We’re updating the methinks.io site this month — all month — and UX is top of mind. The updates relate to some new product announcements (coming soon), new customer additions, our QRCA sponsorship, a new blog instance, and some great feedback about our site from methinks Thinkers. I am sharing my experience and advice. Take it or leave it. It’s free.
Prior to joining methinks, I was a Marketing and Growth executive at some very cool places — Vevo, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, and Loop.tv. Prior to gigs at larger public companies, I was a long-time marketing exec at several venture backed startups here in Silicon Valley. In that time, I’ve been pitched everything — not even kidding about that. So, over the last 20+ years, here’s what I learned about SaaS marketing and UX from the “target customer” vantage point.
SEO can be the enemy of adoption. So can wordy copy writers. “Word soup” and “word walls” are pejoratives describing heavy amounts of text, inefficiently communicating. Twenty years ago, I worked for the most wonderful manager a young person could ask for, Carol Sacks. Carol is a former Sun and Microsoft communications manager, now Chief of Staff to Wendy Schmidt. She recognized me as coachable, which, in reality, is all I had going for me in my twenties. Carol would empathetically deliver feedback on my terrible writing, repeating a mantra that quickly became a part of me — Clear, Concise, Consistent.
Here’s the key customer insight: Using more words in product and business descriptions is offensive and painful for your audience. To drill down on this insight, let’s go to the numbers.
If I open an average of two SaaS email solicitations a day (assuming a 10% open rate), I will receive at least 10 email solution descriptions per week, totaling 520 product solution descriptions read in a given year. That’s 5,200 product solutions in a decade. Let’s say I’m very good at ciphering and discriminating, so it only takes me two minutes on average to decide to click through to a site from an email, in-mail, FB message, newsgroup message — however I’m targeted. That’s 10,400 minutes reading solution descriptions in a decade. That’s over 173 hours, or more than two weeks of my life reading product solutions for every decade I work. If you’re like me, that’s over one month of my life reading product solution descriptions. That’s elapsed time. If I only read 12 hours a day, waking hours time is a full month. None of this is inclusive of the actual time reading additional product information after I’ve clicked on a site. But, let’s assume a 5-7% CTR and another 2-3 minutes of site reading time, and that elapsed life suck grows another 1-2 days.
Looking past the productivity this steals from my day, assume the average lifespan is 80 years, that’s 960 months, a person could easily spend 0.1% – 0.2% of their life reading emails and website product descriptions. Again, that’s elapsed time. If I assume normal sleep and could only read product descriptions 8-10 hours a day, the “living” time stolen is effectively a multiple of three. In the course of my life, I might spend 3-5 months reading product descriptions in email and websites.
I figured this out 10 years ago because I like Math. So, when I encounter a word wall, or word soup on a SaaS website, the brand impression left with me is not positive — it’s borderline resentful. This is the fear and anxiety your audience attaches to the Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) when they land on your site. It’s fairer to say, don’t waste my life instead of don’t waste my time. Think about that the next time your SEO advocate wants to stuff a few more keywords into the description, or awkwardly mangle a sentence for SEO upside. Sure, you might get more search traffic, but the tradeoff is targeted, more-likely-to-convert visitors will be put off. Be clear, concise and consistent — scrutinize every word, every character. Don’t waste life.
Cognitive load is real. Related to above, don’t add images, videos, graphs — anything visual — that is unnecessary. Visual assets shouldn’t have to compete for attention. They should have minimal words to create context and be easy to grok. If you can’t achieve this, the visual is not an asset, it’s a point of confusion and frustration. Stock art isn’t typically confusing, but when used gratuitously, competes for attention and adds to the visitor’s cognitive load.
Remember, people have been trained by the ad industry to land on any page and visually hunt for meat, putting the load of focus and understanding on the visitor. So, adding visual assets to a site creates a binary outcome — it either helps to communicate a product solution, or it adds to the cognitive load. Too much load and your bounce goes up. And, the prospects that figure out your site are not impressed by the first touch.