Putting the customers requirements first

I have always wanted to do my best for my customers, and generally, that includes doing the best for their customers. This is most readily achieved by placing oneself in the shoes of our customers and figuring out exactly what it is they need. Sometimes we do this well, but most often we are not doing this enough, but sometimes I find cases where people do this really really well. The following story is the story of a highly gifted architect named Paul R Williams.

Paul Revere Williams was a highly gifted architect and designed houses for legends such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. He was born in 1894 in Memphis and by the age of 25 he had won an architectural competition and three years late at the age of 28, he had opened his own office. He had gained a reputation for being an outstanding draughtsman which was largely the reason for his success. This level of success was outstanding for a young black man to achieve in the 1920s in the USA. The levels of racism were high, Jim Crow laws were still in place and the civil rights advances of the 60s were still decades away.

To help himself he worked out a way he could fulfil the needs of his clients while also finding a route around some of the prejudice and discrimination he was up against. One of the ways this prejudice manifested was in some clients wanting to not sit next to him to work on designs in consultation. They wanted the calibre of work Williams could offer but were not prepared to treat him as an equal. Williams was not only a remarkable draughtsman but also a remarkable thinker so he thought his way around the problem and taught himself to draw upside down. This way he could sit across the desk from clients and still render his drawings for them in consultations.

Paul R. Williams
By Unknown author – The Crisis, Vol 14 No 2, June 1917 (page 83) https://books.google.com/books?id=ZloEAAAAMBAJ, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60970790

Now, I do have to ask myself the question of do we sometimes go too far in trying to please our customers and clients? I have some kind of dissonance here. On the one hand, I am incredibly impressed with the solution Williams found and the dedication he had to implement it. I am also conscious of the time and world he lived in which may have not allowed any other solution which also impresses me that he had such an empathic way of seeing from his customers point of view. This can teach us a lot about placing ourselves in the shoes of our customers and clients. But, I am also askance that he even had to. See, my initial thinking is that problems are solved when you attack the right problem, but I can see that there are other ways of alleviating a problem by thinking around it and you affect the things you have control over.

The picture in the header shows the Saks of Fifth Avenue building in Beverly Hills designed by Paul R. Williams.

Building your site strategy from the ground up

Why do you need a strategy?

Building a business online is the same as building a business that is entirely offline. The need for the business is to sell the product[s] or service[s] that you, as a business offer. To do this you may rely on a marketing and sales strategy that focuses on making new sales to generate new business. This is commonly referred to as a sales funnel with the emphasis on attracting visitors to your website or application (the marketing part) and converting these visitors into customers (the sales part). But there is a problem.

The problem with the marketing and sales funnel

The big problem with this approach is that it has a built-in start and an end-point. The campaign or content that you are using to attract your potential customers and clients is the start-point and the purchase is the common end-point. This does not allow for the long-term relationship between a customer and your business through the ongoing support and improvements that you offer.

To take advantage of this relationship between your business and the customers or clients you have requires a different view of your strategy. We prefer to think of this as a virtuous circle that aids in the retention of customers and will ideally leverage the loyalty of those customers to further convert them into advocates, bringing you new customers at a reduced cost than having to market and advertise your services in a traditional way. This is not to negate traditional marketing and sales which should remain part of your strategy.

The Virtuous Circle

This example of a virtuous circle represents the cyclical nature of attracting, converting and engaging your customer and transforming them into an advocate for your business.

Many businesses will have processes in order to build a relationship with a client or customer. These are likely to include:

  1. Attract – This is the Marketing part of the process to bring people to your website, application, store or even your bricks and mortar business. This may include advertising, articles, outreach emails, social media posts and tweets or more such as event appearances and so on.
  2. Convert – This is the Sales part of the process and includes developing the relationship with your customer or client to the point of sale.
  3. Engage – This is the part where you can begin the attempt to retain your customers and develop a deeper relationship in order to build confidence through supporting them in their use of your services or products.
  4. Transform – This is the point where you have delighted the client or customer and formed a deep enough relationship with them that they transform into advocates for your business and become part of your ongoing attempts to win new business. This can be through referrals, testimonials and case studies. I have even heard of cases where customers have helped a business by becoming part of their pitch process.

You can see from this view that the cycle strategy allows for greater opportunity than the typical sales funnel view of building your business. But, this is a view from the business needs. What about the needs of the customer? Can we find new insights from looking at this from their viewpoint?

The Customer’s view of the circle

1 Investigate 2 Verify 3 Commit 4 Use 5 Prefer 6 Champion
This example of a virtuous circle represents the customer or client view of the stages of the cycle such as investigating, verifying, committing, using, preferring and then championing your business.

The Customer view of the circle is likely to have a number of different stages than our view due to the focus being different. It is important we get an understanding of how the customer is likely to view this process so that we can put in place activities that will fulfil the need the customer or client has at each stage. These stages might include:

  1. Investigate – The potential customer is shopping around for solutions to the problem they have and might come across your solution via advertising or marketing activity.
  2. Verify – The potential customer is then likely to carry out some investigation into your business via reviews, testimonials, case studies etc. Or by seeking an opportunity to demo your product[s] or service[s].
  3. Commit – This is where the sale has been made and is likely to be analogous to the Convert stage we have highlighted above, but it is worth considering what this stage means to the client or customer.
  4. Use – This stage is very important and is where you need to make sure you don’t drop the ball. Having a good set of processes and communication channels in place can be highly useful for the customer and in reaching your goal of converting that customer into an advocate or champion.
  5. Prefer – It is always going to be the case that a customer will be measuring their experience of your product[s], service[s] and business against other previous experiences. How can you create a strategy for this stage that delights your customer and sets their experience as the new benchmark?
  6. Champion – This is our endgame and the start of the new rotation of the cycle so how can we help our customer or client become a champion and delight them further to keep coming back for more?

Now, these cycle stages above could have other stages, depending on your business and how your clients and customers approach you.

For example what if your customer comes across a problem/catastrophe/headscratcher of a problem?

Representation of things going wrong by cartoon explosion
What if there is a problem with your product or service?

Supporting the customer

I have heard more than a few times in my life that it is a mistake to spend time and money on a client or customer after the sale. I strongly believe the opposite is true. In order to delight our customers we can use a number of strategies to enable them to make the most out of our products or services and support them in any learning they may need to achieve in order to make the best use of our product or service.

This can include how we approach:

  • Error messaging.
  • Troubleshooting.
  • Training.
  • Community building.
  • Support team fixes.
  • Events and Conferences.

There are many more areas to consider and stages you might want to build in that may aid your processes and help you build a strong relationship with your customers.

We can help you build those customer relationships

Let us talk you through creating a strategy that enables you to join up your marketing, sales and support in order to better delight your customers and build those relationships.

What is SEO? Great tips for SEO in Liverpool

What is SEO? Why do I need it?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and refers to the process of optimising your site for Search Engine rankings. The actions taken as part of an SEO process can help your business gain a larger audience and can target your local audience. So whether you are concentrating your efforts to improve your SEO in Liverpool, or your SEO in Wirral or Merseyside or even nationally a well thought out strategy can help.

How does it work?

SEO works by addressing many of the variables in a website’s design and development along with the content that is published on the website. Search Engines base their rankings on a number of criteria and SEO attempts to provide the optimal conditions to attain a high ranking.

What can we do to help our Search Engine Ranking?

Let’s take Google as our example of a search engine, the reasons for doing so are sound as Google dominates search with around 87% or more of all searches for last year. How Google determines their ranking is not exactly known, it is after all their special sauce but we do know many of the factors that Google does take account of.

We provide search today so any time you type in a keyword, we as Google have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of web pages in our index, and we take the keyword, and match it against the pages, and rank them based on over 200 signals: things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it.

– Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet (Google’s parent company)

Google takes these signals and uses them to rank each page based on what is being searched for and providing the link that best fits that search. So we know that we need to make our sites:

  • Relevant to the people we want to attract and convert into customers or clients. We can do this by finding out what our customers are looking for, what questions they are asking, what problems they have and so on.
  • We need to create content that fulfils the need of the potential customers have.
  • We need to create content often so we have a fresh supply of content.
  • We need to have a quick website to serve that content as quickly as possible
  • We need to build up some authority for our site to attract links from other sites, this lets Google know we have integrity and are an authority in this field.
  • We need to make sure we have a secure website architecture so that Google knows we have the integrity to look after the security needs of our customers.

The blend of all these elements along with the practical methods of SEO is what helps a page move up the Search Engine rankings.

What are the Practical Methods of SEO?

The practical methods of SEO include:

  • Customer research – to help determine what questions they might need answering and what problems they might have.
  • Keyword research – to determine which keywords and phrases we wish to target in our content creation.
  • Link building – to help build our authority in the eyes of Google, not all links are equal.
  • Technical SEO – Speed optimisation, Secure site architecture etc.
  • On-page SEO – Adding good titles and headings to site content along with good tags on images and adding structured data where appropriate.

Why Is SEO worthwhile?

There are a number of reasons that SEO is worthwhile and they include:

  • It is a reliable way to increase your traffic.
  • Using these techniques and measuring the effects in Analytics provides an accurate result for the Return on Investment (ROI).
  • You can increase awareness of your brand.
  • You can build trust and rapport with your customers and potential customers.
  • If you don’t you are likely to lose market share to those that are doing it.

The Need for Speed

While we often hear the phrase “content is king” on the web, and while that may be true, there is a fundamental need for your website to be fast. The reasons are numerous and they include:

Keeping your visitors engaged

It should be our number one priority, to delight our site visitors enough to want to do business with us. But the findings of various studies over the years have shown time and again that a slow site has an impact on the happiness of those visiting your site and can also cause a knock-on effect of your site gaining a poor reputation via word of mouth.

Aberdeen Group showed in their report from 2016 that a 3-second delay in site loading will cost you 20% of your audience. This window of time is likely to not have improved over the past few years. Imagine knowing that something you had the option to do something about was costing you 1 in 5 of your sales opportunities. You’d make the change right?

The rule of thumb here is to do what makes your visitors happy as it is needed in order to convert them from a visitor into a customer by fomenting trust.

Aiding your rankings on Search Engine Results Pages

Google is still the big player amongst search engines but all search engines are taking account of the speed of your site in one way or another (it is hard to tell exactly as their algorithms are their business so are closely guarded secrets like the 11 herbs and spices or the Coca Cola recipe which is reputed to be only known by two people, or at least that is what Coca Cola might want us to believe). It is important for your marketing efforts, whether they are via natural rankings or paid advertising within the search engines, that you maintain a speedy website. There are a number of technologies helping you do this including caching and compression. Make sure you are not missing out on speeding up your site.

Maximising revenue

Having a slow site obviously affects the visitors to your site which in turn can cost you opportunities and therefore revenue. To put that into monetary terms is difficult but it didn’t stop Amazon from doing just that over a decade ago when they found that every 100,000 milliseconds of delay in the loading of their pages cost them 1% of their sales. For a behemoth like Amazon that adds up to a lot of money.

Akamai, one of the world leaders in online intelligent business systems found in a 2017 study that a 100,000-millisecond delay can cost you 7% in your conversion rate. To put that in monetary terms achieving a 100,000-millisecond improvement in the speed of your site is likely to net an extra £7 for every £100 of revenue you currently make. That is not an onerous task to achieve such an improvement.

How can we improve speed?

There are a number of tools at our disposal in order to speed up our sites. They might include:

  • Transferring to a speedier host
  • Using file compression technologies
  • Optimising the size of image and video files being delivered
  • Using caching technologies to reduce the number of calls to the server
  • Using a content delivery network to deliver content and reducing the number of hops made between the site visitors browser and the server in order to deliver content.

As you can see there is a real business case to be made for keeping an eye on your site speed and optimising for a faster website. But be aware that this is not a set it and forget it a task, this is a factor that is worth keeping an eye on regularly.

Managing your website

An often overlooked part of any business is the management of the organisation’s website. Many businesses I come across treat their website with a “set it and forget it” attitude. In fact, I am certain that there are three distinct attitudes that prevail amongst organisations towards managing their website.

  1. The “set it and forget it” attitude. This is a common attitude to take towards websites from many organisations. The need to have a website is established but the need to manage it and update both the content and the technologies are not. This group are missing out on the largest benefits of their website and in some cases may well be harming their own business goals by not updating their site.
  2. The second group are those that understand the need to update the content of the site and add new content as often as possible. The advantages of fresh content are understood as it helps with the marketing efforts that involve the website and the effects can be seen directly in the analytics data available. This can directly show value to the fresh content and even show a monetary value on the returns offered for the investment of time and money creating that content.
  3. The third group are those that understand the need to update both the content, in order to publish fresh content, and the technologies of the site. Technical maintenance of the site can be achieved in a number of ways including a basic update of the site each month all the way to full technical maintenance giving the site an overhaul to improve speed and optimise the site technically.

It is important to get a strategy in place with your web agency in order to manage your website. This might involve any or all of the following:

  • A monthly maintenance package – for more information see our maintenance packages available here.
  • A monthly reporting on any elements from the security, speed and marketing data available.
  • A monthly content agreement to create and publish content for you. See here for the importance of good content marketing.

Come and discuss how Mart Gordon can help you with managing your website today, we’re here to help.

5 advantages to being based on the Wirral Peninsula

Since moving to the northwest from the south-east I have had some time to reflect on the advantages moving to the Wirral Peninsula has brought to my business and my lifestyle. Wirral is a very interesting geographical location situated between the estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee with Liverpool to the north and North Wales to the south. There are a number of wonderful towns and villages all over the peninsula with a population of  around 320,295.

1. Entrepreneurship is evident all over the Wirral Peninsula

There is a real creative spirit on the Wirral, as in the North West as a whole, and it has managed to set the place apart. I have now settled in West Kirby after 15 years in and around Brighton and London and one of the first things to note in the town is that there are many, many cafés but not one big chain coffee place, no place here for Starbucks Mermaidy logo thing (Starbucks branding story is quite interesting in itself). This indicates to me that the creative people who own these cafés and coffee shops have worked to make them unique and to stand out from the quick coffee culture and highlight a more relaxed feel to getting coffee. This spirit of unique entrepreneurship is evident in many other ways, including my favourite example a barber in the pub. Building a brand when you look at the brand as being unique rather than a copy of something that already exists is easier than trying to do the same as others have already done. This is because differentiating your brand from the competition is key to successful brand development. My clients Morvélo would not be such an amazing brand to work with if they had just wanted to copy what Rapha are doing.

2. The large markets close by include Liverpool and Manchester

When I left the South Coast with Brighton just 7 miles away and London an hours train ride from my doorstep I worried that I might be distancing myself from all potential clients. This is far from the case with Liverpool just 10 miles away and Manchester just an hour or so away by car. The amount of business going on in these towns is amazing and Liverpool, in particular, is thriving compared to the town I left 16 years ago. Today, the chancellor announced that Manchester will keep 100% of growth in business rates which is a massive boost to a town that is growing very well already.

Digital Economy Growth

This chart illustrates that Liverpool is outstripping both Inner London and Brighton in Digital growth with growth over twice the national average. Manchester is looking very healthy too with growth almost 20% higher than the national average. This will boost all businesses in these areas, not just the digital sector as growth has a trickle-down effect to boost the economy.

3. The optimistic outlook of the North West is infectious

I have a lot of family in the North West so moving back here is a sort of homecoming in many ways. I was born in Manchester but brought up for much of my life in the South East, I can still remember when I was walking with my family when I was still little, and mom used to read reviews for baby strollers. The UK can seem a pessimistic place as it seems a very British trait to not want to give false hope to others, this can be seen more readily when contrasting the British demeanour with that of the US. The optimism I feel from people in the North West is less about projecting false hope and more about making the best with what we have to hand. With the skills coming into the area and the thought leaders already here this is far from false hope. Just as an example in Liverpool the Internet of Things is championed by a leading voice in the designing for the IoT, Adrian McEwen.

There is also a great initiative from the British Library to rollout Business and IP (Intellectual Property) Centres to some of the major cities across the North. I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Business and IP Centre opening in Liverpool on the 29th of January. This is something to be optimistic about as it will help foster the spirit of entrepreneurship in these cities and provide the help to make these startups a success, I hope to be able to be involved in building success in the North West too.

4. Lifestyle is of paramount importance with the great outdoors being accessible for multiple uses

One of the things I love to do is get outdoors and use the spaces available for activities I enjoy. There are some amazing beaches on the Wirral peninsula and into North Wales along with some beautiful countryside. I love to cycle and some of the routes I am now discovering are brilliant. I hope to continue this exploration into North Wales too. I also enjoy getting out on the water and the Marine Lake in West Kirby provides me with some opportunities to do that with kayaking, sailing and windsurfing on offer. This makes the North West and the Wirral Peninsula, in particular, a great destination for visitors which provides a fresh market for our businesses which is a fantastic opportunity to have.

5. The welcome is unlike anywhere else

One thing I have found with living in the North West is that people will say hello no matter who you are. When I am out walking the dog strangers always have a smile and a greeting for me which is endearing after living in the South East for so long where many people seem to feel affronted if you make eye contact. Don’t think for a moment that I am saying that people from the South East are unfriendly, I have many great friends I have made over the years most of whom have the sunniest of dispositions, but there is a culture of keeping to oneself evident in the South East that is refreshingly absent in the North West. This helps me to feel happier and more optimistic in my outlook.

A quick guide to setting up A/B Testing using Google Analytics.

A/B testing is a very useful tool in choosing the correct solution for your site. A simple A/B test could help increase the chances of a user completing the task they intended to do on your site and thereby increase the usefulness of the site or application and even the profitability of your business.

Setting up A/B testing in Google Analytics is relatively simple. Follow these guidelines and you’ll have it running in as little as 15 minutes. I’ll assume you have Analytics running on your site or application, if not there are many tutorials on getting started with Google Analytics on the web.

Set a goal

The first thing to do is decide on what it is you want to test (e.g. the wording on a button that leads to your contact form). It is best to only test one thing at a time so you know how effective every single change is.

To set a goal log into your Google Analytics website and select the Admin tab at the top, then you should find Goals under the View list (the third column of options usually). You can add a goal by clicking the create new goal button. Analytics has an education function that can help explain this within Analytics reached by clicking the mortarboard icon on the top right.

Set up your test options

This will involve setting up two or more versions of the page one with each option for what it is you are testing. So for our example of alternative wordings on the button that leads to our contact form we would have one page created for each option. Make a note of the distinct URLs for each page you have set up.

Create your A/B test

Go back into Google Analytics and to the Reporting tab for the site you are testing on. On the left hand menu there is an item labelled Behavior which has a sub item of Experiments. This is where you will create your A/B test by selecting Create Experiment. The way to do this is as follows:

  1. Click the Create Experiment button;
  2. Give the experiment a name and select the goal you are experimenting against;
  3. Add the URL of the page you are testing
  4. Add as many variation URLs as you require to test against;
  5. Add the experiment code to the head section of your original page on your site or application;
  6. Click save changes and Google will test everything is running well using its verifcation process;
  7. Click start the experiment and we are done.

What happens next

Google takes care of routing your users to the various pages set up within the experiment for the duration of the experiment. Google even takes care of the duration of the experiment depending on the volume of traffic your site gets. This will result in Google declaring a winning variation (which may be your original page rather than an actual variation). You can of course stop the experiment at any time.

The magic of Google’s experiments A/B testing is that it uses a multi-armed bandit approach that starts to favour the most effective pages within the experiment as time goes on so it will tune itself to becoming more effective over time. This will help maximise users achieving the goal you want them to.


Remove the Experiments code from the head section of your site when the experiment is over.

User Experience is a Quality Assurance issue not just a design issue

These adverts have been showing up more and more regularly over the last 5 years, yet I’m sure User Experience is not wholly a design issue. I’m of the opinion that the User Experience should be at the heart of every project so should be a priority for all members of the project team be they Project Managers, Designers, Database Developers, marketers and so on.

This post has grown from a tweet I published a few weeks ago:

I’ve seen a lot of discussion over titles used in your UX team. There should be no UX team as UX is everybody’s responsibility & part of QA

Okay, that is a little bit of clickbait but the overall sentiment, I feel, holds a lot of truth as I’ll explain in this post.

Then a thread popped up on Linkedin that started with a quote from Jeff Gothelf:

“In many companies, UX designers are seen as ‘the people who make the wireframes”

This is true, although I would say that this then is a problem with job titles, that they become a misnomer for the actual job. The person making wireframes is, in my opinion, part of the UI design team. The UX design is much more involved in the project as a whole. What I mean by that is UX is how the user experiences every aspect of the application, service, website, product and so on [which I will refer to as the product from here on in]. This means that aside from the User Interface, there are many other aspects that the person in charge of UX needs to consider, be it the business analysis, branding design, the functionality and how it is presented to the user, the users themselves and how they might prefer to interact with the product, the user pathway through the product if there is one to be determined, and so on.

Due to all this, a UX designer needs to oversee many areas from the traditional design to the development and strategy so I would rather think of them as a strategist than a designer. UX design is not design in the concept of creating the graphics and so on, that is UI design.

That is why I believe the user experience (UX to all you cool hep cats) to be a Quality Assurance issue and that all members of a team should play their part in this. Of course, it may help to have a guiding hand in this, but calling that person the UX Designer has caused much of the industry to believe it to be within the domain of the design team and no further. Perhaps each product from a team needs a Product Owner who drives the project’s UX across the whole production cycle.

Accessibility, Barrier Free Design, Universal Design

Accessibility is of great importance on the web. When it comes to showcasing your content you can use text, images, audio and video or a mixture of all four, but it is essential to pay mind to users who may need to use assistive technologies. Happily some of the techniques for maximising the accessibility of a site also make your site more attractive to Search Engines and can also benefit all users. It seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it.

So, what is accessible design?

The W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium) has put together some Accessibility Guidelines for use by Web Design agencies and they define accessible design as having four essential criteria. These are:

  • Forgiveness
  • Operability
  • Perceptibility
  • Simplicity


This is all about minimising the amount of possible errors the user can make on your site. One of the ways to achieve this is to make sure form controls do just the job they are intended for and nothing else. Building in forgiveness also helps minimise confusion for the user which is always a good thing.


This is the area that most people think of when they hear of Accessibility. It involves making sure the site is of use to people who use assistive technologies. This is getting easier to do as certain advances in web technologies has allowed some of the inaccessible techniques once used by web designers to fall by the wayside. For example the rise of using web fonts has allowed the designer to stop using images to display text which helps users who may need screen readers to review the content of a page.


Within Perceptibility the user must be able to perceive the design of your website or application. This is important regardless of the ability of the user. Lets look at an example: If a given user has a visual deficiency, images may be redundant but the meaning or content of them can be conveyed through using the alt attribute or the longdesc attribute.


This for me is the cornerstone of all design and a good mantra for life in general.

Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau.

Don’t set users a steep learning curve in order to use your site or application as they are likely to go looking elsewhere for the information, service or product they want or need.