SEO Industry Directs Attention to Usability

Bruce Clay Inc. hosted a Twitter Chat, #SEOChat, called “The UX Force Awakens”, where Cre8asiteforums founder and administrator, Kim Krause Berg, was invited by Bruce Clay moderators.

We were also delighted to have Kim Krause Berg — the veritable UX whisperer — join us for the chat.

— Source: What Is UX? Who Owns User Experience Optimization? What You Need to Know About SEO & User Satisfaction from #SEOchat

At long last, online marketers are taking user experience seriously and more importantly, are interested in understanding what, exactly, usability is.

Cre8asiteforums, launched in 1998, is the first forums for search engine marketers, website owners, and web developers to host a usability forum. It’s founder, Kim Krause Berg, already established as an SEO, crossed the bridge to usability and accessibility in 2000. At that time, and for the next decade, the number of SEO’s wanting usability site audits for their clients could be counted on one hand, from around the globe.

Today, there are two hands worth.
Just kidding.

Three hands.

Usability is referred to by some internet marketers as “conversions”, or “customer experience”, thus ignoring what usability is. The result? Websites that fail to perform will also fail to convert.

“I was pleased to see that many SEOs place a high value on user experience for all devices, and that they understood why … I’m thrilled that Bruce Clay, Inc. is educating people on UX,” Berg said post-chat. “UX is HUGE … it includes empathy for every human, using every device and every software application and every search engine wanting to provide what humans want, in every environment, with an understanding of the limitations of age, bandwidth, Internet availability, use cases and business requirements specific to one’s business or web page intent.”

Do SEO’s Understand UX?

Screenshot from article on SEOChatDo you? Here is a transcript of the entire discussion, Summary: The UX Force Awakens on #SEOchat.

Cre8asiteforums Thread – #seochat Twitter Discussion With Bruce Clay On Usability

Our Web Site is Perfectly Fine

“I would not want Kim’s job,” a Cre8asiteforums member wrote. After 14 years in the usability field, I am ready to quit because I work in a field that demands proof before it is believed in.

form to sign Even when the proof is obvious, such as asking us to sign up before we have been granted access to the website, or the inability to read text on a page or understanding where  to go next on a site, the chances of hiring a usability professional to recommend repairs is as painful to site owners as getting a root canal. And at least you get relief for the pain at the dentist.

The usability (UX) industry has exploded and with it, salaries in excess of $100, 00 US to design web sites and software applications that are easy to use. However, just because a user experience designer is hired does not automatically mean they know anything about information architecture, accessibility, functional testing, and human factors. The amount of education needed to do the job properly, let alone using the right tools, is not something companies like to invest in.

Online marketers are the last to understand usability and where it fits into their methodology. During one of my talks at a marketing conference, a member of the audience argued with me about making links visible. For SEO’s who spend their time optimizing for algorithms, the suggestion to design for people is clearly too much for them to bear.

Discussions in Cre8asiteforums describe the main reason web site owners will not invest in usability testing or building usable websites. It boils down to wanting proof that UX is needed. Every site owner believes their web site is perfectly fine and they don’t want to know if it is not. If their Google Analytics or click tracking software signals conversions issues, they pounce on their online marketer to fix the problem – never thinking that their web design is the trouble.

Test Web Sites from the Start

sketch of homepageUser experience design starts from the white board stage and continues after the site goes live. Design changes never end. User experience includes usability heuristics, business and site requirements for everything from devices to targeted user behavior. Usability includes accessibility compliance, information architecture and persuasive design. Readability, understandability, and functionality are part of usability. You can’t possibly know how your site will perform before it has a chance to be used, but a trained usability professional can plan for the best possible outcomes that only require minor tweaks after roll-out.

Believing that a site design is a once and done deal is a huge mistake.

When was the last time you had a favorite site to buy shoes and suddenly a competitor came out with better prices, easier navigation and the ability to order from their mobile device? That competitor is testing. What are you doing? That competitor knew who to design for. They tested their wireframes. They tested their mobile application. They checked their analytics, logs, conversions results and made adjustments for improvements. They reacted. They never stopped designing, studying and looking for new opportunities.

Are you testing your website? Do you know how it is being used? Despite all the questions a site owner may have, hiring a usability professional to conduct a site audit is nearly always out of the question because there is no money to spend on something that may or may not help.

And there is apparently nothing I can write or say to convince site owners otherwise.

Here is proof:

Why Do Companies Invest In Marketing Rather Than Web Design?

As a webdev I could blend in whatever holistic optimisation I believed in; a specialist, i.e. Kim::UI/X, is selling a component – at best, an extra – at worst. It is much easer, to use a fast food example, to sell ‘a meal’ than it is to sell a burger and a fries and a drink. It is also harder to ‘supersize’ an order especially without an attached apparent super value.

Step 1: Get real examples of successes of the actions you recommend, so you can have them in your ready-made, ready-to-show, portfolio.
Step 2: Create big dramatic, colorful graphs that highlight those successes.
Step 3: Tell Mr. Prospect he’s missing out on a crapload of money, but you’d be happy to hand it to him in buckets.
Step 4: Show him how you handed buckets of cash to previous clients.
Step 5: Tell him if he signs the contract now, you can get started immediately, but if not, he’ll go to the back of the long waiting line.

I wouldn’t want to be in the market of strictly focusing on UX, so kudos to you, Kim, for pushing for people to learn more.

Every SEO hired to market a web site is like a person alone on a remote island somewhere, with a stick in the sand writing “SOS” on the beach in the hopes their island will be seen and their paradise will be found. The word “SOS” is a universal phrase for help. It will be understood by a pilot flying over the island, but will not be seen by the ship quietly gliding past the island miles out to sea. The island natives don’t speak or understand the human language. The SEO is going to need to understand something more about search and predicting not only what words to use, and who will see them, but how, where, why, when and in what format they are found.


This is why every SEO needs UX.

I Can Prove Your Web Site is Not Converting (Said the Invisible UX Fairy)

This has been my mantra for a long time and I feel like I am a tiny little fairy with a whisper of a voice screaming into flowers with huge egos who think usability testing is not important.

fairyPeriodically, I seem to go on a wild tear about the value of a working website.  It appears to be a foreign concept or at least one not worthy of investing in.

The other day my husband was trying to enter information into a website.  I could hear him grunting and sighing and then he said, “Don’t let my wife see this site”, before continuing on with his task.  The brand new site was built to work in only one browser – one we do not use.  I was unable to stomach this, which is why he was doing this annoying task.

I am a tolerant person with a forgiving nature – when it comes to people.  When the thing I have to deal with is a website, however, I suddenly channel one of those people like you see on the stage of the Jerry Springer TV Show.

In fact, here are my episodes: (Based on this month’s TV show topics.)

You Can’t Make Me Click You

Penalized, Ugly Design and Dumped

Future Episode Ideas:

Do you want to confront the usability analyst who failed your web site?

Are you in an SEO/Usability/Social Media love triangle?

Is it your fantasy to have a web site that sucks?

Featured Show

I’m Psychic and Your Web Site Doesn’t Convert – Kim says that she’s positive her client, Website From Mars, is ignoring  her usability recommendations. How can she be so sure? She’s a third-generation psychic and she’s seen visions of….

In all seriousness, I have a friend who does long distance healing and messaged me on Facebook a few days ago to tell me that I am not smiling inside.

Jerry springer titles

Why would you not trust me to conduct usability audits for your web site? What could possibly be more crazy than hiring someone with a dozen years of usability testing experience, topped by two decades in the search engine marketing industry doing stuff like speaking at conferences on web site conversions and who teaches usability at the Search Engine College.

As one Cre8asiteforums member put it, while addressing my questions about being the invisible usability fairy,

You have to be tough…and you have to be persistent and smart and you have to let rejection roll off you like water off a duck.

If you want to participate in the recent discussions on usability, testing, conversions and what it means to get a usability audit, here are some of the great links to check out:

Questions On Usability, Conversions, Persuasive Design

Why Do Companies Invest In Marketing Rather Than Web Design?

Drunk Usability Video

When To Request a Web Site Usability Audit

You Have to See This: The Secret To Search Engines and Internet Marketing

Photo credit – Dark Fairy

Cre8asiteforums Founder to Speak at Online Media Boot Camp

If you live or work near Philadelphia, PA in the search engine marketing, public relations, and web site design fields, affordable training with reputable teachers is just around the corner on November 3, 2011 at the Online Media Boot Camp. Held in the historical Valley Forge area outside Philadelphia, in King of Prussia, PA, you’ll be treated to a day of sessions offered by three lively ladies who love to teach.

Liana Evans, Kim Krause Berg (Cre8asiteforums Founder) and Sarah Doheny are ready to help you learn new skills or update your present knowledge on:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Conversions factors
  • Public relations
  • Online marketing
  • Web site usability
  • Social Media
Online Media Boot Camp

Online Media Boot Camp, King of Prussia, PA November 3, 2011

Early registration for the Online Media Boot Camp (that means now!) saves you $125.

You get a full day of intense, online marketing training that connects nicely with user friendly, conversions oriented web site design by three women who are passionate about their topics and work every day applying the same skills they’ll be teaching you. The smaller venue allows for more one on one conversations and specific help. Treat yourself to a comfortable stay at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge and splurge at the nearby gigantic King of Prussia mall. Your day will include breakfast, lunch and networking reception, access to the trainers, FREE WIFI, course materials and much more.