Instapaper Or Readability?

There’s no point writing something if it can’t be read by your potential customers.

Many websites fall short of the mark with readability.

I’m currently alternating between the Instapaper and Readability extensions in Chrome.

Why? Because I like large text when I’m reading longer articles or blog posts. I also like the minimalist interface.

But in 2012, should I really have to resort to a browser extension to make an article readable?

Of course not!

In the age of HTML5 & CSS3 it is completely ridiculous to make your content a minor part of your site’s presentation.

If you are writing a blog or producing regular online content, it should be really easy to read your content without squinting.

Maybe my eyesight is just rubbish, but having to use a browser extension to solve a failed user experience issue on almost all websites I visit regularly i.e. not in my Google Reader shows that a lot of UI designers need to go back to the drawing board.

Larger, clear fonts and clean navigation should be the standard for any website user interface.

Instapaper vs. Readability hopefully won’t be an issue in a few years. But for now it is a workable solution to paper over poor font size and layout choices that are almost de rigeur.

Diminishing Returns And User Experience

The primary goal for a website is to obtain a successful sale.

It’s not to highlight how inspired you were in choosing an expensive web design agency to implement the complex brand strategy dreamt up by an extortionately overpriced advertising agency.

Every little gadget and obstruction between the landing page and the “place your order” button is another spanner in the works that can stop a potential sale dead in its tracks.

For some industries, showing off product capabilities with videos and diagrams is essential as part of the educational selling process.

3 Things No Potential Customer Should Experience

  1. A pop-up form asking them for email details before they’ve had a chance to see what you’re all about.
  2. Auto-playing music or video that invades a potential customer’s eardrums and concentration on matching their problem with your solution.
  3. A complex user interface they haven’t used before that they need to jump through in order to place an order or make a sales enquiry.

Diminishing returns is a concept from economics – the more workers you put on the factory floor, the more you produce up until the point where they start tripping over each other and your productivity declines.

Diminishing returns applies to user experience – the more features you have on your website will improve conversion rates up until the point that you are actually reducing your conversion rate and putting your entire web marketing strategy at risk.

Less really is more. Reduce the friction in the sales process by making it as easy as possible to get from the landing page to the successful sale.

How A Central Organisation Wiki Reduces Risk

Every organisation has institutional knowledge that is probably written down somewhere, in some database, exactly where the team member who needs it to complete her task can’t find it when she needs it.

And the same team member probably finds herself performing tasks repeatedly that would be made much easier if all of the information she needed was in one place.

A central organisation wiki is storage place for all of the relevant information that your entire organisation needs to do its job properly. It can encourage team collaboration, make hiring temps easier, reduce the risk of losing institutional knowledge when a key team member leaves and above all provide a more efficient way to keep track of the organisation’s information.

Having an internal wiki reduces operational risk considerably. If you are using something like Atlassian Confluence you can set permissions so users can only access and contribute to things they need to. You can therefore prevent people stumbling across sensitive Word documents or Excel spreadsheets when trawling through files accessible to all team members.

Having a central repository for all of your organisation’s information makes it far easier to conduct induction training for new team members, keep everyone on the same page and reduce the risk of information silos being formed between team members or different teams.

In this day and age, not taking advantage of tools like a central organisation wiki is risky business. If you’re running a support system and find yourself opening up Word documents when there could simply be a Wiki page with the same information, you are costing your organisation a lot of unnecessary time and money.

Atlassian BitBucket vs GitHub

Australian firm Atlassian are best known for their suite of productivity enhancing software like JIRA for issue tracking and Confluence for making team collaboration far easier.

But when it comes to real world utility, BitBucket is Atlassian’s answer to GitHub.

Git makes it easy to track versions, collaborate with team members and compare code revisions. But you need to pay to keep your repositories on GitHub private.

BitBucket offers up to 5 private repos and what I think is a nicer user interface.

While collaboration and open source is wonderful, in the real world there are some code repositories better kept private – like that killer app you’re working on.

Until I integrate one of my repos with JIRA & Confluence I’ll be using BitBucket instead of GitHub.

Why Words Are Important

USA Today was the first newspaper to have colour photos and a flash design. It was ahead of the curve, and its recent website redesign is busy but cool. It certainly stands out from its major competitors – the WSJ, the NYTimes, CNN & NBC News.

As I was exploring the redesigned site, I stumbled across a column from Michael Wolff called “What ad biz needs are writers”. In it, he explains how advertising has moved away from solid writing because of new technology. He shares stories of how advertising executives don’t write memos because they can’t write.

Almost all the intellectual capital of the advertising business is still vested in campaigns, most of them print campaigns, from the early ’60s through the mid-’80s: The Silver Cloud (Rolls-Royce); Think Small (Volkswagen); We Try Harder (Avis); You Don’t Have To be Jewish (Levi’s Rye Bread); The Ultimate Driving Machine (BMW); The Absolut Bottle (Absolut); Just Do it (Nike); Macintosh introduction (Apple).

These are all word ads. They tell a story; they make a case; they offer a big idea; they change the way we think. And often it takes quite a lot of words — text-heavy copy. The more you get someone to read (the job of the copywriter), the more the reader is engaged with what you are saying — and selling.

Steve Jobs Though Words Were Important

My favourite part of the column is where Steve Jobs understanding of how important good writing is:

The late Jay Chiat, then CEO of Apple’s agency, Chiat/Day, once told me that every time a new person was put on his account, Steve Jobs, who was as shaped by good advertising as he was by innovative technology, would say “but can he (or she) write?

Although advertising is currently obsessed with social media, video and “fluffy” branding exercises, good copy can create a connection between a customer’s problems and your company’s solution. Writing clearly requires thinking clearly about your product first. If you can’t explain why your product is best in a few sentences you need to go back to the drawing board.

Web Marketing Copy Should Be Clear and Concise

I think that copywriting is extremely important. If you simply copy and paste your print copy onto your website, you are just making it harder to connect with customers.

Copywriting for a website needs to revolve around your unique selling point and short, snappy descriptions that drive customers to more detail if they want to read it.

Putting up a link to a PDF brochure is not going to help you win business! Is it really that hard to break that PDF down into 5-10 brief slides that include links to more detail?

An easy way to stand out from your competition is to choose the words on your website carefully.

How Domino’s Pizza Could Improve User Experience

It is 2012 and making it hard to order your product is the last thing your business should be doing online. But Domino’s Pizza has managed to produce a corporate website that fails to put the user experience first.

We went to the Domino’s Pizza site to order a pizza. I have FlashBlock installed so I didn’t see the order button. But after enabling Flash, is there really an improvement to my user experience?

No there isn’t! In fact by having the key feature of the site require Flash you almost lost a sale. My friend completed the order on his laptop because Flash crashed during the order process.

If you look at the source code you will see that they’ve pretty much imported the Australian template, including the meta tags.

This is terrible for search engine optimisation. If you are not thinking clearly about how search engines categorise your content, you are losing. Domino’s Pizza is essentially telling robots that Domino’s NZ delivers to Australian capital cities. Absolutely tragic in this day and age.

So how can Domino’s Pizza improve the user experience?

  1. Replace Flash with HTML5 & CSS3. In 2012, it is completely unnecessary to have an autoplaying video. It is rude and it is really bad when you have a deal offer obscuring the main reason people visit your site – to order a pizza. What is even worse is that the whole ordering process is in Flash. It is not 1999. Flash is not cool.
  2. Make ordering a pizza the focus of the site. There is so much clutter! Having the “order online” button to the right hand side and not the central focus of page is insanity. How about a search box for your local store and then “order your pizza now” in a CSS styled button instead of an ugly Flash siren?
  3. Build your website from the ground up. If you are working with a corporate identity, it doesn’t mean you have to import the template and all of its accompanying design and user experience errors. Domino’s Pizza could start from a blank slate like it has with its apps for phones and build something that works.

My friends and I were shocked at how a major business in New Zealand could fail to create a positive user experience. One of the features of the Domino’s ordering process in Flash is a timer that shows how far along your pizza is in the process. It crashed in the middle of it!

Overall, Domino’s Pizza needs to seriously look at its website. A complete overhaul that shifts the focus from marketing to people who have already chosen Domino’s over Hell or Pizza Hut towards making ordering a pizza as simple as possible without the use of Flash would lead to increased order completion rates.

I would love to look at Domino’s analytics to see how many sales fail to complete because people get frustrated with their site. By the way I’d like to say to Lance Wiggs that I’m kind of borrowing your “red text on screenshot” annotation strategy. I hope you don’t mind.