This is another request off the twistlist. This time from Greg for Municibid. I wanted to take this on because marketplaces are interesting cases and Greg does a lot of things right here. It doesn’t need a major overhaul, just some improvement.
Here is the full site, capped. As you can see it’s pretty bland. Just because you are appealing to municipal workers doesn’t mean you have to style down to their subdued sensibilities. So lets get started.
This is just a lost and confused logo and type treatment. There are concentric arcs on the “m” which don’t make sense. When you use concentric arcs your company better have something to do with wireless, transmission, communication, or RSS feeds. Municibid has nothing to do with any of that. The irony is that the name Municibid is such a good and descriptive name, that the logo and type treatment should be simple and not distracting. Now if we took away the arcs and the random italic “i” we just have a boring piece of text. So I took the liberty of doing a few logotypes that are more appealing.
You may have already guessed, but the font here is a variant of Highway Gothic, which is what many of our nations highways use. Further more I pulled the colors out of highway signs as well as the arrow which you maybe remember from such signs as “Exit here” or “Next exit.”
I think these changes, perhaps subconsciously would juice the government imagery a little bit. The best logos are always subtle. Gregg could pull some of these colors into the rest of the site if he were to redesign it.
2. Showing Activity
The single most important thing a marketplace wants to convey is activity. New marketplaces always face the chicken-egg problem of bringing both the buyers and sellers to the table at the same time. As a new visitor, the very first thing I want to know if I am a seller is ”is stuff being bid and sold”, and “is there enough being listed” if I am a buyer.
Gregg’s Bid Now link does a good job of featuring that, as there are in deed several large ticket items with bids ending in the next day or so. Putting a selection of auction items on the front page also does a good job in showing activity as well as orienting the visitor to the types of things being sold here.
3. Don’t show your empty shelves
Now that the user has satisfied their initial question of activity they are ready to dive deeper to find something they may actually want to buy. This is where the process falls apart for municibid. There are several ways the visitor can do this and they all paint municibid as a desolate place.
The first is the left hand side bar of Auction Categories. There are lots of categories listed, but a click on most of them lead to a “No items found.” page. This is not the best way to treat a visitor. Eventually they will pick up on the number in parenthesis and see that municibid is primarily a place to sell autos and furniture. There is a category for Jewelry, but I doubt they have even sold a piece of municipal jewelry.
The second UX failure is the browse by state page.
With marketplaces that are dominated with small items, like ebay or etsy, the location of the seller doesn’t matter much as it all can be shipped. But from the municibid homepage I can see that we are likely going to be buying furniture and vehicles here so it behooves me to be near the seller. The browse by map is a good idea in theory, but in practice it fails because there are only items available in a few Northeastern states. So a normal visitor will click their state first and see its likely unpopulated. Then they will check the big states to see if anything is populated. California, Texas? Nope. Florida, New York? Nope. The user will likely bounce at that point.
The final failure is the Browse page. Ebay has a great one… just reams of categories and subcategories. Municibid has one too, the difference is there is nothing there. Automotive has 99 items, but sporting goods has zero, real estate is empty, electronics is barren, and do we really need a category for vinyl records? Did the municipal DJ business every really take off?
The bottom line here is that municibids is building in a lot of unnecessary disappointment for the visitor. Let’s say you walk into a story called Jack of all Trades Supply Super Store. An employee greets you and says “Welcome, what can I get you?” You ask for drywall, “nope!”. What about power tools, “sorry!” Windows and doors? ”‘fraid not.” Electrical? “not here!”. Well then what do you have? “Plumbing, lots and lots of plumbing supplies!”
Well for fucks sake, just call your self Jacks Plumbing Supplies.
1. First step is to get rid of all of the empty categories on the home page and browse page. You can expose these to the SELLER when they want to sell an item, but not to the visitor. Municibid started strong in the activity front, but shot themselves in the foot by diluting their activity with non-activity. If you want to keep the map page then it needs to be a choropleth map so the visitor can immediately see “oh it’s a north east thing.” Trust me, if this scares away visitors from other parts of the country, they were never going to be your customer to begin with. People in Arizona will be your customer once you get to Arizona first.
2. Given the locality issue, I suggest on focusing on big ticket items only. Autos, dumpsters, farm and construction equiptment, or anything over $500. There is a greater chance of a buyer traveling a longer distance to get the item, thus you have increased your pool of potential buyers buy focusing on large items. I might drive 250 miles to get this moble fire safety house or a fire engine but wouldn’t drive 5 minutes to get a $5 computer cart. Gregg mentioned he used the small ticket items to hook the agencies so that when they did have to sell that $20k back-hoe they would come back. But to me, the small ticket stuff isn’t selling, or has no bids. And why should it?
So I think municibid should go out of it’s way to pitch it self as a great place to sell big ticket municipal items. A bit of a redesign is in order to do this, including some good use of…
3. Social proof! Where is it? Activity is great but municibid is still an unknown marketplace. Throw up some quotes from city managers or whomever saying “Muncibid allows us to liquidate our old inventory super quickly. It’s the secret weapon of our financial tool chest”. Gregg mentioned there were 700 agencies signed up. Where are they? Using municibid for the seller is a risk. What if they screw up and let go of a F150 for a super cheap price? Then they look stupid and no one wants that. Tell them, with social proof, that municibid is legit and it works. There is actually a good amount of social proof buried in its blog… but no one is going to read that.
4. There is a smart feature on muncibid that allows agencies and municipalities to have their own stores. I suggest this be really blown out and customized for each agency. If the Agency had their logo on the actual store, and a customer url like municibid.com/BatonRouge then that is something they can easily actively promote. You want the sellers to do as much of the outside selling as possible. You want municipal workers to say “yeah just go to municibid.com/BatonRouge” Make it easy on them. These agencies are years behind in the tech world, and would love a little marketplace to call their own.
Municibid has a lot going for it. The auction pages are done well and the site is pretty straight forward. That is exactly how it needs to be for its audience. It just needs a less confusing logo and to double down and focus on what it is selling, and not sell what it doesn’t have.
This is a topic I touched upon before, but I wanted to codify and expand upon it in a visual way.
The gist is, in order for a visitor to your site to achieve a goal, you have to give them enough inertia in the sales process. It sounds simple enough, but many so-called best practices encourage the visitor to skip the sales process and go directly to the uncomfortable “ask”. Below I will diagram many of these cases, but first, let’s get a handle on this visualization.
- Sales: This is the sales copy, images, or anything else on the page that you are using to persuade the visitor.
- Ask: This is ultimately what you are asking the visitor to do on this visit. It might be entering their email, filling a form, liking a page, or buying something.
- Call to action: This is the “buy now” or “click here” button that takes you to the ask. Sometimes it’s not needed when the ask is on the same page as the sales.
- Visitor: This is the visitor to your site. They start at the top when they land on your site, and hopefully make their way over the ask hurdle.
- Level of persuasion: This is how persuasion your sales page actually is, not what you think it is. A higher and steeper sales page might include some powerful social proof or other sales devices.
- Level of resistance: The height here refers to how hard of an ask you have. A simple email address would be a shallow ask, and entering in your credit card might be a steeper ask.
- Length of time: This is how long your sales and ask process takes.
The goal of any website with an ask, is to get that blue ball to build enough momentum to get up and over the ask. It sounds obvious but many sites cut their sales process short buy putting the call to actions above the fold and encouraging the visitor to click the “buy down” or “download” button as soon as possible. In many cases that would look like this.
Clearly this is an ineffective model. You haven’t given the visitor enough inertia to power through the ask. You may have lots of great sales devices like testimonials and videos, but you are also encouraging the user to skip all that with a big and above-the-fold call to action.
In some cases, the call to action should be front and center. This is often because you don’t need an internal sales process as visitors already have inertia from branding and external momentum. Such is the case with the FireFox site. Mozilla doesn’t have to sell the benefits of FireFox. The visitor has likely already made up their mind to download it before they got there. You will note in this chart, the ask is relatively small. It’s just a one-click download. You don’t need much of a sales process to get them to take that action. Using the product is another process entirely though.
If you have a significant ask, like the visitor entering in their credit card number, you need to have a significant sales process and often keep the call to action away from the visitor until enough momentum is achieved. It should look like this (right). Sometimes the resistance level of the ask isn’t high, but the time requirement is. This might be asking the visitor to take a survey.
Sure it’s easy to tick some boxes, but you still need enough sales inertia to get them through it. In this example (left),
it is not clear if there is enough inertia at work. You would either need to reduce the length of the survey, or increase the length or persuasiveness of the sales process.
While lengthening the sales process can be effective to build inertia it can be taken too far. This is often the case with the bullshit internet marketing schemes. In this case, the ask is a significant “add to cart” of $700+. So they try to stuff every possible sales technique into the process making 10+ minutes long if one were to actually read everything on the page. This simply won’t work as reading the sales copy because and ask in and of itself. A long and unpersuasive sales process will just cause visitors to leave or skip down to the ask ‘unsold’.
The more savvy internet marketers will use a long sales process followed by a low ask, just your email. Then there is another sales process and another ask. Finally a persuasive, often on-the-phone sales process, followed by a large ask or… all your money.
There is an excellent article from Verge about it here. But scam artists aside, this process can be used for relative good. If you are selling a $1,000 product B2B, it’s going to be near impossible to build a long and persuasive enough sales process to get them over that first ask on the first visit. So you get their email first, then ask to show a demo, then a follow-up call. Or sometimes the ask and call to action can have the same function. By having a call to action that says “find out more”, the visitor is giving you permission to sell you a little bit more. This can be done to lengthen the sales process while keeping the visitor engaged.
Beware the free trial
One mistake I often see is assuming visitors think the free trial is a low ask. RJ Metrics has a short sales page and prominent call to actions. This takes you to a sign up page where the plans start at $500, but “don’t worry, because it’s free for 30 days.” Visitors, especially corporate decision makers can be quite savvy and know that engaging in a free trial can mean a significant commitment to a product. The financial cost might be nil, but the time cost and more importantly the ego cost will be significant if the product doesn’t work out and I just wasted mine and my employees time. So even if your trial is free, make sure you are building enough inertia to power through the perceived ask as well as the immediate one.
While it may be tempting to build a masterful sales process that rockets the user past the ask, you should really build no more than you need. If your site is for an iphone app, then the ask is pretty simple, get to iTunes and download the app. App users are skilled at downloading and testing apps very quickly. The real sales process will be in the performance of the app, not in the sales page.
So any unnecessary length in the sales process will increase the chance of the visitor leaving. Even the most persuasive sales process is no match from the doorbell ringing or a co-working interrupting you. So if the ask is short and sweet, keep the sell that way too.
So take a second look at your landing page. Are you encourage the user to go straight to the ask? Can you really provide enough inertia in 10 seconds? Or should you hold off on that call to action? Maybe you are overpowering the sales process, creating too much cognitive load for what be a simple and straight forward ask. If you read my design audits, visitor inertia is one of my the main factors. How many more conversions would you have if your visitors had the right amount of inertia?
This is another request from the Twist list, this time of JD. I wanted to take on this one because it’s a mobile app which should have very different sales and design patterns, at least as far as their websites are concerned.
The full site is at WhosFreeApp.com and also capped below.
1. The thing about app sites
Sites for webapps should function very differently than sites for webapps for a few specific reasons. With webapps, the site is your product and the hurdle can be significant. You are often asking for someones email or credit card number. This means you need to provide enough sales inertia to get them through that.
With 95% of mobile app sites, the only thing you want the visitor to do is click that iTunes link. Any other clickable item will reduce the visitors chance of getting to iTunes. Normally I recommend a longer sales process, but for mobile apps, there should be nothing below the fold.
The other thing about mobile apps is the website is likely not your major problem. Mobile app users will download, install, click around, and uninstall your app before a webapp user has even confirmed their email. The low new user hurdle just means people will be dumped into the product quickly and have less invested, emotionally and financially. So don’t worry about optimizing your mobile app landing page, that’s the easy part.
With all that said, less is more, and when there is less on the page, each item becomes more important. So let’s get started.
This just is not doing it for me. It feels dated and cheap. Way too much glassy reflection going on. That just isn’t hot anymore. Also there are about 50,000 apps that use chat bubbles in their icon/logo. I know you feel like you have to do it because its a social app, but you don’t. The app name is descriptive enough, use the logo as an opportunity to stand out rather than blend in.
There really shouldn’t be a header here at all. As a visitor, I don’t care about any of that stuff. If I do start clicking around then I am getting farther from the place you need me to be, the iTunes app store, then my gmail notifier goes off, and you’ve lost me. I’m off doing other stuff. Many apprepreneurs make the mistake of combining their app and company all into the same page. Unless you a big hot company like instagram, I don’t care “about you” or your buzz or jobs and unless you have an active community, you don’t need a blog. Apps don’t have blogs. Nor do I care about your facebook or twitter profiles. If I am a first time visitor, chances are I haven’t used the app yet, why would I like or tweet anything. You haven’t earned it. The only reason social buttons should be there is for social proof, as in “oh 20k people have liked this, it can’t be too bad”, and that should only be used if you have 1K+ likes. I don’t think there is a need for google translate either. Is your app in “Afrikaans”? No, then you site doesn’t need to be either. This header has 8 clickable items that take me away from where I need to be.
3. Hot Mess of Distraction
Wow. 11 clickable elements here. There should be one, possibly 2. Fire up the chain saw.
Why repeat your logo, it’s not even an effective one. Ditch it. The only two buttons that matter here are the android and apple ones, yet strangely they don’t even look like clickable buttons. You want to funnel the visitors into these links so make sure they look like buttons and they should really be the only thing that looks like a button. You don’t want the visitor to stick around, they need to move on to your other sales page.
You don’t need images of both an iPhone and android phone. Especially since the screen shot is the same. Use just the iPhone, it will be the most popular. If I am an android user I will looking for that andoid logo, it’s my nature. If you are going to have some sort of animation here, it should only be flipping between screen shots of the app. If you can effectively communicate what the app does in a few screenshots, then do it. Remember, there are two sales pages here, yours and apples. You have more control over yours so try to give the visitor plenty of inertia to power through to the ‘view in itunes’ button or get them to pick up the phone and search for the app. But at the same time, don’t make them linger. This is a 10-15 second sell, anything longer and people are going to drop out.
Your copy is the third most important thing on the page, behind the call to action (which is hidden) and the app images (which are redundant). This is your only opportunity to say what the app does so make it count. You have wasted value space and time by saying “free to hangout” three times. It’s really hard to say what works and what doesn’t so you should be split testing this like a samurai. Try all sorts of copy. Not only will this increase your CTR, but will also give you some insights into what people want and what resonated with them.
App videos are high risk. They can turn the visitor into the user or make them flee. The best video’s are just short and professional demonstrations of the app and it potential. You have a lifestyle video. Maybe I don’t like guys with beards, maybe I think the people in your stock photos look like douchebags, maybe I don’t drink beer. Ideally you want the user to project themselves using the app. Currently you are projecting a vision of the user which may be incongruous to viewer. Save the lifestyle stuff for the big brands that do it well, Apple, Nike, etc. Just show me how to use the app in 30 seconds or less. Also split test with and without the video, you might find people who click the video tend to flee. Also drop that situations link, it’s another distraction. My situations are different from your situations and any user of social apps already have their situations in mind.
Finally, that bottom grey section is just more distractions. I don’t care if you are on facebook, everyone is. Why is there a link to SXSW interactive? Are you getting paid to send YOUR customers there? Nothing on that SWSX page mentions Who’s Free and oh… check out this article on this other cool app. Another visitor lost. The switchable apple/andoid buttons are totally useless aswell.
4. Social proof
CNN? Washington Post? Just who is your target demo? Old people? Not only does this social proof lead me away from your site, it may be pejoratively coloring your app. Let’s say I am a 14-22 year old coming to your site. ”Oh, its a CNN and Washington post thing, nevermind, not for me.” You don’t need to list every press clipping you get, only the ones that will make an impact. Are you going after early adopters, then get some press on TechCrunch or RWW. I have no idea what realTVfilms or NHK is so that makes me suspicious. Honestly, I would remove the press stuff altogether until you have something worth putting up.
5. Design Katamari
The rest of the page reminds of the awesome Katamari series of games where this small sticky ball just rolls along and everything in its wake just globs on to it. Eventually it’s a behemoth of indistinguishable debris. That’s what this page is. Unattributed sensational quotes, redundant andoid marketing, redundant social buttons, redundant sales copy, and a blog posts I care exactly zero about. The only thing else that needs to be on this page is this.
A link in the bottom right to your company. Your company’s site is where you put the blog, about us, jobs, and press. If I am the rare visitor who is seeking that info out, it’s not hard to find. I will look for a link to your company and it doesn’t need to be in the header.
This page needs to go on a diet, and not the low carb kind. I’m talking about the hack-off-your-limbs diet where you get down to the very basic necessities needed to survive. These are your product image, your sales copy, and your call to action button. I would start over with just that. Once you have those elements, and only those elements, you can try to spruce up the general design which is seriously dated. Of course all of this will only help user acquisition. If your churn is high, then funneling more users into the app will just multiply the gross inefficiency going on. Hope that helps!