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Back in 2008, I read the 1st Edition of Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversion.” Since then, I haven’t found a more comprehensive book on the topic. For years, I kept it on my desk for reference.

Recently, I picked up the “fully revised” 2nd edition. It’s 100 pages longer, so what’s new?  And is it worth reading the 2nd edition if you’ve already read the 1st?

What’s (Mostly) Unchanged?

Most sections are similar to those of the 1st edition, including the opening sections that provide high level (but useful) explanations on things like:

  • What a landing page is
  • The various types of landing pages
  • The importance of understanding your business model
  • Conversion actions

And in the latter sections – Mechanics of Testing and Organizing and Planning – the content is similar.

Tim Ash's Landing Page Optimization 2nd Edition book cover
Tim Ash’s Landing Page Optimization 2nd Edition book cover

What’s New?

The greatest enhancements have been in the “middle bits”:

  • Finding Opportunities for Site Improvement
  • Fixing Your Site Problems

Being a UX guy, I’m probably biased. But to me, these “middle bits” are the most interesting part of the process. So I was very happy to see these sections expanded.

There’s lots of new content. My two favorite new chapters are:

1.     “Common Problems – The Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design”

As Tim writes, “This is as close to a ‘Silver Bullet’ as we will offer in this book.”  The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Unclear Call-to-Action
  • Too Many Choices
  • Visual Distractions
  • Not Keeping Your Promises
  • Too Much Text
  • Asking for Too Much Information
  • Lack of Trust and  Credibility

Tim gives detailed explanations of the nature of these problems and provides great examples – plus specific recommendations for how to ensure your pages don’t fall into these traps. It’s an extremely useful checklist of things to look for when faced with the task of figuring out how to make a page work better.

If you just read this one chapter, and apply the concepts to your landing pages, your conversion rates will improve. This new chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

2.      “Best Practices for Common Situations”

Another useful addition, this chapter – like the Seven Deadly Sins chapter – provides “a great kick-start in your optimization efforts.”  It takes a look at these common situations:

  • Homepages
  • Information Architecture and Navigation
  • E-Commerce Catalogs
  • Registration and Multiple-Step Flows
  • Mobile Websites

For each situation, there’s a concise yet useful summary of recommended best practices. For example, in the section on homepages, Tim offers a strong opinion on rotating banners, writing that (on e-Commerce sites at least) they “are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately.”  He then provides six compelling arguments to back up his assertion.

If you’re looking for testing ideas, it’s hard to imagine that reading this section wouldn’t give you at least a couple.

What’s missing?

Some sections from the 1st Edition have been removed or reduced, but nothing that anyone is likely to miss.

The 1st Edition had an entire chapter (technically an appendix) devoted to Google Website Optimizer.  The 2nd Edition covers GWO in 4 short paragraphs. However, seeing as GWO was discontinued last summer, nobody will complain about this! (There is no mention of GWO’s inferior replacement: Content Experiments.)

There’s also a bit less detail regarding data analysis of multivariate tests. Specifically, the explanation of the fractional factorial methods (Plackett-Burman, Latin Squares, and Taguchi method) has been removed.  However, few people will miss this: Those who have a strong background in data analysis didn’t need it; those who don’t probably skipped it!

Is It Worth Buying?

If there was a weakness with the 1st Edition, it was its limitations in providing specific guidance on what to test. The 2nd Edition is much better at helping users formulate test ideas – which is arguably the most challenging part of the entire conversion optimization process.

The 2nd Edition takes what was already an excellent guide to conversion optimization, and makes it even more useful. If you already own the 1st Edition, it’s well worth investing in the 2nd. And if you don’t have the 1st Edition, buying the 2nd is a no-brainer.

You can’t help but feel good knowing that you just made a difference in somebody’s life.

But have you been through to the process of making a donation online and decide to turn away because you felt like you weren’t sure where your money was going? Or have your come across donation forms that just ask way too many questions, that you decide you didn’t want to write down your life story?

If you’ve made an online donation before, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you decide to run your own campaign to raise money for the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief, here are the top five points you need to keep in mind when you’re designing your landing page or donation page:

  1. Use a persuasive image. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Using visuals will help convey the message of where the donor’s money is being put towards. Use real life images that would resonate with the individual and persuade them to make a donation.
  2. Give options to the donor. Often times, online donation forms forget to provide donation options (using radio buttons) and simply ask you to ‘Enter the amount you’d like to donate here’. The key here is making it easier for users to choose how much they’d like to donate, instead of asking for them to think up an amount. You never know, if your minimal amount is $25 and their intentions coming to your landing page was to donate $10, they may choose $25 because it’s listed as a choice.
  3. Make it shareable. If you are not in the social media game yet, be prepare to play. Not only are people sharing stories across social channels like Facebook and Twitter, but donators leave self-reflected comments which then sparks a conversation on the web. Some of the buttons that you should include on your donation page are: Facebook Share and Like, Twitter Retweet, and Email. Making the effort to add these social signals will go a long way for your campaign’s visibility and longevity.
  4. Keep your form short and sweet. No one enjoys filling out long forms. Design for minimal scrolling and keep the entire donation process to as few pages as possible.
  5. Make your button stand out and alive. I see many instances where donations forms ask me to ‘Submit’ my donation. How does it feel when you are asked to ‘Submit’ something? How about I ask you to ‘Donate’ to Japan? It sounds better already right? Use lively words like ‘Donate’ or ‘Give’ in your button to show that when they click on it, their money is going somewhere they will feel great about.

Here is one example of a donation page for the Japan relief by GlobalGiving.org.

These are of many points to keep in mind when you are optimizing your donations page. Often times, you will need to test different page layouts (A/B testing) to come to a conclusion on which page layout performs better.

Read more about non-profit organizations on PublicInsite.com.

Have effective donations pages made you more likely to contribute to a worthy cause? What aspect sealed the deal?

Once in a while, a client will ask us:

“Is my conversion rate good? What are other organizations’ conversion rates?”

This question causes pause among our consultants because it’s easy to blurt out a number and say that for some reason, a particular organization is under-performing or kicking butt.

For non-profit organizations, these conversion rates could relate to a visitor goal like: make a donation, sign up to volunteer, or contact us for more information.

First, just like your mother used to tell you: Stop comparing yourself to others. If you were told 3% was the normal conversion rate, would you stop trying to improve after hitting that mark? Of course not!

So here are three factors to consider when assessing your conversion rate:

1. Thinking strategically about goals

Goals should help to separate valuable visits from less valuable ones and should reflect your organizational goals and reason for having a website.A goal is worthless if a visitor can accomplish it accidentally.

For instance, if viewing a particular page is a goal, then 100% of visits that enter on that page would accomplish the goal. This is fine if the visitor can gather all the information they need in one second, but further qualifying the goal would ensure that you know that a visit was valuable to the organization.

2. Goal requirement

What are you asking in return from your visitors as they move toward a goal?

Do you ask for an email address? A credit-card number?

Are visitors filling out a form or watching a video?

When setting up goals and thinking of conversion, ask yourself what barriers need to be overcome before that goal is accomplished and at what point visitors may drop off.

If you want to increase conversion, ask for less from your visitors. To narrow the quality of visitors that complete a goal, increase these requirements.

Of course – all other factors being equal –  a company that sells common items at a low price will have a higher conversion rate than a company that asks for thousands of dollars for an obscure luxury. What are you selling? Would people buy this sort of thing every day?

3. Page design

As goal-conversion funnels often illustrate, every click is an opportunity for visitors to leave. Effective landing pages and supporting pages help to eliminate the barriers between that visitor and the goal.

Pages need to be designed with the goal in mind. Improving the visitor’s experience and answering their concerns as they make their way toward a goal can increase conversion.

However, making the goal to simply view a page means that almost everyone is accomplishing the goal and your conversion rate is not a good reflection of qualified visitors. So think of your goals as the bottom of a funnel, much the same way that Google Analytics does.

Stop the comparisons

Ultimately, you want to have the best conversion rate possible. If you feel that your website is  underperforming, it may be the case. Monitoring your web analytics on a regular basis and continually improving your website content and traffic is the best way to guide your organization to better conversion rates.

Think critically about your goals and never stop improving. Then you won’t worry about how well other websites convert, and you’ll start getting down to work on improving your own conversion rate.

Read more about non-profit organizations on PublicInsite.com.

Do you think your conversion rate accurately reflects your organization’s goals? What first steps would you take to remove barriers to conversion?

This series of blog posts will look at each of the major parties’ websites in detail, picking apart their web analytics strategies, design and code. We’ll be going over one website per week, so keep checking our website or subscribe to our Twitter feed to be notified about updates to this series of posts.

Two gunslingers duelling at high noon in front of the polling booth.  Instead of bullets, though, their trick guns have fired out a rod with a banner attached - a banner with the websites of the Liberal and Conservative parties respectively.  Look closer, and you'll see that each gunslinger has the logo of their party on their clothing.

It’s high noon, folks. Harper, Ignatieff, Layton, May – turn around, then walk straight ahead twelve paces. This here’s a showdown!

This week, we take a close look at the campaign website of…

The New Democratic Party of Canada

http://www.ndp.caThe website of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

Google Analytics Performance

The NDP have a sophisticated setup, with separate tracking profile IDs for each of the English (-1) and French (-2) versions of the site, as well as another profile ID that is present on all pages (-3) for overall site tracking.

<!– analytics : english –>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXXXXX-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);
(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();
</script>
<!– analytics : common –>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXXXXX-3’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘none’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowLinker’, true]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);
(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();
</script>

The version of the Google Analytics tracking code used by the NDP is the current asynchronous version, and is correctly placed in the <head> tag according to best practices. The code is properly formed and is not needlessly duplicated.

Advanced Google Analytics cross-domain tracking features are being used on the overall site account (-3) in order to track visits across separate domains (_setAllowLinker and _setDomainName). Correctly, these same features are not being used on the single-version tracking codes (-1 and -2).

Like the Liberal site before it, we were unable to tell whether the NDP were using the E-commerce tracking functions of Google Analytics without making a donation (which we did not do).

Design Performance

The NDP website, when a visitor first arrives, presents an introductory splash page giving visitors ways to stay in touch and receive future campaign updates. Unfortunately, these are not encouraged with strong calls to action, and could potentially represent a missed opportunity. It would be interesting to set up a funnel to see how many people made it past the splash page and onto the actual site, as none of the other parties are using intermediary splash pages as gateways to the full site. Thankfully, the NDP site appears to set cookies or use some other mechanism to record whether or not a particular visitor has already viewed the splash page, and dispenses with it on return visits.

The green “donate now” button among mostly grey and orange design elements provides the NDP with a quickly noticed and simple call to action to support one of the most important elements of a political party’s election campaign: the war chest.

Other calls to action on the page, such as “Read the Platform”, “Meet Your Candidate”, “Watch the Video” and “Get Involved”, are short but compelling, and are easily spotted as these elements, orange buttons with white text, are placed above a grey background.

The main navigation, however, is not structured to compel visitors, reducing itself to single-word descriptions of destinations such as “Home”, “Jack Layton”, “Party”, “Platform”, “News”, etc. While many of these functions are replicated elsewhere with suitable calls to action, it would have been nice to see the strategy carried into the main navigation, as the Liberals had done, even if it meant reducing the total number of options in the navigation bar.

Social media elements just barely make it onto the page above the fold, with only the Twitter widget’s title bar visible. This is enough to show the visitor where they can access NDP’s social media presences, but not enough to facilitate easier access. It would have been much better if social media link icons were placed in the title banner, to the right of Jack Layton’s image. This would have made them more noticeable and might have increased engagement with the NDP by prospective voters.

Code Integrity

The W3C HTML Validator reported 22 errors when the page was validated according to the version declared in the <doctype> tag (XHTML 1.0 Strict). When re-evaluated as HTML5, the errors were reduced to a count of 6 with 2 warnings, suggesting that many of the previous errors were in fact the result of using more advanced code despite using an archaic DOCTYPE declaration.

The NDP website had 26 CSS errors as reported by the W3C CSS Validator when evaluated for compatibility with CSS 2.1. While a few of these errors were connected to the use of more advanced CSS 3 properties, the majority of them seem to indicate a somewhat sloppy treatment of page styling in some areas. We must, however, bear in mind that the NDP site does have five times fewer errors than each of the Conservative and Liberal sites.

The Final Verdict

B

While the Google Analytics implementation, website design and code practices were very competently enacted, and some more sophisticated analytics tracking strategy was employed in the form of separate profiles for English and French versions of the site, the NDP lose some points for low visibility of social media links and inconsistent calls to action.

In the next, and final, entry in the Election Website Showdown we’ll round things up with a look at the oft-forgotten …

Green Party of Canada

http://www.greenparty.caThe website of the Green Party of Canada.

In Part 1, we looked at…

The Conservative Party of Canada

http://www.conservative.caThe website of the Conservative Party of Canada.

In Part 2, we looked at…

The Liberal Party of Canada

http://www.liberal.caThe website of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Stay tuned, and subscribe to our Twitter feed to be the first to hear about updates to this series of posts!

This series of blog posts will look at each of the major parties’ websites in detail, picking apart their web analytics strategies, design and code. We’ll be going over one website per week, so keep checking our website or subscribe to our Twitter feed to be notified about updates to this series of posts.

Two gunslingers duelling at high noon in front of the polling booth.  Instead of bullets, though, their trick guns have fired out a rod with a banner attached - a banner with the websites of the Liberal and Conservative parties respectively.  Look closer, and you'll see that each gunslinger has the logo of their party on their clothing.

It’s high noon, folks. Harper, Ignatieff, Layton, May – turn around, then walk straight ahead twelve paces. This here’s a showdown!

This week, we take a close look at the campaign website of the…

The Liberal Party of Canada

http://www.liberal.caThe website of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Google Analytics Performance

The Google Analytics script is properly situated in the <head> tag according to best practices, and is the proper and current asynchronous version.

<script type=”text/javascript”>//
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’,’UA-XXXXXXX-X’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowLinker’,true],[‘_setDomainName’,’.liberal.ca’],[‘_setAllowHash’, false],[‘_trackPageview’]);
(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();
//</script>

The code is properly formed and not duplicated. Furthermore, the Google Analytics tracking code is customized to produce a much more streamlined tracking code that demands less of client-side system resources while doing just as much, if not more.

The Liberals are employing advanced Google Analytics features such as _setAllowLinker, _setDomainName and _setAllowHash to track visits across separate domains as though they were all part of the same domain.

Either they have a very, very bright kid volunteering for them, or they have hired a web development and design firm that knows what they’re doing with Google Analytics
or a separate firm coordinating their analytics strategy. Just about everything is being done right.

Design Performance

Just to the right of the main navigation bar is an easily noticed “Donate Now” button, shaded to appear as though it is rising out of the page. This is a nice, commanding and clear call to action. I’d love to see the Liberal party’s statistics on the donations generated by their website vs. those generated by the Conservatives’ site. It is not known whether they’re using Google Analytics’ e-commerce functions to tack donations, as we would have to make a test donation to expose that code.

Like the donation button, most of the main navigation items are solid calls to action in their own right, and are repeated further down the page under the heading “Make a Difference”.

The Liberals are also taking full advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph meta tags to ensure that when their pages and articles are shared on Facebook, the correct accompanying image, title, description and URL are displayed along with them.

One thing the Liberals may wish to improve on is that they lack a Facebook “Like” or “Share” button closer to the main navigation bar or on individual articles in their sliding “featured items” banner. Currently, these are hidden below the fold in the “Discover the Liberal Party of Canada” section.

The overall layout appears to adhere to best practices, separating the presentational, behavioural and structural layers into CSS, JavaScript and HTML respectively. |

The Liberals could potentially improve their SEO performance, or at least the clarity of their search engine profile, by finding a way to replace text rendered as part of images, especially in their navigation buttons, with ‘real’ text actually embedded in the HTML. Machines cannot read text in images easily, and search engines can’t do it at all.

Code Integrity

The W3C HTML Validator reported 177 errors and 14 warnings when the page was validated as the version declared in the <doctype> tag (XHTML 1.0 Strict). When re-evaluated as HTML5, the errors were reduced to a count of 49, suggesting that many of the previous errors were in fact the result of using more advanced code despite using an archaic DOCTYPE declaration.

The Liberal website had 166 CSS errors as reported by the W3C CSS Validator when evaluated for compatibility with CSS 2.1. On closer inspection, however, many of these errors are in fact due to the use of more advanced CSS 3 properties which are not yet taken into account by the W3C CSS validation tool.

The Final Verdict

A-

The Liberal site does just about everything right as far as Google Analytics is concerned. Some improvements could be made to the overall site design, depending on the party’s objectives and willingness to exploit social media.

The Liberals are, laudably, using more advanced and current code and development principles, opting for more HTML5 and CSS3 integration.

Still, improvements could be made, especially as many of the main navigation items, as well as the party name, are unreadable by search engines because they are rendered as images rather than as real text.

In our next entry for Part 3, we’ll have a look at…

The New Democratic Party of Canada

http://www.ndp.caThe website of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

And in Part 4, we’ll round things up with a look at the oft-forgotten …

Green Party of Canada

http://www.greenparty.caThe website of the Green Party of Canada.

In Part 1, we looked at…

The Conservative Party of Canada

http://www.conservative.caThe website of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Stay tuned, and subscribe to our Twitter feed to be the first to hear about updates to this series of posts!

Web Design

“Landing Page Optimization” by Tim Ash: A Review of the 2nd Edition

Cardinal Path blog post

Back in 2008, I read the 1st Edition of Tim Ash’s “Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversion.” Since then, I haven’t found a more comprehensive book on the topic. For years, I kept it on my desk for reference. Recently, I picked up the “fully revised” 2nd edition. … Read Full Post

5 Tips to Optimize Your Donations Page

Optimize your donations page using these 5 easy tips and ideas. Find out how not-for-profit organizations and charities can perform better in several ways on their landing pages and donation pages using these ideas. Read Full Post

3 Factors to Evaluate and Improve your Conversion Rate

Tips for evaluating your conversion rate based on goals that you’ve creating in Google Analytics. Does your conversion rate match your website goals and organizational goals? Read Full Post

Election Website Showdown 2011: Part 3

Cardinal Path blog post

Now we’re putting the NDP in the hotseat in Part 3 of our Election Website Showdown. Read on and find out how they did. Read Full Post

Election Website Showdown 2011: Part 2

Cardinal Path blog post

It’s the Liberals’ turn under the microscope as we continue our Election Website Showdown. Come and take a close look at their website with us. Read Full Post

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