Your Secret Online Marketing Tool: Website Feedback

Kim Krause Berg  

This article originally appeared in the magazine, Search Marketing Standard, November 21, 2013

 

Editor’s Note – Usability plays   huge part in the success of your website, but it’s often given way too little attention in the rush to get a  website live. A  webmaster may think that if  a user is really interested in the product or service, they will struggle through whatever usability challenges are in their way in order to make their purchase. Alas, that is far from reality. Even small barriers in the way of   stress-free purchase can cause a  potential buyer to abandon the site and look for another business from which to buy. Furthermore, that tipping point of abandonment can occur at any point along the path and involve any part of the process, from finding out initial information all the way to final shopping cart details.

In this article, usability expert Kimberly Krause Berg tackles the issue of website feedback and the role it plays not just in usability but in helping ensure overall business success. She discusses ways in which you can get extra  mileage from feedback collected (or received directly) from your online customers, using that information to improve your site and boost your actual site content. Considering feedback from   collection of different viewpoints, Kimberly’s article provides specific tips for turning website feedback into promotional material and to enhance your site overall. This article appeared in an issue of Search Marketing Standard magazine and was previously only available to premium members. The advice it provides is as relevant today as the day it first appeared!

The complete article follows:

Your Secret Online Marketing Tool: Website Feedback by Kimberly Krause Berg

Here’s   small trick I use with online order forms that helps me to identify one of the problems   website may have.  When contacted through one, I never ask for   business address or phone number right away.  I don’t want to know what these are. As   website usability consultant, when I visit   client’s website for the first time, learning how to contact them is my first official task.  If I can’t locate this information, or it’s   pain in the neck to find, I’ve discovered their first customer service issue.

However, I would not recommend this tactic for your online business, especially if you are selling products.  Your responsibility is to gather accurate information for your transactions at first contact, so you can conduct business in an efficient, courteous manner. I, too, have times when I am more formal, depending on the project.

We all have   strong desire to conduct business or provide information in   positive, productive way. If we fail in this,  how do we know when we’ve failed?  Conversely, how do we know when we’ve succeeded? If we don’t make the effort to include   customer’s needs and desires in the interaction, and our competitors do, what message does this send? Inviting user feedback is essential.

Dear Google, Your Application is Groovy

Search marketers know that local search is new arena  for promoting online businesses.  One way to do this is by informing Google Maps that  business exists.  When Google has this information, with data  provided by the site owner or their Internet Marketing Consultant, it is more likely a  search for their product or service – in their town – will display their business.

When I decided to enter my business into the Google Maps application I found there were several steps to the application, with helpful user instructions to guide you.  When I reached the end, I had several options for how Google could verify that it was me submitting the data, rather than someone not associated with my business (or, heaven forbid, competitor). This extra effort towards accuracy signals   desire to be customer-service-oriented.

Since I believe in positive reinforcement, I wanted to send  a “high five” to Google because I had a good experience using their application. However, on the last screen, there was no place to offer feedback of any kind. I couldn’t rate it. I couldn’t recommend it to someone. I couldn’t send an email. I couldn’t answer a  one-question quick survey such as “Did you enjoy adding your business to Google Maps?” or “Did you have any problems entering your business and if so, please send us your experience.”

I know Google is user-centric. This is a missed opportunity for user feedback. It’s a missed opportunity to get a  pat on the back for a job well done. We all like to hear when we have done something a site visitor appreciates.

Feedback as User-Generated Content

Online customer feedback seems to be tucked away somewhere on the last page of   developer’s list of site requirements. Forcing visitors to navigate their way through   thick forest of page elements just to locate how to communicate with you creates frustration. Worse, it is a  lost opportunity to obtain user- generated content for your website.

User-generated content can be a  great marketing arm if you understand how to invite feedback and apply it.

I have a  book addiction, so to help support it, I buy from Amazon’s used book dealers who sell at discounted prices.  Shortly after a  book arrives, Amazon inevitably follows up with an email invitation to answer a quick survey about the service provided by their third-party vendor. The survey is simple, often only 1 or 2 easy questions focused on a rating scale, and in less than a  minute it is done.

The only reason I even bother to respond is I know Amazon issues very short and simple surveys. They have earned my trust because I know what to expect from them.

I purchase products from Amazon as well. I recently bought an herbal product through them that my doctor recommended after knee surgery.  Amazon responded with an email containing  a link to a  product survey that permits user feedback in an interesting way.

“We invite you to submit   review for the product you purchased or share an image that would benefit other customers. Your input will help customers choose the best products on Amazon.com.”

The survey is two questions long. The first asks if you are over 13. The second is   rating where you can assign 1 – 5 stars. Then there is a  place to enter a  title for your review, and   huge comment field in which to write your review. A   radio button allows you to submit a  video review if that is your preference.

Consumers can link to the product page in their review.  They can “tag” reviews with keywords or a  category label for the Amazon search engine. Accepted reviews appear on the site in 48 hours.

By getting customers involved, a  website opens the door to user-generated content (USG). This is also another outlet for creative online marketers looking to place content and promote products.

Reach Out in the Darkness

By appealing to feelings and emotions, you will increase   customer’s desire to contact you. One sure-fire way of grabbing their heart is to suggest you will take something away that they care about. For example, you can ask for feedback by presenting questions such as Should we remove [insert beloved gadget or site pleaser here]?Another popular approach is asking readers if they mind if you include a  few ads.

The point is that you need not be afraid to take the initiative. Let your visitors know what you may be considering and offer them   chance to respond. If you strike   nerve, their feedback may be unwelcome if it spreads vi  their blog entry, but if you’re lucky, they’ll send praise. Take into consideration whether you want feedback to be public or private but realize that sometimes you won’t have a   choice.

In the early stages of Danny Sullivan’s new Sphinn site for search marketers, I blogged about the lack of a  place to post usability topics. My blog post caught the attention of Sullivan and his loyal band of developers. He responded in my blog, and our dialog became a news story. In the end, Sphinn added a  usability category because the resulting user feedback justified the inclusion.

It didn’t stop there. Sphinn readers are encouraged to ask questions, submit ideas for new features, and propose solutions to known problems in the forum-like space. Danny or his staff responds publicly.

By enabling most user feedback to be out in front, they are creating content. Behind this content is an enormous message from Third Door Media  that customer service is  a top priority.

Free Candy for Your Feedback

A food shopping chain in my area  places the customer service desk directly on the opposite side of the cash registers, where cashiers get fast help. I once had   vegetable my cashier could not identify, so he just yelled across to the customer service desk for help to verify what I told him it was. It used to be that retail stores stuck customer service in the farthest corner away from the action. Do you do this too?

You can turn feedback into a   promotion device or funnel it into site enhancements.

  1. Be there when they need you. Place the Contact Us page in your global navigation so link to it appears on every page. Increase the font size of your toll-free phone number.
  2. Provide feedback form but make it short. Be sure to indicate up front that your form is “quick.” Some visitors will balk at polls, surveys, or forms that require time investment. Make sure the drop-down menus have an “Other” category if appropriate. Don’t require registration first. Be very clear with visitors about what you intend to do with the feedback.
  3. Watch labels. Amazon calls their customer service page “Help”, but that word conjures up the image of FAQs page, not user feedback. If you provide form, say so by calling it “Feedback Form” or “Your Fast Feedback.”
  4. Don’t make anyone feel insignificant. Amazon has an option to sign in before offering feedback and in smaller text offers permission from non-members to contact them. However, another link for “Express”feedback is for members. Isn’t all feedback created equal? Get permission to use any user-generated content on your site.
  5. Invite product reviews, guest blog writers, paid product reviews, video, audio, snapshots. Turn your customers into your personal salesforce by establishing trust. Let them edit or remove reviews later. Link back and pass link juice.

Lastly, provide incentives such as coupons, free shipping, fee discounts, and free samples to those who were unhappy with a  product. Many companies truly loathe dissatisfied customers and will bend over backwards to please them. Show you want their feedback by encouraging creative opportunities for them to do so.

You may be amazed at how many times   single comment from   user will point to   problem or confusion that you would never have noticed otherwise. Sometimes it is difficult to take that step back and look at your content and website as it appears to someone who does not have the knowledge of, and experience with, your product or service. It’s worth taking the time to offer the opportunity for customers to rank or rave – your website will thank you for it.

Be the Dark Beer Website

Be the Dark Beer Website

Kim Krause Berg  

It’s Friday night in a small town somewhere on earth. A website walks into a crowded pub, strolls over to the bar, orders a glass of water and doesn’t say hello to anyone. Another website, sitting two stools down, takes one last gulp of its dark beer, shares one last laugh with the dude sitting to his left and leaves his business card on the bar.

Which website is going to complete its first conversion? Which website will leave an instant impression? Which website has a business plan? Of these websites, which brand will be remembered?

Maybe the first website was at the wrong venue. Perhaps a yoga retreat was a better fit. If I was to guess, Website with Water didn’t think it had to talk to anyone because its digital marketing company pays for links management and keyword rank in search engines. It was assured revenue, so it can sip water, or herbal tea and just wait for the money to come pouring in.

Website with Dark Beer has been around and knows that if it wants to survive year after year, there can be no missed opportunities. Not only that, every tweak of a search algorithm, operating system or design practice can mean a sudden, severe dip in traffic, conversions and rank.

The beer drinking website knows how to meet the needs of its tribe because it knows them well. Even better, it knows exactly who that tribe is, what it desires, what it buys and values and how to make every tribe member happy.  It invests a great deal of time and money addressing customer experience concerns.

If this website is not how your website handles life on the web, we need to talk.

The Days of Cheap Websites Are Over

Is your website struggling, despite your online marketing efforts? Have you noticed people are not staying on your web pages long enough to do what you want to do?

It’s easy to blame the link builders, content writers, keyword research and analysis and finally, the design of the website itself for its failure to thrive on the Web.

Next, you blamed search engine algorithms, spam comments, trolls, negative customer stories and the so-called “black hat” strategies performed by your competitors.

Website owners will look for any reason to avoid facing the truth.  They hired the wrong people. They didn’t ask the correct questions. They had hoped that a cheaper solution would save them gobs of money and be easy to implement. A web site’s failure to thrive is the direct result of poor planning. It’s what happens when corners are cut and someone listened to a song and dance about programs with cheap, unskilled labor for hire.

A holistically built website is expensive.

If Your Business Success Depends on the Internet

Websites and web apps are woven into our daily lives. Like our pets, our web sites, apps, emails and social media sites go with us to get ice cream in the pickup truck, sleep next to us on the pillow, make noises when activated with voice commands and need a doctor when they get sick.

Your web site customers respond to websites the same way we respond to pets and people the first time we meet them.  This is the most basic truth about website ownership that nearly every website owner fails to understand or prepare for.

The language, essence, message and intent of a website has to be understood by everyone and when it’s not, the experiences for you and your site visitors suffers.

Every breed of dog or cat is different. Every target market is different. If you ask people what they believe the most common traits are for golden retrievers are, you will get responses from people who have had one and from those who never have. This is what companies do too. They don’t know who their target market is but make guesses and assumptions anyway.

Every user is unique. If you don’t respect this core truth, you will not get them to do that thing you want them to do. Sure, you can create batches of designs for segments of your target users that you choose to pay the most devotion to. This is what most companies do. They are particular. They are not afraid to exclude people. Or worse, they don’t know they are excluding anyone.

Your visitors react to your online information with human senses few designers and developers stop to consider. They haven’t been taught to design for much beyond text and images backed by source code that needs to work on servers and browsers. Website visitors arrive with user experience baggage. They arrive after years or a few minutes of browsing, feeling frustrated and impatient and now your site is fighting them tooth and nail too with that big form draped over your content begging them to give you something before they know you. This tactic is obnoxious. But marketers swear by it.

Not the dark beer website.

Dark Beer Website listens to people. It observes behaviors. Collects data. It tests. And it tests again. And it hires people who know when it’s time to test again, for what and why. It hires experienced staff with the proper training and skills. They have a business requirement that reads, “Design for humans with feelings.” They design for disabilities, emotional responses, character traits, people who want and people who can.  It’s willing to pay more for web builders with expertise because in the long run, the final result is that it looks and acts exquisitely dapper out in public because of that investment.

Dark Beer Website will not make assumptions. If it sells a product for people, it knows that there is a target customer and a customer that just hasn’t had the pleasure of shaking hands with them yet.  Avoid assumptions. Change your perceptions of people. Think outside the box. Create experiences people will remember. Reduce clutter. Say hello to everyone. They may be your next customer, subscriber, fan, friend or referral.

Be the dark beer website.

 

 

 

Accessibility and Inclusive User Experience

Kim Krause Berg  

There is growing interest in web accessibility around the world, with more companies seeking to make their web properties inclusive and user friendly for all people.

Perhaps it’s to increase conversions, or create an ethical brand, but whatever the driving force behind the increase in accessibility testing and need for specialists, in the United States, there remains resistance. With the pending vote by the US Senate on H.R. 620, the amendment to the ADA passed by the House to change accessibility laws, I’ve been asked repeatedly whether a website should be accessible.

Nearly every website usability audit or web design client I speak with places accessibility at the bottom of the pile of things to plan for. Educating them is part of every discussion. Like SEO, there is no shortage of myths. For example, many people believe that accessibility means making a websites and applications work for blind people. Accessibility is design for inclusion, so that all people, regardless of any physical, emotional, or mental limitation, can use a web-based app or website.

Accessibility may be legally required for some types of websites such as for the government, but that does not mean government websites meet Section 508 standards. In fact, many aren’t user friendly because they’re not maintained to keep up with the latest standards. Accessibility compliance is handled differently by country, computer device and operating system.

If you own a website that targets a global market, you need to know what types of devices your users depend on the most, and you need to know what laws and guidelines are specific to countries and cultures. Not knowing can mean lost conversions or reflect negatively on your brand.

In the United States, an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities act is under debate in the Senate. More and more people are learning about H.R. 620, which passed the House in February, and are speaking out against it.  Spurred by the increase in civil complaints from people who couldn’t use a website or application, the amendment essentially provides a business time to implement changes to enable access for handicapped people after they receive a letter describing the issue. This means that no business must provide access to disabled people – they can claim they didn’t know they had to or didn’t know there was a problem.

H.R. 620 allows time for businesses to act within a confusing time-frame formula that can even allow for unlimited time if they make a small effort. Meanwhile, the disabled person is not helped and has no legal recourse but to wait or take their business elsewhere. The amendment also plans on spending millions in accessibility training, although the specifics of this are not detailed and it ignores the fact that on a state level, local code enforcement already has accessibility laws for businesses.  The amendment ignores websites completely.

What does this mean for websites?  Do they follow the same rules as physical businesses? They aren’t legally required to. Website and software accessibility has always been provided because it is part of usability and user experience; not to mention meeting conversions expectations. Even .gov and .edu web properties that follow Section 508 standards do so because they are public facing and desire to accommodate everyone.

Accessibility includes everyone.

WCAG Guidelines Are Not New

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were introduced in 1999 as WCAG 1.0. Since the early days of the web, accessibility has been recommended. Back then there were 14 guidelines. WCAG2.0 was released in 2008. This is when the 4 principles were created, and along with them, 12 guidelines and 61 success criteria. There were 3 levels of implementation, A, AA and AAA. Most companies try to meet AA success criteria.

This coming June of 2018, WGAG2.1, now in draft mode, will be released. It contains new criteria for mobile accessibility, touch screens, and text to voice. It also addresses cognition and low vision. As the technology changes, with new computer devices and changes to operating systems evolve, accessibility guidelines adapt.

If you develop an app for mobile devices that you wish everyone to be able to use, you will need to know how to make it accessible. Apple and Android operating systems treat accessibility differently. If you have a website with buttons, how those buttons function, appear and respond is included in WCAG2.1.  You are likely already familiar with tap points. The criteria for them appears to be changing too.

Keeping up with accessibility is a specialty. It is no different than keeping up with all the changes Google makes. This could be why accessibility is pushed to the back of the room. You not only must know what to do, but how to do it. With accessibility, while there are tools for testing, not all of it can be automated or emulated. This is the same situation as mobile design testing, where emulation helps to provide the overview but manual testing with screen shots and recordings are the proper testing method. Accessibility testing companies test with disabled persons, blind users, and other manual testing methodologies to truly understand the user experience.

Do You Need Accessibility for Your Website?

I can throw out statistics to impress you, but the reality is that you know someone who fits the criteria for accessibility. We all know people with low vision, who wear reading glasses or eye glasses or are sensitive to light or are color blind. We all know someone who is older, and their memory is starting to fail. Perhaps you know someone who suffered a broken hand, arm or wrist or has another temporary injury to their hands, making using a mouse or keyboard difficult.

If you know someone who is dyslexic, autistic, has Parkinson’s or MS or arthritis, would you purposely want to prevent them from using your website or app?  Do you know anyone who is easily distracted? How about emotionally upset, or had a few too many drinks or is trying to fill out a form under stress or place a call in an urgent situation with some form of physical limitation?

All these people and more may be your target users. Regardless of whether any country makes it a legal requirement to meet accessibility standards, it is a socially responsible, ethical practice.

Here are some resources:

Accessibility Testing

Tenon  https://tenon.io/

WAVE http://wave.webaim.org/

Funkify Simulator – http://www.funkify.org/

AXE – https://www.deque.com/axe/

Developer Tools in Chrome – has audits, axe, other, mobile emulator

FAE https://fae.disability.illinois.edu/

Color Contrast Tool – https://www.joedolson.com/tools/color-contrast.php

Readability – https://readable.io/

Accessibility, Usability Sites and People

https://section508.gov/

https://www.usds.gov/

Google Accessibility https://www.google.com/accessibility/index.html

Derek Featherstone http://simplyaccessible.com/article/author/feather/

Joe Dolson https://www.joedolson.com/

Glenda Sims – http://www.deque.com/blog/author/gsims/

Karl Groves – http://www.karlgroves.com/

Ability Net – https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/

Shaun Anderson – https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/design-website-for-blind/

Mobile Accessibility – https://www.w3.org/TR/mobile-accessibility-mapping/

Mobile Color Contrast – https://www.deque.com/blog/accessibility-mobile-web-improving-color-contrast/

Introduction to Understanding WCAG 2.0 – https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/intro.html

This Is The Website That Never Ends

This Is The Website That Never Ends

Kim Krause Berg  

There is a children’s song called This Is The Song That Never Ends, and it doesn’t. You can sing it for as long as you wish to, long past the point where you even know why are still singing it. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

Amazon is like that song. In fact, it’s the Crown of the web kingdom.  Once we started using it, we couldn’t stop. Web designers, intrigued by this phenomena, tried to copy the user interface, hoping that they too could create a website to mesmerize their users.

“This is the song that never ends
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
But people kept singing it just because”

I watched puppeteer, Shari Lewis, with my children because I loved Lamb Chop’s Sing-Along, Play-Along show on PBS. She and her puppet, Lamb Chop, would close the show with the song that never ends. Another puppet, Charlie Horse, would return when the kids stopped singing the song and attempt to sing the song again and each time he tried Shari would put her hand over his mouth and order him to “go away”. Charlie Horse would leave, slamming the door in protest.

Singing the song was an extraordinary way to teach children lessons on how to make a decision. In a group setting, they might wait until someone else makes the choice to stop singing the song that never ends and then decide to stop when that someone decided. Maybe a child would figure out that they could be the leader, and they decide for the group. Others respond by giggling and daring each other to keep singing no matter what or be the person who ends the game. The person who stops the fun is at risk of being labeled mean. Or, they are the smart one. Perhaps there is another song that would be fun to sing too, or a new game. There is a Charlie Horse in each of us too. When we can’t have something we want, we protest.

Lamp Chop and Charlie Horse are what we call “mental models”.  Shari knew her target audience. As website designers, it’s your job to know your users. The more you know about their behavior, the more accurately you can design a website they never want to leave.

Build It For Those Who Want to Come

In the 90’s we would say, “build it and they will come”, and we got away with that because in those days if you put up a website and were the first person or only company to produce one, everyone came to see it. They used it because there was no competitor. That didn’t last long. But that mind set remains.  If your job is to sell web design services, you know that the prevailing argument against your proposal is how it could possibly cost that much to just put up a website.

I recently experienced this at a meeting where I was challenged by someone younger who seemed to think he knew more than I did about web design. I was grilled for two hours and at the end of the meeting, I not only had the project, I also earned the respect of each stakeholder. I knew how to build for their target market. I understood the technology they needed to bring their 8-year-old HTML site up to today’s standards for all computer devices and browsers. They needed to meet accessibility standards and were thrilled that I knew how to do that.  Despite my success, I know that educating them on the responsibilities of website ownership is going to be met with confusion.

The way websites work is that you want the song to never end.

Using Amazon’s website again as one example, they never cease testing. They need to know how to satisfy their users and more importantly, how to persuade disgruntled customers to keep coming back. In a Pinky and the Brain (TV cartoon) kind of way, they got so good at this that the company is taking over the world. Google did the same thing. To the general public, Google is the only possible way to find answers to questions. It matters less that their privacy is invaded by Google products and the ongoing assimilation of software that makes it next to impossible to ever leave because we grew dependent on it.

There are other search engines available that are free, don’t track your every click and deliver good results. There are countless websites that sell the same products that Amazon does and apps to inform us who has the better deal. In other words, we always have a choice. We can make decisions. We can leave the pack.  What did these companies do to make us stay anyway?

Facebook is a website property where the never-ending-user is easy for us to see. It’s been around for years and years and become part our daily lives. It is a massive ongoing study in human computer behavior that looks at social relationships, ethics, culture, habits, desire, and information sharing.  Even when Facebook is caught with its pants down for privacy hacking or fake news, it prevails.  It is the daily routine that never ends. Unless, of course, someone chooses to stop using it.

Whenever someone announces they are leaving Facebook, sometimes the comments are similar to Charlie Horse’s refusal to accept that choice. The decision to leave or be on a website less often is everyone’s right and yet there may be anger, push back, and confusion. Member abandonment behavior is studied by Facebook  for the same reasons that Google and Amazon analyze what we do on their website properties.  Because they need advertising revenue, they need us to never leave. To keep us singing their song, they have to find ways to make us happy and hold our interest.

Trust Matters

Facebook learned the hard way that trust matters. Even so, millions of people stick around even when their personal information is handed out like M&M candy to any company with their hand held out. We have no idea how to stop using websites we grew fond of. From a business requirements perspective, this is the sweet spot. This is what all the talk about website conversions is about.

Getting into the brains of your target market takes time, but you can start with creating trust right from the start.

Sure, there are privacy policies, terms, GDPR statements and accessibility statements to include. But there is so much more. There are gobs and gobs of details that you can add to your website to establish that you, or your company, are trustworthy, authentic and credible. Integrity is another area that is overlooked by companies with websites. Who do you serve? Who do you not serve?  Is this clear to site visitors?

table with flowers
Who do you serve? Who do you not serve?

Every website should be designed as though each visitor is a guest. This is no easy achievement but it’s not impossible. It requires constant attention to the website’s performance, analyzing traffic and search data, regular functional and user testing, professional site audits to flush out issues, and studying how people are interacting with your site, company, products and services. A testimonial, rating, comments, and product feedback are truly helpful for the ego and promotion, but the measure of success is hooking your site visitors and having that ongoing relationship that “goes on and on, my friend”.

Some people started using it
Not knowing what it was
But people kept using it just because it invited them to.