In this episode, Alex Price, the founder and managing director of 93x and 93digital (a London WordPress Agency) and the founder of FINITE, a private community for marketers working in the B2B technology sector, shares from his experiences and thoughts on improving the user experience for websites to boost business growth.
Some topics we discussed include:
- Why do B2B companies still view their websites to be more of a shop window
- Why websites should mirror offline selling process
- The right way to approach website development.
- What your website development approach means from a customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) perspective for websites
- How to get buy-in for a change in approach to user experience for websites
- Good practices to keep in mind for improving the user experience for websites
- The role of SEO and AI in improving the user experience for websites
- Lessons to learn by looking at other businesses’ approach to website development?
- The framework that Alex takes clients through to think through website strategy that drives business objectives
- Results we can expect by going through the framework and process
- How to find friction points in a user’s experience on a website and how to address those
- Design or content which is more important for buyer enablement
- and much more …
Alex Price 0:00
I'm sure we could do a whole other episode on sales and marketing alignment. I'm sure you've covered it before it comes up pretty regularly. But a website is just another way, another area in which, unfortunately, that alignment often doesn't come together. And we actually have a questionnaire, which is kind of a sales and marketing alignment questionnaire. That's website project specific. And we literally asked, Are there resources that you regularly send through to prospects? You know, what pages on the website Do you rely on the most? And we honestly get some of the most insightful feedback of every project from that one document with a 10 questions on it. It's really all of the things that are slowing down the sales cycle causing friction. We learn about them and we kind of drop them back in at the top and, and in theory, the website delivered properly should should help to solve some of those issues.
Vinay Koshy 0:46
Hi, and welcome to the predictable b2b success podcast. Overnight coaching. On this podcast, we interview people behind b2b brands who aren't necessarily famous, but do work in the trenches and share their strategies and secrets as they progress along the journey of expanding their influence, and making their businesses grow predictably. Now, let's dive into the podcast. Your website is the anchor for your digital marketing efforts. Designing a broad user experience for website requires understanding the problems different visitors have to solve. Perhaps you agree with what I just said, because in today's marketing landscape, your website has become a more powerful tool than ever. It is in fact, virtually a 24 seven salesman and as such, it has the potential to be your most powerful asset, and the centerpiece of your marketing efforts. The problem is that with rapidly changing Digital Trends, your website can often feel old and outdated. However, a redesign may not be the answer. Our guest shares his perspective, for his experiences of designing websites for various companies. He is the Founder and Managing Director of 93 X and 93. Digital the London WordPress agency, included twice in the big ma 100 of the people share shaping the future of digital industry, and named by the drum as their agency Rising Star 2016. You found that 93 Digital in his bedroom, before dropping out of university to turn a freelance business into an award winning top 100. UK independent digital agency. He is also the founder of finite a private community of marketers working in the b2b technology sector to connect, share and learn. Alex price, welcome to the podcast.
Alex Price 2:41
Thank you for having me. And thank you for the full introduction.
Vinay Koshy 2:45
And now it's a pleasure. Pleasure to have you. Alex, I'm curious, you've obviously been immersed into the whole marketing and web design side of things. But what would you say? Is your personal Airstream?
Alex Price 3:02
Oh, that's a good question. I think I kind of operated this coming together of creativity, technology and marketing kind of all being combined. And I think I'm probably a bit of a jack of all trades and Master of None. But I guess I'm a kind of designer developer by background, maybe a little bit more design, but went through a period of being more developer. And then, at the same time was always very focused on SEO and organic search and kind of the wider digital marketing landscape too. So I guess I'm kind of fascinated by where all of those things overlap. And maybe that explains why I do what I do now in terms of the shape of the agency that you run. But I think I've I've always had one of those minds that is kind of half technical and half creative. I think if I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be like, an architect or something that involves a bit of something visual and designing. But also, I like problem solving and the kind of technical side too. And so I think my I think my skill set really that allows me to play into, you know, our clients are marketers and marketers are trying to solve big, creative and technology challenges. And so I think it's, it's my job to kind of translate those creative design and technical solutions into marketing outcomes effectively. So that's what I like doing best.
Vinay Koshy 4:23
And what would you say is something that air strength that businesses don't know, but should?
Alex Price 4:31
That's a good question. I think, for me, and I know this is what we're going to kind of talk a bit more about, but I think the thing that I come across a lot is b2b companies, having a slightly outdated view of what a website really is for them, or at least what a website can do for them. I know we'll dive into this in a lot more detail, but I think I come across so many businesses that actually miss out on a really big opportunity. To get to a position where a website and all of the digital channels they run, actually work for them. And to move beyond this website is just a brochure, our website is just a short window towards our website is a digital marketing machine that actually works hard for us and is, you know, works as hard as HubSpot does or pilot does, or any other kind of martec that we're using. I think so often, I come across b2b businesses for whom the website just kind of gets sidelines. And it's like, it's just just needs to look good. It just needs to have a kind of upstate messaging, we just want it to look nice. And my heart always thinks when I get a brief that says, Oh, we just want it to look nice, you know that it's just a bit out of date. And I start asking questions around what other kind of marketing outcomes are associated with this, this pre for you, you're trying to increase engagement or lead gen or organic search, it's I don't know, we just kind of, we just filled the websites about a day and like, and in some cases, for certain businesses, I think that's fine. And like, you know, a website doesn't necessarily need to be this kind of strategic digital marketing weapon for every business. And there are definitely businesses for whom businesses, you know, happens in a bit more of an old school way and happens offline. And the website really is just a brochure site. But I think generally speaking, now, a website needs to work a lot harder for for b2b than it ever has done before. And I think that's just been compounded by the last few months, right, where we've seen a lot of big drivers of pipeline and leads for for b2b businesses, particular clients in the technology space or being on hold. So all field marketing budget, you know, events, conferences, a lot of our clients would spend probably hundreds of 1000s of pounds on a big booth at a conference. And none of that's happening. And we actually run some research to a finite community recently, which is coming out shortly, exploring kind of what happened to that field marketing budget, and it was overwhelmingly kind of reallocated towards digital channels genuinely. So the importance of having the website has a really strong point that sits at the hub of all marketing, I think has just been increased over the last few months. Another question we asked her, the research that we did was, do you think your websites become more important for you as the hub of your marketing since COVID? struck? And I think, out of 100 100 companies we surveyed the marketers within? I think the response was that 70% said, Yes, our websites become more important as a result of, of COVID. And everything that's been happening over the last month, most of the last year. So yeah, a huge amount of potential and opportunity, I think for b2b is to think differently, and to kind of elevate how they view what a website is for them.
Vinay Koshy 7:48
Now, 93 Digital is primarily a WordPress Development Agency, would that be correct?
Alex Price 7:55
Yeah, so we've got an anti digital, which is kind of strategic UX design and build agency working just with WordPress, we're well known for working exclusively with WordPress. And our tagline is done under WordPress agencies, we have a really strong reputation around delivering WordPress into kind of enterprise environments where security and scale and speed and all those things matter. But they're typically very marketing focused projects. And the main sector that we work with, the majority of our work is b2b. And then within that b2b technology, so we have a number of software, SAS Enterprise tech type clients. And so that's really kind of a sweet spot for us. And then we've got the other side of the business, which is 93 x, which is our digital marketing team, kind of within my to digital, but that's how we just work again, with our b2b technology clients on predominately SEO, but other digital channels as well. So yeah, that's the kind of two sides of the agency.
Vinay Koshy 8:51
So when you started no three digital, was it primarily to address web design and UX? Was that the key issue that you're trying to address?
Alex Price 9:00
Yeah, I was thinking about this. Actually, before we, before we talk to that, I think what was what was interesting to me reflecting back on it was that, you know, this business for me started when I was 1617, doing freelance bits of work and in my bedroom, just to basically make some pocket money. But what's that what that kind of showed me along the way is that I've kind of worked with every type of client and every type of business. So I've gone from sole traders, to local plumbers to small estate agents, where I was literally doing Yes, seven pounds an hour type work, to 20 pounds an hour to building websites for 500 pounds to building websites for 5000 pounds to building websites for 100,000 pounds, and I was literally stopped at kind of every, every rung on that ladder to now which is I think, actually a lot of agencies don't necessarily have that as a background. I think a lot of agencies people have worked inside names in and they've left to start their own agency. But I think that's given me some really interesting perspectives and Allow me to see, I guess this evolution of a website that we're talking about about kind of progressed with time because we used to get, I think this is every agency's worst nightmare now, but we used to literally get kind of a sketch on the back of a napkin of like, we want our website to look like this. And that type of relationship that an agency can have with a client is a million miles away from where we are now, where the client comes to us and says, something very top level, like we want our website to generate more leads. Beyond that they don't really know nor do they care, particularly how we get there. But we're the experts. And we're the ones leading that. So I've over over the years kind of shifted from client tells us what they want. And we do it in return for an hourly rate. And we just shifted back to solving problems. And obviously, the second one is far more interesting and engaging for me. But I guess to answer the question, kind of starting through digital, it was really, at the time, it was just a source of basically making pocket money whilst I was a student, then it became very kind of WordPress focused, but we were working on pretty much anything that involves some degree of WordPress. And then from there, I think we kind of gradually found our niche in kind of very marketing focused projects that are generally on the b2b side of things. And yeah, it was, for me, it was, I guess, maybe having the digital marketing background as well. And some SEO background, that's always been really important to me. So I've never looked at what we do in isolation of just design and UX and development. Every single client that we work with pretty much as in a marketing role, it's a VP marketing as a CMO as the digital marketing manager. What we deliver is disciplines in terms of creative and design and UX and development, adjust ways of achieving marketing outcomes, and a lot of cases, although we're well known for being WordPress experts, our clients, trust us they know that we work with WordPress a lot. most marketers are not interested in whether we're using a specific type of custom field within the CMS to manage a piece of content, right? They're interested in, are we going to improve our SEO rankings? Are we going to improve conversion rates? Are we going to bring in more leads? Is this going to support the sales journey more effectively? Those kind of things? So yeah, I've kind of seen the, the evolution of the problem that we're solving has kind of changed quite rapidly as, as we've grown as an agency, and as things have progressed,
Vinay Koshy 12:18
I'm curious as to your perspective on why you think your clients come to you with a very broad agenda, and why websites could be a little more than shop windows, in a manner of speaking during this day and age and the plethora of information available, you would think that there would be further along in their journeys, would you...
Alex Price 12:41
Yeah, and I think, I think generally speaking, like, things are progressing pretty quickly that I don't think I think most b2b businesses are kind of starting to get into that frame of mind. And if they're not, then they will be soon just by virtue of the people that they're hiring and how their teams are structured. And I think all it takes is, even if it's a bit of a bottom up transformation, if even if a CMO that really doesn't believe in any of this stuff, and it's kind of towards the end of their career, if they hire a 26 year old digital marketer, you would you would think that they're probably going to change their outlook on how a website can work for them relatively quickly. But I think this all stems from the fact that a lot of business to business type sales, as has happened in a sales lead way. So sales has come before marketing, businesses done through handshakes, it's networking, it's relationships, it's often quite niche industries, where people know people people move around, and there's just a lot of legacy in history there. And I think that's where that's where this kind of originates, but it's interesting, I sometimes get a brief where we'll interrogate and ask them questions like around conversion rates and current lead gen, and, you know, what's the average size of a deal that comes in, and really, we want to put a business case together that says, if we move all these levers, this website project, if you come to us, will pay for itself within a certain amount of time. And it's not always easy to do. And you'll know just as well as I do that. attribution in a b2b space is pretty tricky, with kind of drawn out journeys and those kind of things. But we always want to try and build that case, and often asked those questions. And the response I get is, Oh, you don't need to worry about that. We have a marketing team that looks after that. And actually in in people's minds, that website is nothing to get even to do with marketing. It's like, you're a web development agency, we just want people to write lines of code, that's, that's your job. We'll take care of the marketing is like, a website is a marketing tool, no matter how you look at it these days. And if you look at it in isolation of just we want it to look nice, and we want a fresh design, you may well deliver some results, but it will be completely by accident. It's not because you've done all this strategic thinking that's really shaped the future of your marketing results. So yeah, that's, I mean, that's often a bit of a an alarm bell, I guess. Whereas if we, if we have a response like that, and we get that kind of brief that the client quite clearly doesn't see it, as Being an even, it's like it's almost in barrel marketer and they're managing the project, but it almost sits completely outside of marketing and they don't see it as sitting under a marketing umbrella, they kind of just see it as like this thing that they need to have and look after. But actually, they'd rather just send out another 5000 emails to three parties or something and hope that someone responds, and they don't really view it as a hub. So that's something that I always kind of dig into. And I sometimes ask the question like, is this? Is this a shop window? Or is this a digital marketing machine? And I think there's really there is a difference that you either you either look at a website or something that needs to deliver a return and deliver marketing results, or you don't like there's not, there's not a huge amount of middle ground between the two. And depending on which one you're in will really shape how you approach the project overall.
Vinay Koshy 15:49
So so if I am into interpreting this correctly, you're setting up websites, ideally speaking, to mirror offline processes in the b2b space, will that be correct?
Alex Price 16:03
Yeah, so I think a lot of where we start is really understanding the the overall buyer journey. And, you know, in the b2b space, a lot of our technology clients, some of them are more SAS based and sales cycles are shorter and has low value. But the majority of our work, I'd say is more towards the kind of enterprise end of the scale where what connects the dots is that sales journeys are lengthy, considered complex, there's minimum five, often 1015 kind of people in decision making unit, or coming to a site at different points in the journey, looking for different things, and different things mattered to them. And, you know, the b2b journey is evermore kind of content fueled, as well. But I think actually get to your question at a big kind of common thing that I see is that marketers will often view a website in this space as being all about acquisition. So it's all about generating leads, it's all about bringing people in at the top, but they very rarely go and engage with sales and say, Well, how does this website need to work for you across this, I don't know, six month, nine month 18 month sales journey, because there's a point at which that lead gets passed out to somebody else. And an account person or salesperson or BD BDR, whoever it might be, is sending links through to prospects, they're sharing resources with them, they're sharing a white paper, you might be interested in this for for literally like months, if not years sometimes. And to not consider that. And to start by taking that top level view of what is the overall journey. Now I'm sure we could do a whole nother episode on sales and marketing alignment, I'm sure you've covered it before, it comes up pretty regularly. But a website is just another way, another area in which unfortunately, that alignment often doesn't come together. And we actually have a questionnaire, which is kind of a sales and marketing alignment questionnaire. That's website project specific. And we literally asked like, Are there resources that you regularly send through to prospects? You know, what pages on the website Do you rely on the most, and we honestly get some of the most insightful feedback of every project from that one document with a 10 questions on it. It's really all of the things that are slowing down the sales cycle causing friction, we learn about them, and we kind of drop them back in at the top and, and in theory, the website delivered properly should should help to solve some of those issues.
Vinay Koshy 18:23
Certainly, I would love to explore that in a bit. But you're talking about sales and marketing alignment. And thereby, I'm interpreting that you're really looking at what it should look like from a customer point of view from for their customer experience. And and certainly from a user's experience point of view as well. What would be the right way to approach this? I mean, it's one thing to say that we need to have good cx and UX, but how would you recommend businesses approach development in with this perspective?
Alex Price 19:01
Yeah, so for us, it all begins with a really thorough amount of discovery definition strategy type work, whichever one you want to call it, different agencies kind of used different terms. But for us, those are really the the foundations and the pillars of setting a site up for success. And that doesn't always have to be a hugely extensive piece of work. I think sometimes clients hear it, and he's talking about the stuff and then I always kind of want to be paying for all this fluffy strategy work, what does actually mean? What's the value and I completely understand that but I think we can often we can show deliverables and output some of that work and really paint a picture of the results that can help to help to generate. So I think, now within that we will be looking at often kind of mapping out the whole customer journey. And looking at the the customer experience overall. I think a big part of that is consulting quite widely with other stakeholders in the business. So we've talked about sales, but there'll be Others, within any b2b organization that have a perspective and and should be, should be inputting. So we'll always leave kind of kickoff sessions and workshops. And there's a number of different formats that we use to help kind of guide some of that. But I'm a big advocate for getting as many stakeholders involved in a project as early on as possible. And that doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be involved throughout. And they need to be involved in every decision, and they need to sign off on every milestone. But that initial piece of alignment of everybody understanding with great clarity, why the projects happening, who's doing what, and what we're all aiming for, is really, really key and making sure that people understand why decisions are made. And I think the big value that we find for the marketers that we work with of taking this approach is that it's an evidence based approach, right. And we can talk a little bit more in detail about the UX side of things in particular, but it's it allows us to, I guess, streamline the delivery of what can be quite complex projects, I'm sure you've been involved in website projects in the past that there's a million different ways in which they can go slightly off the rails and run into different problems. Everybody's been there, that's that's worked anywhere near a website project before, everybody's got some some war stories. But I think managing stakeholders is a big area. And a big value of this strategy and discovery work at the start is allowing us to go to others in the business that might not fully understand the ins and outs of a website project. But say that we're making this decision because of X or Y. And we've seen this within an analytics audit or a heat map, we've found this within the user research that we've done, and then combining that with elements of best practice. And that really helps us to kind of move through work. And I guess our methodology for project means that design comes a little bit later. So we're really thinking very clearly about the experience, and the user experience wireframing content structures, Sitemaps is all of those parts of a project, long before we get to design. And so without wishing to devalue design, because great design is is really key. But for me, it's kind of the last layer on top of some really, really deep foundations that are laid. It's almost like if you're painting by numbers, you know, the paint that you put on is the is the layer of interface, UI designer, static, the really important stuff is has come along before in wireframes, as we've kind of mapped out user journey flows and thought about how wireframes should be should be pieced together. So yeah, I think this all really begins with with our discovery and strategy and, and thinking, I think if you skip that phase, you risk delivering a project, which is no doubt going to look nice, you know, working with a creative or design agency or freelance designer, but if the thinking hasn't been done, there's a risk that it doesn't do much more apart from just look nice. But I think as we talked about at the start, that's the missed opportunities. There's a huge difference between a website is looking nice and the website looking nice and really delivering marketing outcomes.
Vinay Koshy 23:10
So if I understand this correctly, you're first of ensuring that the overall strategy meets business objectives. You're then looking at how the existing website delivers on those strategies. And you're looking at the analytics, you're looking at heat maps, and things of that nature, and generally monitoring existing customer or user experience, would that be correct?
Alex Price 23:37
Definitely. Yeah, all of those things. So I think there's a whole list of different things. And I think that that kind of discovery strategy piece of work can vary in length from client to client, I think some clients might have, I don't know, an external SEO agency that if we work with a freelancer intern, or an internal SEO that's done some keyword research they can provide, and they may have three months ago to find a load of user personas. And there might be things that they can output. And so it's a less complex task. Whereas in other cases, it's a blank canvas, or the client wants us to kind of refresh everything and look at all of this from scratch to some extent. So that's probably the part of a project which varies the most in length for us that can be kind of three or four weeks of work was mainly just focused on sitemap and some early stage wireframing. In other cases, that's been kind of 10s of 1000s of pounds and months of work, just doing that thinking piece. But ultimately, we're you know, we're not just laying the foundations for a website, we're actually shaping quite large parts of potentially ongoing digital marketing strategy to in terms of SEO research to us to point towards keyword groupings and content needs to be producing. And actually, we kind of, almost to doing that, for the website project accidentally producer an SEO plan for the next 612 months or something. And so there's a lot of pieces here which are integral to a website, but actually helped to shape the wider marketing approach to I think the UX side is really interesting in that, that's both research driven, but also best practice. So there's, you know, there's there's principles within UX, that are based on kind of years and years of research and science and tracking people's eyes and all that kind of stuff that I guess we now know is as best practice. And they're almost kind of principles, which is part of the equation. And then there's the stuff which is really unique to the client, where we might go out and actually run kind of focus sessions or talk to existing customers or talk to, you know, other channel partners is often an interesting one, when we're working with technology companies who, yeah, partners is a kind of key persona for them. So yeah, there's all kinds of different things with, you know, just within the UX sphere that we can, we can look into, but I guess in most instances, it's governed by the client's budgets and timelines, and how much they really want us to, to dive into that side of things.
Vinay Koshy 25:53
So could you give us an example of perhaps a client you've worked with, where they probably didn't want to invest too much in the strategy, but then you've looked at some of the data and been able to, but essentially showed them certain potential benefits, perhaps it was number of leads coming through or something else that really made them look at it and go, aha, this is probably worth investing a lot more in?
Alex Price 26:21
Yeah, definitely. So I think there's a couple that comes to mind. I mean, one that we're probably most proud of is out, I work for a business here in the UK called mighty two, they're a public company, they're I think 50,000 employees are in the facility management space. Today, they do everything from kind of, I think cleaning airports to maintaining all of the bus stops in London. And so they're, they're going after kind of big management contracts is a very RFP driven world, it's really a race to the bottom, everything's pretty much cost driven, it's kind of hard to differentiate. So they're a really big business. But it's fair to say that I think before we started working with them, they had a perspective, at least within parts of the business that digital, digital marketing generally was not going to be of much value to them, or particularly relevant to them. And so the work that we went on, luckily, they kind of were willing to invest in the user experience side of things. So they understood and started to understand that UX was important. And we were migrating their site from a CMS called kentico, which was pretty slow and clunky and was hard for us to come over to over to WordPress. And that was actually kind of the main driver behind the product. Initially, it was quite a technology driven project, it was kind of goes really slow, it's costing us a lot, it's hard to do much with it, we want to move to WordPress and be more agile and more flexible. And you guys are used to doing that for businesses like ours in the enterprise space. So that started the project and then led into the UX side, which then led into more of the kind of wider digital marketing stuff. So we I mean, we were really lucky, we won the gold award in the best website category at the 2020 digital experience awards a few months ago, which was just a really exciting accolade for all of the team as a result of this project. And I think for the client, it was a, it was a really kind of eye opening project, I think it is fair to say that it kind of had ripple effects far beyond the website projects in itself, in that some quite senior people within the organization started to see that leads started coming into the website and RFPs were being submitted and unfortunately can't share all of the numbers at least around kind of pipeline value. But I think within a few months, we had kind of 120 with a class's marketing qualified leads, and 35 of them became sales qualified numbers, there was quite literally millions of pounds worth of RFP value being submitted to the site. And we were there from basically zero before, like there, there really wasn't, there was some technical issues, the user experience is really poor. But there wasn't really anything coming in to the previous website. But their mindset was, that's because this is not how people buy the services. Like they don't do it online. And so this was Yeah, it was a really rewarding project and being able to see the impact of what we did go go beyond just replac forming a CMS, which is how the project started to actually them thinking, well, there's a huge amount we can do here. And they've been investing in marketing automation. And we've been exploring some SEO more recently with them. So it's, it's opened up so much, so much potential overall, and really changed their outlook on how digital marketing can work for them as as the type of organized organization that they are.
Vinay Koshy 29:30
And how did that conversion take place in terms of changing that mindset? Were there specific outcomes that you were able to correlate with tangible results in order to get them thinking differently?
Alex Price 29:43
Yeah, so we did quite a lot of discovery and strategy work on this one, and we were looking at heat maps when we were looking at analytics, and we were, I guess, painting a picture of all of the things that we found and pointing out to them where people were dropping off or getting stuck within the journey around the website, and I think there's a call that can't actually find it just now. But there's a quote somewhere from someone at my team that we were working with, basically saying the evidence based approach that we took was kind of what drove the success of the project. And that, yeah, a 50,000 person public company, you can imagine that the stakeholder landscape can be pretty complex. And there's lots of people looking at the project and who have an interest in the project. And being able to identify numbers and show them reports and walk them through kind of best practices allowed us to, or actually empowered, the stakeholders we're working with to go elsewhere in the business to say, this is why we're making this decision. This isn't a subjective opinion, we're not doing this because we just like that color over the other color, or I want to move this 20 pixels to the right, because I just think it looks better. It removes all subjectivity from the equation and allows us to become a lot more objective around why we make certain decisions.
Vinay Koshy 30:54
I know there are a number of good practices, if you were to, say Google user experience for websites, what would be a guess, in European from your experience, a good practices that we should keep in mind when building websites?
Alex Price 31:13
Yeah, so there's, I mean, the thing that I think the most about at the moment is there's actually a, there's a really great Gartner diagram, some of what they call the new b2b buyer journey. I don't know when you've seen it, but it's effectively this map that kind of shows all these arrows going all these different directions. And I think we've moved beyond like this HubSpot step by step really linear, like awareness consideration decision, whenever we paint this picture of b2b decision making being really simple. And I think we all realize now that it's not, there's a lot of moving parts, a lot of people, people might move, five steps back, and then six steps forwards. It's complicated. And so a lot of our clients in the b2b space are working across multiple sectors, multiple solutions, you know, all these different verticals that they're working across. And so when you try to take this UX approach of, Okay, let's take a persona and then map out a user journey just for this specific persona. If you try and do that for potentially kind of hundreds of times across all the different personas in the decision making, you know, different products, different industries, you can't really shape a website off the back of that. And so I think, for me, what that means from a UX angle is that you kind of just have to go, okay, rather than trying to be really prescriptive, and to dictate all these journeys through a site for very specific routes, it's actually about making things as easy and frictionless to use as possible. It's about zooming out and going, we can't control every journey here, we can't map out every journey one by one. And as in them, you could spend millions on personalization and build a team of 20 people to try and do it. But in most instances, even then it's probably not going to be realistic to do. And so for me, it's I really do passionately believe that I think you x is a big kind of hidden secret weapon for b2b marketers, and to take a more user centric approach to a website can have huge impact in terms of I guess, to give tangible examples, it's it's things like search on a site near we spend a lot of time building out really extensive kind of knowledge hubs and content hubs and resource libraries on websites with you know, white papers and webinars, guides and all these things. And with, with what I've just said in mind, it's about how do people get to what they are looking for as quickly as possible and as few steps as possible. And so using sorting, and filtering, and tagging, and keyword search, and all those kind of things and potentially even consuming resources that you've got, if you've got a white paper, can the search functionality we build actually search within that white paper within the media library. And so you know, there's more enterprise levels of search, which I think for me is a trend as well. So I think that kind of on site experience of thinking about UX is not as how do we map out every single individual journey, but actually, how do we create a site where in as few steps as possible, people can get to what they're looking for whoever they are. And so that I think that allows you to actually relieve some of the pressure, take a step back and go Okay, well, let's just think about search. Let's think about sitemap. Let's think about small things like breadcrumbs and using mega menus and really clearly signposting where people are going and what's in different sections. that's fundamentally I think that those are key components of that we can back these up with things like the Gestalt principles where you're visually signposting things. There's all these science elements of UX, which you can kind of dive into and I guess what I'm talking about the foundations of them, but yeah, I think that's that's kind of how I how I view things now is just opening things up and and allowing people that have the ability and the experience to find what they need as quickly and easily as possible. I think that I read really nicely into a really common thing that I run into, which is that So many briefs that we get, say they have the same engagement metrics on them, they all want time on site to go up, they want pages per session to go up. And they want bounce rates to go down. And actually, all three of those, I think can be slightly misleading in certain situations. If you're a publisher, like your Times newspaper here in the UK, obviously, you want time on site and pages per session to get those quite literally equal revenue, like the more people spend on your site, the more money you're going to make more ads served, whatever. But if you're a b2b business, I could quite easily argue that pages per session and time on site should be going down. Like if you if your goal is get people what they want as quickly as possible. Why do we want people to spend more time on your site, that you're not an entertainer, you're not people aren't here to have fun and to kind of engage with you as a media company. People are looking for something, and they've got a specific action in mind that they're looking to complete. And if paid on time, on site pages, possession will go up. I think a lot of cases in the b2b space, I would suggest that that's not always a good thing. So I think some of the metrics that marketers look out for and how they measure the success of a project like this sometimes needs to be challenged on that front as well.
Vinay Koshy 36:14
So you say time on site could be on page could be a bad thing. Wouldn't the idea be that you're hopefully delivering enough content and education to take them further into the buying journey? And eventually a sale?
Alex Price 36:32
Yeah, it's a really good point. I actually, what I've just explained, I wrote a blog post about not long gone, I did say that. I'm not ruling these metrics out completely. But I think I'm trying to encourage people to think about them relevant to the stage of the buyer journey that people are in, and even the type of content that's being consumed. Obviously, if you're at the kind of early stages, and you're kind of browsing solutions, and you're just kind of beginning to shortlist potential options, then if you're within a part of the site, which is kind of all educational content, then yeah, you could suggest that anything that you class broadly as educational content, more consumption, and that is it is a good thing. But if you're moving around, I don't know, main kind of product pages, kind of key pages on the sitemap and looking for kind of product spec sheets, or, you know, integration information, all of those things that we start to see more towards the latest age of the buyer journey when people are thinking, Okay, if I go with this route, how do we actually integrate it? What's involved? What are the technical specs? There might be? Might be less relevant, those metrics at that at that point. But you're right, I think it's all just, rather than viewing these as sitewide metrics overall, it's, I think, we have to get to a stage within analytics where we can we can analyze them within particular sections of the site and relevant to the the journey that someone's on.
Vinay Koshy 37:50
So okay, so if you're taking more of a buyer journey type focused approach to to the information that should be on a site, would it make sense, therefore, to have a degree of intelligence, which submits related content? So for example, if a person's looking at the integration, you probably want to throw up potential API information, and maybe even the pricing page option as well, in order for the next steps to be easier?
Alex Price 38:26
Yeah, it's a really good point. Yeah. So as I said, we spend a lot of time on the kind of resource content hub sections of a site overall. And within that kind of how we taxonomies content in terms of tagging and categories, and all of those things is a really key function of that we have in the past actually use some quite interesting. And this actually relates to two things. One is such that I talked about earlier in terms of a lot of default CMS search is really not that accurate. So if you just use kind of out of the box WordPress search, for example, it's not particularly intelligent, it actually searches I think, just within the title, I think categories or just body text, but actually, there's a lot of bits of metadata potentially that it doesn't consume, doesn't look at. To them, there's plugins we can use to kind of make that a bit more intelligent. And then we can look at external solutions, like Elastic Search, all these kind of external integrations that could really take such away from the website, use external service, like all this much more advanced powerful search. I think that's a really key part of it. But what you're talking about is, I guess, showing more related relevant content, depending on what you've previously read. And so yeah, there's a number of different ways of doing I think it relies on good taxonomies to begin with. So if you're not sorting content into the correct category, and tagging approaches to begin with, and that's never going to particularly work, but there are some solutions that are kind of integrations or external that you can look at using so things like there's a plugin that we've used in the past I actually forgot the name of now but effectively uses a form of AI to consume the content find a basically uses natural language processing to identify what the content actually talking about, and then you're kind of related posts module gets switched out. So rather than using the default related post module, which again, within WordPress, out of the box is going to be pretty simple and not that intelligent, too if I'm, if I'm reading some blog posts on our own website, for example, that's categorized as SEO related post is going to show me three related posts, probably also in the category of SEO, in chronological order, like it's not going to go much more intelligent than that. But actually, the more relevant posts for me might be one that was written three years ago. So it's like, well, how much do you consider chronology and this is time relevant, if content is evergreen, or still relevant three years ago, you know, time is not that important to this technology and use of AI actually allows us to surface content, which is much more relevant, and allows us to kind of add weightings to things like time in chronological order, and be a bit more precise about how we surface different content. But it's like, it's like what we see on like, in the UK, we use the bbc news app a lot. And on the BBC News, if you're reading a piece of content, for example, about a very specific case, that's been happening in the courts a legal case, for example, in the related content, it suggests it will very accurately show you news articles related to that very specific case, even if they're from seven years ago, it will show you everything that's related to that. And so they're using, I imagine a very similar approach where their content engine is genuinely understanding what the content is about through the use of AI, and not just relying on on categories and tags. So, again, this whole use of application of AI is a really interesting one. And I'm sure we could talk a lot about it and for how it can power, great experiences. But as one one really good example,
Vinay Koshy 41:50
Certainly, is there a framework that you would use in order to approach this methodically, as opposed to trying to follow ad hoc, good practices as best as we can?
Alex Price 42:06
Yeah, so I think this one always varies for me from from client to client. And I think every client, as I mentioned earlier, comes to us in a slightly different stage and in the journey, with a slightly different level of internal knowledge and agency landscape and partners that we're working with. So there's a few factors that that change things. I guess that kind of initial mapping out of customer journey is, to some extent, the start of the framework. From there, it's really well how deep do we go? How many other things do we do we include, but when we approach a project Overall, we effectively split project stages into separate statements of work. So if we're doing a full UX design, build projects, the first statement of work that we put in place, with the client will be just for the strategy discovery definition work. And that will actually output in the next statement of work for all of the design and development staff to follow. So we were very clear in separating out the thinking piece from the more of the doing, if that makes sense. But yeah, I don't think it's a it's not a specific framework. As such, I think we are working on some elements of, I guess, pulling together all of the different components into more of a formal framework at the moment, but I guess I kind of, I think of them more as, as pieces of the puzzle that we can kind of draw on and utilize as and when needed, depending on the on the client in particular.
Vinay Koshy 43:24
So I'm curious though, as you're building out the final product, I guess there's elements of you know, using breadcrumbs and things, perhaps conventions would be a better word to use in terms of standardizing the navigational flow of the website, how would you approach that?
Alex Price 43:46
Good question. So yeah, I think we, we come across a number of different clients who have a slightly different outlook on that, I guess, often very dependent on kind of size of solution offering and industries that were worse, I think, you've probably seen this on pretty much every b2b site that you go, and particularly technology space, there's kind of a products and solutions route through the website, you've got the products that they actually create all solutions, which are more kind of industry specific, where it might say industry is on the menu, and you can go into a kind of industry specific landing page. So I think some of my clients, they have one product that can work for any industry, and they don't go to that much detail around those things. Other clients have, you know, 50 different products that can work across, you know, that actively targeting, you know, 20 different industries. And so the complexity of Sitemaps and is and how we link everything together, I think really varies depending on which end of the spectrum that the clients out there, but as you point out, things like breadcrumbs were quite regularly using what I described earlier as mega menus and kind of, I guess, making use of wider amounts of real estate in terms of menus so that you don't have really lengthy drop downs. Richard Hart's use from a usability perspective. And when you can start to give people an indication of what they might get in a certain section of the site, just when they hover over it, we can kind of guide them guide them through the journey a bit more. I guess that's one side of it that we haven't actually spoken that much about is the site side of things in terms of SEO. And I think I'm always amazed at how many b2b businesses we work with are sitting on a SEO goldmine that they just don't even realize they could be kind of taking advantage of within the project that they're working on. And so that's a really key consideration. In terms of sitemap and structure. Again, I think if one really big tip I'd give to anyone looking at a website project is invest in the SEO thinking, again, as early on as possible within this discovery strategy work, because, again, I'm sure you've been there, we will have in the website, well, there's nothing worse than designing and building a website and then trying to SEO it afterwards. Whereas if you get that, right, there's this huge, huge potential to see uplift pretty quickly.
Vinay Koshy 45:58
Would I be right in saying that, even though you're very much into web design and development, at its core, it's really about the content and structuring it in a way that facilitates the buying journey?
Alex Price 46:14
Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I think, ultimately, you could say that the websites we build are just kind of vehicles for content to some extent, I think, again, from an SEO angle, there's a really great documentary that Google released recently on their own YouTube channel, I think it's called trillions of questions, or something answers, but I recommend anyone to have a look at that interest in search. But the big takeaway for me from that was that they're becoming a lot more focused on content. Again, they were talking about how they're using natural language processing to really understand user intent. And content just felt like it's becoming even bigger part of that equation. Obviously, there's a huge amount that the algorithm considers but content was definitely felt like it was rising. So yeah, content is is absolutely key. But it's also probably the most challenging part of the website project. And again, everyone that's been involved in the website project knows that content is that thing that can be the Roadblock, the thing that can throw it off course, everybody underestimates just how much time needed to go into content, content production, but also content migration and content upload and all of those kind of elements too. So yeah, content is I know, it's the cliche, but content is definitely King. And, yeah, the websites that we deliver, really need to need to showcase that content is as best as possible, not just to Google and search engine crawlers, but to everybody in the kind of buying unit.
Vinay Koshy 47:33
Excellent. Alex, is there an element of user design that we haven't quite highlighted, but you feel is is really important to mention and bring to the fore?
Alex Price 47:46
What do you mean by user design?
Vinay Koshy 47:48
Sorry, user experience rather?
Alex Price 47:50
Okay. Good question. So, I mean, there's so many, that is a fascinating area, I'm sure you know, that like, the more you dig into it, there's just endless different things that you can, you can find, specifically within the UX field, I guess one that is really interesting, particularly for these bigger sites is this idea of kind of what we refer to as progressive disclosure. So I guess, offering content in almost imagining kind of layers of an onion, that you're peeling back and think of the challenge that the clients come to us where there's, particularly in the tech space is, all of our content is so tacky, we're talking about product features, and how it works. We're not talking to the C suite, we're not talking about the business value that we're providing. And so I think there's multiple layers of kind of content architecture, that you have to work within sites like these, where you might start with a very top level business message, you then move levels deeper until a certain point, you're kind of deep inside a technical integration article about and there's 3000 words about, you know, you might even end up in the kind of developer documentation section of the site or a certain stage in the, in the buyer journey. And so this kind of progressive disclosure way of thinking allows us to not get overwhelmed by content, not end up with a site that just has walls and walls of content, because there's nothing worse than coming onto the top one or two levels of architecture of a site and just being bombarded with walls and walls of text, but allows us to kind of guide the user through that in a way that's not overwhelming. To us another UX expression doesn't kind of provide too much cognitive load. So it doesn't doesn't make people think too much in basic terms. And yeah, provides a nice experience, but at the same time, a helpful one, I think it's just about finding balance between not overwhelming the user with too much, but at the same time, making it really easy for them to find what they're looking for.
Vinay Koshy 49:39
Excellent. And Alex, if you were listening to this episode, what would you say is your top takeaway?
Alex Price 49:49
My top takeaway, I would say is do the thinking. I think we've talked a lot about this discovery definition strategy type work that has to happen. It doesn't have to be by an agency, it doesn't have to be done necessarily by us. But I think just don't miss that part of a project would be my my main takeaway. I think a lot of businesses I talked to assume that within a website project and agencies just kind of gonna kind of just do some of this thinking. But I think a business should really be looking for these as quite specific specific line items that are quite clearly called out within a proposal or an approach, or look at doing some of this internally. Because I think without that work, you could end up with a beautiful looking site, but not necessarily one that delivers you your marketing results. Certainly,
Vinay Koshy 50:40
that's brilliant. Alex, if listeners wanted to find out more, or to connect with you, where would you recommend they head to?
Alex Price 50:46
Yeah, so I'm Alex price on LinkedIn. And you can head to 93 digital.co. UK, we've also got a site for nine through x, which is just 93 x dot agency, or my email addresses Alex at 93. Digital credit UK. So yeah, I'd love to hear from anybody that's got any questions or wants to talk about websites?
Vinay Koshy 51:05
Certainly, Alex, thanks so much for this.
Alex Price 51:08
Thanks for having me.
Vinay Koshy 51:10
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Links and resources mentioned
- Check out 93 Digital and 93x
- Join the FINITE community for B2B marketers in the technology sector
- Check out the interview with Matthew Gessler – How to Create a UX Strategy Roadmap That Continually Delights Customers
- Listen to the episode with Rich Rose – How to Radically Improve Customer Service For Business Growth
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