Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


Posted in Analytics, Consumer Psychology, Marketing, NextStageology, Predictive, Research, Social, Tools, {C,B/e,M}sTagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here Are Your NeuroMarketing Options

I was at a conference recently and took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths.

I took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths because I had no idea what I was doing at the conference. I’d been invited and someone else was paying my way, and I hoped seeing the wares presented would offer some insight into why some group would contact me to attend on their behalf and essentially pay me to do so.

Before going further, let me state that I don’t remember any NextStageologist saying or writing “We do neuromarketing.” It’s been said about us often enough and I’ve publicly written that I think people say we do neuromarketing (skim down to “3. What the heck is a NeuroMarketer?” in the link) because 1) it’s a term du jour, 2) they don’t know what else to call us, 3) they’ve called us many pleasant and few unpleasant things in the past and seem to think we change as do the buckets they want to put us in, …

People say “But you guys do so many things” and that’s true. Our response is “That’s because the brain does so many things. The brain doesn’t only make decisions or only control breathing or only look at pretty people or only guess about the future and if the brain could only do one thing we wouldn’t have evolved much beyond amoeba. We do lots of things because, like the brain, we have no limits.”

Okay, we have some limits.

But, as I was typing, some of the vendors did…something…at the conference. I watched. It looked a lot like what I’ve been told is traditional, historical neuromarketing. You know, traditional and historical, like the stuff going back a year or more ago?

It was fascinating.

Now before going any further, none of the people shown here claim to be neuromarketers and that includes NextStage. I merely offer these as examples of what others who call themselves “neuromarketers” do.

Here are some of your NeuroMarketing options…

Option 1 – See the Brain in Real Time

Cap Showing the Brain in 3D

The fellow in the picture above is brilliant. He and his team (if I understood correctly) have developed a cap that generates a image of an individual’s neurophysiology in real time. The medical implications of this are incredible.

But it’s not neuromarketing as I understand it. Seeing the brain work is not the same as knowing what the brain is working on. Seeing specific brain areas associated with likes and dislikes is not the same as knowing what the brain is liking or disliking. Tomograph, fMRIs, neurographs, etc., of heat and blood flow in the brain while showing a picture of a brand product is not the same as that individual wanting, desiring or avoiding that brand product. They are, at best, proxies. There may be a direct connection or they may not be. A dislike of a particular brand might have more to do with a bad memory of someone who used that brand than the brand itself, and building a campaign on such evidence is…is…a really interesting way to spend your budget.

But credit where credit is due, if I ever get a brain lesion, I want the guy in the picture above in my corner.

Option 2 – If the Device Fits, Wear It

The video below is of a young woman being fitted with a device that allows the wearer’s brain to interact directly with an image on a screen. Doing that is impressive. The device itself is nicely designed and packaged. The gentleman in the video is someone trained by the company that markets the device. He’s a trained professional. After two minutes and twenty seconds he still hadn’t gotten the device to work correctly, and he’d applied enough saline solution to make Brylcream proud because this time, a little dab wasn’t doing ya.


Fairness time; lots of people at this conference sat down to have this device placed on their heads. I talked with several of them who wanted to take part but couldn’t because the device couldn’t read their signals reliably if at all.

Option 3 – You Can Find A Company that Claims to do NeuroMarketing

A long standing NextStage client was told by his GM to go talk to the GM’s friend who had started a neuromarketing company. You could tell they were a neuromarketing company because they used “neuromarketing” on their site a lot.

I asked the client how it went. Here’s the conversation:

“Hi! I’m speaking with these guys today, …, it looks like they are taking a similar theoretical approach as you, although their execution is paleolithic compared to yours.”

Be sure to tell them that.

“The guy is a friend of the GM. The GM hears me say the word neuromarketing, this guy says the word neuromarketing, GM says lets all meet. I say, ‘Why would I let them put headbands on 5 people when I can learn way more about EVERY one visiting a site without looking like Olivia Newton-John?’ I can assure you that basically I’m going to tell them they’re in the stone ages. No reason to drive the ford Edsel when you have the rocket car sitting in the garage!”

(a few days later…)

How did it go with your GM’s friend?

“The neuro guy was a joke, an entrepreneur who saw a cool graph on a screen, no plan, no insight, no training, no business plan, not even an elevator pitch nor the brains to run it.”

Hmm…but he has money? Maybe he’d like to buy us out…?

“He doesn’t have that kind of money….”

Sorry it was so ungood. And may I quote you?

“Quote me?”

Yes, I’ve been working on a response to all the neuro blather and would like to include an anonymous note about someone who went looking for neuro solutions and came up short.

“No problem ;)”

(and here’s to hoping you, dear reader, have similar luck)

Recapping thus far

Thus far we’ve seen the need for devices that may or may not work for everyone, require a skilled professional to place on the test subject’s head correctly, are limited to subjects who basically raise their hand and say “Yes, I’ll wear one of those”, and people with pretty websites, high level friends and are a joke (so said the client, not us).

First, what happens to those people who raise their hands but can’t make the device work? How many will be satisfied with “Here’s your $20 and sorry your head’s not the right shape” or “Here’s your $30 and your brain’s not giving off any signals we can detect” or “Here’s your $50 and our equipment doesn’t seem to be working right now, no need to come back later because it won’t work for you, then, either”?

You’d probably go with a variant of that last one but then you have people walking around telling others how their incredible noggins broke your fancy-dancy mind-reading headgear.

And if people can train their brains to do what’s required, how long do you think it’ll be ’till companies start selling “Brain-Trained” individuals for testing purposes, or offer “Brain-Training” courses and all so that, when the neuromarketing goblins come a’knockin’, your results will be through-the-roof kind-of good?

And you thought buying Fans, Friends and Likes was scummy?

And do remember, none of the folks in the above images claims to do “neuromarketing”. At least they didn’t claim to when I asked (and I did ask and I did ask permission to video and photograph so I could use the video and photographs on one of my company’s blogs). I took the pictures and video because the folks shown above do things that other companies have called “neuromarketing”.

Second, the GM’s friend. Let me repeat myself. “The GM’s friend.”

Option 4 – In the Time You’ve Been Reading…

In the 1-5 minutes you’ve been reading this post, NextStage’s Evolution Technology has analyzed the behaviors of anywhere from 3-25,000 individuals. It has determined how they think, how they make decisions, what types of things convince them, whether or not they believe whatever they’re viewing, whether or not they accept whatever they’re viewing (belief and acceptance are two very different things), when they’re likely to spend money and what needs to be changed on a client’s digital property so that they, the visitor, will spend money on the client’s digital property or in their brick&mortar store. You can get an idea of what NextStage’s Evolution Technology can determine in our example NextStage OnSite reports, you can get an idea of where we’re currently being used on our NextStage SampleMatch Countries listing and you can get an idea what people are saying about everything we do in our Comments section.

And remember, we don’t do “neuromarketing”. We just give you results. From your entire online audience. There’s a lot of neuroscience in what we do, true, and there’s also a lot of anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, mathematics, and other sciences in what we do.

That’s why I prefer to offer that NextStage does NeuroAnalytics rather than NeuroMarketing because we’re more interested in how to use what the brain does naturally to make your marketing work.

As one happy client wrote in my LinkedIn Profile,

I’ve been working with Joseph and his tools now for several years. As a “digital analytics professional”, there are several phrases I can use to describe the man and the technology he creates related to my field of work: game-changing, mind-blowing, visionary.

I don’t use those words lightly. I’ve seen the future of advanced analytics, and it’s the next generation technology Joseph has invented and continues to develop.

How do you measure website engagement? Page depth? Time on site? Top viewed content? Satisfaction surveys? These are proxies for what we in digital analytics think reflects visitor engagement. Now imagine a tool that you could put on your website that silently measures engagement by actually determining how visitors feel about content, without having to ask them.

Then imagine that the same tool can then alter visitor website experience on-the-fly and present more engaging content. Then imagine watching your conversion rates go through the roof.

It’s not fiction or magic. It is a real tool, it is real science, and you can use it on your website to drive real extraordinary business results.

And that’s just the tip of Joseph’s iceberg. He’s continually creating new tools, new technology, and new thinking to enable marketers to measure and enhance the effectiveness of their work in ways that haven’t even been thought possible before.

I consider myself lucky to have met Joseph, and I am continually awed and humbled by the man. If you’re in business and want to do better, I’d suggest you get to know him and his marketing toolbox as well.

If nothing else, you’ll at least get a few good jokes out him!

Ta-Da!

Posted in Advice and Content, Analytics, Marketing, NextStageology, OnSite, Predictive, ToolsTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 4 – Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v … (If you invest here, do you need to invest there?)

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral MetricsThis is the fourth post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms. Some of these posts appear on my BizMediaScience blog due to tone. This post is a little more researchy and we figured it should go here. We’re also wanting to spread the love a bit.

These posts will cover

  1. Followers
  2. Watches
  3. “You don’t follow anybody”
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. “You rarely point to someone else’s writing”

This post deals with the reason for this blog-arc, the marketing functionality of different social networks and NextStage’s research. We first discussed these concepts during our SNCR NewComm Forum 2008 presentation, Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing so you can appreciate that we’ve been looking at this for a while.

Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …

NextStage is completing a study on the sociality transfer between social platforms. Specifically, we’re investigating community detection by groups and individuals, how they determine which platforms serve them best, hence marketers can determine which social platforms will serve a given audience and message best. The end goal is an equation that determines cross-pollination between social platforms, as in “If you invest here, do you need to invest there?”

I presented The Social Conversion Differences Between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the Providence eMarketing Con on 13 Nov 2011 and explained that the greatest marketing cross pollination efforts at that time would be a Twitter-LinkedIn effort.

More so than any other effort. Twitter to LinkedIn and back.

The reason is due to Twitter and LinkedIn users having {C,B/e,M}s1 that are much closer to each other than the {C,B/e,M}s of any other combination, therefore a Twitter-LinkedIn campaign allowed for lower marketing costs (same material would engage both audiences) and allowed for multiple touchpoints in this single cross-audience (multiple touchpoints generate more activity than single touchpoints in a given audience).

NextStage Compatibility GaugeMore recent research was done quite differently from the above and dealt with sociality (the ability to recognize node-specific communities and a blend of community detection and recognition). If you recently received an invitation from a NextStageologist to join them on a social platform, you were part of the research. Chances are you were invited to join one of us on some social platform because you’ve generated an extensive “paper” trail — you blog, you publish whitepapers, you have more than one profile somewhere, you comment on other people’s blogs, you have an online resume, … and that paper trail could be analyzed by our Evolution Technology (most often NextStage’s Compatibility Gauge) to determine if you would or would not link, befriend, pin, tumble, so on and so forth, and what platforms you’d accept/allow contact on.

See how painless research can be?

Truth be told, some NextStageologists received a warning message from Facebook: we were attempting to befriend people we didn’t know and, evidently, enough Facebookers complained that several of our accounts got flagged. We could either quit Facebook, take back all our Friend Requests, take back all Friend Requests made to people with whom we had few friends in common, … Evidently research isn’t painless for everyone. The fact that there are people on Facebook who follow some of us on Twitter but won’t befriend us is worth a post in itself, don’t you think?

But in any case, the results are fascinating.

And if the results are all you’re interested in, click here.

Theory to Practice

One of the things we theorized, tested and put into some of our tools (NextStage ClientProspector and NextStage SocialInterferometer which are currently only available to Members (we’re hoping to make the SocialInterferometer public soon), NextStage LoveFinder which is publicly available and NextStage JobProspector (still in development) is that {C,B/e,M}s can fit together like puzzle pieces, sometimes like hands in gloves and sometimes they’ll grind against each other like gears shearing teeth as they clash.

This puzzling-glove-clash determines how messages will be communicated by smaller networks through larger networks — how groups can thrive within groups. Kind of like being part of a organization while having a group of closer friends within that organization. Everyone takes part in the organization’s activities and the closer group will engage in its own activities beyond those provided by the organization.

We’re interested (and you should be interested, too) in how messages within the smaller, closer groups get propagated through the larger groups. Let me give you an example.

Figure 1 - A network of 1Let’s say I have something I want to share. Immediately, I can only share it with myself. This is demonstrated by that one, little, solipsistic dot in the middle of the image on the right. I may have a great idea, an incredible product, a wonderful service, a great story, a good vibe, whatever. Immediately it’s just me who knows about it.

Oh, what to do?

Figure 2 - A small network of friendsWell, the first thing to do is tell a few friends.

But remember your own experiences sharing great news with others? Do you tell the first stranger you meet? Do you go looking for a stranger, someone you don’t know from Adam?2

Chances are you don’t go the Adam route. Chances are the first people you share your news with are close associates, people in your tribal network. People in your tribal network may be physically right next to you, a few feet away, a few doors down, in the next city, state or country.

What makes them participants in your tribal network is that you and they have lots of similar if not shared experiences and that you tend to respond similarly if not near-identically to anything that comes along. In other words, they’re in your tribal network because their {C,B/e,M} is either identical to or real close to yours. Because of this, you trust them to rejoice with you when you share your good news or give you solace when your news isn’t so good. This circle of friends is known as a psycho-social distance3 of 1 in social mechanics and the tribalness is called homophily.

Figure 3 - The network is growing!So you get feedback from them and it’s positive. So positive, in fact, that they want to tell some their friends and you risk sharing your joy with people just a little outside your normal social network. Now we’re dealing with people at a psycho-social distance of 2 from you and 1 from your friends.

Figure 3a - The network is growing circles!And some of those people at psycho-social distance 1 from you? The folks with similar and not identical experiences? They’re the people who’ll transmit the message to people who don’t quite know you at all (think of reTwittering a tweet). These people are more interested in the message than you, they are captured by the meme more than your personality. These people show up in the image as different colored dots.

Figure 4 - My gosh! Look at all those people you more or less know!Okay, now those people who don’t quite know you are spreading the message through their networks. These folks are psycho-social distance 3 from you. Notice that there’s more than three colors in the image? That’s because each time the message leaps a psycho-social boundary it does so by transforming a little (they don’t call it viral for nothing). The message (at this point some people will call it a meme and that’s incorrect. The message and the meme will travel together at this point and the two are different) has probably morphed slightly by going from your {C,B/e,M} through the next person’s {C,B/e,M} then through the next person’s {C,B/e,M} so on and so forth.

Figure 5 - And look what's happening to your great little thought!This is the point where marketing goodness happens. People start interpreting the original message. The source message and the meme it contains separate. The meme continues with none to very minor changes — it is the viral core of the message, that part that gives the message meaning in so many diverse markets and with so many different audiences. It does this by adapting a little bit but in ways that make big differences. Think of a virus that affects some people but not others that changes its viral sheath a bit. Now those previously unaffected are affected. Your good idea is doing the exact same thing only doing it to get inside people’s heads instead of their lungs or gut.

Those little bits and big differences appear because by now that meme has been slightly modified by everybody who hears the message. They’re all adding their little flare to it and it travels much like whispers in the childhood game “operator” (some call it “telephone”). The best known modern demonstration of this is the “spin” politicians’ surrogates put on their don’s gaffs and guffaws: they can’t control the message so at least get the best meme on it so that distortions and deteriorations are minimal and deniable. This is why the best spins are five words or fewer. Memes, the messages’ viral cores, are much like biologic viruses — the smaller they are the less stoppable they are (remember this if you’re in marketing or its close cousin, propaganda).

Figure 6 - And now everybody knows you!And if you’re lucky and you’ve done your work well and you know what you’re doing, your source message hasn’t changed all that much from its original form, has gone viral and you’re message is now making its way through groups and minds that you couldn’t imagine.

And it’s “making the rounds” because people who are now interacting with your message think completely differently than you think, their {C,B/e,M} so foreign to your {C,B/e,M} that you wonder how they learned about your message in the first place.

Now, take a good look at that last image. See that there are different subnetworks within the greater network? And that each subnetwork has its own subnetworks of different colors? That’s how small networks can propagate a given message through larger networks. The pictures from top to bottom are examples of community awareness (figures 1 and 2), detection/sensing (3, 3a and 4) and recognition (5 and 6). Without these steps your message ain’t going nowhere.

NextStage's RichPersonae Wheel of FortuneWhat we hypothesized, tested, put into some of our tools and what is demonstrated by those who linked, befriended, etc., and who didn’t is the puzzling-glove-clash of the {C,B/e,M}s that in NextStageology look like the sundial-like images in Looking for Love? Now You Can Find All the Right Places! (On the Evolution of Tools) (an example is on the right). Go to that post, look at those images and you’ll see what I described above writ in NextStage’s RichPersonae notation (NextStage’s RichPersonae are a systematic way of working with {C,B/e,M}s).

In short, the ability to predict who would connect with whom, on what platforms and in what time period.

Truly fascinating stuff (we thinks)! The ability to know who/where your viral message will get the most “push” and in what directions (kind of like viral vectors), how it will travel and where it will go!

Now you can literally pick your viral marketing targets.

Take-Aways

All in all we targeted platforms based on 2010 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape, the 2011 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape and the 2012 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape. if nothing else, CMO’s presentation methodology has improved. We also included some unmentioned platforms because various NextStageologists use them.

  • Facebook is best for small, local businesses because The Human Touch4 — consumers’ directly interacting with brands — is doable
  • Facebook can be used by large businesses best if they create a destination page that provides local connectivity to local brand agents for local audiences. This is simply a reframe of the above
  • LinkedIn is excellent for B-B sales and promotion (be prepared for LinkedIn to increase its Spam factor exponentially)
  • 4Square, Pinterest and Twitter are best for special offers and give aways
  • Pinterest and Twitter are best for announcements and offers
  • Other platforms investigated haven’t demonstrated any specific uniquenesses yet. They may be amazingly affective for a given business and a given audience and in the whole they didn’t rise to the levels of those platforms mentioned above.

Note that none of the above deals with {C,B/e,M}s? The above is based on the type of personalities that will respond best to those platforms, when those platforms are used to communicate the specific types of information listed.

It’s also possible to specifically target the audiences’ psychologic, behavioral-effective and motivational types that frequent those platforms but an explanation of that is well beyond this post (contact us if you’d like more info).

By the Way

If you’re reading this and would like to link to me or befriend me or whatever, please do so. I always enjoy the company. Of course, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., etc., have all largely become marketing platforms, so there you go. The audiences on all platforms are splintering as demonstrated by the plethora of platforms and into the various rapidly spawning groups that are now crowding each platform (remember those images up above? Notice that they’re similar to the growth of online social platforms? Ever hear of culture-death? All communities fail to thrive when they exhaust their resources).

But those differently purposed groups are basically my xWatches organized by the subnetworks themselves. They are self-organizing which means without a strong, central message/meme they will fail. I provide the xWatch categorizations for my messages so my audience knows how to handle the information I’m given them, which message to which interest and so on, as explained in the SNCR NewComm Forum presentation mentioned above.

Marketers beware.


1: You can learn more about {C,B/e,M}s in the following links:

2: The truth is you will tell people who don’t know you at all if the information you’re sharing either violates or is in conflict with your Core and/or Identity. You’ll share with unknown others to seek validation of the conflicting and/or violating information. You can’t go to people you know with that kind of data, they’d never believe it. The only option left is to have it validated out of your network. This allows you to start creating new networks (if you like the information) or ignore opinions (if you don’t like the information). In either case, you’re giving yourself time to integrate the new information before sharing it with those you trust.

3: You can learn more about psycho-social distance in the following links:

4: You can learn more about The Human Touch and how it applies to social networks in any of the following:

NextStage Is Awarded Patent #3 – “System and method for obtaining subtextual information regarding an interaction between an individual and a programmable device”


NextStage Evolution received its third issued patent in four years on June 5, 2012. In a patent atmosphere that is making it increasing difficult to patent software-based technology, NextStage Evolutions technology continues to set itself apart from the pack while establishing a perimeter around its novel system. The third patent, US Patent No. 8,195,597, is specifically directed to the psychometric link a computer user develops with the machine interface focal point on the screen (e.g., the arrow or cursor) and the body language that can be interpreted from how the machine interface focal point is positioned relative to the information presented by the computer. Demographic information, consumer interest, opinions, and preferences is translated from machine interface body language to actionable business information with NextStage Evolutions Evolution Technology.

We got Patent #3Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yes, this is an important one. Not to downplay patents 1 and 2, this is the one that I’ve jokingly described with “Every time you have a thought, you’ll owe us a nickel.” You can read the full patent on the USPTO site. It deals with how humans non-consciously communicate with devices and describes the system behind how people create community with whatever’s in their immediate environment, something I described in Reading Virtual Minds, Volume I: Science and History.

Others may want to put a focus group in an fMRI, have them wear funny hats, pay a team to follow individuals through shopping malls or put up a survey and hope the right people are answering (they’re not). All we need is your visitors to be themselves and do what they’d normally do the way they’d normally do it — no hats, no machines, nobody following them around, no annoying popup questionnaires, no nothing except your visitors doing what they would normally be doing on your digital property each time they visit.

I gotta tell you, understanding human behavior’s a lot easier when you get everything else out of the way and just deal with the humans and what they’re doing right there at that moment. You get a lot more information about your visitors when you let humans be humans and not laboratory subjects.

And again, thank you, thank you, thank you.


 

Posted in About, NextStageologyTagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Using NextStage’s OnSite Visitor Analysis Tool – TireKickers To Buyers Breakdown

This post is the first of several (we think) about using NextStage OnSite‘s many reports. The audience for this post and series is NextStage’s business clients and prospects. The goal is to provide some “connecting the dots” between reports and actions. We’re starting this series with the TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown. “TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown” is a descriptive but wordy title and we usually refer to it simply as the TireKickers Report.

Background

NextStage’s tools have been in public use for about three years now and all our tools are based on client requests. The tool that’s grown the most in that time is NextStage OnSite. That growth shows up as OnSite‘s many reports.

Visitor Age Groups for a 30 day intervalThere are currently sixty (60) different reports in the NextStage OnSite Tool. These reports span everything from visitor AgeGroup breakdowns (a 30 day report is shown on the right) to a QuickOptimizer report that provides three and only three suggestions for quickly optimizing a site. For example, QuickOptimizer suggested the following modifications for one of our clients for a recent thirty day period:

  1. Important – A blog, podcasts, a link which starts an audio feed or music from a source which matches the mood of your site.
  2. Desireable – A single image on the upper to middle left of the screen, at most 1/4 screen width and height, clearly showing your product or your service in use or a satisfied user of your product or service
  3. Critical – Having all selling points to your product or service in the center third column of your screen. Anything that does not demonstrate your product’s or service’s features should go to either side

Most clients get 25-30 reports (some they request, some we know they’ll need) and there’s a lot of information in those 25-30. Sometimes we’ll include a custom report or two among those 25-30 for clients who we believe will benefit from them.

NextStage OnSite offers clients a report palette because (we believe) using reports individually is like looking at stars through only one type of telescope — your understanding is based on only one type of light. Different types of telescopes (NextStage OnSite‘s 30 or so reports) trained on the same object provide a fuller understanding of what’s happening to and with that object.
TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a one day interval

TireKickers Report Basics

NextStage OnSite‘s TireKickers Report (a one day report is shown on the right. Clicking on some images opens larger images in another window) is named for the proverbial used car shopper who walks around the lot, finds a car they want then kicks the tires to demonstrate that they’re not going to get swindled.

What it reports is described in 2006’s Listening to and Seeing Searches:

What we’ve discovered is that these [report] numbers (which will vary from site to site) remain stable for each site except when something new — such as a product release or updated pages — is placed in the mesh.

  • Knowing what percentage of site visitors are serious buyers versus tirekickers is an important tool in keeping your expectations and sales forecasts in check, and for designing entry pages appropriately.

  • Visitors who are “grazing,” “tirekicking,” “talking themselves out of it” and “planning to make a decision” are still in the search funnel.
  • Visitors who are “planning on how to use it,” “talking it over,” “making a decision” and “buying” are in what most people recognize as a sales funnel.
  • The transition from searcher to buyer occurs at “talking themselves into it.”

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a seven day intervalNotice in the above bullet list “…these [report] numbers (which will vary from site to site) remain stable for each site except when something new — such as a product release or updated pages — is placed in the mesh.”? Compare the 1-day report shown above with the 7-Day TireKickers report on the right. Same site, but this time reporting on the past seven (7) days instead of the last one (1) day. You’ll notice there’s not a lot of variation in pie slice size.

We encourage most clients to run reports for time periods of 30 days or longer unless they’re doing highly targeted or spot campaigns. For example, if you’ve just made an update to your site, introduced a new product or service, made an announcement, et cetera, check for changes over shorter periods of time.

But consider the two figures above. These two figures are similar and not identical. All charts in this post are for the same page. Only the report interval is changed (top to bottom, they are 1 day, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days). What you’re seeing is the normal variation that occurs on sites. Especially when you compare the above one and seven day cycles with the following 14 day cycle and 30 day cycle further down in this post.

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a 14 day intervalOnce you get past the 20% that were buying in the one-day cycle (“Making a Decision” and “Buyers” combined. Ninety-nine percent of people who get into “Making a Decision” become “Buyers” before they leave a site or will conclude their purchase offline) you’ll notice that the seven and 14 day cycles have similar “Making a Decision” and “Buying” numbers — 13-14%. The 13% cumulative “Making a Decision” and “Buying” numbers are repeated in the 30 day cycle.

First Take-Away

These numbers haven’t varied in quite a while. This site is going to max out at about 20% total conversions and probably the online numbers will be closer to 13%.

We now have a baseline. The current version of the site is going to do 13-20% business. That’s where we are. Now it’s time to improve.

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a 30 day interval

Large versus Small Populations

Consumer psychology and buying behavior are fascinating subjects to study. One thing that’s very impressive about them is that large populations are the easiest to influence. Knowing that large populations are the easiest to influence comes from social dynamics. NextStage demonstrated this with an audience participation exercise at a SNCR conference several years back during my TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why “Whispering to Be Heard”? presentation.

What we demonstrated was the relative transmission speeds and dispersion rates of the same message in a large and small population, followed up with examples of how to increase transmission and dispersion. In a nutshell, large populations tend to have fewer broad reaching influencers and quorum sensing behavior rules. The large population behaves as a single body but without a lot of discretionary and (dare I suggest) intelligent behavior. Quorum sensing was pretty much the consumer psychology rule in the old media days (as noted in Why Isn’t Marketing a Science, Part II ).

Small populations tend to have much tighter social bonds and interactions. This is necessary for the smaller population to survive. The large population’s quorum sensing becomes the small population’s smart mob behavior, meaning people talk to each other more, rely on each other more, there are more influencers because the population realizes that the person who’s a great cook may not be the best harvester and so on.

TireKicker Reports show small populations as small pie segments. Instead of a small population being a “neighborhood” or “town”, the small population in these TireKicker Reports are (for example) “Tirekicking” at about 2% and “Planning to Make a Decision” at about 2.5% across all reports. Like neighborhoods and small towns, the visitors making up the “Tirekicking” and “Planning to Make a Decision” segments may not be directly talking to each other but they are talking to people who are talking to each other.

Second Take-Away

You want the Tirekickers value to be as small as possible. Small Tirekickers values indicate that all visitors (save the “Grazing” segment) came to your site with the intention of getting something done. They may have wanted to purchase or do research, but your site was their intended target.

“Tirekickers” indicates people who are killing time. They were looking for something to do and your site was what caught their eye. They may convert and it’ll be a long while before they do so the smaller this number is, the better your site is working at bringing you visitors who are actually in the sales funnel.

“Grazing” indicates people who came to your site by accident. You want that number to decrease, either because fewer people get lost on the web or because your marketing is so good only people who want to be on your site arrive there.

On these charts you’ll notice that the largest population segments are “Talking Themselves (Out of/Into) It” and “Talking It Over With (Themselves/Others)”.

What’s most important (from a consumer and behavioral psychology perspective) about these two populations is they describe people engaged in internal dialogue. Most people engage in internal dialogue and do so most often when they’re making decisions. If you’ve ever spoken to yourself out loud or just in your head, debating whether or not to do something, to buy something, to say something, going over pros and cons back and forth, you were engaged in internal dialogue.

We recognize internal dialogue is taking place because both populations are Talking (dialogue) and to or with Themselves (internal). People who are talking themselves out of/into it are the tougher sell so let’s start with people who are talking it over with themselves or others.

These are people who want to act but lack the confidence to act. They are looking for justification to act (convert) and seeking either themselves or others to provide that justification. Some times they’ll ask their peers, some times their friends, some times their parents. Browsing is still a solitary activity — we don’t often encounter masses of people sitting in the same place, facing the same device, agreeing where to navigate and what to click on — so who will these visitors seek justification from?

Readers of Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History know that the first “person” to be asked is the site itself and at this point it is time to learn what the page being TireKicked is telling them to do (the page’s form and function1).

The form and function of the page being TireKickedThe layout sans content (form) of the page being TireKicked is shown on the right. We learn from the client that the function of the page is to describe product/offering/service features. What can we do to nudge the roughly 26% of visitors who are “Taking It Over With Themselves/Others” into either “Making a Decision” or “Buying”?

We start by looking at the page’s TargetAudience. NextStage considers material’s TargetAudience as the audience that will best respond to that material. The best responding audience is the audience that shows up most often, stays and acts. This best responding audience may or may not be the audience the content creators had in mind when they published. The gulf between best responding audience and intended audience can be amazingly wide and we often suggest clients use our AgePersuader, GenderPersuader, PersonaScope and related tools to better target their content before publishing.

In this case, NextStage OnSite‘s PageTargetAudience report determined that this TireKicked page is best designed for:

Gender: Male
Age: 35-44yo (±9%)
Education: Post Doc
RichPersona: V9

  • These people are moved by what they see
  • They are drawn to the negative of things
  • These people tend to be process oriented
  • They tend to be confused by “what if this happens?” type of questions

Let’s take the above one element at a time:

  1. Gender: Male – NextStage has demonstrated an extremely high accuracy determining age and gender online. The accuracy we’re comfortable with is about 83% across all our reports (we’ve tested higher), so we can accept that this specific material is indeed oriented towards a male audience
  2. Age: 35-44yo (±9%) – This material is best designed for 35-44 year olds and could serve for 32-48 year olds (the ±9%)
  3. Education: Post Doc – NextStage OnSite makes this determination based on how much cognitive effort and life experience would be required to understand the material
  4. RichPersona: V9 – “V9” is a NextStage RichPersonaTM designation. People familiar with our PersonaScope and Sentiment Analysis Tools have seen these designations many times. Other psych-behavioral classification systems would recognize this as “ENTJ”2

Review and Forward

So far we’ve learned the following:

  • 26% of the audience is seeking justification to convert
  • the material will best influence a mid-30 to mid-40 year old,
  • well educated,
  • males audience

Visitor Gender Analysis for a 30 day intervalHolding just that much information we can look at two other NextStage OnSite reports, AgeGroup and Gender. A 30 day visitor AgeGroups analysis for the TireKicked page is shown at the top of this post. The image on the right is a 30 day visitor Gender analysis for the same TireKicked page.

AgeGroups tells us that better than a third are under 25yo and we see on the right that there’s a fairly even male-female gender mix.

Before going any further and in a very few minutes of time (assuming some training on how to use NextStage OnSite) we’ve discovered that the TireKicked page isn’t designed for its actual audience. Remember, we’re not considering intended audience — who the site owner wants as visitors — we’re looking at who’s actually showing up and wanting to do some shopping.

The site owner informs us that the actual audience is the intended audience. Excellent! The question shifts from “How do we get the intended audience on the page?” to “What can be done so that the audience does more buying?”
Suggestions based on visitors during a previous 30 day interval

Suggestions, Suggestions, Suggestions

NextStage OnSite includes a Suggestions report (a 30 day report is shown on the right) that provides three levels of suggestions (General, Levels 1 and 2). The immediacy of each suggestion is indicated by Desireable, Important and Critical. We encourage clients to start with the General suggestions and work their way up through Level 1 suggestions to Level 2 suggestions. I, as a researcher, find the Suggestions report a deep dish of information.

But I as a business person? That’s an awful lot to swallow.

The difference between research and business person is one of constraint. Researchers love knowing all possible suggestions because they usually have the freedom to select what constraints they’ll work under as part of their experiment’s design. Business and online analysts usually are given a list of constraints based on corporate requirements and policies regarding color palette, logo placement, images, text and so on. As one business client said, “Design is finding solutions within constraints.”

The specific business constraints for this TireKicked page are:

  1. Adjust the copy within the body area of the page
  2. No changes to the design or placement of navigation
  3. Adding “nav-looking” links on the right is acceptable
  4. Creating a number of “orphan pages” where navigation between the pages is via breadcrumbs is acceptable

Knowing constraints ahead of time is excellent as it allows us to know which Suggestions we’re able to work with. For example, one of NextStage OnSite‘s Suggestions for this TireKicked Page is

Desireable – Provide (more) visitor-participatory navigation so that visitors become consciously aware of their navigation decisions.

Not sure what “visitor-participatory navigation” is? Not a problem. NextStage OnSite‘s Suggestions report tells you:

Visitor-Participatory Navigation – Menu style navigation is replaced by a single question in place of the standard menu. The question has several answers (that are themselves based on traditional menu options) and one of the answers is the option to return to a traditional menu system. Further, each loaded page includes BreadCrumbs so visitors have a clear understanding of where they’ve been on a site.

Why Training Is Important

Live training on any NextStage Tool goes beyond “click here, click there, now click that and get your report”. Live NextStage trainings cover human behavior, communication, behavioral psychology, consumer psychology and the like in depth. This is obviously true for our listed trainings and is also true for our tool trainings. Tool trainings focus more on how to use tool recommendations and results to cause the desired human behavior, et cetera, and students still learn a great deal about how humans interact with their environment and each other3.

In this case, a little social and behavioral psychology provide some obvious solutions.
What We're Allowed to Modify on the TireKicked Page

Form to Function

The image on the right is the form of our TireKicked page. The area we’re constrained to is bordered in red. Because the actual audience is young we’re going to make use of how youthful minds (under 25 years old) demonstrate social cognition, mirroring and group identity. Remembering that the client has told us this TireKicked page’s purpose is to demonstrate product/service/offering features (and by the numbers):

  1. Adjust the copy within the body area of the page
    • Any feature-descriptive text must indicate how this product/service/offering will create or continue connectivity between friends, peers and related others. Write anything about TXTing, sharing video, et cetera, content with friends and family and you’ve scored a success.
    • Include images of groups involved in some activity (walking in a downtown setting, biking, but stopped, et cetera) with two or more group members using the product/service/offering
    • Any banner offer image should show two or three peer group members demonstrating enjoyment due to their use of the product/service/offer.
    • If the audience is too young to make independent purchase decisions (they require parental approval), modify the banner image such that a single peer group member is on the left of the banner, the parent is on the right of the banner and make sure the parent is smiling or otherwise demonstrating acceptance and agreement.
      • The audience is fairly evenly mixed male/female so use a female parent image. Use a male parent image if the audience starts to skew and stay male.
    • Use short, decisive sentences to list features, use images to demonstrate features (two of NextStage OnSite‘s suggestions were “Critical – Use language which emphasizes understanding and logic, and demonstrates present capabilities” and “CriticalUse simple, concise language to differentiate items“. Other suggestions were along similar lines)
  2. No changes to the design or placement of navigation – The Suggestions Report offered several modifications, none are applied at this point in time
  3. Adding “nav-looking” links on the right is acceptable
    • Several NextStage OnSite suggestions apply to where “nav-looking” links should take visitors (remembering that this page’s purpose is to demonstrate or list product/service/offering features)
      • Critical – Include a video demonstrating the endgoal of the visitor specific to the current page. Make the video informative, educational and entertaining. Example: a video of someone in the target audience using the product, good or service specific to the page. The video demonstrates some simple and common operations using the product, good or service.
      • Important -Any “self-help” pages should have an image montage of the any steps involved. The image montage is synched to an audio feed explaining each image, its purpose, et cetera. The visitor must be able to control the image/audio progression.
      • Important – Use images which demonstrate your product or service being used 1-2 seasons ahead to do specific tasks.
  4. Creating a number of “orphan pages” where navigation between the pages is via breadcrumbs is acceptable
    • This is one of NextStage OnSite‘s suggestions, as noted above. Combine breadcrumbs with the product demonstration and self-help suggestions above and the redesign work is done.

What We Did Within the Business ConstraintsA rough mockup of some suggestions (for starting point purposes only) is shown on the right.

Summary

Any tool is going to require some training in its use and some tools will require users to incorporate new information, new ways of thinking and problem solving methods.

This post has gone through one of NextStage OnSite‘s thirty reports — TireKickers — and demonstrated how to use it to increase conversions.

The next post in this series will pick up with the other big visitor population chunk, that 22.5% that are Talking Themselves Into/Out of converting.

Third Take-Away

One NextStage client was boasting about the 35%+ gains they received based on various NextStage tool recommendations at a recent conference.


1 – Normally, NextStageologists (our consultants who help clients) look at site pages as a last resort because the moment someone looks at something they form an opinion and that opinion changes the observer and what is observed forever. Our own prejudices, likes, dislikes and personal requirements are the last thing clients need when they ask us to help them redesign their pages.

In the case of NextStageologists, we actively guard against our unknown biases and prejudices affecting our understanding of the reports or what they’re reporting on. We may ask about form and function but rarely content.

2 – V9 is one of NextStage’s RichPersonaeTM designations. NextStage’s RichPersonaeTM do not necessarily map one-to-one to other psych-behavioral systems.

3 – NextStage also offers client specific and customized trainings. Contact us for information.

Looking for Love? Now You Can Find All the Right Places!
(On the Evolution of Tools)


The NextStage LoveJones ToolI published What Kind of Lover Are You (And Can You Improve)? on That Think You Do and introduced The NextStage LoveJones Tool (NSLJ)1 last Friday (2 Dec 2011).

History

There’s a bit of history behind that tool, some of which is documented in How Do You Define ‘Love’?. In a nutshell, several years back a personals site asked if we could produce a tool that would determine if people would fall in lust. They called it “love” and when we talked with them at length their greater interest was lust.

Lust — or Erotic love — is immediate, tends to be satisfying due to its extreme psychosensual and endorphin stimulating nature (sex is good exercise in case you didn’t know) and — the best part as far as personals sites are concerned — lustful relationships tend to be temporary. Participants tend to tire of each other quickly because once you get past the magic whumpa whumpa there’s not much holding the relationship together. I should also point out that there’s lots of studies indicating 17-30yos primarily want this kind of relationship (sometimes called “f’ckbuddies”) and an analysis of TXT traffic in this age group bears this out. This generation’s momentary pairings purely for tension release make my generation’s barhopping look lame.

The goal of most personals sites is to have people return frequently to queue up for their next go-round. Long term relationships don’t generate a lot of income for personals sites. Yes, they advertise successful long term pairings because the majority of people frequenting such sites are in a state of “hope”, hence market to that hope.

The reality is that such sites profit when people fall in and out of lust or like and definitely not love. The personals sites’ goals, in other words, is to have people make long term commitments to the site, not to people they’ve met through the site because such sites don’t profit if you find the love of your life, they only profit if you find the love of your night, week or month at best.

Anyway, determining such things was beyond ET’s2 ability at the time. However, developing ET-based tools that determined people’s suitability for each other seemed so doable that we kept returning to it through the years.

aHA! Moments

NextStage OnSite Visitor Analysis ToolEventually we figured it out. We didn’t realize we had figured it out at first. We got our first inkling that the problem was solved when we released our NextStage OnSite3 (NSOS) demo. Normally NextStage OnSite reports on visitor activity en masse. The breakthrough was in isolating and reporting on unique visitors.

aHA!Isolating and reporting on unique visitors wasn’t a breakthrough so much as it was a remembering of how ET was originally purposed; to help individual students better understand course material. That form of ET monitored some highly specific aspects of memory and cognition of individual visitors/students. It was while modifying those ET elements for a specific NSOS client that we had our aHA! moment.

We had lots of data (both our own and from a variety of other researchers) on how the brain maps “love” to specific regions, to what degree, at what levels and so on. All that was necessary on our end was to develop the neuromathematics that translated those neural firings to psychomotor behavioral cues (both gross and fine) and then test test test.

Meanwhile, Back at the Barn…

NextStage SampleMatchWhile this was going on, we released our NextStage SampleMatch Tool4. Whenever we release a new tool we get lots of emails about how that tool could be used, specifically how it could be used in ways we never thought of.

Case in point,

Can your SampleMatch tool show me where I’ll find people I’ll like, maybe even someone to fall in love with? …

Well…that wasn’t what it was designed for, and…hmm…yes, it could.

More accurately, it could give you an idea where you’ll find like-minded people, people you’re most likely to get along with.

So while we were testing testing testing the NextStage LoveJones tool we also realized some it’s outputs could be used as inputs to our SampleMatch tool and, as they say…

…the Quest Was On!

NextStage PersonaScope reveals details about individual thinking patterns, behaviors and motivationsOne of the things NextStage LoveJones determines (although it doesn’t report it) is the user’s RichPersona5. RichPersonae are reported by NextStage PersonaScope (NSPS).

Using myself as a test subject, I ran an earlier version of this post through PersonaScope tool to get an idea of how I was thinking, behaving, responding, what was motivating me and so on. NextStage’s PersonaScope tool indicated that I was a V9 RichPersona (Personality Type). This is also known as an ENTJ in some psych profiling systems.

NextStage's PersonaScope thinks evaluated me as a V9 Personality TypeBut a V9? I know a lot about V9 RichPersona/Personality Types because PersonaScope tool tells me a great deal about such things. Basically, at that moment in time and based on what I’d been doing at that point in time, I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around6. Note: We suggest PersonaScope users prevent one bad piece from dominating an analysis of themselves or others by gathering several pieces together into one file, say some emails or blog posts written over several months, maybe 7-10 total, then put them through PersonaScope.

NextStage's RichPersonae Wheel - Click for larger imageMoving ever onward, the next step was to take a look at NextStage’s RichPersonae Wheel. Not quite a Wheel of Fortune and perhaps close in this case. (Note that the image on the right is a simplified version of our RichPersonae Wheel)

For the purposes of using SampleMatch to find a soul mate, life partner, significant other, special someone, …, the next question is “Do I believe Likes attract or do I believe Opposites attract?”

This question is significant because Likes versus Opposites indicates where you should look on the wheel to determine the RichPersonae of those significant others.

Likes Attract - Click for larger imageLet’s say for our example that you learn you’re an A19 Personality Type and you believe Likes attract. You should look for people with A18, A19 and A20 Rich Personae. People with Rich Personae further and further away from A19 are increasingly less likely to make an A19 personality type happy.

Opposites Attract - Click for larger imageUnless, of course, you believe that opposites attract. Opposites attracting allows our A19 personality type to select from a V6, V7 and V8 personality types.

Therefore the next question in the queue is “Is this user a like or opposite type of person?” That’s actually determined in the RichPersonae. My (at that time) V9 RichPersona was very much an opposites attract type of person. Our A19 example is a likes attract type of person.

The Need to KISS

Possible Attractions - Click for larger imageAt this point we sat back a bit. “Okay, we need the visitor to first use PersonaScope to determine their RichPersona, then they need to know if the response indicates a Like or Opposite personality type, then how to map the response to either a “Likes” or “Opposites” on the RichPersonae Wheel, then what? Are we going to ask them to breakdance on their tablets while singing the Oratorio from Carmen? Backwards? In Spanglish?”

We realized that yes, requiring users/visitors to navigate such a solution path violated our own rules and observations regarding how people use tools (not just ours, everybodies’). The best way to get the largest number of people to use anything is to KISS, the “Keep It Simple, Smeadley” rule that’s on each of our tools as Use: Pure and simple, you login, [either upload a file or enter an URL], click on submit and get your result. Clean, quick, simple and neat because we like it that way.

Eventually we decided that ET could figure all this out and without asking the user any questions at all, simply report back the most likely geographic locations where the user might find compatible life-partners. No questions, only results.

And the Winner Is…

Introducing The NextStage LoveFinderSo we developed The NextStage LoveFinder (NSLF) that automatically performs all the steps outlined above. Literally, all you need to do is login and it determines where on the globe you’re most likely to find compatible life-partners.

So if you notice any mass migrations over the next few years…

And we’re also waiting to see if there are certain places where anyone is most likely to be lucky.

The above, by the way, is how tools evolve here at NextStage; either clients make a request or ask a question and we’re off, or sometimes we just go exploring because we’re researchers and that’s what we like to do.

Currently we’re working on two new tools, one directly requested by a NextStage member and the other hinted at by another NextStage member (although they didn’t know it at the time).

And we continue to improve all our existing tools, too.

Busy us, yes?

True TriQuatro

Beta tests and current use of NextStage LoveJones are indicating that culture plays a great role in how people interact with their partners. Fascinating stuff, this, we thinks!


The NextStage LoveJones Tool1 – The NextStage LoveJones tool measures a bunch of factors and determine what, if anything, the user could do to improve their relationship with their life-partner(s).

2 – If you’re new to this blog or NextStage in general, ET is Evolution Technology, something we designed and developed, now being used in over 70 countries worldwide, and is capable of determining and responding to human thoughts through any human-machine interface.

NextStage OnSite Visitor Analysis Tool3NextStage OnSite is a site visitor analysis tool that provides qualitative and quantitative information about visitors well beyond traditional analytics. OnSite even evaluates bounces and lets you know why visitors bounced. OnSite requires only that a simple JavaScript tag be inserted between the </BODY> and </HTML> tag on each page you want monitored. The basic version consists of thirty reports that determine various psychological (“{C,B/e,M} matrix” or “cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational”) factors about visitors, all of which provide suggestions for improving site conversion. You can learn more on the NextStage OnSite About page.

NextStage SampleMatch4NextStage SampleMatch (NSSM) analyzes NextStage OnSite data collected worldwide and determines the RichPersonae of geographic regions. Clients use this location specific RichPersonae information to insure their marketing material is designed correctly for the available audience.

NextStage PersonaScope reveals details about individual thinking patterns, behaviors and motivations5 – “RichPersona” is the high level concept of an individual {C,B/e,M} (Cognitive, Behavioral/effective, Motivational) matrix. People are always demonstrating how they think (“Cognitive”), how they act based on how they think (“Behavioral/effective), and how how they think motivates (“Motivational”) them to behave as they do. NextStage currently indices 144 RichPersona for most cultures although that number can be significantly higher for specific audiences (east Asian audiences, for example). NextStage’s PersonaScope (NSPS) tool analyzes material and reports RichPersona in depth.

6 – It’s probably worth knowing that we eat our own dog food here at NextStage, so to speak. I took a moment to determine if I really was demonstrating V9 characteristics and yes, I was. Okay, time to put things down or away and go take care of myself so that I would be a better person to be with for both myself and those around me.

I realized my schedule at the time was somewhat harried and that I was putting demands on myself that were both unnecessary and excessive, nor was it making life much fun for everybody else. I took control back and feel better for it (and I’m told so do those around me).

If you think I’m sexy and you like my <BODY>…

Rod StewartOkay, so that’s not quite the way Rod Stewart sang it.

This post is going to be about things being not quite but close to and in a way will follow the tone of The High Cost of Cancelling WorkOutWorld Membership. It’s going to be about the long loong loooooong road to NextStage’s new interface, one that will be going across all our sites in the coming months.

And it begins better than a year ago. I think two years ago at this point… (just looked it up. Yep, two years ago at this point…)

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Long ago I was asked what the new NextStage interface should look like based on the new audiences we were attracting. I came up with a crisp, clean, neat and highly actionable design. There were only three things you could do on that page I designed; Go to the NextStage Analytics site, enter the NextStage Evolution site or become a NextStage Evolution member (and hence gain access to our research and core Evolution Technology (“ET”) itself).1

I drew out the design by hand with lots of explanation of color schemes, fonts, image sizes, logo, …

The NextStage Evolution homepage I designedMy notes and drawings became the image on the right. People loved it when I showed it to them. One marketing maven thought devoting so much screen real estate to transferring people to the NextStage Analytics site (the big blue box on the right of the image) was wasteful. My response was a question, “Do you design such that the site’s goals and the visitor’s goal synch?”2

Umm…cough…nervous smile and furrowed brow… “Yes, of course I do.”

uh Huh.

The NextStage Analytics homepage I designedThe design I came up with recognized NextStage’s two audiences and that those two audiences would rarely sit at the same table together. One audience is marketing folks. Few of those folks really want what NextStage Evolution offers (pure and applied research, access to our researchers, research papers, …) , therefore quickly, cleanly and easily get them over to the site of a company that does offer what they want, NextStage Analytics. That site (also designed by me) is shown on the right. That big center box would hold a video or flash that was activated by the three large buttons on the left, from top to bottom “Learn About”, “What We Do” and “Who We Are”, the three functions we had learned were upmost on the minds of our shifting audience.

NextStage Analytics has a much more markety3 feel to it. The two sites share color schemes and such due to branding, they differ where they have to due to the different audiences they’d serve.

Visually distinctive and highly actionable designs with extremely good visual cues regarding what to do, what goals are achievable and how to achieve them, colors specifically chosen to echo people’s concerns about what we do and guide them past their concerns and into acceptance, all that NextStagey kind of stuff…

These two images — just the images. I drew out and explained the designs, color schemes, action paths, …, remember? — together cost about US$78,000.

People thought NextStage’s consulting prices were high?

I was told not to worry about the cost.

Oh-kay.

I’m skeptical by nature. People are surprised by that. You may have noticed in my blog posts, presentations and such that I tend towards caution, tend not to make a move without lots of evidence, rely on data-driven information, actively seek the counsel of others, …

One of the ways this manifests is that I don’t spend money unless I’m absolutely convinced there will be real, recognizable benefit to doing so. I’m frugal. And for the going on ten-plus years I’ve been doing this, no one ever, anywhere at any time has been able to prove4 to me that money spent redesigning a site consistently, directly, unequivocally, unquestionably and with a better than 83%5 certainty turned into increased revenue from that site.

Ever.

And I’ve asked people. Lots of people. Ten and better years of people.6

And nobody ever gave me an answer. Some…in fact, the majority by close to 100%… said that I shouldn’t ask that kind of question. It had nothing to do with what site (re)design was about.

Say what? What do you mean I can’t equate the cost of a site redesign to revenue from that redesign moving forward? No wonder marketers and analysts don’t get along. And people wonder what planet I’m from?

This whole exercise started with a request to help new visitors migrate to a more comfortable interface. Migrating people between interfaces is something NextStage is very familiar with (it’s covered in Reading Virtual Minds Volume 2: Theory and Online Applications. I really need to finish that book. In the meantime, go read Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding). Migrating people between interfaces allows past audiences to combine with new audiences in ways that keep both audiences happy and converting.7

And these images work how? Explain to me how these jpgs become a website again, I seemed to have missed that detail the first time

Once past sticker shock I wanted to know “How do you create page templates from these images?”

Well…you don’t. There were no templates. It was all handled by an advanced CMS.

Fair enough. “The CMS system must break up the image somehow, right? I mean, you don’t drop an image of the completed page on the browser each time someone clicks on a different page, do you?”

That’s all handled by the CMS.

“Fine. How?”

I don’t know.

“Where are the docs for the CMS?”

There were no docs for the CMS. It was a custom CMS. You’ll have to trust us.

“Okay, where does the CMS go that’s going to cms our site?”

On your server.

Where it went. And went untouched. By them. For…I’m not sure, I’d have to ask Charles8, but I think it was between 3-6 months.

Oh, they did a few things on it at first — installation alone took over a month because they forgot to make sure all the software they needed was installed before loading the CMS — and then fewer…and fewer…and then…

And during none of this time did we see those beautiful designs turned into operational reality. I did see a “dev” site once with menus that opened when you clicked on the buttons, but no menu item led anywhere and the dev site never got past that homepage.

Which was loaded as a whole image, I think.

I finally asked Charles to look through the CMS data and see if there were any templates, any pages, any anything we could use.

He didn’t find any templates or pages, no…

But he did find contact and business data for all the other customers this group had worked with in the past.

Out went “You’ll have to trust us.” Real quick.

I asked the design firm contact why nothing had been done. “You hurt [the designer’s] feelings.” Not to mention that said designer thought I was a #%&!!MCU**^@! because I kept on asking for results along with the bills.

But wait a second…I hurt the designer’s feelings? How so?

“You didn’t take his suggestions.”

I said to the contact, “But even you admitted you preferred my design to his, that my design moved you at a gut level and in a positive direction. You admitted his didn’t do either, that it was ‘sexy’ but ineffective and non-motivational.” Not to mention that in a standard A/B test9 people stayed on my design and replayed it — the video or flash centerpiece — an average of three times to the ‘sexy’ design’s once and usually moving on before it completed a single run.

I asked, “And how come nobody’s concerned about my feelings? I don’t suppose he could take this as a learning opportunity, could he? God knows I am.”

I was once again told I “shouldn’t ask that kind of question.”10

Next I asked the design group contact to show me how the CMS worked because “This makes it so much easier to manage sites and change features.”

Okay. Fair enough. And I will admit that the new design image did come up on the screen. But only inside the CMS, not in a web browser. I pointed to a button in the image, moved my finger to another part of the screen and said, “Move that over to here.”

That’s not what the CMS is designed to do.

Uh…yeah. Perhaps my emPHAsis was on the wrong sylLAble. Perhaps it wasn’t CONTENTmanagement but contentMANAGEMENT. “Okay. Do something. Anything. Show me how this tool does something that I can recognize as ‘something got done’.”

Five minutes later I was still waiting.

An incredibly complicated tool that…did…nothing…

But dang it sure did cost a lot!11

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

“Charles, that business data you found. Is it still in there?” It was.

“Could you just pull the names for me? Nothing else, nothing more. Just the contact names.” He did.12 I recognized some of the names. Knew them on a friendly level. I called them and asked, “What can you tell me about such-and-such-and-so-and-so CMS?”

The best (meaning, least painful sounding) response was “We had it {note “had it”} for two years and could never get it to work right.” About middle was “We had it {again with the “had it”} on our servers but every time we wanted to change our site we had to go to them because there were no docs and there was no training.”

Great way to insure job security, that. No docs, no training, and by selling a tool that’s so complex to use only the people who built it know how to use it.13

I was quickly realizing there was an unsatisfactory solution in the making. Time to rethink and reassess. I’ve written elsewhere that one of my math mentors once told me, “For god’s sake, if you’re going to make a mistake make it at the beginning. It’ll be easier to find and you’ll have less invested in getting to the result.”

Good advice, that. We were still close enough to the beginning…I mean, there was no operational site and only some jpgs to play with…so I called John, someone I’ve known for years and who designs toys, statues, cars, comics, bookcovers (he did Reading Virtual Minds V1 and he’ll be doing the rest if I ever get them written), just about everything. “John, I need something to bridge the NextStage site design while adding certain other elements towards a new design. Interested?”

Migration Behaviors – Designing for them and Understanding them

First, you don’t have to be a bird, a caribou, a bison or some other animal to take part in migration. Humans were migrating a long, long time ago (see Birth Control’s Long History for an example) and you’ll probably be shocked to learn that the parts of our brains used to move from one geography to another are the same parts of our brains used to move from one interface to another.

Think of it this way; We have all that neural horsepower just waiting for something to do but most of us don’t perform seasonal migrations anymore (people who travel from a summer home to a winter home and back aren’t performing migrations in the ethological or behavioral sense). However, we do regularly migrate cognitive landscapes.

Cognitive landscapes? You probably call them interfaces. And not just software interfaces, but any commonly used human-nonhuman interaction point, place, method or system is an “interface”.

For example, I’m a’ guessing that one of the most obvious human-nonhuman interaction points is hardly given any thought by the vast majority of people reading this post although it was a major stepping stone in each reader’s personal histories and without it, your ability to socialize would be severely handicapped. That interaction point is the toilet.

Bet you never thought of the toilet as an interface, let alone a cognitive landscape. But enter a public or private bathroom and not have the interface you’re use to and whompus! don’t you do some thinking? Some looking around for what you know should be there? Don’t you experience some confusion?

Well, thinking, visual searching and confusion are all aspects of cognition. When you think about yourself doing something in some place you’re familiar with then find yourself needing to do that same something in a place you’re unfamiliar with, you create a image of that familiar place in your mind, match what you know to what you don’t know and mentally “walk” through the familiar while looking around the unfamiliar to figure out where what you need is located.

Have you ever misplaced something and thought back in time to when you last knew you had it or saw it, then mentally moved forward in time to figure out where you last had it?

Congratulations, you were navigating a cognitive landscape.

Have you ever sat down to use an upgrade or completely new version of some once familiar software and had to figure out how to perform a once familiar task, perhaps saying to yourself something like “Hmm…that use to be on this menu. I wonder where they put it now?”14

Congratulations, you were navigating a cognitive landscape.

These cognitive landscapes are everywhere and people involved in usability, product and information design and the like would do well to study them. Have you had to drive an unfamiliar car?

You can do the “major” car function pretty easily — you can drive it to get where you’re going. But what about the lights? Anybody remember when highbeams moved from the floor switch to the steering column? Anybody remember when the horn went from the center of the steering wheel to the steering wheel ring itself (that one didn’t last)? And what about the radio? Or the mirrors?

Cognitive landscapes again and a tribute to the evolution of automotive design. You want to sell cars to lots of people? Make the “major” car functions as standard as possible. You want to sell your cars to lots of people? Make the “minor” car functions just different enough that they’re both distinctive and more easily performed than in your competitors’ models.15

Anyway, moving people from one interface to another is an exercise in helping them migrate from one cognitive landscape to another.

A simple problem that’s already been solved many times in many places.

Here are the migration goals16 as they apply online:

  1. Uniformity across web presences…
  2. While demonstrating individuality among interfaces…
  3. That doesn’t alienate the known audience…
  4. While appealing to the new audience…
  5. And retains a simple, elegant functionality.

By the numbers…

1. Uniformity across web presences

We wanted a “standard” interface for branding purposes. What is the brand we want recognized across all interfaces?


NextStage Evolution (Duh!).

The brand/logo moving forwardSimple enough. Most people recognize the little figure with the concentric circles around its head as the NextStage logo. It’s on our cards, our current website, in our presentations and letterhead. In truth, we’ll probably never get rid of it because we’ve grown quite fond of our little homunculus. But our audience is changing and growing, so change and grow must our logo as well. Especially now that we’re releasing our desktop tools as web-based tools. But let our regular audience know it’s still us while letting our more recent audience know we’re growing and changing with them.

Also, our color has traditionally been blue. The concept of “blue” carries with it many, many messages (regardless of culture) that we find favorable, so stick with that, just bring it out more.

The NextStage KnowledgeShop, where the right to information is the right to be free...or at least inexpensive...so far...So if you’ve seen NextStage’s new storefront (and you should really go check it out. We’re adding items daily right now) or our BlueSky Meter, OnSite, PersonaScope, Sentiment Analysis, and I have no idea how many other tools we’ll have out by the time this post sees the light of day, you’ll quickly recognize that some standardization is at work.

NextStage BSMeter - NSBM. Want to know how much crap they're telling you? Use this little gem...In fact, our new banners are remarkably similar…except in the bright, sunburst yellow, product specific title just left of center on each banner.

NextStage OnSite - NSOS. Learn that yes, people really do think your site sucks and a few simple changes would up your conversions a few hundred percent!And yes, there is a very specific and excellent reason that we used that sunburst yellow color for our product titles. And yes, there’s a specific and excellent reason that our product titles are just left of center in the banner.

NextStage PersonaScope - NSPS. Oh, my gosh, those people really are a??holes!It won’t matter which tool people use, they’ll very quickly know that they’re on a NextStage site and the specific tool that site is serving.

NextStage Sentiment Analysis - NSSA. Yes, that author truly is a sniveling wreck and not only that, but the audience knows it! Yeeha!It would be great if similarity of banners was all that’s required. We also want to make sure that people who use any one tool will be able to quickly and easily use every other tool. Therefore…

A plain, simple and functional menu

…standardize the menu across all sites.17 Use a menu on one product site and you can navigate on all product sites.

2. While demonstrating individuality among interfaces…

Did you read what I wrote above about the banners being different and then only in the name of the product or place?

And why yellow? Sunburst yellow? Just left of center (a clue — when the number of our visitors from south of the equator increases a bit we’ll make our sites sensitive to that and reverse the banner layout)? In a blue background? Sky blue background?

Hmm…

Do some optocular-psychophysics and you learn that the sunburst yellow, sky blue color combination is something the visual system has had millions if not billions of years adapting to (the just left or right of center not so much so and still enough). It creates a calling in the very bases of our psyches such that denied sunlight and blue skies for enough time humans become suicidal, homicidal and worst of all, less likely to convert!

Oh, my goodness no!

But give our psyches sunburst yellow in a deep blue background and it’s Convert, Baby, Convert!

3. That doesn’t alienate the known audience…

Did you read above about using colors that had always been our colors? Or keeping our homunculus mascot and logo? Or our wonderful sense of humor and bon vi vance?

It turned out that our logo is so unique and so identifiable that people often equate it with NextStage’s other predominant brand, me. And even those people who don’t know it’s our logo know it doesn’t belong to any other company they’re aware of.

More to the point, when people who know nothing about us are shown the logo and asked to say something about the company behind it, they always answer that the company has something to do with minds, brain science, neurology, medical devices for measuring or analyzing the brain.

“…measuring or analyzing the brain” “…brain science…” “…minds”.18

Hmm…

As I’ve written in this post before, I’m good with that.

4. While appealing to the new audience…

Did I mention that our traffic volume and conversions have gone up while our bounces have gone down?

5. And retains a simple, elegant functionality.

Four simple menu items for products; Home, Pricing/Order, About, Contact.

Six in the KnowledgeShop and based on what people purchase from us; Home, Books, Papers, Presos, Tools, Trainings.

And so…

Sexy? I’m still not sure what the word means exactly in a design context. I do know that I can’t get more than a few people to a) agree on a definition and that small number decreases rapidly when I ask them to b) determine metrics for it. There is a science that can be thought of as a study of “what is sexy?”, Koinophilia or Koinophology, and yes, we’ve been doing about two years’ worth of research on it (most recently and with many thanks to fellow researcher, Greg Peverill-Conti, who’s supplying us with images to use in the research). Brad Berens presented some of our research to date to RedBull International and they were both interested and intrigued (thanks, Brad!).

What is “sexy”? For that matter, what is “professional”? It’s like the congressional definition of pornography, “Pornography is what I’m pointing at when I say it.” Explain “sexy” and “professional” as some kind of achievable ROI metric, then define action items that you have great surety will achieve that ROI, then demonstrate that ROI has been achieved in such a way that the data actually unequivocally undeniably indicates that what you did caused this result and there’s no two-ways about it, and I’ll believe you.

Until my research indicates something different or better.

People remember extremes, not middleground. Whatever else, NextStage is remembered (and thought of fondly, we hope). NextStage has always designed to be remembered and nobody confuses our brand with anybody else, so we’re good for two.

Designing incredibly well is one of the simplest things to do yet one of the most difficult to achieve because everybody believes they’re an expert while not having repeatable, demonstrable expertise. The end result? Lots of incredibly expensive, difficult to navigate, “sexy” to some while crap to others, debranding and unmemorable websites emerge and are quickly forgotten.

Add to this mix “the more specialized (single purpose) a tool is the more expensive that tool becomes”, add in site design, branding, navigation and conversion and you can go out of business (or close to) before anything is achieved. And if you’re a user who wants a taste for free then know you’re free sample is going to increase the ultimate cost of whatever you’re sampling for free at some point in time and you’ll end up paying for free whether you want to or not.

Addendum

Google, Plain and SimpleOn the day I finished the rough draft of this post I was sent Why Google backed down on home page backgrounds and Remove Google Background Critics Plead by some of our researchers and I was reminded of the person who, commenting on NextStage’s simple interface, said, “Well, it works for Google.”

Yep, sure does. And didn’t they learn something when they went to change it?

Well, pretty much, yes, they did learn something…what’s in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.

Gotta love it!


1 – Just so you’ll know, our loyal NextStage Evolution audience would have a link to the old site and be emailed login and passwords to the new site, something described in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.
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2 – You can read more about this at Claudiu Murariu’s If you could ask one question to a certain segment of traffic, what segment would you choose and what question would it be? post).

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3 – “markety” as in “Designed to appeal, entice, excite and engage people with a marketing mindset.” You’ll be shocked (Shocked!) to learn our Evolution Technology can determine such things and has been doing so since…oh…2003 or so (see Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, Chapter 4 “Hans Reimar Gets Offered a Job in Sales” for an example of this).

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4 – I will share an incantation with you, one I learned long ago and have used ruthlessly ever since. It is one of the most powerful magic spells known to humankind. It has stopped the high and the low immediately, confounded the minds of the wise and simple and brought strong men and women to their knees in remorse and shame. That incantation is…

Prove It!

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5 – I use “83%” because that’s been ET’s average accuracy since 2001. We’ll be doing a major upgrade to our Language Engines sometime this year (2010) and we expect that accuracy to climb a few notches although how much higher is due to [agonizingly long mathematical discussion deleted by Susan. Bet you’re glad, ain’t’cha?].

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6 – I actually started asking back in the late 1990s, during the dot com boom. I came to think that the dot com bust was due to people thinking a complete redesign meant more revenue when all they could guarantee a complete redesign meant was increased cost for the new design.

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7 – Isn’t it nice that we euphemize it to “converting”? I guess I’m the only person on the planet who wants them to buy buy buy.

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8 – Charles, I guess it’s time to reveal, is NextStage’s CTO. He’s been our little secret for quite a while now and we’ve convinced him to start shining his light. To that end, he’s writing and publishing articles under his own name (see Sample Size and Sampling Error in Social Media for an example).

I’ve known Charles since the early 1990s and in a completely different context than CTOish type things. He was, in fact, one of Evolution Technology’s (ET) earliest adopters and promoters. We’d gotten into the habit of emailing each other regularly and talking on the phone one or two times a week just to chat.

About a year back I was complaining about the fact that a “very good. He’s smart and can do what we need” data designer and programmer had already taken two months, charged US$30k and so far had failed to convert ET’s data system into something robust enough to move from desktop applications to a software as a service model.

I had explained to the “very good, smart” designer/programmer that ET’s data system was an identity-relational model, something that mimicked how the brain-mind recognizes things (as documented in Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History). Yes, I used a traditional entity-relational database technology to do it, but please don’t look for transactional processing, it doesn’t happen.

Two months, US$30k, and nothing. This very good, very smart person even wrote our contact that the design didn’t make sense and couldn’t work. Eventually our contact wrote us “…it was much too complicated that I thought to begin with” but only after first denying the situation for a while. Denial tactics don’t cut it with me much. Have you seen our Principles, specifically #6 – Take Responsibility for Your Actions and #15 – It is not easier to get forgiveness than permission?

So one Sunday, while talking to Charles, I mentioned this.

“Mind if I take a look?”

No, please. Be my guest. Knock yourself out.

An hour later Charles called me back. “I have your database working in SQL. Mind checking to see if it’s returning correct values?”

Within ±2db, it was. How did you do it so quickly?

“Your design had been working fine for better than ten years so it obviously did what it was suppose to do, and I know I don’t know how it’s suppose to work because even you admit you created that d?mned identity-relational model specifically for ET, so I just copied your structure into SQL, made only the necessary changes to make it SQL and tested to see if it worked. It did, so that’s that.”

Since then, Charles has learned more about how identity-relational models and improved my original designs greatly.

Introducing CharlesFor much less than US$30k. In much less than two months. His improvements to my original designs are why what originally took ten minutes now takes about ten seconds.

And if you think I’m scary, say something you can’t prove with facts — lots of ’em — to Charles sometime.

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9 – Yes, we do perform A/B and such tests although only in a greater “A/B” frame — if A is a traditional A/B test and B is NextStage’s methodology, which produces greater ROI?

Well, NextStage does. See Panalysis’ Rod Jacka Said It for a public example of this.

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10 – Note to people who wish to interact with us in the future: We’re RESEARCHERS!!! What we do is ask questions. All the time. And we don’t give up until we get answers that make sense along with all the other answers we’ve ever gotten. That’s probably why we’re such tough sells. We ask questions companies don’t want to answer.

Then again, it’s also probably why we’re so effective. Think of it as a corollary to Holmes’ “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth“, “When you have eliminated all that doesn’t work, whatever remains, however improbable, must work.”

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11 – Have you been following my rants (well, for me they’re rants) about outrageous pricing models? Sentiment Analysis at a Price Everyone Can Afford or Sentiment Analysis Costs How Much?, for example.

Funny how there's always enough to go around, ain't it?This concept that quality can only come at a high price reminds me of purchasing manure spreaders for the farm. Manure spreaders only glisten and shine when they’re on the showroom floor and the salesperson who doesn’t talk about spreading capacity, throw distance, rate and volume either doesn’t know what they’re selling or doesn’t have much respect for who they’re selling to. Manure spreaders can be right pretty when they’re not working or doing anything useful other than standing still doing nothing. They stop glistening and shining after the first use, usually the most junior farmhand is tasked with cleaning it after its used and it won’t work at all without a correctly geared and throttled tractor pulling it.

The big difference between farmers and businesses is that farmers know the manure spreader will get covered with sh?t as soon as it’s used, so buy one based on ability, not on looks.

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Charles's imitation of Barack Obama's 'gazing-at-the-distant-horizons' posture.12 – Did I mention that Charles is incredibly good at doing exactly what I ask, no more, no less, and when he does more he always gives me what I asked for first, then let’s me know there’s more if I want it and because he’s so good at what he does I always want the “more”. And you wonder why we’ve kept him secret? Wouldn’t you like to work with someone who responds to your requests that well and that quickly? Hmm?

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The original NSSA interface13 – One of our NextStage Sentiment Analysis beta testers commented that the original NSSA interface (shown on the right) was completely functional but she couldn’t show it to anybody. Another person offered that she couldn’t show it to management.

Fortunately, I’m good with that. I wanted to know if they ever had trouble using the tool.

“Nope, it works every time.”

It’s not difficult to use?

“Nope. You login, you enter what you want analyzed, you press [ENTER] and that’s it. A few seconds later you get your report.”

Several beta users commented that it was amazingly fast. They thought it would take a while to finish it’s analysis and were surprised when they didn’t even have time to stand up (that’s that “Charles in ten seconds thing” I mentioned earlier).

Are the reports difficult to understand?

Not at all. You explained one over the phone and it was pretty obvious…almost intuitive (well, I should hope so, really. Intuition is one of the ways the non-conscious communicates with the conscious, and as that is what Evolution Technology is geared to do, voila!).

You still using it?

Definitely!”

So…easy to use (check!), understandable (check!), actionable (check!), works every time (check!), still using it (Check!!!) …

I’m good with such things. Handing me a gold hammer equates to telling me you’ve never driven a nail (gold, softer than steel, will deform each time you strike the nail). Yes, a gold hammer looks real pretty in your hand but for heaven’s sake don’t use it. You’ll hurt yourself, you’ll ruin the pretty and expensive hammer and you won’t get squat done.

And besides, NSSA Advanced and Voices versions includes spreadsheets of their analysis. If you need a gold hammer, you can make exactly the one you need because we provide all the parts.

Now about not showing the interface to management…during a training I mentioned that the tool would process any material although we preferred text for now. Somebody asked if it could process emails.

“Yeah, sure.”

And they promptly sent through an email from management.

And I explained the output for them without knowing what they had sent through.

And they were laughing their heads off.

And then they told me it was a management email about the new benefits package.

With Confidence about -90%, Trust at 0%, Destructive at 88%, They’re Not Good People at 80%, …

Lots of people are sending through management and other emails, we learned, so we’re coming out with a tool to specifically read emails. I’ll announce it on Twitter, I’m sure.

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14 – Our constant interviewing of common people continually pulls up interesting tidbits. Regarding redesigns debranding, one individual who was (was!) a loyal FoxNews.com visitor told us “Foxnews.com just redesigned their homepage and lost me for one as a visitor. It’s busy, confusing and takes too much effort to find what I want.”

Way to go, Fox!

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15 – I once owned a very high end BMW. Everybody was impressed by it. Valets in Boston, Montreal, Hartford, New Haven, NYC and Quebec City always commented on what a great car it was, how good looking it was.

The only problem was that the seats fit neither Susan’s nor my butt. We looked great, people took note of our comings and goings and it was one of the most danged uncomfortable rides we ever had. Not to mention that once or twice the car’s computer forgot we were driving, that I was the owner, had entered the correct code and decided to shut itself down anyway.

While we were on the highway.

Going 70mph.

So I’ll go with simple, clean and neat (I now drive a ten year old Jeep Cherokee). I don’t need to look good. Especially if it means I’m going to be uncomfortable and at risk.

All I need to do is get there.

Things any car should be able to do. But having one that can do it easily, economically, reliably and is comfortable to use?

Priceless!

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16 – You can get a primer on migrating users between interfaces in Site ReDesign to Maximize Visitor Acceptance and Branding.

I also need to add here that I’ll be posting some of NextStage’s research findings about who prefers “sexy” interfaces and why on The Analytics Ecology. It has been truly fascinating (at least to me) as it deals with why some people prefer “sexy” pages and others don’t. It has little to do with the page and lots to do with people’s feelings and attitude towards what’s offered and who’s doing the offering.

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17 – At one point Charles wanted to know if we’d be designing for all the different devices out there. I asked some NSSA beta testers and our Advisors and the universal response was “Don’t design for everything, you’ll go nuts.”

So when someone contacted me to let me know our menu didn’t show up on their mobile device — everything else worked fine, all the images showed up, but the menu didn’t work — my first thought was that this was a fascinating piece of information that hearkened back to “Don’t design for everything, you’ll go nuts”.

But this wasn’t a design issue, it was a usability issue. The menus not showing up means the site was unusable to this person and lack of usability is a concern.

But wait a second…I have data on how many bounces our new sites are getting and the numbers are decreasing from what they were (our old site had 19% bounce rate. It’s less than that now). This individual, not being able to navigate and leaving the site after one page, would be considered a bounce.

And I have a fairly good idea of the ratio that forms between some one person sharing information and how many non-sharers that person probably represents.

And that number is still lower than our bounce rate, so the number of people coming to our sites on mobile devices that don’t load our menus is…

…small

I checked with some people anyway. That’s the way I am. Overly cautious, highly methodical, a RESEARCHER, remember?

I know quite a few people with mobile devices; LG smartphones, iPhones, ‘Droids, … Were there any other mobile devices having problems? It turned out that menu-appearment was device dependent and the mobile device market is highly in flux. As one person explained to me, “The menus show up. I have to do a “long press” for the drop down to work. But my phone reads that input as wanting to save the image. I can back out of that and then click on the expanded menu though. Many touch-screen phones are just that. Predominately single-touch menu interfaces. Something like a rollover on a typical website may take some finagling to get to. Depending on how the site is coded I’ve had the phone bring up its own menu of the items in the drop down. But that varies from site to site.”

So we’re not going to worry about that right now. When we get lots and lots and lots of people coming to our sites over mobile devices, maybe, and not right now, thanks.

But don’t you love it when the data actually unequivocally undeniably indicates both what to do and how to do it?

I just love that.

Final comment on this thread: this individual suggested NextStage hire a web designer/programmer so we wouldn’t have to worry about things like this in the future.

Thanks. Great suggestion. Getting bit for US$78k once was enough, though.

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Maybe we should start selling these in the KnowledgeShop?18 – We once set forth a bunch of our researchers on a bright summer day, each of them wearing a t-shirt with our little homunculus on the front. A little girl wanted to know what other toys we made but all the adults asked what kind of psychological testing service, counseling agency, opinion research, … we did.

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