How Design Choices Prompt Reputational Signals
When design defeats utility.
A colleague recently forwarded me an email about Axios’ 2023 What’s Next summit for consideration of having my digital marketing team at Tunheim attend.
I’m a fan of Axios’ newsletters generally, so of course I clicked to learn more.
Do me a favor. Watch this video of the Axios 2023 What’s Next summit landing page and as you watch it, think about where on this landing page you would click.
This landing page has a lot going on, doesn’t it?
There’s the blinking cursor after the word Summit
There’s the cascading stepping of the numbers 2-0-2-3
There are the dropping black lines on the upper right of the screen
There’s the red, rotating half circle
There’s the bouncing white vertical lines that look like they might be a Pause button
There’s the big Roy Lichtensteinesque triangle
And there’s the looping row of blue right-pointing triangles
Sensory overload, right?
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All of that motion creates anxiety and stress; not in and of itself but in the context of a landing page where the user knows they need to take an action.
So what am I supposed to do?
What did you think we’re supposed to click on?
If you’re like me, I would be clicking on the row of blue triangles because they are pointing, presumably to the destination the landing page wants me to visit.
Now, watch this video of the very same landing page:
As we Minnesotans would say: Ope!
There actually is a call to action button but you would never know it because this monstrosity of design encompasses the entire screen with no instructions to scroll down.
I’d love to see an eye-tracking study for this page. I imagine the gaze plot would show visitors eyes bouncing all over the place with all that simultaneous motion taking place.
But I am dying to see the analytics for the performance of this page.
Failing that, though, here’s what I imagine users are doing on the page and what signals that behavior is prompting.
First and foremost, I imagine most of the clicks will occur on the row of blue triangles because they visually imply a destination. I also imagine a significant number of clicks are executed on the vertical white bars because they kinda look like a Pause button.
Clicking on those elements does nothing, of course. But because users believe they should result in an action, they will click repeatedly under the false assumption that either they misclicked or that the page is slow to respond.
Microsoft Clarity has a name for this behavior: Rage Clicks. Multiple clicks on the same area of a page is a metric that measures frustration and a poor user experience.
Another probable behavior is that users will just leave the page in frustration. Page abandonment will generate a low time-on-page metric and a low or zero scroll depth, depending on how the site has configured their scroll depth tracking.
Both of these metrics—low time-on-page and zero scroll depth—are indicators of a poor user experience.
Finally, if users abandon the page or do not scroll, the most important action indicating the value of the page is not taken: Clicks on the Registration button.
That’s your conversion metric.
I imagine the conversion rate (divide the total number of users by the number of Registration button clicks) for this page is low.
All of these metrics are signals that measure the reputation of the landing page (frustrating, broken) and by extension, the reputation of the organization providing such a frustrating user experience.
Which is ironic, because Axios has earned a reputation as being great at user experience with its easily digestible newsletters.
Looks like a great summit, though.
My post about Spoutible has really taken off and is driving a lot of new subscriptions to this newsletter.
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The success of the post is really an example of taking advantage of scarcity. Since Spoutible is still new and hasn’t yet earned a lot of media coverage, my post was the first (as far as I can tell) in-depth article about the new platform.
Search Google for “spoutible twitter alternative” and you’ll see it ranked highly and that prominence in Google search results is driving traffic to this newsletter and prompting people to subscribe.
At some point I’ll write a post about exactly how this worked.
One Year Later
Today marks the one year anniversary of Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine. It has been a year of both horror at Putin’s unprovoked brutality and inspiration and admiration of the spirit of the Ukrainian people’s defense of their democracy and freedom writ large.
It has also been a year of fascination with the remarkable success President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has had at securing and maintaining the support of the US and European democracies…to the point where a Czech friend of mine—a lifelong pacifist—felt compelled to raise money to pay for arms for Ukrainian defense forces.
In March of last year, I wrote about Zelenskyy’s leadership and the huge role that storytelling has played in marshalling and keeping global support for Ukraine.
In Case You Missed It
What I’m Reading
Ars Technica - With over 26,000 followers and growing, Jos Avery's Instagram account has a trick up its sleeve. While it may appear to showcase stunning photo portraits of people, they are not actually people at all. Avery has been posting AI-generated portraits for the past few months, and as more fans praise his apparently masterful photography skills, he has grown nervous about telling the truth. They really are stunning. I need to find time to play around with Midjourney.
Reuters - Images in a graphic novel that were created using the artificial-intelligence system Midjourney should not have been granted copyright protection, the U.S. Copyright Office said in a letter seen by Reuters. "Zarya of the Dawn" author Kris Kashtanova is entitled to a copyright for the parts of the book Kashtanova wrote and arranged, but not for the images produced by Midjourney, the office said in its letter, dated Tuesday. The opening salvos in the legal battles to come over AI-generated content have begun.
Search Engine Land - [In] December 2022, Google rolled out continuous scrolling to desktop search results…Branded data showed no significant changes of note. In fact, 99% of clicks in our data before and after this change went to positions 1-3. The data was similar for impressions, with 97% going to the top 3 positions for branded terms.The simple answer is the first page is massively essential. Yes, this change moved some impressions and clicks to more profound results. But, ultimately, the majority of traffic comes from the top 3 positions. Over 50% of impressions and 88% of clicks go to the top 3 positions. Impressions did increase for rankings 15-20 from 20% pre-continuous scroll to 25% post-continuous scroll.
This reflects the updated user experience where consumers might not even realize they continued to go beyond the top 10 results to the top 20. After that, things were fairly flat, and >30 only accounts for ~10% of total impressions. This is the first data I’ve seen about the effect Google’s introduction of continuous scrolling of search results had on user behavior. Looks like top ranking is still prime real estate (no surprise). I would think, though, that continuous scrolling would benefit lower ranking sites for searches that imply more intensive research such as for high-priced products or services.- Every report now written about Kohrs, even those with extremely good intentions and written by very knowledgeable and honorable lawyers, has left the impression that a Kohrs interview is not only potentially a political act but—for reasons that are often intimated at but never actually explained, presumably because (to be clear) they don’t exist—one that could imperil a future Trump prosecution. I’ve rolled my eyes countless times at the tut-tutting of the political and legal talking heads over Fulton County grand jury forewoman Emily Kohrs’ media interviews about her grand jury experience. What I saw in those interviews was both charming and inspiring. I saw a young woman for whom the scales had fallen from her eyes. Kohrs seems like a normal American, which is to say someone who hasn’t paid much attention to Amerian politics or even our legal system. I believe it’s been reported that she hadn’t voted in the past two presidential elections. And yet, here she was saying what a cool experince she had and expressing her amazement at how our system works. During this era of rising authoritarianism both at home and abroad, her enthusiasm for her civic duty and her conviction that our system doesn’t work if we don’t participate in it is a message we should all take to heart.
What I’m Watching
This week, I think we can all relate: