Error Encountered!

My long-suffering partner finally gave up on her old mobile phone last week (or rather the screen gave up on her, after a couple of years of fairly heavy abuse) and she got a shiny new iPhone.  

Since then, she’s spent several days berating the mobile banking app she was trying to set back up, as it resolutely refused to accept her passcode.

Over four days she has at least 20 attempts at putting the right passcode into the app, only to be told each time that the code “needed to be between 5 & 8 characters and a mixture of letters and numbers”.

This infuriated her.

She knows what her passcode is – it’s a 6 digit number, and yet, despite this seeming to fit the error description, it wasn’t being accepted. 

She tried old passcodes, other banking PINs and passwords, all to no avail: the app wouldn’t let her proceed. 

Last night, we were sitting in front of the telly (for the first time in about two weeks I might add) and, after another rant about how poor her bank is and several interesting suggestions about where they might put their app, I suggested she give setting it up another crack.

She put in all sorts of PINs and passwords and personal information as prompted and then got to a screen where she had to enter her debit card details and the dreaded passcode. 

Again, the same error message appeared. At this point I, as a (slightly smug) independent observer, was able to quietly point out that the app was actually asking for her POSTcode. 

The point of this post isn’t to make fun of my better half, to make her sound dumb (she’s far from it!), or even to demonstrate my problem solving skills, but to show that people aren’t very good at paying attention. 

Despite knowing there was a problem, reading the error message several times, and desperately trying to work out what was wrong, my partner decided that it must be the app that was at fault, blamed the company and abandoned the process. 

Look at your analytics and see how many users drop off at key steps and do the maths on that lost value.

What else could you do in the next day that would earn you as much money as spending some time making your process steps easier to follow and your error messages clearer?

What colour should my buttons be?

I’ve made passing reference in a couple of previous blog posts about the colour of call to action buttons on pages.

These buttons are a topic that many in the world of websites seem to obsess over. What size should they be, what shape should they be and, most importantly, what colour should they be?

The best colour for a call to action button is a topic has been obsessed over by conversion optimisation specialists across the world in what probably amount to thousands of blog posts.

Red is a bold colour, it stands out on the page and is associated with value (think of all those “Sale” signs in shop windows). Green on the other hand is calmer, less scary and encourages us to “go” (think traffic lights). Unbounce (undoubtedly a company with some expertise in conversion rates) came out and declared the future was a Big Orange Button (BOB).

As you might expect, there’s been a whole host of user testing experiments carried out and published as case studies to support a particular view point. For example, CareLogger tested green vs red buttons on their site:

The result? 34% more people clicked on the red button than when it was green. A clear winner, right?

Well, maybe not. The trouble is that (like anything) it isn’t all that simple…Buttons on a website don’t exist in isolation, they are part of the wider page and need to therefore be sensitive to their context.

Sure red is a strong standout colour but, if the predominant colour scheme of the site is red, then it doesn’t stand out at all.

What’s more important is visual hierarchy: what elements stands out the most on the page?

If your button blends in with the rest of the site, then (whatever colour it is) it isn’t going to perform as well as a button that is more impactful.

Just to revisit that case study from earlier, take a look at the CareLogger page where those buttons were placed: The predominant colour scheme is green. In that instance, of course a red button performed more strongly – it differentiated the call to action from the rest of the page. It could be argued that another colour (perhaps orange, but even purple!) could perform even stronger.

So how to make sure your buttons perform best?

An effective button needs to be bold, stand out, catch your eye and encourage you to click. To that end you should:

  1. Make sure your buttons contrast with the rest of the page
  2. Use text that encourages users to click: communicate the value of what will happen. Not ‘Click Here’ but ‘Get your free report now’
  3. Ignore what works for other people: test the impact of different colours and text and see what works for you

Have you tested different button colours? Let us know what you found below.

Why you need to test your website

Sometimes the websites we create don’t work in the way we hoped.

Sure they might look great, but that’s only one job of a website. The other is to perform – to drive the people that visit your site to find out more about your company and buy from you.

And if they don’t do that, we’ve all got a problem: You’ve invested money in a website and want to see a return on your investment – and equally we want you, as our customer, to be happy.

That’s why we believe that testing your website is so important.

Humans aren’t good at spotting problems

Ever written a document or letter, proof-read it carefully and then sent it, only for someone to immediately point out a spelling mistake?

We’re not all that great at critically evaluating our results – and we often interpret feedback we get to reinforce our perspectives. Our Cognitive Bias leads us to think we know how user feels and acts, and what they want to see – which can hide big problems with the way a website actually performs.

Parts of your website that you see as obvious and straightforward, might actually stump a ‘real’ user.

We try really hard to get it right

When we create website for we use lots of techniques to maximise their chances of working effectively:

  • Design Patterns – This is the technical term for ‘the established way of doing a specific thing’. A great example is the three lines on a mobile website that signify where the main menu can be found.
  • Best Practice – This doesn’t necessarily mean what everyone else is doing, but rather what’s been demonstrated to work effectively at engaging visitors and driving them to action.
  • Experience – The team have been working in the Internet industry for close to 20 years. In that time, we’ve built LOTS of websites and seen how visitors use them. That helps us make better decisions
  • Data – We’re massive fans of data and use it wherever possible to understand how customers are currently using a website, and where there might be problems.

Despite all of this though, we know websites we produce won’t be perfect.

We’re not clairvoyant. We can’t predict exactly how users will use a website – the only real way of telling is to wait and see.

And that’s why, when your website goes Iive, you need to test.

It’s all about the conversion

Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that go on to complete your website’s intended objective – whether that’s sign up for a newsletter, buy a t-shirt, or fill in a contact form.

If your website’s not converting then, despite anything else, it’s not working.

Measuring your conversion rate – and improving it – is key to increasing your profitability – in particular as small changes in your conversion rate can have a massive effect on your profits.

But improving your conversion rate is often quite simple – you just need time and to follow a clear process.

What you need

Data, data, data

Most important is to understand what’s going on with your website – and why.

The first step toward this is to install Google Analytics. We’re big fans of GA (though there are plenty of other capable analytics packages out there you can use if you’d rather), mainly because it’s very capable, integrates with a whole range of other software and, most importantly, is free!

Once installed, make sure it’s configured correctly to accurately measure visitors and set up goals to measure the rate at which they covert to conversions.

The downside of analytics though is that it only tells you how many users do what you want them to do – and you need to find out why.

We suggest using click tracking and user tracking tools to show you how users are actually using your site and give you some clues as to why. Hotjar, Crazy Egg and Mouseflow all work well.

You can then supplement these with user surveys and one-on-one testing to find out what’s causing your customers to do what they do.

A flexible website

If you’re going to be able to make your website work, you need to be able to change it.

You could just change the website code to make the site look the way you want but, unless you’re a developer, this can be expensive. The best solution is a content management system that allows you to quickly make changes without needing any coding skills.

We’re big fans of WordPress because it allows you to easily make changes and is massively flexible, but there are plenty of other content management systems out there you can use.

There are also a whole range of website builders out there, like ShopifyWix or Squarespace, that allow you to create and change a website without having to know code* .

Whatever you choose, make sure your website theme is flexible. Many ‘off the shelf’ themes have a really tight structure that constrain the layouts and styles you can use.

Even better, use a theme that’s custom built for you and has the future flexibility you need built in.

Just enough traffic

The only way that you can truly test a website’s performance is by seeing how people use it, and for that you need visitors.

Not loads, but enough. Reliable patterns of behaviour can only be seen once sufficient numbers of visitors have used the site – until then, the one or two user who behave abnormally can effect the results. There’s a measure called statistical significance that tells you that your results are reliable. The exact number of visitors you need for statistical significance to be achieved depends on the circumstances, but it typically requires you need several hundred users before a clear pattern emerges.

It normally takes a bit of time before search engines properly spider your site and start sending traffic, but you can easily use social media or even paid advertising to send small amounts of traffic that mean you can start to spot problems

How to fix it.

1. Watch where users struggle

Use analytics to see where people drop out of your website – in particular look out for key points where you want them to act, like checkouts and contact forms.

2. Ask them why

Use click tracking and survey tools to engage with users and see what’s making them leave. Are they encountering system problems? Do they need more information? Perhaps they just can’t see what to do next.

3. Make changes

Use the insights from customers to adjust the site to fix whatever the problems are.

4. Rinse and repeat

Keep watching your analytics, and see if your changes have made a (hopefully positive) difference. Most importantly, keep experimenting!

Crank up the volume

Once you know your website’s really working, then you can put all your efforts into pushing traffic toward it, confident that for every visitor you get, you’ll know how many customers you’ll get out of the other end!

*That said, the learning curve can be pretty steep for some of the website builders and is likely to take a few days of time working out how to make it do exactly what you need it to.