How Should I Promote My New Website?

Author’s Note: You can find yesterday’s #Blog365 contribution over on Central Florida Top 5. I got to cover the arrival of the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Orlando Science Center!

One of our clients recently launched a new website (through another company). Since we’ve been consulting on their social media efforts, the first question they had after launch was a logical one: How do I promote my new website so I can get the most value from it?

As I’ve mentioned before, most websites launch with no fanfare. The only sound is the crickets chirping and the keyboard clacking.

But websites are a lot of work, and you should make sure you have a promotions plan taking shape so that your efforts do not go unnoticed.

The best route for doing so is always going to be specific to the business itself, but the options range widely.

You could celebrate with an event of some kind: a launch party, if you have the budget, or a Google Hangout on Air or similar live streaming event if you want to keep it all online.

You could put the word out in your email newsletter, inviting your subscribers to visit and explore and provide feedback.

And of course you can tweet it out, post on Facebook, and generally notify all your social platforms.

This kind of stuff is a given. And it should all be done soon after the website is launched. But the really meaningful parts usually start after the first announcement.

Hopefully, your website was built to be more than just a billboard. Your website design company should have asked you about the long-term marketing features to be built in to the site — things like a blog or a newsletter sign-up.

Ultimately, the best way to promote your new website has little or nothing to do with what you do right after launch. Although a short-term spike in traffic is nice, it’s your long term growth and commitments which matter far more.

Use your new website as a reason to motivate yourself toward implementing an ongoing content marketing routine, or approach an experienced SEO professional about how to start building your website’s presence in search. Start sending out that newsletter on a monthly basis, or launch that YouTube series. Whatever is the most valuable proposition for you.

Websites can be billboards, or they can be marketing tools. But either way, promoting them effectively for the long haul demands more than just a “New site is live!” tweet.

Lesson #9 – Why Wireframes Matter

A wireframe is to a website design as a stick figure sketch is to a portrait.

In practice, it only reflects the bare bones of the site… the essential big-picture details.

In reality, it is your opportunity to plan.

It’s the first moment when the architect of the website sits down to visualize the flow of the site.

It’s the minute when they step into the shoes of the end user, imagining what they might need or want to find.

In the end, you create the structure that will be filled in to make something beautiful. Something useful. Something enjoyable.

With wireframes, you can get a sense for where the site is going, and give the client the chance to provide feedback early on. Rather than sinking hours of effort into a beautiful design, the wireframe is the architect’s opportunity to throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks — what really works for the project.

It’s an exciting process, full of opportunity and exploration. Whether you use a sketchbook, a grid lined sketchpad, or software, your wireframe is your first chance to open the door to a creative and user-centered website experience.

Would You Rather Avoid Pain or Create Pleasure?

You stand facing two doors, the roar of audience applause behind you as you face your decision.

Behind Door Number One is the ability to prevent yourself (and the people you know) from breaking a bone when you exercise.

Behind Door Number Two is the ability to help people enjoy themselves more at any event you attend.

Which one would you choose?

This may sound like a fake scenario (and it is), but you face the same kind of choice every time you make decisions about how to frame your marketing content.

Whenever you write sales copy or marketing copy, you decide how to tell people about your product or service. One of the most important things you must choose is how to present your value propositions.

At its most basic, you must decide whether you are trying to show your customers how they can avoid a painful problem or whether you are showing them how to bring greater pleasure into their lives.

And believe it or not, your choice does make a difference in how effective your copy writing may be.

According to psychological studies, in general, people are more likely to react when presented with ways to avoid pain, compared to how they respond to ways to gain pleasure.

This is because most of the time, if we find an outcome presented as a loss, we’ll consider taking risks. But if the exact same outcome is presented as a gain, we’ll want the option that brings us that gain no matter what. 

It’s called the framing effect, or loss aversion, and it’s one of the most common human psychological quirks. We quite simply (and quite naturally, from an evolutionary perspective) want to avoid pain even more than we want to pursue pleasure.

As a result of this effect, simply turning around your sentence structures can have a major impact on the effectiveness of your marketing. You just have to spin your concept in a way that makes people sit up and notice how you can make a difference for them.

If Building a Website Were Like Building Your House

Most of us don’t want to build our own houses. Websites are a little easier, but a lot of people don’t want to go through the bother of doing that on their own either.

General consensus is that an experienced team matters when you are building a house — you don’t usually hire just one person, you hire a series of people with different areas of expertise. Same thing applies when building a website.

Every house and every website needs an architect. This person is responsible for mapping out the path to success. It is their job to make sure the foundational structure is sound as a concept. They create the blueprint which will be used to make the project successful.

In a website project, this person is the information architect. They make the wireframe and work on the site map so the website ends up with a logical flow from section to section, as well as a solid information structure that allows users to navigate around the site.

The developers are equivalent of the project managers and construction workers who turn the project from idea into reality. They know the right material to use for the best possible results. In the case of building a website, that’d be the choice of programming language — HTML5, CSS3, Jquery, Ruby on Rails, Python, etc.

Of course, a house project would not be finished without the interior designers who really make the difference between a bare-bones property and a place worth living. Same thing with professional graphic designers, who specialize in making a website design feel like yours. They often come in to website projects before the developers do, but their function is the same: to make the difference between average and excellent.

You probably wouldn’t want to live in a house that wasn’t designed by an architect, built by professional construction workers, and finished by a specialized interior designer. Don’t let your website meet that fate either.

3 Signs That You Are Not Ready to Market Your Website

Is your website ready to show the world?

When most people finish a website project, they are happy and excited and show off their products and services.

Most of the time, this means they want to talk about marketing it — especially when a big opportunity arises from other sources, such as the chance to be on national TV.

Generally, we like helping to market websites when the client is committed to driving business through the Internet.

But other times, potential clients want us to market their newly created website (made by someone else), and our hearts sink when we see what we have to work with.

At that point we usually have to let the client know: there is a major difference between making a website you like, and making a website that will accomplish your marketing and sales goals.

In fact, sometimes a website design can work substantially against your marketing goals — making marketing dollars a bad investment where they might not be otherwise.

There are myriad ways in which a website can work against your marketing, but these three signs are issues which should absolutely be addressed before a serious marketing campaign is even attempted.

defining target audience for website brand design marketing

Sign #1: Your website brand does not reflect the needs of your target market.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the business owner likes the website. It matters whether the customers do.

In website marketing, personal design preferences always intrude at some point along the way. Most business owners do have an innate knowledge of what their customers are looking for, but sometimes they can’t resist the urge to add a touch which appeals to them personally.

The problem is that when the design preferences of the client do not align with the design preferences of the target market, the target audience may not want to buy in.

Your site should make your clients feel like you are trustworthy and like you understand their needs. Every purchase comes with an emotion attached, so you need to make sure that the emotion conveyed by your website lines up with the emotion that your customers could be feeling when they buy.

why a website without value propositions is like a car without a gas pedal

Sign #2: Your website does not have a clear value proposition.

A business website without a value proposition is like a car without a gas pedal.

Without it, you have no drive.

The stronger your value proposition, the better your customers will understand not only who you are, but also what you can do for them.

It is imperative to invest time in crafting a strong value proposition which will align with your brand and reflect a solid understanding of your target audience.

how to communicate a call to action for website marketing

Sign #3: Your website is difficult to browse and/or lacks clear calls to action.

The people who visit your business website may be on a mission. Or they may be browsing casually.

Either way, they will probably be looking to the website itself for guidance as to what is most important.

This is where the information architecture, visual cues, and call to action copy come in.

The information architecture (the structure of the website and the way the pages are organized) enables the visitor to browse to the parts of the site that matter most.

The visual cues (differences in color, size, font, etc.) guide the user’s attention to different page elements.

And the call to action copy makes suggestions and demand a response.

——————

Of course, these are not the only things that make a website successful. But without audience-oriented brand design, a clear value proposition, and easy browsing, you might wind up seriously missing the market when you start showing it the world. Take the time to get the design right first.

When Usability Really Matters: Medical Technology and Patient Safety

Can Usability Be a Life or Death Matter?

For years, patient safety advocates have lobbied for better medical technology: the kind that automates the dispensing of medication, and prevents error by popping up alerts about duplicate medications or allergies.

I count myself among people who believe in the opportunities of technology. I’ve known enough people harmed by inadequate paper medical records to want to see the system change and modernize.

But modern systems don’t intrinsically mean error-free ones. As I read this morning about the root causes of one major patient-safety error at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF), I was reminded of the importance of usability — of REAL human-centered design, applicable to the needs of a specific audience.

If you have an hour or so, I do highly recommend that you read through all five parts of the important Harm in a Hospital series, excerpted from The Digital Doctor by Robert Wachter.

In this series, Wachter thoroughly lays out the challenges of interacting with medical technology through the lens of one serious patient safety error. Although this error (fortunately) did not end in loss of life, it could have — and the problems are instructive in terms of showing how safety systems at all levels (technological, environmental, and personal) can improve.

how usability of medical technology prevents patient harm

System Usability Concerns in Medical Technology

Designing an e-commerce website with great usability is tricky enough on its own. You have to get inside your customers’ heads and anticipate where they will struggle to achieve necessary tasks on the site. You need to determine what you most want them to be able to do, and predict what will be the most straightforward way for them to do it.

Full-scale medical technology systems are a whole other ball game.

There are all kinds of different levels at which these systems have to operate. They must manage records, dispense medications, monitor vital signs, and much much more. And they must do it all within a system encompassing the highest possible level of security and privacy.

Epic Health Systems, which designed the system at UCSF, is one of the industry leaders. But no system operating at this scale can be perfect, even when it is customized for the hospital’s specifications.

patient safety and medical technology usability in hospital pharmacies

Usability and Environmental Concerns

From a usability perspective, the challenges outlined by Wachter reflect one simple truth for us to consider:

Perhaps the single greatest challenge in medical systems design is the way your system interacts with users in the unique pressures of the hospital environment.

Most modern website designers assume a very short attention span span for users — which means, from a marketing perspective, we’re designing with the assumption that users aren’t paying attention to what we want them to do.

And these are users who may well be browsing the Internet from the comfort of their couches or office computers in cubicles.

In hospitals, doctors and nurses are interacting with these systems constantly as they move from patient to patient. They provide treatments, make sure the patients are comfortable and stable, handle questions, and manage overall care. All while in a high-pressure environment with life and death consequences to many of their actions.

Uncovering bugs and other systemic issues is inevitable in that kind of environment. And that’s what happened in the case at UCSF. The usability challenges in the system at the time combined with human error and the selected symptom requirements of the hospital to cause patient harm.

  • A crowded form design and data shortcuts allowed the doctor to input data in a standardized format. Even though she believed the data to be correct, she forgot to change the unit of measurement for the medication dosage.
  • Hospital-specific environmental challenges, multiple system alerts (on top of the usual beeping devices) and a lack of visual differences between warning types cause doctors and pharmacists to dismiss even important overdose alerts.
  • The robotic distribution system was not programmed with maximum dosage limits (primarily because UCSF is a research hospital and hard stops would make it harder for doctors to do their jobs).
  • Users (nurses) have been trained to have confidence in the system and have not been sufficiently encouraged to report problems or instinctive concerns.

 

None of these problems can be wholly blamed on the hospital, or the technology, or the individuals involved. But all of them can be improved upon, both within hospital culture and within the systems themselves.

medical technology usability in surgical and hospital settings

How can we improve our medical systems for better usability and patient safety?

Systems can be designed with greater care for the attention spans and environmental demands of physicians and other medical personnel. Small visual choices matter in terms of facilitating better interactions.

System notifications and alerts can be created with care to make sure that even weary users are aware of the things which really matter. Design aesthetic matters in creating a sense of intuitive priority.

Hospitals are complex places by their very nature; as such, all systems created for them seem to be inherently complex. And usability is rarely a one-step process; designs change to be more usable over time.

However, patient safety issues call into sharp relief the importance of listening to the needs and environmental concerns of medical professionals, and of factoring those concerns into new designs. In environments like that, usability choices can mean the difference between healing and harm.