Category Archives: Design

Common Website Mistakes To Avoid

Your website sucks

We all see a lot of websites these days. But how often do you find yourself on a new site wondering what the company actually does or wants you to do next?

It’s an all too common problem. In our haste to build websites, we often forget to look at the initial designs through our site visitors’ eyes and routinely fail to make it easy for them to do what we want.

This recent post from Socialmouths highlights five common website mistakes that dramatically impact the number of conversions.

Top of the list is the failure to state a clear value proposition, by demonstrating what makes your organisation special and different. In a nutshell:

you have to tell people quickly and simply what it is that you do, and why you’re great at it

And there are other design crimes like too many CTAs (calls to action), no single dominant CTA, and insufficient reasons to believe that also regularly impair the effectiveness of many websites.

Next time you visit a new website, think about the five common mistakes that Socialmouths has identified and ask yourself if they apply and how they could be addressed. Then look back at your own site, wearing your desired visitor’s hat, and ask yourself the same questions.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll bet you’ll instantly spot several things you can improve.

Mind The Gap – Consumers 1 v Marketers 0

Mind The Gap London Tube

We live in a fast-changing world. Which means the longer you’ve held an opinion, the greater the chances your views may have fallen behind the times.

The latest fast.MAP Marketing Gap study (the 9th annual edition) shows once again how disconnected some marketers’ views are from those of their customers. Let’s take a look at some of the findings:


Overall, marketers expect around twice as many people to be “happy to receive” marketing communications than consumers claim. Across the 29 industries examined, the most welcomed sector for email marketing amongst consumers is ‘competitions’, appreciated by 32% of consumers. The least welcome are mortgages (6%) and loans/credit cards (7%), the appeal of which was over-estimated by marketers by more than a factor of two (at 15% and 18% respectively).

In fact, 58% of consumers now state they would prefer not to be contacted at all, through any channel, by companies they have no relationship with. Marketers again underestimate the extent of consumer rejection by almost 25%, believing that only 44% of consumers would feel this way.

Preferred Communication Methods Chart


No surprise that all forms of telephony marketing (landline/mobiles calls and SMS) are uniformly disliked, being welcomed by no more than 4% of consumers in any category. Yet marketers still over-estimate consumer willingness for telephony by between 100% and 400%. Two people in three would opt-out of text messaging marketing completely if there were a “Text Preference Service” that operates like the existing Telephone Preference Service,

Almost half (45%) of consumers now claim to hang up straight away when they receive a marketing or sales call, that’s up from 36% in 2011. Almost 1 in 10 (the mischievous 9%) will leave the phone off the hook to tie up the call centre line!


Around a third (32%) of consumers will open direct mail from any company (down from 38% in 2011), but marketers under-estimate this at 24%. It seems the general public is still more likely to open direct mail than the industry believes. It’s not all good news though; almost one in four consumers (23%) say they now don’t open any direct mail, up from 13% in 2011.

Interestingly, marketers also routinely overestimate the value of creativity in some channels. For direct mail materials, a third of marketers (33%) think interesting packaging will ensure it gets opened, but only 18% of consumers agree. Similarly one in four marketers (25%)  think design can increase open rates, but only 9% of consumers share this sentiment. An attractive envelope can motivate 10% of consumers to open a direct mail pack, but that is well short of the 18% estimated by marketers.


Many businesspeople are terrified of negative consumer reviews, with marketers estimating that 23% of people share negative experiences through review sites. But the reality is that only a tiny minority (4%) of consumers behave this way.

Why We Write Reviews

With this in mind, surely marketers must have a clear grasp on the channels consumers most want to use when dealing with a customers services team? Again, the opinions of marketers seem well wide of the mark, with 21% thinking people would most prefer to use the phone, while in fact 32% of consumers would now most prefer to use email. Twitter, Facebook and LiveChats are also less likely to be used by consumers seeking customer service assistance than marketers believe:

Customer Service Preferences


But, thankfully, everyone’s sharing content online these days. Except they’re not. More than half of all consumer (54%) say they don’t share any content online, but marketers estimate this amount at just 24%. And amongst those who do share content, most do so to entertain or make others aware, quite different and more altruistic motivations than those cited by marketers:

Content Sharing


At least we know which devices consumers use these days. Most people have a tablet and smartphone, right? Nope! The laptop and desktop computer remain by far the most popular tools for internet access, underestimated by marketers by 45% and 30% respectively . Now we know why those fancy tablet and smartphone apps alone were not enough to hit last quarter;’s sales target.

Internet Access


How much must the face value of a coupon be before it will be redeemed. Marketers, it seems, have more expensive tastes than the average consumer. 81% of consumers will happily redeem a 50p (UK pence) coupon, up from 74% last year. But only 23% of marketers feel that a 50p coupon is sufficient to encourage redemption. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a huge reward to incentivise buying behaviour:


And while we’re on the topic of coupon discounts, only 20% of consumers claim to have used Groupon in the last year, well short of the 50% estimated by marketers. Similarly, newspaper collectible offers like The Sun Holidays and Daily Mirror LEGO are only used by 7% of consumers, against a 21% prediction by marketers. Most consumers, it would seem, simply cannot be bothered with collecting tokens any more.


Consumers love price offers, far more than most marketers realise or are prepared to admit. A staggering 85% of consumers would be happy to switch brand if an alternative brand offered  a ‘Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) deal, but only 42% of marketers believe this could happen. Even a 10% price advantage would be enough to switch brands for 68% of shoppers, far more than the 24% claimed by marketing professionals.

Price Offers


A quarter of marketers believe that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is unimportant, but only 7% of consumer agree, with the majority (60%) saying they feel it is very or quite important. Proof, if it were needed, that consumers expect companies to do the right thing and be held to account if their actions don’t benefit society as a whole.



I’ve shared a lot of data in this blog post. The headline findings though are consistent: many consumer attitudes are changing very rapidly and marketers are often out of tune with real world consumers.

Ostrich Man Head in the SandThe only way to find out if your long-held opinions may have passed their expiry date is to stay closely connected to your customers.

  • Don’t stick your head in the sand and fall into the trap of believing accepted wisdom

  • Don’t lose sight of the realities of the modern world; some things change quickly, others take a little longer to become mainstream

Get out and speak with your customers, live in their shoes, see how they live their lives.

The opinion gap between consumers and marketers is as big as ever. What will you do, right now, to close the gap in your organisation?

Back To School – Time to Update Your Social Media Cover Photos

With the kids heading back to school in the UK today or very soon, now is the perfect time to polish up your social media profile pictures and cover photos. But knowing what size your images need to be has always been a time-consuming exercise.

But not anymore, thanks to this nifty guide from the team at Raidious.

Now, if only you could find a decent photo to start with…

When Privacy Policies Go Bad and How to Fix Them

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post about the importance of carefully selecting your positive and negative keywords, I’ve some remarkable online test insights to share from’s Michael Aargaard.

Michael wanted to find out what impact adding a privacy statement alongside a registration form would have on sign-up rates. I think you’ll agree, the results are far from obvious!

Using a registration form on a high traffic online betting site, he started by adding a simple statement “100% privacy – we will never spam you!” just above the Sign Up link. This simple change resulted in an 18.7% drop in sign ups compared to a control cell:


That’s a huge drop in sign ups through the addition of statement that is regularly used to increase conversion!

Suspecting the ‘spam’ word to be a possible cause of this drop, Michael ran another test, this time with a privacy statement that read “100% privacy. We keep all your personal information secret”:


This time there was no significant difference between the two cells. The privacy statement was neither helping nor impairing conversion to sign up.

Time for another test, this time with a subtly more reassuring statement “We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared.” The results were remarkable:


That’s almost 20% more sign-ups from a simple, reassuring promise. Michael’s hypothesis is that the word ‘guarantee’ serves as a much more credible and authoritative commitment to fair play than the previous statements.

There was just time for one more test, this time reintroducing the ‘spam’ word to see if it would have the same negative impact as seen previously:


Incredibly, all of the good provided by the ‘guarantee’ word appears to have been undone by the reintroduction of that toxic ’spam’ word.

I’m indebted to Michael for sharing his test findings with us. But what can we learn from this exercise?

Firstly, as I’ve reported before, the little changes sometimes make all the difference. Without careful testing, the impact of inadvertently giving visitors reasons to be fearful through a mention of ‘spam’ might never have been spotted. And neither would we have been able to quantify the powerful reassurance felt by offering a ‘guarantee’.

As a result of this testing, we now know that for this particular website the word ‘spam’ (and all related synonyms) should be treated as strict negatives in future. As will be any other terms that could fuel alarm amongst potential customers. And more work can now be done to verify the reassuring power of a ‘guarantee’ and further testing carried out to see where else this keyword can be used to good effect across the site and on other marketing materials.

Remember, your mileage may vary. You should never treat the findings from one website as certain proof for your own site. But you can take heart from these results and embark on your own testing programme to establish if your site visitors will react the same way.

Sometimes the most obvious things in life are far from self-evident. The inquisitive marketer can learn a great deal from Michael’s methodical testing process. Perhaps your website will be the next proving ground for some remarkable marketing insights.

Further reading:’s Testing Summary:

Myth-busting: Calls-to-action Must Be Above The Fold

Mythbusting bubbleThe longer you work in any specialist field the more susceptible you become to placing trust in tried-and-tested rules and principles.

Take the well-known fact that content placed on a website above the fold (that is in the top portion of the screen,  visible to all when the page loads) performs better than stuff below the fold. Everybody  knows that, right? Yes, but it’s not entirely true.

What used to work in the days of PCs and Internet Explorer sometimes doesn’t apply in the era of tablets, smartphones and personalised apps. Today’s web users are well-versed in scrolling up and down pages; it’s a completely natural gesture on a touchscreen device and nearly every modern mouse features a handy scrolling wheel or touchpad.

But beyond the technology changes, savvy surfers simply no longer behave as predictably as in the past. What many would consider a textbook position to put a call-to-action, high on the page, above the fold, may sometimes deliver substantially better results if placed lower down the page or after additional information to motivate a click has appeared first.

To understand this you need to appreciate the context of the decision you are asking your site visitors to take. If the buying decision is complex or needs to be carefully considered, today’s surfers are extremely tolerant of supporting information like comparison charts, videos and customer references. And so it really doesn’t matter where the final call-to-action sits, as long as the right amount of supporting information can be accessed easily and quickly to enable a decision to be made. Requiring a visitors to make a few downwards swipes or to hunt briefly for the buying button is no longer automatically a barrier to success. In UI design context is king…

Confused-DesignerAdd to this the added complexity that comes from people viewing pages on a multitude of different screens and devices, anything from a 2 inch phone to an 84inch 3D TV, and the rich variety of delivery platforms from internet browsers to niche applications, and you have the perfect recipe for some very confused, sore-brained web designers.

One solution now in widespread use is to feature small, floating content boxes that remain on screen and slide as the reader scrolls through the page. These moving panels can ensure key navigation components or calls to action remain easily accessible. But they also carry a distraction overhead so test them carefully to verify that the navigation benefits outweigh any attention interference they may create.

As I explained in a recent post, the facilities we have for testing different design hypotheses are better than ever. Simply ramming a primary call-to-action down your visitors’ throats as soon as they land on your site may not give the best results today. Of course, your call-to-action needs to be visible, distinctive and worded to elicit action, but never assume there’s only one best place for it to live. That’s old school thinking, a dangerous path to tread in a world of constant change,

So have some fun, think differently and explore some alternatives. With a little intelligent testing and creativity you could open up a whole new world of engagement in our scroll-happy world!

Colour and Brands Through The Ages


(see what I did there?!)

In the UK we call it ‘colour’ while our American cousins prefer ‘color’. However you write it, having an appreciation of how seeing different colours affects our mood is a great skill for every marketer.

With a hat tip to my former Microsoft colleague Steve Clayton, here’s a delightful little diagram from Pantone, the global colour experts, showing how colour fashions have shifted over time and how some brands have become synonymous with certain schemes. Enjoy!



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