Process

How to Minimize Cart Abandonment in Your Checkout Process

Recently, I stumbled upon a scary statistic.

A whopping 69.23% of ecommerce shopping carts are abandoned.

To put this into perspective, for every 100 customers who start the checkout process, 69 don’t finish.

Is it a massive problem? Absolutely.

These numbers shouldn’t sit right with any business owner. That’s too many lost sales and potential lifelong customers.

But it’s also a bit surprising.

If someone starts the checkout process, it stands to reason they have a strong purchase intent.

So, why do so many shoppers fail to complete their purchases?

A few reasons.

Some of these are out of your control, and others, you can nip in the bud:

  • your site isn’t designed well, affecting the user experience;
  • the site has technical bugs;
  • site visitors are just window shopping;
  • your checkout process has too many pitfalls.

These are just a few ideas.

Can you guess which one is the most pervasive?

That’s right.

Your checkout process is turning potential customers away.

Take a look at this chart:

Exit intent Popup Shopping Cart Abandonment Solutions

Out of all the reasons why shoppers abandon their carts, a majority are related to the checkout phase.

Does this apply to all businesses? Not necessarily.

Don’t get me wrong.

All businesses—no matter how upscale—suffer from shopping cart abandonment.

You can’t do anything about a user who is just browsing. They may just want to save their favorite items in the cart for future reference.

With that said, there are varying reasons why shoppers do not complete a purchase.

In this article, you’ll find out if your checkout process is the main culprit and what you can do about it.

First, I’ll give you the common checkout pitfalls that turn potential customers away.

Then, we’ll get into a data-driven litmus test so you can know for sure.

This way, you won’t make changes to your site based on a hunch. That’s never good for business.

Sound good? Let’s start.

Five common pitfalls in the checkout process

If any of the following applies to your checkout process, it will certainly cause a percentage of shoppers to abandon their carts.

The great news?

It’s within your control.

Most times, a simple tweak is enough to make all the difference.

1. You haven’t earned the trust of potential customers

This is a big one.

If people don’t trust your site, there’s no way they’ll buy anything from you.

Your product could change their lives. It doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is, customers have to put in their personal information to complete the transaction.

If you don’t do everything in your power to make them feel secure doing so, you’ve lost them for good.

The solution

Step #1: Place testimonials and other proof elements on your checkout page.

Social proof is one of the most crucial elements to include on every page of your ecommerce site.

It’s especially powerful on the checkout page as it gives customers who may be hesitant an extra push.

Here’s a creative form of social proof from The Freedom Journal:

Choose Freedom

Step #2: Add credit card icons and other trust badges to reassure customers their payment information is secure.

List Builder s Lab

The placement of these badges is also important.

I recommend placing them right where customers have to put in their payment details and next to the “buy now” call to action.

Like this:

Content Marketing Mastery Secure Order Form

Step #3: Make sure you have contact information in clear sight. This way, customers know you’re not going to take their money and make a run for it.

Letting them know you can easily be reached is a small but impactful trust indicator.

Here’s an example from Amy Porterfield:

https dg101 infusionsoft com app orderForms List Builders Lab 1 Payment of 297 ga 2 211265245 974838801 1504269649 1558667423 1475774898

2. Additional costs blindside customers

Here’s the thing.

When the average person shops, they have a price point they’re willing to reach. As such, they choose items within these parameters.

After that has been surpassed, it’s a no-go.

When you surprise customers with high shipping costs, the immediate reaction is to make a dive for the exit.

And it’s with good reason.

I’ve seen instances where shipping, handling, and taxes amount to the price of the items in the cart.

That’s crazy.

It’s no wonder this is the number one reason people don’t complete their purchases.

cartabandon vwo 230616 jpg 630 368 pixels

The solution

Step #1: Let shoppers know their shipping costs early in the checkout process.

You can do this by introducing a shipping calculator to provide an estimate of the additional costs to be covered.

Here’s an example:

Cards and Pockets Your Shopping Cart

Step #2: Offer free shipping.

While this may not be feasible for everyone, it’s wise to find ways you can reduce costs for customers.

Many businesses offer free shipping once shoppers reach a certain price threshold.

Like this example from Fashion Nova:

Sneakers

As customers add new items to their carts, they’re reminded of how much more they need to spend to meet the threshold.

Classic High Waist Skinny Jeans Light Blue

Very clever.

Step #3: Have coupon codes on your site.

It’s important to have these discount offers on your site.

Why does that matter?

When customers go browsing elsewhere for coupons and don’t find them, they rarely come back.

You want to avoid that.

This beauty brand has a deal where they provide a daily coupon:

Home Chemical Peels Skin Care Acne Scars Wrinkles

This way, customers can easily save on shipping costs.

Today s Deal

3. The checkout process is too time-consuming

When they’re checking out, the only thing your customers value more than your product is their time.

That means that anything in your checkout process that takes too long is a problem.

Here are some examples:

  • technical glitches
  • slow site
  • poor design
  • lack of mobile friendliness
  • complicated navigation
  • long-winded checkout process

Website speed is a big deal for users: 40% of shoppers will abandon your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Speed Is Key Optimize Your Mobile Experience

You can imagine that any issue which zaps customers of their time will have the same effect.

The solution

Step #1: Test the speed and mobile-friendliness of your website. Make immediate adjustment if it’s not up to par.

You can use Google’s mobile friendly test.

Mobile Friendly Test Google Search Console

Step #2: Have a simple checkout process with as few form fields as possible.

Ideally, customers want to sprint through this process. The easier you make it, the more likely they will go through with their purchases.

4. There’s not enough urgency to compel customers to act

Urgency as a sales strategy is about inspiring customers to take earnest and swift action.

It’s super simple to implement, and it has a massive impact.

Many businesses don’t flip this proven psychological switch when it matters most.

As we’ve seen before, a few of the reasons for shopping cart abandonment may be out of your control.

However, you can still have a measure of influence.

For instance, if you added a few urgency elements during checkout, it may entice window shoppers to make a purchase.

Think about the last time you bought something you didn’t intend to because the deal was too sweet to pass up.

It happens to the most disciplined of us.

The bottom line?

Without urgency elements, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity.

The solution

Step #1: Let customers know when an item is almost sold out. That increases the incentive to get it immediately.

Here’s an example:

Celestial Boot Black

Step #2: Use the language of immediacy.

Words like “instantly,” “today,” and “now” are all useful in that regard. I also recommend using active verbs and power words to encourage people to act right away.

Step #3: Satisfy your customers’ need for instant gratification.

Here’s what that means:

what is instant gratification Google Search

You want to give customers a sense that they’ll get what they want immediately.

This is an innate human need.

If you appeal to it, your customers will respond.

If you’re selling an information product, instant gratification is easy to provide. Your customers can have electronic access without delay.

But it’s trickier when you’re selling a product that has to be shipped.

My advice?

Take a page out of Amazon’s playbook.

They do this brilliantly.

Here’s what I mean:

Amazon com Checkout

If you know your items will be delivered to you in a couple of days, chances are you’ll be more likely to check out ASAP.

5. There’s not enough information on the checkout page

Nothing kills action like uncertainty.

If you don’t provide enough information on the checkout page, customers are likely to be unsure of the process.

They’ll start second-guessing their decisions and won’t complete their purchases.

The solution

Step #1: Include product details on the checkout page.

It’s a good practice to remind customers what they’re paying for and how much.

Here is an example from WebinarJam.

When you select a plan, they let you know what you’ve chosen. They also give you the next steps in the checkout process.

WebinarJam

Step #2: Ensure there’s continuity between what’s on a product page and what’s displayed on the checkout page.

Has this ever happened to you?

You read the product page thoroughly and place the item in your cart only to find different information on the checkout page.

Even if it’s something slight, I assure you, it deters many people from completing the transaction.

Step #3: Include support options on the checkout page.

Consider having a live chat, email support, phone support, and a link to a FAQ page.

You don’t need to have all of these, but one or two will go a long way in securing the trust of customers.

It will also help move the purchase along if customers have a legitimate problem that needs to be taken care of before they go through with a transaction.

I’ve highlighted the common reasons why your checkout page may cause shoppers to abandon their carts.

The truth is, you need to consider your circumstances.

Sure, the “best practices” are useful.

But without concrete analytics, you’ll be making changes blindly.

A data-driven approach to dealing with shopping cart abandonment

Want to find out the exact cause of your shopping cart abandonment?

Google Analytics is the tool to use.

It’s simple. I’ll give you a step-by-step play.

Step #1: Find the “Admin” tab so you can create a conversion goal:

Analytics 6

This is so you can track the actions your web visitors take.

Click on “Goals”:

Analytics 7

Step #2: Create a new goal and set it up to track a completed transaction.

Analytics 5

In the first step of the goal setup, select an appropriate template.

While you’re tracking cart abandonment, your ultimate goal is to get customers to make a completed online payment.

Select that option:

Analytics 9

It’s time to describe your goal.

Name your goal, and select “Destination” as the goal type.

The destination can be a thank-you page, which will help you track the number of completed purchases.

Analytics 3

Next, you want to set the URL of your Destination.

As I mentioned, this could be any page that customers are directed to after their purchases.

The only reason someone would be on this page is if they completed a transaction, right?

Analytics 4

Step #3: Map the path customers take leading up to complete a transaction.

This is what will help you determine where the pitfalls in your sales funnel are.

In the same “Goal details” section, switch the Funnel option to “ON.”

Analytics 8

List all the steps that customers take leading up to the purchase. Name each step, and add the corresponding URL.

Like this:

Analytics 2

If you have a one-page checkout, only include that page, of course.

Whatever steps customers take, include them all.

You may want to go through the process yourself to make sure.

Save your goal, and that’s it for the setup. Tracking will begin, and you’ll now have detailed data for each step of your funnel.

Step #4: Check your reports to analyze the data.

Here’s where to find them.

Under “Conversions,” click on “Goals.”

Top Conversion Paths Analytics

Pay special attention to “Funnel Visualization.”

Top Conversion Paths Analytics 1

You’ll see an illustration that looks something like this:

Goal Funnel Analytics

I just created this, so there’s no data. It will take some time for yours to show up as well.

This data will tell you where in your funnel customers are jumping ship. It will also tell you in how many sessions your goal was completed.

Useful, right?

You’ll have a complete view of the way customers move through your funnel. You can now make informed adjustments to decrease your shopping cart abandonment rate.

You should know this though: there’ll always be customers who drop out before completing a purchase.

That’s just the nature of the game.

You can optimize your process to reduce that percentage significantly.

But will the lost sales be lost forever?

Can they be salvaged?

They can, and I’ll tell you how.

The ultimate solution to recovering abandoned carts

I hate to bring up this depressing statistic again, but only 3 out of 10 shoppers complete their purchases.

There is, however, a simple follow-up step that can increase that number significantly.

Crazily enough, most businesses don’t take advantage of it.

I’m referring to cart abandonment emails.

This could be one email or a whole sequence. You decide.

The point of these emails is to recover lost sales. If a customer adds items to their cart and leaves without checking out, be sure to follow up via email.

Here’s a brilliant example from Vanity Planet:

70 off on orders over 60 nellianestclair gmail com Gmail 2

Many things are going right in this email. It:

  • offers a massive discount
  • includes a free shipping offer
  • uses personal and persuasive language
  • provides a simple solution for returning to cart
  • has a direct link to checkout

They made an irresistible offer.

Many people would go back to complete their purchases in a heartbeat.

When cart abandonment emails are done right, they’re hands down the most powerful solution to recapture lost sales.

I highly recommend you test this strategy and watch it make a difference.

Conclusion

Dealing with shopping cart abandonment can be daunting.

It’s also frustrating when more than half of your prospects aren’t converting into sales—and you don’t know why.

There is any number of reasons why it might happen.

And to be frank, some of them are inevitable.

But others? You can do something about.

For many businesses, the checkout process is the biggest culprit when it comes to lost sales. I’ve pinpointed some of the most common issues and their fixes in this article.

Use them as a litmus test.

But don’t stop there.

I can tell you that applying best practices only to your checkout pages won’t transform your sales funnel.

It’s crucial you take a more data-backed strategy to deal with abandoned carts.

Include Google Analytics in your arsenal, and set up conversion goals.

This way, you’ll have detailed analytics to make the sort of changes that will maximize your profits.

What do you think is the best strategy to ensure customers complete their purchases?


Quick Sprout

The Importance of Building Trust: What 2,400 consumers say about trust in the conversion process

Websites are more than digital images and copy. Websites are relationships with people. And if we seek to influence behavior, we need to understand and respect that relationship.

All sales begin with customer understanding

As with any relationship, it begins with an understanding of who the other party in the relationship is, what they want, and what they get out of the relationship. In this case, that is the customer.

So before one pixel is even coded on a website, the goal should be to understand what the customer needs and wants, and then the question becomes — how can this website provide that? Without that understanding, the website has no reason for being.

“Organizations that understand how their customers think and feel have a much better chance at meeting their customers’ needs,” Katie Sherwin, User Experience Specialist, Nielsen Norman Group, said.

Establishing trust online

But building a website that will meet customers’ needs is not enough. They must believe it will meet their needs. They must trust the website.

This is a little easier if customers already have a trusting relationship outside of the websites with the brand: “Next to website trust-enhancing elements, the ‘off-line’ vendor image and reputation have been often found to be critical enablers of virtual interactions and transactions by lowering the transaction risk threshold and reducing customer anxiety,” said Efthymios Constantinides, assistant professor, University of Twente.

If they don’t already have a relationship with the brand, one of the first things customers are doing is sizing up the credibility of the organization behind the website. Even if they do have respect for the offline reputation of the brand behind the website, they’re trying to size up the value of interacting with that brand online.

This is where the proper sequencing of give and take in the relationship is critical. “Don’t make demands at higher levels of commitment until you’ve addressed all the trust needs at the inferior levels,” Katie said.

You only get what you give

In other words, to get, you must first give. That give can be free content, for example. As Raluca Badiu, Director of Research, Nielsen Norman Group, said, “Free content is the digital counterpart of the free samples from the physical world and is an ingrained use of the reciprocity principle on the Web.”

Or it can just be an understanding of the value of the asks you’re making, before you make them. Never assume the customer understands the value; you must show the value. And then deliver on that value after a customer completes the ask.

If you don’t communicate value clearly before the ask and deliver on it after the ask, you risk hurting the relationship and your customer abandoning you like a jilted lover in a romantic relationship, pining for an understanding of what it takes to get a value exchange. Perhaps Lauryn Hill put it best when she sang, “Tell me, who I have to be; To get some reciprocity … No matter how I think we grow; You always seem to let me know; It ain’t workin’; It ain’t workin’.”

Long-term relationships

As with any good relationship, this trust must not only be built before and during a conversion, but after the conversion as well. A marriage is a bond that stays solid because of much more than one “yes” during a proposal. There is a daily evaluation of the value exchange on a very subtle level. In highly trusting relationships, it is almost infinitesimal. But in low-trust relationships, it is constant.

Customers feel the same way when considering the relationship with the brands they purchase from. They must not be tricked into the purchase, and they must feel trust even after the purchase occurs if a website is going to be a long-term, sustainable asset for a company with repeat customers.

When we asked 2,400 customers about the companies they are highly satisfied and unsatisfied with through MarketingExperiments’ sister publication, MarketingSherpa, this erosion of trust was evident. In the October 2016 survey, we asked half of respondents, “Thinking about the marketing of [company they were highly satisfied with] which of the following is true about your experience? Select all that apply.” and the other half, “Thinking about the marketing of [company they were highly unsatisfied with], which of the following have you ever experienced that makes you unsatisfied? Select all that apply.”

For highly satisfied customers, the top response was, “I consistently have good experienced with it” (56% of respondents), and the bottom response was, “It puts my needs and wants above its own business goals” (18%).

However, for highly unsatisfied customers, the top response was “[Company name] does not put my needs and wants above its own business goals” (35%).

Chart 1

Chart 1 (click to enlarge)

Chart 2

Chart 2 (click to enlarge)

Just like with the happily married versus unhappy couple — when things are going well minor slights get swept under the rug, but when things are going poorly, we begin to question the motives of the other party in the relationship.

So it is not enough to secure a conversion; you must get the conversion in a way that the customer feels served, not tricked.

For example, when researching bricks-and-mortar interactions, professors Geoffrey N. Soutar and Jillian C. Sweeney learned that, “While sales staff can act to reduce dissonance through providing information and reassurance, they should not be too pushy at the point of sale or be artificially enthusiastic when following up after the sale. Managers need to be aware of the pivotal role that sales staff play and ensure that they are supported in dissonance reducing tactics, as a failure to assess and address dissonance can have negative outcomes.”

Sweeney and Soutar are referring to the cognitive dissonance customers may feel if they have doubts after the purchase.

So how can you build trusting relationships with customers?

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer

I was reading “A Horn for Louis” by Eric A. Kimmel with my daughter. The accompanying reading guide from PJ Library asks, “Mr. Karnofsky considers Louis’s feelings when giving Louis the horn. Can you think of a time when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Did it change the way you acted?”

A simple lesson in a children’s book, sure. But it points to a way to overcome the central problem consumers told us in the aforementioned survey — they’re highly unsatisfied when they don’t think companies are putting their needs first, when these companies aren’t practicing customer-first marketing.

So I’ll end with a rhetorical question — how do you build trust with customers?

This blog post will be worthless to you if you don’t actually put its advice into action. So (amidst the busyness of your day) really ask yourself — When have you had concerns after making a purchase? Why did you have them? What was the ultimate result?

And now think of your own marketing efforts. Can you think of a time when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Did it change the way you acted?

This post was inspired by a reading discussion in the University of Florida Communicating Value and Web Conversion Graduate Certificate program, created in partnership with MECLABS Institute, in which I am a student.

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MarketingExperiments Blog: Research-driven optimization, testing, and marketing ideas

Choosing the right yardstick: What research tools to use when in the digital development process

I felt something of an imposter speaking at the recent (and nattily titled) Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation Symposium – #EDCR2016 – which brought together academics and researchers working in the field of cultural and heritage content: I’m not an academic, nor a researcher. Nor Scottish.

But research is part of the daily workings of the V&A’s digital team. So, reflecting on a handful of projects, I explored the different ‘yardsticks’ – the research tools, methods and processes – we’ve used to measure and evaluate our work, at different points within the digital development process. You can find the slide deck on Slideshare.

The three Ws

We find that what research tools you use to measure and evaluate depends on three key things:

  • What are you measuring?
  • When in the process?
  • Why – to what end?

That last one is fundamental. And the answer should not just be ‘because a funder or sponsor needs me to’.

The problem with Waterfall

Within a traditional Waterfall project management approach, evaluation often happens at the end of a process that might well take many months – if not years – to complete. That’s known as summative evaluation. It is valuable, but shouldn’t replace the need for ongoing evaluation and measurement (what’s known as formative evaluation).

waterfall process

 

 

Agile process

With an Agile approach, measurement and evaluation takes place within each release cycle – and often within each sprint. This has several benefits. It means you get data quickly, and are therefore able to derive insights much earlier in the process. This ongoing, formative evaluation also means you will soon know if your idea is going to fly – with real people, I mean. And if not, you can kill off the idea (or at least take a pause) before it becomes a bloated unnecessary product that doesn’t actually answer people’s needs and wants.

Summative evaluation might still take place several releases down the line, but each one of those releases will be based on deep – and broad – user research and insight. That summative evaluation is therefore more likely to reveal the product is fit for purpose, loved by users and achieving its goals. Which is what a funder wants to hear, right?

The role of the MVP

To get funding and backing for projects, we often need to specify the digital thing we’re going to build, sometimes years ahead of launching it. But how do we know what we’re building before we’ve started the discovery phase of product development?

This is where launching with a minimum viable product (MVP) has a distinct advantage over the grand launch at the end of the Waterfall project. The benefit of launching early with something small – an MVP – is creating something that’s more likely to answer people’s needs, sooner, and in a form that can be iterated and improved. MVP

We museum folk need to get out of the habit of specifying big complicated digital things as the end product rather than defining the problem or opportunity to tackle. And we need those who fund and support digital projects to understand that it’s better to specify ‘a vehicle that gets people from A to B’ than a fancy car. Too often we end up promising an over-specced Rolls Royce instead of starting with a simple skateboard.

What people say is different from what they do

We all know this. And we all know that we need to involve people (users) early on in the design and development process. But how do we know if and when to act on what they say?

Christian Rohrer, VP of Design, Research and Enterprise Services at Capital One (part of the Nielsen Norman Group) devised a useful way to understand what tools to use to answer different research questions. The diagram below shows a simple matrix that looks at quantitative vs qualitative data and behavioural vs attitudinal data.

Nielsen what people do vs what people say

Rohrer’s matrix is a good starting point for working out what questions you want to answer, and therefore what tools can help find those answers. Tools like clickmaps and A/B testing will give you a good insight into behaviour and generate some useful quantitative data. Eye-tracking gives you other behavioural insights but also some qualitative data. Tools like concept and guerrilla testing can help generate more attitudinal, qualitative as well as quantitative data.

Whatever the tool, you’ll want to identify your research goal. Is it exploration (typically during the Discovery phase), evaluation & validation of particular features and their usability (during Design and Development phases), or measurement (during the Test phase)?

So here are some examples of the different types of yardsticks we’ve used at different stages in the product development cycle.

1. Audience analysis: The V&A’s Audience Behaviour Matrix [Discovery phase]

In developing the new V&A website with product innovation consultancy Made by Many, we conducted some analysis of our audience data of online behaviour (primarily from Google Analytics) and from market research with our visitors by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre.

We devised a matrix of audience behaviour that revealed some of the behaviours and motivations of our online visitors. I’ve written about our audience matrix before, so I won’t dwell on the detail here. But this was a useful example of the type of research that takes place in the discovery phase right at the start of digital product development.

Audience matrix

This matrix helped focus on ‘general visitors’ as the key audience behaviour to address in our website rethink and therefore to prioritise features that best serve their needs. Better still, this matrix has become a really useful tool in helping shape and create digital content, giving us a better understanding of what content people might value at different points in their interaction with the V&A online.

2. Remote usability testing: What’s on search [Design phase]

Early next year we’ll be launching our new What’s on, with a much improved user experience, helping our visitors find out about events and buy tickets. Our key goal is to improve discoverability of our events content. We’ve designed a browsing experience that helps visitors find what they’re actively looking for as well as discover events they’re not.

The first iteration of the design focussed purely on discoverability but there was evidence to suggest that search was being used in the existing What’s on. However, it wasn’t immediately clear if this was because of poor user experience (i.e. events just weren’t very discoverable), or whether search would still be a valuable feature in the new design. We were aware of a use case scenario where those who had already heard about an event arrive on the website with the intention of purchasing a ticket, yet aren’t immediately able find it. The design challenge was therefore how we could integrate a search feature into an existing design that had already performed well in user testing we’d previously conducted.

So we developed a clickable prototype with a simple search feature that appeared part way down the page so as not to interrupt the scannability of the landing page. We conducted some scripted user testing with five remote users which simulated a real scenario of having to find an event that wasn’t visible on the What’s on landing page. This test aimed to determine a) if people found the search feature, b) if they did, whether they could use it and c) find the item they were looking for.

Four of the five users found the event by using the search box. While this test involved a small sample and was therefore not conclusive, it did provide some useful insights that confirmed the search box was sufficiently visible yet didn’t interrupt the browsing experience. In fact, five is an optimal number that Nielsen advocate for this type of quick testing when designing new features. It’s an efficient and good value method to verify if a feature is worth bothering with in the first place. Later on, we’ll run more tests at volume.

The feature we’ll launch with is definitely the skateboard of search which will evolve as we glean more data on how it’s used and why.

3. Concept testing and guerrilla testing for the Europe audio guide [development stage]

The evolution of the Europe audio guide deserves a dedicated post, but in the meantime…

Concept testing

We got Frankly, Green and Webb on board for some formative evaluation of the prototype multi-media guide for our new Europe 1600-1815 Galleries that opened at the end of last year. Their research involved concept testing of the guide and revealed that visitors wanted a ‘heads up experience’: they would only get out their mobile phones to discover content they genuinely valued. And that content was audio.

The temptation with this sort of digital product – a mobile in-gallery experience – is to chuck in lots of content that doesn’t fit on the walls. In this case, videos, audio, lots of text, a map… Frankly, Green and Webb’s research reminded us that any mobile product needs to be baked into the broader gallery experience. It needs to be a visible part of the offer, be functional and provide value to the visitor.

concept testing

In fact, these factors can be visualised as part of a series of hurdles that need to be overcome before a visitor decides to use that product as part of the visitor experience. Even if it gets past the first five hurdles, unless the product provides value (and, ideally, delight), the visitor won’t bother.

Guerilla testing

The concept testing led us to drastically revise and redevelop the product into a mobile audio guide, which we then tested further. Working in a museum we have the luxury of having thousands of visitors to test with, just outside our office doors. We ran some guerrilla testing – a rapid, low cost method to quickly capture user feedback.

Visitors described the guide as like a treasure hunt, and enjoying the fact that it was like having a tour guide with you, going at your own pace. (This is something Alyson Webb also spoke about at EDCR2016 when recounting her work on the Van Gogh Museum’s multi-media guide which consequently sells itself on helping visitors go at their own pace.) We were surprised by some of the visitor behaviour, observing an older couple using the guide out loud, listening to it together, and not feeling isolated in the way they did with other guides.

We used these visitor insights to improve interactive features like search, and how visitors accessed and played the audio.

Lipstick on a pig

Too often evaluation is an end point, rather than an essential part of the development process. That learning and insight isn’t fed back into ongoing digital development. Waterfall projects have an end date. But Agile never stops. With Agile you’re more likely to feed that research back into ongoing development cycles.

I bet we’ve all been involved in some digital projects that just shouldn’t see the light of day. Some call this putting lipstick on a pig. We need to be braver about killing – or sun-setting – those projects that research reveals are not working or have outlived their purpose. We don’t need to add to all that digital landfill. We need to use research to discover those piglets, not wait until summative evaluation to have our worst suspicions confirmed.

So don’t wait for that moment. Use the right yardsticks and build research into your everyday work.

Thanks to Chris Unitt for helping tease out some of the whys and wherefores that went into writing up these thoughts. And to Chris Pearson for the brilliant visuals, which got a lot of love on Twitter.

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Rainmaker Rewind: A Process for Content Marketing Success

Rainmaker FM rewind

Rainmaker Digital’s Chief Content Officer Sonia Simone knows a thing or two about content marketing.

Tune in to this week’s episode of Copyblogger FM as Sonia navigates the best ways to organize your time and energy so you’re able to consistently produce effective marketing materials.

And be sure to check out the other great episodes that aired on Rainmaker FM during the past week in this edition of Rainmaker Rewind.

Copyblogger FM - A Process for Content Marketing Success

  1. Confessions of a Pink-haired Marketer. Sonia Simone unpacks a four-part process to help content marketers consistently produce great content: A Process for Content Marketing Success
  2. The Digital Entrepreneur. Brian Clark and Jerod Morris welcome Sonia Simone to the show to share her secrets about digital entrepreneurship: Sonia Simone’s Secret to Starting the 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle of Building a Successful Business
  3. Unemployable. Brian Clark chats with Gary Vaynerchuk about setting the stage for bigger and better things down the road: Gary Vaynerchuk on Playing the Long Game
  4. Zero to Book. Pamela Wilson and Jeff Goins interview Chantel Hamilton, the first editor to work on Pamela’s upcoming book. Chantel shares her “four circles of book editing hell,” a tongue-in-cheek look at the stages any great book goes through in order to come alive: The 4 Circles of Book Editing Hell (and How to Get Through Them)
  5. The Missing Link. Jabez Lebret chats with JD Gershbein about the principles of thought leadership on LinkedIn and how you can find your own competitive advantage: Find Your Competitive Advantage on LinkedIn Through Thought Leadership
  6. Youpreneur. Chris Ducker welcomes the Merrymaker Sisters to the show to talk about their entrepreneurial journey and how they managed to turn their hobby into a six-figure business: Earning 6-Figures in Less Than a Year, with the Merrymaker Sisters
  7. The Showrunner. Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor explain how to use the “Hell Yes” principle to create the best show experience for you and your listeners: Why the ‘Hell Yes’ Principle is the Key to Differentiation That Impacts an Audience
  8. Hack the Entrepreneur. Jon Nastor and Bob Baker explore the importance of finding your “one thing” and staying focused once you do: The Power of Constructive Impatience
  9. The Writer Files. Kelton Reid learns about the habits and habitats of a hyper-prolific fictionist, Dean Wesley Smith, in this fascinating interview: How Bestselling Hybrid Author Dean Wesley Smith Writes: Part One
  10. Technology Translated. Scott Ellis welcomes Joanna Weibe to chat about what split-testing is, how to use it, and other things you should be thinking about when it comes to optimizing your site: How To Use Split-Testing To Move Your Customer To Action

And, one more thing …

If you want to get Rainmaker Rewind sent straight to your favorite podcast player, subscribe right here on Rainmaker FM.

The post Rainmaker Rewind: A Process for Content Marketing Success appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

How to Retain Your Customer’s Attention Throughout the Onboarding Process

Onboarding never ends.

Some SaaS teams may approach onboarding as an activity - a one-time event for each consumer.

However, it’s time to change your perspective. Consider onboarding as an ongoing process that continues beyond initial setup.

Whether it’s teaching loyal consumers about new integrations or training newbies about your dashboard, it’s vital that you have their undivided attention.

John Waldron of markITwrite believes that the onboarding stage is “one of the most perilous phases in the whole conversion process.”

So, don’t lose customers just because you failed to capture your audience’s attention. Here are four techniques to get your team started:

1. Offer Ongoing Training

Every customer is different.

Some will adapt quickly to your software. They will learn every feature in one day and possibly point out inefficiencies in your system.

On the other hand, other customers will take longer to learn your platform. They may desire a step-by-step guide to understand everything. And they may need additional content resources to be successful.

To serve both types of consumers, segment training programs based on the customers’ behaviors. This gives everyone an opportunity to learn according to his or her needs. Moreover, you retain their attention.

“Proactive customer success training is delivered through online courses and on-demand training designed to get your new customers up to speed from acquisition to activation in as short as possible timeframe,” says Miranda Lievers Chief, Customer Officer of Thinkific.

Hubspot offers their customers the option to refresh their learning. The inbound marketing software company has a YouTube playlist dedicated just for product tutorials.

hubspot-product-tutorials-youtube

Visage creates training with the help of strategic partnerships. For example, the data visualization company teamed up with Hubspot to help their users tell better stories with visuals.

data-visualization-hubspot

However, be mindful not to push your customers towards training. It should be at their pace, not yours.

“You should be careful not to take progressive onboarding too far. Let the customer navigate in his or her own time. There shouldn’t be a need to provide hints on every screen. If you excessively prompt new customers with obvious hints, you risk annoying or distracting your customers,” writes Hannah Levenson, Community Manager at Appsee.

Keep your customers focused. Engage them with ongoing training.

2. Leverage Multiple Communication Channels

Years ago, it took months to communicate with someone. But today, we live in a highly-connected society. And we can talk to someone in a matter of seconds.

In addition, there are various forms of communication channels available to us. With so many ways to get our brand message across, teams forget that the consumer is the one with the ultimate decision.

“By giving people a choice how to reach you, you make your website more user friendly and can drive more leads and sales. Users get to choose the way to communicate that’s most convenient for them, which makes it easier to connect with you and further the relationship,” states Corey Pemberton is a copywriter and marketer.

Experiment with different communication channels, such as text, in-app messaging, and email. If you don’t, your team may risk losing the customer’s interest.

Shopify offers support services via email, live chat, and phone.

got-a-question-about-spotify

Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand, says, “Leveraging multiple channels […] allows you to appeal to a customer’s channel preferences while delivering a highly personalized message that will positively impact results.”

Mobile platforms are a popular platform for customer support, with more than 60% of people using smartphones to connect online. Research also shows that “more than 20% of people using Facebook and Twitter seek information about different products and services.” Thus, it may be time for your SaaS to discuss mobile and social solutions.

And here’s a pro tip: Don’t inundate people with bulletins on a dozen different channels. Choose a few and concentrate on delivering attention-getting messages.

3. Incentivize the Process

People like receiving rewards. From an early age, we’re conditioned to expect incentives for positive behavior.

“Everyone loves new and free stuff, and your users aren’t any different. One of the best ways to adopt users or keep them interested in your software is to offer an incentive,” says Omri Erel, Lead Author & Editor of SaaSAddict Blog.

Similar to grade school when earning a passing score may get you an extra recess, reward your customers with a small token for completing a step in the onboarding process

Take advantage of people’s “need to complete.” It’s a powerful psychological driver in customer engagement.

In our brains, completion equates to success. It gives us a sense of relief and accomplishment.

And it can bring back good memories, like when we completed our high school classes or a certificate program.

Offer that same joy to your users. Add a progress bar to the onboarding process.

Each milestone should be simple, yet informative for the customer. You can encourage them to complete their profile or persuade them to learn a new tool.

When setting up an Etsy shop, the brand displays a progress meter showing the next steps in the onboarding process.

etsy-progress-bar

It’s essential to reward them for their positive behavior.

“Whether it’s a discount, promotion, or an enticing statistic to show how the steps you suggest they follow will boost conversions, save them money or any other applicable metric. By providing a relevant incentive, people are much more likely to take action,” states Slava Rudenko, Project Manager and Marketing Executive at myTips.

Go the extra mile. Give your customers incentives for choosing your brand.

4. Build Real Relationships

Your SaaS team is told over and over again to build relationships with your customers. But what does that really mean?

For starters, don’t treat your customers like a number. Referring to someone as Ticket #12438 isn’t going to retain your customer’s attention.

Learn more about their goals and interests to create a better customer experience. That means gathering data from several sources.

“The key is to use the quantitative data that you are collecting through your analytics tools, and the qualitative data that you are collecting through customer interaction and in-context messaging to create a individualized experiences that excite and delight your users,” states Brian Rogers, former Director of Customer Success at Evergage.

Real relationships also translate into unbelievable customer service. No one likes waiting 12 days for their concerns to be addressed.

“New clients are going to have a lot of questions. If you want to earn their trust, you need to be prepared with quick responses. Minimal response time should be something you strive to deliver, and it’s even more important when your clients are still getting to know you,” writes, Ron Williams, Business Success Strategist at ConnectWise, Inc.

Customers need a reason to stick around. A good product is a start, but an authentic relationship is better.

Onboard With Purpose

Customer onboarding is an integral part of the conversion process. It’s the difference between higher retention or higher churn.

Offer users ongoing training to help them easily navigate your platform. Deliver customer messages on multiple communication channels. And focus on building genuine relationships rooted in value.

Retain customer attention. Onboard with purpose.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.


The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

The Hidden Secret for a Greater Conversion: Design an Onboarding Process

According to a study done by Intercom, “40 to 60 percent of users that register for a trial of your online services will use it just once and will never return.”

The problems which lead to these results generally are: a) the user does not understand technically how to use our service or b) the user does not come to understand what is the benefit that will be gained from interacting with our application.

The worst of these facts is that surely, in order to attract these potential clients we have spent all the money that was designated for publicity and now we don’t know what to do. This is not an unusual situation; on the contrary, it is the first thing I learned in these previous 8 years while working on 14 different online projects.

In order to avoid this reality, we should focus ourselves on designing a process for taking in clients known as “User Onboarding Experience.” This consists of working in order to improve the chances that a new user will successfully adopt our product and begin using it consistently.

1) What is the final goal?

What we want to do in this process is to be able to arrive at that “magical moment” where the client understands what it is that we will solve for them and says: “Incredible, this is just what I needed!

However, let’s take a minute and ask ourselves how many times we have tried out a new online software on which we, unfortunately waste time and never come to understand how to use it or what purpose it serves. Especially in today’s generation of services where there is little or no customer service offered by the seller.

An excellent example of a successful implementation of this process is Optimizely, where, in less than 5 minutes, one can begin to modify their web page as if they had access to the code or had the abilities of a programmer. All it takes is registering, adding the website address, and ready to go, one can begin to make the necessary changes in order to improve for example a landing page and do trials:

onboarding process

Here we arrive at the “magical moment” where the user understands how our tool works and additionally they perceive completely the benefit that we create for them.

It is important to understand that an onboarding process is not simply about putting together a long stream of steps to follow for the user to complete (registration, video, explanations with an example, etc.). This process is designed with the idea of avoiding all these barriers and going straight to the goal: having the client experience first-hand the value that we create.

A learning point that we utilize greatly in our own business before designing a new onboarding procedure is: “we always keep in mind that what is important is not the number of users that register, but the number of those who continue coming back on a daily basis.”

2) How should it be implemented?

For each business, the onboarding process will be different; however, there are concepts or essential pillars that are the same for all of them.

The first thing that we should do is study the actions of successful users, that is, those who frequently use our product, what it is  that differentiates them from those that try it out once and never return again. Here, most assuredly, is where we find exactly what our onboarding process should achieve with each and every new user.

To make this more clear, we will take as a reference Twitter, where according to that indicated by their leader Josh Elman, “when we analyzed our usage data, we realized that once a user follows at least 30 people, they’re more or less active forever. But those that follow less than 30 in their first interactions with the platform will likely never return again.”

For this reason, during the onboarding process for new users we see messages like the following where, in 1 click we can follow 30 or more people:

Note: An excellent onboarding process has the least resemblance as possible to those old printed manuals that came in the boxes we bought years ago and more similar to a personal trainer. We do not focus ourselves on explaining how each button of our software works, we concentrate on showing our user what will be achieved at the end of the road, the added value that we have for them.

3) First in manual form, later we automate it.

An error I frequently see is wanting to do the onboarding process automatically from the very beginning. Unfortunately, this is not the best strategy for a start-up.

First we should do it ourselves, the founders. We should be the ones who carry out the onboarding process with the client in a direct way, be it through an online chat on our website or using other communication methods such as Skype or even personally, face to face with the user.

In this way, we will spend more time learning from the interactions with the client, from their needs. Additionally, we will put all of our focus on our product, in efficiently resolving a real problem that the user has and not in developing an onboard procedure for something that perhaps no one needs!

Lastly, the product over time (and more in the beginning), will change and constantly be altered, and in consequence, if the onboarding process was already created, we will be forced to dedicate time in updating it without much sense.

But when is it time to automate the process? For each company it can vary, but as a reference, I would say that the right time is when the number of paid users or the number of frequent users completely exceeds the amount of time that the founders have available in order to talk with each one of the new clients that come to our online project.

onboarding process

For example, a start-up that now has an automated process is CoSchedule, an editorial calendar for WordPress that takes each new user in the onboarding process to schedule the redaction of an article:

When a user arrives at our website, we should understand that this is due to the fact that they are full of frustrations and that they need our product in order to solve a specific problem. The onboarding process will be responsible for showing the user that we understand their situation, to indicate the path to follow, and to take them as fast as possible to the solution that they were looking for. It is our job to connect all of these dots in the process.

onboarding process

For example Duolingo does this well, because being a site for learning languages, the first thing that each user does is translate a sentence in the language of their choice, even before asking them their email or that they register. Before we realize it, in less than 5 seconds, the process already began! We are already sensing value, that is, we are already learning!

We should never forget: for an onboarding procedure to be successful, it should first make our clients successful!

These learning points were transmitted by the Director of Design of MT, Mr. David Carreras. In charge of mobile development for the platform in Latin America.

32 Shopify eCommerce Websites for Design Inspiration

The post The Hidden Secret for a Greater Conversion: Design an Onboarding Process appeared first on SpyreStudios.


SpyreStudios

Design Principles: 7 Vital Characteristics of a Check-out Process Page to Boost Conversions

You may have a streamlined marketing campaign for enhancing the sales of your online business or eCommerce website, but boosting the conversions should take precedence over everything else. After all, it determines the success of your online store and thereby, of your business. One of the crucial elements that boosts conversions for an eCommerce website is the check-out page. If the payment process is flawed (time-consuming or not secure), then customers tend to move on to your rival website.

The solution to increase your sales is by making your check-out process page as simple as you can. This write-up explores seven vital characteristics of designing a check-out process page that will determine higher conversion rates for your eCommerce website.

  1. Give customers assurance of security: Security tops the list of things that customers look forward to during the check-out process. Poor security is a definite red flag for them and leads to abandonment of shopping carts among other reasons. This is the reason why you need to stress on winning their trust right on the check-out page. Let your customers know that the website complies with all the security measures on an eCommerce website by displaying security seals or badges such as Verisign and logos of popular credit and debit card companies such as VISA and Master Card. Make sure that these seals or badges are clearly visible on the check-out page.
  1. Don’t force customers to create an account before they check-out: There are numerous online shoppers, who will be using your website for the very first time. If you want to convert them into your customers, don’t force them to create an account or register when they arrive at your site. But this doesn’t mean that you can ask them to fill up the registration form just when they are about to check-out as it is all the more annoying for them and distracts them from checking out smoothly. Wait for them to complete their shopping and then ask them to fill up the forms.
  1. Allow customers to edit the cart: Allowing customers to edit their shopping cart is one of the must-dos. Although this may look like an elementary tip, which makes no sense, it is immensely useful. What you can do is let customers edit and update the quantity of the items in their cart, remove items and even change the color (such as that of a dress), if possible. This ensures that your customers will count less on the back button and complete the check-out process. This in turn will enhance your sales like never before.
  1. Offer customers more than one shipping and payment methods: A common practice that is being used by some of the topmost online retailers is – multiple shipping and payment methods. For instance, if it is a returning customer, give them the choice to select an alternate shipping address. You can also offer the option of gift wrapping the products with a message.
    boost conversion
    Source
    Multiple payment methods can include making use of online payment systems such as PayPal, Google Wallet and even Apple Pay, if applicable. Some retailers also allow users to select the delivery date for various products, although with certain terms and conditions.
  1. Minimize the number of steps for check-out for your customers: When online shoppers get the desired products on an eCommerce website, they usually want to checkout speedily. A lengthy check-out process becomes a major hindrance in this case and they tend to abandon their shopping carts feeling an acute level of frustration. The solution here is to minimize the number of steps that customers have to take in order to complete the check-out process on your website. You can in fact offer them a one-step checkout process, wherein they can take all the call-to-action in one page itself and proceed to check-out. Simple!
  1. Indicate the number of steps left for customers to complete the process: If it is not possible for you to reduce the number of steps or to implement a one-step check-out process on your website, then you can go for another useful alternative. Let the customers know which step of the checkout process they are on. For instance, entering their shipping address can be step one, choosing the payment method can be step two, entering coupon code can be step three, reviewing order and proceeding to check-out can be step four and so on and so forth. You can indicate the steps through large icons and with the help of color coding.
  1. Make the page aesthetically appealing to your customers: Another essential tip that you need to take into consideration when it comes to increasing the conversion rates of your eCommerce website is to make all the pages aesthetically appealing to your customers. While many businesses concentrate on home pages and landing pages, it is a given that even your check-out page is designed flawlessly. Make sure that the page is devoid of clutter, has appropriate size of fonts, clearly visible buttons and is intuitive so that shoppers can face no issues while checking out from their mobile devices with smaller screens. Get inspired by taking a look at some of the well-designed eCommerce websites mentioned in this article.

To conclude

Shopping cart abandonment during the check-out process is one of the harsh realities of eCommerce websites that even many top companies have faced at some or the other point of time. Take a cue from the points mentioned and work towards an effective check-out process page, which will surely boost the conversion rates like never before and contribute to the success of your online business. Apart from following these tips, do not forget to test the page. Even though it can take up a lot of investment in terms of time, testing is definitely beneficial in the long-term. You can select from numerous testing methods to make sure that you offer visitors a seamless checkout process.

This post was written by Michael Georgiou, a dynamic business professional and entrepreneurial guru associated with Imaginovation – Raleigh Web Design Company proven his success in creative strategy, online branding, project management, and communication projects in both the public and private sectors.

The post Design Principles: 7 Vital Characteristics of a Check-out Process Page to Boost Conversions appeared first on SpyreStudios.


SpyreStudios

Where Content Management Systems Fit Into the Process

Chris published a post a little while back on where style guides fit into a team’s process. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to offer my take on where content management systems fit in.

I also wanted to write this because it’s a common point of contention. Different teams I work with prefer to integrate content management systems at different points in the process. There’s nothing inherently wrong with one approach over another, but it is a good conversation to have and decision to make before digging into a project.

The CMS Comes First Method

This method places the CMS at the very front of the process. For example, let’s say you already know WordPress will be the CMS and you have a baseline theme that recycles a lot of the common functions and templates that you use from project to project, but leaves the design and styling open-ended. Or, let’s say you’ve purchased a premium theme and plan to modify the front-end from there. It’s about having the framework done in advance.

This is fine and dandy. I’ve used a bare-bones baseline WordPress theme before and have seen others do some great work with WordPress child themes. Then again, I honestly have not been a part of any project where integrating the content management system truly comes first in the process where all back end code was fully developed first; there has always been some level of front-end work done up front prior to the integration, which leads us to the next method.

The All-At-Once Method

Front end? Back end? Nah, there’s no real distinction here.

For example, we know WordPress requires a number of PHP templates, loops and functions to churn out the content and views of the site. This method builds those alongside the front-end markup.

There are a number of benefits to this approach. For one, it can save a huge chunk of time. Instead of writing all the HTML, CSS and JS then splitting it up into various PHP snippets, we can tackle it all at once and eliminate an entire step in the process. This is hugely ideal if you work on small team and are tasked with a project with a fast turnaround.

But there are pitfalls: Imagine writing a bunch of complex backend code only to have the project change scope and render it obsolete. It certainly depends on your comfort and skill level with more advanced programming languages, but I find it much easier to revise HTML and CSS than something like PHP. That’s where a slip in this method could be a massive time drain.

The CMS Comes Last Method

The difference here is making front end development a mandatory and separate deliverable from back end development. Instead of working on the CMS in advance or marrying the front and back end right out of the gate, they’re separated into distinct deliverables to keep things from getting too messy.

I see this method being extremely useful when working on a project in stages. For example, I like the idea of designing directly in the browser because it gives me the freedom to play and experiment without the constraint of worrying about back-end development while creating comps.

There are potential pitfalls here as well. For one, things can get lost in translation when working in stages. It’s kind of like the age-old game of telephone, where whispering a phrase down a long line of people ends with a different phrase than how it began. There’s also the question of how to maintain the project once it’s launched—do we make changes in our the front-end or the back-end deliverable and how do we keep them synced? The answer there can vary from project to project.

Weighing the Options

While I stand firmly on the side of choosing the right method for the right project, I do find myself working putting the CMS last more often than not, even if the CMS has already been chosen. I have a boilerplate project I use for WordPress that creates those boxes and uses Grunt to automate the process of transferring assets between them. I’d consider this a shameless plug for a repo, if it wasn’t for the fact that I haven’t touched it in a long while. Please feel free to tear it apart and put it to use, if you find that sort of thing handy.

What say you? Do you have a particular method for integrating content management systems? Does it even matter to you? It seems like the kind of thing that would come up often, but it would be interesting to hear how different people and teams approach it.


Where Content Management Systems Fit Into the Process is a post from CSS-Tricks

CSS-Tricks

Where Style Guides Fit Into Process

Brad Frost was showing me some slides from one of his talks recently. He had some graphics that demonstrated different approaches to where a style guide can fit into a team’s process. As you might imagine, it’s a matter of just having one or not that will determine its effectiveness.

I thought I would attempt to explain my own thoughts on these approaches based on my own experiences.

The Sidelines

Or maybe we could call it the “after the fact” model. The idea is that you have a Style Guide, but it’s this separate thing that exists outside of the actual process. You have to maintain and update it separately. Changes to the site aren’t reflected in the Style Guide unless you take the time to do that. Changes to the Style Guide aren’t reflected in the site unless you do that.

Useful as a reference, mayyyybe. I’ve worked on a Style Guide like this. It was slow to gain any use at all and was quick to be abandoned.

The Dictator

In this approach, the Style Guide is the law. Nothing goes into production that isn’t a part of the Style Guide. If something is needed on the site, it is integrated into the Style Guide then is available for use on the site.

Adoption of the Style Guide, of course, is high because it has to be. Everything is documented. Those are potentially good things. This is also potentially frustrating – the process can be slower, which is sad since speed is a big reason to use a Style Guide in the first place.

There is also a danger that you’re “designing a Style Guide”, not “designing a website”.

The Hippie Colony

Everything is connected, man. The Style Guide builds the website, but the website builds the Style Guide as well. It’s just one set of assets, packaged up in different ways. One way looks like a Style Guide, one way looks like a website.

This can be nice, as you could work on either one and have the changes reflected in both. The only potential danger here is that it might be too good to be true. Discussions might become disjointed. The Style Guide might not stay as updated as you might assume it would.

The Exhaust

In this model, you generally work on the site itself. The Style Guide is built from production assets. It essentially becomes part of testing. “Does the Style Guide still look correct and cohesive after these changes?” The potential danger of this method is that people stop caring about the guide because of its placement at the end of the process.

The CodePen Style Guide is a bit like this, but I’m hoping to make it more hippie-like.

The Answer

Never is one, I’m afraid.

For a bunch more information, check out StyleGuides.io and Brad Frost and Anna Debenham’s podcast.


Where Style Guides Fit Into Process is a post from CSS-Tricks

CSS-Tricks

I don’t like our company’s process. How do I tell my boss?

A reader wrote in explaining their problem with the process at work. I’m posting the question and my response here, with permission.

I work for an online marketing company.

My boss (the founder) has a 4-week process for the sites we build:

Week 1) Collect information
Week 2) Build site
Week 3) Get feedback
Week 4) Launch

We use WordPress. He’s big on using themes we get from ThemeForest. He thinks that makes the process go faster. He’s pretty out of the loop. He has no idea how good websites are built. I’m the only one here who has more than a surface understanding of HTML, CSS, JS, and PHP. The other day he started an “Employee/Employer Relationship Evaluation”. He wants me to respond to him about my issues with the timeline, which I’ve voiced many times.

How can I respond to him?

He wants us to make sites in 4 weeks because it makes him money quickly. But it’s a drag to deal with in the long run. Do you have any statistics on how long people usually take to build sites, or how much productivity is lost when developers bite their nails all day long?

Hello ◼◼◼◼◼◼,

Let’s start with some stuff that I’m betting you don’t want to hear.

Your boss has started a company and, it sounds like, has run it at least somewhat successfully for years. He has employees, after all. He’s aware of your gripes with the process, and he specifically wants your feedback.

Kinda sounds like… a good boss.

It sounds like your gripe is that the process is too fast and produces poor websites. I can guess you’re not particularly happy with the work.

Something is at-odds here. We have a couple of missing details. Specifically:

  1. How’s the business doing?
  2. How happy are the clients?

If the answers are “Good” and “Very” – I’m afraid you’re the odd man out here. There is nothing inherently wrong about producing a website quickly for a client. If the business is doing well and the clients are happy, I don’t see a big need for change. It doesn’t mean the job is perfect for you, but you gotta admit if it works it works.

If the answers are anything else, it sounds like you could be just the remedy they need. Onto a more positive note!

Say the clients are happy but the business is struggling. Maybe the answer could be charging more money. A longer, more involved process, producing more custom, better websites. Maybe you could guide them there.

Say business is good the but the clients aren’t happy. Clients will become happy if the website you deliver delivers for them. Maybe a longer, more involved process, producing a more custom, better website will do that. Maybe you could guide them there.

If everything is bad… well, you can guess.

The really good news is that it sounds like you are very passionate about this stuff. Pumping out quick sites, as effective (or not) as it may be, doesn’t seem to be doing it for you. If this job doesn’t do it for you, that’s OK. Your passion will take you far. The market is pretty great for people with web skills.

A bit more on the pricing of websites.

Building websites as a business is a huge market. Here’s the kind of scope we’re dealing with:

  • Websites that cost millions of dollars and take years and hundreds of people to develop.
  • Websites that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars produced over months by a high profile agency.
  • Websites that cost tens of thousands of dollars produced by specialized industry-specific agencies.
  • Websites that cost a few thousand built by an agency with a 4-week process that delivers slightly customized WordPress themes.
  • Websites that cost a 12-pack and a couple of late nights with your buddy who builds them for a living.
  • Websites that build other websites for a low monthly fee.

There is lots of money at most of those slices of the market. It’s worth trying to get in on it. It’s absolutely doable. Here’s what you can’t do: serve all of them. You have to specialize. It’s too hard to operate when projects are unpredictable. Unpredictable timelines, unpredictable skillsets needs, unpredictable value, unpredictable billing periods. You make some of those things predictable, and you can operate a business.

This isn’t unique to the web at all. It’s probably more true in other businesses. Hamburger joints sell you hamburgers, not whatever meal you can dream up. Vinyl pressing shops have minimum and maximum runs. Print shops can do certain types of printing at certain scales and do certain bindery tasks. Chick-fil-a’s aren’t open on Sundays (wait, that one is just stupid).

You don’t like working at the burger shop, fine, go work at the four-star joint down the road. But they both deserve to exist.

As for what you tell your boss: honesty is the best policy. Do you have insight into the clients happiness with your work that he might not? Are you unhappy doing what you are doing? Do you have ideas that you think would be smart business moves? Any boss worth his salt wants to know stuff like that and will thank you for telling him.


I don’t like our company’s process. How do I tell my boss? is a post from CSS-Tricks

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