Friday, July 29, 2016

The Importance of Image Science in Marketing

With almost two billion images now uploaded across the internet daily, visual content is king. But brand owners, eager to tap into image-based user-generated content (UGC) to better connect with their audiences, are struggling. For though they may be a potential gold mine, online images are, in many cases, a data blind spot.

It's hard to argue with the power of the visual online. The ubiquity of the smartphone, and now the rise and rise of image-based social media such as Pinterest and Instagram -- on which more than 40 billion images have been posted since launch -- has revolutionized the internet, which is now evolving into what some call the "visual web." Countless eye tracking studies, meanwhile, show that internet users now focus more energy and attention on visuals than anything else.

However, when bombarded with images, consumers quickly ignore those without relevance or impact, prioritizing their attention instead to visual content that is authentic and not staged. Which is why a growing number of brand owners now want to make use of real rather than commissioned images so they can engage more deeply with their audiences and better connect.

But brand owners have a problem. An estimated 80 percent of images relevant to a brand don't have relevant accompanying text, which makes them impossible to track using traditional social listening tools. They can't find the images they could use and they can't take advantage of the global photo sharing phenomenon at scale. This is why 84 percent of U.S. marketers think there is a need for advancements in image-recognition technology to help assess the context of an image without text, according to a recent survey.

Help is at hand, however, and from an unexpected source: software engineers that build sophisticated computer vision programmes that can track and identify millions of different images online recognising everything from a person's facial features to everyday objects, locations, and even human emotions. Current estimates suggest the global image recognition market will be worth $33.3 billion by 2019.

Already, "in-image" advertising exists that allows advertisers to automatically place relevant digital ads within editorial images using image recognition. Crucial to this is relevancy. Technology can detect, for example, an image of a person running and insert an ad from a sports manufacturer.
In-image advertising's power lies in its ability to blend in without detracting from the content the consumer is there to see. And it is already delivering results with viewability rates of up to 80 percent more than that achieved by traditional digital ads

The work of "image scientists" is opening up new opportunities for content publishers to monetise editorial images on their platforms for the very first time. And they are offering brand owners premium inventory they've never before been able to access.

Looking ahead, as the visual web evolves further -- as it surely will -- and images increasingly replace words, the role "image science" plays in marketing will only grow, with software making it possible for brands not only to analyze what people are writing about them, but to see and understand how consumers truly feel about them.

Reading between the lines -- and delving into what hasn't been written next to an image, but what is actually in that image -- will provide for brand owners new and rich data about their consumers. And for a brand owner in today's highly competitive marketplace, surely, this depth of nuanced, actionable insight will be as good as any proverbial pot of gold.

 - Greg Pritchard, iMedia

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Quick website fixes to drive more conversions

Marketers must rethink content if their website has a high bounce rate and doesn't drive conversions. Review content to make sure it's centered on the customer, make lead generation forms easy to use, speed up the checkout process, and include offers in calls to action.

This may sound shocking, but your company may have more than enough traffic on your website to achieve your business goals. But if you have a leaky website, you might never meet those goals. Prospects and customers are visiting your site, but very few are taking the next step to do business with you.

How to Tell If You Have a Leaky Website

To determine if you have the symptoms of a leaky website, review your web analytic reports that track visitor behavior and look for the following issues:
  • Your conversion rate is low. Your conversion rate is the measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take action and reach out to you. If your conversion rate is low (or nonexistent), your website definitely has leaks.
  • Your bounce rate is high. Your bounce rate measures the number of people that arrive at one of your website pages and then leave without doing anything. This is a good indicator of whether your website meets the needs of visitors or if they think it is a complete waste of time. If your bounce rate is relatively low (under 25 percent), then your website is doing its job effectively leading prospects to the next step. If your bounce rate is high (more than 40 percent), you have a leaky website.

How to Plug the Leaks

If your website is leaky, don’t fret. The following tips will help you plug the leaks and optimize your site for more leads and sales.
  • Make sure your content is customer-focused. Prospects are not visiting your website to kill time; they are there to find a solution or solve a problem. Talk less about you and your company and more about your customers’ needs and concerns. If your content is customer-focused, prospects will stick around and ask for more.
  • Don’t rely on your ‘contact us’ page. Do you want to turn your website into a lead generation machine? Then stop relying on your ‘contact us’ page as the sole method for prospects to contact you. Offer visitors easy access to contact information on every page of your website in a consistent location. You will be amazed at how many more prospects will reach out to you if you invite them to do so.
  • Make an offer they can’t refuse. Now, take it one step further by supplementing your contact information with relevant calls to action that will compel your site visitors to respond. Think about the audiences you are trying to attract, as well as the various stages of the buying process they may be in. To attract individuals ready to buy, offer product specials, quote request forms, salesperson consultations and online ordering. Offer softer calls to action for the tire kickers and early-stage buyers to help you build a marketing database. Examples of soft calls to action include downloadable how-to guides, whitepapers, "ask the expert" question submission and e-newsletter subscriptions.
  • Simplify your lead generation forms. Are your lead generation forms as daunting as a tax return? If so, simplify these forms immediately. Don’t try to qualify prospects with your online forms – that’s the salesperson’s job. The more fields you require to be filled out, the fewer people you will hear from. Ask only for the most basic information a salesperson will need to reach out to this prospect and begin the relationship. Also, make sure these forms get to a knowledgeable salesperson immediately for follow-up. The best time to follow up with a prospect is when they are still browsing your website.
  • Shorten your checkout process. If you sell products online, take a close look at your checkout process to identify leaks. How many customers that add an item to their shopping cart actually complete the sale? If you are losing many of these valuable customers, look for opportunities to simplify your checkout process: cut the number of clicks required to complete the sale, communicate shipping costs early, offer a progress meter to let people know where they are in the process and offer alternative (offline) ways to order.
  • Make your phone number obvious. According to our research, people are at least as likely, if not more likely, to pick up the phone and call when they are browsing a company’s website. To boost the number of inquiries you receive, don’t make your visitors hunt for your number. Make your phone number one of the prominent calls to action on every page. In addition, I recommend using a unique toll-free number on your website so you can accurately track the number of calls you receive from website visitors.

 (Courtesy of SVM)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dear Congress, President and Other Legislators: 10 Ways To Stop Gun Violence

There are many ways that would help reduce the gun violence in this country. Here are 10 that we can think of:

1. Ban gun shows - they are unregulated, they don't have waiting periods, they mostly sell assualt rifles, allow straw purchases and sell 50 caliber weapons. In addition, they are major trafficking channel (according to the ATFB). The guns for Columbine, Orland, 101 California and the 2010 Pentagon shooting all purchased at gun shows.

2. Ban .50 caliber weapons. There is no logical reason for these weapons to exist outside of the military.

3. Make the capacity of any and all guns be no more than 6 rounds at a time. Without the capacity, you slow down any mass shootings. Magazines that are only 6 rounds would avoid the number of people killed, and allow time to escape or take down a killer. There is no logical reason a normal citizen needs hundreds of rounds for anything.

4. Increase the price of ammunition by at least ten fold. We cannot ban guns or get rid of them at this point, but we can make it much more difficult to use them for mass shootings and violence.

5. Require a nation-wide waiting period of 30 days. Right now, it's up to the state to regulate and many states do not have waiting periods. Florida's is only 3 days.

6. If you've ever been interviewed by the FBI because you were suspected of terrorist ties or you are friends with a known terrorist, or are a known terrorist sympathizer, deny gun purchases. Allow a person to clear their name later through other channels.

7. Ban all assault rifles / High-Capacity guns. There is no reason outside of the military or special police agencies to posess these guns.

8. Guns are NOT a sport. It's time to make it clear, with laws, that guns are only for certain purposes, and "fun" is not one of them.

9. Ban concealed carry for regular citizens (non-police, non-military, non-security).

10. Get rid of lobbying in this country, so organizations like the NRA cannot have as much power as they do.

Friday, May 13, 2016

8 ways to avoid designing like a newbie

Even the best designers can look like novices when they use unreadable fonts, keep calls-to-action the same color as other elements and hide clickable elements in plain sight. This list also includes icons, header text usage, alignment and more.

Beginner web designers and developers frequently look at their creations and say things like “this kind of stinks, but I don’t know why!” or “this looks like the zombified version of a good design…”. Even if you have read a design theory book or two, it can be tough to create an entire seamless design at first. Heck, it can even be tough to create even one coherent section of a seamless design.
You can use a more scientific approach to working out what is going wrong with your design.

Although you may feel that your design is so bad that it is beyond saving, it may only be a few lines of CSS or a couple of tweaks away from becoming respectable. This post outlines eight things that commonly go wrong, and eight little tricks that will magically help to improve your design.

1. Font-Weight

Thin fonts are very popular in 2016. But they do carry one major risk – eye strain. Eye strain occurs when the user has a hard time reading the content on your site, so the user must focus further to read it. This will exhaust the user, and make them want to leave your site. It will also force them to devote their energy to reading the text, as opposed to thinking about what it is saying. Since thin fonts can be hard to distinguish, they may increase eye strain for your user.

Check out this example from Google Fonts. Lato font with a font-weight of 100 is incredibly difficult to read, even with the color contrast of black text on a white background. On the other end of the spectrum, with a font-weight of 900 is also a challenge to read. The bolder letters make it difficult to distinguish their differences.

For a body font, i.e. one that you expect people to read more than one bullet point at a time, you will want to use a font-weight of around 400. This will create the least amount of eye-strain. Here is where the challenge comes in – if a user looks at your design, they will likely not say “your font-weight is wrong.” They will probably say, “this is hard to read.” It is up to you to interpret that as, “I need to check the font-weight!”.

2. Color Contrast

Users usually scan websites on their first visit. This is because it is challenging to read every point, and your user would like to quickly work out if the site will solve their problems or not. Let’s say you are designing an interface like a landing page, and you would like users to find the button they need to click to go to the next page, color contrast is an excellent way to help the user quickly discover the right button, and pick it out from other options on the page.

Here is a great example from this guide to conversion optimization. You can clearly see that the orange-colored button stands out. This makes the user’s life much easier. The suggested next step jumps off the page!

3. Use of Icons

Why do resources like Font Awesome exist? Can’t people just read the darn text without a cute little icon? Well yes, they could. But, a text-only interface makes the user’s life much more challenging. If they need to read the text and wonder if it means what they think it means, that is far too much effort to ask from a user. If you add an icon to your text, it adds a little more clarification for what the text means.

This is Font Awesome’s “Shopping Bag” icon. Now imagine this next to the text “Checkout” in an eCommerce site. The user will know exactly what will happen next, and that is what you want. They know it will lead to a familiar checkout process.

Here is an example from The icons make it clear that these are navigation options, and not something else. They fulfill a common pattern and let you know that they are clickable. Their “Create an Account” button could use a little more color, though!

4. Clear Headers and Body Text

When you need to explain what your site does, the content can get long-winded. If a user is on your site for the first time, they may not want to read too much to get the point. This is why you should have 3-7 word headers over any full sentence or explanation. These are perfect for scanning. The user can jump around the page, read the header, and quickly decide if they want to read the paragraph to learn more.

Here is an example from the first version of Facebook. This is not user-friendly. The first header, “[Welcome to Thefacebook]”, should instead quickly describe what the site does. The next two sentences are slightly unrelated and just sit there. They could use a Harvard logo to make it easier to read! The bullets are the one good part of the design since those are easy to understand. But they are in the middle of a bunch of vaguely-related statements.

Lumosity does a great job with this. They have a brief summary header that’s followed by an explanation. Since they have many products to explain, there are a bunch of similar sections on their site. This makes the user’s job so much easier because they can bounce around the page. The header and body are well-distinguished with font-size and color. The line-height on the paragraph makes it easy to read.

5. Make Clickable Elements Obvious

If you want somebody to complete an action, you need to make it clear that an element is clickable! Common clickable items on sites include links, buttons and menu items. Links usually have a blue color, and some sort of underline. Buttons have a significant color contrast to the rest of the page, and may also change their CSS on hover or on click. Menu items may have an icon next to them, and likely highlight when the user hovers over them. These are common constructs that the user expects.

Above is an early version of LinkedIn. There are many prominent links on the site, but what about buttons or menu items? The top line could be menu items, but only “Profile” and “Search” give the user a clear idea on where these menu items will take them. If the functionality of the buttons is instead included in links, the user needs to read those entire paragraphs to work out what they can do! This makes it hard to figure out how the site might benefit the user.

6. Colors That Agree

The human brain desires colors that bring further clarity and order to a site. If you have too many similar colors, the user will need to strain to distinguish between them. Extra strain will make the user’s brain work harder. If you have too many colors that clash with each other, the user’s brain will be overwhelmed by trying to decipher all the different meanings. So, you need color balance. Easier said than done.

Above is an early version of Twitter. The color that is out of place is immediately apparent - the green background in the signup form. This quickly draws the user’s attention, and prevent them from actually reading the part of the page that explains the site.

Lumosity does a great job with color. They have white, orange, and teal in this particular sections, and they flow smoothly. If you want to build your own color palette, I highly recommend Adobe Color.

7. Information Consistency

Each time you present a piece of content, it should have the same layout. If you are trying to explain to a user how many connections they have on the site, then the connections content should have a similar format, color, and proximity to related pieces of information. Also, pieces of content that are different but fulfill a similar role on the site should stay consistent. For example, every time you have instructions, they should be oriented on the same part of the page, with the same font and same size.

ESPN has a very consistent structure throughout their pages, across all sports. The menu is on the far left, the list of news stories is adjacent to that, and the stories themselves are presented as an infinite scroll in the middle. This means that as you choose between leagues, teams, and sports, you know exactly where to find the relevant info.

8. Alignment

If you want your user to read as much information as possible on your page, you want to make each piece of information as digestible as possible. This is where alignment comes into play. Alignment, usually either left or center-aligned, determines where the user’s eye should begin. Here are two versions of Reddit, one left-aligned and one center-aligned.

Scanning the variety of links is a huge part of Reddit. In the first example, the real Reddit site, the user’s eye immediately starts at the point where the image meets the link title. They can then quickly scroll down the page and read all the titles and pictures to determine which are worth checking out.

The center-aligned version creates much more stress for the user. The image seems unrelated to the content of the post, and as the user attempts to scan down the page, their eye must bounce around to the beginning of each link title. This small amount of stress adds up quickly. Now imagine that the user is browsing a bunch of pages on your site and needs to understand the design of each page quickly, you will want to make it as easy as possible to move through the content.


When you break your code, you will get an error message, or your output will be clearly wrong. But with design, fixes can be much less clear. If you think about these methods, you will at least have a process to follow when strange design problems pop up. If you go through this process with a few of your site designs, it will quickly become embedded in your brain and an automatic part of your building process!

The company behind WordPress purchases .blog domain rights

Today the company behind, Automattic, revealed that it had quietly acquired the rights to run the “.blog” domain last year for a hefty $19 million. So we hopped on the phone with WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg to hear why he believes .blog was worth the price — and to find out his plan for .blog domains.

VB: So why was .blog worth $19 million?

Matt Mullenweg: Well, the domain business is actually a really good business because you can sell a domain and people use it and keep it forever. So, if you look at like a Verisign, or people who have TLDs, it’s actually an incredible business.

We really wanted .blog to be open, and some of the other applications for .blog were closed, including Google — so, let’s say for example, only Blogger could have a .blog domain. And we thought that .blog should be open to everyone, even if they’re not using WordPress.
I gotta be honest though, it was a stressful auction.

VB: What role did you play versus the company you partnered with, Primer Nivel?

MM: It was basically a way to bid without anyone knowing it was us.

VB: Is there a reason why you didn’t want people to know it was you?

MM: We thought it could be a lot more than $19 million, actually … Basically, there are a bunch of new TLDs, and .blog, I think, is one of the best ones out there. But there could be an incentive for other bidders if they knew it was us, and we’d just raised funding, that they would try to drive the price up. It was right after we did our $160 million round.

VB: Most TLDs — it’s still early days — but they don’t seem to have caught on. What’s your plan to make sure .blog is as legitimate as .com? What’s the recipe for making that catch on, aside from your involvement?

MM: So, I think .blog is pretty interesting, as compared to other TLDs, because a blog is something a lot of people use already. So, while it’d be difficult to imagine, let’s say, Dropbox using a .xyz domain, they already have a subdomain. So you could imagine they could move that to Or, another company using it. Because companies use blog as a subdirectory and a subdomain, I think that the domain is interesting.

The second reason I think we can do a lot better than everyone else is that we obviously run a very large blogging service. We sell a lot of domains. And so, for the many tens of thousands of people who sign up for everyday, we can now offer them a name — a domain on the Internet, which is really the starting point of the independent Web. If you think about it, a domain is one of these things that you can have and no one can take from you. It’s like owning property. And part of my belief in the independent Web is I want everyone to have a domain.

VB: Will .blog be the default for Is it something you’re going to push more than “.com”?

MM: In terms of whether we recommend it over .com or not, I think it really just depends on the name. If you could have, instead of, you obviously want the better domain. And I think where a few years ago people were kind of weirded by these alternative domains, now you’re actually starting to see them a lot more — like Alphabet using them.

VB: That was a godsend for whoever bought .xyz

MM: That’s probably the best use of .xyz I’ve seen. But like I said, you can think of many, many names .blog. Even something like a VentureBeat could be

Automattic says it plans on opening up .blog to everyone by the end of the year. More on that here.

(Courtesy of VentureBeat)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why social media isn't right for all small businesses

3 signs your small business should forego social media, and what to do instead

Wait -- you thought every business needs a social media presence? Columnist Jordan Kasteler explains why being on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube may not be the right answer for a small business.  

If you’re a small business owner, the title of this article may not sit well with you. After all, there’s no shortage of online articles and blog posts insisting that it’s necessary for businesses of all sizes to maintain a social media presence.

Admittedly, having a professionally crafted social media presence does benefit many large companies worldwide. Social media, when done right, can give a brand or a public figure an effective “voice” and let their personality shine. (Even Bernie Sanders can attest to social media’s branding abilities.)

Effective social media practices also can make a company more visible, as well as build trust with its consumers.

However, all this being said, a huge problem exists for small businesses that spend time and effort on social media: The return on investment is often lacking.

Countless small businesses don’t have the ability to do social media right. Is yours one of them? Here are three signs that you need to be getting out of the social media arena:

1. Your business doesn’t have the money to do social media right

How much money does your small business have available for social media? A hundred dollars per month? $200 per month? $300 per month? If so, you’ll be disappointed to know that these budgets won’t make a dent in your return on investment.

To get the biggest social media ROI, you’ll need to spend more like $200 or $300 per day. Where does all that money go? A few expensive elements of a successful social media presence include:

Does your business create regular, visually appealing content (e.g., blogging, videos, pics, infographics and so on)? And if so, is it interesting, useful and beneficial to your audience?

If your answer is yes, then you’re probably spending good money for such content — paying either a social media agency or in-house writers and designers to create it.

Monitoring tools
 Without spending a lot of time and money on monitoring your followers’ conversations and engaging with them, your business isn’t being “social” with your media. Even if you do have time to engage with people online, is your small business prepared to invest in social media monitoring tools?

Pay to play
 Even if you do spend money on creating world-class videos, photography and engaging copy, your spending spree isn’t done yet. The undeniable truth is that without spending some money on advertising with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others, you are just not going to be effective on social media.

Visibility for your business won’t be there without paying for it. Organic reach no longer exists the way it once did.

As Hill Holliday’s Mike Proulx said in Advertising Age:
Remember when social media used to be called unpaid media? Those days are over. Marketing on social networks today requires a shift in mindset — one that considers social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, as any other ad-supported media properties.

They have targetable mass audiences that you can reach if you’re willing to allocate a chunk of your media budget. Fact: You will need to spend more money in social media than you have in the past.

2. Your business doesn’t have a social media strategy

For some reason, many small business owners are surprised to learn just how important a social media strategy is. It’s no less important than strategies have ever been throughout the history of marketing.

A social media strategy spells out the objectives for your social media, as well as the details of how those objectives will be reached.

Shockingly, there are even large companies out there that have not established clear objectives for their social media. And it’s no secret that without objectives, nothing gets measured.

A social media strategy hashes out which social platforms a business should attract people to, and even the right timing for attracting people to a social media account.

For example, should a particular business include social media buttons on the sales pages of its website? Or is it better not to direct prospects to a company Facebook page until after the prospect has subscribed to an email list or purchased a product?

3. Your business doesn’t have the staff needed to support social media

Small businesses are usually interested in landing new customers. Unfortunately, however, the norm is to ignore new (and even existing!) customers on social media.

The small business environment is full of companies that learn the hard way that you need employees dedicated to engaging new customers and prospects in social media conversations. When was the last time you tweeted or engaged with someone on your social media? Last week? Last month? Last year? Such negligence does more harm than good.

Properly maintaining a social media account is a full-time job. So before you set up an account, ask yourself if you have sufficient people power to support it.

You also need the right employees to support it. How many of your employees have the social savvy and tact needed to effectively use hashtags, understand consumer needs as they engage, know the art of diffusing angry interactions online and so on?

But without social media, can I still market my business?

Of course you can. Here are just a few ways small businesses find new clients and customers without breaking their banks and wasting their time on social media:

Email marketing
Rather than shelling out ungodly amounts of money for social media likes, followers and fans, consider the value of collecting email addresses instead.

This way, you can maintain great relationships with your customers, email them discounts and coupons, send thank-you notes, offer them valuable information or helpful tips, and anything else that helps build loyalty and trust.

Find well-read blogs that your audience is likely to read — preferably, blogs that are related to your product, service or industry. Contact these blogs with a pitch and an introduction about yourself: You’re a business owner in their industry, and you have a lot of expertise you’d love to share with their readers.

Offer a valuable blog post or two that they’d like to feature on their blogs. Ask them if you can mention your business in the blog posts, as well as your product or services.
Some of these well-read blogs may even be willing to offer giveaway contests featuring one of your products. They’ll probably also be willing to include your bio, which can feature a link to your business’s website.

Exhibiting at conferences and trade shows
Although there’s some cost involved, taking part in industry events is an excellent way to connect with others in your industry. Try to come as an exhibitor within the event.

But even if you cannot exhibit, you’ll still benefit greatly as an attendee. You’re sure to meet other business owners who inspire you to try new ideas for your own products and services.

You also may get some insight into the competition that you weren’t aware of before the trade show. But best of all, you’ll certainly get opportunities to meet new customers who didn’t previously know about your business.

Offering free presentations
You are an expert in your field, your business and your industry. And most likely, it just so happens that there are many organizations who’d love to hear a presentation from you.

Approach chambers of commerce, local clubs, schools, colleges, businesses, churches/mosques/synagogues, or anywhere else that might offer you a captive audience. Talk about industry trends, new product technologies, or maybe even teach others how they can get into your industry.

And, of course, mention your own products and services, and what makes them special or unique. As you become more and more well-known within your community, you’ll be sure to gain new customers faster than your competitors.

Don’t be afraid to ditch social media!

Sure, there are certainly some small businesses in this world that do have effective social media strategies and that do benefit greatly from social media. Such businesses are usually fortunate enough to have deep pockets for social media budgets or employees with social media savvy.

But if your small business is not among them, why feel like you have to be on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube?

In the marketing world, few things are worse than an abandoned, ghost-town social media account. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are easy to set up and get excited about, but they’re hard to maintain.

That’s why a lot of small business social media starts out strong for a week or two and then fizzles out. A lame Facebook page with just a handful of likes and barely any engagement or content is much worse than having no page at all.

Don’t be one of those businesses that insists on having a social media presence even though you aren’t prepared to do it right. Failing at social media equates to wasted time and money and an unimpressive brand.

So, for businesses that aren’t able to create an effective strategy, it’s best to stay off social media and find other ways to market your business instead.

(Courtesy of MarketingLand)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why hamburger menus are bad design

Hamburger menus are often disparaged because they do not offer clear navigation, but they may be even worse on mobile phones because their position in the top-left corner is the hardest spot for right-handed smartphone users to reach. Traditional menus are more effective, writes Stephen Moyers.

Analyzing the Effectiveness of Hamburger Menus in Web Design

Odds are you’ve seen the “hamburger menu” in the top corner of many of today’s mobile websites. It’s three lines stacked together to roughly form the shape of a hamburger. It was created as a website design feature to incorporate a site menu without taking up too much room.

While the hamburger menu serves its purpose of condensing information, achieving a minimalist aesthetic, and keeping a site uncluttered, it may have significant drawbacks.

Whether you call it a side menu, navigation drawer, or hamburger menu, it may be time to replace it with something that’s better for user engagement. Many people debate the advantages of using a hamburger menu in web design, using the “out of sight, out of mind” adage to claim that hiding your site features decreases user involvement with your site, and doesn’t bode well for conversion rates.

The idea of a menu that accomplishes the goal of preserving precious interface space spread like wildfire throughout web design and was adopted quickly by nearly every website and app across the board. It may be too late for a change now, but it’s still worth mentioning the cons of the hamburger menu as users begin to seek a change.

Hamburger Menu Lacks Efficiency

One of the most basic pitfalls of the hamburger menu is its prominent location on mobile apps – the top left corner. This is the hardest place to reach on a mobile device for a right-handed user, and doesn’t exactly encourage engagement.

The user also has to tap the menu once before being able to see what their options are, and then tap again when they’ve found the right option. They also have to swipe, or “back” through multiple screens to get back to the hamburger menu before continuing their site navigation. It may not seem like a lot, but this doubles the amount of time it takes for a user to access the correct page. Users are growing savvy to this fact and complaining about the efficiency of the ever-present hamburger menu.

In today’s ultra-competitive market, what makes your site stand out from others needs to be front and center to hook users immediately upon arrival. When your site crams all of its content into a hamburger menu, you risk your users never seeing what makes your brand special. This hurts overall brand awareness and conversion rates and doesn’t do anything to promote your product.

mage Source: Hamburger Menu by Christina Beard.

People Might Prefer Hotdogs

While web designers were quick to embrace the hamburger menu as a revolutionary way to minimize site design in a fresh, aesthetically pleasing way, user needs were ignored completely. Many users don’t know what the hamburger menu has to offer and don’t bother clicking it. Instead, they roam around your site searching fruitlessly for the information they need.

Meanwhile, sites that have stuck with other functional menu designs grant their users easy access to all the information on their site at first glance. Users don’t have to hunt down hidden options, and there’s no risk of them completely missing information. Many companies have opted for the less-trendy route and reverted to previous menu types – such as menus that line the top of the page horizontally – and are enjoying better user results.

Hamburger menus ultimately make content less discoverable, and in an era where average users decide if they are going to stay or leave in the first 10 seconds of viewing the page, quick discoverability is critical. While the hamburger design may look more appealing, its actual level of appeal for users is lacking.

Users often find it difficult to comprehend a hamburger menu, while traditional menus cannot fail to be immediately understandable. When grumblings about the hamburger menu were heard, websites tried to alleviate user grievances by altering the menu to include a back button or other options, such as putting the word “Menu” on top of the hamburger icon to make it more user-friendly.

Image Source: Sidebar Menu Design by Andy Stone.

However, these alterations only managed to increase user confusion surrounding the menu. Now there are many hamburger menu types and users have to figure out which hamburger your site is using before they can navigate it correctly. Instead of assuming that the hamburger menu is the end-all and be-all of website navigation, you should consider other options.

How to Break the Mold

In many situations, you can optimize the hamburger menu for greater usability or replace with a different navigational option. Sometimes, simply moving your hamburger menu to the right side of the screen is enough to make your site unique and increase user engagement, since the right side is easier to tap for right-handed users.

Within your hamburger menu, you can also optimize the way options are laid out once it’s been clicked. On a top menu, users focus their attention on the first and last elements – this is where your most important information should be located. If your menu unfolds into a sidebar, you need to arrange the elements from most important to least important as the user scans options vertically.

You can also revert to pre-hamburger days with user-friendly top menus or create your own twist on a classic, such as this example:

Image Source: The Hamburger Menu Doesn’t Work.

GameStop uses animated icons to enhance usability, while avoiding the hamburger menu altogether. They’ve prioritized what their users require the most from their app, and only included these in their top menu. The site still attains a clean, fresh look without the need for hiding information in a side drawer.

This icon and the text structure allow you to condense text while still keeping the button large enough to promote being pressed – large thumbs notwithstanding. However, if you can’t possibly narrow down your site’s navigation to a few options, you can consider a text-only menu or design your site so that a menu isn’t needed. Either way, approach your navigation technique with the user in mind.

dotLaunch uses an accordion style menu, believing that web surfers don't mind scrolling as much as most people beleive. Always there, always easy to read:

Your menu should be glance-able for users who want to minimize wasted time, while still being easily understood. This may be a difficult compromise to achieve, but it’s a necessary combination if you want maximum user engagement. If you’re having trouble prioritizing your menu options, think from the perspective of your users. For example, you may pride yourself on your blog, but if users are visiting your site primarily to browse your products, the blog shouldn’t be top priority.

Follow Your Intuition

If the hamburger menu or some variation of it has been working for you, don’t feel pressured to change it by those who are seeking a new menu option. There are still users who vouch for the usability and appeal of the hamburger menu, especially when it comes to developing a website for mobile use, where space is limited.

Even though the hamburger menu is at the center of current controversy, if your site is best navigated via a hamburger menu, keep it that way – just make sure the components within your menu are up to par and designed for optimal user engagement. However, if you opted for the hamburger menu out of laziness, you may want to rethink your choice.

Start thinking of your menu as more than something that needs to be tucked out of sight, but rather something that has the power to increase conversion rates – if executed correctly. Users rely on your menu to navigate your site, and if their needs aren’t met, they’ll bounce. Whether you choose the hamburger or another menu option, remember that the end goal is the same – enhancing the user experience.

Top Image Source: Hamburger Menu Icon by Dave Gamez
(Courtesy of SpeckyBoy)