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Communicators & websites

NEWS YOU CAN USE

Giving control of a website to a communicator can be like giving
a pub to an alcoholic.

Writers and communicators have many of the skills needed to
achieve great things on the Web. Public websites and intranets
run on content. Writers and communicators have been trained in
creating content. There should be a natural fit.

However, when communicators get control of websites,
particularly intranets, they immediately make them look like
daily newspapers. News is important on an intranet but it is
rarely the top task.

When the homepage is dominated by news you are not necessarily
communicating more. In many situations, you are damaging your
reputation as a quality news source. Forcing news into people’s
faces just annoys them.

Many websites also make the mistake of increasing the quantity
of news they publish. Another element that will certainly help
turn people away is the use of websites for propaganda.

A press release is classic propaganda. It is written in a
fawning, self-congratulatory manner. (I’m speaking as someone
who has written quite a few of them.) Historically, press
releases were never intended to be read by the public. They were
a way to sell a story to the press. They have a place in a
website’s press archive, but they should not be on a homepage.
Publishing a press release on a homepage says the communicator
is too lazy to take the press release and turn it into a
story.

We are dealing with a world exploding with news. A June 2008
study published by The Associated Press of Young Adults’ News
Consumption found increasing signs of “news fatigue.” One of the
negative results of news fatigue was that the more overwhelmed
or unsatisfied young people became, the less effort they were
willing to put in.

The study went on to state that “this young audience had little
patience for formats that promise and don’t deliver.” It’s not
just a young audience that is proving impatient and skeptical. I
remember being with an engineer once as he scanned the intranet
homepage of his organization. He shook his head and smiled
cynically. “Not another ‘our great organization saving the world
and feeding the hungry children’ PR story,” he sneered. “I want
hard news, practical news. I want news that will give me ideas
for new products.”

“The enlightened consumers turned news into “units” of social
currency that could be used in a variety of interpersonal
situations – to look smart, connect with friends and family and
even move up the socio-economic ladder,” The Associated Press
study stated.

“The competing notions of “news fatigue” and “news as social
currency” stand out among these findings,” the study continued.
“This study demonstrated across cultural boundaries that the
news can turn consumers off, just as easily as it can turn them
on. The key value point to the audience was news they could
use.”

In an age of attention deficit and impatience, news created on
organizational websites and intranets needs to be brutally
action-oriented and to-the-point It needs to help people do
things. It needs to be practical and real. And it needs to be
newsworthy-not simply put up because it’s Tuesday and we need to
publish something.

Customers need news they can use.

A New Model for News Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult
News Consumption
http://www.ap.org/newmodel.pdf

Gerry McGovern
mailto:gerry@gerrymcgovern.com

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The Long Wow

By Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path Reprint from Adaptive Path, October
25, 2007

The Long Wow is a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty
through systematically impressing your customers again and again.
Going a step beyond just measuring loyalty, the Long Wow is an
experience-centric approach to fostering and creating it.

> First, A Little Context

Businesses have begun to realize that the lofty goal of customer
satisfaction might in fact be a red herring. A satisfied customer
isn’t necessarily a loyal customer; today’s satisfied customer might
find even more satisfaction in your competitor’s offerings tomorrow.

And so we’ve started to see the rapid diffusion of tools like the
Net Promoter Score (http://tinyurl.com/3xavsh) which try to quantify
loyalty. Such measures are popular because they track behaviors that
create economic value: a customer recommending your brand to a
friend, or a customer returning to buy from you again. But measuring
loyalty doesn’t create loyalty.

> Loyalty Can’t Be Manufactured

It’s no surprise that the MBA-knee jerk reaction to a loyalty
problem is to create a loyalty program (http://tinyurl.com/66m6x2),
but you can’t manufacture loyal customers by issuing them bronze,
gold, and platinum ID cards. Such shallow solutions don’t resonate
deeply with customers. Instead, these artificial attempts at loyalty
create extra overhead in the customer relationship, they deliver
pseudo-benefits the customer never needed, and they may even create
barriers, resentment, or revolt (http://tinyurl.com/6x2nhq)

At Adaptive Path, we’ve observed this superficial nature of loyalty
programs first hand. When talking to customers of a well-known
financial institution who were enrolled in a loyalty program. We found
multi-millionaire, “platinum-level” customers that didn’t know (and
didn’t care!) about their special status and benefits, even though the
company considered that program an essential advantage and an
attractor. The customers simply wanted the good products and services
they were paying for in the first place.

In the children’s book, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the
antagonist-turned-protagonist Grinch realized, “that Christmas isn’t
something you buy from a store, but that Christmas, perhaps, means a
little bit more.” Like Christmas, customer loyalty can’t be bought or
bottled. It’s not something you can capture in an ID card. Loyalty is
a sense that grows within people based on the series of notable
interactions they have with products, services, and companies.

True loyalty grows within people based on a series of notable
interactions they have, over time, with a company’s products and
services. No card-carrying programs are necessary: Apple doesn’t have
a traditional loyalty program; neither does Nike or Harley-Davidson.
These companies impress, please, and stand out in the minds of their
customers through repeated, notably great experiences.

> “Wow” Engenders Loyalty

Notably great experiences are punctuated by a moment of “wow,” when
the product or service delights, anticipates the needs of, or
pleasantly surprises a customer. OXO’s Good Grips Angled Measuring
Cup triggers (http://tinyurl.com/5t3dj5) such a moment of wow. A set
of angled markings on the OXO cup lets you quickly measure liquids
for recipes without having to stop cooking and bend over. Suddenly a
little part of your life is easier, because OXO thought carefully
about the way you cook. This delightful surprise resonates because
it feels tailored to your needs.

OXO was driven by empathy for their customer. Designers learn empathy
by spending time in the lives and environments of real customers, then
simulating the experiences that people will have with new offerings
through prototyping.

Deep customer insights and empathetic design pave the pathway to wow
moments. By diving deep into a customer’s life and closely observing
their behaviors, you can wow your customer by addressing needs that
they’d never be able to articulate. By immersing yourself in the
customer’s wider world of emotion and culture, you can wow them by
attuning the offering to practical needs and dimensions of delight
that normally go unfulfilled.

When a company uses empathetic design methods to create moments of wow
over and over again, it bonds with customers at a level far beyond the
realm of gold-colored plastic cards. OXO introduced over 50 products
every year, wowing customers with purposeful improvements through the
re-imagination of common culinary tools.

Few companies consistently translate rich insights from their
customers’ lives into new and better offerings. The few that do can
achieve a Long Wow, continuously delivering wow moments and building a
true, deep loyalty that transcends traditional loyalty programs.

> Four Steps to Your Long Wow

The art of the Long Wow is finding and managing a system for
repeatedly impressing your customers and fostering a deeper
relationship. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Know your platform for delivery. Recognize the palette of
touchpoints that you can combine to deliver wow experiences. Select a
small set of touchpoints across channels than can (a) be coordinated
to demonstrate your capability to meet a customer’s needs and (b) be
remixed to deliver new solutions to customers as you define them.

The Nike + iPod Sports Kit (http://tinyurl.com/3ddqq5) combines a
pedometer, iPod, and website to deliver an entirely new running
experience that includes spoken feedback on your run, one-button
access to “power songs,” and the ability to visualize recent runs.
You can easily imagine the delivery of future wow experiences with
this set of touchpoints, such as the selection of songs based on
your running pace.

2. Tackle a wide area of unmet customer needs. Find an area of the
customer experience that has long been overlooked and is teeming with
potential for new insights. This should be an area of the customer
experience that your organization is passionate about, that your
organization has a competitive advantage in understanding or
delivering on, and that you can return to repeatedly for fresh
insights. This is an opportunity to identify some new green space or
to re-invent an old space long neglected by everyone else.

OXO wasn’t scared away from kitchen tools just because these items
looked and functioned the same way for decades. Instead, they
passionately believed that kitchen tools should work for everyone —
including the founder’s wife whose arthritis originally inspired the
venture. Therefore OXO focuses on universal design, or “the concept of
designing products that are easy to use for the largest possible
spectrum of users.”

3. Create and evolve your repeatable process. Discover the
organization’s approach to delivering wow moments regularly. Start
with the process strengths the organization already has — which could
be in competencies such as cost/benefit analysis, quality management,
or market testing — and blend them with methods of research and
prototyping that focus on the experience. At Adaptive Path, we like to
use video prototyping to focus on the impact of experience, rather
than the usability of the interface. These methods demonstrate how the
experience potentially brings something compelling to the life of the
customer and where the wow happens.

Blending two seemingly disparate processes can be quite powerful.
The Mayo Clinic’s SPARC program mixes the rigor
(http://tinyurl.com/5febaj) of medical experimental testing with the
speed of designing through prototypes to transform the way
healthcare services are delivered to patients. Relying on existing
process strengths like randomized controlled trials brings to bear
the repeatability and certainty of qualitative methods for
re-imagining patient experiences.

4. Plan and stage the wow experiences. Developing all your ideas at
once is a risky undertaking. Instead, organize a pipeline of wow
moments that can be introduced through your platform of touchpoints
over the long haul. As you learn more about your customers and how
they perceive the wow moments you can better organize your pipeline of
ideas for development. Outline where and when additional wow
experiences will emerge in the future, unfolding in a coordinated
network of experiences.

Introducing the right experience at the right place at the right time
can delightfully surprise customers. WeightWatchers coordinated a
platform of meetings, plans, books, and Web-based tools to support
weight loss. However, WeightWatchers participants probably aren’t
eating at meetings or in front of computers where they can access the
website. So WeightWatchers released an On-The-Go application for
mobile devices. It helps plan and track your diet wherever you go,
then synchronizes with your diet plan and the web application.

> Who Knew?

These four components of the Long Wow are no secret. The
business consultancy Bain & Company recently surveyed
(http://tinyurl.com/5z6haz) hundreds of companies that felt they
delivered superior customer experiences. But in reality, only 8% of
those companies’ customers agreed that the experience was superior.

What did these 8% of companies have in common? Again and again these
companies discovered and delivered on deep customer insights in a way
that differentiated their offerings and considered the total customer
experience.

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Top 10 fatal url design mistakes

URL design? Is there any design involved at all
in deciding how your Internet address and directory structure will look
like? Yes, there is, or at least there should be! Nonetheless I see the
same mistakes daily all over the place as if URLs wouldn’t matter
at all.

A bad URL means your website or page won’t be
found, clicked, visited and linked or submitted to social media.
Without proper URLs most of your other great web design, usability and SEO measures get wasted.

Thus I decided to show the top 10 URL design mistakes which I encounter most frequently and which are in many cases fatal for your findability:

  1. Session IDs: What’s that? Yeah, I ask you, what’s that: e967ef2d7f923aab20e10ddb4164a351
    ? It’s a session ID. It’s different for every user so every
    user has a different address, it’s like inviting people to a
    party and giving them all a different address.
  2. Apostrophes and other special characters: %e2%80%93 –
    This is an apostrophe in a URL. You can’t submit this to
    StumbleUpon. If you do you end up with a broken link at best.
  3. Numbers instead of speaking URLs: Decide, 123 or angelinajolie-naked, which URL speaks your language, which one you’ll rather click?
  4. Multiple URLs for one page: www.example.com,
    example.com, example.com/, example.com/index.php,
    example.com/index.php? all leading to one homepage? No you have 6
    homepages and counting! Use a canonical URLs script (WordPress 2.5 already does by default)
  5. Too many parameters which also change randonmly. Ever tried to submit the New York Times to a social site? In many cases it’a a duplicate as http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/technology/27google.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=business&adxnnlx=1214553738-5Jvl01JfMCKLx5duMGRv9g&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/technology/27google.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/technology/27google.html
    and dozens of other combinations are possible. This is even worse than #4
  6. Only keywords in URL: Recently bloggers tend to shorten
    their URLs inasmuch as their posting become totally boring. I
    won’t click /2008/06/27/google if I see only the URLs (like, say,
    in an email) but I will click google-files-for-bankrupcy
  7. Too many subdirectories or mimicked oney via URL rewrite: world/politics/asia/korea/local/ Huh? Do you know what I mean? If it’s that far down the hierarchy, why should I care at all? I want the frontpage news.
  8. Simply PHP crap: Do you use Joomla or Mambo CMS? Their standard URLs suck big time: option=com_content&view=article&id=72&Itemid=37
    They suck for both Google and StumbleUpon, the 2 most important traffic
    sources nowadays. As a user I don’t want to look at such crap
    either.
  9. Finally date based URLs: 2008/06/27/ is fine but do you
    think I’ll click 2005/06/27/ ? No! I won’t. If you’re
    not into breaking news stop using the date as your most important first
    part of the URL.
  10. Changing URLs after publication: If you use a WordPress URL like mine
    http://seo2.0.onreact.com/how-to-spot-content-theft-on-social-media-and-elsewhere
    and change it after publishing to say
    http://seo2.0.onreact.com/10-ways-how-to-spot-content-theft-on-social-media-and-elsewhere
    the users who’ll visit via Technorati, Google BlogSearch etc.
    will just encounter an error. You can prevent that by using post
    numbers and descriptive URLs in WordPress

My 10 URL design rules are quite simple:

  1. Make the URLs clean
  2. Make them simple
  3. Make a URL human and machine readable
  4. Use one URL per page
  5. No special characters besides a minus/hyphen “-” ideally
  6. Use slashes like real directories
  7. Enhance URLs with numbers but don’t rely on them
  8. Skip the date, it’s not the most important info
  9. Do not ever change URLs once set
  10. If you have to change URLs move them with a “301 permanently moved” redirect

So you see: Achieving findability by appropriate URL design
is not rocket science, it’s more preventing stupid mistakes. For
deciding which URL structure is best in WordPress (not mine!) check out
his how-to article of mine: WordPress URL Design. Also make sure to follow these 10 Coding Guidelines for Perfect Findability and Web Standards.

http://seo2.0.onreact.com/top-10-fatal-url-design-mistakes

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SELFISH, MEAN, IMPATIENT CUSTOMERS

Information overload, news fatigue and WADD (Web Attention
Deficit Disorder) are creating a brutal landscape on the
Internet.

“Web users are getting more ruthless and selfish when they go
online”, the BBC states in a review of a Jakob Nielsen report on
web habits. “Instead of dawdling on websites many users want
simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.”

Many organizations’ websites are out-of-sync with their
customers. Marketers think flashy graphics of smiling faces
attract customers on the Web. Showing a smiling face to a
typical web customer is like showing a crucifix to a vampire.

Communicators have gone mad on the Web; publishing press
releases and thinking people will actually read them. News is
being devalued because huge quantities of trivia and vanity are
being labeled as news.

A study of young people’s news habits found that, “news fatigue
brought many of the participants to a learned helplessness
response. The more overwhelmed or unsatisfied they were, the
less effort they were willing to put in.”

Time is everything on the Web. “Auctions were once a pillar of
e-commerce,” a Business Week article states. “People didn’t
simply shop on eBay. They hunted, they fought, they sweated,
they won. These days, consumers are less enamored of the hassle
of auctions, preferring to buy stuff quickly at a fixed price.”

The emergence of the impatient, unforgiving customer has been
gathering pace for many years. Back in 2006 a study by Akami
found that 75% of people would not go back to a website that
took more than 4 seconds to load. It used to be that people
would wait for 8 seconds. In 2008, how many seconds will they
wait?

As many as 50 percent of people bail out after a quick glance of
a webpage, another 2006 report stated. Back then you had 4
seconds to convince people that you had something useful to
offer. They might read about 15 words before making that
decision.

“If your copy targets multiple demographics, those 15 words will
not work,” the MarketingSherpa report stated. “Don’t construct a
page to appeal broadly across a wide variety of “typical” users.
It won’t appeal to anyone at all and your conversions will
suffer.”

Over 40 percent of people click on the first search result. Over
60 percent click within the first 3 results, and over 90 percent
click within the first 10 results. (More people have been on top
of Mount Everest than have been to the 1,000th search result.
Does it even exist?)

I was told of a study where the first and second search result
were swapped for a selection of searches. The new “first” result
kept getting more clicks. So, what we’re dealing with is a
customer who clicks first and asks questions later. It’s a
customer with their finger on the Back button.

“About half of all people who visit a commercial website
intending to buy something give up because, above all, they are
confused–by product descriptions, navigation and checkout
procedures,” a Newsweek article stated in July 2008.

Think about that: half the customers who come to websites
wanting to buy things leave without spending anything. How
frustrating is that?

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/technology/7417496.stm

News habits of young people study
http://www.ap.org/newmodel.pdf

Auctions on eBay: A Dying Breed
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2008/tc2008062_112762.htm

MarketingSherpa Landing Page report
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.html?ident=30193

Newsweek article
http://www.newsweek.com/id/143722

Gerry McGovern

Categories
Notes

Population to Hit 7 Billion in 2012

Population to Hit 7 Billion in 2012

The world’s population will reach 7 billion in 2012, even as the global
community already struggles to satisfy its appetite for natural
resources. The world’s population surpassed 6 billion in 1999, meaning
it will have taken only 13 years to add a billion people. By
comparison, the world’s population didn’t reach 1 billion until 1800.
The reason for this rapid and perilous growth is simple: medical and
nutritional advances in developing countries led to a population
explosion following World War II. And although cultural changes are
starting to slow the growth rate, it remains high in many countries and
continues to place unsustainable demand on scarce resources.

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ON PROSE AND CONS: WHEN TWO-SIDED FRAMES INCREASE ATTITUDE CERTAINTY AND BEHAVIORAL INTENTION

There is a lot of buzz around Persuasion, Emotion and Trust (PET
design) going on now. Sure, human factors / usability is still
important: if the user can’t find it, the product / function still
isn’t there. Usability is not going away.

But the field IS becoming more interesting. Methods for deriving
navigation architectures and best practices for designing effective
layout are established. Now the leading edge is exploring
evidence-driven methods to describe information exploration and
decision patterns. The question is not “Can they buy the argyle socks?”
but rather, “What experience will drive consumers toward buying OUR
argyle socks?”

So attention has shifted from ensuring that sites allow people to take
specific sub-actions (complete a purchase), to designing sites that
encourage people to take larger, business-driven actions. Actions can
be anything from buying… argyle socks (!), to joining a club, to
signing-up for a specific 401K plan, to advocating for one’s own
healthcare. The key, though, is that the site content should influence
action.

MOTORCYCLES AND ATTITUDES. ARE THEY CONNECTED?

Measuring persuasion is one of the field’s current challenges.
Marketing often uses attitude measures to evaluate how persuasive an ad
or a website is. To do this, they measure how positively or negatively
consumers feels about a product or toward a service. Then they expose
consumers to ads or sites or even the actual product. And they measure
again. The delta between the first and the second measure is used as an
index of how persuasive (or not) the ad / site / product was.

This seems logical. But organizations aren’t really interested in
attitudes. They are interested in action. And there is often an
uncomfortably loose link between the attitudes consumers report and
whether they ultimately act on those attitudes. As an example: I have a
strong positive attitude about Ducati motorcycles. Every ad I see,
every (reasonably frequent) visit to the website, and every
conversation with motorcycle enthusiasts increases that positive
feeling. But I’m not likely to buy one. Not very soon, anyway.

If attitudes are not an effective measure for persuasion, what should we measure?

A recent series of studies by Rucker, Petty & Briñol (2008)
suggest that “attitude certainty” predicts “behavioral intention” (or
likelihood to act) better than direct attitude measures. As an added
benefit, along the way their work also addresses the common marketing
question — is it better to present only the benefits of the product,
or to present both the benefits and potential drawbacks?

THE RESEARCH…

Rucker and team developed a series of experiments that manipulated /
controlled the presentation of various elements of selling
communications for products ranging from cell phones to bicycles to
toothpaste to portable DVD players to medicine. Overall, the messages
were positive. Critically, in half the tests consumers were presented
with only positive information (one-sided frame). In the other half
consumers were explicitly presented both pros and cons of the product
(two-sided frame condition). Across their experiments they found:

– One-sided and two-sided messages can both increase positive attitudes toward a product.
– Two-sided messages are more effective at instilling consumers with confidence in that attitude.
– Individuals who know a lot about something are less influenced
by message framing (two- vs. one-sided) They are already confident
about their attitude.
– People remembered about the same number of positive and
negative product details in both the one-sided and two-sided messaging
— frame does not influence recall of product details.
– People who were exposed to both pros and cons (two-sided)
indicated a greater intention to buy than those exposed only to pros —
even though both had developed positive attitudes toward the product.

NOT SURE? MAKE A LIST OF PROS AND CONS

Yesterday, I looked at apartments with a friend in Los Gatos. Each
place had selling points. Each also had drawbacks. To sort which
apartment was most desirable, we made a list. Doing that made the
decision process feel more solid. Ordered. Complete. Informed. Before
the list, we were doing cost / benefit analysis in our respective
heads. After the list, we felt more confident about a decision. All of
the critical elements of the various places were surfaced and
prioritized.

Rucker, Petty & Briñol (2008) suggests that presenting a
two-sided frame instills the same sort of confidence. People who are
exposed to a one-sided frame know consciously that they still need to
think about the drawbacks of a given decision. And — worse for
persuasion design — they are left to generate the negatives on their
own. In contrast, people who are exposed to a two-sided frame are left
with the impression that the communication is complete. At a
meta-cognitive level, the reader seems to assume that the communicator
has comprehensively considered and presented both positives and
negatives. As a result, the consumer doesn’t need to expend energy
generating and considering the cons before they can make a good
decision. Somebody has already done that for them.

THE GOOD, THE BAD… BUT MAYBE NOT THE UGLY

In thinking about this study, it is critical to differentiate between
content that creates a positive attitude and content that also leaves
consumers confident that their conclusions are correct. The persuasion
literature highlights why:

– Confidently held attitudes influence behavior more than attitudes held with less certainty. Rucker & Petty (2004)
– Confidently held attitudes are more likely to persist over time. (Petrocelli, Tormala & Rucker, 2007)
– Strongly held attitudes are more resistant to change tactics
than attitudes held with less certainty. Rucker & Petty (2004)

As Rucker and colleagues point out, politicians seeking to create
loyalists or companies wanting to create advocates should create
content that persuades. But critically, they also should strive to
create content that instills confidence. Presenting both pros and cons
seems to be one way to do that.

References for this newsletter are posted at:
http://www.humanfactors.com/downloads/junjul08.asp

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Design Criteria

* Ask customers for what they have, rather than asking them for what the company needs.
* Allow customers to say they “don’t know.”
* Provide a consistent experience, from interaction and visual design to copy.
* Be clear about what the system can do, and what the client is responsible for.
* Be friendly and reassuring.
* Show customers where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
* Allow graceful recovery from unexpected interruptions.
* Make it easy for customers who need to gather critical information to pick up where they left off.
* Set clear expectations.

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Reduce Bounce Rates: Fight for the Second Click

Summary:

Different traffic sources imply different reasons for why visitors
might immediately leave your site. Design to keep deep-link followers
engaged through additional pageviews.

A huge increase in “deep dips” was one of the big findings in our new user research for this year’s Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability seminar. That is, ever-more users are arriving deep within websites rather than entering them through the homepage.

The homepage is still important, and you should continue to ensure homepage usability for two main reasons:

  • The homepage is typically the single most-visited page, because the deep entry points are scattered across a vast number of interior pages.
  • The homepage is the orienteering point for visitors who arrive through deep links and then decide to explore the site further.

For many sites, the deep-dip increase has an unfortunate consequence: much bigger bounce rates.

The bounce rate is defined as the percentage of
visitors who turn around at the entry page and immediately leave the
site. Such visitors “bounce” out and never see additional pages.

“Unique Visitors” Must Die

Given growing bounce rates, we must stop using “unique visitors” as a metric for site success. Site tourists who leave a site immediately ratchet up the unique visitor count, but don’t contribute long-term value.

On the contrary, bouncers should be considered a negative statistic: the site failed to engage them enough to entice even a second pageview.

To measure site success, you should count only loyal users
who return repeatedly. Or, if your site is such that most people will
visit only once, at least require that they exhibit a minimum amount of
engagement before you count them as a positive statistic.

Chasing higher unique-visitor counts will undermine your
long-term positioning because you’ll design gimmicks rather than build
features that bring people back and turn them into devotees and
customers.

Analyzing Bounce Rates by Entry Source

As with all quantitative methods,
Web analytics is a dangerous game. If you measure the wrong thing, your
metrics won’t just be weak — they’ll be directly misleading and might cause you to pursue an erroneous strategy that reduces your design’s business value.

In this case, it’s important to realize that there’s no such thing as a
single bounce rate; you must analyze bounce rates separately for the 4 sources of visitors (ordered by their level of commitment to your site):

  1. Low-value referrers,
    such as Digg. People arriving through these sources are notoriously
    fickle and are probably not in your target audience. You should expect
    most of them to leave immediately, once they’ve satisfied their idle
    curiosity. Consider any value derived from Digg and its like as pure
    gravy; don’t worry if this traffic source has a sky-high bounce rate.
  2. Direct links from other websites. These links are the equivalent of a vague recommendation: “You might want to check out this site.”
    People who click such links haven’t expressed a direct intent to engage
    with your topic to the same degree as someone who actively enters a
    search engine query. These visitors do have some degree of interest,
    however, so a high bounce rate is a symptom of a user experience
    problem.
  3. Search engine traffic,
    whether from organic SEO or paid links. By clicking your link, these
    users have actively indicated an acute interest in the topic and should
    engage intensely with your content. If they leave immediately, it’s a
    sign that something is seriously wrong with your landing pages.

    • Note: for some search keywords, you’ll rank highly
      even though you don’t serve the user intent that the keywords express.
      Obviously, people who come looking for something you don’t have will
      leave. Because they’re not your customers, you shouldn’t worry about a
      high bounce rate from these visitors.
  4. Loyal users who
    return repeatedly to your site. On the one hand, you’d expect the
    highest engagement from your biggest fans. On the other hand, this
    engagement might not show up on every visit if they visit often. As
    long as people keep coming back, there’s nothing wrong with having them
    sometimes leave after a page view or two.

    • As an example, when I send out my email newsletter announcing a new
      Alertbox column, there’s a flood of visits from my subscribers to that
      page. Of these visitors, only 10% click on to additional pages. I
      expect that, however, because long-term subscribers have already read
      most of the earlier articles I link to. Also, it usually takes about 3
      years before new subscribers can convince their bosses to send them to
      my conference, so I don’t expect them to repeatedly click through to
      in-depth course descriptions of the topics I briefly cover in a column.

The following chart shows a rough visualization of the
expected bounce rates from the four user-interest levels. The rates
resemble an inverted checkmark:

Conceptual chart, showing that bounce rates tend to decline the more users' intent is established by the source of traffic, except for repeated visits from loyal users which may be short.

Intranet Bounces

Even though bouncing users may seem most common on websites, they are
also found on intranets. Here, employees are predisposed to accept the
validity of a page or section, since it’s the official company
intranet, after all. Thus, intranet bounces are usually symptoms of
poor navigation or poor use of related links, as well as poor section
landing pages. (For more on all these topics, see the report on Intranet Information Architecture [IA].)

Getting One More Pageview

Depending on the source of visitors, your bounce rates might be high or
low. But, except for low-value visitors, you should certainly strive
for fewer bounces.

In one of our case studies on the Return on Investment (ROI) from usability,
a website reduced its bounce rate from 30% to a minuscule 2.5% through
a simple redesign. Even if you can’t always cut your bounce rates to
one-tenth their previous levels, simple changes can often lead to
substantial improvements.

First and foremost, test your site with
representative users. You’ll almost always find striking ways in which
you repel visitors through low-credibility design, fluffy content, or
confusing navigation.

Second, expose some next steps for people to take if they’re interested in the current page. There are two good approaches here:

  • A linear information path offering a single link
    to either follow-up information or a deeper treatment of the topic.
    Place this link at the bottom of the page, where people are (hopefully)
    motivated to learn more. (But don’t use the lame follow-up link employed by the New York Times, which refers people to “more articles” without listing a specific, relevant article.)
  • Contextual see-also links can provide
    multiple pointers to key places of interest to people who liked the
    current page. Specific links are vastly superior to generic navigation
    menus for this purpose.

Third, if you have a product or service that alleviates the
pain point that motivated visitors to seek out the deep link, you
should say so explicitly (and link directly to it), instead of hoping that people will find the right page by perusing your product catalog.

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/bounce-rates.html