Monthly Archives: August 2013

Secrets Of An Adwords-Sustained Business

So you startupped your online business, providing your customers with a better-quality, or cheaper, or simply with an original product that your competition isn’t able to match right now. You went through the high waves of product definition, you won your company or family support, you spent endless nights on a rough business plan.

Now, it’s time to get you some real customers.

Sources of online customers

When you aim to engage customers for an online venture, the web itself is often the sole ground where you should move. And, on the web, customers can come to your website mostly from three possible sources: referrals, organic search and paid ads.

Gaining referrals is a very hard marketing and PR job, which often requires specific skills and always a lot of dedicated time. It’s essential for every growing business, but it pays off in the long run (exception: viral products or services).

Organic search surely is the most satisfactory and preferable source of website visitors, because it means being one of the top results in relevant searches about the products or services you offer (something you would surely be proud of). But getting there is extremely difficult, as it implicates a thorough work on SEF (making your website very appealing and relevant to search engines) and on backlink construction (making your website linked to from popular or relevant sites). This process requires knowledge (about SEO, web design and marketing), or money (to hire a SEO specialist) and, in both cases, time (results start showing up after 2/3 months).
The problem with this is: if you don’t have already validated your business model, 2/3 months lost on the wrong track could mean FAIL.

Test as you wish in the paid ads world

Paid ads, like Google Adwords, are a lean way to test your business model right away with a fixed cost, letting you focus on the most important side of your job: enhancing your product or services, and improving your website conversion rate.
You can choose a daily budget, your target keywords, your target market, and try a couple of ad lines out. Provided that you make a good job on your choices, you’ll be dealing with potential customers in a few hours.

That’s great! But POTENTIAL customers don’t mean SURE bucks!

There are a few secrets that I learnt by startupping several web-based services and products using Google Adwords. Here they are.

Choose the right targets

The first thing to take into account is that, although the whole world can be your market, it’s sometimes unnecessary and wasteful to target it all. Take into account local primary languages, and avoid wasting money for ads on countries where your website language is not native (even if it’s English); always think in terms of conversion rates, and target your ads where you think that your product or service could be better accepted.

Pick specific long-tail low-cost keywords

As you gain experience with Google Adwords, you’ll notice that the most common keywords (the ones that come to mind when thinking about your product or service category) are often very expensive. The good news is that customers use common or general keywords (for example, “running shoes”) early during their online search (in a sort of “discovery-mode”, then narrowing their search using additional and specific keywords (for example, “Adidas A234 Running buy online”) when they feel more ready to buy. You’ll see that bidding against these long and specific keywords (called “long tail keywords”) is much cheaper and gets to you visitors that are more committed.

Work for high-conversion rates

Using Google Adwords you can easily get visitors (hopeful already committed to buying a product or a service similar to yours) to your website. Sure, you pay for them, but you know exactly how much each of them costs. This should drive you to the most important part of your job at this phase: getting to know your visitors, understanding their needs and, if these match with what you have to offer, push your conversion rates through the roof. To do this, you need to monitor your visitors’ behavior (learn everything you can about Google Analytics and conversion monitoring in Google Adwords), and make their stay on your website as smooth and productive as possible.
You should continuously monitor your Google Adwords data, to detect which ads, keywords and targets give you the most, dropping everything that lowers your conversion rate.

A great model for jump-starting online businesses

Using Google Adwords is a great way to bootstrap your online business, giving you space to test your business model at a fixed cost and with great monitoring tools. But remember: when your business starts working, and you become sure of your model, it’s important to complete your marketing guns with medium and long term strategies, like SEO and web marketing. If you don’t do this, your growth will hit a flat line pretty soon.


A Simple Paper Prototyping Toolkit for iOS, Android and Web Apps

Paper prototyping is an essential step for every design process I start. On the internet you can find a remarkable number of kits to help you work better, such as the precious notepads made by UXPin, that go from a simple smartphone/web browser wireframe to a series of ready-to-use printed elements that you can position on your paper prototype.

When paper prototyping, I usually prefer to take all the advantages that paper, pencil and rubber can give to me, that’s why I leave pre-rendered elements for the digital mockups phase.

I find sneakpeekit sketch sheets extremely useful for paper prototyping: they are minimal tablet/smartphone or web mockups, with space for notes and project details. You can choose among a “quick sketch” version (more than one mockup per page, useful for fast drawing) and a “detailed sketch” version (with grids). sneakpeekit sketch sheets are free to download.

store shelves

Is Good Usability Bad for Business?

One of the biggest questions you ask yourself while reading “The Design of Everyday Things”, by Don Norman, is how the heck are bad design and abysmal usability still so widespread when the design community seems so confident and uniform about the modern theories and processes of industrial and software design.

I ask myself this question at least a couple of times every day, and what really bugs me is that most of my usability indignation is brought about by the very products I have bought. Yep, guilty as charged.

Surely I don’t miss those opportunities to remind myself to be more careful when I replace my TV, or my office telephone system (which is one of the instruments that really seems designed by mad scientists). But what does it really mean to be more careful when deciding which product to buy?

Spotting usability is difficult

Imagine yourself strolling along the shelves of an electronics store, looking for a new TV for your living room. You are concerned with good design and usability, and you want to impress your friends with the easiest-to-use-yet-most-complete TV set EVER.

You look around, and every TV available on the shelves is on, with big signs declaring their prices and an attached one-page specs sheet for each one, which – the geeky clerk tells you – is great because allows you to COMPARE them.

Comparing them is thus simple, just look at the specs! Look! With just $100 more you can get a TV that lets you enjoy 5 movies at the same time, splitting the video! How can you miss that bargain?

Luckily, you quickly come to your senses (and your principles), and you say to the clerk: “No, I want something that is actually usable”. He looks at you, with those big lost eyes of him, and stutters: “Err… That, that one has an Easy To Use sticker on its screen… Let’s, let’s check its specs”.

Then you get it: when you are purchasing something, a sticker is all you can get about usability. You should test all the available products to understand which one is the most usable, and still it wouldn’t be enough, because many difficulties can arise only when you start knowing your product well.

Usability doesn’t matter while purchasing

Maybe they should introduce a law that imposes usability tests for each product on sale and showing the results right in the specs sheet, just like the energy class. I don’t know if this could be a good idea though: it would hurt to see usability at the same level of, let’s say, PIP support. But well, at least that would be better than nothing!

The bad news is that even a usability-concerned buyer is instinctively struck by feature madness when choosing among products… and the marketing guys know it. We too feel weak in our knees when we can buy something clearly better (specs tell the truth, baby!) with a little more; and who knows what would happen if one day there were 5 football matches on TV, and you really couldn’t miss a second of any of them!

That’s why we still buy badly designed products, which are impossible to use and frustrate us every day of our lives.

And that is why we should really try to make people conscious that products don’t have to be so unusable anymore.


A UX Movement for Everyday Life

UX surely is a trending topic these days. At least in the tech and IT community it is. And this is great! It was about time that we designers and programmers understood how Paleolithic most of our software really is, when it comes to user experience.

Apply UX outside of tech

The more I dive into different UX approaches, understanding their basics and methods and grasping the importance of putting the user at the center of design, the more I wonder: wouldn’t be splendid if the same care and attention to user experience was applied to schools, to hospitals, to models and forms that we have to fill in our over-complex society? Wouldn’t be great to apply user research, personas, design refining and a lean process to redefine the way we live society?

These questions have really opened my eyes, and I think about them every time some process (policies and laws are very often a live manifesto of how our life can be designed for complication) puzzles me with its unnecessary over-complexity. I bet it’s not uncommon for you too to think “is this procedure really necessary?” in your modern life. Just think about the tons of duplicate data you have to enter in forms, or about the way school still doesn’t bring the best out of children.

The dawn of UX for Everyday Life

Although many professionals think of UX as a science which is already mature, I’m convinced that what we are seeing in IT it is just the dawn of User Experience Design, being the Tech world only one of the first fields of its application.

I really hope to be able to see UX principles (most importantly user research, which really is the foundation of every effort to make users’ life easier) applied to every aspect of our life, starting from laws and policies, then down to school, healthcare and to every matter concerning with our most essential needs as humans.

We have to stress the importance of UX again and again, bringing it outside our fields of expertise, talking with friends and colleagues, and creating a new culture that puts users (people) at the center of every process we design.

We can do this, we can start a real UX Movement for Everyday Life.

Dear 10,000th fan

The first blog post is usually something that doesn’t deserve to be read. Who cares about why someone unknown starts writing the billionth unknown blog of the world?

But well, maybe it is a tradition, maybe the first post is something your 10000th fan will be eager to read when he’s tracking back your story and write a biography about you.

Thus, my dear 10,000th fan, here is the story behind this famous blog.

I’m really excited about the tech world, and in particular about the UX movement (can UX be called a “movement”?). I really think that tech is now evolved enough to stop thinking about how to impress people and to start caring about how to help them, really. It’s time for all of us (programmers, designers, IT technicians, etc.) to step down from our over complex podium and see how we can really matter in the lives of our beloved users giving them software and gadgets that treat them as friends, as humans, as someone to help and not to trick or ignore.

So, is this just ANOTHER blog about UX, that will dissect AGAIN the new iOS icon set and its typography? Will I enrich the Internet with my bags of 2 cents bragging about how I really care about flat design, or pointing out that maybe skeumorphism was something we really needed not to be scared by our own devices?

Yes. No, I’m kidding of course. The truth is that I think that UX can have a bigger role in our life than determine the future of Helvetica Neue in the mobile world or ban leather-like textures from our screens.

I’m convinced that UX should come out from gadgets and screens to put its flag in every aspect of life. And I’m not talking about industrial design, which is part of classical UX, in fact. I’m talking about using UX in politics, in policies, in laws, for example. We could use UX to improve our life in every aspect, I believe. In this sense I talk about a UX movement.

So, this blog will be in fact about anything that interests me, with a main focus on UX in a wide meaning. Do you like the idea?

Well, if you really are my 10,000th fan I bet you do.