Tag Archives: website production

The Freemium business model

The Freemium business model works for Spotify
The Freemium business model works for Spotify

This post is the second of a multi-part article describing methods to monetise large digital audiences. The freemium model is one of the most modern monetisation methods in the series.

The concept of freemium is to offer a free service, and if users want more content or functionality, they must buy a subscription.

One of the most common freemium products is the music service, Spotify. Users can download Spotify and immediately listen to music. If users want to be able to listen to the music when an Internet connection is unavailable, or they want to listen to ad-free music, they need to pay a monthly subscription.

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The Content Subscription model

PaywallThis post is the first of a multi-part article on methods to monetise large digital audiences. The subscription model itself requires high quality content more than a large digital audience.

The digital subscription model is similar to a paper magazine subscription – users periodically pay to keep receiving content, whether it’s daily, monthly or annually. The digital version is often called a paywall.

In order to implement a paywall, the website owner requires a registration mechanism and a payment system. The registration system can range from Facebook Login to a proprietary implementation.

For the payment system, there are systems which can be tailored, to third-party providers such as Apple’s App Store. The issue with the latter, is the commission can be as much as 30% of the value of the subscription. The upside of course, is that the content owner doesn’t need to worry about the billing, the integration is often easier, and the third-party (such as Apple of Google) handles chargebacks and user support.

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Hugh Jackson, director of MediaCo on Venice and Panda

Almost to reconfirm how I described how the first morning at ad:tech had been full of

It's a sobering thought that on some searches the 3rd result is below the fold!
It’s a sobering thought that on some searches the 3rd result is below the fold!

practical tips and advice, Hugh Jackson from MediaCo, an SEO company, gave a good, practical presentation on two of the latest Google algorithm changes and how to take advantage of them, despite all the bad press they’ve received.

The two algorithm changes are Panda and Venice.


Results are now based upon the local results of where the user is located. (My Note: Actually, they’ve always been local, so if you searched for ‘Spurs’ in the UK you’d end up with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and if you searched for Spurs in the US you’d see the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. Now, results are localise for everything, down to a far more granular level).

So if you type in say, tyre dealer, you’ll get very different results if you’re based in New York, London or Manchester.

This is the only way results are ranked organically (i.e. not paying for an ad in the results) for generic terms.

To take advantage of Venice, you need to create truly unique content for your user’s locations. National companies without local offices are at a disadvantage.

The SEO strategy to take advantage of Venice is to create landing pages and change the site structure to reflect localised pages. The example Hugh gave is Autotrader, which now has regions, and then local cities where car results are displayed for that local city or region.

The tried and tested SEO technique for Titles and Descriptions has been slightly updated, so you should now use:

Title + location + brand

for AutoTrader, the example given was:

Find used cars in Manchester – used cars | Autotrader

Also, inbound links should ideally include the location in the anchor text, although Hugh pointed out that Google sometimes perform U-turns on best practice for inbound links.

Other techniques to improve natural results include having local reviews, directions to the location, a local address for the business, and a local phone number. These are recommendations though, not necessities.

Finally, put your local addresses in the site schema.


It's [almost] always about content, content, content...
It’s [almost] always about content, content, content…
Panda uses real world, human user data to verify the quality of sites. So a site that simply provides links to other sites, and users spend a very short period of time browsing, will be hit hard by Panda. This real user data comes from Google +, Chrome usage stats and toolbars.

Use google.com/trends and adwords.google.co.uk/keywordplanner to help with your SEO terms.

You can now have a page with little text, perhaps just a couple of sentences, followed by a video, and this may perform well. The reason is that users will stay on the page (watching the video), and this gets fed back to Google, who then interpret this as a sign of a real user finding the page interesting. This is very different to previous SEO techniques where keywords were the most important SEO consideration.

To create inbound links, Hugh recommended that you create Infographics and distribute these to other websites, making sure you have credit for the work, through good quality anchor text.

It’s important to ‘announce’ new content by promoting it on social networks – Twitter, Google+ and Facebook for example. This builds authority and will help develop you as a thought leader and people will link to your page.

Another good technique, which Google has been vocal about, is to attribute content to a particular person by linking to their Google + page.

And finally, it’s a sobering thought that on some search results such as ‘Manchester United’, the 3rd result is already below the fold!

The real value

Of course, Panda and Venice are details. The main reason why natural searches are still so important is because when a user performs a search on Google (or Bing, or any other search engine) and arrives at your website, the chances are that you have a genuinely and fully qualified lead!

See the other presentation notes from ad:tech.

Mobile first? Don’t believe the hype

Designing websites has never been as difficult as it is at the moment, and it’s only going to get harder.

Think about this for a moment – people born since about the year 2000 are unlikely to have ever walked into a travel agent or mobile phone shop. They’re unlikely to have been inside a bank more than a couple of times in their lives. Couple this with more than 10% of the UK still haven’t used the Internet.

In Q2 2013, AOL earned a staggering $166m from dial up modems. It’s fair to take a decent chunk of that revenue and claim it’s from ‘forgotten direct debits’ (now here’s an irony: a quick search for forgotten direct debits produces some interesting reading from AOL which claims over 2.5m Britons are paying for services they no longer need!).

So we have this strange anomaly where the Internet is being used by teenagers who have grown up using web browsers before they could read and over 75 year olds who are just starting to use the Internet for the first time.

And then they’re the range of screens: from a small Blackberry screen to iOS and Android (my S4 feels closer in size to an iPad Mini than an iPhone) to tablets. These screens demand large contact areas for fingers to select rather than small target areas easy to access with a mouse. Then on to desktops, which have a wider array of sizes than ever before. At work I use a square monitor with a relatively small resolution but when I work from home I have a large widescreen monitor where some sites look really nice and some look like a size zero.

Responsive design isn’t always the answer. I spend time battling against the marketing wave which convinces clients into believing every website needs to be responsive, to fit large and small browsers, touchscreen and mouse driven.

But responsive isn’t the only option. Fire up the BBC website on a smartphone and you’ll see the mobile site which is a quicker and easier to use than a responsive design. And it really comes into its own when you have a weak signal and want the latest cricket or football scores. A responsive design would be slower to download and use than the excellent mobile site. For high traffic websites it also reduces the cost of bandwidth delivery.

As well as fighting the responsive design marketing wave, I’m also swimming against the tide with mobile first initiatives. Yes mobile is increasing, however there are still very significant numbers of users using desktops. And what happens when wearable technology takes off? Or if TV apps really become mainstream?

The answer to many of these questions is to make sure that any digital platform has a complete API to support all these output devices. This can help multiple teams develop user interfaces in parallel. It also helps store the ‘state’ where users switch devices.

The best in class example of this is Facebook. Open the Facebook app on your phone and you’ll see the number of notifications in your activity feed. Click on some of them. Then look at Facebook on a desktop and you’ll see the new number of notifications. It’s the way it should be, but still so many sites struggle with these concepts.

So while it’s currently the hardest it’s ever been to design user interfaces, there are some great examples out there of how to do this properly, just don’t get too sucked into all the marketing hype.

New Google Maps review: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Bert Lance popularised the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in 1977 and two of the biggest IT companies in the World today could do with some reminding.

New Google Maps
New Google Maps – looks nice, but unusable

In September 2012, Apple considered that Google’s Android was such a competitor to the iPhone since the first iPhone appeared, that it was bizarre to continue using Google’s mapping application. So Apple wrote their own mapping application, which has received some severe criticism, and has caused some of the senior management to leave the company.

Google Maps is excellent, and they saw the opportunity to release an [excellent] iOS map app, which I use on my iPhone.

Google Maps, browser version is also excellent. The Streetview is great for becoming familiar with your destination before starting the journey, and the routing is excellent too, whether walking, driving or using public transport.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, said Lance.

Google sent me an invite a fortnight ago to look at the new Maps website, apparently written from the ground up (no pun intended) and I eagerly accepted the invite.

It looks lovely. But it’s awful to use. For instance, the map doesn’t show you where you are. The familiar right-click has disappeared, so you have to type source and destination addresses rather than just right-click on either of them and press ‘Directions to/from here’. Right click now shows a point of interest (usually a business) near where you right clicked, which I haven’t yet found a single practical use for.

Streetview now takes over the page with a tiny map, and you can’t drag the ‘person icon’ to see a different area on the map. To get back to map mode from Streetview used to be obvious – there was a traditional close button, now it’s an almost hidden, size 8 font hyperlink.

Google Maps is a big step backwards. As a client used to say every time he moved up a Windows version, “I’ve just downgraded to the latest version”.

Five Key Internet Megatrends: 4. Browsers are too basic

Browsers are too basic and need to mimic the 3D world that we live in
Browsers are too basic and need to mimic the 3D world that we live in

Key points:

  • The future of browsing will be a 3D immersive ‘World’ experience
  • It will solve the discovery issues of current ecommerce web sites

If you had ever worked with mainframe technologies, you probably wondered what the fuss was about when the first web browsers were released.

Mainframes work on a transactional basis. Technically, the entire interaction with a mainframe is to ask something (which in the web world is called a Request) and your program receives an answer (in the web world is called a Response).

In between the mainframe and web world, there was ‘thin-client’ architecture which was the same model again.

In between mainframes and this clients were fat clients. Fat clients are programs which can do complex number crunching using data on the computer in front of you. Common examples are Word, Excel, Access, Desktop Publishing Systems, and most computer games.

So in the 1980s and 90s we had these complex local programs, fat clients, and when the Internet came along, we took a big step backwards. We went from good looking interfaces to white pages with lots of Times New Roman text.

Very recently, browsers have taken advantage of more interaction (using technologies such as Ajax and jQuery) without users needing to refresh a page. It wasn’t that long ago that to use a map inside a web browser that users had to click on a link to see further in one direction, took the user to a different web page. Now, we’re able to zoom in and out and drag a map around and effectively stay on one page.

But we’re all human, and the web browser isn’t good enough. We need to see a 3D style environment to visualise the web.

The first attempt at this was Second Life. In fact Second Life was a very good first attempt as far as technologies go, and big players such as IBM spent a lot of money in the first virtual world if its kind.

Retailers opened stored on Second Life because the shopping experience is more natural n a 3D environment that a single product per page.

Unfortunately, Second Life was too far ahead of its time. It was too early in Internet adoption. The Internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it has become.

At the time of writing, Google’s Chrome browser is on version 26. It’s sad that after 26 versions, it’s still showing you white pages with text on.

How industries are blurring together


I’ve been doing lots of travelling recently – visiting our delivery centre in Romania four weeks ago with a potential client, then in New York for a keynote speech at Brand Innovators, then back to Romania last week with a new commercial partner.

During the first visit to Romania we showed the potential client some of the e-commerce work we are doing with multivariate testing using Sitecore. It’s really impressive stuff, and I was preaching A/B testing and multivariate testing a couple of years ago, saying it will be the next big thing. I was a year early, because now many of our clients are adopting it, testing colours, images, text and forms as easily as changing content.

We are also pushing multivariate testing on mobile devices. I don’t see why people treat mobile, web or even TV any differently as digital output devices, however many of our clients have mobile teams, so we need to still need to treat each output differently to match these customers’ organisations. Again, in my opinion multivariate testing, user testing, rendering speed, and so on, are just as important across devices.

New York was an interesting visit too. My main focus was a client workshop with a key topic around “With sites like Facebook, why do we still create .com websites? Discuss.” If you want to know the outcome, give me a call. Another key focus of the visit was giving the keynote speech at Brand Innovators Social Media, (disclaimer: Endava are sponsoring the next few Brand Innovator events).

I finally got to meet Mark Bonchek. Mark spoke at a previous Brand Innovators’ event where one of our key clients heard him, and I’ve read a number of his articles on the Harvard Business Review. It was a real pleasure to have dinner with Mark on the evening before the event. We have shared views around organisational structure (that organisational hierarchy doesn’t quite work the same as it did 150 years ago) and there were some lively debates around the table.

And then last week I was back to Romania again. The focus last week was more around the media clients, and we showed some of the new projects we’ve been working on in the sector. It’s very impressive stuff – especially around TV and mobile apps.

It brought home how complex the technology landscape has become. For a media company to create a digital proposition, there are so many output channels to consider. Ten years ago they would have had a linear transmission and maybe sell DVDs or video tapes. Now it’s the linear channel with iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, web, mobile web, digital TV applications, and the list keeps growing.

Spending long hours (aided by the odd beer or two) with various clients also showed how whole industries are becoming blurred – retailers want to become media broadcasters and media broadcasters want to become top e-commerce sites. Broadcasters are buying telcos. Telcos are buying TV broadcasters. Like so many industries, media is going through a fast, transformational change – and digital is both the enabler and delivery channel.

11 Dos and Don’ts of Website Optimisation


I went to an interesting conference yesterday hosted by Webtrends titled “Successful Site Optimisation with Webtrends”. The main topics were about multivariate testing, which doesn’t get most people’s pulse racing, but it was presented in an interesting way with lots of useful tips.

Multivariate testing is a natural next step up from A/B testing.

A/B testing is where you have two pages that do the same thing, and track which one gives better results, whether it’s increased registrations, higher click through rates or more revenue, etc. These two pages will run for a certain number of users or a time period, to give good comparisons. Think of it as having two large research group.

The problem with A/B testing is that these pages are usually fundamentally different, so it’s difficult to know which difference made users increase metrics on one page over another. Hence multivariate testing was born. Multivariate tweaks the ‘control’ page, subtly changing any of the following:

  • Content (copy)
  • Colours
  • Format
  • Page section behaviours (making whole section clickable, or just an image, or just the text next to an image)
  • Audience segmentation.

These multiple changes can run in parallel as long as they are measured correctly.

At the conference, Webtrends asked who in the audience show a different landing page for new users compared to returning users. It sounds obvious – if a user has already come to your site before, they probably know the basics, so show them more detail, or entice them to actually buy something on the second visit. Out of 60 people in the audience, only 4 companies said they show different pages for new and returning visitors, and one of those companies were MoneySupermarket.com who gave a case study later on.

To do multivariate testing, you need to develop a culture within the business to try different ideas. Most organisations want to design a single solution for web pages, and implement those. The concept of creating multiple designs, copy and user behaviours for each page is alien.

Multivariate testing also requires more people. At the minimum, you need the following:

  • Optimisation analyst
  • Creative specialist
  • Web develop
  • QA

As mentioned earlier, MoneySupermarket.com gave a case study of how they implement multivariate testing. Steve Willey from MoneySupermarket.com explained that they have 120 million visits a year, and 6.7 million individual customers. This gives them a large control group to test updates.

Steve spoke a lot about the optimisation culture within MoneySupermarket.com, which is vital to fight the subjective decisions that most organisations take with design and content. His key recommendations were:

  • Set objectives
  • Take small steps
  • Educate the rest of the business
  • Keep wowing stakeholders with results.

It took MoneySupermarket.com two years after the first A/B test before optimisation became cultural. The first test was to controversially remove a large amount of content from some pages which gave improved conversion results.

MoneySupermarket.com have an SEO expert in the optimisation team to ensure they don’t lose their top spot for most keywords. 

For new products, they always A/B test before launch. They always try to avoid new launches without any data of how well it will perform. Sample sizes are usually around 10% of the audience, giving pretty quick results to MoneySupermarket.com.

One of the things I noticed in a number of the case studies were how calls to action (e.g. the text on links and buttons) are more subtle rather than direct. For instance, ‘Next step’ worked better than ‘Book now’ on the sites.

The next speaker was Tom Waterfall from Webtrends. He gave 11 Dos and Don’ts of Site Optimisation:

  1. Do constantly test. Results only last for a certain period of time (e.g. during a sales campaign, perhaps with above-the-line support)
  2. Do make sure you have the right resources. Research from Forrester shows that the right resources will make the testing more successful.
  3. Do keep it simple. This reduces the risk internally and externally. It helps keep the test shorter and easier to analyse. Copy tends to have the most profound impact on visitors, and adding a chevron (>) helps. You can go into infinite detail about Add to cart buttons.
  4. Don’t forget to sell yourself on every page. Keep adding security information, free returns/ delivery/ service/ etc., and publish information about the amount of content, customers, products or even ‘Likes’ that your brand or products have.
  5. Do make use of other technologies, including analytics, insight database, eye tracking and heat maps.
  6. Do think about the audience. Tom gave a great example screenshot when he was looking to buy a pair of [men’s] shoes and the recommendations on the page included some women’s clothes. So have some recommendation rules to prevent these simple mistakes. Have a think about the audience based on their location, or the traffic source (where the user came from), their previous behaviour on your site, and if possible, demographic data.
  7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Break the changes down from A/B testing to smaller multivariate tests. Try to test one thing at a time (although you can have multiple tests at one time, just not all on the same page). In summary, make sure you can analyse the results from your tests. And test each language separately – what works in one language probably won’t work the same in another.
  8. Do plan ahead. Have a long term plan of tests. As soon as one test has finished, start the next test, hence the need for a team, with a pipeline.
  9. Do think radical. Firstly, the more radical the changes, the bigger response you’ll get from users. MoneySupermarket.com sometimes push (or ignore) the corporate brand guidelines because they guidelines are sometimes subjective, and Steve’s team can prove that bending or changing the rules will give improved revenue.
  10. Do consider future trends. Tom recommended everyone should be testing on mobile, tablets and web, and on the first two formats, companies should be testing app and browser versions. Companies that took future trends into consideration more than two years ago stopped designing mouse hover over effects and lightboxes which don’t work well on touch devices.
  11. Do have fun with testing. Tom’s examples were a little lacking (read: corny!) here, so I’ll give an example of one of our customers a couple of years ago. The customer produced a mobile app, some tactical social media implementations, and a YouTube channel. All three were the first implementations of their type for this client. Everyone within the Endava and client team said what they thought would be the most successful initiative (and why), which gave us more ideas for each project.

The morning was a really good session, so thank you to Webtrends and MoneySupermarket.com for sharing so many useful tips for website optimisation.

Image courtesy of Mccormicky

Flipkart’s Unique Selling Point


Following yesterday’s article about Tencent and the wider concept of looking at the Internet outside of Europe and the US, thanks to one RSS subscriber who contacted me about Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce site which offers a unique Cash-on-Delivery payment option on top of the usual payment options including its own digital wallet. 

Cash-on-Delivery is an excellent option for a country where a relatively small percentage of the population have bank accounts although I’m not sure how Flipkart gets around the cancellation-on-the-doorstep, or convincing delivery companies to collect cash.

Flipkart doesn’t publish any revenue figures, and in its company information it states that it had $31m of funding.

Flipkart is targeting customer service as its USP. 2,500 staff work across 24×7 customer service, and its own supply chain – warehouses, distribution centres across 13 cities.

If I were starting a new Internet business at the moment, I’d definitely be researching sites beyond Europe and the US for some best practices and new ideas.

The difference between B2B and B2C


I originally started this blog because I was having similar discussions with a number of different clients, Endava staff and friends outside of work, and wanted to share these discussions to a wider community. Recently I’ve been discussing the difference between B2B and B2C with many people, so I wanted to share the discussion here.

I’ll start with my original position – that on the Internet there is no difference between B2B and B2C experiences. I argued with people there is no longer a difference between B2B and B2C on the Internet, because the same people who used B2B websites during the day, switched over to B2C (consumer) websites during their lunchtime and evening, and wanted that B2C experience after their lunchtime had finished.

I gave a speech last February to 100 Financial Services organisations explaining that they needed to upgrade their websites to include the usability features that social networks provided – such as search boxes which have type-ahead functionality (e.g. the search box on Facebook). I gave an example that the night before the speech I paid a bill using my online banking service, and it took 6 screens to make a payment, compared to just one screen to send a message to someone on Facebook.

The old transactional website paradigm of a page per step in a long process, was great in the 1990s, unwelcome in the 2010s.

My position on this has changed though. B2B sites haven’t all died and been replaced with B2C. There are still differences between the two of them, but the usability has become the same. B2B sites have adopted the same user experiences. Old green screens are being replaced with iPad implementations because CIOs and CTOs have bought an iPad for home and said “this is the future”, and demanded the green screens receive funding for the first time in 40 years and become reengineered for 2012.

There are still differences between B2B and B2C, but the grey line between the two of them hasn’t moved – it’s just become a lot greyer.

Image courtesy of s_falkow on Flickr