July 31, 2004

  • HBX V2

    I just posted this to Eric Petersen’s wonderful Web Metrics Discussion Group:

    Subject: HBX V2

    I’m delurking to point the list to the log-in for HBX which has this notice

    (that I noticed for the first time today):

    WebSideStory will soon release the latest version of its flagship service, HBX. Version 2 of HBX has been designed based on direct customer feedback.


    – ‘Tagless’ Campaigns: Create and manage campaigns directly from the user interface, with no change in your page tags. You can define campaign response, leads and conversions from the user interface, simplifying your campaign measurement activities.

    – Conversion Rules: The conversion events introduced in HBX have been improved to include advanced rules such as conditional conversions and more.

    – Conversion Groups: Group any number of conversion rules and get conversion-specific reports in HBX.


    Active Segmentation: Use this add-on module to create advanced filters on your visitor sessions. Examples of filters may include any combination of geographical, purchase or site behavior parameters. Active Segmentation lets you create advanced segments directly from the user interface, with no changes in your HBX page tags.

    HBX v2 and Active Segmentation were developed to provide you greater control in improving your online business initiatives. We’ll keep you updated on the release schedule.

    Is this the beginning of a new round of feature wars as we move into the fall? How do these new features fit into the picture presented by the NC article Eric recently linked to? Will HBX move into the lead or does Omniture have or plan to have similar features soon?

  • Thought

    I read Tim O’Reilly’s fantastic essay The Open Source Paradigm Shift weeks ago, but failed to post a link to it.

    O’Reilly makes some critical insights that must analysis of the open source and online movements make. He saees open source as an expression of three deep, long-term trends: the commoditization of software, network-enabled collaboration, and software customizability (i.e. software as a service).

    The lengthy article is worth a read and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to look a few years out to see where current online trends are leading us.

  • Thought

    CIO Insight has a brief interview with Jakob Nielsen called Time for a Redesign.

    “an average mid-size company can expect a return on investment of 1,000 percent, and a gain of $5 million a year in employee productivity, simply by improving the usability of its intranet.”

    I’m just about to start on an intranet redesign project so this article was timely. In fact it probably would have made the case for me. Fortunately the company and their web agency were open minded enough to get me on board early on without needing a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

    While I didn’t have Nielsen’s numbers at hand during the initial meeting, I did say something to the effect of “okay, you have over 10,000 employees, 70% of them access your intranet on a regular basis. That means at least 35,000 visits to the site we are redesigning each week, or 1.75 million visits a year. Let’s say that my work shaves only 3 minutes off each visit by reducing confusion and the time it takes to get to key tasks. That works out to over 10,000 staff days in savings. That’s the equivalent of 32 full time staff a year.”

    I can’t imagine a more compelling argument for getting expert help in redesigning internal sites as well as customer facing ones.

  • How I Reward Lead Generators

    Lately I’ve been getting amazing word of mouth leads from friends, associates, and clients. Since my business largely depends on these recommendations, I’ve always been generous in thanking those who’ve sent business my way.

    Of course rewarding your lead generators makes sense, but the question is, how.

    In the past I’ve always found an interesting art house coffee-table book and sent that as a thank you. But recently the leads have been for some big deals and I’ve decide to up the gifts I’m sending as well.

    I’m now giving my best lead generators an iPod Mini in their choice of colour.

    Why be this generous? Three reasons:

    1. They deserve it. People have to go out of their way to think of me and if the deal closes, they should get something in recognition. And cash is a bit too crass for me.

    2. They will be more inclined to send me business in the future — maybe even bigger business. I’m sure recent gift getters are already imagining what they might get if they get me a REALLY big lead.

    3. They’ll “sneeze”. Seth Godin introduced the idea of “sneezers” in Idea Virus and this is my primary goal — getting these sneezers to sneeze more. Can anyone get an iPod Mini and not show it off to friends? Won’t they all ask “where did you get that”? And won’t the engraving on the back of the iPod with their name, my thanks, and my web address be another reason to talk to friends about me and what I did for them?

    My guess is, this will be the best investment I’ve ever made.

  • iPod Does Not Appear In iTunes Or My Computer

    I’m lovin’ my iPod, but I did run in to a small snag when my Windows XP PC stopped recognizing iPod was connected.

    I hunted around a bit and found an Apple Support document called “iPod does not appear in iTunes or on the desktop, an exclamation point or sad iPod icon appears onscreen”.

    The answer to the question “how do I get Windows to recognize my iPod” is essentially:

    1. Put iPod into “Disk Mode”.

    2. Reset iPod.

    That did the trick.

    Tip 1: I would note is that iTunes started syncing my songs even though iPod was in “Disk Mode” when it finally connected. The support docs might lead you to believe that you can disconnect right away, but I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to disconnect while the sync is taking place.

    Tip 2: Apple has a recommended way to undock iPod that may not be entirely intuitive to Windows users.

July 30, 2004

  • Budgeting for Advertising and Customer Experience

    Great column (as always) by Mark Hurst. This one, entitled Budgeting for Advertising and Customer Experience, deals with an all too common problem — companies that budget well for advertising to get people to their site but spend almost nothing to ensure that people can actually use the site once they get there.

    I see this every day as I meet with companies to discuss their websites. Many of them have such underfunded and poorly thought out sites that they don’t even know what the potential is. I met with a major insurance company who was happy that five customers had signed up using their complex online quote and purchase process. Five! And that was a good day. My guess is the process that many customers a minute through call centers and sales agents. No wonder the CEO doesn’t want to spend more on web initiatives.

    Of course, with a proper strategy, a well-designed site, and an integrated approach to marketing in and between multiple channels, I’m sure that the Web could be on an equal footing with the call center. But how to convince the CEO that a properly implemented web strategy and user experience would mean one hundred times the sales through the web channel? If you suggest that poor site design makes 500 potential sales per day into 5, who will ever believe you?

    Still, I am encouraged, as Mark is, that some folks are starting to get the madness of this approach. Read the article and you too will be left shaking your head at the illogic of “business as usual”.

    (And congrats to Good Experience for finally adopting a blog format and getting an RSS feed! Not sure when that happened but I just clued into it.)

July 28, 2004

  • iPod As Gateway Drug

    I think the iPod is a gateway drug intended to lure unsuspecting Windows users over to Apple.

    I just received my 4th Gen iPod today and the experience of buying it online from Apple and then getting this absolutely gorgeously packaged work of art has left me wanting more.

  • Thought

    Christina Wodtke and Nate Koechley delivered a very interesting presentation at webvisions 2004 conference in July.

    Essentially they are suggesting a model whereby a lot of the IA (particularly wireframing) is done in a style that supports easy integration into a standards-based web design. One can imagine using divs & classes to define the structure of the page without needing to step into the “little box on the top right” kind of wireframe that really limits designers for no real reason.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’m very interested in the idea of the XHTML almost being the wireframe for the site. “CSS Styling” is then the job of the designer. Replacing placeholder code with database and application hooks is the job of the developers. And the wireframe/XHTML is the site structure, page layout, and requirements documentation.

    This is a big idea and I plan to work on this more.

    If any designers with a passion for CSS want to discuss breaking up workflow between XHTML creation and CSS design, I’d like to hear from them.

July 24, 2004

  • Thought

    Dave blogged about CNN not understanding what a blog was and offered this image as proof.

    Dave’s confusion about CNN’s intent here is understandable and illustrates a problem with tabbed interfaces.

    The image is from the CNN.com Election Special page in its default view. The widget Dave was looking at in fact offers two options — send CNN an e-mail or find out more about CNN’s Convention Blog.

    The “Blog” and “E-mail Us” at the top of this widget are supposed to be tabs, and E-mail Us is the default setting. If you click on “Blog” it will offer up this:

    This is very confusing because the tabs don’t look like tabs. In the default view the word “blog” looks like a label and “e-mail us” looks like part of the widget’s copy. Making matters worse, the default position is to the second tab instead of the first.

    Hopefully now that Dave’s flagged the problem CNN can take some time to fix this so that people can actually find the convention blog when it launches July 26th.

    If someone from CNN wants to contact me I’ll be happy to give them a free copy of my Web Best Practices report that covers this among other things.

    (Note: It seems that Dave’s taken down the post as I can’t find it on his site even though it showed up in his feed)

  • The Death of Offline Advertising — And The Birth of “New Marketing”

    (I originally wrote a brief post to the AIMS discussion list on this topic and was then asked by Direct Marketing News to write an extended commentary based on that post. Here is my original draft of the column which inexplicably differs significantly from the in print (but not online) version. Consider this the true version please.)

    The Death of Offline Advertising — And The Birth of “New Marketing”

    At the end of March, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sang a sweet song to online marketers looking to forget the dark years that followed the heady days of the Internet ad boom.

    During the company’s MSN Strategic Account Summit, Ballmer told the 500 or so US ad executives in the audience that 100% of ad dollars will be spent online by 2010. That’s no typo. He said all marketing will be online in six years.

    Given that major consumer packaged goods advertisers are generally spending less than 1% of their budgets online and that many advertisers are still unsure of how to market online, why would Ballmer make such a bold prediction?

    Certainly it is in Microsoft’s best interest to tell advertisers to up their online ad budgets to 8–13% now in preparation for the day when all their budgets are online. MSN counts on online ad revenue, so it seems natural they’d want ads online instead of in channels Microsoft does not (yet) own. And more online activity means more devices, and that means more software, and that means more money for Microsoft.

    But — looking beyond self-interest — might there really be a basis for Ballmer’s assertion? There may be more evidence that Ballmer is on to something than you would think.

    Bye-Bye Bomb-times

    First, if you haven’t been paying attention to online ads lately, you may be surprised that, in the US, the first quarter of 2004 was the biggest quarter ever for online ads, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. And that’s hot on the heels of the last record breaking quarter, the 2003 holiday season. With the online ad industry now bigger than it was at the peak of the boom, “Bomb-times” seem to be behind us.

    And while some sectors are lagging behind in online ad spending, others have figured out that online ads can be more efficient than other channels. In the US, the travel and financial sectors are leading the way with 15 and 17% of budgets online respectively.

    So online ads are commanding a greater share of the ad budget. Is it possible they will command it all?

    One IP To Rule Them All

    Let’s deconstruct Ballmer’s exact words to get a better understanding of his vision.

    Ballmer is quoted as saying “All marketing will have the characteristics of online marketing”.

    I would argue that the “characteristics of online marketing” that make it compelling are that it is targetable, actionable, and trackable — all in real-time. These four characteristics give online a unique advantage that marketers are just now beginning to comprehend.

    Ballmer is also quoted as saying that “everything will go over intelligent IP [Internet Protocol]”.

    This echoes Chairman Bill Gates’ vision of a “seamless computing” future where all devices are Internet enabled and can easily speak to each other and to the Net. This intelligent network will use the same underpinnings as our present-day Internet but it will be so embedded in all our devices and business practices that it will disappear from consciousness; like electricity.

    So while many have dismissed Ballmer’s comments as more Microsoft FUD, I don’t believe that Ballmer meant that someday we’d all be shilling banner ads for a living. Rather, I think that he is wisely noting that the ubiquity of Internet access in all locations and through all devices will allow most media to become targetable, actionable, and trackable. And if a particular media cannot evolve to share these characteristics with online marketing, it will be relegated to a minor supporting role in larger, IP-based marketing campaigns.

    For lack of a better term, let’s call it “new marketing” and define it as “marketing through channels that allow companies to target specific consumers based on context, behaviour, location and other factors in order to create measurable responses that can be tracked in near real-time”.

    If we look carefully we see the seeds of “new marketing” blooming all around us, just as “new media” once did.

    Here are a few early sightings:

    1. ROI Marketing Hits The Tipping Point

    There is a strong move towards accountability for all major business expenses. Marketing won’t be spared from the drive to measurability and accountability. CxO’s are asking tough questions like “What do I get for my ad dollar?” and “Did this campaign make or cost us money?” These are questions that traditional “awareness” marketing can’t answer except anecdotally. Marketers will be forced to adopt direct response models in order to justify their budgets and their jobs. Once enough people move this way, everyone will suddenly make the switch because their careers will be on the line if they don’t learn to go with the ROI flow. Any marketing vehicle that can’t help marketers justify their spend will be hard pressed to keep up with New Marketing opportunities that do.

    2. The Perfect Response Tool

    As companies look for ways to measure marketing ROI, more and more cross channel marketing will be directed towards the Net. Search Engine Marketing is catching fire because marketers who “get direct” see that they can now build testable, trackable campaigns online and that means budgets will be diverted from less measurable channels. And as we get smarter about what works and what online marketing is worth, watch for other DM channels to have to fight for attention and ad dollars. Response marketers look for the most cost effective channel, and if it’s the Net, say goodbye outbound telemarketing and direct mail.

    3. The Net Generation

    We’ve already seen reports that young males are “missing” from TV audience figures. Look for today’s young adults — raised in a web-based, multi-tasking world to become the core consumers of the next decade, meaning that the Net will be a natural place to find consumers in their peak buying years. And these kids expect everything to be online, instantaneous and under their control. Will they accept “ol’ skool” media for much longer (if they ever did)?

    4. All Bits Move To The Net

    Over time, anything that can move over the Net, will move over the Net. When was the last time you received a fax that wasn’t junk or wasn’t sent because to provide a signature? The last time your wrote a letter?

    In the mid-90’s I witnessed Nicholas “Being Digital” Negroponte tell a ballroom full of music industry executives that they were in the “bit radiation” business and that as soon as someone figured out how to make it more efficient to radiate bits over wires rather than stamping them on shiny discs they’d all be out of jobs. Those execs laughed at the time, but they are now scrambling to cut deals with Puretracks and Napster to try and correct the damage done by free download sites.

    But the music industry is just a canary in a coalmine. The movie industry and phone companies are next into the breach, struggling to cope with BitTorrent and Voice Over IP (VoIP) respectively.

    In six to ten years I’m sure that the majority of voice, TV, radio, music, and movies will be entering our homes over a Net connection. And many non-measurable, non-targetable media will soon be replaced by new and improved online versions. Is it hard to imagine radio stations moving online and targeting ads based on past behaviour and the listener’s physical location? What will happen to radio when ads are addressable, measurable, and immediately actionable online?

    Will the “marketing bits” you radiate be the only ones to avoid this inevitable move to the Net? Are you sure?

    5. Media On Demand

    Consumers are just now beginning to see the joys of an “on demand” approach to information and entertainment. WiFi is making the Broadband home a reality, iPods are allowing us to put a lifetime of music in our pockets, and PVRs are taking time-shifting to a completely new level.

    Once the user is in control of the when and where of media consumption, the impact on advertising will be considerable. If there is no primetime, only “my time”, won’t ads need to provide the same responsiveness to a consumer’s desires?

    6. Online, All The Time

    Increasingly we live in a world of three screens — a TV for communal viewing, a computer screen for individual work, and a “Third Screen” for accessing information while on the move. As “unwired” PDAs are replaced by phones and hybrid products that allow for voice, e-mail, SMS, IM, web access, and digital photography all from one device, ads that are aware of their location in the world will increase. Adding toll-free order numbers, e-mail and web addresses, or text numbers to outdoor and transit ads is a logical first step towards our devices actually interacting with the ads.

    How would your marketing change if transit ads were part of the Net? If Google on a cell phone was everyone’s default yellow pages?

    7. GPS Pop Cans

    Coke’s “Unexpected Summer” promotion is taking “New Marketing” to a new level. Coke has randomly placed 120 GPS-enable cell phone “cans” in pop cases across the US. If you find a can you can use it to phone in and have your location tracked so that your grand prize can be airlifted to you wherever you are in America.

    If products are already being hooked to the Net and electronically enhanced, what will happen when RFID tags allow retailers and manufacturers to track each unit individually?

    Ramping Up

    As much as I’d like Steve Ballmer’s world of targetable, actionable, trackable, real-time advertising, my guess is that we’ll never quite arrive at this marketing nirvana. There will always be those that espouse brand at any cost, those that believe they have too little time and too little money to “bother” with tracking their marketing. But that’s not you.

    How do we get to this “new marketing”? I concur with Steve Ballmer and recommend that we get busy now. It’s time that marketers learn to allocate budgets differently and drive all ads to a measurable channel. And then we need to begin driving all measurement to standards-based net apps so results can be analyzed and adjusted in real-time.

    The challenge for ad suppliers is to figure out how they can create New Marketing channels that, like online ads, are targetable, actionable, and trackable. If you sell ads for a living, what will you do to prepare for the New Marketing? Measurable billboards? Commerce-enabled transit signs? POP that changes based on the weather?

    What will your ads do tomorrow that the Net can do today?

July 22, 2004

  • Thought

    Read and Pass is the blog for Seth Godin’s wonderful new project ChangeThis.

    Funny though, the blog is in chronological order instead of the almost universal reverse chronological order.

    I find it endlessly confusing that the posts are in the “wrong” order and I’d like them to change it right away. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s noticed this even though Feedster shows few links to Read and Pass.

    So here is my first “minifesto”:

    All blogs should be in reverse chronological order to avoid needless scrolling and to stick with conventional usage.

July 21, 2004

  • Thought

    You need to look at the GMail Utilities page over at Aimless Words, even if you don’t have a Gmail Account yet (let me know if you know me and would like one, I’ve got a few still).

    Gmail is still only a few months old and the online gift/DIY community has already made a ton of improvements to the service via bookmarklets, scripts, web service hacks and the like. While Google may not like all of these “enhancements”, the power of many bright bulbs working on small improvements like this is wonderful to see. (via urlgreyhot)

  • Jumping To Conclusions About White Space

    The June 2004 issue of Usability News has an article called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts”.

    The research is summarized as:

    “In this study, reading performance with four white space layouts was compared. Margins surrounding the text and leading (space between lines) were manipulated to generate the four white space conditions. Results show that the use of margins affected both reading speed and comprehension in that participants read the Margin text slower, but comprehended more than the No Margin text. Participants were also generally more satisfied with the text with margins. Leading was not shown to impact reading performance but did influence overall user preference.”

    I’ve looked at this a few times now and have to say I don’t get it. The sample images used in the testing seem to change the font size as well as the margin and leading. The images are the same width and each line has the same number of letters on it, but two of the images have almost no margin. Seems to me that this means the font has to be larger.

    If this is the case, then the results don’t seem conclusive. In fact, in the report the researchers state:

    “The second preferred combination was the No Margin, Optimal Leading condition. Interestingly, those that chose this condition as the best layout said that they liked the spacing between the lines and indicated the font looked larger and was easier to read. So, while leading did not affect reading performance, it did appear to influence user preference.”

    Somehow the researchers manage to say “they liked the one that they thought had the bigger fonts, so the leading must have an impact on preference.”

    I think the research makes could equally be read to say:

    “The second preferred combination was the Larger Fonts, Optimal Leading condition. Interestingly, those that chose this condition as the best layout said that they liked the spacing between the lines and indicated the margins looked smaller and was easier to read.”

    And therefore the whole exercise seems too ambiguous to draw a best practice from. And I was really hoping to add that one to the archive.

July 20, 2004

  • “Credentialing”

    I am working with a good friend on developing her web site. She is a respected industry insider and at the top of her career. Almost all her business comes from word-of-mouth and referrals.

    As we discussed options for her site, the conversation turned (quickly) to why people would visit the site and what we wanted them to do based on their visit.

    Most visitors will be coming to the site either because someone said “you have to talk to this person, check out her site” or because they Googled her first contacting her.

    The goal of the site had to be to get them to call and set up a meeting because all her business starts with a face-to-face meeting.

    Given that goal, our first approach was to consider an informational site with the usual “client list”, “bio”, “services”, and such. Then we considered a more aggressive “selling” strategy to push visitors to pick up the phone.

    In the end neither of these seemed right given that most visitors are already interested and qualified. It seemed to us that the purpose of the site was to “credential” her rather than “inform” or “sell”.

    From this we came up with a new (for me) conceptual model for the site — “Credentialing”.

    Credentialing probably goes in three stages:

    1. Is this person legitimate? Can I trust them and would I want to do business with them? Professional site design, solid site structure, and quality copywriting should get us past this hurdle.

    2. Does this person have experience? The content (bio, clients, case studies, etc.) will wow anyone not already familiar with her distinguished career.

    3. Does this person have ideas that can help me? Are they still at the top of their game or resting on laurels? To credential her ability to think, to add value, and to be on top of current business issues, blogging was the obvious way to go.

    While a “credentialing site” might not look that different from a typical free agent’s web site, this insight has allowed us to open up all kinds of possibilities for the site and has (importantly) told us what not to waste time on.

    Most interesting for me, the process of defining customer needs and the business benefits of meeting these needs has changed this from a chore to an exciting exercise that is allowing her to rethink her business. And blogging will provide her with an outlet for big ideas she’s been percolating but never felt the desire to work into book format.