An unexpectedly effective intro

Usually emails like this never grab my attention. This one did.

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The lack of marketing collateral, imagery, and unnecessary graphics made this letter look sincere rather than canned. That being said I still didn’t take the survey because they lost me with the “less than 30 seconds” bit and I generally don’t take surveys unless I have my experience deemed it necessary.

I’ve sent out my fair share of survey’s but if every experience ended with a survey we’d never have time to do anything else but take them. Survey’s should be reserved for a higher purpose and not simply to give your readers another reason to unsubscribe.

Here’s an example of a Just In Time survey that was super quick and very easy for me to take.

Every page is a homepage

This post is a prologue to a bigger article but I wanted it make a quick point and hopefully get some feedback.

Your homepage is everywhere and it is nowhere

If visitors never see your homepage does it exist? Let’s put the phylosophical questions aside for a moment and ask a more practical one. If Google, social sharing, digital word-of-mouth does the work of directing visitors to your internal pages so effectively how likely is it they will ever see your homepage?

If the answer is unlikely, then are you doing a good enough job giving visitors a next step? Where do they go next? How is engagement?

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I currently use tweet embeds and Jetpack related posts to help keep the conversation going either on or off my site, but it’s not enough.

Here’s where I need your help

I’m proposing two things I’d like to do with my site. The first is to fully eliminate the existence of the single post or page. I’ll do this by turning every post into an archive page similar to my homepage with infinite scrolling of posts below the current post you’re viewing.

The second to-do item is to implement a plugin I’m working on to help visitors track read and unread articles. Eventually the articles that show below the one you landed on should be displayed based on an algorithm that shows related and unread articles.

In a scenario where those two adjustments have been made to my site, are comments necessary, wise and or practical? How do you feel about comments?

I haven’t seen a ton of value in comments lately and I’m wondering what you think?

When Google takes your visitors

I hope at this point it’s abundantly clear Google doesn’t care about increasing your site traffic. They care about answering a query, and doing it as accurately and as fast as possible.

I remember back when Google started indexing interior pages, and users began experiencing your site without ever seeing your homepage. Then indexed pages started showing up in the SERP:

automattic-serp

I bet you remember the first time Google answered a question for you in the SERP and you never even had to click a link. Searchers get the answers they want even faster than before, and in cases like currency conversion or the price of gold, quick answers in the SERP make a lot of sense.

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price of gold

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The data presented above are facts, and related to specific statistical analysis of the market. In most cases you’re looking for a quick answer so avoiding a click through gets you a quick answer. What about the sites that provide this information? They need your traffic, and specifically your eyes on their site to survive.

So what do you do when you’re providing content for Google to essentially scrape to provide a better experience to searchers, and you get nothing out of it? At this point the better your content is written, the clearer the answer, the faster your site loads, the more likely Google is to take it for themselves.

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I don’t otherwise read MTV blogs or content. This was MTV’s chance to provide me with an experience to turn me into a loyal reader. Google essentially stole that from MTV because I have the exact answer I was looking for and I never need to leave the comfort of a Google SERP.

In my talk Getting them from A to B I deliver practical and specific advice on how you can improve your site and your visitors experience to help overcome these problems. Google will always provide visitors with the fastest means of getting to your content. Personalization is key for Google and for your site.

Your content is never going to be your content when it’s on the web. It’s hilarious when website administrators try to prevent content from being copied, downloaded or otherwise shared. If you want to be apart of the Internet you’re going to have to realize that you’re not in control. Users dictate how they want their content, and that includes the “when” and more recently the “where”.

My advice on the this matter hasn’t changed since 1999 when I started building websites. Focus all of your efforts on creating genuine, creative, and powerful content. Sure some of it my be used without awarding you the credit you deserve. Just remember, the only thing the Internet rewards time and time again is authentic content written with the goal of helping users. Gimmicks, click bait, ad copy, SEO’d content, are all just fads with short term gains.

Advocate for the experience not your design

I frequently become emotionally connected to my work as I’m crafting it, a practice I’m trying to eliminate. It’s actually quite amazing how I see myself in my work, and when I don’t like something I’ve done I violently discard it. And yet, when it’s something I’m happy with, I nurture it, I envision how it will grow, and how others will of course compliment it. To this I say:

When we start a new project we often work with it one on one, at least in its infancy. Even if you’re working with a team your piece of the puzzle is most likely yours and yours alone.

It’s not until we have matured our wireframe, design, pull request, documentation or chunk of code that we feel comfortable sharing it. It is at this junction you have a choice to release your emotional connection with your work, or risk being bound to it.

One thing I’ve grown accustomed to, is sharing my work with my team (we’re hiring by the way) as soon as possible. The earlier I start getting critical feedback, the faster I can iterate, and the less likely I am to have fallen in love with what I’ve built.

Spending too much time alone with your work may result in a bond that makes it hard to be objective. At that point critical feedback can result in defensive maneuvering rather than logical debates. Fresh and new ideas that have been forked from my own can be seen as an imposter trying to one up my own work. User testing can be clouded by questions that lead rather than uncover. It goes on and on.

Not to be confused with designing for or with emotion

You should bring joy to people through thoughtful design! But, you can’t without empathy, and even then you shouldn’t become overly attached to your work until you know the value it brings. You shouldn’t eliminate emotion from your work, just be aware of your emotional connection to it.

Only after others have had the opportunity to interact with and love your work should you do the same. At that point you become an advocate for the people who use your products, rather than an advocate for your design.

Have you ever experienced an emotional connection to your work that has clouded your judgement? Come chat with me and others about it on Twitter.

Weather.com could learn something from their own app

I find it amazing that the experience I have on the weather.com website is so much worse than their app. Even watching their Weather Channel station on the tv is so much better than the website. There is 1 thing that is hurting the entire design, layout, content architecture and overall experience of weather.com. It’s that they are forcing content I’m not interested in, in my face. Fix that one problem and you will have a website you can start to feel proud of.

Weather.com

Weather.com App

Weather Channel (tv)

The Weather.com App has ads, has additional features, and content that I’m not really that interested in. However, the most important things are there, and it is a very simple and clean experience.

Instead of commenting on this post, come chat with me on Twitter.