Thursday, January 31, 2008

But aren't we just making it too easy?

Humans are a lazy bunch. Always looking for ways in which to make things easy & spend less effort doing stuff. Anyone would think we are designed that way, that we're originated from a species that had limited food supplies and tried to preserve what energy reserves it had for procreation and finding more food (this sounds a little too much like my brother, so I'll move on swiftly)

If you read Steve Krug's book Don't Make Me Think you could forgiven for thinking that man is incredibly lazy online, for example:
1. He shuts down websites that don't communicate what they're about instantly
2. He ignores huge amounts of lovely written copy (probably written by a lovely copywriter)
3. He will stop halfway into the buying process if its not immediately clear what button to press

I mean... is this the action of an amazingly evolved creature? Is this what a clever person really does? They revert to the laziest action they can to preserve their strength for... oh well, you know what I mean!

Errrrr... yes.

It is actually... and you should all jolly well go and read his book straight away, although I can't remember if he mentions procreation.
(In fact, when I talk to clients about usability I often take them a copy to keep - with my contact details in the cover of course!)

However, if you take my 3rd example of someone stopping halfway into the buying process if the obvious is not entirely..... .. obvious... then surely the easiest thing to do is give them what they want straight away and wait by the phone (in a lovely air-conditioned call centre of course) for them to ring you instead?

Well, this is exactly what Scottish Widows do... and those clever people at Bowen Craggs notice this the other day (I bet they don't shut down websites straight away, ignore lovely copywriters or other silly stuff)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The New Influencers : Part1

Having said I was going to buy it in a previous post, I recently started to read Paul Gillin's book The New Influencers, about Social Media Marketing. He writes about how the general trends in media are transformed by the new way that people communicate & engage with others & companies. His statement that social media is the “greatest change in market dynamics since television.” will be worrying to a lot of traditional marketers, but ring true to others.

His book immediately resonated with my own thoughts on individual/company influence and his words have moved my own understanding on somewhat.

His book has proved instantly value for come consultancy work I'm doing for one of my current clients. They are considering a large video UGC campaign and wanted to understand the current market situation in a nutshell (pros & cons, including reading Jim Kaskade's article on 'Who's afraid of UGC'). As well as providing them with a breakdown of the landscape, barriers to adoption, etc., I lent one of them the book over the weekend to thumb through.

It seems its done the trick, they are now planning their approach and the book has been ordered by them as instant reference material.

I daresay I'll be writing some more about this book in subsequent postings (and finding some way to make some commission on sales with any luck)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Information Aesthetics

Following up on my previous 'information visualisation' posts for mapping the influence, I've been researching the 'aesthetics of information presentation'. Primarily I've focused on the different ways in which data can be displayed to make it more useful to the researcher.
This has led me to the Infosthetics site run by Andrew Vande Moere from the University of Sydney:
This site is a rich collection of article on different data visualisations and in doing so shows the beauty they can create.
One particulalrly intersting and clever project that is mentioned is the
This interactive graph reorganises the London Underground map based on the times of travel from that station.
It goes to show that for columns and tables of data, usefulness and aesthetics aren't necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

In the first part of the 20th Century, The Times Newspaper would recieve anoymous letters (usually complaints) to the editor signed only as 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells'. This person or persons would provide a voice to the frustrations and concerns of 'the typical Englishman' against companies or concepts of the time. He was read by thousands, a personification of 'the silent majority' and allowed to comment by an editor who could have refused to publish his words.

In the first part of the 21st Century, the blogsphere now provides a voice to anyone with a ubiquitous Internet connection.

This opinion is usually:

  • Individual (Few bloggers are a collection of individuals - this is mainly the domain of company blogs)

  • Personal (Being specific to the: environment, needs, business, etc. of that individual)

  • Traceable (Few bloggers are anonymous, unless they are participating in illicit activity. Even then, most of them can be traced back to an email/PC/IP address/etc.)

  • Un-edited (very few bloggers have been censored - unless you live in China and use Microsoft Spaces as a blogging platform)
We now have the ability for everyone to be their own 'DoTW', but the rules have all changed.

Instead of the silent majority, we now have the voice of the minority and it is definately not silent....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ambient Findability

Peter Morville wrote a book, as part of the well-regarded O'Reilly series, on navigating your way around large & complex amounts of information, called Ambient Findability

Although its not the greatest of books covering HCI and Information retreival, it does cover the subject in a useful and conversational way (its ideal for the consultant to pick and and refer to as well).

In his book, amongst other subjects, he discusses some themes that are interesting to this blog:

1. Pareto's Principle (otherwise known as the 80/20 rule):
Where 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes*.
Although obvious, it should always be rembered that companies should identify where they need to maximize their attention and to focus on those things that affecting them most.

2. Emotional Design
The wonderfully 'human' concept that 'Attractive things work better' (or put anther way, by a good friend of mine 'have you ever had a car that drove better when it was clean'?)

3. Human Information Interaction
I find it an interesting theory that working within information environments utilises a combination of 2 laws:

a) Moore's Law:
Computing power (number of transistors) will double every 2 years

b) Mooer's Law:
An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it.

Now.... assuming computation power continues to increase over time (Moore). There comes a point where it possible to create an attractive (intuitive, responsive, adaptable) interface to a system, thus improving the retrieval and making it virtually painless (Mooer) for a user to find all the information they need.

One question to therefore ask is: "when is that date?"
Or possibly and what is more contentious to ask is: "Haven't we already reached it and are just being lazy?"

* lets think of them as influencers, bloggers, commentators, etc.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Website traffic - Measuring the influence

When people write/blog/comment about your company, they often link to your site and quite often they link directly to the specific content they are interested about.

So how do you go about measuring this?

Use your analytics! Your website analytics package should be one of the first places to look. If you don't have an analytics package, don't be put off by the cost. Google Analytics is now one of the most popular methods of tracking site usage, and its free! Yes, if you have less than 5 million page impressions a month (or more in some circumstances), then you can use Google's analytical tool, to measure all common key site metrics for no cost.

One metric that all decent website analysis packages provide is 'referred sites'. This will show you the sites/pages where visitors are coming from (unless they are secure sites, as this information isn't allowed to be passed on).

It is this figure that will identify your key influencers, giving their web address as well as the level of traffic you get from them.

It will, if you also filter & sort your data, tell you their activity, including the answer to the popular question "What do they do when they get there?".

It also can give you insight into:

  • Did the 'bounce' right off and go somewhere else?
  • I so where? (a competitor? back to the referring site?, etc.)
  • Did they go on to another page in your site (if so, which one?)

However, not all the traffic you get from your influencers is equal. For some in-bound links to your site, you will get more traffic; for others you will get higher quality contact/leads/sales (and for others you will get a higher position in the search engines).

Its understanding and measuring this sub-division of traffic & users that will give you insight about what to do about the situation going forwards.....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Its not all 'About Us'

This was the title of this blog, before changining to 'Communications in a digital world'. I changed it to be focused less around the needs of the corporate website and more focused toward the extended communication between company and its community.

By this, I mean:
1. A customer (this includes: potential customers, users of web-base resources - such as an application, etc.)
2. A researcher (press, academic, shareholder, investor, etc)
3. An influencer (a member of the extended community who has an opinion on the brand, service or product a company produces, and who submits that opinion into the digital world - e.g. via a blog, a comment, a review, etc.)

Its therefore not just centred on the 'About Us' part of the company website, but about the conversation (or monologue) any person has with a company, and how that company needs to understand, measure and act subsequently.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Building a good Corporate Website

So, who has built a corporate site that works well? Well this should be assessed from the different perspectives of each of your users.

Its recommended when looking to re-do your company's corporate web offering, that you investigate the different information needs of these different users (applying the appropriate weighting based upon what you do and what you can maintain online). Typical example users are: Back in March 2007, commissioned an investigation into which companies provided the best corporate website: The results make for interesting reading and show best-practice in communicating with the different audiences you have.

The table of results is from the Bowen Craggs index:,dwp_uuid=4dce8136-4a24-11da-b8b1-0000779e2340.pdf

Note: A low value (3 out of 12) was given to Wells Fargo’s ‘Contact’ – measuring the efficiency of the points of contact, and also the effective diversion of contacts through FAQs. This will hopefully now improve, given their outward methods of communication using Social Media and Web2.0 technologies more recently.

Using a user-centred approach to content-rich sites should help you create a web offering that matches to the information needs of your targeted audience and help your communicate that much better. It will also help in what is referred to by David Bowen as ‘Construction’, that looks at navigation and coherence of the overall site.

Monday, January 14, 2008

'Benefitting the Financial Services Customer with Web2.0'

My company 'Ideal Interface' has been working on providing insight into on how Financial Services can benefit their customers with Web2.0. This work has resulted in us producing a white paper in the form of an Executive-level presentation.

This is uploaded here:
[comments welcome please]

When putting together the research for this piece of work, its been interesting to see the different ways in which those in the FS space are embracing Web2.0 (and which specific parts). What has become most obvious is that no two companies are approaching this in the same way and that certain companies are leading the way in their extended conversation with the customer.
Wells Fargo seems significantly further than most, for example it has 4 blogs that post regularly:
I've also been listening to First Direct's podcasts as a result:

Friday, January 11, 2008


Communications were more simple in the old days. You kept information central and owning it was power. Now the distribution of company information (good and bad) is fragmented and increasing in its distribution & velocity.
Its not all about a simplified message via offical channels now a lot of conversation with customers and influencers takes place on the edge of the company. The walled garden is disolving gradually for some companies and

Brian Oberkirch has tackled this subject is some depth in his posting last Spring about 'edgeworks' and it makes for interesing reading:

Monday, January 7, 2008

People can't hear you...

I have been very impressed with Kurt Voelker's presentation here:
His presentation shows the how things are moving on and the impact of modern digital communications. I gather this was shown to an audience of PR and marketing types recently.
One of his slides that resonated with me particularly, was an image of 3 boys whispering, with the title:
"People can't hear you. They are too busy listening to their friends"
Poignant I feel!

Friday, January 4, 2008


I was in the shower this morning and was thinking about my day ahead (as I do) and get my brain 'in gear'.
I began thinking about influence and those that provided it.
I've just added the following to my Amazon 'wish list':

This then got me onto thinking about the different types of influence. Perhaps it can just be as simple as:
Positive (of benefit to a company)
Negative (of detriment to a company)

Although hype, campaign penetration, brand loyalty, revenue and long-term market stability are all inter-related, perhaps these (or others) could be separate indicators of the influence individuals (or other entities) have on an organisation?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Writing the wrongs

Sometimes people get things wrong, that's human nature.
As a company, you may take the punches when they are deserved. However, what do you do when mis-truth or inaccuracy get out into the public domain and are picked up by your influencers? Even worse, what do you do when its a reputable news source that is throwing the low blows?

Well, Irv Miller, GVP of Corporate Communications at Lexus goes on the offensive:

I can't find the Boston Globe's reponse online yet....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An interesting conversation I've been having

I've been having a fun and insightful conversation with Igor on his blog:
Some interesting questions have been raised and it was good to discuss the issue with a like-minded person. [Thanks Igor]