Tag Archives: marketing

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The Most Effective Ecommerce Lead Generation Tips and Strategies

ecommerce-lead-generation

I have some bad news for you. It might hurt. Everything you’ve read about lead generation strategies might not apply to your business. Why? Because ecommerce lead generation is different. If you run a business outside the ecommerce family, feel free to check out another Crazy Egg article that applies to your company. For those of you in the ecommerce market, though, we need to set a few things straight. I’m going to share with you my best tips for effective ecommerce lead generation, and you might notice that they’re not the same as the tactics you might use for,…

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The Most Effective Ecommerce Lead Generation Tips and Strategies

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What is the Best Homepage to Have (3 Real Examples)

best-homepage

Remind me: How many chances do you get to make a good impression? Oh, that’s right. One. Just one. If you don’t have the best homepage possible, that first impression becomes negative for website visitors. You lose that first impression forever. Will the visitor come back? Maybe. But you’re playing with fire. There aren’t any new statistics on web design aesthetics and first impressions, but an older study demonstrated that 94 percent of people’s first impressions of a business were related to web design. That’s pretty illustrative. If you have a beautiful, functional, easily navigable homepage, you’re more likely to…

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What is the Best Homepage to Have (3 Real Examples)

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Google Marketing Live: An Advertiser’s Take on the Highlights

Updates from the Google Marketing Live keynote

For advertisers, the Google Marketing keynote is a hotly anticipated annual event where we get to hear about all of the new features coming up in Google’s suite of marketing tools. It’s also a great indicator of what’s top of mind for Google, and what betas you can expect to roll out (or bug your Google rep to let you into early).

Yesterday’s presentation kicked off with consumer trends, then covered improvements and launches across a range of Google ad platforms. Throughout the event we heard data control and privacy come up often, reminding us that privacy is still a major theme of 2018. And while professional paid media managers may have found the keynote a bit of a bore, there were some decent things to get excited about too.

If you don’t have an hour to watch the full recording, read on for our key highlights (or skim ‘em, if that’s more your thing).

AdWords is no more

Whoah whoah, don’t panic. The ad platform that you know and love (and rely on for your business) is still intact. In fact, if you follow PPC news or read the Google Ads blog, you probably already heard about the shift from Google AdWords to Google Ads that’s coming at the end of this month. Like the old Google Ads interface, you’ve probably already forgotten about ‘AdWords’, right?

the new Google Ads rebrand takes effect July 24th

What’s actually changed?
Here’s a breakdown of what this rebrand means, and what terms to use so you sound smart in front of your boss and clients:

  • AdWords will become Google Ads.
  • DoubleClick and Google Analytics 360 will now be combined into Google Marketing Platform.
  • DoubleClick Search is now Search Ads 360.
  • The rebrand becomes official July 24th, 2018.

Page speed is critical (and more visibility means more control)

We recently shared that we’re close to launching a beta program for Accelerated Mobile Pages at Unbounce, and that page speed is a top priority for us as a leading landing page builder—so naturally we were nodding along yesterday morning as Anthony Chavez, Product Management Director at Google Ads, explained the impact that page speed can have on conversion rates.

Chavez opened his speed segment by reminding us that:

“even the best ads may not perform if your landing pages aren’t up to par, especially on mobile.”

Chavez admitted that landing page speed is often a lower priority for advertisers, who are focused on optimizing keywords, bids, and ad copy. When that’s not enough, “one of the best ways to get better performance on mobile is to improve the speed of your landing pages,” says Chavez. And we couldn’t agree more.

This is why we were giddy when he announced that Mobile Speed Score is now available in Google Ads. Mobile Speed Score is a new score telling you how fast your ad’s resulting landing pages are. This score is on a ten-point scale (ten being the fastest) and includes secret-sauce factors visible to Google—like the relationship between your mobile landing page speed and conversion rates. Plus, it’s updated daily, so you won’t have to wait weeks to figure out if your speed optimizations are working for you.

New from the Google Marketing Keynote: Landing page speed score

Since it’s a column built into your Google Ads account, you’ll be able to sort and filter the landing pages that could use some love. You can find this new column in the Landing Pages tab of your Google Ads account:

Access your landing page speed score in a new column

Chavez went on to suggest using AMP landing pages as a “powerful and easy way to supercharge your site speed,” something we can definitely agree with. By using AMP landing pages together with Mobile Speed Score, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.

Want to get even further ahead of your competition? Sign up for early access to Unbounce’s AMP beta program right here.

Search ads are going responsive

For a while now Google has been integrating machine learning and automation into its ad platform, and it looks like the future is no different. Much like last year’s launch of Smart Display campaigns, Google dedicated quite a bit of time to explaining Responsive Search Ads. However, this may not come as news to you as the Responsive Search Ads beta has been available to many advertisers for months already.

Similar to how Smart Display campaigns combine images with text on the fly, Responsive Search Ads combine headlines and descriptions from variations you’ve inputted to create an ad that’s deemed “most relevant to the searcher.” Ideally this means your ads will be more catered to each user and query, instead of serving up a rotation of generic ads.

This is a step forward in more personalized search results, but also means less control for advertisers, and makes it complicated to test ad copy. One big benefit, however, is that these ads can show up to 90% more copy than Expanded Text Ads, meaning you take over more real estate on the SERP. If this is the future of search ads, SEOs should be worried.

Your ad could show up to three 30-character headlines (vs. just one) and two 90-character description lines (compared to one 80-character description line). And PPC-er’s seem to be on board with this extra space, with the reaction mostly positive, if not a little hesitant:

Not seeing Responsive Search Ads as an option in your account? The beta is still rolling out to English-language advertisers and will be rolling out to more advertisers and languages throughout 2018.

Also, if you still prefer man over machine, you can continue to use Expanded Text Ads in your campaigns.

Even more assorted product updates & improvements

Better cross-device tracking

Tracking users across devices has always been a pain for paid advertisers, but this has been improving over the years. Google reaffirmed its commitment to solving this pain by announcing cross-device reporting and remarketing in Google Analytics (to what sounded like the largest applause of the keynote).

Google Shopping updates

If you’ve ever launched Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on Google Shopping, you know that it can be a whole other beast. Starting this year, Google will be rolling out Automated Feeds which create a feed by crawling your website (no more troubleshooting feeds). Keeping with the theme, Google also talked about the recently launched Smart Shopping campaigns that automatically optimize around a goal.

These changes will make PLAs a lot more accessible to advertisers, but oppositely could increase competition for those of us already advertising on Google Shopping. In fact, Smart Campaigns will soon be integrated with Shopify, meaning Shopify merchants will be able to manage their Smart Shopping campaigns without leaving the platform. This reduces barriers for the 600,000+ Shopify users that may have been previously intimidated by the Google Merchant Center.

Updates to YouTube

On the video side of things, Google announced that later this year they will be bringing a new option to TrueView for Reach ads. In addition to a call to action button, the new Form Ads will allow you to collect leads through a form directly on the ad. Because we didn’t see any examples of how these would look in the wild, I’ll say it sounds like this feature won’t be released very soon. For now though, I can guess it will be something similar to Facebook’s Lead Ads, maybe even more simple.

They also kept YouTube on the machine learning bandwagon, announcing Maximize Lift Bidding. They describe this as a bidding strategy to help you “reach people who are more likely to consider your brand after exposure to an ad.” Google added a bit more context to this feature—currently in beta—on its blog, saying, “it automatically adjusts bids at auction time to maximize the impact your video ads have on brand perception throughout the consumer journey.”

We’ll have to wait until it rolls out officially later this year to learn even more.

Machine learning for small business

If you run a small business, Google used a small slice of the keynote to remind you that you’re still an important customer. They announced the upcoming launch of something called Smart Campaigns, and—you guessed it—it involves machine learning. Google Ads is a sophisticated platform, but can still be intimidating for a small business, or a non-marketer.

Using information scanned from the company’s website and their Google My Business listing, the Smart Display campaign automatically generates ads on both search and display. The goal is to get small business owners up and running with ads as quickly as possible and to help them overcome the learning curve that can come with online advertising (or the cost of hiring an agency). After launch, the campaigns automatically optimize themselves.

Going further, the campaigns automatically generate quick and simple landing pages for small businesses, for when you’re running without a website. While these landing pages include super basic information like your location and phone number, you don’t get any control over brand messaging or even the images that get selected.

As a paid advertiser by trade myself, I’m wary of handing this much control over my ads to Google’s machine learning, but that doesn’t mean this can’t work for a small business customer. The audience for Smart Campaigns is an advertiser starting from scratch (as in, no website-from-scratch) so there would be no historical performance to compare to.

What all these updates mean

While not everything was technically fresh news at this year’s Google Marketing Live, we still had some interesting key takeaways.

What stood out the most to us at Unbounce was the critical need for fast landing pages, especially on mobile. Undeniably though, the strong thread throughout the keynote was the shift toward machine learning.

My prediction is that—over the coming months and years—Google will shift to more and more “Smart” features and campaigns until eventually machine learning becomes so intertwined that we drop the “Smart.” I’m not quite ready to give Google the wheel on all of my ad copy, bids, and optimization just yet, but I’m curious to see the data and hear the results as we move into this new era of online advertising.

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Google Marketing Live: An Advertiser’s Take on the Highlights

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9 Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Email Conversions

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

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9 Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Email Conversions

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8 Effective Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Conversions

email-subscribers-9

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

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8 Effective Tips to Get More Email Subscribers by Increasing Conversions

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Optimizing Your SaaS Conversion Funnel (Guide)

saas conversion funnel

The average company used 16 SaaS apps in 2017. That’s a 33 percent increase from the year before. That doesn’t mean your SaaS business will flourish, though. If you want your piece of an industry that’s worth an estimated 116 billion globally, optimizing your SaaS conversion funnel most become a priority. Your conversion funnel describes the steps your prospective customers take to reach a buying decision. Narrowing the conversion funnel and pushing prospects through faster can result in higher profits. Do to so, you must learn how to nurture your leads and prospects. Let’s look at some of the most…

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Optimizing Your SaaS Conversion Funnel (Guide)

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CRO Hero: Sam Clarke, Director of Growth Marketing at Placester

CRO Heroes

Admittedly, Conversion Rate Optimization is not the most sexy term in the marketing world – but if you’ve ever run an A/B test where the variant won by a landslide, or made a website design change that led to a significant increase in product purchases, you know firsthand how exciting and powerful CRO can be in action. Marketers who specialize in conversion rate optimization are often a rare mix of analytical and creative; tactical, and intuitive. They need to get inside a customer’s head, but they also need to dive deep into data. Often, CRO professionals are tasked with: Reducing…

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CRO Hero: Sam Clarke, Director of Growth Marketing at Placester

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How To Optimize Your Marketing Campaigns For Higher Quality Leads

How excited would you be if you doubled the number of leads your marketing campaign was generating in less than a month? What if you found out that the improvement wasn’t an improvement at all, because as lead quantity went up, lead quality was going down? That’s exactly what happened with a campaign I ran once. I can assure you – it’s not fun! One survey of B2B marketers found that their #1 and #2 challenges were generating high quality leads and converting leads into customers: Your Landing Page Conversion Rate Is Only Half Of The Story Converting visitors to leads…

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How To Optimize Your Marketing Campaigns For Higher Quality Leads

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Making Market Forces Work for You: A Q&A With Product Positioning Pro April Dunford

There are only a few instances when I wish I could travel back in time. One is when I’m reading the kid’s menu. One is when I stumble upon Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on TBS. And one is after I’ve launched a new product or campaign.

You and I may share that last one.

Though we typically know the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, it’s the pesky unknowns us marketers wrestle with before a new product launch that keep us up at night. Things like: Is the product’s name right? Is the copy clear, but boring? Clever, but convoluted? Is the value as obvious as it should be?

Beyond messaging, most often, it comes down to whether your product’s positioning is right from the start; whether you set the product up in the right conditions and market category in the first place.

We all know the market is more saturated than ever. But what if, instead of fighting it, we used that momentum to our advantage?

April Dunford is the Founder of Rocket Launch Marketing, the former VP of Marketing for a series of high-growth startups and previous executive at big-wig companies like IBM and Nortel. She’s also a speaker, author and in-demand consultant specializing in product positioning. Advising companies on go-to-market strategy and messaging, she ensures they’re going after the right category and communicating their offering in a way that grabs prospects’ attention and makes its value crystal clear.

Basically, April knows her stuff. And she’ll be bringing her smarts to the CTAConf stage in August! But we have the patience of a toddler waiting for an iPad to charge, so we peppered her with some burning questions in anticipation of her talk. She was the top-rated speaker at last year’s conference, so we know this year’s gonna be good. You can enjoy a little time traveling to 2017 via the clip below:


Check out our Q&A with April below and keep your eyes peeled for the exclusive-to-everyone-who-reads-this-post discount code to see her in person.

First thing’s first: What exactly is product positioning and how does it differ from brand positioning?

April: You might say “Positioning” has its own positioning problem! It’s such a misunderstood concept. For some folks it’s mainly a messaging exercise, while others associate it very closely with branding. But positioning is much, much broader than either of those things.

Product positioning describes the specific market you intend to win and why you are uniquely qualified to win it. It’s the underpinning of your go-to-market strategy and impacts everything from marketing to sales, to customer success and the product itself.

What’s the first thing a client asks when you sit down with them?

April: Most CEOs don’t know it’s a product positioning problem they have. They know their customers have a hard time understanding what their product is all about and why they should care. That confusion results in long sales cycles, low close rates and poor marketing campaign performance.

A lot of the work I do is centered around teaching folks how to create context for their products by focusing on making value obvious to customers. Positioning as a concept isn’t new but, until now, we’ve all been pretty terrible at actually doing the work it requires. I teach companies a process for finding and delivering the best position for their products.

What’s the most common mistake you’ve seen businesses make with their go-to-market strategy?

April: Hands down, the most common mistake I see is companies trying to market to a set of customers that is much too broad. The reasoning is that, by going after a massive market, it will be easier to claim a small piece of it.

In reality, the opposite is true. Broad targeting puts your offering in direct competition with established market leaders that can both out-market and out-sell you. Beyond that, it leads to diluted messaging that waters down your best features and differentiators.

The easier—and far more effective thing to do—is target a smaller slice of customers who are highly suited to your product’s key features and the distinct value they can deliver.

Customers who most acutely feel the pain you address will be the most excited about your solution to that pain. They’ll pay you more, close faster and love your product so much they’ll end up marketing it for you. (Editor’s note: AKA the Holy Grail of marketing.)

Once you’ve established yourself with these highly suitable customers, you can build on your strengths and start to expand your targets to larger markets.

Can you tell us about the most challenging product positioning case you’ve worked on?

April: At IBM, I led the launch of a family of products that demanded an entirely new market category built from scratch. We had to convince customers, experts and analysts that certain market forces existed and would inevitably redraw the lines around existing market categories. On top of that, I had to convince them that IBM was the only company capable of drawing those lines.

There was also a catch: The products we had in that family weren’t particularly innovative on their own, at least not at the beginning. So the story itself hinged on convincing people that all of this revolutionary change was going to be sparked by the innovative combination of some pretty ho-hum products.

We managed to pull it off through sheer guts, a sprinkling of good luck and the deep marketing talent of my team at the time. But mainly, guts.

Your upcoming talk at CTAConf is about how to turn “marketing headwinds into tailwinds.” What do you mean by that?

April: In any market category, you’ll encounter extremely powerful forces that can either work for you or against you.

We often position our products in markets with strong competitors who are already perceived as leaders. Like swimming upstream, or fighting headwinds, we have to work extra hard to win in that environment.

Luckily, most products can be positioned in many different markets that offer greater chances of success. We just have to find ones where that inherent force is pushing us forward, like a tailwind, instead of pushing back on us.

In my talk, I’m going to outline exactly how you can use existing market forces to your advantage and grow revenue faster.

Want to hear this talk at CTAConf 2018? Get 10% off all Early Bird tickets ($80 off for General Attendees) by using the code “AprilCTAConf2018” at checkout.

What should marketers consider, before anything else, when launching a new product?

April: The success of a launch depends on how well you understand three things:

  1. The problem your product solves and the competition it faces.
  2. The true value your product delivers for customers.
  3. Which types of customers care the most about that value and, most importantly, why?

If you’ve got these down, you’ll know exactly who you need to reach, the channels you need to use to reach those people and the value proposition you need to communicate.

What should marketers be doing differently now in terms of product positioning vs. five years ago?

April: We should start doing it! Most companies don’t deliberately position their product. They assume a default positioning based on how they first thought about it.

For example, say you’ve built a new email client. But after you got it into the market, you got some feedback, added or removed features and continued to iterate on it. Now you may have a solution that’s best positioned as a “group chat” or “social network” or “team collaboration tool” instead of focusing on email capabilities.

The market frame of reference you choose will completely change the way customers perceive your product and their expectations around pricing, features, support and your competitors.

Because the markets are more crowded, more competitive and shifting faster than they ever have before, we can’t get away with ignoring product positioning if we want our products to be successful.

Get every actionable detail of April’s positioning framework and go-to-market guide in her upcoming talk at Call to Action Conference, this August 27-29. Use the code “AprilCTAConf2018” at checkout for 10% off single, group and customer rates (that’s on top of the Early Bird discount, ending May 31st)! Want more reasons to go? Click here for a bunch of ‘em.

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Making Market Forces Work for You: A Q&A With Product Positioning Pro April Dunford

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More Than Pixels: Selling Design Discovery




More Than Pixels: Selling Design Discovery

Kyle Cassidy



As designers, we know that research should play a pivotal role in any design process. Sadly, however, there are still a lot of organizations that do not see the value of research and would rather jump straight into the visual design stage of the design process.

The excuses given here tend to be:

“We already know what our customers want.”

“We don’t have the time/budget/people.”

“We’ll figure out the flaws in BETA.”

As designers, it is important that we are equipped to be able to have conversations with senior stakeholders to be able to sell and justify the importance of the so-called “Design Discovery” within the design process.

In this article, I’ll demystify what is meant by the term “Design Discovery” to help you better establish the importance of research within the creative process. I’ll also be giving advice on how to handle common pushbacks, along with providing various hints and tips on how to select the best research methods when undertaking user research.

My hope is that by reading this article, you will become comfortable with being able to sell “Design Discovery” as part of the creative process. You will know how to build a “Discovery Plan” of activities that answers all the questions you and your client need to initiate the design process with a clear purpose and direction.

Design With A Purpose

Digital design is not just about opening up Photoshop or Sketch and adding colors, shapes, textures, and animation to make a beautiful looking website or app.

As designers, before putting any pixels on canvas, we should have a solid understanding of:

  1. Who are the users we are designing for?
  2. What are the key tasks those users want to accomplish?

Ask yourself, is the purpose of what you are producing? Is it to help users:

  • Conduct research,
  • Find information,
  • Save time,
  • Track fitness,
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle,
  • Feel safe,
  • Organize schedules,
  • Source goods,
  • Purchase products,
  • Gather ideas,
  • Manage finances,
  • Communicate,
  • Or something entirely different?

Understanding the answers to these questions should inform your design decisions. But before we design, we need to do some research.

Discovery Phase

Any design process worth its salt should start with a period of research, which (in agency terms) is often referred to as a “Discovery Phase”. The time and budget designers can allocate to a Discovery phase is determined by many factors such as the amount of the client’s existing project research and documentation as well as the client’s budget. Not to mention your own personal context, which we will come to later.

Business And User Goals

In a Discovery phase, we should ensure adequate time is dedicated to exploring both business and user goals.

Yes, we design experiences for users, but ultimately we produce our designs for clients (be that internal or external), too. Clients are the gatekeepers to what we design. They have the ultimate say over the project and they are the ones that hold the purse strings. Clients will have their own goals they want to achieve from a project and these do not always align with the users’ goals.

In order to ensure what we design throughout our design process hits the sweet spot, we need to make sure that we are spending time exploring both the business and user goals for the project (in the Research/Discovery phase).


business and user goals


Your Discovery phase should explore both user and business goals. (Large preview)

Uncovering Business Goals

Typically, the quickest way to establish the business goals for a project is to host a stakeholder workshop with key project stakeholders. Your aim should be to get as many representatives from across different business functions as possible into one room to discuss the vision for the project (Marketing, Finance, Digital, Customer Services, and Sales).

Tip: Large organizations often tend to operate in organizational silos. This allows teams to focus on their core function such as marketing, customer care, etc. It allows staff to be effective without being distracted by activities where they have no knowledge and little or no skills. However, it often becomes a problem when the teams don’t have a singular vision/mission from leadership, and they begin to see their area as the driving force behind the company’s success. Often in these situations, cross-departmental communication can be poor to non-existent. By bringing different members from across the organization together in one room, you get to the source of the truth quicker and can link together internal business processes and ways of working.

The core purpose of the stakeholder workshop should be:

  1. To uncover the Current State (explore what exists today in terms of people, processes, systems, and tools);
  2. To define the Desired Future State (understand where the client wants to get to, i.e. their understandig of what the ideal state should look like);
  3. To align all stakeholders on the Vision for the project.

project vision


Use workshops to align stakeholders around the vision and define the Desired Future State. (Large preview)

There are a series of activities that you can employ within your stakeholder workshop. I tend to typically build a full workshop day (7-8 hours) around 4-5 activities allowing 45mins uptil 1 hour for lunch and two 15-min coffee breaks between exercises. Any more that than, and I find energy levels start to dwindle.

I will vary the workshop activities I do around the nature of the project. However, each workshop I lead tends to include the following three core activities:

Activity Purpose
Business Model Canvas To explore the organizations business model and discuss where this project fits this model.
Measurement Plan Define what are the most important business metrics the business wants to be able to measure and report on.
Proto Personas and User Stories Explore who the business feels their users are and what are the key user stories we need to deliver against.

Tip: If you’re new to delivering client workshops, I’ve added a list of recommended reading to the references section at the bottom of this article which will give you useful ideas on workshop activities, materials, and group sizes.

Following the workshop, you’ll need to produce a write up of what happened in the workshop itself. It also helps to take lots of photos on the workshop day. The purpose of the write-up should be to not only explain the purpose of the day and key findings, but also recommendations of next steps. Write-ups can be especially helpful for internal communication within the organization and bringing non-attendees up to speed with what happened on the day as well as agreeing on the next steps for the project.

Uncovering User Goals

Of course, Discovery is not just about understanding what the organization wants. We need to validate what users actually want and need.

With the business goals defined, you can then move on to explore the user goals through conducting some user research. There are many different user research methods you can employ throughout the Discovery process from Customer Interviews and Heuristic Evaluations to Usability Tests and Competitor Reviews, and more.

Having a clear idea of the questions you are looking to answer and available budget is the key to helping select the right research methods. It is, for this reason, important that you have a good idea of what these are before you get to this point.

Before you start to select which are the best user research methods to employ, step back and ask yourself the following question:

“What are the questions I/we as a design team need answers to?”

For example, do you want to understand:

  • How many users are interacting with the current product?
  • How do users think your product compares to a competitor product?
  • What are the most common friction points within the current product?
  • How is the current product’s performance measured?
  • Do users struggle to find certain key pieces of information?

Grab a pen and write down what you want to achieve from your research in a list.

Tip: If you know you are going to be working on a fixed/tight budget, it is important to get confirmation on what that budget may look like at this point since this will have some bearing on the research methods you choose.

Another tip: User research does not have to happen after organizational research. I always find it helps to do some exploratory research prior to running stakeholder workshops. This ensures you go into the room with a baseline understanding of the organization its users and some common pain points. Some customers may not know what users do on their websites/apps nowadays; I like to go in prepared with some research to hand whether that be User Testing, Analytics Review or Tree Testing outputs.

Selecting Research Methods

The map below from the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) shows an overview of 20 popular user research methods plotted on a 3-dimensional framework. It can provide a useful guide for helping you narrow down on a set of research methods to use.


top 20 research methods


A map of the top 20 research methods from NNG. (Large preview)

The diagram may look complicated, but let us break down some key terms.

Along the x-axis, research methods are separated by the types of data they produce.

  • Quantitative data involves numbers and figures. It is great for answering questions such as:

    • How much?
    • How many?
    • How long?
    • Impact tracking?
    • Benchmarking?
  • Qualitative data involves quote, observations, photos, videos, and notes.

    • What do users think?
    • How do users feel?
    • Why do users behave in a certain way?
    • What are users like?
    • What frustrates users?

Along the y-axis, research methods are separated by the user inputs.

  • Behavioral Data
    This data is based on what users do (outcomes).
  • Attitudinal Data
    This data is based on attitudes and opinions.

Finally, research methods are also classified by their context. Context explains the nature of the research, some research methods such as interviews require no product at all. Meanwhile, usability tests require users to complete scripted tasks and tell us how they think and feel.

Using the Model

Using your question list, firstly identify whether you are looking to understand users opinions (what people say) or actions (what people do) and secondly whether you are looking to understand why they behave in a certain way (why and how to fix) or how many of them are behaving in a certain way (how many and how much).

Now look at this simplified version of the matrix, and you should be able to work out which user research methods to focus in on.


selecting research methods


Think about what questions you’re trying to answer when selecting research methods. (Large preview)

Model Examples

Example 1

If you’re looking to understand users’ attitudes and beliefs and you don’t have a working product then ‘Focus Groups’ or ‘Interviews’ would be suitable user research methods.


top 20 research methods


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Example 2

If you want to understand how many users are interacting with the current website or app then an ‘Analytics Review’ would be the right research method to adopt. Meanwhile, if you want to test how many people will be impacted by a change, A/B testing would be a suitable method.


top 20 research methods


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No Silver Bullet

By now you should realize there is no shortcut to the research process; not one single UX research method will provide all the answers you need for a project.

Analytics reviews, for example, are a great low-cost way to explore behavioral, quantitative data about how users interact with an existing website or application.

However, this data falls short of telling you:

  • Why users visited the site/app in the first place (motivation);
  • What tasks they were looking to accomplish (intent);
  • If users were successful in completing their tasks (task completion);
  • How users found their overall experience (satisfaction).

These types of questions are best answered by other research methods such as ‘Customer Feedback’ surveys (also known as ‘Intercept Surveys’) which are available from tools such as Hotjar, Usabilla, and Qualaroo.


Usabilla


Usabilla’s quick feedback button allows users to provide instant feedback on their experience. (Large preview)

Costing Research/Discovery

In order to build a holistic view of the user experience, the Research/Discovery process should typically last around 3 to 4 weeks and combine a combination of the different research methods.

Use your list of questions and the NNG matrix to help you decide on the most suitable research methods for your project. Wherever possible, try to use complimentary research methods to build a bigger picture of users motivations, drivers, and behaviors.


four research methods


Your Design Discovery process should combine different types of data. (Large preview)

Tip: The UX Recipe tool is a great website for helping you pull together the different research methods you feel you need for a project and to calculate the cost of doing so.

Which brings me on to my next point.

Contexts And Budgets

The time and budget which you can allocate to Discovery will vary greatly depending on your role. Are you working in-house, freelance, or in an agency? Some typical scenarios are as follows:

  • Agency
    Clients employ agencies to build projects that generate the right results. To get the right results, you firstly need to ensure you understand both the business’ needs and the needs of the users as these are almost always not the same. Agencies almost always start with a detailed Discovery phase often led by the UX Design team. Budgets are generally included in the cost of the total project, as such ample time is available for research.
  • In-House: Large Company
    When working in a large company, you are likely to already have a suite of tools along with a program of activity you’re using to measure the customer experience. Secondly, you are likely to be working alongside colleagues with specialist skills such as Data Analysts, Market Researchers, and even a Content Team. Do not be afraid to say hello to these people and see if they will be willing to help you conduct some research. Customer service teams are also worth befriending. Customer service teams are the front line of a business where customer problems are aired for all to see. They can be a goldmine of useful information. Go spend some time with the team, listen to customer service calls, and review call/chat logs.
  • In-House: Smaller Company
    When working as part of an in-house team in a smaller company, you are likely to be working on a tight budget and are spread across a lot of activities. Nevertheless, with some creative thinking, you can still undertake some low-cost research tasks such as Site Intercept surveys, Analytics reviews, and Guerilla testing, or simply review applied research.
  • Freelance
    When working freelance, your client often seeks you out with a very fixed budget, timeline and set of deliverables in mind, i.e. “We need a new Logo” or “We need a landing page design.” Selling Discovery as part of the process can often be a challenge freelancers typically undertake since they mostly end up using their own time and even working overtime. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Clients can be willing to spend their time in the Discovery pre-project phase. However, you need to be confident to be able to sell yourself and defend your process. This video has some excellent tips on how to sell Discovery to clients as a freelancer.

Selling Design Discovery

As you can see from the above, selling Design Discovery can be a challenge depending on your context. It’s much harder to sell Design Discovery when working as a freelancer than it is working within an agency.

Some of the most commons excuses organizations put forward for discounting the research process are:

“We don’t have the budget.”

“We’ll find it out in BETA.”

“We don’t have time.”

“We already know what users want.”

When selling Design Discovery and combating these points of view, remember these key things:

It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Research does not have to be costly especially with all of the tools and resources we have available today. You can conduct a Guerilla User Testing session for the price of a basic coffee. Furthermore, you can often source willing participants from website intercepts, forums or social media groups who are more than willing to help.

It’s much harder to fix later.

The findings that come as an output from research can be invaluable. It is much more cost and time effective to spend some of the project budgets up front to ensure there are no assumptions and blind spots than it is to course correct later on if the project has shifted off tangent. Uncovering blockers or significant pain points later into the project can be a huge drain on time as well as monetary resources.

Organizational views can often be biased.

Within large organizations especially, a view of ‘what users want’ is often shaped by senior managers’ thoughts and opinions rather than any applied user research. These viewpoints then cascade down to more junior members of the team who start to adopt the same viewpoints. Validating these opinions are actually correct viewpoints is essential.

There are other cross-company benefits.

Furthermore, a Discovery process also brings with it internal benefits. By bringing members from other business functions together and setting a clear direction for the project, you should win advocates for the project across many business functions. Everyone should leave the room with a clear understanding of what the project is, its vision, and the problems you are trying to fix. This helps to alleviate an enormous amount of uncertainty within the organization.

I like to best explain the purpose of the discovery phase by using my adaptation of the Design Squiggle by Damien Newman:

See how the Discovery phase allows us time to tackle the most uncertainty?


Design Squiggle by Damien Newman


An adaptation of the Design Squiggle by Damien Newman showing how uncertainty is reduced in projects over time. (Large preview)

Waterfall And Agile

A Discovery phase can be integrated into both Waterfall and Agile project management methodologies.

In Waterfall projects, the Discovery phase happens at the very start of the project and can typically run for 4 to 12 weeks depending on the size of the project, the number of interdependent systems, and the areas which need to be explored.

In Agile projects, you may run a Discovery phase upfront to outline the purpose for the project and interconnect systems along with mini 1 to 2-week discovery process at the start of each sprint to gather the information you need to build out a feature.


waterfall and agile discovery


Discovery process can be easily incorporated into both waterfall and agile projects. (Large preview)

Final Thoughts

The next time you start on any digital project:

  • Make sure you allow time for a Discovery phase at the start of your project to define both business and user goals, and to set a clear vision that sets a clear purpose and direction for the project to all stakeholders.

  • Be sure to run a Stakeholder workshop with representatives from a variety of different business functions across the business (Marketing, Finance, Digital, Customer Services, Sales).

  • Before selecting which user research methods to use on your project, write down a list of questions you wish to understand and get a budget defined. From there, you can use the NNG matrix to help you understand what the best tool to use is.

Further Reading

If you found this article interesting, here is some recommended further reading:

Workshop Books

If you are interested in running Stakeholder workshops, I’d highly recommend reading the following books. Not only will they give you useful hints and tips on how to run workshops, they’re packed full of different workshop exercises to help you get answers to specific questions.

Smashing Editorial
(cc, ra, yk, il)


Link:  

More Than Pixels: Selling Design Discovery