Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Things to Be Thankful For, Technology Edition

turkey tech
Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.
You know the scene. The family is gathered, the turkey is carved, the sweet potatoes are mere inches from your fork and have no idea of the fate that is about to befall them. Then someone pipes up: “I think we ought to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.”
What are you going to say? You’re hipster enough that you would rather die than spout a cliche like “my health” or “my job” or “this food”; that’s a given, surely — of course we’re all thankful for such things. But you’re also enough of a geek that you fear saying what you’re really thankful for; reeling off the specs of that awesome phone you just bought would be met with blank stares.
Fear not, we’ve got your back. If you find yourself fumbling for words in front of the family, try something like this:
I’m thankful that we get to live in a golden age where every piece of knowledge you can imagine, the greatest library in history, is available at all times to everyone. I’m thankful that roughly 50% of this country now carries supercomputers everywhere, and that we don’t even think it’s a big deal any more.
I’m thankful that I have creative tools in my pocket that would make Leonardo da Vinci weep, and I’m thankful that I occasionally have the wit to use them, rather than just sitting back and letting the content come to me.
I’m thankful that I can freely express any opinion in any one of a thousand forums, instantly, globally. I’m thankful for my Twitter followers and for those I’m following, and that they labor all day to keep me amused and informed without receiving a single penny in compensation. I’m thankful for my Facebook friends, who help and encourage and cajole and tease and share and point me towards the light when I’m in a dark place.
I’m thankful for the iPhone, I’m thankful for Android, I’m thankful they made a decent Windows Phone, and I’m thankful that there is real competition between them. I’m really thankful we won’t see a repeat of the Microsoft monopoly of the 1990s. I’m thankful that the Galaxy SIII recently became the most popular smartphone; maybe it’ll spur Apple to make an even more innovative iPhone 5S.
I’m thankful that they’re fixing Siri and Maps, and I’m thankful that I was actually able to navigate my way here today. [Pause for laughter.]
I’m thankful for e-books. I’m thankful for the fact that I’m reading more than ever because of them, despite the naysayers who claim technology is dumbing us down. I’m thankful that tablets single-handedly saved the comics business. I’m thankful that artists have so many channels to distribute their content without the middlemen, so those middlemen can go off and become artists themselves.
I’m thankful for Netflix and Hulu and for being able to cuddle up in bed with them when I’m sick. I’m thankful that there are more great games available than I can ever hope to play in a lifetime, and that they cost 99 cents each rather than $50. I’m thankful that when I think of a song, any song, I can be listening to it seconds later. I’m thankful that everyone gets to be a DJ now. Well, sometimes I’m not thankful for that.
I’m thankful that NASA successfully put a rover the size of a truck on Mars, and that it’s tweeting photos. I’m thankful for Instagram, and that there are a million artfully filtered pictures of everyone’s turkey dinner being posted right now. I’m thankful that math and science education is ramping up, even if it isn’t yet where it needs to be. I’m thankful for numbers, and for Nate Silver.
I’m thankful for memes that let me feel like everyone on the planet is in on the same joke. I’m thankful forLOLCats, who never fail to perform as advertised; they may actually be making us smarter too. I’m thankful that when a bus monitor gets harassed by kids and it gets caught on video, the Internet clubs together to shame the bullies and give her a $500,000 vacation. Thank you, Reddit and YouTube.
I may even still be thankful for Gangnam Style, though ask me again in a few months.
Most of all, I’m thankful that anything we might decide to argue about over this dinner can be settled with a simple search. And I’m thankful that any time I get tired of my real family, I can go take a quick time out with my Internet family, and because of that break I can come back and be once again grateful for your presence, your proximity, your warmth.
Now pass the damn potatoes. I’m starving.
What are you thankful for this holiday season? Let us know in the comments.

13 Surprising Talks That Will Stand the Test of Time

Even 25 years later, it’s hard to think of music video more thrilling than Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” As his classic album So celebrates its silver anniversary, we asked Gabriel what TEDTalks he thinks will still be making waves in 25 years. Here are his picks, from printing a human kidney to the learning revolution.

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die

John Lloyd inventories the invisible

Neil Gershenfeld on Fab Labs

Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind

Zainab Salbi: Women, wartime and the dream of peace

Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world

Oliver Sacks: What hallucination reveals about our minds

Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade?

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

Eight user testing case studies that achieved amazing results

User testing is an integral part of web design as it gives impartial and quantifiable insights into the customer’s experience.
As discussed at our recent JUMP multichannel event, usability testing removes any ego or opinion from product design which helps improve customer satisfaction and ultimately increase revenue and growth.
There are a number of different methodologies for user testing, including A/B or multivariate tests, heatmapping, or videos of real customer journeys.
As these case studies show, each different methodology can identify small changes that lead to massive increases in CTR, conversions and sales.
For more information on this topic, checkout our new Conversion Rate Optimization Report 2012 in association with RedEye
The research looks at tools, strategies and processes employed for improving conversion rates, as well as examining different areas of best practice.

Sidelines increases landing page conversion from 5% to 55%

When sports website Sidelines first started out it found that, despite a steady flow of traffic, only 5% of visitors actually signed up to its service.
So to try and increase the conversion rate co-founder Vinay Kuruvila ran six A/B tests.
1. The original landing page showed three screenshots of the product and one sentence below each describing a benefit of using Sidelines.
Due to the poor conversion rate they experimented with a simplified version that just had a random picture from the 2012 Super Bowl and a couple of sentences about the product.
As a result conversions went from 5% to 17%. Kuruvila suggests this is because if a screenshot doesn’t immediately show a customer what your product does, then it’s better to go for a simple, eye-catching photo.
2. For the next test they changed the landing page so it had a large background picture that covered the entire screen and reduced the text to a single tagline and one sentence explaining the product.
This test saw conversions creep up to 25%.
3. After trying a number of different taglines, Sidelines found that the deliberately vague option of “Follow Sports Together” was the most successful.
The theory is that it intrigues people and convinces them to sign up so they can find out more.
4. Initially the landing page only highlighted the sharing functions of the site, but when they added the words “Follow your favourite teams” conversions jumped from 25% to 40%.
This is because it made new visitors aware of the brand’s value proposition, so they knew what they stood to gain from signing up to Sidelines.
5. Like many startups Sidelines originally required new users to signup using their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
However after adding an email sign up option the number of people signing up using their social account increased by 7%. Kuruvila says this is because email signup option increased trust for the brand.
6. Kuruvila initially thought that Sidelines would appeal mostly to men, but traffic from Facebook ads proved that assumption to be incorrect.
The highest conversion rate “by far” was women aged 26-40 with the messaging “share photos, videos, articles and opinions about your favourite teams.” In addition, these women were inviting 35% more friends to join Sidelines than men were.
Finally, men who received email invites from women converted about twice as well as men who received email invites from other men.
It was clear that women aged 26-40 loved to share, but Sidelines wanted to ensure the landing page message appealed to the vast majority of users who start off as pure content consumers.
The compromise was a message that started off with the consumer value proposition and then include the sharing aspect: “Follow your favourite teams, join the hottest discussions and share photos, videos and articles with other fans.” 
This helped landing page conversions increase to 55%.

DHL uses A/B testing to achieve a 98% uplift in conversion rate

DHL ran an A/B test to try and increase signups to a free Import Tool Kit. It created a new page that made the signup form the main focus by making it larger and moving it to the top right of the screen.
All the text remained the same, but the image was changed from a cityscape to a picture of a friendly courier.
The new form design
The test ran for around four weeks in July, and as a result DHL achieved a 98+% conversion rate increase in two countries at a 95% statistical confidence.

ASOS reduces abandonment rate by 50% by changing one CTA

ASOS ran A/B testing at the sign-in page of its checkout to try and reduce the number of abandoned baskets. The original page had a CTA for new customers saying ‘Create your account’ that it changed to simply ‘Continue’.
This simple change reduced basket abandonment by 50% at this stage as consumers associate creating an account with a long process of form filling.
The new checkout design
In fact ASOS left the checkout process for new customers largely unchanged and still required them to choose a password and create an account, but this simple change in copywriting had a massive impact on the customer’s perception of what they were being asked to do.
The old checkout design

Hyundai increased requests for test drive by 62% using multivariate testing

As with other case studies on this list, Hyundai set out to improve conversions on its product landing pages.
This actually included three different goals that it wanted to optimise:
  • Primary goal was a brochure request and/or request for a test drive.
  • Secondary goal was a clickthrough from the car page to the first step of the funnel.
  • As a check, engagement (inverse of bounce rate) was also measured.
To test these different criteria Hyundai used multivariate testing, which is different to A/B testing as each change you make creates a new variation to be tested.
Original landing page
This allows you to track how each single change impacts conversion rates so you can find the best combination of factors. Using Traffic4U it tested eight different iterations by changing the following sections of the page:
  • New (SEO friendly) text versus control text. The hypothesis was that if Hyundai changed its normal text to SEO friendly text and it didn’t impact conversion rate, it could permanently implement it for SEO benefits
  • Extra call-to-action buttons versus no extra buttons. The thinking was that an extra call-to-action would encourage the user to complete the desired action.
  • Large photo of the car versus thumbnails. Hyundai thought that larger photos would entice the visitor and also confirm to them that they are on the right page.
The results showed that the combination of SEO text, extra CTAs and larger images increased the conversion rate (request for test drive or brochure) by 62% and there was a 208% increase in CTR (step 1 to step 2).
New landing page

User testing videos help increase sales by 9.5%

Appliances Online commissioned 125 user testing videos to help identify potential improvements to its product pages, giving it 250 hours of footage of customers browsing the site before making a purchase.
The company used the videos in conjunction with other tools, such as Click Tale, which provided heatmaps showing which elements of product pages users were interacting with the most.
Thanks to this insight it uncovered several issues with its product pages. For example, 70% said that pages were too busy, 17% said service information needed to be clearer, while 13% thought the video experience could be improved.
As a result, Appliances Online made these changes to its product pages:
  • Banners touting special offers were incorporated into the copy on the page, allowing the buy button to be moved above the fold.
  • The buy button was changed from dark blue to a more eye-catching green colour, while the text was altered from ‘Buy’ to a more descriptive ‘Add to basket’.
  • Previously product videos opened in a pop-up screen that took too long to load. The solution was to embed the video into the product pages, which is less interruptive, while consumers can also scan up and down the page looking at reviews and product specs, and the video stays still.
  • Creative copywriters were employed to draft unique product descriptions.
These changes resulted in a 9.5% increase in sales, while 37% more visitors viewed the product videos. As viewers of these videos are 57% more likely to add items to the basket, this was a big improvement. 
In addition, the number of reviews left by customers increased by 11%, while there was a 33% reduction in calls about delivery, as the information was more clearly visible on the product page. 

Veeam changed a single word an increased CTR by 161%

In an effort to increase conversions Veeam Software asked all visitors to its product pages what other information they would like to see.
A number of visitors answered “pricing” however Veeam sells through partners so does not publish pricing information on its site. However it does have a ‘Request A Quote’ link that leads to a sales inquiry form.
Simply by changing the CTA from ‘Request A Quote’ to ‘Request Pricing’ Veeam achieved a 161.66% increase in CTR from 0.54% to 1.40% with 100% statistical confidence.
This is a great example of increasing conversions by using customer feedback to improve the website.

Amazon made $2.7bn by asking one simple question

Consumer reviews are a proven sales driver in e-commerce, with research showing that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site that has user reviews.
Amazon receives hundreds of reviews so it was faced with the challenge of how to curate them into a useful order for its customers.
It struck upon the best system by adding the question: “Was this review helpful to you?” This allows users to endorse the best reviews, with the top three being featured on the product page.
Other touches, such as allowing users to easily view the best negative or positive reviews, as well as some handy charts that summarise review ratings, make the large number of reviews manageable for users and more useful for Amazon.
Displaying the most helpful reviews has increased sales in the media products category by 20%, meaning this feature was worth $2.7bn to Amazon.

VOIP telephone service increases quote requests by 262%

In this test an anonymous B2B VOIP telephone services company set about increasing its number of quote requests by performing an A/B test of different page designs.
The original signup page
The company redesigned the page to simplify the form and reduce friction in the sign up process. The number of fields that users had to fill in was reduced from six to three, and it removed any requests for personal information.
The new signup page
Other changes included:
  • Changing the CTA from ‘Get Quote’ to ‘Show Me My Instant Quote’.
  • Giving an interactive quote online rather than getting a salesperson to call the customer.
  • Adding third-party security logos.
  • Adding a chart comparing its service versus traditional phones.
The result was a 262% increase in conversion rate from 2.4% to 8.8%.
David Moth is a Senior Reporter at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

The secret structure of great talks: Nancy Duarte