on your system at least [some period per week/month] giving you the distinct advantage of having a developer able to switch to something more important should issues arise during the [same period]. Depending upon your priorities that time could all be spent on new feature work or divided with maintenance, it’s your call. We normally suggest a 75%/25% split between new features and important maintenance.

As previously mentioned, this is also a great opportunity to lump maintenance in with other value-added ongoing services like performance reporting, conducting housekeeping tasks like checking backups and maybe a monthly call to discuss progress and priorities.

What you’ll probably find is that after you land the work, the retainer is then not mentioned again. This is understandable as there is lots for you and your client to be considering at the beginning of a project, but as the project is wrapping up is a great time to re-introduce it as part of your project offboarding process.

Whether this is talking about phase 2 or simply introducing final invoices and handing over, remind them about maintenance. Remind them of ongoing training, reporting, and being available for support. Make the push for a retainer, remembering to talk in those same commercial terms: their new asset needs maintaining to stay shiny.

Can Maintenance Be Annoying?

A common misconception is that maintenance retainers can become an additional burden. The concern is that clients will be constantly ringing you up and asking for small tweaks as part of your retainer. This is a particular concern for smaller teams or solo consultants.

It is not usually the case, though. Maybe at the beginning, the client will have a list of snags that need working through, but this is par for the course; if you’re experienced, then you’re expecting it. These are easily managed by improving communication channels (use an issue tracker) and lumping all requests together, i.e, working on them in a single hit.

As the application matures, you’ll drop into a tick-over mode. This is where the retainer becomes particularly valuable to both parties. It obviously depends on how you’ve structured the retainer but from your perspective, you are striving to remind the client each month how valuable you are. You can send them your monthly report, tell them how you fixed a slowdown in that routine and that the server was patched for this week’s global OS exploit.

You were, of course, also available to work on a number of new requested features that were additionally chargeable. From your client’s perspective, they see that you are there, they see progress, and they get to remove “worry about the website” from their list. Clearly, ‘those clients’ do exist, though, so the most important thing is to get your retainer wording right and manage expectations accordingly.

If your client is expecting the moon on the stick for a low monthly fee, push back or renegotiate. Paying you to do — say — two hours maintenance and housekeeping per month in amongst providing a monthly report and other ancillary tasks is exactly that; it’s not a blank cheque to make lots of ad-hoc changes. Remind them what is included and what isn’t.

How Do We Make Maintenance Easier?

Finally, to ensure the best value for your clients and to make your life easier, use some of these tactics when building your applications.

Long-Term Support (LTS)

  • Use technology platforms with well documented LTS releases and upgrade paths.
  • Ongoing OS, language, framework and CMS upgrades should be expected and factored in for all projects so tracking an LTS version is a no-brainer.
  • Everything should be running on a supported version. Big alarm bells should be ringing if this is not the case.

Good Project Hygiene

  • Have maintenance tasks publicly in your feature backlog or issue tracking system and agree on priorities with your client. Don’t hide the maintenance tasks away.
  • Code level and functional tests allow you to keep an eye on particularly problematic code and will help when pulling modules out for refactoring.
  • Monitor the application and understand where the bottlenecks and errors are. Any issues can get added to the development backlog and prioritized accordingly.
  • Monitor support requests. Are end users providing you with useful feedback that could indicate maintenance requirements?

The Application Should Be Portable

  • Any developer should be able to get the system up and running easily locally — not just you! Use virtual servers or containers to ensure that development versions of the applications are identical to production.
  • The application should be well documented. At a minimum, the provisioning and deployment workflows and any special incantations required to deploy to live should be written down.

Maintenance Is A Genuine Win-Win

Maintenance is the work we need to do on an application so it can safely stand still. It is a standard business cost. On average 75% of the total cost of ownership over a software application’s lifetime.

As professionals, we have a duty of care to be educating our clients about maintenance from the outset. There is a huge opportunity here for additional income while providing tangible value to your clients. You get to keep an ongoing commercial relationship and will be the first person they turn to when they have new requirements.

Continuing to provide value through your retainer will build up trust with the client. You’ll get a platform to suggest enhancements or new features. Work that you have a great chance of winning. Your client reduces their lifetime costs, they reduce their risk, and they get to stop worrying about performance or security.

Do yourself, your client and our entire industry a favor: help make web application maintenance become more of a thing.

Smashing Editorial
(rb, ra, hj, il)

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Why Web Application Maintenance Should Be More Of A Thing

How To Internationalize Your WordPress Website

On September 30th, 2017, the international WordPress community united for 24 hours to translate the WordPress ecosystem. For the third time, #WPTranslationDay fused an all-day translating marathon with digital and contributor day events designed to promote the value of creating accessible experiences for global users, better known as “localization”.
As an open-source community, we should all strive to localize our open-source contributions. Before you can transcribe your digital assets though, you have to internationalize your codebase.

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How To Internationalize Your WordPress Website

Universal Principles Of User Experience Design

(This is a sponsored article.) As designers working in an ever-changing field, it’s important that we develop an understanding of the timeless design principles that underpin everything we do. In the second article in my series for Adobe XD, I’ll explore the foundations that enable us to establish some universal principles of UX.
These principles, which should sit at the heart of everything we design and build, are critical and will stand the test of time:

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Universal Principles Of User Experience Design

React Internationalization – How To

First of all, let’s define some vocabulary. “Internationalization” is a long word, and there are at least two widely used abbreviations: “intl,” “i18n”. “Localization” can be shortened to “l10n”.
Internationalization can be generally broken down into the following challenges:
detecting the user’s locale; translating UI elements, titles and hints; serving locale-specific content such as dates, currencies and numbers. Note: In this article, I am going to focus only on front-end part.

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React Internationalization – How To

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Improving The UX Of Names With Vocalizer.js

We have all encountered names that are difficult to pronounce. Having a challenging name myself, I get different pronunciations of my first name, Atif, all the time. In order to solve my own naming problem, I built a Javascript plugin called Vocalizer. In this article, I will introduce what Vocalizer is and a few different ways to use it.

Improving The UX Of Names With Vocalizer.js

Earlier this year, I redesigned my portfolio website. During this process, I decided to add a feature that educated visitors on how to say my name. One day, I opened the “Voice Memos” app on my iPhone, tapped “Record”, and asked my wife to say my first name. Then, I embedded a small button onto the landing page after my first name. Clicking on that button would play the audio file of my name.

The post Improving The UX Of Names With Vocalizer.js appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Improving The UX Of Names With Vocalizer.js

How Creating A Design Language Can Streamline Your UX Design Process

Around a year ago, while working at a digital agency, I was given the objective of streamlining our UX design process. Twelve months later, this article shares my thoughts and experiences on how lean thinking helped to instill efficiencies within our UX design process.

How Creating A Design Language Can Streamline Your UX Design Process

When I arrived at the agency, wireframes were already being created and utilized across a variety of projects. Winning advocates for the production of wireframes was not the issue. All stakeholders (both internally and externally) understood the purpose of wireframes and appreciated their value in shaping and modeling digital experiences.

The post How Creating A Design Language Can Streamline Your UX Design Process appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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How Creating A Design Language Can Streamline Your UX Design Process

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Building Shaders With Babylon.js

Shaders are a key concept if you want to unleash the raw power of your GPU. I will help you understand how they work and even experiment with their inner power in an easy way, thanks to Babylon.js.

Building Shaders With Babylon.js

Before experimenting, we must see how things work internally. When dealing with hardware-accelerated 3D, you will have to deal with two CPUs: the main CPU and the GPU. The GPU is a kind of extremely specialized CPU.

The post Building Shaders With Babylon.js appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Building Shaders With Babylon.js

What You Need to Know About Google Maps’ Promoted Pins

promoted-pins-featured-image-650
Image via Shutterstock.

According to the most recent numbers, about one billion people around the world have downloaded Google Maps and use it to reach 1.5 billion destinations each year.

That’s a lot of searches and web traffic. But of equal interest to Google and its customers is foot traffic. Shopping online is great, but forecasts indicate 90 percent of retail sales will happen in physical stores rather than online, and half of smartphone users who search for something locally will end up visiting a retail location within 24 hours.

The latest update to Google Maps is called promoted pins. Google hopes it will help bridge the gap between online traffic and foot traffic. It will give local businesses an opportunity to have their voices heard in a new way and take advantage of our glorious, mobile-first future.

So what are promoted pins and why should you care?

If you’re a Google Maps user, and you probably are, you’re likely already intimately familiar with the ordinary red “pins.” These indicate nearby landmarks, businesses or other places of interest.

Promoted pins will provide a handy contrast, as they now come in royal purple — allowing your business to very visibly stand out from the rest of the locations in your area.

But drawing the eye with fresh new colors is just the start of it.

When you perform a search for, say, children’s bicycles, you might see promoted pins from Toys ‘R Us or other local toy stores populating the top of your search results.

These will also be accompanied by promotions and coupons tailored precisely to your search history. Maybe it’ll be a $5 off coupon for that bike, or, in a different search, $1 off your Grande Mocha Whatever from Starbucks.

promoted-pins-phone

Sounds exciting, yes?

What do you need to get started?

Naturally, you’ll need to do a little bit of work before you can get your own promoted pins off the ground.

First and foremost, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to have your business officially verified by Google. This can take a week or two, and involves receiving a postcard at your physical location to verify the address you’ve provided actually exists, and matches up with existing USPS records.

But to enable promoted pins specifically, you’ll also need to meet Google’s advertiser eligibility requirements and enable “location extensions” in AdWords. This involves linking your Google My Business account to your Adwords account. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Sign into your AdWords account and go to the “Ad Extensions” tab.
    ad-extensions
  2. Select the “View: Location Extensions” option from this dropdown menu:
    location-extensions
  3. Click “+ Extension” and you’ll be asked to link your Google My Business account.
    screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-2-43-50-pm

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Planning your promoted pins strategy

Local businesses will be charged per click for their participation in promoted pins. But just what constitutes a “click”? Here’s the rundown:

  • “Click-to-call” actions on your smartphone
  • “Get directions” interactions
  • “Get location” clicks

Knowing this, how much of your PPC spend should be directed at promoted pins?

Like many other aspects of online marketing and digital advertising, some strategies are simply going to be more effective for certain industries than others. For example, I could see promoted pins working really well for drugstores, gas stations or restaurants – places that people tend to frequent often, even when traveling.

However, I don’t see promoted pins being overly beneficial for places like colleges or event venues. People do extensive research and planning when spending money with these organizations, and buying decisions are influenced by many, many other factors outside of location or even pricing.

To put it simply, there’s not going to be a magic percentage of PPC spend you can put towards promoted pins to get your ideal results.

You’ll need to play around with this new feature and gradually adjust how much money you want to allocate to it after a few months of testing. I will say that I don’t think a promoted pins budget should be a majority part of any organization’s PPC spend, but you can pick a starting budget based on your past successes with PPC and adjust said budget up or down as you start to see results.

In other words, budgeting for your local search campaign in Google Maps shouldn’t feel at all out of step with other forms of digital advertising that charge according to the traffic you generate.

Tracking your promoted pins campaign

All of this is pretty academic if you don’t have access to real-time data about your promoted pins, along with the traffic they’re generating and some key information about who’s interacting with them.

Here’s how to access the traffic data for your promoted pins campaign:

  1. Sign into your AdWords account and go to “Campaigns”:
    adwords-promoted-pins-campaigns
  2. Click “Segment,” then “Click type”:
    adwords-promoted-pins-segments-ad-types

That should bring you to the all-important data about the types of traffic your promoted pins are bringing in. This traffic might show up in a breakdown similar to your normal “Local” PPC ad analytics, with data for click-to-call, driving directions and location detail actions taken:

mobile-clicks-to-call-promotedpins

What you find there will be the key to tailoring your hyperlocal marketing approach in the months and years ahead.

Sales funnelling from Google Maps

How can you turn your promoted pins into real sales? How do prospective customers become, you know, customers?

The key is hyperlocal marketing, which is marketing tailored to a very small geographic area, such as a single zip code, neighborhood or city.

People are already shopping locally. Your job is merely to make sure they visit your establishment and not somebody else’s. Promoted pins should make this easier than ever, by letting you cater directly to the people who are most likely to visit your business in the first place.

Promoted pins also encourage — even require — you to stay up-to-date with what people in your area are actually searching for.

You’ll be able to optimize your business’ page within Google Maps to reflect the language people are using to find you. Just like you would do keyword analysis and competitor research for your main website, you can take the information you learn about how people find you on Google Maps and apply it to your Google My Business page or promoted pins ads.

This whole process is like a snowball that just needs one gentle push to get started.

One national brand that figured this out early is PetSmart. It learned how to tie together data from its search ads with data from Google’s Store Visits. It found that between 10 and 18 percent of folks who clicked on its ads ended up inside a PetSmart store within a month. PetSmart used this information to make more informed budgeting decisions for their online marketing strategies moving forward, and was able to provide data driven proof of the value in search ads for their merchandising partners.

It’s this ability to truly understand the customer “journey” that really speaks to the usefulness of promoted pins.

Quick bonus tip: Be transparent about inventory

Here’s one more key action you’ll need to take, if you haven’t already: Become super transparent about the products you have in stock. One in four mobile users avoids visiting brick-and-mortar stores because they fret over the product, or products, they’re searching for not being in stock.

Fortunately, Google’s already developed a way for companies to do this: local product inventory feeds. This is a list of all the products you sell in each of your stores, and you can choose to update your full product inventory or only the products whose inventories have changed that day. Inventory feeds help consumers feel more confident that they can find what they’re looking for at your store, and that they won’t arrive to find said item out of stock.

When done in conjunction with promoted pins, inventory feeds assure potential customers that a product is actually in stock and that it can be found at a location in their immediate area.

How promoted pins can help you

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of two types of people:

  1. You’re excited to dig into the nitty gritty of a new type of ad platform, and you’re ready to see what kind of return on investment this can bring to your local business
  2. You’re fretting over yet another skill set you need to learn to keep your business viable in an increasingly digital-minded world.

Though, the perfectly sane businessperson probably falls somewhere in between.

It’s true. There are a couple little tricks you’ll have to pick up before you have your promoted pins strategy up and running and actually delivering real-world results.

But for the most part, we think you’ll find the process actually dovetails pretty nicely with what you’re already familiar with. AdWords is an established platform, and promoted pins is an offshoot of that. You were always going to have to become savvy with local marketing to survive and thrive. It was inevitable. And, thankfully, Google has made it pretty easy to get started.

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What You Need to Know About Google Maps’ Promoted Pins