These things happen.
No matter how good the search engine, it’s not a mind reader. Only you know exactly what’s most relevant for your particular purposes.
Goggle Instant Previews helps boost the relevance of click-throughs
It would be nice to only click-through to webpages that meet your needs, and apparently Google thinks so, too. That’s why it rolled out Instant Previews, which gives you a sneak peek of your search results.
You’ve likely seen the preview tool; it’s a magnifying glass that appears next to title links in Google search results. Click on the magnifying glass, and presto, you get a graphical representation of that webpage while you’re still viewing search results. With some webpages the preview may also highlight text items relating to your search terms. Between the visual sneak peek and those text highlights, you can quickly compare all your search results to help determine which ones are best for you.
Here’s an example of results for the search query “best restaurants in Philadelphia” where I’ve highlighted the Instant Previews icon:
If you click on the magnifying glass next to the link for Le Bec Fin, you see the homepage to its website, with an announcement about the menu, plus a quote from a food critic.
FYI, Google decides if text appears in a preview. In this case, it’s a kudo from a food writer, which makes for a nice plug that can influence your decision on whether or not to visit this fancy French eatery. Right away, you have a positive impression.
Now, suppose you want to preview the other sites. Well, then your results vary. Take a look at what comes up when you preview Morimoto:
Not much to go by there. That’s because the site is built with Flash, which Instant Previews does not currently support. It doesn’t read Java applets or Silverlight, either.
Any areas Instant Previews can’t read on a website appear blank. If it can’t read any of your site, it looks like Morimoto’s. Then you’ll miss out on any potential benefit that comes from Instant Previews. And you may even forfeit business to an enterprise with a website that renders properly in preview.
Think about it: If you have several choices, and you’re deciding which to pick based solely on what you can glean from the web, and one choice instantly offers a better presentation, don’t you think you might favor the place that gives you the most confidence from the start?
Give your website an Instant Previews check-up
Google claims Instant Previews will “match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search—usually in under one-tenth of a second.”
That’s darn fast. Any website takes longer than one-tenth of a second to load. Once you get into the habit of previewing, you’re likely to keep at it. I use previews a lot, and I am surely not alone in this regard.
Which means, if you have a website, you need to pay attention to how it renders in Google Instant Previews. And not just the homepage, but all of the pages, because people can enter your site in any number of ways when coming through a search engine.
In fact, check it right now. See if there are any problems. If so, you should consider making changes to your site’s code so that it can play well with previews. Anything that diminishes your search result can hurt your click-through rate.
Can Instant Previews affect your site’s search rank?
I first found out about the potential for problems with Google Instant Previews from an article by my Twitter pal, internet marketing and SEO consultant, Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe). In his post, Google Instant Previews — Great Functionality or a Signal Back to the Mothership, Glenn suggests that Google might even use previews for its own purposes. He writes:
“It’s hard to ignore the fact that instant previews can send a powerful signal back to Google about the relevancy of the search results. For example, if a page is ranking near the top of the search results, but really shouldn’t (because it’s spammy, the page owner gamed Google’s algorithm to get there, etc.), then Google could start to identify these pages via monitoring low click-through rate via instant previews. For example, imagine a page with 175K impressions in organic search, with 3500 instant preview triggers, but no click-through. That very well could raise a red flag to Google.”
If Google does wind up utilizing Instant Previews as yet another way to determine relevance for certain keywords, that’s just one more reason to be sure your site is up to preview snuff.
More information on Google Instant Previews
For website owners:
Google has a FAQ about instant previews that can help you understand how it works and how you can adjust your website so that it renders properly in preview mode.
For the general web user:
Google provides a good explanation of instant previews, including a short video, on its official blog.
Have you used Google Instant Previews? Has it changed the way you search the web? Please share your thoughts and comments.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Most web domain names cost under $10 per year. Unless someone already owns the domain, in which case prices may vary — you‘ll need to work a deal out with the owner.
You must continue to renew your domain registration
Once you purchase a domain name, it’s yours to keep, as long as you renew it. There are exceptions — you might lose the domain if there’s some kind funky trademark dispute — but that’s a rare occurrence.
Domain registries send reminders when it’s time to renew, and you can set up an auto-renew, too. So the process is fairly foolproof.
Unless you happen to be distracted, as recently happened to the Dallas Cowboys football team, which fumbled the renewal of its website at http://www.dallascowboys.com.
Dallas Cowboys drop the ball on web domain registration
As noted in an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys neglected to renew their registration and their site went down on Sunday (as did the Cowboys, who lost to the Green Bay Packers).
On Sunday night, if you went to dallascowboys.com, you got a placeholder site that showed kids kicking a soccer ball, of all things:
Once the mistake was discovered the Cowboys quickly renewed the registration; however, it took more than a day till their site was restored. In-between, sports fans and writers were quick to call a penalty on the team.
The Cowboys have reportedly put the domain registration on auto renew to avoid future interference of this kind.
If you fail to renew you can lose your domain
The parting tip here: If you own a website, pay attention to those emails from your domain registrar. Be sure to pay the renewal bill before the expiration date.
If you don’t renew by the cut off date, the site can be taken down, the domain can be put up for sale, and someone else may snatch it up. Keep on top of this seemingly small detail and you’ll always be the master of your domain.
FYI, according to ComScore, Dallascowboys.com is the second most popular NFL website; number one being NFL.com.
Which goes to show, even in the world of web domains, there’s no such thing as being too big to fail.
The field is now open for comments. What do YOU think of the Cowboy’s failing to renew their website domain registration?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
That’s good — it means more people realize it’s important to know how well a site works for end-users.
But understanding what makes for a valid usability test? Well, that hasn’t caught on as much.
Even attractive websites have usability problems
This came to mind following a presentation I attended earlier this week, where a web design shop showed off a new site they’d built for a local non-profit corporation here in Philadelphia.
This new website is much bolder and better organized than the old one. It’s sharp, all right.
Even so (in my opinion), there were potential usability issues; especially with certain labels in the primary navigation. During the question and answer period I asked if the design company had conducted any usability testing, and if so, how that went.
People who are too close to your organization do not provide objective feedback
Turns out, there was no budget for usability testing. The non-profit organization had, however, asked employees and stakeholders what they thought of the site and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
That’s hardly surprising. As noted, the new site looks sharp. But sending out a link to a website and asking people what they think of it is not a usability test.
Also, neither employees nor stakeholders are primary end-users here. Interested parties, yes — but not the main people the site was built for. They’re insiders who know too much about the organization and its product offering to offer impartial feedback. Their opinions hold limited weight.
The true test of a website is how it works for end-users
Then too, opinions only count but so much.
Because, when you do usability testing, while you may ask participants what they think of one thing or another, the real test comes from seeing how people engage with the site. You want to know:
- Can users figure out, on their own, what everything means?
- Can users find the information they’re looking for? How do they react to that information? Does it live up to or fall short of expectations?
- Can users accomplish specific tasks? Or do they get stuck along the way?
- Are users satisfied with their overall experience with the site?
It’s test. Not of the participants, but of the site.
Even when testing real end-users, what people say they want to do, and what they wind up doing, may be different. Intent does not always match action. The only way to truly know how someone will use your website it to watch them in action.
There’s a reason it’s called usability testing
If you have the funds to hire an outside consultant who understands the ins and outs of usability testing, go for it. They’ll give you an objective read of how your site works.
If budgets are strapped, take matters into your own hands.
For pointers on how to go about it read my post: The DIY Guide to Web Usability Testing.
And remember, while it’s helpful to know what people think of your site, there’s a reason it’s called usability testing. You’re observing how well the site works when in use.
- Deni Kasrel
What are YOUR thoughts about this post? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
I’m part of a team hired to overhaul its website and we took the tour to glean information for our content strategy.
The woman who showed us around gave us good fodder for our project. We asked questions about all kinds of things and wondered what she thought of the website we’re planning to redo.
She offered a number of suggestions and said the site doesn’t have enough information.
A curious comment
Back in the office a colleague expressed surprise at that comment. The site has nearly 200 pages and is chock full of text. How can it be light on info?
I reckoned our guide meant the site doesn’t have enough useful information.
Clutter hides the good stuff
Our tour enabled us to realize this is a fabulous facility with numerous one-of-a-kind advantages.
You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the website. Someone who wants valuable insight into what this center provides, its benefits, or how it differs from other places offering similar services, would be hard-pressed to figure it all out.
Many of those details are in fact noted on the current site. That good stuff, however, is surrounded by extraneous text. It gets lost amid the clutter.
How too much can add up to nothing
Our team has more research and planning to do for this web project. We’ll have follow-up questions for our guide and will probe more deeply to determine what information she’d like to see on the site.
Meanwhile, there’s a simple lesson to be learned here.
Take a look at your website. How much of the content offers real value to users? How much is superfluous filler?
Tip: Too much needless information becomes a whole lot of nothing. Clear out the clutter.
- Deni Kasrel
So what do YOU think? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It happens all the time. Why struggle through a disorganized mess when it’s easy to hop off and head to another destination that offers the same services?
Just like in real life, clutter on the web presents lack of focus. What’s less obvious is how a visually appealing website can suffer from the same problem.
Hidden problems with hierarchy
Visual confusion occurs when too many elements on a page carry the same weight visually. There’s no clear starting point, or hierarchy. So a visitor’s eyes dart about the page and more or less fight to figure out where to land first.
In another situation, your company name, tagline and main navigation are positioned atop your homepage; where you want users to see it right away; yet this isn’t necessarily how someone experiences the page. If, for example, your logo and main navigation are muted in design as compared to a right-hand sidebar sporting an array of eye-catching graphics, the visitor’s focus is pulled to those jazzier images. Their eyes glance over the top of the page such that it may not even register. Your main message is instantly diluted.
Good-looking design does not guarantee optimum user experience
It’s like when you go into a furniture store and see a chair that’s sharp and stylish yet is uncomfortable to sit in. You pass it up and search for something that both looks and feels right.
Your website can be much the same when form trumps function. A bugaboo here is that a nicely laid-out page does not immediately present itself as problematic — it looks fine to the naked eye.
That’s where usability testing comes in. The testing reveals hidden problems that hinder your site from working at peak level.
A costly step to overlook
It perplexes me how a business can launch a website without first seeing how the site is perceived and used by target audiences. This type of testing is an undervalued and overlooked step to website success.
Meanwhile, the same company takes pains to put a lot of effort into search engine optimization of keywords, tags and other elements of coding. So great; you figure out how to rank high in search results, only to misguide those eyeballs when they reach your lovely site.
Repeat after me: Usability testing is not a luxury
There are companies that specialize in user experience. Depending on the depth and purpose of your site you may want to fork out the dough to bring in an expert. Many web developers offer this service, too. I advise at least going the latter route. Particularly when you’ve got lots of forms an/or e-commerce going on, it can be money well spent.
If purse strings don’t allow paying for usability testing, take matters into your own hands. It need not be a costly complex process.
And to prove it, my next post will offer tips on how you can conduct usability testing for low or no cost. Stay tuned.
Have you, too, noticed web sites that look good but lack focus? Do you think more sites can benefit from usability testing? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )