Make Your Higher Ed Website Modern, Personal, and Effective by Avoiding These 10 Costly Mistakes

In working with various higher education providers and legacy institutions, we have come to learn that websites have emerged as the leading tool in the admission and marketing toolkit to draw in prospective students especially qualified students who will also tend to retain better with positive academic and career outcomes. In that sense, the website is the first point in the virtuous circle of lead to advocacy.

 

Students are increasingly using the web to evaluate and choose a college. However, despite the critical role that websites play in their ability to drive choice, higher ed websites are notorious for being clunky, impersonal, and confusing. Part of the problem is higher ed websites tend have sprawling site architecture with thousands to sometimes millions of pages. Bringing order to the sheer size of the site can be daunting task, not to mention the multiple user behaviors and preferences that the site must cater to. The mistakes, however, are easy to spot. Here are ten most common mistakes that higher ed website redesign teams tend to make:

  1. Over focused on Admissions and Enrollment– Websites for higher education are increasingly driven by the enrollment team and are overly focused on their applications and enrollment goals. Prospects on the other hand are thinking beyond admissions into student life, co curricular and extra curricular opportunities to get a glimpse into student life. Websites are woefully lacking in delivering content and user experience that a prospect can use to imagine his/her life at the college.

 

Who Got it Right? Not all high-ed websites fall into the trap of admissions and enrollment goal overzealousness. The Johns Hopkins website does a commendable job of not only telling their ‘brand story’ but also highlight school philosophies reinforced through student profiles.

2. End game focus is here to stay– Only a handful of the 20,000 or more higher education websites really address the “What will be life like after I graduate” question.  Only a few provide program specific career links and current data from BLS and other projections. The alumni tab is not enough to provide students with a look at their future selves!

Who Got It Right? Stonybrook, North Central College and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts do a great job of highlighting Alumni profiles to prop up post-university opportunities.

3. Mind over heart – Webtage’s audit of over 100 websites showed a shocking lack of emotion and personal touch. How about a professor or a counselor making a personal connection through the site? Students want to study from and spend time with people not institutions!

  1. Who Got It Right? Bucknell, one of our favorites, got it right by putting faculty voices front and center on their home page.

George Washington University also offers a personalized experience through wide-shot and close-up videos and images of faculty and honorable guests.

4. Lack of simplicity/transparency – Many college websites bury answers to the top 5 questions relating to admissions, cost of attendance, outcomes, student life and graduating requirements in such a complex maze of content instead of tackling these in a transparent and straight forward manner.

Who Got It Right? Bucknell University made the cut again. We’re very impressed by Bucknell University’s navigational ease in providing sought-after information to audience segments.

5. Comprehensiveness over user experience: Website for a lot of colleges are over a 1000s of pages deep!! This is in total contrast to the twitter culture where consumers expect to find information/form an impression in as little time as possible. The worst sites are the legacy sites which have simply added on more content as needed sacrificing the user experience completely. It is risky to assume that “if they need it, they will find it” is a way to define user experience.

Who Got It Right? The University of Tennessee at Knoxville One Stop Student Services uses a simple layout and unadorned navigation to provide a wealth of information to students

 

6. Tradition versus dated : The age of the college doesn’t have to show on the website user experience! A 200 year old college does not have to offer a “dated” user experience to communicate the tradition and experience.

Who Got It Right? The 273 year old Princeton University has a website that is fresh, clean, and modern and still packs a punch by giving viewers a clear sense of their ethos, their commitment to keeping up with the times, and a ton of key information neatly organized.

7. Foggy pathways: For colleges that have programs that lead to licensure/certification –  it is a missed opportunity to not show the pathway to achieve that licensure.  Many progressive colleges are now including the steps to the licensure in their program/service so that they are a one stop shop.  Short of that, at least the websites can provide clear pathways and third party links that can bridge the knowledge from graduation to certification.

Who Got It Right? Harper College, in our neck of the woods, has created a simple and simple and easy to navigate career pathways landing page for its students. We love the interactivity it offers in contrast to the text-heavy career pathways page on most other higher ed sites.

 

 

8. No (N) traditional students: Almost all colleges want the non traditional students for their onsite or online campus but the websites are an extension of their lack of clarity on what these students want and their barriers/anxieties. Many websites just use diverse student images to satisfy themselves that their site addresses the non-traditional student but the reality is that these students have very distinct concerns and anxieties.

Who Got It Right? Rutgers has a spotlight on their active military/ veteran students as well as continuing education and online programs on their home page that allows for good targeting and intuitive self-segmentation for the non-traditional students attending a traditional university set-up.

University of Maryland at University Campus also does a great job with a landing page for military/veteran students with a lot of useful information organized neatly into a side navigation.

9. Underleveraged Assets: Any college or university has faculty or other assets that could be powerful in search engine optimization ( SEO) but because these are not tagged properly or recognized, they remain under-utilized.

 

 

10. Lack of enough program level differentiation: Most universities are beginning to answer the question “why them” and develop a somewhat distinct identity/voice. However at the program level, higher education is becoming increasingly commoditized. The website is a great place where using the Less is more principal- the program can be differentiated in how its CLO or PLO are defined or how the capstone project is to be completed. Typically, we work closely with the Dean or the Program Director to define the program level positioning.

Who Got It Right? Chamberlain College of Nursing has well activated its program positioning on its website through effective brand voice, content development around careers, spotlight on nurses and tips for students.

 

Redesigning a higher education website is a more than a technology migration or marketing communications initiative. It is truly about delivering a user experience that is relevant and compelling enough to drive choice and ease of use for all users.

 

Which higher education websites do you like and why? We’d love to hear!

[mk_circle_image src=”https://www.webtage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Webtage-2017.png” image_diameter=”150″]

We are an award-winning digital build and market firm that brings a research-based approach, technical sophistication, marketing ingenuity, and creative thinking to innovative web solutions that bring consistent returns on digital investments.

Our digital build & market experience spans multiple industries, but our strongest strengths are B2B/technology, higher education, healthcare, B2C, and professional services. Our clients achieve sustained visibility because we build online campaigns the solid way.

10 Tell-Tale Signs that Your Website Needs a Redesign

Website redesign is a great way to freshen up and start anew. But how do you know that it’s time for a website redesign? Recently, a senior executive of an IT services form told me that his company lost a couple of contracts because of the poor brand impression projected by their website. Time for a website redesign? Undoubtedly! However, there may be other, not such dire circumstances that may also warrant a site overhaul. Here is an infographic on top ten signs that warrant a website redesign:

 

Top 10 Signs that Warrant a Website Redesign – Webtage, Digital Build + Market, Chicago

5 Steps to a Successful Web Content Redesign

It’s good business practice for organizations to redesign website content at regular intervals to better reflect shifts in customers needs, changes in business direction, design sensibilities and SEO needs. Website content redesign requires a highly strategic approach that requires multiple levels of expertise, including business & brand strategy, search marketing, experience design, lead generation strategy, conversion rate optimization, copywriting and graphic design. So how should you go about redesigning website content and what are some of the pitfalls you must avoid?

Strategy Before Implementation – At Webtage, we work through the content redesign strategy backwards. We start with the pain point – what is the pain point that content redesign is attempting to redress? Use the following steps to correctly identify the pain points and develop a top-level content strategy.

  • A website redesign questionnaire is a great way to start the conversation with the stakeholders. We use this easy-to-use and comprehensive questionnaire to kickstart content redesign projects.
  • Second, do a competitive analysis to see what others in the industry are doing. SWOT analysis is a great way to get ideas and discover opportunities.
  • Next, do a top-level, page specific analysis. We like to use a spreadsheet to map out top-level current pages and include stakeholder information about them. This is not a full-fledged content inventory of the website, but rather a strategic overview of the site pages and an organized way to gather stakeholder inputs. At this stage include information about pages that will most efficiently help you define a content strategy.
  • Finally, with the information gathered from the above, list the primary KPI and secondary KPIs for the website as a whole, and individual pages as much as possible. For instance, if lead generation is a key objective, then website conversions & goal completion should be your primary KPI. 

Content Inventory – After having established clear KPIs based on a content strategic overview, move to a complete site content inventory audit. The content inventory should allow you to pull a sitemap of the site with self-populated content fields.  There are 2 types of content inventory audit that should be conducted:

  1. SEO inventory – You should crawl every indexed URL on the site to include fields such as SEO tags, internal link structure, backlinks, traffic, content uniqueness, page speed and more. The reason for detailed SEO indexing is that you should maintain all trust worthiness that is already built into your website. For instance, maintain URLs that have a built-in, rich link structure, recreate content to better target keyword and semantic search patterns, and maintain favorable SEO technical parameters. If URL structure cannot be maintained, have a strategy in place to assign a 301 redirect to every page that exists on the current site. Screaming Frog and Moz are great resources to for SEO content audit tools and best practices including strategies for very large site content audits, mobile site audits and more.

 

  1. Content inventory – Content inventory should include all forms of content that exists on the website, including html, pdfs, images, videos, and other rich media files. In addition to content that exists on website, gather all pieces of content that may exist on other digital channels and offline.

 

SiteMap creation – Now comes the interesting part. Once you have a clear site content inventory, create new sitemap aligned to strategic goals of the content redesign project and user needs. A good navigation strategy takes its cues from expected user navigation patterns and allows for intuitive, self-segmentation of users. When creating the sitemap, add not just the linked pages; add content sections (topics, rich media, lead generation calls-to-actions) as well. Pages and content sections together provide a comprehensive view of how new site. Finally, assign URL structure to pages at this stage. Make sure you retain URLs with significant link juice and assign 301 redirects to every existing URLs to not loose the trustworthiness built into the pages.

We use Slickplan for sitemap creation as it offers very useful features that come handy when seeking sign off from multiple stakeholders and team members. Features include addition of link structure, mockups and notes (URL structure & other relevant details) to pages, as well as collaborations with team members and client shares at the click of the mouse.

Now that you have the sitemap aligned to the primary & secondary KPIs, map each page to the content inventory and make a list of content pieces that need recreation or reworking per page.

 

High Fidelity Wireframe/Mockup CreationAfter creation of the sitemap, it’s time to put it all in a visual, hi-fidelity framework. This is where organization of content happens and the layout is finalized. Keep user experience at the top of your priorities when designing the layout.

There are many interactive design & prototyping tools that are very useful as they turn still wireframes and mockups into prototypes by bringing a level of interactivity. This is especially useful for clients and stakeholders as they can “interact” with the mockups to get a feel for the final site. UXPin, Sketch, InVision and proto.io are some great interactive design & prototyping tools available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copy Creation –  The final stage is the actual meat of the project and involves creation of copy well aligned to the KPIs, SEO needs and most importantly user needs. In addition to creating verbiage, here are some tips and tricks which will make the implementation of the content redesign smoother and faster:

    • Assign site-wide CSS formatting rules to each page. Add font rules (including for H1-H6, body copy, button CTA text , testimonials and other verbiage elements), add font colors, and css formatting for other design elements as required. Here is a snapshot of the font rules we have created for a site content redesign project that we are currently working on:
  •  
    • Create a PDF of the page mockup and add instructions, such as hyperlink URLs for internal and external links, IT functionalities (how a certain content block is expected to function) and any other special instructions that you would want a web developer to be aware of as they upload your content to the website.
  •  
    • Finally, create an art folder that includes all sized, high resolution rich-media files that the web developer can then easily add to the webpages.

 

Looking to redesign your website content? Contact us at Webtage where we are laser focused on creating the best digital experience to improve your top line. Our content development strategy is viewed critically with a UX, brand and SEO lens before implementation. Learn more about our content development & marketing philosophy.

Planning a Website Redesign? 48 Questions to Ask Before You Start

Rapid changes in online customer behavior, technological innovations, and search engine algorithm updates all have implications for your website, which must evolve to maintain its usefulness and visibility. However,  how do you plan for a website relaunch project? Website development, if not thought through well, can be fraught with misunderstandings, conflicts, and cost & time overruns.

The problem occurs because website design & development can mean different things to different people. Advance preparation can help both clients and vendors develop a common understanding of website launch objectives & constraints. It will also lower your risk for running into a time and cost overrun.

This questionnaire will help all parties involved understand your vision for the website and plan the overall effort required for a confusion- and conflict-free delivery.

Whether you are planning an extensive site relaunch or small updates to your website, take the time to answer the questions in the checklist and start off your website redesign project on the right foot.

    About the Author

    A believer in hype-free and performance driven digital strategies, Snigdha’s endeavor is to get your brand established and your business grow. She is passionate about research, design and analytics and works non-stop and meticulously to make sure that your brand stands out from the rest.

    Snigdha’s background is in research design, industry research, content creation, and qualitative and quantitative research (including web-based and phone survey methods and focus group discussions). She is a highly qualified professional in the areas of digital marketing strategy design, SEO, content creation, and social media marketing. Most recently she has grown a client’s online presence from zero to 25% online leads within 3-6 months; moved client website to the #1 & #2 spots on Google, Bing, and Yahoo for all major keywords; and generated online leads accounting for 25% – 30% of all leads for that client.

    Contact her at snigdha@webtage.com

    Mobile-First Indexing and Mobile Site Performance Optimization – A Checklist

    With the recent mobile-first index announcement by Google, mobile site optimization needs to be taken more seriously than ever before. As Google, rightly so, looks to mobile sites first for search engine indexing and ranking, mobile site SEO strategy, mobile content and user experience has become critical to digital visibility.

    Standard UX Enhancements:

    In order to bring visibility to your mobile site, first start with standard mobile UX enhancements such as:
     Improved site speed by reducing bandwidth – Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content, optimize images, leverage browser caching – for starters.

     Remove floating elements (which do not render well on mobile devices)!

     Adjust font size and accommodate the “fat finger”

     Use mobile-friendly navigation patterns (drop downs that appear on hover are a bad idea on mobile sites).

     Make menus short.

     Reduce number of hyperlink texts in the mobile site to prevent accidental clicks.

     Keep headlines and body copy short, effective and relevant.

     Eliminate flash that does not render on iPhones and is slow on Android.

     

    Conversion Optimization features:
     Map conversion paths for mobile devices and associated UI elements.

     Add geo-locators and contextual keyboards to provide a richer and more relevant individual experience.

     Add clickable phone numbers.

     Make Calls-to-Action Prominent by featuring it in the most prominent space on your mobile site.

     Be Available – Add Click-to-Call buttons for complex tasks.

     Keep forms simple and fields down to a bare minimum required.

     Reduce the number of task actions to a minimum – no more than 2 to 3 steps to get the user to convert.

     Add social proof.

     

    General SEO Elements (mostly applicable for parallel mobile sites, but some elements are relevant for responsive and dynamic serving sites as well):

     Define goals and success metrics before developing an SEO strategy.

     Research mobile use patterns and intent of users.

     Add geo-specific and mobile specific keywords to optimize your mobile site for location-based searches.

     Reduce dead ends.

     Use concise but useful page titles META descriptions to work with the small screen space limitations.

     Use mobile-friendly URLs.

     Use canonical tags to signal that your mobile and desktop are two versions of the same business.

     Finally, track mobile site analytics to track visits, bounce rates and conversions – If metrics fall short of goals, trouble-shoot possible mobile UX conversion roadblocks.

     

    New Mobile-First Indexing Optimization:

    Other than the basic, common-sense SEO strategies mentioned above, there are some specific SEO strategies that should be implemented to meet the requirements of mobile-first indexing, as the primary ranking signal will now come from your mobile site and not your desktop site:
     Ensure your structured data is set up on your mobile site.

     Make your mobile site content rich and SEO friendly. Many dynamic serving and mobile sites can suffer from too less content or content not optimized for search engines.

     Speed has become more important than ever, as slow-loading mobile sites are abandoned faster than ever, as our attention span has dipped below goldfish-span levels. Optimize images, leverage browser caching, and enable AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project) pages on your mobile site.
    o (NOTE – Even though these lightweight web pages are not likely to boost page rankings in any significant way in the near future, and Google has indicated that it will index desktop pages over AMP pages, if no alternative mobile site exists, at the very least AMP pages will improve user experience and reduce speed load significantly – both positive boosts for search engine rankings).

     Focus on local search has become more important than ever. 4 out or 5 searches on search engines are local searches. Ensure your mobile site is optimized for local search.

     Stop redirecting desktop pages with no mobile equivalent to the mobile home page. That will ensure that those desktop pages are not indexed as Google will first index mobile pages unless there are no mobile equivalent for desktop pages, in which case Google with index desktop pages.

    What has helped you achieve top visibility for your mobile website? Drop us a line at info@webtage.com or comment below to let us know!

    Considering a New Mobile Website? Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Start

    It’s official: Mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. The rapidly expanding mobile-first search world has led Google (with Bing not far behind) to tweak its algorithm to favor mobile optimized sites for search rankings – the so-called “Mobilegeddon.”  The message is clear: As users and search engines favor searches on-the-go, Google is committed to providing an optimal mobile experience and neglecting mobile could mean the inevitable – loss of search rankings and eventual loss of new business.

    As a savvy business owner you probably know that having a mobile website experience is important for search rankings. But it is important to carefully craft a mobile strategy that is performance-driven and responsive to your consumers’ on-the-go search behavior.  So how should you navigate the mobile-first world? Before you decide to take a first-step to establish your mobile presence or are interested in evaluating your mobile presence, here are some useful mobility guidelines:

    Mobile Configurations

    If you have explored mobility solutions, you have probably heard that there are three different configuration approaches to build a mobile presence:

    1. Responsive Design
    2. Dynamic Serving
    3. Separate URL

     Responsive Design has become the holy grail of mobile site development where content from the main website is resized and repositioned to best fit all screen and devices. Responsive Design, however, may not be the best option for you especially if you expect usage patterns and conversion paths to differ between your desktop and mobile users.

    Dynamic Serving allows you to serve different user experience on the same URL, based on the type of device that’s requesting the page, thus creating a mobile UX relevant to your on-the-go customers. Use the Vary: User Agent HTTP header for pages that serve dynamic content based on device or that redirect to device-specific URLs to signal to search engines that website content will change based on user agent (device) that requests it.

    Separate Mobile site is a great option to create a completely different mobile site and host it on different URL to deliver a highly specific mobile user experience and optimize for mobile search intent. The mobile URL can be a subdomain (m.domain.com), a subfolder (www.domain.com/mobile) or an entirely different domain (www.mobile.com).

    So which configuration is best for you?  (Click The Thumbnail Below to View Full Size)

    Best Mobile Configuration Method - A Flowchart
    Best Mobile Configuration Method – A Flowchart

     

    Task-Centric Site – Before you decide which approach is best for you, understand your target audience and their mobile behavior patterns. Consider tasks they are most likely to perform on your mobile website and design the site to ease smartphone task performance.

    Understanding their behavior will not only help you create relevant UX, design and content but will also affect the method you use to build a mobile site. If there are significantly different use patterns on a mobile and desktop site, consider a Dynamic Serving website that can render a completely different UX under the same URL. Having the same URL also means you save on SEO costs, although you can tailor the mobile page content for some mobile search intent. A separate mobile site will also work well to serve different use patterns of customers, but entails significantly more technical and marketing resources.

    Website content – Is your website content heavy? Will your customers be served well by serving the same content to mobile users or do you want to restructure your site architecture to break a long, single page content into several pages? If it’s the latter consider developing a separate mobile site. Alternatively, if you choose the responsive approach, analyze whether the bandwidth-heavy content can be turned off for responsive mobile sites.

    Technology – Mobile specific web pages provide the ability to integrate specific properties of mobile devices that can be used to improve user experience. For instance, the ability to tap in geo-location, cameras and phone can vastly improve user experience. Think Chase mobile site and app that facilitates online deposits by taking pictures of checks, or the ease with which Shutterstock’s customers can click and upload pictures to create personalized cards and stationary, or Google mobile site that uses geolocation to find the best Mexican restaurant near you, if that’s your search intent! Whichever method you use to create a mobile experience, make sure you use the best of mobile technology mapped out against your user needs.

    Search Intent – Are your mobile users looking you up with an intent to perform tasks that are different from your desktop visitors’ tasks? If yes, responsive design may not be the best option for you. While a Dynamic Serving site will allow you to optimize the on-page content and layout to target specific keywords, a separate mobile site is the best way to go to aggressively target search intent through building quality backlinks for mobile-specific search words.

    What Influences Your Website’s Search Visibility? An Infographic

    What Influences Your Website’s Search Visibility? An Infographic

    Starting April 21, Google will be expanding “mobile-friendliness” or optimal mobile experience as a search ranking factor.

    While it is important to stay on top of search algorithm changes, it is never a good idea to outsmart them! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should not be about tricking Google with keyword stuffing or about building paid or “spammy” links or making it more complicated than it is.

    It is about making a great website that provides relevant and useful imformation to users, is trustworthy and provides excellent user experience (UX) – if users and influencers find your website relevant and useful they will keep coming back and search engines will notice!

    So how do you go about building a great website that meets the criteria of relevance, trust, and usefulness? Here’s an infographic to help you! Click to view full screen image.

     

    Search Ranking Influencers - An Infographic

     

    Top 7 Principles for a Successful Website Design/Redesign

    ‘Give me 6 hours to chop down the tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe’ – Abe Lincoln

    Nothing frustrates me more than a client who has recently spent tens of thousands of dollars in getting an expensive website design overhaul without putting a great deal of thought into understanding buyer personas, user experience (UX) principles, and digital marketing basics.

    [mk_blockquote font_family=”none”]81% of your prospects go to your website to “check you out” before they even think of contacting you. What’s more important is that 51.3% of your prospects will rule out a firm before even talking to them. (Hinge Marketing, 2015).[/mk_blockquote]

    What does this mean for you? It simply means that your website is the foundation for all your marketing campaigns and therefore it should be sticky and enable visitor conversions. Sounds simple, right?  Not always so!

     

    The problem arises because a lot of websites are built for the company and not for the user. Brands want to put their best foot forward. They want to tell users what makes them special, showcase their products and services, and expect users to convert. Instead, a successful website should resonate with the user and nurture them to convert.

    Key Website Design Drivers – User Goals & Expectations

    Visitors come to your website to with certain expectations and goals. It is paramount to craft your website around those user goals (and associated tasks) and user expectations. The infographic synthesizes how user goals and user expectation affect the effectiveness of your website:

    [mk_image src=”https://webtage.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/UX_Infographic_Webtage.jpg” align=”center” crop=”false”]

    So where should you start?

    • Develop User personas and user stories – This is the most important step you could take for successful website redesign. Create user profiles of your typical customers, including their problems, challenges, and goals. Develop user stories, which are desired site functions as seen from a user perspective.  Get as detailed as you can. Create personas of individuals, not groups of targets or business types. Good design should always cater to the needs of your user. If you do not understand your user(s) well enough, the website will not work to fulfill your goals even if it shines aesthetically.
    • Design for Self-Segmentation – Good website design should allow each visitor to be able to self-segment easily. Once you have developed user personas and user stories, you know what their goals and expectations are. Tailor your website to speak to those goals and expectations through smart layouts and visuals, optimized navigation, explicit messages, and clear calls to action.
      Map out the logical paths of each persona to guide them to convert. Each page should have a specific goal and should smartly fit into the logical path you have created for each user.
    • Target the Primitive Brain – We all have a primitive brain, called the Amygdala that controls our gut reaction. Even before our rational mind spurs into action, we form a gut reaction in 3 seconds or less. Design for the Gut Reaction! The minute we land on a site, we form an opinion – professional, trustworthy, relatable vs. amateurish, cluttered, not worth the time! Design perspective, colors, typography, images, and layouts – all work together to create the crucial first impression. A professional designer will be able to guide you in the best design direction to create a desirable first and lasting impression.
    • Tell a Story and Make an Emotional Connection– There are more than 1.2 billion websites today. To capture the hearts and minds of the user, it is important to pique the emotional interest of a user.  You want people to interact with your brand and hopefully convert into repeat users or customers. How do you tell an effective story that makes an emotional connection?
      1. Start by thinking about the concepts and values that define your brand.
      2. Filter out the fluff. Dissect what you do best and tell it like it is- from the heart.
      3. Keep it personal. Add custom content that creates a personal touch. Stock images of people shaking hands has been overdone!
      4. Think about turning your brand values into informative, helpful, or entertaining stories.
      5. Then use layouts, evocative visuals, typography, web copy, and interactive features to amplify those stories.

      A great example of storytelling and making an emotional connect is Cyclemon’s website (www.cyclemon.com) which makes the point that ‘you are what you ride.’ By associating bicycle caricatures of stereotypical users, they have used many brilliant design features to connect with their user personas.

    • Build Trust – You need users to not only need to be interested in your business, they need to be able to trust it too. By integrating trust-building elements, your website will become a powerful tool for conversions. So what are these trust-building elements?
      Utilize the site real estate to clearly state your unique value proposition and other trust building elements, such as social proof, client logos, testimonials, badges, case studies, website security details (especially if you are an ecommerce site) and a strong About Us page.
      Lastly, show your face. Adding a personal touch by putting a face(s) to your organization can go a long way in building trust. Remember, people like to do business with people and not with a faceless entity.
    • Make it Interactive – Whether your website is informational, entertaining, or one that requires enabling transactions, make sure you offer interactions with your users.  The simplest form of interaction is the website navigation that allows users to find explore your website further. More interactive features can work to encourage users to explore your brand further. Use of sliders, videos, galleries, case studies are an excellent way to make your website sticky.

    By making design responsive to scrolling or hovering is an excellent way to wow your users and subtly guide them to convert.

    • Optimize for Search Visibility – No amount of conversion optimization or effective design principles will bring visitors to your website. Make sure you integrate best practices for search engine visibility, include meeting guidelines, content optimization, indexing, navigation and cross-channel marketing to improve your site’s visibility.

    Planning a website overhaul? Contact me at snigdha@webtage.com for step-by-step guidance in developing and launching a successful site.

    Building an App? Be Sure You Start on the Right Foot!

    If you are reading this, you have already figured out that mobile is fast becoming a primary channel to drive content and services to consumers.  And if you are planning to create an app to reach out to the growing audience on-the-go, it would serve you best to follow these key strategic steps to avoid costly mistakes later. We are assuming you have spent time validating your idea through market research and have a monetization plan in place.

     

    Think Detailed & Ahead – A great app starts with a great concept. Start by noting down just what you expect the app to do. This could be a simple bullet point document on high level function that you expect the app to perform. The next step involves creating detailed product specifications and full-featured product description. To do this best, think ahead and plan before.

    For instance, if you are developing an app to book local cab service, think about how you would want subscribers to register for the app – via phone or email? This would be guided by the national geography you are targeting, general industry trends, but also by how you plan to notify users about appointment confirmations and changes. If notifications and communication is planned via SMS, then phone number should be the primary registration, identification, and verification field. If email is the way you would want to communicate with end users, require an email field for registration purposes.

    Many other similar decisions will be critical for the viability of your app.  Consider hiring app consultants for this crucial phase who can provide the foresight and experience to guide you in the right direction during the design phase, so that you do not waste resources reinventing the wheel.

     

    Brand it!  The look and feel of your app has an overwhelming impact on app downloads and consequently, monetization. Usually relegated to the backbench by many app development firms, we cannot overemphasize the importance of branding in connecting with the consumer and building trust. Quoting Tom Leclerc of Wooga.com (the creator of the hugely popular Jelly Splash): 

    “What a lot of app developers and publishers may not know is that retaining users starts before a download happens.”

    Branding done right is instrumental in building trust and relationship with clients, plays a critical role in app store and Google Play Optimization, and guides effectiveness of marketing and advertising campaigns.

     

    Great UI is Crucial – Put your customers first. Listen, read, and understand the pain points of your consumers. The functions and features of your app should be driven primarily by what consumers are looking for or even exploring latent needs of your target audience and not the latest hot technological tools and competitor feature set. Spend time developing user case scenarios and flows in the user interface design phase. Good user interface design does not simply mean designing attractive data objects and layouts – it means developing effective user personas, creating user case scenarios and user flows, and integrating those into the user interface design.

    Your feature set and UI should be guided by these two basic principles:

    1. One, your app simply exists to resolve your consumer key pain points. Do not be tempted to integrate “cool” features just because you’ve discovered hot, new technological tools that could bring the coolness factor in.
    2. Two, you app should be so easy to use that it takes minimal effort on part of the consumer to figure it out. If a consumer needs to be walked through an app, you’ve lost the battle!

     

    Phase it Out – A wholesome app with all desired features in version 1.0 may sound like a great idea. The opposite is actually true in most cases.  App creation works best from a long-term viability perspective if done in an iterative fashion rather than in a linear fashion. The main advantage of the iterative application development (IAD) is that it assigns equal importance to users and developers and user feedback is incorporated into each and every iterative phase. This results in better understanding of real user needs, quick identification of problem spots and bottlenecks, and fast resolutions thereby creating a better product. Complex app systems are also clearer and easy to implement if done in an iterative fashion.

    So make sure you break up your complex app system into phases by prioritizing functions and features. That way, you will not create a behemoth of a software only to discover that key user needs have been left out, or worse still that users find the interface difficult to understand or that the app requires too much effort to use that leads users to drop out or uninstall the app.

    Integrate Marketing Into Design – We all like to think, as entrepreneurs and visionaries, that we have discovered the next big thing and consumers will queue up to try out our app. In reality, our brilliant app concepts will need a liberal dose of help from outstanding marketing initiatives. A good place to initiate your app marketing is – you guessed it – right into the app design. Most effective marketing happens when users generate content, in the form of social shares, reviews, feedback, and general intera­ctions. Make sure you have features within the app that allows users to communicate with their social communities and with your team! The kind of features you offer should also be guided by your strategic marketing plans.

     

    Contact us for an initial consultation to help you build a successful app development and monetization strategy.