NSOS – About NextStage OnSite

NextStage OnSite Digital Property Traffic Monitoring Tool

Use: Pure and simple, you login and get your report. Clean, quick, simple and neat because we like it that way.

NextStage OnSite (NSOS) is a visitor analysis tool based on Nextstage’s patented and award winning Evolution Technology (ET). ET is the only patent (as far as we know) granted by the USPTO that “allows machines to understand and respond to human thought“.

NextStage OnSite Basic consists of up to thirty (30) reports that work on any digital property regardless of site or visitor language. Clients may contact NextStage regarding adding reports as additional costs may be involved. Each NSOS installation includes one (1) day of consulting/month. Clients may purchase additional consulting at US$5,000/day.

NextStage OnSite Advanced requires visitor native language knowledge, adds an additional thirty (30) reports and is only available to select clients and researchers (contact NextStage for details).

NextStage OnSite Basic or Advanced require a minimum of 5,000 unique visitors per time period to report properly. The only tagging requirement is a simple JavaScript tag between the </BODY> and </HTML> tag on each website page you want monitored. Mobile properties are monitored slightly differently although the ease of installation is the same. Clients are given password access to their reports.

Basic Onsite reports include:

Age

The Age report determines the demographic age breakdown of visitors to your site.

Visitor Age Analysis

Branding

This report measures if visitors are being branded while they’re on your site. Technically, it measures how much of the visitors’ deep and long-term learning channels are active while they’re on the site and how well the site as a whole passes information into those channels. There are several learning channels depending on how and where and for how long you want information stored. You want visitors to remember a site/product/brand as separate and unique from other sites/products/brands they’re visiting because they can only return to a site if they remember it exists in the first place.
That, in a nutshell, is branding.

Branding

Conversion Factors

This graph shows eight easily modifiable factors need to be adjusted to increase conversions. The yellow bar indicates how much each page is contributing to the conversion, the blue indicates how much the visitor is contributing to the conversion and the red indicates the importance visitors are attributing to each factor. A red dot above the yellow and blue bar indicates the page needs to contribute more to a given factor to increase conversions. A red dot in a blue area indicates visitors are contributing too much information — information you have no control over — to the decision process. The eight conversion factors measured are:


  • Can the individual imagine themselves using/doing something?
  • Would the individual really use the product or would it just collect dust?
  • Can the product, service, whatever be successfully worked into their current lifestyle or would getting whatever require a change in their lifestyle? (Note that this may or may not be a positive experience based on other factors)
  • Has the individual had any experience with this or a similar product/information?
  • Is the individual using this or a similar product?
  • Has, does or will the individual have a need for this or a similar product?
  • Does individual believe they will have or have they had pleasure due to the product, service, whatever?
  • Does individual believe they will have or have they had pain due to the product, service, whatever?

Purchase/Exchange Stop


Credibility

The Credibility report measures if site visitors found the information on your site Credible (believable), Uncredible (they want to believe and want substantiating information) and Incredible (they simply don’t believe it).

Credibility


Defection

Defection is the counterpoint to Loyalty. Loyalty measures a willingness to endure pain while Defection measures how long that pain will be endured before the individual “goes to the other side”. This report lists “Days to Defection” in the horizontal axis. Note that this report is actually measuring visitor subjective time (what the visitor thinks, not necessarily what they’ll do although the two usually coincide). The report examples shown here indicates that NextStage site visitors tend to be both loyal and have no interest in defecting.

Time To Defection


Engagement by Gender

The Engagement by Gender report shows you if males or females are more interested in your site and/or are shopping your site more carefully.

Engagement by Gender


Engagement by Page

The Engagement by Page report determines which pages are generating the most interest (across all users) on your site, and is a measure of visitors motivation to purchase, exchange, conduct business, etc., on a page by page basis.

Engagement by Page


Engagement by URL

The Engagement by URL report determines which URLS — hence which geographic locations — are sending you visitors most interested in your site/service/product/offerings. This report matches levels of engagement to distinct URLs, indicating which visitors and which geographies are the most likely buyers. Knowing this information directly guides your on- and off-line marketing efforts. You learn quickly where to direct your collateral efforts and can measure how successful recent efforts have been.

Engagement by URL


Engagement by Time Period

The Engagement by Time Period report indicates when visitors to your website are in a “buying” or “conversion” mood. Certain companies will bid on search terms during specific time periods because they know that’s when ‘the fish are biting.’ The Engagement by Time Period report shows when ‘the fish are biting’ on your website.

Engagement by Time Period


Expectation

Expectation is the basic, gut level desire visitors have of satisfying some need when they come to your site. That need can be finding goods, getting or finding some service, getting information, making contact, servicing their account, whatever it was they made them want to visit your site in the first place. Expectations can be low, medium or high. Measuring expectation is crucial in designing material so that it quickly helps visitors achieve their goals.

Expectation


Experience

This report measures the basic, gut level reaction a visitor has to your website. Visitors can have a good experience, a bad experience or be indifferent. Knowing Experience is key to everything about making sure your message gets across, that your product gets purchased, or that your site gets and keeps people coming back. People will remember extremes, so you want their experience to be either good or bad. In either case, they’ll return. If it was a good experience, they’ll return because they enjoyed it or were successful. If it was a bad experience, they’ll return with friends to show them how bad it was. You never want visitors to go away indifferent. People remember bests and worsts meals, people, cars, movies, music, … Can you remember the best meal you ever ate? Can you remember the worst? What about the most average meal? Ever had a really incredible dining experience at a burgerjoint? You don’t want your website to be a burgerjoint.

Experience


Failure Pages

Which pages are causing visitors to lose interest in staying on your site, in what you have to offer, etc.? The PageFailures report measures which pages are causing visitors to lose interest in your offering and convincing them to look elsewhere. Often these “failure pages” precede “last page visited” by 2-3 clicks. Companies who redesign “last page visited” are wasting their efforts because the decision to leave a site is made before that last page is reached. The Failure Pages report insures you’re focusing your efforts where they’ll generate the greatest reward.

Failure Pages

Failures Pages to Exits

Failure Pages to Exits measures the difference between the page where a visitor lost interest to the page where they actually left a site. This chart shows the page where interest died and how many pages later the visitor actually left a site. Most people get a metric of which page visitors left on and begin modifying that page. That’s a nice exercise and not at all useful because the page visitors left on isn’t usually the page where they lost interest in continuing. Think of it this way; You’re shopping for a car. Something about the car you’re looking at right now doesn’t work for you. Do you immediately walk away from that car or do you spend a little bit of time talking yourself out of the car? Most people spend a little bit of time talking themselves out of the car before they move onto the next car (meaning they’ll continue shopping on your site, maybe) or leave the dealership (meaning they’ll leave your site, probably). That little bit of time talking to themselves equates to continuing on a site for a few more pages before they leave. Your goal at this point is to regain their interest on those few pages you have left. Think of it as a salesperson recognizing interest has waned and directing the client to what the salesperson knows was of interest, picking up the thread of the sale and moving on from there.

Page Failures to Exits


Gender Ratio

How many men and women are visiting your site? What is being determined is not physical gender but neurologic gender aspect; are people thinking using traditionally recognized ‘female’ neurologic aspects or traditionally recognized ‘male’ neurologic aspects. Knowing neurologic gender is far more important than knowing physical gender; if a man is choosing clothing using his color sense you want to market to his feminine side, not his male side.

Male/Female Visitor Ratio


Loyalty

Loyalty is the amount of pain an individual is willing to endure to either be with or to use something when they know less pain would be involved either being with or using something else. This is also known as “strength of commitment” to a site or brand. Knowing Visitor Loyalty and knowing how far that loyalty can be pushed before disloyalty sets in tells you how much and how well your clients and visitors think of your site or brand.

Loyalty


Navigation

Navigation measures how much work was required by a site’s visitors to find what they wanted and whether their problem solving skills were up to the task. Essentially, navigating a website can be likened to moving through a maze. You know where you are, aren’t sure of where you were and don’t know if the next turn will get you any closer to where you want to be. Mazes, though, are often designed to test problem solving skills. Often people design websites that they can navigate easily in the mistaken belief everyone thinks the way they do and hence solves problems in much the same way. If a site isn’t designed for the majority of visitors then visitors will find it difficult and/or intractable and go away confused, disappointed and probably worse. Ease of Navigation is a crucial metric for designers, developers, website owners, ecommerce providers, etc. It doesn’t matter if a site is easy to navigate by the people who designed the website, it only matters if visitors to the website can find what they want.

Ease of Navigation


Page Target Audience

The Page Target Audience Report is a page by page listing of pages and their target audience. It reports Gender, Life Experience (Neurologic Age), Understandability (Neurocognitive Age), and Decision/Learning Style. Page Target Audiences are metrics of who a site can best communicate to on a page by page basis. This is not a measure of who is coming to your site.

Page Target Audience


Price vs Product

This chart shows whether or not people believed the value (for ecommerce) or benefit (for informational or educational) of what was offered was worth the price (for ecommerce) or time involved (for informational or educational). In addition, this chart shows whether or not visitors wanted more product selection or less and whether or not visitors would purchase the product if the price was higher or lower.

Price vs Product


Real Visitors by Address

How many people per session where actually visiting your site as opposed to how many cookies or logins were on your site?

Real Visitors by URL/Address/Location/Name

Referral Quality

Referral Quality is a measure of which referral sources are sending you visitors most motivated to purchase, exchange, conduct business, etc. You want to have highly motivated visitors to an eCommerce site because highly motivated visitors are usually pre-qualified buyers.

Referral Quality

Referral Quality by Time Period and Level of Interest

Referral Quality is a measure of how motivated site visitors are to purchase, exchange, conduct business, etc. You want to have highly motivated visitors to an eCommerce site because highly motivated visitors are usually pre-qualified buyers. Referral Quality by Time Period merely adds the dimension of time, so you’ll know when the most motivated visitors were using which search engines and looking for what. Knowing Referral Quality from referring sites — especially if you’re paying for SEO, clicks, etc. — is incredibly important. You want to make sure your money is being spent wisely. These graphs show you which search engines are sending you the most qualified visitors. You would want to bid on the engine giving you the most highly motivated visitors, and specifically on the search terms that are used by the most highly motivated people.

Referral Quality by Time Period and Level of Interest

Return Ratio

Return Ratio is a measure of how strongly your site influenced a visitor to return. A strong enough negative experience will cause visitors to stay away, a strong enough positive experience will cause visitors to return, tell their friends and spend money — whether or not they found what they originally came to your site for.

Return Ratio

RichPersonae

People think, act and make decisions based on an incredible number of factors. NextStage codifies these different ways of thinking, acting and making decisions as RichPersonae. Material such as websites, brochures, etc., are designed for specific RichPersonae, intentionally or not. This chart shows visitor RichPersonae versus material design RichPersonae The ideal is to have a close match between the two. For more information on decision styles, read NSE Evolution Technology Research Paper – Evolution Technology as an Adjunct to Decision Support Systems.

RichPersonae

Search Term Quality

Search Term Quality is a measure of what search engine terms the most motivated visitors to a site are using to find you. You want to have highly motivated visitors to an eCommerce site because highly motivated visitors are usually pre-qualified buyers. This chart measures search terms used to find your site by engagement (see Attention, Engagement and Trust: The Internet Trinity and Websites for NextStage’s definition of “engagement”) displayed while on your site. The higher the engagement the higher the interest and if they’re not purchasing, there’s problems on your site you’re probably unaware of.

Term Quality

Seek Effort

Seek Effort is a measure of how much work visitors are doing to find what they want on a site’s pages and is closely tied to PageFailures, the pages where visitors’ interest wanes and or leaves completely. The higher the Seek Effort score, the worse the page for keeping people on track to meeting both their and your goals. Seek Effort also measures which pages are providing more information than visitors can comfortably and successfully use. Pages which are too complex, are not easily learned or retained, contribute to visitors leaving your site.

Search Interactions


Site Target Audience

The Site Target Audience Report determines the best audience for your site as a whole as it currently exists in the system. It reports Gender, Life Experience (Neurologic Age), Understandability (Neurocognitive Age), and Decision/Learning Style.

Site Target Audience

Success

Success measures whether or not visitors were able to find what they came looking for and is closely tied to the Tirekickers report. Visitors who considered their time on your site unsuccessful will go away confused, disappointed and probably worse. An excellent report has the Site and Visitor lines

  • Close together
  • Equidistant at all points
  • Spiking at the same point

Thus you want a lines that increase from Entry to Exit or at least decrease little after MidVisit.

Success

Suggestions

The Suggestions Reports contain specific information on how to modify your site in order to provide your visitors with the most rewarding experience possible. Suggestions are broken down as Critical (red), Important (yellow) and Advisable (green).

Suggestions


Tirekickers to Buyers Breakdown

The Tirekickers Report indicates how many of your site visitors are serious buyers versus how many are just doing research, and where they are in their research. For example, the first category is ‘Grazing’ and indicates how many site visitors are basically channel surfing and stopped on your site for no real reason. The different gradations then go to ‘Making a Decision’, ‘Not the Decision Maker’ and onto ‘Buying’. Remember, this doesn’t mean they will buy from your website, only that they want to buy something while they’re on your website. A higher “Buying” value than your conversions indicates your site needs work.

Tirekickers to Buyers Breakdown

Understandability

This report determines if visitors can understand your site. Note that this is a measure of whether your site, your menu structure, your content, etc., is understandable to visitors. If the majority of visitors can understand your site you’ll see a green bar, the fewer visitors who can understand your site the bar becomes yellow then red. If a site is too complex for visitors to understand or not able to communicate its message in an understandable way, you’re losing business, sales, etc.

Understandability

Note that NextStage Evolution can deny use of its offerings to individuals or groups at NextStage’s discretion.

Posted in Analytics, Marketing, NextStageology, OnSite, Predictive, Tools, {C,B/e,M}sTagged ,

NextStage Member Tools Explained

For anybody keeping track, here are our current tool offerings to NextStage Members. We keep adding tools as they become available and will update this list periodically. Some tools require training, some tools require our tracking code be on a digital property, some tools are so new they don’t have their own icons yet.

For those who don’t know, NextStage Membership costs $250US/year. There are lots of other benefits. Come play with our toys. They’re lots of fun and so are we.


Posted in Ad Placement, Age Persuader, Analytics, Audience Finder, BlueSky Meter, Client Prospector, Compatibility Gauge, Entrepreneur Gauge, Experience Optimizer, Gender Persuader, Immediate Sentiment, Job Prospector, Looking Glass, Love Finder, Love Jones, Marketing, NeuroPrint, NextStageology, OnSite, PersonaScope, Political Analyzer, Political Reader, Predictive, Predictive Echo, Resume Rater, SampleMatch, Sentiment Analysis, Social Interferometer, TargetTrack, Tools, Veritas Gauge, {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

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).

NextStage Tool Previews in the Members Area

I mentioned in Next Tool Releases from NextStage that we’d be releasing some new tools in the coming months, some of which are being previewed in the NextStage Members area (probably a good reason to become a member, access to tools in the development stage, a chance to shape them before release, discounts on their use thereafter, …)

  • NSPM – NextStage PersonaMap works much like NSPS – NextStage PersonaScope in that it determines behavioral, psychological, cognitive and strategy factors of individuals. It is different in that it uses data collected by NSOS – NextStage OnSite rather than having you submit an individual’s material for analysis. NextStage PersonaMap lists some industries ET has knowledge of, you pick one and it reports how web, print and video material should be designed to capture that audience and what traits any personae should have if designed for this audience. It also lists known Myers-Briggs Equivalents.
  • NSPE – NextStage Predictive Echo scans web server logs and previous web pages to determine how visitors were thinking, determines how much of your audience was getting your message historically, then makes suggestions for your next design efforts.
  • NSSM – NextStage SampleMatch lists psychologic and behavioral traits about visitors to various sites we monitor worldwide. The information is presented in regional, industry, time and gender based formats. This information is useful when designing marketing and creative material for specific audiences. More industries, locations, etc., will be available as we have time and before the tool is launched. The tool updates once every 24 hours.
  • NSVG – NextStage Veritas Gauge uses data from NSOS – NextStage OnSite to determine how many visitors to sites are entering truthful information online to blogs, comments, forms, etc.

Enjoy!

Next Tool Releases from NextStage

I posted this earlier on LinkedIn and Facebook, now for the general public as well…

NextStage AgePersuader

NSAP reports what age groups will respond best to material and in what percentagesThe next tool out of the gate will be The NextStage AgePersuader (NSAP). NSAP is much like NextStage’s GenderPersuader Tool (NSGP). You give it material to analyze, it indicates what age groups are most likely to respond and in what percentages (NextStage’s GenderPersuader Tool indicates which genders will respond and in what percentages). Like all NextStage tools, NextStage AgePersuader is easy to use (enter your bona fides, enter a file or url to be analyzed, hit [Submit] and get your result) and the results are (we think) easy to understand. NextStage Political Analyzer Tool (NSPA) users are familiar with the NSAP output as age persuasion is part of NSPA’s output.

NextStage GeoScope

NSGS reports what age group percentages, gender percentages and RichPersonae exist in a given geographic locationNextStage GeoScope (NSGS) – NSGS is different from most of the other tools in that it derives data from NextStage’s OnSite Tool (NSOS). Some group members may remember conferences where, during my presentations, I presented charts of how different geographic locations were thinking and responding to online material, and how to design navigation to make use of their thinking/decision making/motivational styles (ala NextStage’s PersonaScope Tool (NSPS and aka the {C,B/e,M} matrix). NSGS will do much the same and will include both an age and gender breakdown of online traffic for a given geographic region.

The home page will present a list of geographic locations ET has learned about via NSOS. Entries can vary from something as specific as “Washington, DC” to something as broad as “Scotland” and are dependent on how much traffic has been analyzed from what geographic locations in a given time period (we’re thinking we’ll update it weekly). If you see a geographic location you’re interested in, enter your bona fides, select a geographic location from the list (that’s the only input you give it). NSGS returns the age breakdown (as in NSAP), gender breakdown (as in NSGP) and top four RichPersonae (as in NSPS) from that geographic area.

NextStage GeoScope pulls data from the NextStage OnSite tool (so it’s pulling data from what’s really out there) and you don’t have to be a NextStage OnSite subscriber to use it. Also this is a tagless tool, meaning you don’t need to tag anything to use it.

We’ve been thinking about this tool for a while and some work I’ve been doing with an international design&marketing firm has solidified the idea and need for this tool. For those who’ve been following us for a while, it’s basically an extension/upgrade of our InFocus Reports. The image above is from an InFocus Report. NSGS will be similar.

NextStage BlueSky-Confidence Gauge

NSBC is the NextStage BlueSky Meter and the NSSA Confidence Gauge in a single reportNextStage BlueSky-Confidence Gauge (NSBC) – NSBC is literally the BlueSky Meter and NSSA’s Confidence Gauge in one tool. We’ve decided to combine these two functions into a separate tool based on the number of people who are using the NextStage Political Analyzer Tool (NSPA) simply to get a combined BS-Confidence result. I was explaining these two elements during a training, that some of the results were indicating “This person is extremely confident what they’re writing is BS”, “This person has absolutely no confidence in what they’re writing, hence they believe it is BS”, … and half the class’s eyes lit up, so a separate tool it’ll be.

NextStage Information Designer

NSID determines the best information layout for a given audience, product/service, delivery platform, output medium and outcome combinationThe last tool in this cycle is NextStage Information Designer (NSID). NSID is very similar to NextStage Ad Placement Tool (NSAD) in that it asks some 30 questions regarding the audience, offering, delivery platform, output medium (brochure, webpage, tri-fold, mobile, kiosk, flyer, …) and desired outcome and determines the best outer (“landing” in web terms) and inner information formats (“pages” in web terms) to use to maximize desired results. This is another tool we’ve been thinking about for a while and some recent work has solidified the necessity of it.

On the horizon:
NextStage Advertising Intelligence (NSAI) – The closest online tool to our full desktop TargetTrack tool (an old, out of date brochure can be seen here. TargetTrack will always be available as part of our consulting packages) we’re finishing up some of the equations, at which point Charles, our CTO, will have his folks turn it into working code.

Charles is also busily at work on an “OnSite Lite” that will only have the three most often used reports and be available at a fraction of the cost of our current OnSite tool (or so he tells me) and handle geometrically higher traffic volumes/site.

And that’s the news from Scotsburn and Nashua.

May it be a happy, busy and profitable Autumn for all of us.


Addendum

During conversations yesterday I was reminded that NextStage had several free online tools that could easily be converted to our new store system. One of these, InFocus, is mentioned above as the precursor to NextStage GeoScope.

Some of these other tools will be rolled out in our store system over the coming months. Most will be pulling data from our OnSite system (currently monitoring visitor traffic in over 50 countries). Only data allowed by OnSite clients will be used in these tools. These tools will be tagless, meaning you won’t need to tag your site to use them.

These tools include:

  • NextStage Market Persona (NSMP) – NextStage Market Persona will offer a list of markets (travel, medical, educational, automotive, industrial, legal, … for example). Pick the market area of interest to you and NSMP will report the top RichPersonae (what NextStage PersonaScope reports) for that market. Knowing how the majority of people in a market think, make decisions and what motivates them should be useful when developing creative. We think so, anyway…
  • NextStage Predictive Echo (NSPE) – NextStage Predictive Echo is for clients who don’t want OnSite and still want to make use of NextStage’s Evolution Technology in their online efforts. NSPE reads through traffic logs, the web pages the traffic logs involve and determines how to improve site performance regarding messaging, goals, redesign, etc., are concerned.

There are other tools still on our shelves. We’re learning what tools make sense based on how current users are using the existing tool set. Interested folks can also contact us directly should you need a tool you can’t find elsewhere. Chances are we already have it, something quite close or can make it in record time.

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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