Web Branding vs. “Don’t Make Me Think”

About 10 years ago I picked up a copy of Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. It is by far the simplest bible-like book of user interface design. The principle of this short read is simply creating web page layouts that meet common ways people are used to using the web, and you will make your site is more usable and successful. And according to Krug, deviations from these norms, make people think. Making people think, means they sometimes get confused, sometimes they leave the site and often they don’t make the decisions you want them to make. Basically you make people think and that is a bad thing.

Don’t Make Me Think Example

A good example in the book is the word “Search” vs. “Quick Search” on a search form on a website. The slight difference of the wording “Quick Search” actually makes people think for a second, like is this search really quicker, where is the real search? According to Krug, if you are making people think, the sites usability is lessened and therefor things like conversion rates drop and quality of the site is lower.

Word Famous & Now We Are Starting To Think

I was sitting in on a brand building call by David Tyreman, founder of World Famous Company, and a guru extraordinaire on brand building, this week and he was covering the concept of making sure customers are in their comfort zone, whether as they arrive on your site, your business, in between, or right before buying or during the transaction. This is part of the larger concept of improving and creating your world famous brand.

Brand Comfort Zone

This comfort zone covers both physical and virtual spaces. By physical, a good example for our speed dating business, is when people are getting ready for a speed dating event, are they comfortable, happy, at ease and in the proper zone right before an event. Trust me people are nervously standing around, especially looking at people walking in the door, wondering if they are going to be in the event. For a virtual website, have you created an environment on the website that eases the visitors comfort level and therefor improved their comfort zone? An interesting example is Apple.com. They follow few standards. Often on the Apple.com website, I have to search around and find what to click on and discover stuff. But that is what Apple is all about. It is a tug of war between being Apple (branding) and Making People Not think. Well, this is what I am noticing is a diversion from Don’t Make Me Think, in fact, it’s the time you want people to think, because you are using your brand to improve their comfort zone.

VictoriasSecret.com’s Pink Bag

Back in 2001 or so, I was working at abcdistributing.com, specifically on their website analytics and their cart. abcdistributing.com, which I occasionally talk about in my blog, is the unsung hero of catalog companies that only women who love catalogs know about. They used to get thousands of orders a day online, so small improvements in their site design made a big difference. I was looking around back then and noticed that Victoria’s Secret was the first website to really introduce a different kind of a cart. Theirs was “Add To Bag”. Cart’s were just simply “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” buttons back then, so when I saw this nicely branded little bag, i was impressed. It was really my first introduction to how online branding can be extended to comfort zones online. I just did not know it back then. I tried to think of a way to extend this to abc distributing, a business that did not believe in branding, and all I was able to think of was this box they shipped out had this little fish icon on it. Everybody remembered them that way. That was their brand at the time, and therefor I pushed to switch their “Add To Cart” to “Add To Box” with a little box icon… Of course they did not go for it, but it stuck in my mind. Finally, thank you David, for explaining to us what this is about!

Be Uniquely The Same

So, in the end what I think this means is not everything online fits a cookie cutter way of doing things. Don’t Make Me Think obviously is a great example to start with in building user interface designs. It says don’t put something in a place on a site like a search box on the bottom left, or a menu bar in the middle of a page (not at the top), or the company logo in the middle of the page or change wording like About to “Who we are”. But there are exceptions, many exceptions, but exceptions that have to do with branding, where you want people to think! Another good example of a client of mine recently, who switched the word “Services” to the word “Benefits”. Or a site that uses “Start Your Journey” vs. “Buy Now”. So, it appears, good branding, especially improving the customer comfort zone, trumps Don’t Make Me Think. Sorry Steve Krug, sometimes you gotta think!

Anatomy of a Redesign – Pre Article

This series of articles are going to be about a site redesign. While I am not a designer, and some say I am a hack programmer, I have been around the web enough and been a member of quite a few top notch teams on redesigning small sites to very big ones. And trust me redesign always means “a fluid changing process”. This means that there is never one redesign and it is over with. Redesigning is an iterative, a constantly improving process. Like a shark, when the shark stops moving it dies…

The site I am going to cover in this redesign is LockAndKeyEvents.com (LNK), because this site was originally programmed by me back in 2002, and the storied site, which is doing well these days, was thrown together in a 3 week period, albeit, it was literally made with chunks of PHP from here and there, and the design was a actually acceptable back then. But that was then and this is now. We are in a new era of Post Web 2.0, almost Web 3.0.

Fast forward 7 years, 3 owners later, tons of changes in the world from programming to design to SEO to business practices and LNK was basically left alone, did its job and grew and grew, but little of the technology and design went along with it. This means it is time for a redesign. By redesign this includes everything from design improvements to technology addons, open source implementations and the bells and whistles by the time the team working on it is finished.

So, this redesign concept will cover what is happening and the impact from a functional perspective through to a design perspective and what all of this means. And along the way I am going to mention how we are using the conversion formula of MarketingExperiments and the theories of “Don’t Make Me Think”, a classic. Plus you need to know the conversion rate improvements and why and how we are doing them. We are going to let you into the mind of what is going on being these improvements and why. If you have a comment for me or want to throw your hat in the ring and let us know how we can even improve it more, that is great…

Either sign up on this blog to find out about the next installment of this article or follow me at twitter @dgudema.

Landing Page Optimization & MarketingExperiments

Last spring I attended the 2009 Omniture Marketing Summit. By chance, right before I left, I noticed there was a landing page certification program being run by MarketingExperiments (associated with Marketing Sherpa). Those of you familiar with the MarketingExperiments formula and principals know how this program works. And when I attended the conference and spent the 8 or so hours getting this certification, I ended up finding out how little I actually did know about landing page optimization and site optimization in general.

I have been a hard core web developer, a Unix SA, a web content management analyst, a web analytics analyst, a web manager, and most recently a web marketer, but all those experiences over 10 years were somewhat dwarfed by the simplicity of the MarketingExperiments experience. Since then I have graciously put the experience to work on several websites, some for fun, some for consulting work, and some general comments at my day job. The formula is still the same, C=4M+3V+2(I-F)-2A… And I am not going to get into it exactly, but the formula helps figure out what is wrong with conversion process on a web page.

Case in point, most recently I was asked to do this type of analysis of a website I did all the programming for called LockAndKeyEvents.com. This site is a popular singles events site, that has not changed design much since it was created in 2002. Since then the site has had 3 owners and has grown to over 20 cities in the US. The current owner is doing a great job, but the site need work from a design perspective and needs a lot of small programming improvements which hopefully will be fixed over the next few months.

On an unrelated note, well maybe not unrelated, I was asked by a colleague for a specific guide to improving an internal UI. I told him about MarketingExperiments, but more importantly, it suddenly occurred to me that there was a little book sitting on my bookshelf called “Don’t Make Me Think”, which I have carried with me for the last couple of years. The book is all about meeting customer expectation and meeting standards that people use on web pages. Both the book and MarketingExperiments make the point that you don’t need a PHD or oversimplification of UI design. You actually need to be both in the head of the customer, not make them think to hard and finally guide them properly, with little if any friction through the end-goal of conversion. Sounds easy.