Archive for the ‘Web Sites’ Category

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on Marketing for Mavens. This has drastically cut into my time on this blog but I wanted to post a quick note to highlight what I’ve been up to.

Back in June, we launched a beta web application called Marketing for Mavens (MfM). MfM allows companies to match their web content, promotions, and offers to the needs of the web site visitors. This is done by setting up section(s) of your web page(s) where you want MfM to control the content. As people visit your site, MfM tracks the pages they go to and tags them based on those pages. These tags help MfM analyze what visitors are looking for and display the most appropriate content/promotion/offer based on this analysis. There are several benefits to this:

  • Multiple promotions and offers can share the same real estate on a web page. You no longer need to build generic promotions that need to cater to all of your visitors or figure out how to balance or rotate several promotions on a crowded home page.
  • You no longer have to track all your promotions and offers. It is done automatically and the most appropriate content is delivered to your visitors in real-time.
  • Improved web site usability. Your visitors have a better chance of finding what they want since MfM is displaying content, promotions, and offers based on their history with your web site.
  • Better results. People are more likely to respond to your promotions and offers if they are inline with their needs.

Currently, MfM is in beta and will continue to be in beta through the end of the year. During the beta, registration and use of the MfM application is free. You can try out the service for as long as you want, on as many sites and pages as you want.

We also continue to add new features every few weeks which is where a lot of my time is going. In September we added:

  • Better Sales Lead Targeting: You can target content and promotions to select visitors. MfM allows you to customize web promotions that will only be seen by an individual visitor. You select how many times you want this promotion to be shown and it will be displayed the next time this person visits your web site.
  • Referrer Tracking: You can now see where your visitors are coming from and the search terms they used to find you. This gives you even more valuable insight into targeting your visitors, ensuring that you target them with the right promotions at the right time.
  • Link Tracking: You can now track which promotions are the most effective and eliminate under performing ones. A/B Testing of your promotions and offers can now be done as well.

If you’re interested in more information please check out the Marketing for Mavens web site. You can also sign-up for the free beta.

As things calm down on the MfM front, I hope to get back to blogging more frequently here.

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I wanted to extend an offer I made on my Marketing for Mavens blog to a larger audience. The other day I was inspired by the idea that there are probably thousands of people out there with web development, web design, and web marketing questions but have no idea where to go to have them answered. Yes, there are forums out there for this sort of thing but sometimes you just want to have a conversation with someone. Over the years, I have learned a lot from the different communities out there and it time for me to give back.

I have decided that I’m going to donate an hour of each day to helping people with their web related questions. I setup a form that people can use to fill out a quick description of their question and how they would like to be contacted. I can’t make any promises that I’ll be able to answer every question but at the very least I can probably point you in the right direction. If you have a question, then please feel free to submit it to me. Thank you!

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OK, so today is the fourth day that I’ve immersed myself in all things RoR and I have to say that it is starting to get much easier. It was tough in the beginning since so many of the best tutorials are based on pre-Rails 2.0 but as I’ve mentioned in my last two posts, I’ve found some very helpful resources. There were definitely a couple times where I was ready to throw everything out and go back to PHP, which I am much more familiar with, but RoR kept showing flashes of brilliance in how quickly a web app can come together when you know what you’re doing.

So now, I’m over the initial pain of learning a new programming language and framework. I’m by no means an expert. I’d still consider myself a beginner but now I’ve found more than enough resources to keep me going when I’m stuck.

Visit my del.icio.us link for all of the best resources that I’ve found to help you get started. Try not to get too frustrated in the beginning and you will soon receive the benefits of this well thoughtout framework. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end.

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A couple of other notes.

I’ve found it much easier to develop in rails using Aptana Studio Community Edition. Instead of having several windows open all over the place, Aptana condenses it into one area and it really improves the development environment.

I’ve also continued to update my del.icio.us tag with more resources including this tutorial by Fabio Akita which has proved to be quite helpful.

I’m still struggling with wrapping my head around adding plugins and some more of the complex coding but with the help of some of these tutorials I’m definitely making some progress.

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I’ve been taking some time recently to learn Rails 2.0. Unfortunately, I’ve found it rather difficult getting started due to differences between 1.x and 2.0. It seems that most of the tutorials are based on the older versions. When moving to 2.0, it is very important that you find tutorials geared toward this specific version or you will run into problems right away. By far, the best resource to getting started has been Dan Benjamin’s guide to getting all of the applications up and running on OS X 10.4 and Ralph Edge’s tutorial for beginners. Ralph has also been very helpful in answering some questions that I’ve had. He’s very quick to reply in his blog.

I’ve also been trying to compile the best resources I come across on del.icio.us. For people who are interested, you can check them out at http://del.icio.us/cwills/rubyonrails.

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…and to continue to beat on this same topic. Here’s some more data from crazyegg that relates to people clicking on the company logo on the home page. See here for more details.

Total clicks: 22 (less than 1% of total clicks analyzed)

  • 18 of these clicks were made in less than 20 seconds
  • 11 made in under 5 seconds
  • 8 made in under 3 seconds
  • 5 made in under 2 seconds
  • Only 4 of the clicks came after looking at the page for more than 20 seconds

These results are the opposite of what I would have expected. I would have thought that the people clicking on the corporate logo would have been people that were lost but over 33% clicked the link in less than 3 seconds. I know we’re all in pursuit of instant satisfaction but I would think it would take people longer than that to get frustrated and click on the logo. These statistics leave me even more perplexed then ever as to why people are drawn toward clicking there.

As for the total clicks, it’s a low number when you consider it in comparison to the roughly 400 clicks being analyzed but it
out numbers several content areas on the home page and some primary navigation elements as well. There has to be more here. Perhaps I need to run a second test and see if I receive similar results.

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Here’s a random thought as I study a heat map of our corporate home page. When people click on the company logo in the top left corner of the page, where do they expect to go? Where should this take them? Isn’t it universally understood that the corporate logo in the top left is the “home” link? I don’t have an answer just yet but some experimenting is in order.

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One of the toughest challenges for any corporate web site is getting people to come back. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately and here are some of my thoughts.

People come back because:

1. They trust you, your opinion, your expertise, and commitment to your products/services. On the web, this is accomplished through the content on your site, the tone in which it is written, and the overall presentation (the look) of your site. If you fail at any one of these, chances are, you’ll have to do the other ones incredibly well or the person will not return. Your site must look credible, provide excellent information on your products and services, and talk to your visitors in the same tone you would talk to your friends (no run-on paragraphs filled with buzz words).

2. You consistently provide new information, thoughts, opinions, and answers to questions on a topic of interest to them. This can be done through blogs, wikis, or general content updates. Help the person do their job better or make their life easier and you’ll have an evangelist for life. Focus on how your web site can help them rather than how it can help you.

3. They have more questions about your company/product/service. Make it simple for repeat visitors to find information such FAQ’s, pricing, forums, support, etc. The first visit is generally to see if you can help them solve a problem. The follow-up visits are to convince themselves you’re the right fit for solving the problem.

4. They heard news/info on your company and they want to read your company’s opinion and information on this news. Don’t let the outside world do all the talking. Join the conversation. If you’ve just acquired a company, explain why you’ve done so. If news or rumors are swirling about one of your products, give open and honest information. It builds trust (see point #1) and it ensures people will come to you to hear the truth.

5. They want to participate in your community. Build forums, discussions, wikis, and other open participation communication tools into your site. Turn your best customers, your enthusiasts, into evangelists and people will consistently come back to learn from them.

There are going to be many other reasons as well. The bottom line is to think about your site from your audience point of view. Think about the questions they’ll be asking and how you can best answer them. Also, interview people and conduct usability testing. Unless you get out of your company’s “echo chamber” you won’t be able to come up with all of these answers on your own.

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I’ve been working on a graphic that helps me to visualize how traffic flows to a web site. I’ve used the software industry as the basis for this but it could easily be translated to any industry. I’m posting this in hopes of getting some feedback as I’m sure I’m missing some things and would love to hear people’s opinions.

Web Traffic Overview

I’ve found that looking at this diagram has helped me think about how each audience would get to a web site and the types of questions they’d be asking. I’m also working on a series of diagrams that breaks each audience segment into a work flow outlining the questions they’d be asking what information they’d be looking for. I’ll post these at a later time once they’re completed.

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Corporate intranets have been rendered useless by top-down management. This of course is by design. The original corporate intranet, circa 1995, broke down walls and had employees collaborating and sharing information without barriers. Those who feared this new monster quickly pointed to broken corporate standards and the risk that someone might post some top secret plans and they would know longer be top secret. So in comes the “experts” to protect all employees from themselves. These “protectors” disguise themselves as the protectors of corporate secrets and style guides. In reality, they are essentially helping employees to find their place in the organization and stopping this open collaboration health risk. Now, thank God, in the year 2007, we have rid ourselves of this madness and have a top-down approach to the corporate intranet that mimics how an organization should be run. A place where documents are logged and archived until eternity, where nothing can be found without attempting to use the search box, and important information is removed and stored locally on each employees computer for safe keeping. Thank you for making what could have been a revolutionary way of communicating within an organization, a place that everyone avoids until they need the latest HR documents once a year.

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