6 Tips for Customer Experience Influenced Website Design. - CMSWire

6 Tips for Customer Experience Influenced Website Design. - CMSWire

6 Tips for Customer Experience Influenced Website Design. - CMSWire

Posted: 02 Feb 2021 06:21 AM PST

Professional Creative Team of Web/Graphic Designer planning, drawing a website ux - customer experience design
PHOTO: Adobe

Brands today are increasingly focused on crafting an exceptional customer experience across all of their channels. The most obvious place to start is a brand's online presence. A website is where customers find information about a brand's products, services, and solutions. It's where they can make purchases, and where leads turn into customers. It's also where customers are the most likely to have a frustrating experience — a pain point in their journey. But you mitigate those chances by focusing on 6 factors that can facilitate an exceptional customer experience through a brand's website.

Simplicity and Ease of Use

If a website is cumbersome and difficult to use, or if the purchasing process is tedious or overly complex, the customer is likely to look elsewhere. In fact, one of the key voice of customer (VoC) metrics is the customer effort score (CES), which defines the effort that a customer has to exert in order to do business with a brand. The more effort it takes, the less inclined the customer is to continue doing business with a brand. Simplicity and ease of use improve the customer experience by making it easier for customers to obtain what they are looking for. 

An easy-to-use menu should be provided so that the site is navigable by someone that is not familiar with the site at all. If a customer can't find their way around a website, they aren't going to stay long, nor are they going to purchase a product or service. There should also be a search mechanism that is easy to locate and use.

David Jones, vice president, e-commerce and digital at Compass Health Brands said that the main problems were caused by slow loading pages, inefficient navigation and confusing content. The customer's negative experiences with the website were essentially causing them to place orders over the phone rather than through the website. "The bottom line was that we needed to reduce user friction, simplify how to navigate the website, and make the experience easier and more pleasant for customers. Ease and simplicity of navigation is by far the number one impact," said Jones.

SEO contributes to ease-of-use because if a customer cannot locate a brand through a search engine, there will be no interaction between the brand and the customer. Proper SEO practices also ensure that relevant content is indexed, and when a customer visits a page by using Google search, they will arrive at a page that features the content they were searching for.

John Albertelli, senior web developer and graphic designer at VAI, told CMSWire that the biggest factors that lead to an exceptional customer experience are strong SEO, clear branding, simple messaging and language, and frictionless navigation. "Strong SEO is the first step, so customers can easily and quickly find the website with a simple search. Secondly, the customer must be able to tell what the brand is and what products and services it offers as soon as they enter the website or else there's immediate confusion and disconnect," Albertelli explained. He said that the language and content on the website should enable users to easily locate tabs, pages and places on the site where they can find what they are looking for. "Finally, getting to and from those tabs and pages easily, effectively and without friction is what rounds out a positive customer experience."

Related Article: Understanding Customer Experience Design's Holistic Approach to CX Strategy

Relevant Content and Brand Voice

Miles Beckler, founder and entrepreneur at MilesBeckler.com, a marketing and entrepreneurial blog, told CMSWire that the customer experience is crucial in every stage of the B2C relationship. "Even the formatting and tonality of the copy on your landing page can be the difference between frustration and conversion. For those looking to offer exceptional customer experience, this is where you should start," Beckler explained. "Review the copy on your website and ask whether it factors in the customer experience."

Not only does the content have to be relevant to that which the customer is searching for, but it has to be presented in a way that is not off-putting, mentally jarring, or overwhelming. "People are eager to learn but are intimidated by the sheer volume of content available," Beckler said. "Customers value readability and they want the learning process to feel streamlined. That's why I separate each line and use formatting (bolding, underlining, listing) to put across the information clearly."

Pageload Speed

Brian Patterson, senior experience architect at Capgemini in North America, thinks that positive website experiences reinforce customer loyalty and build long-term brand relationships. "Think about the last time you had a terrible online shopping experience using a website — maybe the site was slow to load and hard to navigate," Patterson explained. "Now think about the last time you had a wonderful, positive shopping experience. Whether the consumer is researching a product, placing an order, or merely browsing, every single online journey has the potential to leave a lasting impression on the end-user."

Patterson was quick to use the example of a slow loading website as one reason why a customer had a terrible shopping experience. Gone are the days where consumers will tolerate slow loading websites. The speed with which a page loads, whether it is on a mobile device or a desktop browser, also plays a large role in how Google ranks the website in its search engine results pages (SERP). Google Pagespeed Insights enables brands to test the pageload speed of any website, including their own sites — and also those of their competitors.

Although a website may appear to load very quickly to the casual eye, Pagespeed Insights will break it down into the various aspects of the loading procedure, and unless you have worked relentlessly to speed the loading of a website, using CDNs, gzip compression, etc., you may be disappointed when you test your website.

Mobile First Design

According to a report on mobile usage from Statista, in the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices (not including tablets) generated 50.81% of global website traffic. Given those numbers, it is necessary to design a brand's website using a mobile-first design, designing for the smallest screen first and working up to larger displays, such as those of desktop computers. Not only does it affect the display and functionality of the website on a mobile device, but Google uses it as a determining factor when indexing sites, and has a Mobile-Friendly Test page where websites can be tested.

Mobile-first web design has typically relied upon the principles of responsive design and progressive advancement. Essentially this means that the website will respond automatically to the screen size of the device it is being displayed on (responsive design), and it will use the features it is limited to on any particular browser or device, but provide additional features when they are available on other browsers or devices (progressive advancement).

If brands design for mobile devices first, with their inherent limitations of screen size, reduced bandwidth, no mouse, etc., then the website will be functional on a mobile device, and additional functionality is still available for tablets, desktops and other devices.

Website Analytics and A/B testing

It's not enough to build a website designed with customer experience in mind and then just sit back. The process is iterative and ongoing, and a brand needs to know which methodologies and practices work best, and which are appreciated the most by customers. This is accomplished through the use of website analytics, and rigorous A/B testing.

Website analytics such as Google Analytics show which pages were visited most often by customers, as well as which pages were abandoned most quickly. Analytics inform a brand about the platforms and devices that a customer uses, where they are located geographically, and how often they visit. It also shows a brand which pages are most often used as entry points to its website, as well as how often specific pages are used as exit points. This comes in handy, because if customers are leaving from a page that, for example, explains shipping fees, it's indicative that there may be an issue with the costs (or timing) associated with shipping.

A/B testing involves the creation of two pages or areas within a website, each of which utilizes different methodologies or approaches. One page might use incentives to increase sales, such as "buy one get one free" while the other may use "buy one today get $20 off your next order." By testing each approach and measuring the success and failure rate, a brand is able to accurately understand which approach is more effective.

Suzi Tripp, VP of Insights, Brooks Bell, an analytics and A/B testing consultancy, spoke with CMSWire about the need for such research. Tripp said that without strategic experimentation initiatives that uncover actionable insights, today's businesses will never understand if their digital customer experiences are meeting customer expectations. "Testing reveals consumer preferences and delivering on those desires will build a better customer experience. The benefits to the business could mean increased conversion rates or higher levels of user engagement across websites or mobile applications. The benefit to the customer is infinite," Tripp suggested.

A combination of both quantitative data, such as that gathered from Google Analytics, and qualitative data, such as can be gathered through live, moderated user testing, enables brands to better understand who their customers are and what journey they are on at any given moment on the brand's website, said Patterson. "A customer-focused web experience, driven by insight into relevant customer behaviors, can be the deciding factor in how people perceive a brand," he suggested.

Listen to the Voice of the Customer

A VoC initiative can be an effective tool for finding out what a brand's customers think about its website. VoC is a great tool to uncover the pain points in the customer journey, as well as those aspects of a brand that customers love. "Ensuring your site features a world-class customer experience means leveraging the 'voice of the customer' and following a data-driven approach across all design efforts," reiterated Patterson.

A VoC initiative doesn't just improve the effectiveness of marketing and sales copy. An Aberdeen Group report revealed that VoC initiatives have been shown to improve customer retention by up to 55%, decrease customer service costs 23% and increase revenue 48% year over year.

"When identifying ways to improve CX, we consult five levers — anxiety, mental effort, money, time and value," said Tripp. "These levers represent the most common customer pain points and when actioned upon, can create better experiences." It is challenging to understand the motivations and thought processes that customers go through as they progress through the customer journey. Quite often, getting the answer involves directly asking customers the right questions. "Customer motivations will always be shifting, so it's important for brands to work to understand customer mindset and plan their strategies accordingly," Tripp said.

Final Thoughts

A brand's web presence is typically where customers and prospective customers learn about the brand and its products. It's also where most of a customer's pain points occur in their journey, so it behooves a brand to regularly reassess its website to ensure that it is designed with exceptional customer experience in mind.

Must Carry Reforms Won't Fix the Internet, But They Could Destroy It - JURIST

Posted: 01 Feb 2021 06:37 PM PST

Jess Miers, an Internet Law & Policy Scholar, Research Assistant and third-year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law, discusses various recent "must carry" laws proposed to reform Section 230 and the damage they could do to online communities...

Last year, the twenty-six words that created the Internet were threatened by twenty-six proposals to destroy it. This year will be no different. Congress has made it clear they're willing to do something about Section 230. That "something" could look like Rep DesJarlais' (R-TN) Protecting Constitutional Rights from Online Platform Censorship Act; another "must-carry" bill that aims to punish websites for their content moderation efforts.

In its current form, Section 230 says websites (and users) are not liable for third-party content, including their decisions about third-party content. While such decisions inarguably fall squarely within the editorial protections afforded by the First Amendment, Section 230 serves as an infallible fast lane towards that inevitable result. Since Section 230's enactment, market entrants and small online communities have come to rely on that simple yet vital guarantee.

Rep. DesJarlais' bill would rescind that guarantee, creating a private right of action against any website that restricts access to "protected material." The bill defines protected material as "material that is protected under the Constitution or otherwise protected under Federal, State, or local law." This definition is confusing. What does it mean for content to be protected under state law but not under the Constitution (or vice versa)? Or, as Prof. Eric Goldman noted, if a state law "protecting" material has been ruled unconstitutional, is it still unlawful to remove the material?

Regardless, the overall point of these "must-carry" reforms remains the same: websites must-carry any and all First Amendment protected speech. It sounds great in theory, especially for zealous speech advocates. But in practice, it's a boon for online trolls. To illustrate, consider the following content moderation examples.

Content Case Study 1: Zeran v. AOL

Six days after the infamous and tragic Oklahoma City bombing, an Internet troll by the AOL screen name "Ken ZZ03" posted an appalling message to an AOL message board, offering T-Shirts and merchandise emblazoned w/slogans such as "Visit Oklahoma…It's a BLAST!!!," and "Putting the kids to bed…Oklahoma 1995," and "McVeigh for President 1996" for purchase. All AOL users had to do was "just call Ken." The post listed a phone number belonging to Ken Zeran. The post went viral after an Oklahoma radio station broadcasted the advertisement to its audience. But Ken Zeran wasn't selling horrific Oklahoma bombing T-Shirts. He wasn't even an AOL user. Ken Zeran was a local Seattle artist, in for the absolute worst day of his life. Unable to track down "Ken ZZ03," Zeran went after AOL instead.

Zeran v. AOL was the first case to ever interpret Section 230. Though technological issues significantly delayed AOL's removal of the offensive posts, the court ultimately held that according to Section 230, AOL wasn't liable for the third-party content posted on their service. The outcome was disappointing for plaintiff Ken Zeran, but imperative for the modern web.

Section 230 opponents hold Zeran out as a cautionary tale, suggesting that websites have no incentive to moderate awful content. But today, we've seen countless examples of websites stepping up their content moderation efforts. Robust Trust and Safety teams are integral for retaining users and appeasing advertisers. As a result, today's technology for quickly and effectively responding to abuse is steadily advancing.

But must-carry amendments to Section 230 would, in many ways, roll back the innovative strides websites have made, since AOL. Today, AOL might have had the technical capabilities to respond much quicker to abusive posts. But these days, the constraints on content moderation are sometimes not so much technological as they are regulatory.

In Zeran's case, T-shirts mocking a national tragedy are protected expressive speech. Though offensive and unacceptable to the majority of AOL's customers, must-carry laws would discourage removal of such posts. When it comes to doxing, the constitutionality questions aren't so clear. The First Amendment provides an exception for true threats. But is posting someone's phone number in conjunction with terrible t-shirts considered a true threat? Probably not.

Under Section 230 (and the First Amendment), none of these considerations matter. Websites can and do remove awful but lawful posts without the burden of potential liability. But under must-carry laws, websites might be inclined to preserve such content; an anti-social and disastrous outcome for online communities.

Content Case Study 2: Niche Websites

Despite the many websites and small communities that make up the worldwide web, must-carry drafters typically have their sights set on "big tech." In reality, any website that invites user-generated content-like Wikipedia-relies on content moderation to keep abusive content at bay.

For example, consider a niche website like AllTrails. AllTrails provides users with crowd-sourced suggestions for local hiking, biking, and running trails. In addition, AllTrails users can provide reviews and insights about the trails. Importantly, these insights might include whether the trail is snowed-in, dangerous for kids, heavily trafficked (for COVID-19 concerns), or whether it's easy to get lost. For many trekkers, these reviews can make or break an outing.

Imagine then, how dangerous false and malicious reviews could be for anyone relying upon them. An absurd example is the notorious Mount Everest. The AllTrails Everest page is filled with preposterous reviews, mocking the trail for being easy and kid-friendly. While these fake reviews are probably obvious to anyone visiting the site, similar reviews might not be so glaring for the more obscure trails and peaks.

Though constitutionally permissible, reviews that purposely misguide hikers could very well mean life or death. It's in AllTrails' best interest to restrict access to such reviews, but under a "must-carry" regime, doing so might be unlawful.

Content Case Study 3: The Capitol Riots

Lastly, consider the recent atrocities that took place at our Nation's Capitol last month. The riots were quickly followed by a social media "Red Wedding," as prominent services took a stand against QAnon, insurrectionists, and even the former President of the United States, Donald Trump. Though a recent Harvard study suggests mass media outlets like Fox News are primarily to blame for the rampant spread of mis/disinformation that got us here today, many point to social media as the ultimate catalyst. If that's the case, imagine if social media sites like Twitter chose not to act on January 6th, allowing Trump to incite even more violence and insurrection than we saw on the Capitol steps. What then could have occurred on Inauguration Day?

Worse, what if social media websites like Twitter couldn't act because of must-carry laws like Rep. DesJarlais' bill? As Berin Szóka noted, thanks to the First Amendment, it's almost impossible to prosecute anyone for inciting violence online. And though misinformation and disinformation are indeed awful, such content is probably legal.

In Conclusion: Must Carry Is Not the Solution

In the coming months, we're sure to see more calls and proposals to amend Section 230. Many of those proposals will likely require websites to carry constitutionally protected content, just as Rep. DesJarlais' bill intends. Such proposals, and their drafters, seem to gravely misunderstand the First Amendment, the Internet, and the critical, yet precarious balance Section 230, in its current state, strikes between protecting the public and preserving free expression online.

While must-carry proposals might sound reasonable, in practice, they're impossible to reasonably implement as long as trolls exist. Of course, there is one way a must-carry regime could work: websites shut down user-generated content. Perhaps, that's what Congress wants. Is that what you want?

Jess Miers is an Internet Law & Policy Scholar, Research Assistant and third-year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law.

Suggested citation: Jess Miers, Must Carry Reforms Won't Fix the Internet, But They Could Destroy It, JURIST – Student Commentary, February 1, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/02/jess-miers-section-230-must-carry/.

This article was prepared for publication by Tim Zubizarreta, JURIST's Managing Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at commentary@jurist.org.

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

Southern Poverty Law Center identifies 25 hate groups in Michigan in 2020 - Detroit Metro Times

Posted: 01 Feb 2021 10:26 AM PST

click to enlarge The "Million MAGA March" saw Proud Boys gather in Washington, D.C. in December. - JOHNNY SILVERCLOUD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Johnny Silvercloud / Shutterstock.com
  • The "Million MAGA March" saw Proud Boys gather in Washington, D.C. in December.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's annual "Year in Hate and Extremism" report, released Monday, the number of active hate groups in America declined for a second year.

According to the report, the SPLC identified 838 active hate groups operating across the United States in 2020 — a decrease from the 940 documented in 2019 and the record-high 1,020 in 2018.

However, this doesn't mean America is any less hateful. The authors caution this just means many organized hate groups have migrated online, a move exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, where they're more difficult to track.

The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 further points to the mainstreaming of hate groups, the authors say, as does a recent — and rare — National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that warns of a heightened threat of domestic terrorism from militia groups.

"The number of active hate groups in the SPLC census, conducted each year since 1990, is a barometer of extremism in the country, but not the only one – and the drop from the previous year does not signal a decline in extremist activity or the threat of domestic terrorism," the SPLC says in a statement.

"The insurrection at the Capitol was the culmination of years of right-wing radicalization," Susan Corke, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, says in a statement. "Most recently, it was the product of Donald Trump's support for and encouragement of radicalized individuals and groups to buy into conspiracy theories about a 'stolen election.'"

She added, "Trump may no longer be in the White House, but the white nationalist and extremist movement he emboldened and incited to violence is not going anywhere — and may grow more dangerous to our country."

According to the report, in a survey conducted in August, 29 percent of respondents said they personally know someone who believes that white people are the superior race. The poll also found that 51 percent of Americans thought the looting that occurred in several cities amid Black Lives Matter protests was a bigger problem than police violence against Black people.

The SPLC does not consider Black Lives Matter to be a hate group. According to an FAQ page on its website, "While its critics claim that Black Lives Matter's very name is anti-white, this criticism misses the point. Black lives matter because black lives have been marginalized for far too long. As BLM puts it, the movement stands for 'the simple proposition that 'black lives also matter.'"

The SPLC defines a hate group as an organization or collection of individuals that "has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. An organization does not need to have engaged in criminal conduct or have followed their speech with actual unlawful action to be labeled a hate group. We do not list individuals as hate groups, only organizations."

It adds, "The organizations on our hate group list vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity – prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines."

The SPLC's definition is similar to the FBI's criteria for hate crimes: "[A] criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity."

The SPLC defined "groups" as having members who pay dues or make donations or participate in meetings and rallies. But the organization notes that many groups decreased in-person activity because of the pandemic, and also noted a crackdown of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook kicking groups off their platforms, forcing them into secret, encrypted text message groups and other alternative forums.

The report notes the Ku Klux Klan appears to be collapsing. According to the report, last year Klan chapters shrunk to 25, down from 47 in 2019, while in the past, there were typically about 150 chapters in a given year. But in the shadow of the KKK new groups have emerged, including the Proud Boys, who vandalized historically Black churches in Washington, D.C., during a pro-Trump demonstration in December. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, the Proud Boys were "key instigators" in the Capitol riot.

"Hate groups tear at the fabric of our society and instill fear in entire communities," the SPLC says on its website. "American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other characteristics. As a nation, we've made a lot of progress, but our history of white supremacy lingers in institutional racism, stereotyping and unequal treatment of people of color and others. Hate also plays a particular role in crime and thus the existence and location of hate groups is important to law enforcement. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances and even riots. For all their 'patriotic' rhetoric, hate groups and their imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic and need to be exposed and countered. We also want to hold law enforcement accountable to combatting hate groups and taking their activity seriously."

The SPLC identified 25 hate groups in Michigan. They are:

• American Freedom Law Center
Ann Arbor

• Blood And Honour Social Club
Racist skinhead

• Christ The King Reformed Church
White Nationalist

• Church Militant/St. Michael's Media

• Folks Front/Folkish Resistance Movement

• Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance
Grand Rapids

• Great Millstone
General hate

• House Of Israel
General hate

• Israel United In Christ
2 Chapters
General hate
Detroit, Grand Rapids

• Israelite School Of Universal Practical Knowledge
General hate

• Mass Resistance

• Nation Of Islam
2 Chapters
General hate
Detroit, Grand Rapids

• National Reformation Party
White Nationalist

• National Socialist Movement

• NS Publications

• Patriot Front
White Nationalist

• Proud Boys
General hate

• Sharia Crime Stoppers
Mount Clemens

• Social Contract Press
White Nationalist

• The Base
White Nationalist

• Thomas More Law Center
Ann Arbor

• United Nuwaupians Worldwide, The/all Eyes On Egipt
General hate

• White Rabbit Radio
White Nationalist
Dearborn Heights

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