Don’t Let Numbers Numb Your Work

a laptop on a table with a screen of number charts

We live in a numbers world today. People engage with them all the time whether they realize it or not, especially when it comes to social channels. How many likes do you have? How many connections do you have on LinkedIn? How many Twitter followers to you have? How many people are visiting your site and clicking here and here? How many reviews do you have?

We can get absorbed in trying to reach high numbers, but the part that we often forget to ask ourselves is “why”.  Why do these numbers matter, and what are we using them for? Some businesses tend to use numbers in the wrong way. They use it as a temporary ego lift. Yes, I did say that aloud. They have high numbers—Life is good, and they are great masterminds of marketing. Some use it as a way to measure if their marketing is working or not as a whole regardless of what other strategies they use and forget to measure. Some feel as though they are simply keeping up with the Joneses by using countless social channels; and therefore, if they have it on the social navigation bar of their website, they look like the real deal.

Numbers are often abstract, and they can be just as obsessive in checking as it is texting on our phones. However, if you are not spending the time to think about these numbers in a way that they are guiding your next marketing moves, they are purely entertainment. Let’s look at some examples and think about some questions.

Example 1: You post on Facebook, and it receives 18 likes.

Is it successful?

  • Is “18” significant compared to your previous postings?
  • What was the purpose of the posting?
    • Did you see an increase in sales from your products and services based on these likes?
    • Did you receive shares to spread brand awareness alongside these likes?
  • Are the likes from your customers or your own employees and business partner stakeholders?

Are you taking next steps?

  • Are you performing A/B testing to see what type of post may receive more engagement and intended results?
  • Are you paying attention to day of the week, time of day, and other external “noise” factors that may be competing with your posts?
  • Are you noticeably using a generated schedule of posting, or are you delivering authentic, relevant material to your audience?

Example 2: You have a news feed on your home page, but they are not receiving clicks.

Is it successful?

  • Is a click the right goal here? Did a user perhaps scan the page and headlines instead to get the gist of the news they were seeking? Think about it. Twitter is full of 140 character headlines, and this is a primary source of information for many users to simply scan and scan. Perhaps this type of user behavior is being carried over into your website engagement.
  • What type of device are they using to view your home page? If they’re viewing on a phone, perhaps they don’t want to take the time to click around much. Scrolling and skimming can be far easier and just as sufficient.
  • Are your users receiving news content from your social media channels instead?

Are you taking next steps?

  • Are you testing and reviewing your copywriting of headlines? Are they short, attention-grabbing, and descriptive enough to entice a user to click on it?
  • Have you ever asked users about what they think about your headlines and news content? Is it even interesting to them?
Take Aways: When you choose to use a social channel for your business, you need to ensure your actions here have purpose and intention. It’s not something you just wing together. Each channel serves its specific purpose, and they all have their unique user behaviors and approaches. Test the waters, and stick with channels that give you impact. Consistently show up to the channels your audience will depend on as it relates to your business.

Actions Steps:

  1. Create a strategy before diving straight into social channels. Understand exactly what you want to measure and why.
  2. In order to measure success rates, ensure you are paying attention to the numbers as it correlates to your business goals. A number detached from a goal is simply just a number.
  3. Be purposeful of your time and have a balance of utilizing more work action over mulling on number dashboards to comprehend what could be endless interpretations of data. Keep it simple: review, reflect, take next steps, and move on. There is no productivity gained in staring at social numbers hours on end.
“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you will discover nothing.”
– W. Edward Deming –

Resist the Shiny

a close-up view of a disco ball

Shiny objects are tempting. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of new things that make us feel trendy, important and relevant. But as life will have it, good things don’t last forever, and these shiny objects can fade quickly into the shadows of the next big thing.

What are examples of shiny things?

We need an app for our business. Are you really sure? There are thousands of apps submitted to app stores on a daily basis—a daily basis! If you think you’re trying hard to cut through your industry of competition in just your local landscape, don’t think that it will be easier in the app world.

According to TechCrunch and Nielson research, people spend a lot of time on their phone devices yes—but they are typically only using 5 apps regularly. They are also quick to uninstall apps they don’t use regularly. How influential is your app going to be to fit into that regular usage for a user? Are you making an app because it will actually solve a problem, or are you making an app because it will give your business the appearance of being “current” and you “think” users will love it?

Creating apps as a standalone product to solve a real-world problem is one thing, but creating apps as an “extra” just to say you have one for your business is another. Be sure it’s app-solutely a need for your audience! 😉

We need a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog, and every social media channel that exists. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is great, and I personally consume and create content on many channels. I use these channels to promote my business as well. However, it’s important to understand that social media is like a garden. If you don’t nurture all the plants (social channels), they are going to wither away. And if your garden looks neglected, your image (brand) suffers. It takes a lot of work to maintain social media, and it’s hard to learn the “green” social thumb!

You know the saying that you can’t help others until you help yourself. It’s sort of the same concept here. How can you help your audience if you can’t even manage your own brand consistently? How is your audience able to trust you if it appears you can’t juggle all the social channels you have open?If you are serious about social media, you need to stick to a thought-out strategy and show up consistently in pattern to your audience. Know that it takes great time to launch and maintain any social channel in order to provide unique, valuable content to your audience.

We need our website to look like those cool scrolling kinds. Ah, the parallax scrolling and usually with a hint of some sort of bootstrap framework. It can be appropriate for some websites, but for others it just isn’t. If everyone is using the cookie-cutter scroll and template, how do you stand out? Do you want to look like every other website out there? Does it really fit your brand and match the intended user experience? It’s not always the case, so be sure to do your design homework.

I could add far more examples to this shiny list, but these are just a few. Now, I’m not implying that any of these shiny things are bad and shouldn’t be used; nor am I implying they will go away in trends. What I am saying is that if shiny features are used, there should be a valid business and user experience reason behind it with ways to measure its effectiveness.

Takeaway: Do your serious design and business homework before diving into popular design trends and shiny features. There is a difference between purposeful and intentional website functions vs nice-to-have features that may add more glitter cover-up to your palette than actual value. All your design decisions should line up with a business goal.

Action Steps: Prior to making any design decisions, it’s important to do research.

  • Stay connected with your audience and ask for their feedback. You are trying to meet their needs, so listen to what they have to say. Then analyze this feedback and see how it can influence your website design in a positive direction.
  • Do a thorough comparative and competitive analysis to see what others are doing. What are you doing differently, and can this gained knowledge be used to positively influence your brand?
“A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.”
– Jeff Bezos –

Will an FAQ Help?

A pile of foam question mark shapes

Many websites make use of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page or section of one. This can be a great method of communicating answers to common inquiries from the respected audiences of a business. Having an FAQ can direct users to a one-stop-shop for finding answers to their internal questions that they may have otherwise spent time in contacting someone for help. Let’s face it, our attention spans are short and time even shorter. Users generally visit a website to answer unconscious or consciously thought questions in order to gather data and make a buying decision. The faster their answers can be delivered, the happier they are.

From a distance, an FAQ section sounds like a quick and easy solution for users and a 5-star win for websites, but are there any downsides? When it comes to FAQ’s, there are a few things to consider:

What is your true call-to-action for your website?

I often hear clients say they want an FAQ section so that they won’t receive any phone calls. If your company is small and busy enough, this can be a viable reason. However, is that your goal? What if we flip this? Maybe your business has strong communication and sales skills, and they can win a customer over in a phone call or email every time. In this case, perhaps that person-to-person conversation is desired because it will convert customers better. There is risk in both cases – of encouraging or discouraging this type of communication.

For the user that wants quick info, an FAQ may be perfect. And if they don’t get their quick answer, they may not bother asking for help to start a conversation because it’s time-consuming. But for the user or audience that wants to talk, an FAQ may not be effective. In short, you want to really understand your audience when deciding methods of delivering information on your website.

Is the question really frequent?

People think in questions, so an FAQ makes sense. However, it’s easy to stretch any question as an FAQ. If one person calls or sends an email about a question, this does not mean it’s appropriate for an FAQ. There are no shortcuts. For a question to fit the criteria of an FAQ, it must indeed be a frequently asked question. If you have too many questions listed, it can come across as overwhelming to a user and therefore not valuable.

To reiterate what was mentioned earlier, our attention spans are short, and it’s rare that users want to read a lot of text content to find a question. If you organize the information carefully on your website, those internal questions should be easily found without the need for an FAQ.

Takeaway: Frequently asked questions can be useful content to use on a website, but there must be standards for making the list.

Action Steps: 

  • Start keeping track of the questions you receive from your audience and observe the true frequency.
  • Regularly audit your FAQ’s for relevancy and if they are indeed frequently asked.
  • Review your website’s information architecture and if content can be organized better for finding information quickly.
“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.”
–Charles Eames–