Mar 18th

Understanding user search behavior

Posted in: Usability

Image of search icon

Search analytics can show important keywords users use to find or navigate your website, but there are many tasks users don’t search for or only search indirectly for. As Gerry McGovern explains:

When we did a top tasks study of MBA students we found that their top task revolved around asking this question: “How does your MBA program help me advance my career?” The final three words—advance my career—were very powerful when put into a link. But these words never came up in search statistics. You see, there are many tasks that people either don’t search for or only search indirectly for.

Knowing the difference can have a significant impact on your website.

People tend to search for “deals” when it comes to travel, but we found that when they were at travel websites, they preferred links containing the words “special offers.” Even though they had searched for “deals” they didn’t like to see that word on the webpage. The same goes for “cheap hotels”. You might search for them but that doesn’t mean you want to land on a webpage that says “Welcome to our dirt cheap hotel!”

Mar 13th

The design of restaurant menus

Posted in: Branding, Design, Usability

IHOP Menu Items

Restaurant menus can be long and difficult to navigate, especially when too many choices are offered. The menu is seen as one of the most important representations of the brand.  At IHOP, executives were confronted with a challenge.

“We clearly knew that improving and optimizing our menu was priority number one.”

The Atlantic has a great piece on the process IHOP undertook redesigning the restaurant’s menu. Since its release, sales have been up 3.6%.

“In the summer of 2012, Franco and her team began a strategic overhaul of the IHOP menu. Informing their work was not just in-person focus groups, web-based market research, and analyses of in-store food sales. The team also relied on eye-tracking studies that would help its members consider how human attention interacts with the physical object of the menu. It conducted T.U.R.F. analysis to test menu items. It considered the interaction of graphics and photographs, of text and white space, of colors cool and warm.”

Jan 8th

NY Times social media team shares lessons learned in 2013

Posted in: Social Media

The team that runs NY Times Twitter accounts (@nytimes) has a great write-up looking back at 2013.  They analyzed what worked and what didn’t by examining their most successful tweets to see what connected with their readers and how investment of editorial efforts paid.

“In other cases, a small amount of editorial effort was the difference between one of the best tweets of the year and a headline from print that was less effective in the context of social media.”

Original tweet

Revised tweet

Other posts you might like…

3 common social media marketing mistakes you should avoid
Why print headlines don’t work well on the web

Mar 25th

Instagram’s 3 keys to success

Posted in: Social Media, Technology

At the beginning of 2012, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom sat down with Kevin Rose to talk about the company, how it was started and what made it successful. A few months later, it was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

When Instagram started it had 3 goals:

  1. Make photos beautiful and inspiring
  2. Integrate social so people would share photos
  3. Create a great user experience

Make photos beautiful and inspiring

Unless you were a professional photographer or had amazing skills, it was hard to make photos look great. By creating filters, Instagram was able to turn ordinary photos into something beautiful. It inspired people and made them feel like they were a professional photographer.

Integrate social so people would share photos

Because Instagram made photos beautiful and inspiring, people inevitably wanted to share them. It provided a platform that allowed users to share their photos across multiple networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) all at once. It also created a discovery tool called the “popular page”, which highlighted the most popular photos on Instagram. This gave anyone the ability to discover and follow other users even if they didn’t have a friend on the service.

Create a great user experience

One of the key features that set Instagram apart was how fast image filters were added to photos and then uploaded. Other photo apps existed, but the process took too long.  Instagram set out to make the user experience as seamless as possible. When a user started to choose a filter and write a caption after taking a photo, Instagram immediately began the uploading process. By the time they were finished, the photo “appeared” to be instantly ready. Users couldn’t believe how fast it was.

Mar 1st

Impact of responsive design for

Posted in: Design, Technology


As mobile usage continues to increase online, the number of high profile sites implementing responsive design is gaining momentum (Starbucks, Time, Nixon Watches). It’s been 8 months since we launched using responsive design and I thought I’d share the impact its had on our site with mobile devices. The numbers are quite impressive.

8 months (June 2012 – Feb 2013 vs June 2011 – Feb 2012)

Mobile visits up 403%
Mobile pageviews up 309%
Mobile unique pageviews up 340%
Mobile average time spent on page up 71%

Also, here’s a nice list of responsive design sites in higher education.

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