For the past two months we’ve been developing functionality for our site at a breakneck speed. Simultaneously learning to code, learning to design and trying to keep up with the suggestions from users. As you can expect our front-end could be a lot better. So over the past week we’ve invested some of our free time in improving our UI using 3 learning methods.
First, we turned to Google Analytics to see what was happening on our site. Our main question was whether we are effectively explaining our concept and getting artists to sign-up and provide content? The short answer is that we’re not yet… we have been getting between 20 and 100 unique visitors daily for a couple weeks but less than 20% are signing up and even fewer are providing content. We use the analytics to highlight where in the user “funnel” from the landing page to the sign-up form to the nudge creation screen people were leaving. We noticed that most artists never even entered the funnel we setup, 90% of all users searched for nudges to send rather than signing up to be artists. We needed to do a better job of funneling artists to a sign-up and create a content funnel that was separate from the normal search process. We’ve now changed the landing page (in dev anyway) to direct artists to an FAQ and sign-up page rather than the view available nudges page. We are using this page to explain that we’re in alpha mode, explain the vision and preemptively answer questions that if left unanswered may lead a user to leave our site in confusion.
Secondly, we’ve been using online tutorials and shamelessly copying the best design elements. We use a tool called CSSedit along with firebug to analyze how our favorite sites do things. A big thank you goes out to sites like REI, Tumblr, Etsy, and Everlater. We don’t just copy the site, we take small elements and design cues and create something completely original. It’s the equivalent of Pretty Lights taking Biggie Smalls quotes and inserting them in their songs. Hopefully the owners of those sites will read this and feel pride in our love of their front ends. If you want some other great examples for your own site, check out the webby award winners, their sites are amazing. In addition check out Smashing Magazine for tutorials on creating great tables, forms and everything else.
Our third method is to listen to experts. There are plenty of them around Boulder, including Lyn Bain of Chili Interactive. She has advanced degrees in psychology and a storied career in usability testing and design. Out of pure serendipity we met her at a coffee shop and she offered to give us a few minutes to critique our site. Some of the key take-aways were:
1 – Laptop and mobile users don’t fiddle with their mice so they don’t see rollover elements. (We’re removing ours now)
2 – Buttons need to be descriptive of the very next screen, so instead of our button saying “send a nudge” it might say “Select this nudge and fill in delivery details.” This way they aren’t scared that something will be sent before they put in the right details.
3 – Users give you 3 seconds to understand your site and decide whether to heed a call to action. Make your messaging clear and your calls to action obvious.
If you want similar feedback, Lyn is giving back to the entrepreneurial community in a HUGE way, with UsableFeedback.com where you can get video walkthrough with actionable feedback from her company’s experts for only $139. This is a tiny fraction of her usual billing rate and is being done solely to help startups and small businesses! There are other fantastic designers around Boulder, people like @AndyInColor and @StirlingOlson. Can designers reading this give us one rule of thumb you think all startups should know when designing their sites?
The bottom line is that we improved our UI significantly by using statistics on how our users interact with our site, copying design elements from the best sites and reaching out to experts for unbiased feedback. We still have a long way to go in both design and UI, so keep giving us honest feedback. As a reminder, we’ll be buying beers for people who give us suggestions!