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Web Design + Digital Marketing = Success
  “Marketers need to build digital relationships and reputation before closing a sale.” - Chris Brogan, Chief Executive Officer of Owner Media Group. And how else can you build brand reputation in the digital era than with a robust online presence? Today, leading companies are leveraging web design to sustain their digital marketing efforts and are seeing remarkable business results. The following article provides a clearer picture of how digital marketing and web design can work together to deliver digital-readiness and build long-term customer relationships. What makes a great web design strategy?   User-friendly web experiences. One of the primary purposes of a website is to build brand awareness, attract, and retain customers. Consequently, when crafting your web design strategy, the user experience should be a top priority. Think big: accessibility, usefulness, credibility, value, desirability, usability, ease-of-use. All of these are core elements of what attracts website visitors to turn back to your site and, ultimately, become your customers. Search engine optimization (SEO). An SEO-centric web design approach will help you build a solid online presence and a long-lasting brand image. When thinking of SEO, you must consider your long-term objectives and adjust your optimization techniques according to these objectives. On-page and off-page optimization methods, meta descriptions, catchy headlines, alt tags in images, etc., are just a few of the elements in the arsenal of a solid SEO strategy.  Content optimization. This is the backbone of your website, and it can work well in tandem with SEO. When done right, your content will be easy to read, accessible, comprehensive, and informative. You don't want to overwhelm website visitors with too much text, so keep it short and concise. And don't forget about engagement. Think from your audience’s perspective—what would you like to learn from the content displayed on your website? Streamlined navigation. It might sound basic, but the truth is many websites could use some serious work when it comes to navigation. A user-friendly website allows visitors to quickly move from one page to another without 'getting lost'. A site map can prove to be really effective for this purpose, offering interactive and functional features for the users to know exactly where they are on the website and how to get to the desired location.  Branding. Your website should reflect your brand's identity, your business’s culture, and the way you relate to your customers. You can create this brand-website link by investing in visually connecting your logo, print material, and brick-and-mortar location. In this way, you'll add an extra layer of credibility and enhance your brand’s overall image.  “Your website is the center of your digital eco-system, like a brick and mortar location, the experience matters once a customer enters, just as much as the perception they have of you before they walk through the door.” - Leland Dieno. What makes a great digital marketing strategy?   Content management and planning. To be successful in digital marketing, you need to set realistic frameworks from the beginning. There are plenty of strategies and tools that can help you with this, such as content mapping, editorial calendars, or timelines. At this point, you want to plan smartly and organize your project with well-defined outcomes in mind. However, nothing is certain in life, especially in business, so leaving room for uncertainty can be a productive mindset. Set your key performance indicators (KPIs) and ensure that they match your overall business goals. Choosing the right KPIs. Speaking of goals and performance metrics, how do you accurately set them? To stay on target, you must understand your digital needs and marketing efforts. There are some key questions to ask here:      How are your KPIs connected to your objectives?      What's the subject of your measurements?      How do these measurements relate to the user experience?      To what extent do you need to monitor these specific metrics?      Answering these questions will not only help you go beyond data and address the human experience but will also support a solid digital and sales marketing strategy. Leveraging effective content strategies by addressing the 3 R's of engaging content: reliable, relatable, and relevant. Getting to your audience and performing effective outreach campaigns relies on wisely chosen content. Provide your customers with fresh, relevant information, and you'll quickly build trust and position yourself as a reliable advisor.   Strategies are important, but so is flexibility. In business, as in life, it is always wise to leave room for uncertainty. That means building a strategy that is flexible and can adapt to new, unexpected scenarios. In other words, leave some unfilled spots in your timeline so that you can, later on, incorporate things like viral competitors' articles, trends, and current events, or unforeseen expenses in new technologies. To build flexibility, ask yourself these questions from time to time:      Where could I improve my strategies?      Which tools should I choose to keep the business in line and better organized?      Where is the business getting the most traffic from?      What KPIs am I interested in at this stage? Measure your content's performance and see where it is heading. In digital marketing, you always want to know where the business is standing. That's why visualizing a clear direction and planning accordingly to reach your goals is essential. That means being aware of each stage of your funnel and adapting your strategies to match your current activity’s needs and demands.  Why web design and digital marketing should work together?   The impact of web design on your digital marketing outcomes is substantial. The way you design your website speaks volumes about your brand, and it plays a vital role in how your overall business is perceived and engaged with. Elements like the website experience, SEO, social media outreach, and branding are essential components of your digital marketing ecosystem. Blending web design and digital marketing is a modern approach that takes digital businesses to the next level.  “Websites promote you 24/7: No employee will do that.” - Paul Cookson. What are your thoughts on the importance of connecting digital marketing and web design in a holistic business approach? If you want to leverage the full power of the digital, have a look at Optasy's services and see how our experienced team can craft a personalized digital strategy that will suit the needs of your business. Let us build your roadmap to digital success! Photo credit: edhoradic on Unsplash.   ... Read more
Raluca Olariu / Mar 18'2021
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The design and development industry continues to grow more competitively over the years. Agencies that have specific niches and all-around firms are popping left and right. Aside from those, there are also different types of development and design works. As a player in this game, we are driven by our clients’ reception. We value their success and their feedback more than anything else because that’s how we will continue to thrive and grow. We are OPTASY, a digital commerce, marketing, and web development agency based in Toronto. With 16 years of experience under our belt, we’ve experienced so many ups and downs that equipped us with the knowledge we need. We’re an internationally renowned and award-winning team that continues to work hard for our clients. With that said, it has just recently come to our attention that we’ve been selected by Clutch, an established B2B review agency, as one of our nation’s industry leaders. Our team has ranked among the top Drupal and Magento designers and developers because of our spot on projects. "We are thrilled to have been chosen as one of the leading web developers by Clutch!" - Adrian Ababei, CEO of OPTASY, Inc. Clutch also created a list of the top fifteen companies. They measured agencies’ ability to deliver and service focus to determine the industry leaders — and OPTASY ranked sixth on their Leaders Matrix. In addition to that, our team is also found on The Manifest’s, Clutch’s sister site, top 100 mobile app developers in Canada list. This helps us prove that we can handle different projects and deliver phenomenal results. These two recognitions are igniting our drive to further our success this 2021. We are grateful for those who support us, especially our clients. This means so much to the whole OPTASY team.  What can we help you with? Contact us and let’s start collaborating! ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Feb 15'2021
5 tips to pass your Acquia Site Studio (Cohesion) Certification Exam
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to take the Acquia Site Studio (formerly Cohesion) Certification exam. In this post we are going to discuss why I took this exam and more importantly, how I passed it and became an Acquia Certified Site Studio Site Builder. Optasy and its commitment to quality through knowledge You already know that quality is part of the corporate culture of Optasy. For us quality is a key factor to protect our clients' investments and guarantee them a high ROI. But having a good QA department is not enough. Actually, it's often too late when the QA team detects an issue. At Optasy we prefer to ensure quality at the early stages of our projects, analyzing deeply the needs of our clients and transform them into effective digital experiences but we also know that the quality of the code we produce comes from the experience and the skills of our developers. That's why Optasy has an internal 'skill knowledge acquisition program' to help its employees (optasians) to acquire new skills or improve them. This program gives to each optasian one day off per month (paid by the company) to study a particular field. As a way to ensure knowledge acquisition and validation, optasians also receive paid leave to study and give their Acquia certification exams. This includes the exam cost too, that’s why many of the optasian developers are actually Acquia Certified developers or Acquia Certified site builders All things considered, it was a pretty easy choice for me to take the exam, not only do I get to improve my skills, but I get paid for it too! What are the Acquia certification programs? Acquia is a preferred Optasy partner that delivers a cloud-based digital experience platform built on Drupal that enables organizations to build experiences that scale. Acquia is committed to facilitating certification programs allowing developers to validate their Drupal skills year after year. Acquia certification exams are administered at Kryterion Testing Centers in more than 750 locations across the globe. Exams are also available as online-proctored tests and are often offered at DrupalCons across the world. What is Acquia Site Studio? Acquia Site Studio (formerly Cohesion) is a low-code solution for building and editing Drupal sites. As an Acquia partner, our team got the chance to become an early adopter of the technology.  Acquia Site Studio is a sort of layout builder on steroids without writing any line of code. Not only can you build layouts or templates, but also you can build whole websites from the headers to the footers, and everything in between, like components and widgets, just by using the interface. No code required! It's a kind of atomic design system (like Pattern Lab) where you can create and preview CSS style guides, components, template layouts, page layouts or view layout from a visual user interface with simple “drag and drop”. And all of this within your Drupal site! To be fair, Acquia Site Studio is an amazing tool allowing designers and marketers to create and modify any layout component without calling the development team. If you’re a designer with no coding knowledge you’ll be able to create totally unique layouts based on your designs using intuitive drag and drop layout builder. If you're an editor, you may choose the layout you want to use and add all the pre-designed components you wish. Want to add a slider or a 'Related Articles' block? You drag and drop it in your layout! 5 tips to successfully pass your Acquia Certified Site Studio exam As other Acquia Certification exams, the Certified Site Studio exam requires both experience and knowledge. Though the test is not difficult, it’s not something you want to run into unprepared. From my experience, the questions ranged from a very low to medium range of difficulty, there were barely any difficult questions. This exam validates your ability to: Understand the features and functionality provided by Site Studio Install and configure Site studio environment on new or existing websites. Build a website using Site Studio style builder, components and website structure design elements. The official description of this exam can be found on Acquia's certification overview page. But in short: The tests are all multiple choice. They don't require that you actually configure a Drupal site or write any code. They are available in person at a testing center, or at home by installing the exam software on your computer. The price was $155 (In my case, Optasy paid for the test) Get a good understanding of Drupal Layout Builder As I mentioned earlier, Acquia Site Studio is a Layout Builder on steroids and many concepts are the same, so having some experience with this Drupal module will help you a lot, like the inline editing tools or the concept of drawing element into the layout. This is not mandatory, but I felt really comfortable with Site Studio having this previous experience. Read carefully the contents of the exam On Acquia's certification overview page you'll find the blueprint of the exam like the following: But below it, you'll find the content itself. Read it carefully and repeatedly. This should be your guideline during your study. This will help you focus on what really matters but also to recap and structure your notes. Read and study the documentation While there are really good videos on the Acquia Academy site about Site Studio, watching all of them won't be enough. If you don't have prior experience with Site Studio, it's a good starting point. But it definitively won't give all the knowledge you need to pass the exam. Reading the documentation should sound obvious, but you'll really need to read and study all the documentation in depth. Don't leave anything behind cause the exam covers all the aspects of Site Studio, from the basics to more advanced topics. This will also give you the right vocabulary to understand the questions of the exam, since sometimes they can try to trick you changing just one word. So the technical vocabulary has an important role, and that's where the documentation comes into play. Write down some notes after reading each section. This will help you a lot during the recap! Train on the Acquia Site Studio demo environment You can request an online demo environment for free at the bottom of this page The main benefit is that you won't need an API key or an Agency key, so you can test Site Studio for free, the environment acts just like a normal Drupal website. and the site will be all yours to experiment on. This site will be your friend during your study, you should test everything you learned in the documentation here. Do it several times and try different cases. The night before the exam, after reading back your notes, try to build a site from scratch in this environment to recap all the main concepts. This is key! Don't forget the 'Miscellaneous concepts and features' part These three concepts are not placed in one section, they are dispersed in the documentation. Study and practice all of them because you'll have a question about each one. They are only three, it doesn’t sound like a lot but they are worth 15% of the exam! That is a quick and easy win! A bonus tip What really worked for me was to read a section, practice the concepts of this section in the demo environment, read again the same section and take some notes. The day after, read all the notes of the previous day, do the same 7 days later, reading back your notes and practicing again on the demo site. That way, 80% of what you studied will stay forever in your memory. Conclusions Acquia Certification Site Studio Site Builder can be a good way to validate your skills and knowledge There are barely any difficult questions Study all the documentation because the exam is based on it, but also because the exam will cover all of it. Practice a lot, recap a lot. ... Read more
Karim Boudjema / Aug 27'2020
Why Do You Need a User Journey Map? 7 Clear Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping
How precisely does a user journey map help you improve the user experience on your website/app? What are the benefits of customer journey mapping?  Should you expect a direct impact on your conversion rate? In other words, why would you bother creating one? In this post, I've listed the 7 best answers (or “benefits”, if you wish) to your legitimate question: “Why use customer journey mapping?” 1. But First: What Is a User Journey Map? What exactly is a customer journey? And why should you bother... mapping it? It's a timeline that shows all the touch points between the user and your website or application, along with the emotions, motivations, and thoughts that he/she experiences at each step of the process. A shorter “definition” would be: A user journey map is the visualization of an individual's relationship/experience with your website/app across different channels that he uses to interact with it, over time. Does this answer your question: “What is user journey mapping in design thinking?” With this map at hand, it becomes easier for you to... locate the weak spots, where you need to improve the user experience... Too many teams focus almost exclusively on the user experience at the top and on the bottom of the sales funnel and underestimate the steps in the middle. So, they ignore precisely those touchpoints that drive conversions...  2. Why Use User Journey Mapping? Top 7 Benefits What's the purpose?  Why and when to use a user journey map? What design problems does it help you solve? Here are 7 strong reasons why you'd want to bother mapping users' journey on your website: 2.1. It urges you to adopt a more user-centric approach to web design In short, you get to see your website/app through the user's eyes. From his/her point of view. You step into the user's shoes, see how the user interacts with your site, and detect those areas of the user experience that... could be better. 2.2. It helps you answer your “What if...?” questions In other words, with all the valuable information of a customer journey map at hand, you're free to brainstorm ideas. To plan new features, ambitious updates for your website that would: improve the user experience increase engagement with your website and eventually... boost conversions 2.3. It enables you to make strategic recommendations backed up by UX data Are you monitoring quantitative KPI metrics in your company? If so, then a user journey map will help you back all your future recommendations for improving your site's performance with user experience data. 2.4. It helps you see where exactly your website doesn't meet the user's expectations By mapping the customer journey, you get to detect those specific systems and processes — part of the user's journey on your website — that are not aligned with his/her expectations. And to address these inconveniences that are costing you sales. 2.5. It helps you identify opportunities and pain points in the user experience Opportunities that, otherwise, you might just... overlook. And which you can now tap into for... further research (the “what if” question, remember?) A customer journey map helps you visualize both successes —  where your website performs best from a UX standpoint — and areas where you could make an impact. 2.6. It gives you a realistic picture of the user experience on your website Maybe you're convinced that you're doing a great job, yet users are having a really bad experience.  Mapping the user journey will provide you a realistic evaluation of the situation from the user's perspective. 2.7. It helps you evaluate the impact of the changes that you make to your website A user journey map makes a great tool for measuring the impact of the updates that you make.  Updates that you'll decide to implement based on the information that such a map will provide you with. To sum up, here's a short inventory of the benefits that you get from mapping the user journey: you improve your website's/app's design you improve conversion funnels you can compare the experiences of different audience segments you get to “fuel” your user research you get to measure the impact of touchpoints 3. How to Create a User Journey Map: 8 Steps Now that you know why you'd want to map your user's journey on your website, let's see how you do that. What key stages should your user journey map template include? And I've broken the whole process down into 8 simple steps: Step 1: Set a scope for your customer journey map Which could go from a high-level map — the end-to-end user experience — to a more elaborated map, that focuses on one specific user interaction (i.e. filling in the check out form). Step 2: Create your user persona To put together an accurate persona profile, you need to do some user research. Collect as much relevant information about your target audience as possible before putting together the user persona's profile. Step 3: Determine the scenario and the user expectations For instance, a scenario could be: buying an item from your store using your eCommerce app. Whereas the user expectation, in this case, could be: having that item delivered in 2 days at most. Step 4: List the touchpoints It's that step in creating your user journey map where you make a list of all the user actions and interactions with your website/app, as well as of all the channels associated with them. Step 5: Define the problem that the user's trying to solve What's the user's motivation/intention?  What drives him/her to interact with your website?  Is he/she looking for more information on your products/services? Or has he accessed your website to buy a specific product? Step 6: Make a Sketch of the User Journey With all the information you've collected up to this point, put together a step-by-step interaction map. Where each “step” stands for a specific experience that the user persona has when interacting with your website. Step 7: Pinpoint the user's emotional state at each step in the journey What does the user feel at each step of interaction with your website/app? This empathy map will help up visualize the “ups” and “downs” in the user experience, so you should know where to... intervene. Step 8: Validate and adjust the user journey accordingly Rely on the information you will have collected during your usability testing sessions and from your app analytics to put your user journey map against a real use case. No matter how truthful your map might look to you (since you know it's based on intensive user research), it's crucial to validate it and to... adjust it, if needed. 4. User Journey Mapping vs User Story Mapping “Is a user journey like a user story?” Well, there are some key differences to be aware of. What's a user story? user stories describe small, specific tasks a group of user stories forms an “epic” they're essential for user acceptance testing and agile development The standard formula for creating a user story statement if the following: As a..., I want to..., so that I...” For instance: As an SEO specialist, I want to keyword-optimize this text, so that the website ranks higher in Google search results. And how is a user journey map different from a user story? When you map a customer journey you start with post-in notes on a whiteboard. You: determine who your website/app addresses to sketch the big picture detail each “epic” define a release strategy define a learning strategy (small experiments to minimize risks) define a development strategy Is it much clearer to you now why you need a user journey map for improving the UX  on your website, but the process seems too... time-consuming to you? Just shift the burden to us then... Drop us a line and let's identify all those opportunities for improving the experiences your users have when interacting with your site/app. ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Aug 26'2020
How to Approach User Experience Design: The 8-Stage Process (with specific activities and deliverables for each phase)
Should you start by analyzing your competitors or... by building the user persona for your new software product? Then, should you jump straight to paper sketching or...? How to approach user experience design, more precisely? What are the key steps to include in this process? And what's the right order to carry them out? What are the specific activities to perform? What deliverables should you create at each step? Let's get you some answers now. Here's how our own UX design process looks like. Take it as a tried-and-tested 8-point checklist. One that you can use to make sure that you complete the end-to-end cycle when designing the user experience for your apps (or websites). But First: What Is User Experience Design? “If UX is the experience that a user has while interacting with your product, then UX Design is, by definition, the process by which we determine what that experience will be.” (Source: usertesting.com) Let's try an ultra concise, yet comprehensive definition: UX design is... design has the user's experience at its very core. So the process of designing the best experience for your users calls for a step-by-step approach where you: do extensive research, trying to understand your users' needs and problems collect a whole lot of data that'd help you figure out how users interact with your product (so you can anticipate common user flows) plan out everything, all the elements that go into your software product are thought through and designed from the user's viewpoint run extensive user tests on your prototype The whole point of this step-by-step user experience design process? (or why is user experience design important?) It helps you answer your “Why”, “What”, and “How” questions related to your product before you go ahead and... develop it: Why would target customers use your product? Does it help them perform a specific task? Or does it reflect some of their personal values, maybe (i.e. Apple users identify themselves with people who “think differently”)   What helps them perform the actions that they expect to perform with your product (which of your product's features and functionalities)?   How do they perform those actions? Does your app provide an easy and aesthetically pleasant way for them to carry out their tasks? Source: usertesting.com 1.1. User Experience Design vs User Interface Design: How Are They Different? Take UI as everything that the customer comes into contact with when using your app. From the graphics he sees to the on-screen buttons he touches, to the mental concepts he's using while interacting with your app... And take the UX as the overall experience of that interaction. “Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While Something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.” (source: careerfoundry.com) “And what is good user experience design?” you might ask yourself. Good UX helps users do what they want to do when interacting with your business. But measuring the success of your UX design process isn't that straightforward, though: you need to get your target customers to... experience your app/website then you need to keep refining it; to adjust it to the changing needs and new challenges they face, making sure it remains user-friendly over time Now, let's see which are the 8 typical stages of a user experience design process.  Stages which might be swapped in and out, depending on your team's familiar workflow and your project's specific requirements. Let's dive in: Stage 1: How to Approach User Experience Design: Ground Your Work in User Research   “What is the first step of a UX design process?” you ask?  Get to know your target customers as much as possible. What type of people will be using your app? What are their motivations, behaviors, needs, and goals? Designed with "Make My Persona". And having just “an idea” is not enough. It's at this stage of the process where you gather and analyze as much data as possible on your app's target users: run some web analytics take user interviews conduct online surveys put together your user persona profile, which is no more than an archetypal representation of your target users (their goals and behaviors) that helps you validate all your future design decisions Dive deep into all the data you've collected so far and start looking for patterns and trends. It's these common patterns that'll help you distill this huge pile of data and see who the “average user” for your product is.   Stakeholders involved UX design team Deliverables: usability studies user personas user stories Stage 2: Define the Problem That the User Is Having “What are the most important things to understand throughout a UX design process?” The problem that you're trying to solve with your product. And why solving that problem would be beneficial to your business. In other words, how the user’s problem aligns with your business goals. Articulating a clear problem statement is one of the UX design process best practices. Figure out what the user needs (or what problem he's dealing with) and plan out your product as a solution to those needs. For example: It's not a shopping cart that your online store's customers NEED. What they need is an overview of the items they've selected and of their total cost. The shopping cart is the solution to precisely these 2 customer needs.  Here are 4 helpful questions to focus on: What problem do we want to solve? What are our users' needs and why are these particular needs important to them? Are there any existing or anticipated limitations to address? What are the benchmarks for success? Source: uxdesign.cc Stakeholders involved product manager product design team Deliverables: a clear user-need statement that includes: a user, his problem or need, and his goal storyboards customer journey map Stage 3: Do Some UX Competitive Analysis  Who are your competitors? And what approaches have they adopted for their own products? How are they different/better than yours? How well do other software products, with similar features, perform? This is that stage of the process where you run extensive research on: your target market your competitors the latest UX/UI trends Stakeholders involved design team  Deliverables: market research competitor analysis Stage 4: Sketch Out a Wireframe    Another valid answer to your dilemma — “How to approach user experience design” —  is:  You put together a low-fidelity wireframe for your software product. It'll be the link between: your app's/website's visual design and its information architecture And it's also a quick and effective way to get your idea across all the teams involved. At this stage you: brainstorm ideas  explore possible solutions to that user's problem/need that you've identified in stage 2 (and hopefully come up with a better solution than your competition)  explore several ways of displaying different types of content and information identify the content that you need to prioritize, according to how important it is for the user journey No need to invest too much time (and creativity) into something too detailed. Whiteboard photos, pencil sketches on paper will do since at this point you'll be focusing exclusively on: the main functionality the user experience … on every screen Stakeholders involved design team Deliverables: user flows hand-drawn sketches wireframes sitemap lots and lots of sticky notes with ideas written on, that you can sort by hierarchy and group by theme Stage 5: Create a Prototype Another one of the UX design process best practices to follow. That's because you'll want to have a draft version of your product that users could test before you do any coding. The great thing about prototypes is that they simulate the real experience — you touch the “Next” button and it takes you to the next screen— so that testers can have a real feel of how the real app will function. They get to experience its design in... real-time. Stakeholders involved design team Deliverables: paper prototype design images icons design specifications such as colors, typography, theme, guidelines, styles low-fidelity prototype high-fidelity prototype interactive prototype Stage 6: Have It Tested by Real Users  How to approach user experience design? You collect as much feedback as possible on your product prototype. And here are 3 battle-tested methods: usability testing remote user testing A/B testing And you sure don't run short of means to make the most of user testing: from simple observations to surveys to questionnaires  to interviews … there are “n” ways to get your valuable feedback from real users. Deliverables: user feedback usability report analytics report audit reports on the prototype's UI lists of areas that need improvement (or features that should be removed/replaced) Stage 7: Develop and Launch Time to bring the developers in! Now it's their time to shine. To implement the designs and: structure the database build the server build the back end functionality tie the back-end to the UI  One of the UX design process best practices to follow here is having the design team... stick around. They might need to intervene and make small tweaks to their design or simply to communicate any issues that arise while developers are implementing it. Stakeholders involved development team design team Deliverables:  a high fidelity version of the user interface with functionality and user experience baked in Stage 8: Evaluate  Time for a new round of... analysis. And here are a couple of questions to guide your evaluation process: How do users respond to our product? Do they find it easy to use? Where does it get it right, in terms of user experience, and where does it... fail? Does it manage to solve their problems/meet their needs? Stakeholders product manager design team Deliverables: new feature ideas that might need to get implemented lists of issues reported Final Word: The UX Design Process Comes Down to Learn.Think. Make So, to give you a final answer to your question — “How to approach user experience design?”: Many of the stages included in our process are debatable and perfectly... optional (i.e. you might feel like skipping the wireframing part if you have a solid design system set in place). Feel free to swap stages in and out and to adjust the process to your own business, your teams, and your specific project requirements. What you should not consider as optional is the 9th step in designing the user experience that I haven't included here: The UX design process is an... ongoing one. You'll need to constantly improve and to polish your designs to fit new circumstances, new contexts, future user challenges... No UX experts in your team to hand over all these tasks to? We're here to help! Just drop us a line and let's design the best user experience for your app/website. Image by William Iven from Pixabay ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Aug 24'2020
10 Ways that You Can Simplify Design and Increase Your Conversion Rate
The road to cluttered website design is paved with good intentions. For you want to make users' visits on your site as visually-pleasing as possible. So, you start adding lots of illustrated graphics and embellished fonts and... till it turns into a "carnival" of colors and styles. You also want to impress them with loads of features. And to give them the freedom to choose from (so) many options. The result? A confusing mess that sends visitors away in seconds. So, how do you simplify design? How do you set up a powerful, simple website design that converts? Here are 10 handy techniques that you can implement: 1. Make Every Design Decision with the CTA in Mind What do you want users to do on your website? to download an app or maybe a free eBook? to sign up for your newsletter? to request a quote? to leave a comment? to share your blog post on social media? Got your answer?  Great! Now make sure that all the design elements on your site collaborate to help the user carry out that specific goal. See that your call to action's visible enough and present enough times on your web pages, even if that means getting rid of elements that are purely decorative. 2. Use the 80/20 Rule to Prioritize Effectively Applying the "law of the vital few" is a great way to simplify design. Here's how it works: since 80% of results (i.e. more clicks, more conversions, etc.) come from only 20% of the design elements on your website (buttons, CTAs, traffic funnels, specific UI elements, even white space) ... you need to focus on that 20% of the content Keep this criterion in mind whenever you need to prioritize certain design elements over others. Whenever you need to get strategic about distributing your design efforts. 3. Start Questioning the Necessity of a Sidebar As Neil Patel dared to put it into words: "Do you really need a sidebar?" To be sure, just run some tests (a tool like Crazy Egg comes in handy here). You'll then know for sure: how many visitors actually click on your website's sidebar if it's a design element that converts or... just a distraction 4. Stick to 3 Color Options at Most Sticking to a color palette is another effective and handy technique to achieve simplicity in website design. Choose your 2-3 colors and... stick to them.  Go with that cohesive color scheme to create a sense of harmony with all the elements of your website's design. 5. Trim Down Your Menu to Maximum 7 Items to Simplify Design The short term memory is no myth. Nor is the "paradox of choice". With that in mind, you'll want to have up to 7 (preferably less) items on your menu.  6. Use Standard Navigation Why not get "daring" and surprise your website visitors with alternative navigation? Or maybe a hidden one? Why should you stick to the same ol', same ol' style of navigation menu? Because it's familiar. And "familiar" means less effort from the user. Because it's straightforward. And "straightforward" means "more usable" In short, you'll want to: stick to the top or pop-out navigation menus  do your best to avoid mega-style navigation menus that end up overwhelming the users 7. Increase the Text Size "But doesn't this technique to simplify design contradict other web page design rules?", you might ask yourself. And I know which "rules" you must be thinking of: the one that says that larger lettering is counter-intuitive on small-sized screens the one that says that all key elements should be above the scroll The truth is that mobile users are already used to scrolling and larger text size is easier to read. So, why no make their task easier? 8. Keep Options to a Minimum How can you simplify a design? By limiting the number of options. This way, you take a "saboteur" like choice overload out of the picture.  In other words, present users with fewer choices and they'll be more likely to choose... something. 9. Break Up Complex Tasks into Smaller, Manageable Steps And this is a straight path to creating a simple website design. Where "simple" stands for "better user experience". Let's say you go to a website and at some point, you need to fill in a super long form, with lots of fields and multiple-choice questions.  And they're all there, squeezed on the same screen: a discouraging network of columns with fields, and subfields, and... Pretty daunting, isn't it? But what if you: rearranged everything on the screen into a single column? broke up that "wall" of tasks into several little steps to take one at a time? sequenced all the info across multiple screens? In other words: What if you hid your form's complexity using progressive disclosure?  Users could fill in some fields on the first screen, then a few more on the next screen... This way, they don't get overwhelmed thinking about what to fill out next. They can distribute their efforts more easily by taking one page at a time. You'd then increase your chances of having users take some minutes of their time to fill in your form. 10. Stick to the "One Page, One Goal" Rule How do you simplify a website? You first answer this question: "What is the one thing I want the user to do when they are on this page?" (Neil Patel) Then, you implement that answer. So, what is it that you expect your website visitors to do on a given page of your website? to read that blog post? to start a free trial? to sign up for your newsletter? to... click the "products" menu? What is it? Find out, then design your web page around this primary action. Don't try to "juggle with" too many options, to ask the user to carry out several actions on the same page for... you'll only overwhelm him/her and send him away. Choose one clear primary action for each page instead of placing your bet on multiple, equally important actions. The END! These are our 10 handy tips for you on how to simplify design and make it clean and easy to use. Too many projects on your plate right now? Don't have the time and the team available to declutter your website's design and make it more usable, more... efficient? Just shift the burden to us! Drop us a line and let's simplify your site. Image by Roland Steinmann from Pixabay   ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / Aug 19'2020
”Why Would I Use Shopify to Start My Own Online Store?” Top 7 Reasons
You either ride the wave or drown in it (yes, I am talking about the new e-commerce reality that COVID-19 has brought). So, you’ve decided to go ahead and open up your own online shop and you ask yourself: “Why would I use Shopify?” Why not... BigCommerce, for instance? And you know that going through this digital transformation is going to be painfully challenging since you’ll need to: go through the entire process of building your online store (obviously!) make sure the servers will withstand huge (hopefully) amounts of traffic actually ship your products  handle those scenarios where customers return their products handle all the marketing of your online business … With so much on your plate, the last thing you need is a complex or a too rigid eCommerce platform. One that would make setting up and managing your store even more cumbersome. But still: why Shopify? Here’s why: 1. You Can Start Your Own Shopify Store with… Zero Technical Skills And this is one of the key reasons why it’s the best eCommerce website builder, particularly for small businesses. Shopify handles all the technical stuff for you: backups, security, web hosting, updates. Unless you need some more advanced features than the ones it provides you with out of the box. Otherwise, you’re good to go: you can set up your store in no time, with no computer science degree. Talking about empowering entrepreneurs, right? 2. “Why Would I Use Shopify?” Because It’s the Easiest to Use The question "Can I build my own eCommerce website?” has one simple answer: Definitely! With Shopify, you can set up your storefront and start loading in products in a few hours.You have an intuitive interface “at your service”, enabling you to get everything up and running with… no single line of code. It’s conveniently easy to use, with your store ready to go pretty much right out of the box. 3. You Get Everything You Need to Run Your eCommerce Business And I’m talking here about: web hosting deep insights into your customer behavior via its easy to navigate dashboard (Are they abandoning carts? How long are they hanging out in your online shop? Which social media channels do most converted customers come from?) advice on the measures you could take to boost your sales transaction management a dedicated payment gateway: Shopify Pay (while it also integrates smoothly with Amazon Pay, PayPal, Stripe, Worldpay) integrations with Google and Facebook and other platforms, as well In short, Shopify takes care of everything online store management-related for you. 4. You Get a Fast and Low-Cost Shipping Service “Why would I use Shopify for my eCommerce store?” Because you get access to a network of thousands of third-party logistics providers. And this is gold particularly for small eCommerce businesses (with big plans), who don’t have a global logistics network. In this respect, Shopify Fulfillment Network taps into machine learning to guarantee you deliveries on time (two-day shipping) and lower costs for your shipping. And speaking of shipping (and empowering eCommerce businesses), you’re free to choose the shipping option that best suits your needs: by product weight by delivery speed by the region on the globe that you’re shipping to 5. You Get a Large Collection of Apps to Add More Functionality to Your Store It’s what makes Shopify one of the most “tempting” eCommerce platforms: You get to start small, using its built-in features, then… scale up, adding more power to your eCommerce business via add-on apps. And, thank God, there are thousands of them in the Shopify App Store. Ranging from: reviews sections to chat feature to the feature of converting prices to international currency  to email marketing tools (if your chosen theme doesn’t already provide you with such a feature) … you can browse, choose, and add any type of new functionality that you need to “inject” into your web store. And since scanning through such a rich collection of third-party apps can get overwhelming, just make sure you go with the best-rated ones. It’s the best criterion to filter them by.  6. You Get a Whole Range of SEO Tools to Rank Your Store Higher in Search “Why would I use Shopify to create my online store?” Because it “spoils” you with a heavy load of built-in SEO tools to help your store get found: it prompts you with SEO best practices whenever you add a new product to your catalog you get header code and custom URL multilingual options reporting tools blogging 7. You Get a Rich Collection of Themes, Specifically Designed for eCommerce This is another strong reason why Shopify’s still one of the most popular eCommerce website builders. It provides you with one of the most impressive collections of stylish, clean, professionally designed themes. Themes that you get to browse through by: industry: food and beverage, art and photography, home decor, etc. price popularity style: “fun and lively”, “minimalist”, “great for small inventories” Good to know! The Shopify Express theme is the theme to go for if you need to get your store online… yesterday. If you don’t have tons of images for your product catalog and you need to get online fast, this theme’s the one for you. When it comes to built-in features, all Shopify themes ship with: social media icons drop-down navigation support free stock photos by Burst SEO customizable content sections on the home page mobile-friendly design free theme updates built-in styles and color palettes Prioritize those themes that ship with features that are critical for your store over the great looking ones that… lack them. Otherwise, you’ll need to look for (and pay for) Shopify apps to compensate for the missing features. In other words: Why not make your life easier from day one, going for a theme that helps you check most of the features off you wishlist? You’ll find it more… natural and easier to design your product pages around your products, then to style them with no products to feature. The END! Are these reasons strong enough to answer your question: “Why would I use Shopify for my online store?”. But what if you’re not that thrilled about the idea of a DIY store? Maybe you don’t have the time (or you simply want to invest it in other projects) to get into the nitty-gritty of building your own online store, from A to Z Or what if you: need a fully custom Shopify app for your store? One that should store a particular functionality that you need incorporated into your shop? … or maybe a theme that’s tailor-made to suit your specific business needs and to do your brand justice? want to customize your product page or your checkout form? We’re here to help you make the most of Shopify and fine tune it to your needs. Just drop us a line and let’s build your powerful online presence. Image by Akash Sanchihar from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jul 13'2020
The Complete Website UX Audit Checklist for 2020: 12 Steps to Uncover Usability Issues on Your Site
Users come to your website. They start the checkout process and... leave. Why is that? Is there a "best practice" process to identify the pain points in the user journey? A website UX audit checklist that you could use? And how would you know: what to include in your audit? what pages to review? how to interpret all the collected data and turn it into actionable insights? You've got the questions, we've got the answers. And we've included them all in an 11-point checklist to run whenever you want to assess the user experience on your website: What Is a UX Audit More Precisely? Source: process.st Let's go back to the example above: You notice that visitors on your website keep abandoning their shopping cart.  In this case, a website UX audit might uncover specific flaws in the customer journey responsible for this low conversion rate: confusing navigation structure cluttered screens a too complicated checkout process an inconsistent visual style across pages not enough payment options In other words: A UX audit helps you identify all those usability challenges with a direct impact on users' experience. key elements on your website that are too hard to find ... or too hard to use the workflow users are to perform is not that obvious and intuitive And it helps you find your answers to legitimate questions like: What is working and what isn't? What metrics are your collecting and what metrics should you be collecting? What does the gathered data tell you about your website users' needs? Why do they behave the way they do and how might they behave once you've taken follow-up action? In short: a UX audit provides you with those metrics which, once turned into updates to your website, help you boost conversions. Step 1: Run Stakeholder Interviews and User Surveys Start off by talking to your: development team, the one in charge with all the UX improvements on your website; ask them about their development challenges, future plans with the company website, and specific requirements for achieving those plans marketing team and salespeople, who might already have their own user survey results collected along the years Then, run your own updated user surveys and categorize results by: task severity findings per screen  Tip! Run usability tests to filter through the qualitative data collected on these interviews and surveys. For instance, users might report a discouragingly complex checkout process. A usability test will confirm or disprove this claim. Step 2: Create Your User Persona- A Key Point in the Website UX Audit Checklist Who are you improving your website UX for? And there are different types of users visiting your website and each user type stands for a unique way that you could improve the user experience delivered there. To narrow down your options, you need to figure out who's the most representative user for your website.  Remember to add these 3 key attributes to your user persona as you're building its profile: user goals: do they align with your business goals? needs: what does he/she try to accomplish when visiting your website? frustrations: things to avoid when designing this user persona's experience on your website Tip! Bring your business goals (that we'll be focusing on at Step 3) into the picture, as they'll help you determine who your user persona is. Also, while at this stage in your UX audit, answer these 3 crucial questions: what are your visitors' demographics and behaviors on your website where do they come from to your site? are current visitors also your target users? Step 3: Get Specific with Your Business Goals  Let me guess: Your business goals tied to your website are related to conversions and revenue. At this step of the audit, you'll want to clearly define those goals that a better UX can directly impact. Once you've defined your business goals, include these key questions into your website UX audit checklist: What's my business goal? What's the key user goal? What actions do I want users to perform on my website? What are the top brand values that I want to communicate to my website visitors? What are my key sales channels? Who are my top competitors? Step 4: Perform a Cognitive Walkthrough of Your Website  ... to see things through the visitors' eyes. Try to perform those actions that users come to your website for. And stay vigilant to detect any obstacles that might stop you or slow you down when trying to achieve your "user" goals. Tip! Since you already know all too well how your website works, base the whole process on established criteria. This way, you can keep your focus on those user goals. Step 5: Dive Deep into Your Data Analytics Your website analytics reports make some great insights into how great or... less than great the user experience delivered on your site is. Use it to "fuel" your UX audit with, as it'll provide you with key information on: conversion or cart abandonment what visitors were doing before accessing your website (most common entry points to your website) specific user flows on your site traffic metrics hotspots on your website Tip! Filter your data analytics by specific segments and timeframes.  Source: uxbooth.com Supplement the valuable data that you get from Google Analytics with reports provided by tools like: Kissmetrics Hotjar Crazy Egg Step 6: Determine Your Conversion Rate Performance Is your website an eCommerce one? Then you'll want to take a close look at your sales and download figures as you try to improve your site with a UX audit. Figure out how well your website copy supports the overall user experience and whether your website meets visitors' pain points. Step 7: Identify Your Highest Converting Pages Another crucial point to add to your website UX audit checklist. Why? Because the pages with the highest conversion rate give you an insight into what UX is doing right on your website. They stand for some successful customer journeys that you'll want to get inspired by and... replicate on other pages on your site, as well. Step 8: List Your High-Traffic Pages with a High Bounce Rate "How to perform a UX audit?" One of the essential tasks to add to your "To Do" list is identifying those high-traffic pages with a high bounce rate (above 70%). Step 9: Identify Strong Points and... Pain Points in the User Journey Where does the user step off the intended path? Why is he/she failing to take action? It's the strong points in the customer journey (those high-converting pages that you've listed at Step 7 are the best places to look for them) that'll provide you with the best solutions for fixing the weak points identified at this step. Step 10: Take a Close Look at Your Site Layout Your website layout is directly "responsible" for a great deal of the user experience delivered on your website.  So, at this point in your website UX audit checklist you'll want to check specific aspects of your site layout with a direct impact on the visitors' experience: Does it manage to meet visitors' needs? Is your website navigation intuitive enough and easy to use? Is your on-site search accessible enough? Is your website copy in line with the user journey? Step 11: Run a Competitive Analysis How will this help you? You identify your target customers' expectations when interacting with websites similar to yours. That sell the same type of products or services. What's those sites' traffic compared to yours? How usable are they? How well do they rank in the search engine results page? Seize any opportunities that your competitors might have missed. Or get inspired by what they do great in terms of user experience and... do it better on your own company website. Step 12: Organize Your Findings Into a UX Audit Report And use categories like: major usability issues A/B test suggestions challenges predicted impact ... to sort and group your results. 3 Tips to Keep in Mind When Conducting Your UX Audit I've saved 3 best practices for last. Apply them to streamline the whole process and to future-proof your findings. Group all your findings into buckets. It'll bet easier for you (and your team) to interpret your findings when you group them into categories (e.g. the "website navigation UX issues" category) Take screenshots of all the issues found. In other words: screenshot everything! It's the easiest and most effective way to document every aspect (web page, interaction, etc.) of your website with a direct impact on the user experience. Look for trends. Use your spreadsheets of UX findings to identify... patterns. Are there any common conventions and structures that visitors expect to find on your website? That they're already familiar with?   The END! I think I know what you're thinking right now: "But taking all the steps included in your website UX audit checklist takes... ages! And during all this time I'd have to put my team's projects on... hold." Not if you pass on the audit "burden" to us. Just drop us a line and let's uncover all the opportunities for UX optimization on your website! Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay     ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jul 01'2020
How to Improve Internal Site Search and Boost Your Conversion Rate in 12 Easy Steps
They're not there for the looks, you know. Users come to your website to search for... something — a product, a service, information. Its role is to make it easy for them to find that "something" via its search engine. But how to improve internal site search and "shorten the time between query to conversion"? What are some best practices when adding search functionality to your website so that: it serves up the most relevant search results? it reduces user-friction? it provides the best search experience? it helps users to convert faster? Here's your 12-step checklist to an effective on-site search: Why Site Search Is Important?   "Adding on-site search to your website increases conversions by 480%!" (Neil Patel).  Just think about it: The user's found your website (your SEO efforts have paid off). It's something specific that he's looking. Or he at least has some idea of the type of products/services that he's there for. Now, why would you want to make him go over... 5 different pages of results before he reaches that service/product page that he was looking for in the first place? Instead, your website's search engine should help him out with: search suggestions autofills real-time preview of search results Like Office Depot here, whose on-site search engine gave me plenty of search suggestions when I looked for a "chair": Step 1: Put It Front and Center One of the powerful internal site search best practices. But also the most ignored one. Don't be that website owner. Instead, put your search box where users can see it the instant they get on the web page: besides the navigation right below the navigation, as a distinctive element above the navigation in the header Take Zara's example here: how long does it take you to find the search box on this page? Step 2: How to improve internal site search: Make It Easier to Navigate  And what better example than Google's Search Engine itself? You just can't miss it on the page. Moreover, search results are grouped into different categories — images, videos, news — lifting some of the burdens off your shoulders as an online "searcher". It'll even turn your misspelled search queries... Key takeaways: consider using tabs by categories to make the user search experience as breezy possible make the most of keyword matches ... and assistive technologies It's all about shortening the time from the user's query to... conversion, remember? Step 3: Boost Your Site Search Engine with Product Metadata "How to improve search functionality?" By forgetting all about the "meta tags have no impact on SEO" principle and starting to add relevant product metadata. For yes, they do not count for traditional search engines, yet they have a huge impact on the way that your on-site search engine finds any product in your inventory. So "feed" it metadata: titles, tags, attributes, categories, descriptions, specific keywords that your target customers will enter... Step 4: Cater to All Kinds of Searches There'll be users who know exactly what they need. So they'll be typing the exact product/serial number in the search box. And there'll be users who have heard of an innovative, newly launched product in passing and will misspell its name. Make sure your on-site search will serve up relevant results for both types of user profiles: turn the product/serial number into a search criterion make sure your on-site search turns relevant results on "misspelled queries", as well  Step 5: "Fuel" Your Internal Search Engine with Long-Tail Keywords   "How to improve internal site search?" By optimizing your website copy for long-tail keywords (3-5 words). The more you use, the more power you'll inject into your search engine. Let's take this example: You go to Office Depot's website looking for an office chair. Chances are that you're trying to find something more specific than a "chair". You want it to be... grey, ergonomic, made of leather or mesh. You get the idea. You're not looking for a generic "office chair".  Now, switch from your role of potential customer to that of an online owner and start optimizing your website copy for long-tail keywords. They still have most of the search volume. Step 6: Give Users Multiple Filtering Options via Faceting  Add multiple categories to help users filter through generic query results.  This way, you enable them to make their way to more specific results. This internal site search "best practices" becomes a must-have if it's an: eCommerce website with a large inventory ... that you have. A customer won't spend half a day looking for a "green cotton t-shirt for girls size XS", digging through dozens of result pages. Take H&M's example here: they're using faceted search options to help me narrow down my options when I type a generic query like "shirt". Step 7: Tailor the Search Experience As Per the User's Location "How to improve internal site search?" Localize your website content. Or, in plain English: add regional dialect and idioms to your copy. And you'd also want to include "popular searches in your... (name of the region)". The whole idea is to: personalize the search experience, making it more user-friendly help the user find what he's searching for faster (and to convert faster, as well) Even if he's using a dialect-specific word or phrase as a search query. So, start building a list of synonyms for your search queries and use them to improve the search functionality on your website. Step 8: Implement In-Search Filtering Go beyond autocomplete if you want to provide the best search experience to your potential customers. In this respect, advanced in-search filtering is one of the most powerful on-site search features. Take this example: Someone enters "sneakers" in your search box. You'd want to give him/her more search options, more specific suggestions like "sneakers in men's clothes" or "sneakers on sale"... Again, a must-have on-site search feature if it's a large eCommerce website that you have. Step 9: Add Informational Content, As Well Not everyone on your website is there to buy something from you.  Some of them are looking for specific information on your products. So, another effective way of improving search functionality on your site is to you ensure there's enough info-rich content for these users to dig into. Step 10: Serve Targeted Search Results Based on User Behavior Data Here's another answer to your "How to improve internal site search?": Make the most of previous user behaviour to serve targeted search suggestions. Rely on users' profile log information to: identify distinctive patterns and tailor your recommendations accordingly identify regional phrases (e.g. "soda" instead of "coke") and use them to personalize your suggestions Step 11: Give Users More Control Over the On-Site Search Results How? By giving them: categories to filter through their search results drop-down menus brand names that they could use as search criteria a personal search results page where they can keep track of their past activity and use quick search options based on their past behavior Step 12: Serve Relevant FAQs on Every Search Another effective and easy way to optimize search function on your site is to display FAQS at the end of each search This way, users get more information about the product features/price/specific fees/brand that they're interested in. Tailor these lists of questions to the user's past behavior and query data and turn personalization into your most powerful ally. The END! Maybe you do want to increase the conversion rate on your website, but without having to: optimize heavy of loads content for long-tail keywords get tangled up in user data to track down all the regional words variations  write metadata for... hundreds of different product pages We get you. And we've got your back. Just drop us a line and let's improve your on-site search so that you stop leaving conversions on the table. ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 26'2020