Saturday, December 10, 2016

Comics of the week #369

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

Designer skin 

 

Sleep designing

 

 

 

All in one

Can you relate to these situations? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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Friday, December 9, 2016

5 Techniques to Help You Truly Understand Your Customers

Optimizing the customer experience is a great way to get new customers. It’s also one of the best ways of fostering customer loyalty.

According to Teradata, only 41% of marketing executives are using customer engagement data to inform their marketing strategy.

Despite this, marketers and other organizational leaders alike are neglecting the customer before and after the sale. The biggest barrier to even beginning is usually the lack of a deep understanding of the customer in the first place.

Having a comprehensive understanding of your customers is key to achieving core business goals. Whether you’re trying to build (or optimize) the customer experience, creating more engaging content or increasing sales. Knowing your customers better than they do is key.

In this article, I’m going to outline 5 techniques you can implement to understand your customers better. We’ll look at both qualitative and quantitative data, as well as at the tools and mindsets you need to equip to get started successfully.

1. Apply Intelligent Customer Engagement

An optimized customer experience is valuable for revenue and retention. If you get it right, it can be a source of customer insight.

Engaging with your customers in real-time has become more easily accessible thanks to new tools. Messenger is becoming an ever more popular customer service channel, while tools like Drift allow you to talk with your customers as they browse your website:

drift-on-website

These channels are a means of collecting customer insight. Your proprietary data from interacting with your customers, regardless of the channel, can help you understand them better. Work with your customer service teams to look for patterns and react to the insight you generate.

On top of this, nothing beats customer development. Getting your customers on the phone on a regular basis can help you go deeper into their pains, needs and challenges.

This is exactly what Alex Turnbull, Founder of Groove does, in order to understand his customers more. He schedules regular calls so he can fully understand what they love or dislike about his product.

As a result, he’s helped improve his onboarding process, turned unhappy customers into happy customers and created more sophisticated buyer personas.

As you work to keep your customers engaged during the first stages of the customer journey, think of your budding relationship as a two-way street. Encourage customers to share their thoughts and opinions by including a customer satisfaction survey into your email drip.

SurveyGizmo suggests these three key principles to follow when designing a survey:

  • Remove bias: Ask the customer for their opinion without projecting your own. Get their uninfluenced, impartial opinion. You want genuine insights, even if they’re negative. An example of this could be something as simple as “What do you think we could do better?”
  • Be concrete: Use simple language that asks for feedback on a specific topic. For example, “How have you improved marketing effectiveness using our software?” will help to determine the value your customers are getting from you.
  • Focus: Your surveys should address one area of the customer experience. The aim is to get insights that you can then act upon.

Keep these things in mind as you personalize your customer survey with questions pertaining to your brand and product.

2. Create More Robust Buyer Personas

Many marketers make the mistake of using generic demographics like age, profession, and location to develop their buyer personas. These data points simply don’t provide enough information to create messaging that resonates with your audience on an emotional level.

One way to dig deeper into customer preferences is to use the Acquisitions tab on Google Analytics to see which social media outlets, industry blogs and professional forums your site traffic comes from. Then, apply this information to your personas so you can find out where and when to reach them more effectively.

Additionally, acquiring keyword data is a helpful way to discover the terms and descriptions that certain buyer personas use to describe your services.

To segment customers based on keyword searches, for example, use Google Webmaster Tools to create a list of common keywords that drive people to your site. Then, group the keywords into overarching themes and assign to different personas based on the data you have available.

This video by Bryan Harris will help you find ways to get around “keyword not provided” and help you identify keywords people are using to get to your website.

To put this language into action, incorporate these keywords across your website copy, content marketing efforts, and other online interactions. Speaking the same language as your customers is a subtle way to make your current audience feel more welcomed.

3. Generate Data from Customer Analytics

From clicking on a link to reading through a web page, every customer action offers valuable insight into customer behavior.

To determine how customers interact with your website, you can try a user behavior tracking tool. Tools like Google Analytics and Inspectlet are great tools for gathering insights such as time on page and bounce rate. Inspectlet can even provide short videos of users on your page in real time.

Another obvious tool is Kissmetrics. Their platform tracks the behavior of each of your customers, allowing you to manage and gather insights on specific segments.

The behavioral data you collect should lead you to conclusions about what your audience doesn’t understand, what they do and don’t like, and how you can create a stronger website experience.

If people had trouble navigating to a certain sales page, for example, adjust the interface to allow for a more user-friendly experience.

If there’s one page people spend more time on than others, analyze that page’s content to see what’s retaining people’s attention. Most importantly, if there’s a page with a high bounce rate, try to see what’s making people leave.

4. Anticipate, Predict, and Plan for the Future

Creating a plan for future customer engagement is just as important as creating a plan for the present. This puts customer experience teams in the right frame of mind to respond to customers during stressful or challenging situations.

Predictive modeling software mines existing customer data to identify cyclical patterns and trends that can inform decision making. Two great tools are RapidMiner and Angoss’ customer analytics, both of which create realistic future models.

To see how predictive modeling informs customer strategy, imagine you work for a SaaS company that wants to adjust its product roadmap to anticipate customer needs.

Looking at historical behavioral data will show you which features customers have found most valuable over time, and which features they didn’t use. Understanding your most popular and most visited pages can also inform your content strategy, focusing on topics and formats that will best solve your audiences challenges.

Draw trends across the most commonly-used features to determine why your customers liked them. Additionally, looking at market trends and analysis will give you a good idea of what other companies in your space have already accomplished, so you can devise new features that explore these areas.

Julia Cupman of B2B International emphasis the importance of market research:

“Many companies turn to disciplined market research as a form of insurance, i.e. as a means of reducing business risk. The next section looks at how market research is used in product development – not only as insurance, but also as a tool to establish needs and to obtain intelligence on market potential.”

market-research-time-graphImage Source

The above image shows how all stages of the product lifecycle benefits from market research. As you can see, continuous market research throughout the product roadmap naturally leads to more sales. The more you understand your market, the better product/market fit you have.

5. Traverse Your Customer’s Path

The only way to understand the unique and dynamic customer buying journey is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

This is made possible by an advanced technique called customer journey mapping — a method where companies create a detailed, graphical representation of the customer journey based on critical touch points — interactions between a customer and your brand before, during, or after purchase.

brand-touchpoints-customer-experience-chartImage Source

Let’s use Uber as an example to define touchpoints and see how they apply to customer journey mapping. Minor touch points include activities like downloading the app, or following the app on social media.

Major touch points, on the other hand, include things like requesting a ride, or completing driver training. Once touch points are defined, explore the circumstances affecting each touchpoint.

For example, a marketer at Uber might ask: what influenced the rider to download the app for the first time? Was it related to Uber’s customer referral program? Engage your internal team with these issues to get a well-rounded perspective and promote collaborative problem solving.

When you identify failed touchpoints, such as when a customer fails to use the Uber app they downloaded, establish a plan for contacting these customers.

You may want to create milestones, such as when an app user hasn’t logged into their account in three months, or when an avid customer suddenly stops using the product. It’s best if your customer experience team is able to call, write, or meet with customers directly to understand why they’re disengaged.

If you don’t have these resources, create an email marketing drip specifically focused on re-engaging your customers based on certain milestones.

Conclusion

Thanks to advanced analytics, behavioral recording tools, and stronger customer touchpoints, understanding customer behavior has gotten easier than ever.

The techniques outlined in this article are common practices meant to inform and inspire your customer engagement efforts, but they should always be catered to what’s right for your audience.

What are your favorite tools and strategies for increasing customer engagement? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Brad is a Content Marketing Strategist at Pipedrive, a sales tool for small teams with big ambitions. Get access to their free email course Sales Pipeline Academy.

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Affinity Photo 1.5 released, packed with new features and Windows support

In a definite shift towards platform parity, Affinity Photo has finally been relased for Windows, delivering everything that the hugely popular Mac software does.

The availability of a Windows version coincides with the release of version 1.5, which is a huge update packing the Photoshop rival with new features.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/194672406?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

Here’s a rundown of the best new features:

Lens Profiles

1.5’s RAW engine now features profiles for thousands of lens-camera body combinations delivering auto lens correction.

Color Picking Tool

In response to user requests, there’s a new color picking tool outside of the color lab.

32-bit Editing Enabled

32-bit unbounded images can be composited and edited together with full Radiance HDR as well as OpenEXR file support.

Macros

Designers are able to record any number of operations, save them, and then play them back later on, just like Photoshop’s Actions panel.

Better Metadata Management

1.5 features a substantially upgraded detection of metadata for JPEG and RAW formats.

File Compatibility Changes

This version comes with significant improvements to PSD and PDF import and export.

Tone Mapping Persona

Users will enjoy dramatic results thanks to the full, tone-mapping workspace for LDR and HDR images with local contrast control. The new release features a complete workspace, where users are free to move between color spaces.

360 Image Editing

It’s now possible to both pan and zoom around 360 images. Designers can utilize Affinity Photo’s complete suite of tools to edit them live.

Equations Filter

Users now have the chance to create customized spatial fillers with limitless flexibility, all thanks to the equations filter.

Pixel Art Document Resizing

1.5 incorporates two, brand-new resampling algorithms. This ensures more precise resizing of pixel-based documents.

Pixel Tool Changes

After many requests, Affinity has added shift constrain and configurable CMD-drag behavior to this tool.

New Export Options

The export persona has been changed forever. Now, users can enjoy limitless flexibility to export multiple formats and resolutions for each slice.

OpenEXR Import/Export

All workflows will be supported with the multichannel OpenEXR Import/Export and options like alpha pre-multiplication.

Clone Sources Panel

Users have the ability to store an unlimited quantity of global sources for the clone brush; they can also work across multiple documents.

Text Style Support

The styles of text objects can be linked together now thanks to full text style support.

Marquee Selection Modes

Magnetic, polygonal, and freehand are the three new modes for the freehand selection tool.

Better RAW Processing

A more powerful RAW engine gets designers results more immediately while the presence of more than 70 new RAW camera formats makes for a better user experience.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

95% Of Your Churn Should be Ignored. Here’s Why

When it comes to customer dissatisfaction, Spirit Airlines has consistently been the forerunner in the airline industry. Even in the recent travel report published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index it had the lowest score, much below the average benchmark.

Having said that, you’d expect those numbers to reflect on the company’s growth rate, right?

Wrong. Despite the mounting discontent among its customers, Spirit was the second most profitable airline company in 2015, and its growth rate is far from plateauing.

So what happened here?

Well, all those customers who were “dissatisfied” with Spirit’s poor service were still opting to travel on Spirit, as their deciding factor wasn’t the quality of the service, but the ticket fares. Spirit knows this, and keeps giving customers precisely what they want – nothing more, nothing less.

Numbers can be deceptive; and many times, they don’t necessarily speak the truth. If you’re taking numbers at face value, without digging deeper and getting to the bottom of it all, then you’ll most probably get blindsided.

And in the case of churn, it couldn’t be truer.

It’s well-known that churn is of two basic types: voluntary and involuntary.

While involuntary churn occurs when payments fail due to expired credit cards or any similar reason, voluntary churn predominantly occurs when a customer doesn’t receive the value that they had expected to receive from your product.

The solution to involuntary churn is pretty straightforward – a smart dunning mechanism in place can tackle most of the payment failure scenarios. It’s voluntary churn that needs a bit more thinking through.

And that’s what this post is about – effectively handling (not reducing/mitigating) voluntary churn.

Put simply, should you try to get back every one of those two groups of churned customers?

The Churned Customers Worth Fighting For

First off, not all users who choose to leave your product would’ve been good customers to your business in the long run. Not all of them would’ve found a perfect fit with your product. Peter Fader puts it well:

“Not all customers deserve your company’s best efforts. And despite what the old adage says, the customer is most definitely not always right. Because in the world of customer centricity, there are good customers…and then there is everybody else.”

The “everybody else” mentioned above are whom Lincoln Murphy refers to as “Bad Fit” customers. According to him, if a customer neither receives value from you immediately, nor in the future (under realistic assumptions), then those are the ones who’d come under this category.

And when a Bad Fit customer leaves you, it is, in fact, good churn. And spending your limited resources in bringing them back will be nothing less than futile.

Then there are customers for whom you — apart from delivering immediate value — will be able to deliver future value, in a particular timeframe. Lincoln calls them “Stretch” customers, and these are the ones whom you can strive to get back, provided the stretch is worth it.

Filtering out the 5%

A freemium model is infamous for papering over the cracks, by showing a huge number of sign-ups, and concealing the actual count of the right, engaged customers (again, numbers can be deceptive).

For instance, Chargebee also caters to the early-stage startups, and a majority of the churned customers left because they were shutting down their business. Here there would be no point trying to retain them, and this will again get classified as good churn.

So it’s our job to dig through the fluff and identify the churn that matters. By experience, we’ve learned that those Stretch customers account for only about 5% of the churn.

And to identify that 5%, we implemented a top-down approach, with three major activities:

  1. Capturing the ‘right’ data from the people who’re leaving
  2. Using the captured data to influence our next move
  3. Spot our mistakes, and then prevent them from happening again

Capturing the Right Data

When a user has decided to leave your product for good, filling up an elaborate questionnaire will be the last thing that they’d want to do.

Put yourself in their shoes – they’re clearly not in a pleasant mood while taking the call, and you shouldn’t be rubbing salt to the wound by making the process harder. Adding to that, most businesses fail to capture the true answers; their forms are not designed that way. In short, this turns out to be a double-edged sword, affecting both the sides.

So the key is to design your customer exit process in a way that you can discover the right reason for their account cancellation, in the most non-intrusive manner.

Number one, do away with open-ended questions, for in most cases, the users would simply skip the step (if it’s an optional field), or would type in some gibberish and get it over with (if it’s made mandatory).

explain-why-youre-cancellingThis type of question generally won’t lead to great insights from your customer.

Instead, give them, in the cancellation screen, a list of specific reasons for cancellation, and towards the end, make it optional for the users to type out their feedback (we’ve had customers who were kind enough to give us a descriptive answer, but they make only a small percentage of the total respondents).

Here’s how Chargebee’s form looks (we got the inspiration from Freshdesk’s form, and made our own set of tweaks to fit our use case):

chargebee-cancel-form

Number two, only include those reasons that are the most important for your team to learn about and act upon (because, the paradox of choice), and arrange them in the most effective order (start with the most crucial of the lot).

Using the captured data

From a bird’s eye view, the evaluation process will look something like this:

stretch-customer-flow-chart

1. Are they a Stretch customer?

To answer this question, we evaluate the behavioral data of customers, in terms of pre-set yardsticks.

By keeping track of the most important engagement metrics (specific to the life-cycle stage of the customer), we’re able to clearly pinpoint those users who’d been receiving value from the product, before they chose to call it quits.

For Chargebee, these metrics would be completing the account setup, inviting other users from their organization on board, customizing the invoice, configuring the hosted pages, and the like.

A churned customer who passes these yardsticks will be deemed a Stretch customer, who’ll then be considered for the next question.

Another activity that has helped us is the classification of churned customers based on the acquisition channels (Organic, SEO, SEM, AdWords, Third-party review sites, etc). Segment the customers, and figure out the churn rate (both revenue churn and customer churn) for each segment. Note that analyzing the revenue churn as well as customer churn for each channel is important, especially if you have a freemium model.

In fact, this segmentation revealed that customers who were acquired from a particular channel (with low acquisition cost), and had an effortless onboarding process, were showing a higher churn rate than their counterparts. To top it off, we also found out that their servicing cost was also comparatively higher. In short, they belonged to the Bad Fit category.

2. Will rectifying their pain-point align with your product vision?

“In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”
Aesop, Aesop’s Fables

Listen to Aesop.

Des Traynor refers to a product’s vision as its guiding principle – the hub of the product wheel that holds every other activity. And the essence of that vision is the fundamental value that you want to offer to your customers.

Being a Yes-Man and developing features to achieve the short-term goal of retaining a single customer will only take you further away from long-term vision, eventually making your product bloatware (gasp!). The assumption that a single customer’s feature requirement perfectly matches with the needs of all the other users every single time, leads to stuffing your product with unnecessary functions and over complicating it. This, in other words, is known as feature creep.

feature-creep-cartoonImage Source

In 1988, Seth Godin’s book packaging company let go of their biggest customer, who was making up for more than half of their revenue, and he doesn’t seem to regret it. He claims that the move made his team “happier and more successful”.

Is going the extra mile to please the Stretch customer worth the effort? Will solving their problem enhance the value that you’re delivering to your other customers as well? Is the particular solution aligned with your product vision?

Only, and only if you find yourself saying a “Yes” to these questions, should you take the plunge.

Spotting mistakes and preventing them from happening again

Once you’ve separated the Bad Fit customers from the Stretch counterparts, your next step will be to figure out how to prevent less of the former from onboarding and more of the latter from churning, in the future.

We’ve got three words for you: Root Cause Analysis

Andrew Tate gives a neat framework to trace every cancellation back to a root problem. According to him, based on the results from your exit survey, you can box your churned customers into one of these four reasons:

  1. Bought away – When the customer feels that your product is too expensive, or is not worth the price that you’re charging them.
  2. Moved away – When the customer pivots their business, and shifts to either a more stripped-down, or a more elaborate, enterprise-y solution, compared to yours.
  3. Pulled away – When the customer simply wants to switch to a competitor.
  4. Pushed away – When a member in the customer’s team vouches for another solution (intentional push), or when the customer feels that your service isn’t up to the mark (unintentional push).

Now let’s look at how each of these problems reveal the hidden mistake (and hence the solution):

1. Bought away
Your pricing is not aligned with the right buyer persona, and/or the value that it proposes to deliver.

Solution: Pick the right value metric to device your pricing strategy, and target the right buyer persona while marketing your product.

2. Moved away
Your target market does not include this particular buyer persona.

Solution: Expand your offering to include the new persona, if they fit your long-term objectives. If not, then just cut them loose.

3. Pulled away
The competitor’s offering is more attractive than yours – either because of their marketing or the presence of a feature missing in yours.

Solution: If it’s the former, work on a better positioning of your product in the market. If it’s the latter, go to the second question from the previous section (Will rectifying their pain-point align with your product vision?), and start from there.

4. Pushed away
There’s a lack/inadequacy of communication and customer support.

Solution: Double down on your customer support and customer success efforts.

Conclusion

Trials and errors form an integral part of the startup realm.

Businesses take a stab at bringing an idea to life, and take the help of other B2B businesses to build and grow theirs, some of whom they find to be a perfect fit with their business, while others they don’t. And as a fellow startup comrade, when we realize that the value we’re offering doesn’t match with the value that they’re seeking, we’re obliged to understand and respect their choice, and step aside.

The freemium model is of great help here, by providing the startups with ample leeway to experiment, without consuming much resource.

And it’s our job as a service provider to identify those businesses that have already crossed the initial phase of uncertainty, have built sufficient momentum and have acquired considerable value from us, and help them in advancing to the subsequent levels of growth.

About the Author: Sadhana Balaji is a Product Marketer at Chargebee. She writes about the fascinating workings of the SaaS realm. Head over to Chargebee’s SaaS Dispatch to read more of her work.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

4 Ways Disruptive Marketing is Winning Over Customers

Much more than just a buzzword, disruptive marketing is changing the way we react to, understand and accept companies and their advertising. From a business standpoint, disruptive marketing represents a key shift in an era where promotional strategies update as fast as the technology that carries them.

From a consumer standpoint however, all of this change can lead to uncertainty and confusion. Here’s how some of today’s top companies are changing the marketing space through disruption – and what you can learn from them.

What is Disruptive Marketing?

“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there.” – Richard Branson

Disruptive marketing is taking all the marketing rules you’ve heard and practiced faithfully – and stomping on them. It’s never settling for the way things are, but rather turning “the way it’s done” on its head. Disruptive marketing shakes things up by changing customer perceptions about not just the company – but the industry as a whole.

And here’s the important part. Because they’ve changed our perception entirely, we come to associate new, better and more positive feelings with the company and brand that started it.

Want an example?

Ask anyone around in the technological boom of the late 1990s if you should have bought an Apple computer back then.

After they finish laughing, they’ll likely explain to you that Apple products were regarded as bland, overpriced garbage.

Not only were they overpriced but most of what they came up with were rehashed clones of products that were superior in terms of processing power, features, price and available software. Apple’s stock tanked, if you can believe it, to a low of $4 per share.

apple-share-price-history

Today, agree with it or not, Apple is synonymous with sleek, sophisticated, forward-looking products. People wait for hours, even days, in line to score the latest iPhones. What brought about such a shift? The design of an MP3 player in an age when most people were touting Discmans as the ultimate in portable music. And the innovation just kept growing from there.

That’s the kind of effect that disruptive marketing can have on not just a brand, but an entire industry and the way we perceive it. But not everyone can pull off a disruptive marketing campaign. No matter what industry you’re in, all of these types of campaigns have a few selective traits in common.

Key Traits All Disruptive Marketing Initiatives Have in Common

So what exactly makes a disruptive campaign…disruptive? Disruptive brands don’t just push the envelope, they crumple it up and throw it in the trash. They’re not afraid to be daring and break the status quo. But for all the buzz they generate, they also need to be able to ride the peaks and valleys successfully, as not everyone will be accepting of their challenge to a traditional mindset.

Here’s another great example, from the Singapore Red Cross. How many times have you been told in your life that you should donate blood? Probably many times. You know it can save lives and yet very few people take the time to do it – particularly healthy, young people. The Singapore Red Cross decided to change that with an ad that capitalized on young people’s love of selfies and celebrities by doing an ad called “Blood Ties”.

blood-ties-red-cross

Music. Blogging. Comedy. All things that attract the younger generation. Forget the preachy “you need to give blood!” demands – this kind of ad speaks to them exactly in a way that resonates. It’s a win-win.

Why Customers Love Disruptive Marketing

Most customers love disruptive marketing because it changes the face of how we perceive advertising. If done well enough, it even becomes a part of our vocabulary. When was the last time you called a cab? When was the last time you called an Uber? There are even more reasons that customers respond so well to disruptive marketing. Namely:

It’s Approachable

Disruptive marketing often tells a story in a way that consumers can understand. In one example from Spain that went viral around the world, an ad against child abuse showed an image of a child with the caption “sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering from it.”

Most adults got the message, but its true impact was understood only by children. Using lenticular technology, when viewed from a certain height, the ad’s message changed entirely:

From a child’s height, the message showed the boy with bruises and cuts indicative of abuse, and the ad read “if someone hurts you, call us and we’ll help you.” The ad was meant to speak to victims of abuse even – and especially –when they’re out with their abuser.

It’s Affordable

Disruptive marketing doesn’t have to break the bank in order to be effective. It just has to change how things are done – even a little. Case in point: Air fresheners. You probably don’t give much thought to buying them. You just want something that smells good, right?

But what if you could do more than that? What if you could create an entire mood just by the scent that best describes your d├ęcor? Airwick created such a quiz-style design with its Scent Decorator:

scent-decorator-exotic

By clicking just a few images, you get a better idea of the feeling you want to create in your room, along with recommended air fresheners to complement it. Not bad for a can of smelly air, is it? This kind of process takes an ordinary, inexpensive thing and transforms it into something more – and that’s the kind of disruption that customers can feel comfortable with.

It’s Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

One of the best reasons customers (and businesses) respond so favorably to disruptive marketing – especially after the initial shock wears off, is because it can’t easily be duplicated. There’s only one Airbnb. Only one Red Bull. Only one Apple. Companies who try similar tactics to position their brand in a related way will be ignored in favor of the first to have done it. And when you have that kind of a lead on the competition, it makes sense to do everything you can to stay one step ahead.

It Hits a Common Touchpoint

Disruptive marketing is that loud and sometimes obnoxious friend that says what we’re all secretly thinking. The Dollar Shave Club turned subscription-based marketing into a huge trend by offering razors for $1 a month. But the reason they found such success wasn’t because of their pricing – it was because their founders came together over a common complaint: They were tired of expensive razors with ironclad packaging and countless “technological features” like flashlights, ionized organic coatings and salad slicers built into the handle, and still the same painful, bumpy shave.

It remains to be seen if Dollar Shave Club can keep up the disruption that their viral videos were famous for – especially after being bought for a BILLION dollars by personal care and shaving giant Unilever.

Now It’s Your Turn…

What are your thoughts on disruptive marketing? Have you seen a particular ad campaign that really changed the way you perceived a particular brand or industry? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

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Create the Perfect Hero Image Using Contrast

Want to make a great first impression? It starts with your website’s header. The image a user sees will leave an impression—good or bad—and determine whether that user clicks and continues, or leaves the site altogether.

That’s a tall order for a single image.

The key element to creating a hero image that will draw users in and keep them moving around the design is contrast. (Seriously! It all goes back to design theory 101.) A head that features contrasting elements in size, color and scale provides the right mix of visual interest and tells users how to interact with the design. Here are a few ways to maximize contrast on the path to creating a perfect hero image.

Crop Strategically

The hero image does not have to fill the “first” screen on devices. Don’t get caught in that trap.

Crop the image for impact based on the content therein. Consider the other elements that are important to users when they land on the page and make accommodations for those as well. Depending on this framework, that might mean the hero image is scaled to be larger or smaller than the browser window (let’s just consider more standard resolutions for sake of argument).

Before you balk at the idea, consider it for a moment.

  • A shallow image will help preview other content.
  • An unusually deep image will encourage users to scroll for more.
  • Any unusual shape will draw attention.

Consider Animation

You don’t have to create a full-fledge cinematographic experience to add moving imagery to the hero header. The smallest touches of movement create just enough contrast to grab the eye.

Subtle movements, such as the plane flying across the image for Bar Z Winery, provide that element of contrast without being overwhelming. It’s a simple alternative to some of the more flashy video headers that have become popular. The element of contrast is two-fold: The design is different that many of the others that users are exposed to and the subtle movement is delightful and rather unexpected.

On the other hand, you can go all in with animation or video for a hero image. Movement can be particularly engaging and is a popular option. Use it in the same ways you would a still image when it comes to adding effects such as typography and calls to action.

Think Bold Typography

Typography in the hero image should wow the user. It needs to be bold, impactful and memorable.

You can create this with both typeface selection and the words on the screen. (No Arial headers that say “Hello” here.)

The combination of lettering style and messaging needs to have direct impact and appeal on the user. You’ve heard that people have shorter attention spans than goldfish; it’s your job to catch them with beautiful lettering and language.

When it comes to bold type, the key elements of contrast are color and size.

  • The type needs to be a color that stands out from the background. Light on dark or dark on light are the best options when it comes to readability.
  • Bold is a digression from the norm. Consider over- or undersized typography on the hero header for impact.
  • Choose words with meaning. Unless it is key to your message, you don’t need a paragraph in the header. Opt for a few key words that entice users to learn more. (The number of words will impact how large or small lettering can be.)

Choose Color Carefully

A hero image might not be an image at all. It could be a color block or cool texture.

Choose a color carefully that portrays the exact meaning you intend. A bold color hero header can impress users, but the wrong color can be a turn off.

Bright, trendy options are a good alternative. The nice thing about this option is you can mix it up from time to time just by changing the background color. A big color background can also help reinforce brand identity—particularly if it has a strong color association—and lends itself to readability because of the simple nature of the design.

Color is also an important consideration when used with another image or video. From colored typography to colored user interface elements, it is important to make sure that color choices in the image match the rest of the design. Much of this goes back to color theory and an understanding of the color wheel so that the image and color choices work together in the design.

But what if the hero image and brand colors don’t mesh? Think creatively about how to use the parts in the hero image together. Try a color overlay on the photo; consider black and white for the image or text. Move high-color elements into a navigation bar that’s white or black to keep them off the actual image. When the image and the mandated colors don’t play well, the best option is to eliminate or separate the color.

Think About Light and Dark Spaces

Accounting for dark and light spaces in an image might be the most difficult task when adding elements to create contrast in a hero image. Particularly with responsive formats and breakpoints, the placement of text or buttons on an image can change and you can’t always find a great location.

What’s a designer to do?

  • Choose another image;
  • opt for a different type family, size or color;
  • add a color overlay;
  • make the best of it.

Each of the above is a viable option. The best option may vary by project.

The Society Inc.’s solution in the hero image slider—with plenty of variance between light and dark spaces – was to include a logo overlay with white text in a black shape. It does not detract from the images and is a lot less obtrusive than you might think from hearing the idea. The logo in the center also helps establish brand and visual identity.

Include a Distinct Call to Action

Don’t forget the CTA!

What do you want users to do after they look at your cool hero image? Tell them.

The call to action should be clear, whether it is to fill out a form, scroll for more content or to click a link to another page. It should include enough definition and contrast so that it is easily seen against the image background. (What’s the point in a CTA if no one sees it?)

Color and size are of particular importance here. The color of the button (a common CTA cue) should stand out from the rest of the image. The words telling users what to do need to be exceptionally readable, simple and clear.

Conclusion

Contrast is one of the key techniques for any good design. It creates separation between elements and helps guide users toward the desired action.

Take special care to create enough contrast when designing a hero image so that users know exactly what actions to take on the page. Peek at your metrics and if those conversions aren’t happening, rethink the amount of contrast in the design. It might be time to amp it up even more.

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