I have signed up to many blogs which are based around digital marketing, SEO and design. The people I follow are considered to be the industry leaders, yet I'm getting suspicious about some of the information they are providing. I guess it is reasonable for the industry leaders not to want to give away all their secrets, but I do feel sometimes they only give half of the information which leads to website optimisation misconceptions.
There have been occasions when I've read something and I have felt the advice was odd or didn't make sense.
I know I don't leave a website because the information isn't bullet pointed. I don't leave a website because I have multiple choices, I also don't leave a website because it's hard to use. I am likely to jump ship if the design of a site offends my sense of style (which is personal) or a search result brings me into a page I didn't expect, but I will actually hunt down what I'm looking for although I would prefer it was just sitting there waiting for me as I enter a site.
The way I use the web goes against a lot of the advice given in the blogs that I read. Possibly these companies know the majority of their readers are their competitors, so giving out miss information wastes the time of marketing companies who don't test their own theories but copy everyone else.
Here is what I think about some of the things I've read concerning, SEO, website design and digital marketing:
"People look at the top left of their screen first"
People actually tend to go with their learned experiences. Depending on what they are doing and expecting will determine where they first look.
By now your audience is used to seeing websites presented in a particular way, that means they are less likely to look at the top left of their screen first because they know that space is wasted on company logos, blank spaces and/or the websites navigation bar.
People actually tend to look at the middle of their screen and avoid the edges, because they are looking for meaningful information. They will then go with their cultural experiences, reading left to right or top to bottom until they find something of interest.
However, if someone finds a problem on your page, they will ignore everything else and focus solely on that problem.
- Important stuff should go in the top third of your screen or in the middle.
- Avoid putting important stuff around the edges
- Let people move in their normal reading pattern
"Use eye tracking software to find out where your customers are looking"
Eye tracking monitors a person's central gaze. It doesn't track peripheral vision.
If a person is paying attention to one thing and they are not expecting a change, they often miss things.
Eye tracking data can be misleading. People are asked questions or given instructions throughout eye tracking which can accidently skew the data.
- Don't assume people will see something on your website just because it is there.
- If you want to make sure people notice a change on your site, include a visual clue (blinking) or auditory cues (beep).
- Be very cautious when interpreting eye tracking data.
"Capital letters are hard to read"
CAPITAL LETTERS ARE NOT HARD TO READ, people just aren't used to reading them, so everyone has to slow down to make it through the sentence.
There is no scientific evidence at this time that conclusively proves using all capital letters is difficult to understand or read.
However, it is widely accepted that capital letters portray shouting.
- Use all capital letters if you want to slow the reader down to get an important message across.
"The magic number is 7 or is it 5, maybe 9?"
This is more like an urban legend. There are lots of articles reporting that menus or lists should stick to the magic number; I have even written one myself.
Baddeley (1986) conducted a long series of studies on human memory and information processing and found the actual magic number is 4. People can quite comfortable hold 4 things in working memory as long as they aren't distracted and their processing of the information is not interfered with.
Have you noticed phone numbers tend to be grouped in 3 or 4 digits! This rule of 4 also applies to retrieving information from memory.
If you need your audience to remember something it is a good idea to stick to four items, but you don't have to be that drastic, place the items in groups of four.
- Include no more than four items in each group.
People use aids to help them remember, such as, notes, lists, calendars etc, so you aren't relying on memory as much as you once had to.
Does your customer really need to remember your main menu? If not then don't worry about sticking to the magic number.
"Three clicks and your out"
The number of clicks it takes to get to a destination in your website is not important. People are very willing to click multiple times. In fact, they won't even notice they're clicking if they're getting the right amount of information at the right time and each click leads them along a path to the right destination.
It is far more important to understand the information flow your audience needs than it is concentrating on the number of clicks.
- Show people what they need, when they need it. Build links for your audience to follow so they can get to more useful information.
- Don't make your visitor have to think too much, only use more clicks if it means your visitor doesn't have to do too much thinking.
"Website trust factors"
Again we are all being told people don't trust websites because of...... It is all unfounded nonsense. There is no scientific proof, at the time of writing, about trust elements for websites.
SEO's and the marketing industry will always test different aspects of your website to get maximum sales. This is likely where some of the trust factor myths come from because we like to have a reason something works over and above another option.
Then of course every year the news will make allegations about dodge websites without SSL certificates, insisting people should not buy from websites without the gold padlock showing in the bottom right of their screen. Thus the news educates their readers not to buy from a site without payment process security (I no longer purchase from websites without payment security).
You should already know how you personally react to websites, some you will have little patience with, others may make you hesitate and on others you can't wait to click the buy button.
People make quick decisions about what is not trustworthy. They may reject a website first, and then decide after a time whether or not to actually trust it.
Design factors, such as colour, font, layout, and navigation, are critical in making it through the first "trust rejection" phase.
If a website makes it through the first rejection cut, then content and credibility become the determining factors as to whether the person trusts the site.
We all think we are designers! We all want to do everything ourselves, but the best investment you will ever make when going on-line with your business is to choose a website designer or developer who can produce a website that fits your customer's needs and is easy for you to update as and when you want.
Don't believe everything you read around the internet. Go out and buy some really good books about marketing, learn the foundations, then start with what you know. You know how you use the internet, you should know what your customers want from you, then build layers on top of that, test your own theories and find out what works best for your company. When you notice profits increasing then you know you have made the right decisions. If profits decrease or stay the same then test something else to see if you can make improvements.
When you test something give it time to work before you draw conclusions and move on.
If you don't have time to learn marketing but want to see a steady long term growth for your internet business then employee a Digital Marketing company who you feel you will get on with; it could be a long relationship.
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