Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Getting Started with Behavioral Email Marketing

When sending out automated emails to your list, how personalized are they?

I’m not talking about things like $firstname, or order by $date for free shipping – but actual personalization based on their behavior.

According to MarketingSherpa, 39% of marketers found that sending emails automatically based on user behavior was their most effective email marketing strategy. At the same time, DMA reports that emails triggered by behavior were responsible for 30% of revenues in 2014, up from 17% in 2013, and that 77% of ROI comes from segmented, targeted and triggered campaigns.

Let those numbers sink in a minute.

The potential for making the most of behavioral email marketing is wide open, and yet, according to eConsultancy, only 20% of marketers are using behavioral targeting.

email segmentation marketers surveyOnly 20% of marketers surveyed use behavioral targeting (Image Source)

Why is that? Let’s take a closer look at the core issues and learn how to get started with behavioral email marketing.

Getting the Big Picture with Behavioral Tracking

Oftentimes, marketers want to start behavioral targeting, but they have no idea how or where to start. The first step, if you haven’t done so already, is to monitor how people are interacting with your brand.

Kissmetrics can deliver this kind of invaluable behavioral analytics data. Like the brain of your behavioral marketing outreach, it seeks out and stores details about your visitors, including:

  • Who they are, and when they converted
  • What they viewed, where they clicked on your website, and when they purchased
  • Group visitors based on shared criteria
  • Identifies where people are dropping off before converting
  • Whether or not they submitted any forms, conducted any live chats, and so on

Because of this powerful people-based analytics platform, you can tailor your behavioral email triggers to suit precisely what your audience is looking for.

Decide Which Customer Actions Warrant an Email

Now, not all of these points will be email “action-worthy”, so it’s up to you to figure out what actions the user takes (or doesn’t take) that are worth sending an email. You may have even seen this kind of behavioral targeting at work when you sign up for a service, but don’t complete your profile or don’t verify your email address. If the company is smart, they’ll send you an automated email reminding you to do so.

But re-targeting the user in this way isn’t the only way to leverage behaviorally targeted emails. You can also send out targeted messages, for example, when a customer:

  • Submits a form to download your white paper, video, case study or other free item
  • Views certain content on your web page. If they spent some time browsing the FAQ, you can set up a behaviorally targeted email to check in and see if they have any specific questions
  • Leaves an item in their cart without checking out. You could send them a reminder email with a small discount, remind them of limited stock (or that their cart will expire) and so on

Remember, with behavioral email marketing, it’s the customer at the wheel — not you. They’re making choices while interacting with your content. Behavioral marketing is designed to act on those choices with the kind of engagement that increases conversion rates, grows profits and vastly improves customer retention.

Unearthing More Behavioral Email Trigger Opportunities

Once you start collecting and analyzing the information that you gather on your customers, new opportunities for behaviorally targeted emails will percolate to the surface. You’ll start getting all kinds of great ideas on how to guide users back into your service. To help get you started, however, here are some of my favorites:

The “Getting Started” Email

Also known as an “onboarding” email, this message is usually sent after you create an account or register for a service. It’s designed to get you clicking and interacting with the service as quickly and fluidly as possible. Here’s an awesome example from Stocksy, a stock photography site:

Image Source

Notice how they’ve carefully curated images on a specific theme – then encourage you to click through and check them out for more design inspiration. Here’s another example from Airbnb:

airbnb sonoma email giftImage Source

If you’ve been browsing trips to wine country, this targeted email can help make your tour much more palatable through the offer if discounts, local guides, special attractions and more.

The Notification Email

The notification email is generally just a canned response from your account or user management software that tells people their username and password, and maybe has a link to some documentation to get started. That’s where most of the getting started process ends — which results in a lot of confused or frustrated users.

Instead, encourage them to take the first step toward trying out your product by offering more of a guided, hands-on tour. If you have a SaaS, walk them through using it by helping them to create their very first _____ — such as a website, playlist or campaign. This sort of guided, pop-up tour will help them feel more at ease, and can also give you even more valuable data for your behavioral targeting goals.

The Icing on the Cake Email

These are the unexpected but highly welcomed emails that encourage better customer retention. Here’s a great example from Shopify that lets users extend their free trial of the service:

shopify free trial extended emailImage Source

Another example comes from TurboTax, which is designed to pique the user’s curiosity about how much their tax refund could be, before they ever see a check in the mail:

turbotax sign in email notificationImage Source

It also promotes the benefits of using the TurboTax service, but without being overly “sales-y” or pushy. Rather it shifts the focus onto the customer and their end goals – which revolve around getting the biggest refund possible at tax time.

The Reward Email

Everyone loves getting an unexpected reward — even if it’s a digital “good job!” Here’s an example of an email from Withings, which is a Fitbit-style product that helps inspire healthy habits by tracking your activity. Here, you can see a user has won a badge for taking 8,000 steps in a day, and unlocked the Marathon reward. They can also share their progress on Twitter or Facebook.

withings reward emailImage Source

The Recommendation Email

Oftentimes, great customer service from a company is enough to get you to recommend them. But what if the brand sweetened the deal? Bombas, which sells socks online, provides free socks, with no limit, to people who tell their friends about them. Those friends get a discount on socks, and the referrer gets more socks. And we all know you can never have enough socks.

bombas refer a friend emailImage Source

Transactional Emails

Did you know that transactional emails (receipts, shipping notifications, etc.) are opened up at 8x the rate of regular emails? With this in mind, it’s worth going through the ones your company sends and doing away with those dusty old “order confirmed” messages, to make every note you send one that not only thanks the customer for their order, but does so in a way that’s more akin to having a conversation than making a statement.

So Just How Do I Set All This Up?

Until now, behavioral email targeting was difficult to set up because so many pieces of technology had to communicate with each other. With the new Kissmetrics Campaigns, behavioral targeting via email (and other channels) is built right in, so you can customize precisely when automated emails are sent to your customers, based on their behaviors. It’s better targeting, discovery, engagement and retention all rolled into one.

Be sure to check out the detailed article link above to learn how to use this new feature to the fullest, and be sure to share your behavioral targeting email success stories 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 and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

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Outgrowing Growth-Driven Design

I’ve been designing for the web for a while. Since the days of table-based sites when we spliced our images and added them into <tr>s and <td>s. The days of hit counters, Flash splash pages, and keywords stuffed into the bottom of pages (along with text links bought and sold like penny stocks) to fool the spiders. Those trends served their time (well, some of them anyway) but we have outgrown them as a design community.

And as the times progress and the community and its members mature (well, most of them anyway), more trends are thrown at us in a proverbial game of buzzword dodgeball. We may catch a couple, but the vast majority miss their mark completely.

Enter the prodigal son: Growth Driven Design.

The latest buzzword is being recklessly thrown at us like a barrage of red rubber playground balls by marketers, customers, and companies trying to sell us things that we don’t need and that won’t change our design process.

Is this one we should catch, or dodge?

Growth Driven Design is Not About Design at All…Or is it?

The phrase must have been coined by a marketer—a smart one!

One way of looking at it (mine) is that Growth Driven Design is a business approach—not a design approach. Unlike its predecessor design systems, GDD is only about creating websites that are better for business, not necessarily better designed. GDD “experts” talk about the “traditional website design process” being broken, but the frustrations they speak of are related to budget, timeline and results—not design.

In fact, I would challenge GDD proponents to look at any site I have designed and tell me if it incorporated a GDD approach or not.

I guarantee you they won’t be able to. And the reason is that GDD is not about design.

Drilling down into “how it works” of however, will uncover another way of looking at it (also mine): GDD is what we, as designers, have always done.

Growth Driven Design Strategy  

At the strategic level, GDD is about understanding the audience’s world and how your website can solve problems along their journey. Admittedly, we didn’t define it clearly enough in the beginning, but who in this design community ever attempted to redesign a website without first seeking to understand the target persona? We have been doing this for years.

The Launch Pad MVP  

The next step of the process is defined as “build quickly and deliver something that works better than the current site….then iterate” Again, this does not speak about design. Moreover, I find myself asking yet again, has there ever been a web designer that did not focus on delivering quickly and generating a design that performs better (fully knowing that it will be iterated on and optimized further down the road)?

Continuous Improvement

Setting aside the business-side of the equation for a moment, I have never met a designer who would choose not go back and optimize designs if they could. I have, however, met many customers and agencies who do not want to pay for continuous improvements to a site and therefore stifle the designer’s innate need to continually improve.

It therefore comes down to this: design, by definition, is (and always has been) growth-driven. The current state of the buzzword is designed (excuse the pun) to help customers recognize and agencies sell what designers have long known and practiced.

To GDD or Not to GDD?

Let’s forget about GDD as a buzzword for a few minutes (bench it, if you will). Now that those paying the bills have caught up and want us to keep doing what we have been doing (albeit, call it by another name), what’s a designer to do?

The answer is a 3-step solution based on a methodology that involves the design process, but does not change it.

1. Understand the Need

Customers have started asking for a growth driven website. Often, if asked to describe what they mean, they will either:

  1. Stutter and not know (hint: this unveils GDD as a buzzword—those who use it, don’t fully understand it—they just think they need to have it to keep up with the Joneses); or
  2. Explain that they want it quick, cheap, and easy to change based on data.

In either case, explain that this is your modus operandi; that you have worked this way since long before the term was coined and frankly, can’t imagine a design process that isn’t growth-driven.

2. Use a Growth Engineering Approach with the Entire Team

Once you recognize that GDD is not about design at all, but rather about the entire process of websites, you may find it beneficial to change how you work with the entire team.

Tackling unknown, dealing with changing priorities, relying on data—these are not problems reserved for designers. The entire team deals with these issues—both on the client side and the agency side. The solution is a growth engineering approach to the process.

We believe in investing in processes, not in projects. For example, in our recent work on a SaaS client’s site, we uncovered a need to not only improve the website, but also build a mobile app. We involved our content team to create assets that provide value to the target persona and even got granular with the client’s product team to make some required changes to the product itself and their onboarding process.

Growth Driven Design is just one cog—the entire machine needs to work in iterative processes where all participants learn and apply in continuous cycles. Our culture is driven by numbers, out-of-the-box creative thinking, and passion for engineering growth.

3. Use a Pattern Driven Approach for Design

While design principles per-se are not altered in a GDD approach—your fonts, white space, lines, iconography, etc.—how you go about putting them together may be improved.

Ever pondered the term homepage? The pattern driven approach can take that analogy to a new level. Instead of building a home—that is hard, expensive, and time-consuming to renovate, we are building a wardrobe. We define the style and create many pieces that can go together and swap out easily. If your neighbor gets a new roof and you want to keep up with the look and feel, you are in for a long and costly venture. But if your neighbor’s daughter gets a new hat, a quick trip to the mall (or the Amazon app) will have your girl in one that’s even better before the bell rings for recess—she can even do it herself because the style has already been defined.

We design patterns. And how they relate to each other in an organic way. Let’s say a section intro block that has:

  • An H1 heading
  • A description <p>
  • A CTA button

That’s a pattern! Why should we recreate the same pattern for a testimonial block? We just need to duplicate the same pattern, replace the description <p> with a blockquote, replace the CTA with the person’s avatar et voilá!

This pattern can be easily replicated for each page (even sometimes between projects) making the design process more efficient and more exact as patterns always fit the grid.

Using a pattern approach makes the user experience on our sites flow better and enables our designers to spend less time on the “science” and more time on the “art.”

At the end of the day, we deliver quicker and whether they understand the why or not, customers are happier with the deliverable and end up sending us more work (and referrals!).

Growth Driven Freedom

If Growth-Driven Design isn’t about design, then what is it about? In a word: independence.

Creating websites built on patterns puts growth in the hands of everyone—both clients and agencies can run tests and make changes easier than ever. The idea of constant improvement moves from the realm of buzzword to standard operating procedure. Aligning with customers and consultants about the need to continually improve gives power to the people.

In an era long fallen by the wayside, marketers used to need a coder to make text changes to their sites. Then came CMSs that gave them the power to update text themselves. This did not put coders out of a job, it allowed them to focus their efforts on actual coding rather than a Find and Replace script for new buzzwords.

In much the same way, GDD empowers marketers to update site designs based on data they track—and it will not put designers out of a job—it will allow us to focus on designing rather than changing the CTA button from red to orange…and back again.

Is GDD a buzzword? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ride the wave of its popularity to create the same beautiful and effective web designs…in a new way.  

Now, who is up for some GDDodgeball?

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When ‘Fear’ Works & When it Backfires

Fear works.

Except for when it doesn’t.

There’s no better way to force prospects to pay attention than by striking the fear of God into them. It interrupts patterns and interests the unaware.


That doesn’t mean it always works.

In fact, in many cases using fear or negative messaging can actually backfire.

Here’s why, and how to do it correctly.

Why do we do what we do?

We used to be cavemen. Cavewomen too.

At least, that’s what science says.

In these primitive times, there was no cold brew. No netflix. No alco… well, there was probably something fermented of some sort.

But there were harsh conditions. The environment was unstable. And they were constantly surrounded by scary beasts.

So life was probably pretty straight-forward. Here’s the GTD ‘next action’ list of a caveperson millions of years ago:

  1. Don’t get eaten.
  2. Don’t fall off a cliff.
  3. Find food.
  4. Fornicate. (Hey — we all got here somehow. This is science people!)

Today we’re not much different. Except monsters and cliffs have been replaced by bosses and email respectively.

Pain and pleasure are the primary motivators of human behavior. Humans gravitate towards pleasure while avoiding that which causes pain.

Fear is a stressor; a reaction to anything that’s threatening, dangerous, or likely to cause pain. Which explains why fear-based messaging has long been used in marketing and advertising: People don’t want pain. Triggering their fear for pain incites them to action.

A reported 25% of Americans have “high stress levels,” with another 50% reporting “moderate stress.”

Stress signals can chemically alter your brain. Your emotional processor (the amygdala) sends bright, flashing WARNING signs to your critical command center (the hypothalamus), which instantly decides whether you should run like hell or suit up like a gladiator.

hypothalamus cerebral cortex amygdala areas in brainImage Source

But response to fear is highly personal, the same way not all fear are created equal. What George will run away from John may tackle with gusto. Different people react to the same stressful situation differently (or ‘fight’ vs. ‘flight’).

And here’s the kicker.

The Harvard Health Publications says that “chronic activation of [the ‘fight or flight’] survival mechanism” is bad for the health. You don’t want to be that company people associate with negativity. Therefore, incessant badgering of your target audience with fear-based marketing can be catastrophic for your company’s overall brand health.

Even though it almost always works in the short-term.

Does fear-based marketing work?

Yes. Fear-based marketing works.

(Wow that was easy. On to the next section…)

Just kidding, but seriously. It does.

Turns out Gordon Gekko was onto something: Greed, and its inverse, fear, does matter.

(What — you think the stock market goes up and down based on math alone? Don’t make me laugh.)

Inciting fear has been proven to be the absolute best way to grab attention. And in a world where millions of blog posts go out and trillions of emails are sent daily, grabbing attention is freaking critical!

Exhibit A comes courtesy of ConversionXL which comes courtesy of QuickSprout (there’s a meta joke in here somewhere):

fear vs how to headline

The first subject line resulted in a 65% conversion lift. You see this so often that it’s not even surprising anymore.

Here’s Victoria’s Secret emphasizing how long this deal is going to last — three times on the same page:

  1. “Ends tomorrow!”
  2. “Today only!”
  3. “Last Day!”

victoria's secret 3 deals on one page

(Yes, this is just a bad excuse to conduct “research” on Victoria’s Secret’s website.)

So yes. Fear works.

There’s no going around that. So might as well give credit where credit is due. However, while it does work… you can only push it to a point. Go beyond that point and it’s sure to backfire.

Messaging based on fear isn’t empowering. It’s not always delightful. It’s fo sho clickbait-y. It manufactures urgency to re-create a ‘fight or flight’ response.

And sometimes can be perceived as dishonest.

But can fear backfire?

Fear works… until it doesn’t.

Until it backfires and works against you.

Several experiments from (again, searching for a meta joke) have proven this time and time again.

First up, two tweets.

One with a “positive, empowering message” and another that focused on the pain of potential loss. Turns out, the first fun loving one won. (Say that ten times fast.)

positive vs pain tweetImage Source

Next up, a CTA. The first was negative and fear based. The second focused on “peace of mind.”

CTA test negative vs peace of mindImage Source

Once again, the positive message was victorious.

Ok one last example. Norton antivirus compared two campaigns: one that incited fear vs. another that tried to “empower” customers.

fear vs customer empowermentImage Source

And the winner?

customer empowerment winning messageImage Source

Incredibly, the soft, touchy, feely one won. And check out that difference!

So… WTF. What’s going on? One minute fear works. And the next it doesn’t. What’s going on? posits:

“The most effective marketing campaigns focus on the impact of action, rather than the result of inaction. Our goal is to create positive (non negative) momentum in the psychology of our customer’s mind.”

Turns out that while fear works wonderfully in order to first get attention, it starts to backfire when it comes to a transaction.

When you optimize for sales from customers (and not just emails or blog post headlines) the nuance appears. That context can make all the difference.

Fear can also backfire during certain times of the year. For example, the holidays. During this blissful time, positive emotions tend to fare better.

A Fractl study in the Harvard Business Review, visually illustrates this. The most shared content related most to anticipation, surprise, trust, and joy (so happiness overall). While fear-based ones were a ghost town.

most shared contentImage Source

Focusing on what people are going to get during this time pays off. (As opposed to what they might miss out on or the ‘cost of inaction’).

Why people want (to buy) reassurance

People don’t need your thing.

So there’s only one reason they buy: to solve a pain point. One that kinda bothers them but isn’t life or death.

What they don’t want, is to be disappointed. They don’t want to take a chance on your thing and be sorry they purchased it. They want to know it’s going to work like it should. It (and you) will be there when it (and you) should.

Fear mongering sometimes crosses that line. Exhibit B comes courtesy of a Gallup poll that showed car salesmen are trusted more than your local politicians (and at this rate, the White House most likely, too).

That’s why 81% of people look to peers for decision making (as opposed to branded messages).

So there’s a line. Somewhere. Under all of those fear-based headlines.

Fear works wonderfully at capturing attention. There’s almost nothing better. But… too much, too often can be harmful.

Negative messaging might pique the interest of those ‘cold’ prospects who lack need awareness (for your product or widget). Fear makes them sit up and take notice. It makes them realize — for the very first time — that they might have a problem that needs to be solved.

Outbrain ran a study on 65,000 paid links in order to find out which worked best: positive or negative messages (in syndicated ads).

The results weren’t even close. Negative ones crushed it (by 60%).

positive vs negative superlatives in titles

Sometimes, people need that shot of adrenaline in order to stop and pay attention.

fear based messaging in breast cancer advertisementImage Source

But ‘warmer’ ones who already ‘get it’ don’t need the same heavy-handed approach.

Another study compared a few different headlines. They were:

  1. Passionate about betting? We are too.
  2. Make More Money on Your Bets — Get Free Betting Tips
  3. Stop Losing Money on Your Bets — Get Free Betting Tips

Unsurprisingly by now, the second and third (positive and negative) ones dominated the first generic one.

But… the positive message outperformed the negative one.

betting expert headline testsImage Source

The positive one focused on what people were going to get (as opposed to what they were going to lose out on).

That’s where you back off a bit. Switch the value proposition to what your widget will bring them (as opposed to what NOT having it will do to them). Otherwise it becomes overkill. And it backfires.

old sledgehammer resting on table


Fear-based messaging works. In many cases.

It plays upon our evolutionary biology; stimulating our fight or flight response in order to get us to take notice.

However… it also requires the right context. Many studies have shown that negative message works wonders when you’re targeting people who might be unaware of what your widget does. Unaware that they even have a problem or need for what you do in the first place.

But. When it comes to ‘warmer’ traffic who does understand, fear can backfire.

These people see through the fear mongering. They’re looking for reassurances instead. They want the truth. They want to know what they’re going to get out of it. The value or end result.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

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7 UI Choices That Damage UX

User experience is one of the most important aspects of modern web design. The Google Trends graph for ux design shows how much this field has grown in recent years.

Yet there are still so many websites that push certain design trends which seem like the antithesis of usability. Some are done by accident or negligence, others are done on purpose. The latter are called dark patterns and they’re typically used by marketers to meet some end goal.

But as designers it’s our job to push back and fight for a great user experience. The best way to do that is by shedding light on bad practices and encouraging better ones. So let’s dive into a few of these bad UX practices to see why they exist and how they might be solved.

1. Unwanted Modals

The general concept of a modal window is actually very clever. It lets developers add content over the page without using JavaScript to pop open a new tab.

But modal windows are not the problem. Unwanted modals are the problem and they always drag down the user experience.

I’d say there are three different types of “unwanted” modal popups:

  • Exit intents which open when the user’s mouse leaves the page body, usually hovering the browser tab;
  • Timed modals that open after a set amount of seconds;
  • Scroll modals that open after the user scrolls a certain distance down the page.

You can see an example of an exit intent modal on this MaxTraffic post using their own exit intent script.

As much as I’d like to chastise this practice I do understand this from a marketer’s standpoint: it works.

The question isn’t why exit intent/opt-in modals exist. The question is whether you think it’s worth adding an unwanted modal popup to your website.

Is it worth potentially annoying most of your users just for a higher conversion rate?

If you’re more interested in a great user experience then the answer is obvious. Especially with Google now penalizing sites that use annoying interstitials/modals without user interaction.

But these unwanted messages also give modals a bad name, which is tough because they serve a real purpose in UI design. These can be used wisely, like with modal signup fields or information-based modals triggered from a user’s mouse click.

Or they can be annoying marketing messages that just appear seemingly out of nowhere. And don’t get me started on modals that won’t close even when clicking the background.

I really can’t fault marketers for using these modals because they convert well. But they’re also ruining the user experience for everyone else on the web.

2. Guilt in Copywriting

I recognized this trend years ago but I couldn’t put it into words until I read this article by Katie Notopoulos. She uses plenty of great examples to show how guilt-based copywriting annoys users and increase signups.

This writing style appears in those annoying modals I just covered. But this writing can also appear in sidebar fields or in-content opt-in forms. One example from Good Housekeeping is just terrible (hover the browser tab to trigger).

The goal with this guilt-ridden copywriting is to make the user feel so bad that they second guess their choice to close the window. It usually follows a formula that forces the user to click a nonsensical statement that’s unrelated to closing the window.

For example, a modal might offer you a free ebook on web design. The subscribe button might be simple but the cancel button might read “No thanks, I like sucking at design”. There’s actually a whole Tumblr site devoted to this shaming copywriting.

This is another example of a technique that works from a marketer’s standpoint, but certainly holds little value from a UX standpoint.

3. Fullscreen Interstitials

It should go without saying that completely taking over the screen with an opt-in or squeeze offer is just plain obnoxious.

This trend is like the unwanted modal window on steroids. These interstitials take over the entire screen and block the page unless you close the window. And sometimes it’s almost impossible to close these windows!

Backlinko is a fantastic site for SEO tips, but horrible with the pushy marketing.

First time visitors are always greeted with the same fullscreen modal that takes over the entire page. The background uses a video of Google SERPS which is both confusing and ugly.

It places a very tiny X icon in the top right corner and the “no thanks” link is much smaller than the other text, not to mention harder to read. This thing is a usability nightmare on mobile and it’s just one example of a trend that really needs to go.

4. Slide-in Ads/offers

Sometimes you’ll be scrolling down a homepage and see a small box slide into view from the side. This might be a feedback box for user testing, or it might be social sharing links or even a discount/promotion.

I can deal with these every so often. If they stay out of the way and aren’t too obnoxious then, whatever.

But on sites like AccessPress you can find at least 2 different slide-in boxes on either side of the page, and sometimes even a 3rd!

This isn’t meant to shame AccessPress or any other sites in this list. I’m just using this as an example to show how poor UX trends can go too far.

If you have a client who wants this slide-in feature try to make it subtle. No ding noises, no flashing graphics, and preferably no wacky animations. If a user wants to learn more they’ll take the time to read it.

5. Custom Scrolling

Most trends in this post have been marketing-oriented because, as Gary V says, marketers ruin everything.

But custom scrolling can’t be blamed on anyone. It’s just a trend that’s been around for far too long and feels like a remnant of an older web. Nowadays browsers like Chrome have their own custom scroll features that users can enable/disable on a whim.

But websites like Click and Grow still have these annoying JS-based scroll features that turn navigating the site into a chore.

Usually these custom scroll animations have one of two effects. Either the scroll goes too fast beyond where you wanted to rest the page, or it goes too slow and you have to whip your mouse wheel just to move. Why would any designer think these two options are better than the default?

Tied into custom scrolling is a newer trend I’ve seen on single page layouts. They have fullscreen page “sections” where your scroll wheel only moves down one section at a time. Gladly has this trend on their homepage.

My problem here is the same with fixed scrolling. It takes power away from the user.

The Gladly section animations take way too long to complete. The Internet moves fast and Internet users always want it a little faster. So any type of custom scrolling that ultimately slows down the experience is just bad UX.

6. Nav Menus Without Padding

This is a tough trend to explain but you know it when you see it.

Every site has a navigation menu and most links have padding around them. But sometimes the padding isn’t clickable, so to navigate you need to click on the exact block area of the text itself. This drives me crazy!

It takes maybe 30 seconds to move CSS padding from a link’s container element to the link itself. The navigation menu looks the same, but now users can click the link and the space around the link. So much easier!

Take a look at Tilde’s navigation for a live example.

The craziest thing about their site is that their mobile responsive navigation actually does have clickable padding. Only their desktop nav is plagued by the text-only click area.

On the flip side you’ll find many sites that understand the importance of this very subtle yet crucial detail. One example is Think With Google where you can actually see the full link size while hovering:

Just keep this in mind going forward because it’s a very simple alteration that can have a huge impact on usability.

7. Paginated Listicles

Last but not least I’m poking a bit of fun at blogs that design their content into one-item-per-page listicles.

I cannot imagine that any person enjoys constantly clicking the “next” button to read through a clickbait post. You’ll find tons of these on many different websites and none of them consider the user’s experience.

This trend is mostly about pageviews and ad revenue more than anything else. And while it’s not really in the designer’s control to fix this, it does relate to the user experience and webmasters/designers should do all they can to avoid these multi-paged articles.

I can only imagine how many other trends are out there annoying users on a daily basis. But I hope by sharing these ideas more designers will work towards eliminating these dark trends and reducing their presence on the web.

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p img {display:inline-block; margin-right:10px;}
.alignleft {float:left;}
p.showcase {clear:both;}
body#browserfriendly p, body#podcast p, div#emailbody p{margin:0;}

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