Fewer than 25 percent of businesses express satisfaction with their conversion rates. That’s pretty depressing. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) doesn’t improve your conversion rates overnight, but it sets you up for success. Part of CRO involves optimizing your calls to action for conversions. How is the best call to action for conversions? There’s no single call-to-action formula that can magically convince most of your leads to convert, but if you’re willing to get to know your audience, experience with different CTAs, and test variations, you’ll get closer to the conversion rates you want. We’ll be covering lots of information, so…
Figuring out how to convert website visitors into customers requires not only strategy, but extensive testing. You can learn from others what worked for them, but your website audience is unique. That’s probably why you’re reading this article. You want to know the best place to start. Then, you can test different solutions to increase your conversion rate. I’m a big fan of growth hacking. In other words, my goal is always to get the biggest possible results in the shortest possible time frame. That requires aggressive marketing and strategic application of data. You might take a different approach. Whatever…
Customer acquisition is all about convincing people to buy your products or service. That’s it. But it’s more complicated than you might think. You have to understand your customers’ buyers journeys and how they make the decision to buy (or to not buy). You might have heard that old adage about how much less expensive it is to retain customers than to acquire them. In fact, it’s about five times less expensive. That statistic sounds powerful, but it leaves an important element out of the equation. To retain customers, you first must acquire them. If you already have 10 million…
Generating good lead magnet ideas can become a long process. Simply throwing together an e-book or whitepaper just because other businesses do it would be a mistake. High-converting lead magnet ideas offer so much value that your target audience can’t say no. The more you refine your lead magnet, the more qualified your leads become because you’re offering exactly what those leads need at the exact right time. Lead magnets can work for nearly all audiences, including those of B2B and B2C businesses. They’re powerful because they open the door to further communication between the business and the lead. But…
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…
(This article is kindly sponsored by Adobe.) We live in a world where just about every business has an online presence. Let’s say you want to reach out to a business — what would be the first thing you would do? Well, you would probably look up their website to search for answers to your questions or simply any contact details you can find. With no doubt, the first impression of any website is now more important than ever.
There are more than 1.8 billion websites on the Internet right now, and the number is growing. The increase of the competition brings a great interest in examining the factors of success of a website. While no one will argue that it’s essential to have a successful website, it’s still not easy to understand what exactly success means and how to actually measure it.
Define What Site Success Means To You
Set A Global Goal
Finding the answers to questions such as “What are our goals?” and “What do we want to achieve with this website?” should be the first thing to do when starting a new project. Skipping a stage of defining global goals and moving directly to the design stage is a pretty common mistake among many product teams. Without knowing exactly what you want to achieve, your chances of making a positive impact with your website will be poor.
Every website needs a well-defined product strategy. A strategy sets the tone for all of the activities, and it gives a context that helps in making design decisions. When you have a solid understanding of what you expect to get out of your site, it helps you to work towards that goal.
Here are a few tips that help you set a goal:
Tie the purpose to business goals.
The website’s purpose should serve to support the company’s mission and make the business more effective in achieving that mission.
Make it specific.
Instead of saying something like “I want to have a strong online presence,” consider this instead: “Our website should be a place where users submit requests for our services. Our goal is to have 50% of our orders submitted online, not over the phone.”
Conduct competitor research.
List sites of your competitors which you find successful, and try to pinpoint why they are successful.
Strive To Create User-Focused Experience
Because visitors ultimately determine the success of a website, they should be in the spotlight during site’s development. As Dieter Rams says:
“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.”
Thus, start with gathering this understanding:
Portrait your ideal users.
Try to understand what content they might need/want, their browsing habits (how they prefer to interact with a website) and the level of their technical competence. This knowledge will help you appeal to them better.
Think about the goal of your visitors.
Put yourself in the shoes of your visitor. What do you want them to get done? Place an order? Reach you for a quote? Become a member? Drive the design from the user’s goals and tasks.* *Ideally, each page you design should have a goal for your users.
Create user journey map.
If you have an existing site, you can figure out typical ways people use it by creating user journey maps.
8 Essential Characteristics Of Website Design That Influence Its Success
In this section, we aren’t going to discuss design implementation details (e.g. where a logo should be placed). We’ll be focusing on the main principles and approaches for effective web design. These principles will be reviewed from the angle of the first impression. It’s essential to focus on great user experience during the first-time visit. Generally, the better the first impression, the better the chance that users will stay for longer. But if the first impression is negative, it might make users want to avoid interacting with your product for years.
And how do we leave a good first impression? Good design. First impressions are 94% design related. While it’s impossible to define one-fits-all design decisions that will guarantee a successful site, it is still possible to focus on factors that are able to create a great first impression: the quality of content, usability, and visual aesthetics.
1. High-Quality Content
The copy used on your website is just as important as the website’s design; it’s the reason why people visit your website. More than 95 percent of information on the web is in the form of written language. Even if your site is beautifully designed, it’s no more than an empty frame without good content. A good website has both great design and great content.
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
Provide information your users expect to see. For example, if you design a website for a chain of restaurants, most visitors will expect to find the restaurants’ menus as well as maps that show where each restaurant is located.
Content That Builds Trust
Trust is what creates a persuasive power; trust makes the user believe in your products or services. That’s why it so important to build a sense of trust on your website. For example, if you design a website that will offer services, you should include content that will bolster a visitor’s confidence in those offerings. A simple way to accomplish this is to provide social proofs — put some testimonials on your site.
One great example is Basecamp. The company lists feedback from its clients together with a data statistic that reinforces the power of the social proof.
Focus On Microcopy
Microcopy is the tiny words we use in user interfaces. These might be field or button labels, or description for forms and other UI objects. Right microcopy can influence business profits. But in order to write good microcopy, it’s essential to understand user’s intentions and emotions.
During the Google I/O 2017, Maggie Stanphill explained the possible business value of writing good microcopy. After the Google team changed ‘Book a room’ to ‘Check availability’ in the Hotel search on Google, the engagement rate increased by 17%. This happened because the first version of microcopy (‘Book a room’) was too committal for that stage of the user journey. Users didn’t want to book a room; they wanted to explore all available options (date range as well as prices).
Text Is Optimized For Scanning
It’s necessary to adjust content to users’ browsing habits. It’s a well-known fact that users don’t read online, they scan. When a new visitor approaches a web page, the first thing s/he does is tries to do is to scan the page and divide the content into digestible pieces of information. By scanning through key parts of the page, they are trying to determine if the content is relevant to their needs.
Here are a few tips on how to format your content to make it easy to scan:
Avoid long blocks of text without images.
With a huge probability, such content will be skipped. Use headings, paragraphs, or bullet points to break up a text.
Optimize layouts for natural scanning patterns.
Eye tracking studies have identified that people scan pages in an “F” pattern. We read the first few lines, but then they start skipping down the page, caching only parts of the message. For this reason, it’s important to keep your text frontloaded — put the most important concepts first, so our eyes catch those important words as we track down.
Quick design tip:You can measure your readability score using a tool called Webpagefx.
The human eye can instantly recognize moving objects. Moving objects such as animated banners or video advertising can capture users’ attention. An abundance of such content can lead to annoying and distracting experience. Thus, put an emphasis on a site with minimal distractions.
Make it easy for people to reach you. This requirement sounds pretty obvious; still, it’s quite a typical situation for first-time visitors to have to hunt for contact information. Don’t let that happen. Make a phone number, email, address and a contact form easily accessible.
Quick design tip:When designing your site, don’t make email or phone number a part of an image. Phone number/email should be in plain text so that users can copy this information.
Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? It’s relevant to web design. A simple way to increase visual appeal is to provide high-quality imagery or video content.
One great example is Tesla which doesn’t tell the benefits of its car but rather shows a quick video that makes it clear what it feels like to drive a Tesla:
2. Simple Interactions
According to Hubspot survey, 76% of respondents mentioned ease of use as the most important characteristic of a website. That’s why the “Keep It Simple” principle (KIS) should play a primary role in the process of web design.
Cut Out The Noise
Cluttering a user interface overloads your user with too much information — every added button, image, and line of text makes the screen more complicated. Cutting out the clutter on a website will make the primary message more easily understood by visitors. Include only the elements that are most important for communication, and use enough whitespace. It will help to reduce the cognitive load for the visitors and will make it easier to perceive the information presented on the screen.
Quick design tip:Put more visual weight on important elements. Make important elements such as call-to-action buttons or login forms focal points so visitors see them right away. You can emphasize elements using different sizes or colors.
Strong Visual Hierarchy
The better visual hierarchy your create, the easier your content will be perceived by users (Simon’s law). A grid layout allows you to organize information in a way that makes it easier for visitors to read and comprehend information presented on the page. Using grids makes it much easier to create a layout that feels balanced.
Good navigation is one of the most important aspects of website usability. Even the most beautifully designed website will be useless if users aren’t able to find their way around.
When developing navigation for your website, think about what pages are most likely to be important to visitors, and how they will move from one page to another. Follow users’ expectations — create a predictable navigation structure and place it where users expect to see it.
Quick design tip:Reduce the total number of actions required for users to reach the destination. Try to follow the Three-click rule which means creating a structure that will enable users to find the information they are looking for within three clicks.
Recognizable Design Patterns
Design patterns are designer’s best friends. When designing your site, it’s worth remembering that users spend most of their time on other sites. Every time the user has to learn how something new works, it creates friction. By using recognizable conventions, you can reduce the learning curve. Recognizable UI patterns eventually help users to parse complicated tasks easily. Thus, when you follow users’ expectations and create a familiar experience (e.g. place UI elements in places where users expect to find them), site visitors can use their previous knowledge and act through intuition. This helps reduce the learning curve and the need to figure out how things work.
3. Fast Loading Time
As technology enables faster experiences, users’ willingness to wait has decreased. Slow loading time is one of the main reasons visitors leave websites. A typical user will only wait for a few seconds for your page to load. If nothing happens during this time, they will consider the site to be too slow, and will most likely navigate away to a competitor’s site.
Slow loading not only creates a lousy impression on users, but it also affects site’s search engine ranking, as slow-loading pages are reduced in rank in Google’s Search engine.
Test Your Website
There are tools available that allow you to test website performance. One of them is Google’s Test My Site which gives you an actionable report on how to speed up and improve your site. WebPage Test is another helpful tool which allows you to run a free website speed test from multiple locations around the globe, using real browsers (Internet Explorer and Chrome) at real consumer connection speeds.
Find What Is Causing The Slow Loading Time, And Fix The Problem
If slow loading is a typical situation for your website, try to find out what causes the problem and solve it. Typically, page load times are affected by:
Visual elements (images and animations).
HD images and smooth animation can only create good UX when they don’t affect loading time. Consider reading the article Image Optimization for tips on image optimization.
Like any other asset, it takes some time to download a custom font (and it takes more time if the font is located on a 3rd party service).
Whether or not a solution you’ve developed is optimized for fast loading time. There are a lot of things developers can do to minimize the loading time. For example, it’s possible to use file compression and decompression to improve the performance of а website.
An infrastructure is a place where you host your websites. It includes both hardware and software components as well as internet bandwidth.
Create A Perception Of Speed
If you can’t improve the actual performance of your website, you can try to create a perception of speed — how fast something feels is often more important than how fast it actually is. Employing a technique of skeleton screens can help you with that. A skeleton layout is a version of your page that displays while content is being loaded. Skeletons give the impression of speed — that something is happening more quickly than it really is and improve perceived load time.
Check out this Codepen example of skeleton effect in pure CSS. It uses a pulsation effect to give users a feeling that website is alive and content is loading:
To err is human. Errors occur when people engage with user interfaces. Sometimes, they happen because users make mistakes. Sometimes, they happen because a website fails. Whatever the cause, these errors and how they are handled, have a significant impact on the user experience. Bad error handling paired with useless error messages can fill users with frustration and can lead them to abandon your website. When errors occur, it’s essential to create effective error messages.
Designers can use a tactic called design for failure in which you try to anticipate the places users might face problems and plan for such cases. Whereas implementing the ideal user journey is the end goal, the complexities of an individual user’s experience are rarely so cut and dried. Recognizing potential pain points and preparing for it using tools like failure mapping for error recovery helps to ensure that you’re putting forth the best experience you can for the majority of your users.
No Aggressive Pushers
We all know that feeling. You visit a new website, the content on the page seems to be interesting. You begin to read it and just when you are halfway through the text, you are suddenly interrupted by a huge overlay asking you to either subscribe to a newsletter or take advantage of an offer. In most cases, your immediate reaction will be either to close the overlay or to close the entire page, the overlay along with it.
Aggressive pushers such as pop-ups with promotional content will put most people on the defensive. According to the NN Group, pop-ups are the most hated web experience ever.
Don’t Autoplay Video With Sound
When users arrive on a page, they don’t expect that it will play any sound. Most users don’t use headphones and will be stressed because they’ll need to figure out how to turn the sound off. In most cases, users will leave the website as soon as it plays. Thus, if you use autoplay video content on your site, set audio to off by default, with the option to turn it on.
5. Good Visual Appearance
Does an attractive design lead to more conversion? While there’s no direct connection between attractive design and conversion, visual appearance might increase chances for conversion. As Steven Bradley says:
“Human beings have an attractiveness bias; we perceive beautiful things as being better, regardless of whether they actually are better. All else being equal, we prefer beautiful things, and we believe beautiful things function better. As in nature, function can follow form.”
Capitalize On Trends
Just like with any other area of design, web design is constantly changing. Design trends come and go, and its necessary to be sure that your design doesn’t look dated. Familiarize yourself with latest trends and try to keep your design up to date by tuning your design.
Awwwards and Behance are great places which will help you be familiar with the latest trends.
Avoid Generic Stock Photos
Many corporate websites are notorious for using generic stock photos to build a sense of trust. Such photos rarely hold useful information. Usability tests show that generic photos and other decorative graphic elements don’t add any value to the design and more often impair rather than improve the user experience. Eye-tracking studies show that users usually overlook stock images.
6. Design Is Accessible To All Groups Of Users
You can’t call your design successful if your audience has trouble using it. There’s a direct connection between bad UX and inaccessibility. One typical example of design decisions that often create terrible UX for the sake of beauty is using light grey text on light backgrounds. The example below was taken from one of the most popular powerful platforms for creating websites. Even a person with normal vision will struggle to read a text on this page, and there’s a huge possibility that a visually impaired person wouldn’t be able to read it at all.
Taking into account the fact that almost all business have an online presence today — no matter what product or service you offer online — there are many other websites offering exactly what you do (perhaps even with the same benefits). It’s essential to set your website apart from the competition by crafting really memorable design.
Barbara Fredrickson and Daniel Kahneman proposed a psychological heuristic called the “peak-end rule” which dictates the way our brain works with information. The peak-end rule states that people judge an experience based mainly on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. The effect occurs regardless of whether the experience is pleasant or unpleasant. In other words, when we remember experiences, we tend to recall not entire experience but only key events that happened. That’s why it’s essential to create a spark that will stay in a user’s memory for a long time.
Color hugely influences on what people remember, and how vividly they remember it. Selective use of color can trigger the memory and be that one added element that ensures your brand stays memorable and recognizable.
For example, when we think about Spotify, we usually think about vibrant colors. The service uses color as a brand and experience differentiator:
Illustrations are a versatile tool useful in creating a unique design. From small icons to large hand-drawn hero sketches, illustrations bring a sense of fine craftsmanship in digital experience.
A straightforward way of using illustrations in web design is to tailor them to your messaging.
Using brand mascots in web design is another great example when illustrations can create a memorable experience. Mascots become the elements of identity and inter-connector between the user and the product.
Consistency is arguably the key rule to a successful brand. Inconsistency brings a huge problem — users won’t picture a specific thing when they think about a brand, and, as a result, it can quickly become forgettable. That’s why the website’s design should be consistent with your brand. Make sure that basic brand attributes such as brand colors, fonts, logos, and slogans are used consistently on the website.
Quick design tip:An excellent way to boost your ability to maintain a consistent brand design is through a style guide. Prepare it once and use it for each product you design.
Make your experiences fun, so people remember them. One good example is Mailchimp, a service used to schedule and deploy email campaigns. The company fulfills a fairly technical niche, but by using humor it transforms this dry task into an inviting experience. Mailchimp uses a mascot called Freddie von Chimpenheimer. Freddie often cracks jokes, and humor is an effective way to connect with people. This positive attitude will often lead to people sharing and even advocating for the product with their friends.
8. Design Is Optimized For Mobile
Just a decade ago, designing for the web meant designing for a desktop, now it means designing for mobile and desktop. Mobile phones and tablets are driving an increasing amount of web traffic, and the numbers are only going to grow. In 2018, more than 50 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones.
Prioritize Content And Features
Optimizing web design for mobile is a lot more than just making your design responsive. It’s about content and feature prioritization. Taking medium limitations into account, the goal is to show only what your users need in this medium.
Focus on refining the experience around your core objectives. Know what the core purpose of your app is — analyze which features of your app are used the most and put the most effort into making that experience intuitive.
After we’ve defined what makes a site successful, it’s time to understand how to measure the success. Measuring a site’s success requires an in-depth look at the analytics and data. As the first step in the process of measuring usage data, it’s essential to define right metrics. Metrics will make it clear whether your design decision is working or not. There are two groups of metrics — marketing metrics and UX metrics. Both groups of metrics are essential to a site’s success.
Acquisition includes information about site’s visitors — how many people visit your site and how do they find it. Acquisition metrics include:
Number of gross visits.
This is the most basic acquisition metric that you can track. It gives you a good baseline on how your site is doing, but it won’t tell you much without other metrics. For example, an increasing number of visitors does not necessarily mean success, because those visitors might not be relevant to your business goals.
As well as knowing your top-level traffic numbers (number of gross visits), you should also know where your traffic is coming from. If you use Google Analytics, it organizes acquired website traffic into a few broad categories such as Direct, Organic Search, Referral, Social. These groupings allow you to immediately segment your traffic source and identify specific patterns of behavior for each source.
Points of entrance.
An entrance shows you what page people started their session on. You might think this would be the home page, when in fact that’s rarely the case, especially with referral and social traffic. If you go to the Behavior section of Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see your best-performing pages regarding traffic volume. Knowing what pages bring the most traffic is hugely important because it gives you reliable information on what content attracts people.
Engagement measures the amount of time visitors stay on your website, as well as how many pages they visit. Engagement metrics help UX teams understand how much attention visitors give to a website.
Engagement metrics include:
Time spent on your site.
Time visitors spend on site is often equated with engagement. Generally, the more time users spend on the site, the more valuable it’s for them. However, there might be an exception to this rule. For example, users might spend more time on a site because it’s hard to complete a specific task (e.g., find the information they need).
Total number of pages visited during user session.
Generally, the more pages people visited, the better. However, it can also be an indicator of dissatisfaction – if people have to visit dozens of pages to find what they’re looking for, that often leads to unhappiness.
The bounce rate (reported as a %) enables you to track how many people visit only one page before leaving your site. Naturally, you want this percentage to be as low as possible. There are some factors which could contribute to a high bounce rate. Generally, a high percentage could point to the lack of relevant content or usability issues. But of course, this rule has exceptions. For example, a visitor may have come to your site just to find contact information about your company. Once they had your phone number or address, there was no need to visit another page.
Create a list of top 10 pages visitors are most engaged with. The pages that users are spending most time may help you determine if your goals are in-line with the goals of users.
Track exit pages. It’s essential not only to track how a user gets to your site but also how they leave it. This metric is different than a bounce rate in that it tracks visitors who visited multiple pages (bounce rate is a single page metric). If a particular page has a high exit rate, it might be an indication of a problem.
There are two types of website visitors: first-time visitors and returning visitors. Retention is the percentage of return visitors — people who continue visiting your website within a specific time frame. When a team measures retention, it becomes much easier to distinguish new users from returning users, and, as a result, see how quickly user base is growing or stabilizing.
Retention can be distilled from the percentage of new sessions. By comparing the percentage of new sessions vs. returning visitors, you can determine if your website is attracting new visitors and whether it offers enough value so people return to it.
The majority of websites have a goal of getting visitors to convert (take action), whether it is to purchase an item or sign up for a newsletter. That’s why conversion is the metric that everyone cares about the most. Aim to maximize the number of people who convert (e.g., buy something after they come to your site). Obviously, the higher the conversion rate, the better your website is doing.
A conversion rate can tell you a lot about the quality of your traffic. For example, having a low conversion rate while having a lot of unique visits can be an indication that you are attracting the wrong traffic.
Here are a few tips for measuring conversion:
It’s always better to select easy-to-measure activities. For example, it might be something as simple as contact form submissions. Contact form submissions can be a great indicator of your site’s success — if users prompt an inquiry this is a great indication that your site has engaged them.
For larger sites, it’s good to have many different conversion goals on one site. For example, an eCommerce store might have three conversion goals — a product purchase, a subscriber to an email list, a social share.
Pirate Metrics (AARRR Framework)
As you can see, there are a lot of metrics that can be used. But how do you figure out which metrics to implement and track?
In the attempt to simplify the task of selecting right metrics, Dave McClure created a framework called AARRR. This framework uses a customer lifecycle as a foundation (the idea that visitors go from being a first-time visitor to a returning visitor), and tracks users through a conversion funnel over time. The life cycle consists of 5 steps:
Users come to the site from various channels.
Users enjoy their first visit (happy user experience).
Users come back and visit the site multiple times
Users like the product enough to refer it to others.
Users conduct some type of monetization behavior.
Pirate metrics can help you determine where you should focus on optimizing your marketing funnel.
User Experience Metrics
While marketing metrics define the success of a product based on the conversion, user experience metrics focus on the quality of interaction with a product. Focusing on business goals does not necessarily lead to a better user experience. UX metrics can complement marketing metrics by concentrating on the critical aspects of user experience.
The Quality Of User Experience (HEART Framework)
When it comes to measuring user experience, it’s always hard to define specific metrics. Of course, there are high-level UX metrics that correlate with the success of user experiences such as usability, engagement, and conversion. But it might be hard to define metrics that will be relevant to a particular product. In the attempt to simplify this task, the Google team created a framework called HEART. This framework is intended to help designers focus on the product they create, and the user experience it provides. HEART uses some metrics that we already mentioned in the marketing section, but from a different angle.
Measures of user attitudes: satisfaction, perceived ease of use, net-promoter score. This metric can be collected via survey.
Level of user involvement. Engagement is typically measured as depth of interaction over some time period. For example, the number of visits per user per month.
Gaining new users of a product or feature. For example, the number of users who tried new product features in the last week.
The rate at which existing users are returning. For example, for a web service this might be the number of active users remaining present over time. For e-commerce website, this might be the number of repeat purchases.
This category is most applicable to areas of your product that are task-focused. It includes behavior metrics such as efficiency (e.g. time to complete a task), effectiveness (e.g. percent of tasks completed), and error rate. For example, for e-commerce website this might be the number of search result success.
The HEART framework is very flexible — it can be applied to a specific feature or a whole product. It’s important to mention that you don’t need to collect metrics in all of HEART categories — you should choose only the most important for your particular project. It’s possible to choose metrics by following a process of Goals-Signals-Metrics.
The Goals-Signals-Metrics Process
The Goals-Signals-Metrics process helps you to identify meaningful metrics you’ll actually use.
The process of selecting metrics you can implement and track starts with goals. To define a goal, you need to focus on knowing what determines success. This is where the HEART categories will be particularly useful. For example, if you create a news site you might set a goal in the engagement category; the aim would be to have users enjoy the articles they read, and to keep them browsing to discover more articles from different categories.
Here are two tips that will help you define better goal:
*Don’t define your goals in terms of your existing metrics. *It’s a common pitfall when a team defines goals based on information it has. As a result, a goal might sound as something like ‘We need to increase traffic to our site.’ Yes, everyone wants to have more visitors, but does more visitors will move you towards your goal? Not necessary.
Work with team and stakeholders to identify the goals. You may not realize that different members of your team have different ideas about the goals of your project. Identifying goals early on in design process provides an opportunity to build consensus about where you are headed. Make sure that everyone on the team understands the proposed solution in sufficient detail.
After identifying your goals, you need to think about what user actions will result in progress toward these goals. These actions are your signals. There are usually a large number of potentially useful signals for a particular goal. Once you have identified some potential signals, you may need to do research or analysis to choose the ones that are most relevant. If we circle back to our example with a news site, an engagement signal for it might be the number of articles users read on the site.
Here are a few tips:
Consider how easy or difficult is to track each signal. It’s preferable to focus on signals that can be monitored automatically (e.g. your product can log the relevant information so you can use it for further analysis).
Try to choose signals that are sensitive to changes in your design. This way you will be able to analyze the data you have to understand whether the design changes benefit your users or not.
Don’t ignore negative signals. Identifying signals for possible missteps (e.g. number of errors during particular interaction) can help you reveal pain points in your product.
Once you’ve chosen signals, you can refine them into metrics you’ll track over time. In our news site engagement example, we might implement “how long users spend reading news” as “the average number of minutes spent reading news per user per day.”
Prioritize your metrics.
Focus on tracking the metrics related to your top goals.
Don’t add metrics for sake of adding metrics.
Avoid the temptation to add “interesting stats” to the list of metrics. Always ask yourself whether you will actually use these numbers to help you make a decision.
The metrics you track should be tied back to design decisions.
When you see a change, you should be absolutely clear on what has caused that change.
What Can Influence Success
Follow TETO Principle
How to make sure that website meets user’s expectations? You can’t just assume that it does — you need to test your design to see how users engage with it. Testing can reveal much more than how usable a site is — it can also demonstrate the users’ emotional response to the design. That’s why TETO-principle (test early, test often) should be applied to every web design project.
Don’t expect to build a perfect product right from the first attempt.
Product design is an ongoing journey for both you and your users. That means that you design something, test it, rework it and then test it again.
Use comparative testing to find the best solution for your users.
If you have multiple solutions to a particular problem and not sure what solution works best for your product, you can use A/B testing to validate it. Compare what users do in one scenario vs. another, and see which design is the most effective.
Collect qualitative feedback.
All measurable data that we’ve talked about in previous sections can tell you a lot of answers on “*how many*” questions. But this data won’t tell you why people interact in a way they do. Facing readability issues, hesitation when filling out a payment form, using search because site’s navigation is really hard to deal with — all of these types of details are critical to understanding the user experience. They might be a reason why people abandon a process and leave the site. It’s possible to find answers to why questions by observing and interviewing your users.
Data-Informed, Not Data-Driven Design
When product teams collect data, they usually follow either data-driven or data-informed design process. The latter is more preferable. Design shouldn’t be driven by data, it should be informed by data.
Don’t Be Obsessed Over Numbers
A lot of metrics get reported simply because they are flowing in from analytics tool. While it’s tempting to report a lot of different things and hope that this will make your report more valuable, in reality, this usually leads to more complex reports that are hard to read.
Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Complete Redesign
All too often design teams try to introduce a complete rework for a solution which they believe will result in more successful web experience. Jared Spool calls major product redesign a Flip-the-Switch strategy — “the most ineffective way to get major changes into a design.” In the article, “ The Quiet Death of the Major Re-Launch,” he shares a story on the eBay redesign — and it’s a great reminder of why users don’t like dramatic changes. A complete redesign that brings new visual and interaction design might be too much change and have an adverse effect.
If you have an existing website, instead of investing in a large scale redesign focus on subtle evolution, make small and incremental changes that can (over time) improve conversions without visitors even noticing that changes have been made.
So, how do you know that your website is a success? As a product creator, you must first define what success means to you. For that, it’s always important to have a big picture in mind of what it is that you want to achieve.
The next step would be to focus on metrics. Metrics will show you how a site changes over time. They will help you fill in the blanks between what has happened and why.
Conversion rate optimization offers one of the fastest, most effective methodologies for turning your existing web traffic into paying customers. Also known as CRO, conversion rate optimization can involve numerous tools and strategies, but they’re all geared toward the same thing: Converting visitors into leads and leads into customers. There is a lot of conflicting and illuminating information out there about CRO. For instance, one study found that using long-form landing pages increased conversions by 220 percent. However, some companies find that short-form landing pages work better for their audiences. Similarly, about 75 percent of businesses who responded to another…
Lessons Learned While Developing WordPress Plugins
Every WordPress plugin developer struggles with tough problems and code that’s difficult to maintain. We spend late nights supporting our users and tear out our hair when an upgrade breaks our plugin. Let me show you how to make it easier.
In this article, I’ll share my five years of experience developing WordPress plugins. The first plugin I wrote was a simple marketing plugin. It displayed a call to action (CTA) button with Google’s search phrase. Since then, I’ve written another 11 free plugins, and I maintain almost all of them. I’ve written around 40 plugins for my clients, from really small ones to one that have been maintained for over a year now.
Measuring Performance With Heatmaps
Heatmaps can show you the exact spots that receive the most engagement on a given page. Find out why they’re so efficient for your marketing goals and how they can be integrated with your WordPress site. Read article →
Good development and support lead to more downloads. More downloads mean more money and a better reputation. This article will show you the lessons I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made, so that you can improve your plugin development.
1. Solve A Problem
If your plugin doesn’t solve a problem, it won’t get downloaded. It’s as simple as that.
Take the Advanced Cron Manager plugin (8,000+ active installations). It helps WordPress users who are having a hard time debugging their cron. The plugin was written out of a need — I needed something to help myself. I didn’t need to market this one, because people already needed it. It scratched their itch.
On the other hand, there’s the Bug — fly on the screen plugin (70+ active installations). It randomly simulates a fly on the screen. It doesn’t really solve a problem, so it’s not going to have a huge audience. It was a fun plugin to develop, though.
Focus on a problem. When people don’t see their SEO performing well, they install an SEO plugin. When people want to speed up their website, they install a caching plugin. When people can’t find a solution to their problem, then they find a developer who writes a solution for them.
If you have an opportunity to solve someone’s problem, take a chance.
2. Support Your Product
“3 out of 5 Americans would try a new brand or company for a better service experience. 7 out of 10 said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent service.”
— Nykki Yeager
Don’t neglect your support. Don’t treat it like a must, but more like an opportunity.
Good-quality support is critical in order for your plugin to grow. Even a plugin with the best code will get some support tickets. The more people who use your plugin, the more tickets you’ll get. A better user experience will get you fewer tickets, but you will never reach inbox 0.
Every time someone posts a message in a support forum, I get an email notification immediately, and I respond as soon as I can. It pays off. The vast majority of my good reviews were earned because of the support. This is a side effect: Good support often translates to 5-star reviews.
When you provide excellent support, people start to trust you and your product. And a plugin is a product, even if it’s completely free and open-source.
Good support is more complex than about writing a short answer once a day. When your plugin gains traction, you’ll get several tickets per day. It’s a lot easier to manage if you’re proactive and answer customers’ questions before they even ask.
Here’s a list of some actions you can take:
Create an FAQ section in your repository.
Pin the “Before you ask” thread at the top of your support forum, highlighting the troubleshooting tips and FAQ.
Make sure your plugin is simple to use and that users know what they should do after they install it. UX is important.
Analyze the support questions and fix the pain points. Set up a board where people can vote for the features they want.
Create a video showing how the plugin works, and add it to your plugin’s main page in the WordPress.org repository.
It doesn’t really matter what software you use to support your product. The WordPress.org’s official support forum works just as well as email or your own support system. I use WordPress.org’s forum for the free plugins and my own system for the premium plugins.
3. Don’t Use Composer
Composer is package-manager software. A repository of packages is hosted on packagist.org, and you can easily download them to your project. It’s like NPM or Bower for PHP. Managing your third-party packages the way Composer does is a good practice, but don’t use it in your WordPress project.
I know, I dropped a bomb. Let me explain.
Composer is great software. I use it myself, but not in public WordPress projects. The problem lies in conflicts. WordPress doesn’t have any global package manager, so each and every plugin has to load dependencies of their own. When two plugins load the same dependency, it causes a fatal error.
There isn’t really an ideal solution to this problem, but Composer makes it worse. You can bundle the dependency in your source manually and always check whether you are safe to load it.
Composer’s issue with WordPress plugins is still not solved, and there won’t be any viable solution to this problem in the near future. The problem was raised many years ago, and, as you can read in WP Tavern’s article, many developers are trying to solve it, without any luck.
The best you can do is to make sure that the conditions and environment are good to run your code.
4. Reasonably Support Old PHP Versions
Don’t support very old versions of PHP, like 5.2. The security issues and maintenance aren’t worth it, and you’re not going to earn more installations from those older versions.
Tell your users which versions you do support, and make sure their website doesn’t break after your plugin is installed on too low a version.
5. Focus On Quality Code
Writing good code is tough in the beginning. It takes time to learn the “SOLID” principles and design patterns and to change old coding habits.
It once took me three days to display a simple string in WordPress, when I decided to rewrite one of my plugins using better coding practices. It was frustrating knowing that it should have taken 30 minutes. Switching my mindset was painful but worth it.
Why was it so hard? Because you start writing code that seems at first to be overkill and not very intuitive. I kept asking myself, “Is this really needed?” For example, you have to separate the logic into different classes and make sure each is responsible for a single thing. You also have to separate classes for the translation, custom post type registration, assets management, form handlers, etc. Then, you compose the bigger structures out of the simple small objects. That’s called dependency injection. That’s very different from having “front end” and “admin” classes, where you cram all your code.
The other counterintuitive practice was to keep all actions and filters outside of the constructor method. This way, you’re not invoking any actions while creating the objects, which is very helpful for unit testing. You also have better control over which methods are executed and when. I wish I knew this before I wrote a project with an infinite loop caused by the actions in the constructor methods. Those kinds of bugs are hard to trace and hard to fix. The project had to be refactored.
The above are but a few examples, but you should get to know the SOLID principles. These are valid for any system and any coding language.
When you follow all of the best practices, you reach the point where every new feature just fits in. You don’t have to tweak anything or make any exceptions to the existing code. It’s amazing. Instead of getting more complex, your code just gets more advanced, without losing flexibility.
Also, format your code properly, and make sure every member of your team follows a standard. Standards will make your code predictable and easier to read and test. WordPress has its own standards, which you can implement in your projects.
6. Test Your Plugin Ahead Of Time
I learned this lesson the hard way. Lack of testing led me to release a new version of a plugin with a fatal error. Twice. Both times, I got a 1-star rating, which I couldn’t turn into a positive review.
You can test manually or automatically. Travis CI is a continuous testing product that integrates with GitHub. I’ve built a really simple test suite for my Notification plugin that just checks whether the plugin can boot properly on every PHP version. This way, I can be sure the plugin is error-free, and I don’t have to pay much attention to testing it in every environment.
Each automated test takes a fraction of a second. 100 automated tests will take about 10 minutes to complete, whereas manual testing needs about 2 minutes for each case.
The more time you invest in testing your plugin up front, the more it will save you in the long run.
It’s a cliche that developers don’t like to write documentation. It’s the most boring part of the development process, but a little goes a long way.
Write self-documenting code. Pay attention to variable, function and class names. Don’t make any complicated structures, like cascades that can’t be read easily.
Another way to document code is to use the “doc block”, which is a comment for every file, function and class. If you write how the function works and what it does, it will be so much easier to understand when you need to debug it six months from now. WordPress Coding Standards covers this part by forcing you to write the doc blocks.
Using both techniques will save you the time of writing the documentation, but the code documentation is not going to be read by everyone.
For the end user, you have to write high-quality, short and easy-to-read articles explaining how the system works and how to use it. Videos are even better; many people prefer to watch a short tutorial than read an article. They are not going to look at the code, so make their lives easier. Good documentation also reduces support tickets.
These seven rules have helped me develop good-quality products, which are starting to be a core business at BracketSpace. I hope they’ll help you in your journey with WordPress plugins as well.
Let me know in the comments what your golden development rule is or whether you’ve found any of the above particularly helpful.
How To Reduce The Need To Hand-Code Theme Parts In Your WordPress Website
(This is a sponsored article.) Good design leads to sales and conversions on your website, but crafting great design is no easy task. It takes a lot of time and effort to achieve excellent results.
Design is a constantly evolving discipline. Product teams iterate on design to deliver the best possible experience to their users. A lot of things might change during each iteration. Designers will introduce changes, and developers will dive into the code to adjust the design. While jumping into code to solve an exciting problem might be fun, doing it to resolve a minor issue is the exact opposite. It’s dull. Imagine that you, as a web developer, continually get requests from the design team like:
Change the featured image.
Update the copy next to the logo in the header.
Add a custom header to the “About Us” page.
These requests happen all the time in big projects. It’s a never-ending stream of boring requests. Want to have fun while creating websites, focus on more challenging tasks, and complete your projects much faster?
Elementor helps with just that. It reduces the need to hand-code the theme parts of your website and frees you up to work on more interesting and valuable parts of the design.
Elementor Page Builder
For a long time, people dreamed that they would be able to put together a web page by dragging and dropping different elements together. That’s how page builders became popular. Page builders introduced a whole different experience of building a page — all actions involving content are done visually. They reduce the time required to produce a desirable structure.
What if we took the most popular CMS in the world and develop the most advanced page builder for it? That’s how Elementor 1.0 for WordPress was created. Here are a few features of the tool worth mentioning:
Live editing. Elementor provides instant live editing — what you see is what you get! The tool comes with a live drag-and-drop interface. This interface eliminates guesswork by allowing you to build your layout in real time.
Responsive design out of the box. The content you create using Elementor will automatically adapt to mobile devices, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly. Your design will look pixel-perfect on any device.
Mobile-first design. The Elementor page builder lets you create truly a responsive website in a whole new visual way. Use different font sizes, padding and margins per device, or even reverse column ordering for users who are browsing your website using a mobile device.
Revision history. Elementor has a history browser that allows you to roll forward and backward through your changes. It gives you the freedom to experiment with a layout without fear of losing your progress.
Built-in custom CSS feature allow you to add your own styles. Elementor allows you to add custom CSS to every element, and to see it in action live in the editor.
Theme-independence. With Elementor, you’re not tied to a single theme. You can change the theme whenever you like, and your content will come along with you. This gives you, as a WordPress user, maximum flexibility and freedom to work with your favorite theme, or to switch themes and not have to worry about making changes.
Complete code reference and a lot of tutorials. Elementor is a developer-oriented product — it’s an open-source solution with a complete code reference. If you’re interested in creating your own solutions for Elementor, it’s worth checking the website https://developers.elementor.com. The website contains a lot of helpful tutorials and explanations.
There are two particular cases in which Elementor would be helpful to web developers:
Web developers who need to create an interactive prototype really quickly. Elementor can help in situations where a team needs to provide an interactive solution but doesn’t have enough time to code it.
Web developers who don’t want to be involved in post-development activities. Elementor is perfect when a website is developed for a client who wants to make a lot of changes themselves without having to write a single line of code.
Meet Elementor Pro 2.0 Theme Builder
Despite all of the advantages Elementor 1.0 had, it also had two severe limitations:
There were parts of a WordPress website that weren’t customizable. As a user, you were limited to a specific area of your website: the content that resides between the header and the footer. To modify other parts of the website (e.g. footer or header), you had to mess with the code.
It was impossible to create dynamic content. While this wouldn’t cause any problems if the website contained only static pages (such as an “About Us” page), it might be a roadblock if the website had a lot of dynamic content.
In an attempt to solve these problems, the Elementor team released the Elementor 2.0 Theme Builder, with true theme-building functionality. Elementor Pro 2.0 introduces a new way to build and customize websites. With Theme Builder, you don’t have to code menial theme jobs anymore and can instead focus on deeper website functionality. You are able to design the entire page in the page builder. No header, no footer, just Elementor.
How Does Theme Builder Work?
The tool allows you to build a header, footer, single or archive templates, and other areas of a website using the same Elementor interface. To make that possible, Elementor 2.0 introduces the concept of global templates. Templates are design units. They’re capable of customizing each and every area of your website.
The process of creating a template is simple:
Choose a template type.
Build your page’s structure.
Set the conditions that define where to apply your template.
Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail by creating a simple website. In the next section, we’ll build a company website that has a custom header and footer and dynamic content (a blog and archive). But before you start the process, make sure you have the latest version of WordPress, with the Elementor Pro plugin installed and activated. It is also worth mentioning that you should have a theme for your website. Elementor doesn’t replace your theme; rather, it gives you visual design capabilities over every part of the theme.
Custom Header And Footer
The header and footer are the backbone of every website. They are where users expect to see navigation options. Helping visitors navigate is a top priority for web designers.
Let’s start with creating a header. We’ll create a fairly standard header, with the company’s logo and main menu.
The process of creating a custom header starts with choosing a template. To create a new template, you’ll need to go to “Elementor” → “My Templates” → “Add New”.
You’ll see a dialog box, “Choose Template Type”. Select “Header” from the list of options.
Once you choose a type of template, Elementor will display a list of blocks that fit that type of content. Blocks are predesigned layouts provided by Elementor. They save you time by proving common design patterns that you can modify to your own needs. Alternatively, you can create a template from scratch.
Let’s choose the first option from the list (“Metro”). You can see that the top area of the page layout has a new object — a newly created header.
Now, you need to customize the header according to your needs. Let’s choose a logo and define a menu. Click on the placeholder “Choose Your Image”, and select the logo from the gallery. It’s worth mentioning that the template embeds your website’s logo. This is good because if you ever change that logo at the website level, the header will automatically be updated on all pages. Next, click on the menu placeholder and select the website’s main menu.
When the process of customization is finished, you need to implement the revised header on your website. Click the “Publish” button. The “Display Conditions” window will ask you to choose where to apply your template.
The conditions define which pages your template will be applied to. It’s possible to show the header on all pages, to show it only on certain pages or to exclude some pages from showing the header. The latter case is helpful if you don’t want to show the header on particular pages.
As soon as you publish your template, Elementor will recognize it as a header and will use it on your website.
Now it’s time to create the footer for your website. The process is similar; the only difference is that this time you’ll need to choose the template named “Footer” and select the footer layout from the list of available blocks. Let’s pick the first option from the list (the one that says “Stay in Touch” on the dark background).
Next, we need to customize the footer. Change the color of the footer and the text label under the words “Stay in Touch”. Let’s reuse the color of the header for the footer. This will make the design more visually consistent.
Finally, we need to choose display conditions. Similar to the header, we’ll choose to display the footer for the entire website.
That’s all! You just built a brand new header and footer for your website without writing a single line of code. The other great news is that you don’t have to worry about how your design will look on mobile. Elementor does that for you. UI elements such as the top-level menu will automatically become a hamburger for mobile users.
Single Post for Blog
Let’s design a blog page. Unlike static pages, such as “About us”, the blog has dynamic content. Elementor 2.0 allows you to build a framework for your content. So, each time you write a new blog post, your content will automatically be added to this design framework.
The process of creating a blog page starts with selecting a template. For a single blog post, choose the template type named “Single.” We have two options of blocks to choose from. Let’s choose the first one.
The block you selected has all of the required widgets, so you don’t need to change anything. But it’s relatively easy to adjust the template if needed. A single post is made of dynamic widgets such as the post title, post content, featured image, meta data and so on. Unlike static widgets that display content that you enter manually, dynamic widgets draw content from the current pages where they’re applied. These widgets are in the “Elements” panel, under the category “Theme Elements”.
When you work on dynamic content like a single post, you’ll want to see how it looks on different posts. Elementor gives you a preview mode so you can know exactly what your blog will look like.
To go into preview mode, you need to click on the Preview icon (the eye icon in the bottom-left part of the layout), and then “Settings”.
To see what your page will look like when it’s be filled with content, simply choose a source of content (e.g. a post from the “News” category).
Once you’ve finished creating dynamic content, you’ll need to choose when the template will be applied. Click on “Publish” button, and you’ll see a dialog that allows you to define conditions.
The archive page is a page that shows an assortment of posts. Your archive page makes it easy for readers to see all of your content and to dive deeper into the website. It’s also a common place to show search results.
The Theme Builder enables you to build your own archive using a custom taxonomy. To create an archive page, you need to go through the usual steps: create a new template, and choose a block for it. For now, Elementor provides only one type of block for this type of template (you can see it in the image below).
After selecting this block, all you need to do is either set a source for your data or stick to the default selection. By default, the archive page shows all available blog posts. Let’s leave it as is.
As you can see, we’ve successfully customized the website’s header, footer, single post and archive page, without any roadblocks of coding.
What To Expect In The Near Future
Elementor is being actively developed, with new features and exciting enhancements released all the time. This means that the theme builder is only going to get better. The Elementor team plans to add integration for plugins such as WooCommerce, Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), and Toolset. The team also welcomes feedback from developers. So, if you have a feature that you would like to have in Elementor, feel free to reach out to the Elementor team and suggest it.
When WordPress was released 15 years ago, the idea behind it was to save valuable time for developers and to make the process of content management as easy as possible. Today, it is widely regarded as a developer-friendly tool. Elementor is no different. The tool now offers never-before-seen flexibility to visually design an entire website. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself! Explore Elementor Pro today.
Every customer base is unique. Your ability to win your own marketing victories depends on understanding the users visiting your website each and every day. If you’ve spent any amount of time on The Daily Egg or similarly focused blogs, you know that thorough testing is paramount to your web business’ success. You might be intuitive (or lucky) enough to correctly read your customers on any given campaign, but over the long run, success WILL depend on data analysis. Despite the hundreds of voices claiming that marketing is an art, you’ve heard of Neil Patel, Avinash Kaushik, Danny Sullivan, and…