Happy Birthday Snapchat Discover!

I can’t believe it has been a year since drafting the post, but on the other hand it feels like I have been using Snapchat Discover for forever. To be honest, I never even used Snapchat until I started using the discover feature.

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Previous Post From April 8, 2015

Soon after its release, Snapchat discover became my go to news source for evening reading. I can select my favorite channels and swipe through all the stories for the day. I love the platform because it is highly visual and includs short copy making an easy read. I stopped watching the morning news because most of the stories would be covered on Snapchat the night before.

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Screen shot of my phone and the Snapchat Discover options visible at the top. They order themselves by the most views.

But to move on from my use of the product, a lot has changed since its release 1 year and 2 days ago. For instance, take a look at the stat below.

Snapchat gets 4 billion video views a day, according to an International Business Times report.

That is an impressive statistic, since Facebook is viewed as a social media power house. Today, more and more organizations are realizing that Snapchat Discover is an effective way of reaching young users. One of the organizations that is presented on Snapchat Discover is Cosmopolitan (and they are one of the two organizations I make sure to check everyday). Cosmopolitan has been able to create a niche for itself on Snapchat and their leaders recognize its power.

Over the past year, publishers have made it clear that their Snapchat channels have moved from experiments to core offerings. Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Discover channel generated, on average, 19 million views per month, Poynter reports. Cosmopolitan.com generates 20 million unique visitors per month, according to its website. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has said views from Snapchat make up 21 percent of his company’s total traffic. Read more.

You will also notice that there are a lot more organizations participating on Snapchat discover that were one year ago. You can see the comparison from my old post image compared to a screen shot of all the organizations participating today.

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Screen shot of the organizations participating on Snapchat discover today.

Today there are so many options that anyone can find content that interests them. But for organizations to participate, it takes quite an investment. These participating organizations must make custom content for this platform, which takes manpower. But, when the organizations can make it work it can be very beneficial, as we saw with Cosmopolitan earlier.

I doubt that one year ago I would have predicted that Snapchat Discover would have been hanging with the big dogs like Facebook. But now, I think it is safe to say that Snapchat Discover isn’t going anywhere and I am looking forward to seeing where this platform goes in the next year.

You may also like…

Here Are 6 New Snapchat Stats That Show Why Marketers Want Inside That Walled Garden

Snapchat Discover One Year Later: How 23 Media Companies Are Building Stories For Evan Spiegel

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A Little Bit About Ad Blocking & Advertising

Today there is a battle over the use of ad blocking. On one side, there are the consumers who love being able to surf the web without being interrupted by pesky ads. On the other side, we have organizations and advertisers that work together to produce content often supported by various advertisements and sponsors. So now with technology that blocks ads that support these sites how valuable are ads if consumers prefer to surf without them? And, how do consumers feel about ad blocking?

A few days ago I came across an announcement by Microsoft that it would be incorporating ad blocking into its new Edge search engine, and it seemed like the perfect time to discuss the perceptions of ad blocking. (Read more:Microsoft plans to build ad blocker into its Microsoft Edge browser).

But first, here are some ad blocking facts to give you a taste of the situation.

“A new report from Adobe and one of several startups helping publishers fight ad blocking shows that 198 million people globally are now blocking ads, up 41 percent from 2014. In the US, ad blocking grew 48 percent from last year, to 45 million users.” – Read more

“Adobe says that $21.8 billion in global ad revenue will be blocked this year.” – Read more

As you notice from the information listed above, ad blocking is on rise. And, consumers may not necessarily understand the impact of ad blocking. For most of the people I spoke to they did not necessarily know what ad blocking was. Then when I explained how it disables the ads that would normally appear in various locations as you surf the internet, they seemed to understand. They also approved of the ad blockers because they found the ads to be disruptive.

It can be a hard topic because for consumers the answer is simple, they do not want to be bothered by the ads while browsing. For organizations that rely on the income of advertisers, it is not such a simple solution. In fact, for some organizations who rely heavily on advertising they require users to disable the ad blockers before they can access their site’s content. This in theory would seem like a great way to ensure users are able to see advertising while browsing the site, but the downside is that it can be a deterrent for individuals who either do not wish to disable them or simply to not know how to do so (You can read more about this technique in this article: Forbes forces readers to turn off ad blockers, promptly serves malware)

So, for my own curiosity I decided to ask my younger sister, Emily, about her thoughts on ad blocking. I did not prep her on the interview, I just asked her questions as I videoed her candid responses. She is 18 years old and headed to college this fall. She spends a lot of her time browsing the internet and purchases items frequently from her favorite sources. You can view the full video by clicking here or by clicking the image below.

 

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Click the image to watch the full video

As you see in the interview, Emily is not a fan of ads. But it isn’t about the fact that they are present it is that they are a distraction for her. She feels that when she is trying to read an article, flashing ads become irritating. I think this information offers some important takeaways for organizations using advertisements and some suggestions for ads that might not scare away young browsers.

Suggestion 1: Do not use moving or flashing ads

I know this is difficult because the point is to grab the viewer’s attention, but it gets to a point when the ad becomes a distraction. Ads should not have quick movements, color changes, or flashing aspects to keep from distracting users.

Suggestion 2: Make ads that fit with the content on the page

If the ads look like they belong on the site and the site’s content is successful, it may be better for viewers to think the ads are a continuation of the content and may actually be more included to read them.

Suggestion 3: Create ads with useful content

Users will be more likely to accept ads that are more aligned with what they are searching for. It is even more beneficial  if the ads contain content that the user deems useful.

At the end of the day, users will be happier with ads that help them in their browsing endeavors and do not detract from them. If ads are less distracting, users may not be as inclined to utilize ad blocking.

 

 

 

 

What A Pair: Voice Recognition & Content Marketing

It seems as though more and more you see individuals using voice recognition to get the results they are looking for. Today it is a whole lot of “Siri, how do I get here?” “Siri, find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe?”  But, what does this change in search mean for content marketing?

First off, people really are using voice recognition more than you think. Most of the people in my family aren’t the most tech savvy and do not even own smart phones, but none the less this is fact about usage is accurate. You can see the stats below for yourself.

“More than half of teenagers and 40 percent of adults have performed voice search at least once a day.” – Simon Brisk of Click Intelligence on SteamFeed. Read more.
“55 percent of teens (13-18) use voice search every day whereas fifty-six percent of adults said using voice search made them feel “tech-savvy.” – Google. Read more.

I know I have been using this technology more and more frequently. The reasoning is because it is easier. Sometimes I do not have my hands free or want to type in some long phrase to find a simple answer. But, when I speak to my voice recognition service, I don’t phrase my searches the same way I would be typing them into a search engine. As you will find in the articles I outlined below, there is a general consensus that voice searches use question based phrases, which makes perfect sense because we ask the questions aloud to our devices.

After reading up on several articles about voice recognition breakthroughs, I found that there are some central takeaways.

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Visit Cyber Alert To Read More.

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Visit Business 2 Community To Read More.

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Visit Content Standard To Read More.

The articles listed above gave the advice to meld SEO tactics and common voice search phrases. Knowing how users phrase their inquiries as questions, means that for the best SEO results content marketers need to slide SEO terms into these popular question based phrases.

This tactic allows the best of both worlds with increased SEO and optimal voice recognition results. The content marketers that can best accommodate voice recognition will really excel with the growing tech savvy generations.

Another helpful tip for content marketers looking to land high on search results is making sure basic information is readily available. If you think about it, many times when we ask Siri to find something for us it is usually a more simple result like an address, business hours, or an organization’s website. To make sure your basic information is readily available create a Google My Business page that has all the vital information from website to hours of operation. This will ensure that when searchers look for common information, you have a prompt result for them.

The best approach is to place yourself in the shoes of voice recognition users. Think of what questions they may ask about your organization or about your content or subject. If you can tailor your information to align with users’ questions, the results will be greatly beneficial for both your organization and the ease of use for voice searchers. The fact is that voice search is not going anywhere as we multitask more and more, so take the time to make your content voice friendly.

Explaining Information Visually – Why You Should Consider Using SoundSlides

Do you have a story that can be told visually? Or, do you have a topic you want to discuss, but it needs some visual aids? Or maybe, you want to inform someone about a complex topic that needs to be broken down and explained. If you find yourself wanting to share information with your audience in a more engaging and immersive format, you may want to consider using a slideshow format.

“Most people respond to visual content, and they respond strongly. Marketers know that, which is why they use images, videos, and infographics online.” ~ Jayson DeMers, Founder & CEO, AudienceBloom.

Recently, I read a variety of articles stressing the importance of visual components in marketing and communication materials. With today’s technology there are a variety of options, but I am going to focus on slide shows, and even more specifically SoundSlides.

SoundSlides is a great platform for presenting material, and adding both audio and visuals. The easy-to-use setup allows users to drag in images and audio to manipulate until the ideal version is created. SoundSlides can be used for more simple projects, such as displaying a variety of photos with a song.

I read a recent article (Marketing : Slideshows Can be Commercials by Jasmine Star) that discusses the artist’s use of slideshows. Star uses the technology to develop commercials that can be shared with her clients. She focuses on engagement and wedding photography, which lends itself to making a really elegant and powerful slideshow. It is very valuable for Star to share her photos, combined with appropriate music, with her clients who then share the slideshow with friends and family passing along her name and business.

But, SoundSlides isn’t just for users that produce photos or primarily visual content. The platforms can really be used to demonstrate anything from photos to PowerPoint presentations. I personally, see a lot of benefit in the platform for explaining more complex topics. Users can develope a PowerPoint illustrating a topic, and then use audio to explain and add insight to the slides. I could see this platform being very useful for ‘how-to’ material or even instructors teaching online classes. You can have a presentation and a lecture all in one. Plus, users can pull in other images to demonstrate what is being discussed in the lecture. Users can make an explanatory slideshow for the process of washing a car, or maybe completing a new hair or nail style. The final product can be easily distributed to clients or shared via social media.

 

In addition to being able to explain and relay information, SoundSlides allows users to tell a story which is very important for content marketing. Some news organizations, such as NPR, have enlisted the use of SoundSlides to put together jounalistic stories. Many news distributors enjoy this tool because the format still relies on the storyteller to explain the slideshow of images. Also, SoundSlide’s projects are relatively easy to produce and do not have all the intricacies of video editing. In addition, a video normally takes away the need for the storyteller because it shows what the viewer needs to understand. SoundSlides is a middle ground between video and text with accompanying images.

To give an example I have attached a SoundSlides presentation below that I interviewed my siblings to reminisce about our favorite summer vacation place. It was an easy to develope project that my family really appreciated, and shared with their friends and family.

You view my SoundSlides project by clicking the image below.

Summers In Canada

Having trouble viewing: Did you know that video files may upload better on certain browsers? If you are having trouble I would recommend using Google Chrome. Sometimes Adobe Flash updates can be finicky when attempting to watch a video

How the Project was Created:

  1. I recorded an audio clip of my fondest memories of Canada. I then asked my brother and sister to do the same.
  2. I took the three audio files and placed them into Adobe Audition, where I combined and edited them all. I also included a forest noise audio file to be heard in the background. After fully editing the audio, I exported it as an MP3 file format so it is compatible with SoundSlides.
  3. Next, I gathered up all the photos I could find of my siblings and I, while in Canada along with other miscellaneous pictures of Canada. I then scanned all the pictures that I didn’t have on digital file and placed them into a folder on my computer. Next, I added my digital photos as well. When working with digital photos make sure they are saved as JPEG file format to ensure compatibility with SoundSlides.
  4. For my purposes I used a trial version of the software. It was easy to download and install on my laptop. Once installed I selected Create a Project, which you can see in the screen shot below.Soundslides
  5. I then uploaded my MP3 file. Next, I uploaded my folder of pictures I intended to use. Next is the labor intensive part. I had to match up the audio with the video which included endless length and arrangement adjustments.

The result was a sentimental slideshow that my family loved. It is a really easy to use platform, and I encourage you to experiment and see how you can leverage it in your communication materials.

You may also like…

5 Reasons to Add Slideshows to Your Content Marketing Campaign – and How to Do It Right

Soundslides: Journalists’ Toolkit

How Virtual Reality Is Turning The Tables For Advertising

In today’s advanced environment, it seems as though technology can do almost anything. This year there have been more and more commercials promoting a peculiar, goggle-like contraption that phones snap into. Or, maybe you witnessed someone making their own cardboard goggle-like set. If you don’t recognize the gadget, it is a virtual reality device. If you are familiar with the gadget, you may want to familiarize yourself with the major impact it is making on the advertising industry.

What Does It Mean To Be Considered Virtual Reality?

To be fair I am new at the realm of virtual reality. My slight exposure comes from the endless Samsung commercials that cropped up over the holidays. I understood what the devices were, but I didn’t really see them actually demonstrating their use. Some of us may not even know what they are, which is understandable, because the device is relatively new (we don’t see many being advertised to the general audience). It may not seem like virtual reality should be new  because it has been a thought for so long, but for many of us it is new. We never before had the option to participate in virtual reality activities in the comfort of our home. For many of us, the closest thing we would have experienced would be advanced video games. Plus, this thought that virtual reality and video games are synonymous is slowly dissolving. Today, virtual reality is possible for anyone with a cell phone. You don’t even need to buy a special device, the internet is littered with ‘how-to’s’ and templates for building your own device with card board.

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Samsung’s The Gear VR – Visit Site

But does strapping a device to your face provide you with virtual reality? The answer is no. In an article titled How Virtual Reality Works by Jonathan Strickland, I learned the in’s and out’s of VR including its history, developments, and terms. Strickland also explains the elements necessary for content to be considered VR.

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How Virtual Reality Works – Visit Site

VR Requirements:

  1. The content must have 3D qualities
  2. The content must be responsive to the users actions/responses

So, number one is pretty self explanatory. You expect to view 3D content while engulfed in a VR experience. The second however seems a bit trickier. When a user is in a VR environment the simulation must feed off of their actions and movements. So, if you look to the left, the content should respond and you should move left. The technology feeds off of the user, which is an essential part, because if the user does not feel like they are in control then the VR quality is low. The best VR can take users on a journey where they forget that they are just sitting on a couch with a box strapped to their head. This concept is referred to as immersion. The better the immersion – the better the VR.

How Will VR Impact Advertising In 2016?

So now that we know a bit about VR it’s time to understand how this new technology will impact advertising. To learn more about this topic I read an article titled What Does Virtual Reality Mean For Adverting In 2016, by Anne Cassidy, the Guardian.

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What Does Virtual Reality Mean For Advertising In 2016? – Visit Site

The article had some really great insight. To my surprise, since the mainstream technology is so new, there are many large name organizations taking part. And, I know you may be sitting there thinking, “oh yay interactive advertisements,” but that isn’t necessarily what is happening. You see, to be successful in this medium organizations have to be creative and make interactive content that users seek out. You cannot just make a 3D commercial and call it a day. One of the great examples used in the article is a VR creation for Merrell hiking boots. Merrell’s creation showcased a person hiking in a VR environment and crossing a wooden bridge (Read more about the campaign through AdWeek’s coverage). If you go to Ad Week’s coverage, you can see some of the footage of the content. The concept is really impressive, and really quite terrifying. To be able to put yourself on a rickety bridge on a mountain is pretty intense, which is why it gained so much attention for Merrell.

The key difference is that users don’t want to just see demos they want to be exposed to the uniqueness of the brand through engaging experiences. This new advertising avenue really takes engagement to the next level. In the coming months we will see many organizations releasing their VR technology and making a go at VR content. We are really in the phase of development and experimentation, but creativity, uniqueness and keeping the user in mind will remain top goals.

You may also like:

Virtual Reality

The Good and the Bad of Escaping to Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality: The Next Big Advertising Medium Is Here

Virtual Reality: Advertising’s Next Big Thing?

Unlocking The Key To Great Digital Design (Hint: It’s Simplicity)

HarnessingThe Power Of SImple Web Design

Recently there have been quite a few articles discussing simple web design and how it appeals to Millennials. When I first wanted to write about simplistic web design, I did not even consider the factor of appealing to Millennials. I just assumed most people wanted websites that were less crowded and easier to use.

Then as I read and thought about the Millennials in my life and my own preferences as a Millennial, it made sense. Other articles (See The Principles of Simplicity by ) said that Millennials have so much content and information dumped on them that it can be difficult to decipher meaning and take the appropriate action.

I can certainly attest to this. Having become immersed in websites, blogs, and apps I appreciate a simple and user-friendly interface. There is nothing more frustrating to me than not being able to find what I am looking for, or the next step in the process. A key player in this type of thinking is time.

As Millennials go through their days and multitask, their favorite applications and online resources become those that save time or are easy to use. For instance, it is tax season and like the good American I am I had to file my taxes. I had a choice in this process of whether to use an accountant or do it myself. And, if I chose to do it myself I had even more options between various tax services. I chose TurboTax, and I was very impressed by the results. The usability was exceptional, and the design was so simple it was striking to me. I still don’t love doing taxes, but my online experience with the process was extremely positive.

If you think about it, taxes are a complex and very important task. Much more complex than just buying a pair of shoes, so the organization and aesthetic really struck me as something to strive for, and to make processes easy as possible for users.

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The main key to Millennials is simply simplicity. Make processes easy and save them time, and they will appreciate your service.

But, getting to the point of ultimate simplicity can be difficult, so here are some general guidelines to follow to get you on your way to winning over Millennials with a simple design.

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Understand Your User

Many how-to sites want to suggest more aesthetic based fundamentals like color scheme and so forth, but the real root of an effective design is understanding your user and their purpose on your website. Some of the best advice I received while reading up on this topic was to put myself in the position of the user, and complete the possible actions and make sure they are as succinct and simple as possible. As the designer, place yourself in the shoes of your user for each task, and brainstorm what questions or issues might occur for that user. And, if you are too close to the product, have someone new try out your tasks and see what feedback they can provide to optimize your users’ experience.

Don’t Over Do It

Today it can be tempting to demonstrate all the latest functionality and design elements, but please don’t. Just find out what works for you and own it. There is nothing more distressing than seeing an overcrowded site with endless features that seem useful, but really just get in the way of the end goal. This concept can also be applied to the website’s content, organization and design.

Color

Let’s discuss color as an example. Yes, color is beautiful and it seems like adding a wonderful color scheme would be ideal, but really it isn’t. It is much more effective if you use a neutral color scale and have a color or two to highlight important features. Many sights use color to highlight links, headings, or other areas of emphasis.

White Space

White space is your friend! There is nothing that makes a website look more clean and crisp than an adequate amount of white space. Don’t try and cram as much information as possible into your given space. Let your audience rest and have a nice avenue to follow that isn’t jumbled up and confusing.

Be Bold

This part may seem confusing. You may be thinking, how can I be bold and still be simple? But I promise, it can be done.

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As Curt Ziegler describes in the article Less is More: Fundamentals of Minimalist Web Design, the Finch website is a perfect example of the properties of simple and bold coexisting. It can be hard to execute for your own website, so the best advice I can give is to look at other examples of the many articles that list the “top” designs for websites.

Organize & Downsize

This can be hard for websites boasting a lot of content and complex material, but even baby steps make a difference. To improve user experience it is important to organize the material and content on the website as best as possible. Instead of having 20 menu options, try ten. See what information can be reorganized by using different categories. Part of organizing means downsizing. You may have 30 pages dedicated to describing you product and services, but it can be more efficient to have 10 really well organized pages. Going back to the first tip, think about your user. If the content doesn’t directly answer questions about their purpose on the site or aid in any way, it may not be wise to include it. Don’t think of your website as a place to just dump all the information anyone may want to know about your product or service. Think of it as an organized representation that has a direct purpose.

Sources:

The Design Principles of Simplicity by Oleg Karapuzov and Dariia Getmanchuk

The 10 Golden Rules of Simple, Clean Design by Addison Duvall

How to Create a Minimalist Website from Scratch

Taking the Occam Razor Approach to Design by Addison Duvall

AWWWards, Mininal Websites

30 Bold and Clean Web Designs for Inspiration by Stephanie Irvine

 

 

Improve Your Navigation. Improve Your Website.

Today eCommerce is essential, and for those of us who want to keep our online presence thriving our websites must be in tip-top shape. You may be sitting there thinking that your site is sitting pretty, but do you really know what your audience experiences while trying to meander through your site?

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In a recent article, I read on the website CIO, I learned about some helpful ways to improve website navigation and design. In the article (13 Simple Tips for Improving Your Web Design), Jennifer Lonoff Schiff explains to readers that poor navigation can be the reason your viewers are leaving your website.

But as I was reading the 13 rules I couldn’t help but feel that one rule in particular needed more emphasis than the others, and that is intuitive navigation.

Intuitive Navigation Is King

Intuitive navigation is listed as the second tip in CIO’s article, but really it should be number one. I was surprised because intuitive navigation is an essential part of the user’s experience. If users cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will get frustrated and abandon the site. So I am diving deeper into this essential website improvement tip.

Intuitive web design means that users have the most optimal experience possible while traveling a website. While designing a website, you want to try and predict the various reasons visitors explore your website and the tasks your visitors will be completing. It helps to take a step back and pretend that you are new to the site. You want to make sure that everything the user tries to accomplish is effortless and occurs without barriers. It can be hard to describe intuitive design because it isn’t one design or another, or really visible at all. It just means that your user can get from point A to point B without any obvious issues. One of the most important tips for intuitive design is making sure action items are very visible.

An Example

Let’s say on your website users can purchase a variety of handmade scarfs. For optimal user experience, it would be easy for users to view any and all of your scarves, be able to search and filter, and eventually make a successful purchase. So what if while shopping for a scarf someone wants to read a review? Do they have to then leave your website? Will they then find another seller?  To avoid this particular barrier it would be ideal to include reviews on your site for your consumers. This is just one tiny example, and the recommendations can be different for every site depending on the user experience.

An important part of many websites is the checkout or purchase process. What happens once your consumer decides he or she wants to buy your product? When your user is ready to purchase he or she should easily be able to select the merchandise and proceed to check out. This is a delicate process and you want to make sure any and all questions are answered along the way so that the purchaser doesn’t have to leave the page or feel uncomfortable in the purchase. This means predicting any issues or questions your purchasers may have and answering them along the way.

The End Goal?

The end goal of this process has everything to do with the concept of “current knowledge” vs. “target knowledge.” This means that if your site has successful navigation, users will be able to get to your target knowledge (e.g. buying a bike) with their current knowledge. With only  a simple goal in mind, any user should be able to get to the end goal without a hitch. This successful process is called bridging the knowledge gap.

So How, You Ask?

An article (Intuitive Web Design: How to Make Your Website Intuitive to Use) on ConversionXL, gives some important insight.

There are two main approaches: field studies or observation usability tests.

  1. Field studies are when you observe how your audience naturally uses the website without any interaction on your part. You can gain valuable information about how users perceive your content and navigation. You may realize through this process that you are missing a step or you aren’t thinking through the process as a new user.
  2. Observation usability tests are where you observe users while instructing them on specific tasks to complete. In this approach, you can monitor exactly how an individual would work his or her way through finding a specific item or purchasing a product. You may realize new improvements to streamline user experience with the guidance of some new users.

In Summary…

Intuitive navigation is much more of a strategic process then it is a technological process. And, intuitive design isn’t visible to the user, it is experienced by the user. So, take some time today and evaluate your website. Do you think your users are able to complete all their tasks efficiently? Are there any barriers as your users navigate through your site? Do they get lost at any point? It is important to know the answers to these and many more questions. By keeping your user experience top priority, great web design will follow.

Some Other Tips

  1. Have a your logo present on each page and have it linked to your homepage.
  2. Always have a contact option in your top navigation and the footer.
  3. Have consisteny design
  4. Make sure your links stand out

For the complete list of tips visit the ConversionXL’s complete article by clicking here.

You may also like…

6 Easy Ways To Improve Your Site’s Navigation

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Simple Ways To Improve Your Site Navigation (even if you’re not super techy)

Easy Ways to Improve Your Website Navigation

The Key Components of a User-Friendly Website Navigation