Lands End – Figure How to Buy Something

FigureouthowtobuythisThis is an actual full length screen shot from Land’s End.  As a follow up to a previous post on the Grok conversion newsletter I found I had to post this as well.

I literally could NOT find a "buy now" or "purchase" or "add to cart" button anywhere on the detailed view page of the Lands End site.  It might be there, but I can’t see it.  I got to the page from a quick link from a catalog, so my bet is they want me to call so they can upsell me.  But I don’t want to be upsold, I just want to buy it.

Finally I found the "Catalog Quick Order" link on the lower left and was able to make a purchase by retyping in my code.  But it took work, and making users jump through hoops can’t be good for your conversion rate.

While making this post I went back to the page, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t missing anything obvious.  I was missing something, but I don’t think it is obvious.  There is a small text link that says "INSTRUCTIONS: Click color for larger view. Click size to select item."  See it?  Right above the sizes?  I know why I didn’t click them, because I wanted white and there is no white swatch of color even though the main image pictures a white robe.

In Land’s End’s defense, perhaps I should take such a critical eye at our own user interfaces more often.

Short Links Matter, but Please Don’t Break the Linking Paradigm

LinkbatonShort links matter.  People like short links that, heaven forbid, you can actually direct someone to over the phone.  We can’t always make them that simple in the age of ecommerce, but at least making links on web pages short *should* be a design goal. 

An example of this, well intentioned but a search engine disaster, is linkbaton.  With this service you can create link aliases so you can collect your affiliate revenue (guessing here) while also providing short links to your users.  Some text from the linkbaton webmaster’s guide.

Borders.com book link for "On Food and Cooking"
http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=aIke1kk50bs&offerid=6424&type=2&subid=0& url=http%3A//search.borders.com/fcgi-bin/db2www/search/search.d2w/ Details%253Fcode%253D0020346212%2526mediaType%253DBook%2526searchType%253DISBNUPC%2526 prodID%253D
LinkBaton book link for "On Food and Cooking" (follow the link and buy- it’s a great book!)
http://my.linkbaton.com/isbn/0020346212?for=charity

I know I paste in a lot of book links from Amazon and they are truly ridiculously long.  So long that I don’t even take out any variables to simplify the link as I typically do with google links (all you need is the "q=" part.)

The challenge here is that linkbaton fixes this by directing all of your links to their site and then back out.  Google and Yahoo will then stop seeing links as valid.  Intelliseek will not longer be able to confirm the two readers of this blog.  Dogs and cats, living together.  Links will be irrelevant for the search engines.  That would be bad despite the spammers so while I applaud linkbaton for trying to fix the problem, I don’t agree with it.

On a programming side-note, this whole antiquated thing about making sites work without cookies is just a bad idea, so quit munging the address bar with ssids please.

Tag Clouds Run Amuk and Debate on Use of Weighted Lists

UnilateraltagcloudWe recently started testing Weighted Lists in Tendenci.  My goodness you would think this was a large update based on the disproportionate feedback on the one (1) page we implemented the cloud on.  Sometimes folks lack a sense of humor, but we are here to serve and interpret.

It didn’t help that we had a bug in the calculation creating an off-by-one error for sites with just one category.  Hence the image on the left.  Computers are funny things.

So on the topic of weighted lists I found myself reading this Zeldman post on usability called "Remove Forebrain and Serve: Tag Clouds II"  The premise is that weighted lists are the new mullets, but he goes on to point out that his major issue with tag clouds is the ontology eliminates from view categories that don’t make the cut.  So Detroit might not be an item, but 8 Mile qualifies.  Specifically here are two excerpts: http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0505a.shtml

We who make websites must strike a fine balance between guiding our users and allowing them to lead us. We listen but we also synthesize and invent. We conduct user research but we interpret the results. We ask what users want but we decide what they are really telling us “” and we, not they, determine how best to fulfill the needs they didn’t necessarily realize they were articulating.

And

Instead of relying on humans to mine the data every three months and have long tedious arguments about how to update the navigation, let’s allow software to do it in real time, based on actual user behavior. Let the process create the music. There is merit to this view, especially on the community sites from which it sprang. (There is no merit to it on single-author sites, where one person creates all the content and all the tags. If you don’t have a clear purpose for your site, who does?)

It is for this reason that I think weighted lists ARE a good idea for social software.  Because the most active sites are ones with distributed authors.  Many people contributing towards the same goal, and making sense of that cacophony.

GROK Newsletter on Conversion Rates – PR without Conversion

GroknewsletterFuture Now out of NYC, who I know through Bryan Eisenberg who is our client with The Web Analytics Association, has a great newsletter on conversion rates.  You can sign up on their site at http://www.grokdotcom.com/ and the latest conversion rate newsletter was just released.

You may also want to check out the Eisenberg’s book A Call to Action which is also about web marketing conversion rates.

My main point is that driving traffice to your site through PPC or regular search engine marketing doesn’t add a ton of value if you don’t CONVERT that traffic.  While at a high level the web marketing fundamentals article definitely stands, at an incremental improvement level you can’t beat the detailed analysis of a conversion rate specialist (or become one!).

Good Call: Great use of PR Opportunity crossed with Advertising for Christmas

MillerchristmasWe have all received the link to the over-the-top-Christmas-sound-and-lights-display.  Some guy went nuts with his house, but the impressive part is the sound track.  He didn’t just build another airport on the cul-de-sac, but rather computerized the Christmas display and coordinated it with music.  That is the old news.

Miller made a deal with him apparently to film the house in a commercial.  This is smart.  It won’t make us associate Miller with Christmas (who can beat Budweiser’s traditional Clydesdales drawn carriage?) but perhaps Miller becomes the Tom Hanks of Christmas.

Via AdRants

SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder – from Microsoft

Snarf_front_1Microsoft has released SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder.   I found it via Sunbelt Software.  From the SNARF site:

Overview
Microsoft Research’s Community Technology presents SNARF, the Social Network and Relationship Finder.

SNARF was built around the notion that social network information that is already available to the computer system can be usefully reflected to the user: a message from a manager might be seen differently than a message from a stranger, for example. SNARF applies this idea to email triage: handling the flow of messages when time is short and mail is long.

Seth Godin is a Block Head Trying to Control Attention with Frames

SethgodinframedOh the irony.  A guy who wrote a book called "Permission Marketing" is trying to control his visitors with a framed web site

For the non-technical, frames are when the URL never changes even if you try to click out of the site.  Think of it as a window with someone running around constantly holding the window frame in front of your face with their logo at the top.  It is an attempt to control and Seth you do not have my permission to try to control the relationship.  A conversation requires respect.

The irony is I was trying to show respect and was smited by his frames.  Why have permalinks if you can’t see them?  Why direct people to http://erniemosteller.typepad.com/ if the URL doesn’t change from http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/blog.html?  What are you thinking?

I will continue to respect on my side, please meet me half way. In short, the code below is bad.  Ignorance of etiquette is no excuse.  Please remove the frames dude. 

<html>
<head>
<title>Seth Godin: Agent of Change</title>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
</head>
<frameset rows="0,*" frameborder="NO" border="0" framespacing="0">
  <frame name="topFrame" scrolling="NO" noresize src="blog/btop.html" >
  <frame name="mainFrame" src="http://sethgodin.typepad.com">
</frameset>
<noframes>
<body bgcolor="#FFFFFF" text="#000000">
Sorry, You need a browser that can display frames in order to view this page.
</body>
</noframes>
</html>

Wikipedia liars – this is a social software flame war with a KNOWN solution

FlameIt is nice to run into a problem where the solution is known and easy to implement.  It is frustrating to watch others not taking the obvious steps and instead choose to relearn lessons from history.  Jimmy Whales of Wikipedia needs to stop looking at this as a religion but rather as a social trust of information that must be protected to ENSURE free speech, not to block free speech.

The NYT is running an article called "Rewriting History: Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar" about someone making up some random stuff about a retired newspaper editor.  It was an edit on his bio page that was clearly random and wrong, posted by an anonymous user.  Easy to fix, and it has been fixed.  Read the article for more, my post is on the fact that allowing truly anonymous editors is not sustainable for popular social software.  Shirky wrote about this:

Group as User: Flaming and the Design of Social Software – Clay Shirky

<snip> Yet despite three decades of descriptions of flaming, it is often treated by designers as a mere side-effect, as if each eruption of a caps-lock-on argument was surprising or inexplicable.

Flame wars are not surprising; they are one of the most reliable features of mailing list practice. If you assume a piece of software is for what it does, rather than what its designer’s stated goals were, then mailing list software is, among other things, a tool for creating and sustaining heated argument. </snip>

From the NYT article here is Mr. Whales’ plan of action:

"We have constant problems where we have people who are trying to repeatedly abuse our sites," he said.

Still, he said, he was trying to make Wikipedia less vulnerable to tampering. He said he was starting a review mechanism by which readers and experts could rate the value of various articles. The reviews, which he said he expected to start in January, would show the site’s strengths and weaknesses and perhaps reveal patterns to help them address the problems.

In addition, he said, Wikipedia may start blocking unregistered users from creating new pages, though they would still be able to edit them.

The real problem, he said, was the volume of new material coming in; it is so overwhelming that screeners cannot keep up with it.

This won’t work.  Clay Shirky said it best in this hilarious segment from the article above:

And for roughly thirty years, almost any description of mailing lists of any length has mentioned flaming, the tendency of list members to forgo standards of public decorum when attempting to communicate with some ignorant moron whose to stupid to know how too spell and deserves to DIE, die a PAINFUL DEATH, you PINKO SCUMBAG!!!

Yet despite three decades of descriptions of flaming, it is often treated by designers as a mere side-effect, as if each eruption of a caps-lock-on argument was surprising or inexplicable.

In short, you have to have some level of public exposure to stand behind your words or there are problems in society and in social software.  Requiring registration to edit is minor, easy, doesn’t even prevent the entire problem but does create some friction.  The best editors ARE registered because they want credit for their contributions.  So the bad edits are anonymous.  Why isn’t this solution put in place?  Duh.

Note that four of the five top wikipedia editors are bots.  They apparently log in to the system.

Rank User Bot? Total Edits Edits in the past 30 days
1 Rambot bot 131511 0
2 D6 bot 86832 531
3 Pearle bot 69497 2316
4 SimonP 67849 4398
5 Bluebot bot 67621 60889

In closing, you have a social software application, wikipedia.  It has an accuracy and flame problem.  There is a known solution to the flame problems of social software.  The problem is exacerbated by the ease of scripting edits on wikipedia as evidenced by the four of the top 5 editors being bots.  And they need to require login to solve the problem.

Unless Jimmy knows all of this and is just doing it for the public relations value of getting press coverage.  Nah, he wouldn’t do that.

More Social Software Visualization

YvonneUnrealArt is artwork based on gameplay in Unreal Tournament. 

All artworks have been created using data from the game "Unreal Tournament".

Each image represents about 30 mins of gameplay in which the computers AI plays against itself, there are 20-25 bots playing each game.

The Bots play custom maps I create. Each map has been pathed so that the bots have a rough idea of where to go in order to create the image I want.

While this is architecturally / location based, graphically it is compelling if manipulated (e.g. "Each map has been pathed so that the bots have a rough idea of where to go in order to create the image I want").  It is art after all.  The related blog is here.

On social software visualization, if activities, or attention, are tracked as locations (again, perhaps manipulated to get the desired result) this method could be used to visualize social software activity.  But not interaction like vizster.

GM to use OnStar for Social Software Integration – still pending

GmonstaremailI previously posted on General Motors and how I think they should use some of the OnStar data in a social software capacity.  Yes we can GET data, the question is can the group of humans share that data in a meaningful way.  The good news is per the advertisement to the left GM is now offering to email a summary of your data.  This is smart and good for the brand.

Specifically what I would like to see added from a social software data perspective is:

  1. Let people indicate if they want to share their mileage data
  2. For the people who specifically choose to share their data, open it up to the world so it looks something like this tag view from Technorati, except ranked by mileage.
    http://del.icio.us/search/?all=gas+mileage   (note the highest rank is at the top – then ask why)
  3. Consider opening the OnStar up as a licensed service to other manufacturers.  Go honestly toe-to-toe on improving gas mileageProgressive does this with insurance telling you even if they are NOT the lowest cost, which makes me think all sorts of warm-fuzzies about the Progressive brand.

what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda

WecandoitPropaganda in war time is normal, buying space is common in some societies where journalistic integrity is questionable.  So this is no surprise:

"Military Admits Planting News in Iraq"

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 – The military acknowledged Friday in a briefing for a ranking Senate Republican that news articles written by American troops had been placed as paid advertisements in the Iraqi news media and not always properly identified.

The very act of war is "I am so mad I am going to shoot you because you won’t do what I want."  So the suggestion of buying editorial space in a society where this is common practice strikes me as normal.  Every time you go to the gym you see "health magazines" that are mostly about plastic surgery.  Do you really think all of those articles were written without any thought on who purchased 50k worth of advertisement that year?  If not, can you expect greater editorial integrity from a war zone?  I think not.

So is it wrong for a public relations professional to knowingly pay to place an article?  Yes, definitely.  But don’t PR folks regularly write articles and mail them to newspapers in the hopes that a lazy journalist will use them?  Yes, absolutely. Bernays even called them "fillers" and along with the Internet he claimed to have invented them.

This post on wartime propaganda is thought provoking and I recommend it.  In particular, the Lippman quote puts it in context.

"We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace." – Walter Lippman

For more information on wartime propaganda, I highly recommend PR! A Social History of Spin by Stuart Ewen.  Or we can leave it to the future of public relations integrity.

TagCloud and PR Web should not associate with blog SPAM tools

Tagcloud is running advertisements for blogzilla (tagcloud.com/blogzilla/).  This is a very bad public relations idea.  Perhaps worse is that their is a PR Web logo on the page suggesting this is a tool recommended for the PR professional!  Specifically Blogzilla purports to let you:

With Blog-zilla you can…

  1. Post and manage tailored content across 5 to 100 blogs.
  2. Add unique articles personalized to every blog you are running.
  3. Take any original content or article and have Blog-zilla crunch it, improve it, and target it; based on your rules.
  4. Grab keyword-related RSS feeds and augment your blog content.
  5. Blend content, articles and RSS into perfectly matched topical blog entries.

Emphasis added by me.  Lets take this at face value.  I, one human being, can theoretically now maintain a conversation across hundreds of "my own" blogs.  Those blogs are generated by this script that rephrases my supposedly "original content" which is "augmented" by other RSS feeds. 

If this doesn’t meet the technical definition of blog spam, it sure as hell meets the "does not smell right" definition of blog spam which is evil.

The folks at BlogZilla have a denial on their advertisement as well "Not for content theives, spammers & cheats."  Oh, I feel much better.  If you aren’t ethical please don’t buy this product.  Um..ya.

When tagcloud came out I thought it was a pretty cool and easy way to add tag clouds to our clients’ sites using their RSS feeds.  Convenient, and their heart seemed in the right place.  Since our brand, both Schipul and Tendenci, require a strong focus on the brutal facts examined with honesty and integrity, I am particular about which outside tools are linked to from within the software.

What this means in English is simple.  Tagcloud made a big mistake. BugZilla is a PR disaster waiting to happen and PR Web needs to tell them to get the logo the hell off the page.  Happy Saturday.