Thursday, August 22, 2013

Here's a cool little device...

Remember the movie "Minority Report?" Tom Cruise uses hand gestures to control the computer – scrolling through screens, bringing up data, zooming in on photos... it was all pretty cool, wasn't it?

We've seen new interfaces that give us the ability to control games with gestures and body motions. And now we are getting phones (Samsung’s Galaxy S4 for example) that have gesture recognition. The new comer on the scene gives you control over any computer with a USB port.

Leap Motion wants to replace your joystick, your mouse, even your keyboard with their motion-sensing device. It's about 12mm by 80mm small and uses your hand motions and finger gestures to interface with your computer. You can use it in place of game controllers, drawing tablets, the mouse, etc. And it costs a lot let than an XBox 360!

Link to Leap Motion:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Landing Pages - The Successful Formula

You've probably heard the term – 'landing pages.' They're very big among marketers and your web programmer may have referred to them as well. But, what are they?

A landing page is a page on your website that you send visitors directly to for a specific reason / action. You might want them to,
  • Sign up for a newsletter.
  • Enter a contest.
  • Purchase your product or service (usually through some kind of sale or promotion).
  • Highlight a product or service.
  • Register for some 'free-be.'

The goal of all landing pages is to get the visitor to interact with your business somehow and eventually to make a sale.

Your landing page is your opportunity to showoff your products and services. You should pay very close attention to the design and content of these special pages.

Design First, Content Second and Always Optimize

A professional design MATTERS. In a recent study by Standford University, participants where asked to comment on what made a website credible to them. Nearly half (46%) of participants commented that the design was most important. Following design was information structure (29%), information usefulness (15%), information accuracy (14%) which tied with name recognition (14%), site functionality (9%), and customer service (6%). 

First impressions are important. And what the visitor sees first is the design. If your landing page is poorly designed, you loose half your visitors before you've even had a chance to give them your message. (That goes for your website as well).

So, use/create an outstanding design, then write informative and accurate copy, then optimize it for your audience.

Design and Content Fundamentals

Images – Spend Time and Choose Carefully
A picture is worth a thousand words. Studies have shown that visitors to websites look at pictures before they begin reading – even before they look at page headlines. We gravitate to pictures. Images are the best way to show your product or the results of your service. And although they are very important, they should also be used sparingly. It's not easy – the balancing act is to include enough images to keep your visitor interested without clutter. If you have more than one or two images that you would like to present, consider using an automatic slide show. This will allow the visitor to focus on one image at a time.

For landing pages, make sure you don't clutter up your page with images. Remember, the main reason you're bringing them to this page is to get them active.

Also, images take longer to download than text. The longer it takes for your page to load, the fewer visitors will stick around to see your message. Studies show that after five seconds, you start losing visitors. For every one second after five, you lose 7-10% of your visitors. So, if your page isn't loading material that will keep visitors interested, you're basically losing all your visitors in about 15 seconds!

Example Landing Page

Keep it Clean – The Minimalist Approach
The goal of your landing page is to keep your reader focused on the product/service. So keep the content – copy, links and images focused on the product/service. If it doesn't get the visitor emotionally involved, leave it out.

Most visitors are not going to spend a lot of time reading. So, keep your copy short. If you have a lot of information to convey, try using bullet points. If possible, let a picture 'do the talking.'

Links should only be included if they are absolutely necessary. For example, if you feel the visitor may need more info about the product/service, include a link. If you have a tutorial, include a link. The thing to remember here is that you do not want to give the visitor an 'escape route.'

There really should be only three ways to leave the page – get more info, buy or sign up, click the browser's back button.

Finally, leave plenty of white space. A cluttered landing page is confusing. White space give a sense of freedom... the visitor has time to think, he/she is not being pressured. You want to give them the feeling of comfort and easy. Visually show that your product/service is going to make their life easier.

Be Responsive
In non-work situations, more people now access the Internet with mobile devices, gaming consoles and TV interfaces than with computers. In 2013 about 15% of non-gaming, online sales will be made with mobile devices. Your landing page must be able to display on devices with different screen sizes and still look appealing and professional.

Use a professional web developer who understands and implements Responsive Web Design or you risk losing sales.

Keep it Familiar
If you have a 'standard layout' used with printed material or other online media, keep that layout. If there is an industry standard, try to stick to it. Unless these things horribly violate the standards above, you want to use them and keep things familiar for your visitors. Familiar is comfortable and you want to keep your visitors comfortable.

Call to Action

The call to action is the essential element of a landing page. As important as everything above is to a successful landing page, without a well thought out, attention grabbing call to action, you've wasted the change to gain a customer.

Stand Out
Action buttons like 'buy' or 'enter' should stand out. Studies show that these links and buttons should be of a contrasting color to the rest of the landing page. Also pay attention to the wording of action buttons. 'Enter to Win' will get more responses than simply 'Enter' or 'Submit.' Adding a short phrase to clarify the call to action can help convert visitors to customers as well.

Don't let the visitor think this is going to be available forever (even if it is). Add a time limit for the offer and make it stand out. You may want to use a countdown timer that displays the days, hours, and minutes until the offer expires. Or include a calendar image with a big, red “X” over past (missed) days.

The key here is to include something to keep the visitor from thinking, “I'll come back to this later.” Studies have shown that more than 50% of visitors do not come back, even if they've indicated they plan to.

Keep it Simple...
Many times you will want to collect information from/about your visitor. Forms are a necessary part of many landing pages. The rule of thumb here is keep it simple. If your visitors feel it is too difficult or will take too long, they're not going to fill out the form. Collect the essential information you need and nothing more. Remember, even if you are getting minimal info here, you are getting info and can request more later. If they leave now, they're lost.

Your Call to Action
Now it's your turn. You can probably think of a product or service you would like to spotlight. Or perhaps a contest that will draw in potential customers. Jot down your ideas, give some thought to images and copy, contact a professional web developer and create your landing page(s)!

Comments Welcome
Leave comments below – let my blog readers know what's worked for you. Have you had a spectacularly successful landing page? How about a disaster? Share your experience.

Russ Thompson is the owner and lead developer at Freelance I.T. Solutions.