Start a Blog with Me?

Start a Blog with Me?

Blogging has been one of the most valuable things I’ve ever done in my life. As I said back in August (when I wrote Should I Start a Blog?), I don’t know of many other ways to spend your time that can lead to a bigger impact or payoff.

I’ve been itching to get back to personal blogging for a long time. I miss the fun of writing, and of connecting with people over ideas and words. Writing here at The Sparkline is great, but I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like, and I don’t get to cover as many topics as I’d like.

Blogging has changed my life in more positive ways than anything else I’ve ever done. I run a business I love with an incredible team and I get to work from anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection (read the full story of how blogging changed my life and led to creating this business here). Blogging opens doors and creates opportunities, and lets you make a name for yourself. It gives you credibility like you can only get from writing a book or speaking or being on camera.

But along the way, I got busy with running my business, and I forgot just how much blogging meant to me, just for the creative expression and connections it leads to. It’s a magical thing.

So I’m starting an all-new personal blog. You can watch my new blog develop, starting now. Sign up for the challenge for an insider look, and watch here for a public launch update soon.

But, instead of just blogging myself, I thought why not challenge all of you who have been procrastinating to start a blog too?

The Challenge: Start a Blog with Me

I’m going to kick off my new blog with a good, old-fashioned blog challenge. The challenge is simple: I’ll send you one email each day for 7 days. The messages will walk you through the process of setting up your new blog, and publishing your first posts.

And we’re going to get straight to the writing. It’s too easy to get stuck on the big picture strategy and technology stuff, and to forget how simple blogging really should be: set up your blog, start writing, adapt as you go.

So enough procrastinating. If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, this is your chance. Just sign up for the 7-day email series and I’ll walk you through it.

To make things interesting, I’m throwing in a couple of special bonuses:

First, we have special discount hosting offers from two of the best WordPress hosts in the business (we have a dirt cheap option, and a fully featured option with hands-on support).

Second, if you sign up for hosting as part of this challenge, we’ll give you three months of our full Fizzle membership, for free. This includes over 100 hours of video training plus access to the most active community of people working to become self-employed anywhere.

This offer is open to both new, current and former fizzle members. Just sign up for the challenge and I’ll send you the full details.

You must start this challenge by December 2nd, 2014 to get the special hosting + Fizzle discount offers. Enter your email below and I’ll send the discounted hosting and free Fizzle offer, plus your first steps.

Take the blog challenge. Get guidance from me, discounted hosting and three months of Fizzle on the house. And don’t forget, I’m starting my new blog too, so I’ll be working right alongside you.

Now you have no excuses :)

Questions? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

P.S. – if you’re in, reply to the welcome email and tell me what you’re looking forward to most about your new blog.

Allan Branch Joins us to Talk Less, Life, Focus & SaaS

We’ve got Allan Branch joining us today. Allan runs LessAccounting, among other things, and he’s got a ton of wisdom and insight to offer on business and life.

Check it out.


Brian’s update:

  • Working on doing my first webinar for RE, but not sure if I can get enough signups before Thanksgiving. We’ll see.
  • Time management issues.

Jordan’s update:

  • Launching the CartHook blog and paid advertising next week.

In This Episode…

Long Slow SaaS / Focus / Branching Off

  • Getting started on LessAccounting
  • Side projects vs Focus
  • The Less Conference
  • Where’s LessAccounting today?



The post Allan Branch Joins us to Talk Less, Life, Focus & SaaS appeared first on Bootstrapped Web.

What Nathan Barry can teach you about pricing your proposals

Sending out proposals is scary. You imagine all those other more experienced consultants sending out exquisite proposals, written on rolled gold and delivered by carrier pigeon. You know it’s all in your head, but doubt creeps in and you begin to second-guess yourself. All of a sudden the Total that only five minutes ago seemed so reasonable, […]

La entrada What Nathan Barry can teach you about pricing your proposals aparece primero en Nusii: Proposal software for creative professionals..

Growing a Startup One City at a Time

Stefan Martinovic, Co-Founder of, talks with us about automating the very time intensive, archaic process of pricing projects and estimating the economic outcome of real estate development projects. They took a manual process that previously took many weeks and could cost over $10k can now be done in minutes. He shares about how he’s been traveling the country to meet people face to face in order to get buy-in from a variety of stakeholders, city by city, to methodically grow the business. The human element is crucial in this industry, and they’re using that to their advantage.

Show Notes:

  • Stefan Martinovic
  • Intro Song by Alex Koch of Digital Dust Studios
  • Outro Song: Deers - "Bamboo"
  • The Fundamentals of How Colors Influence Buying Decisions

    Colors play an important conscious and unconscious role in purchasing decisions.

    If you bought a car, the color of it undoubtedly played into your conscious decision-making. The same goes for house buying and interior decorating. The colors inside your house need to complement each other well and create a certain environment and sense of “warmth”.

    But perhaps the most common purchases you make are influenced by color. Some studies have shown that snap judgment purchases are influenced by color. One study showed that 62-90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone. This effect is limited; obviously you don’t buy a particular brand of toothpaste solely because of its color. But it is not inaccurate to say that these purchases and their equivalent are influenced by colors.

    These same color influences also have an impact on the web, even when you’re not shopping. With almost every website you visit (there are some rare exceptions) you see an array of colors. How these colors affect us and our purchasing decisions is the subject of this post and a recent Neil Patel webinar.

    How Colors Affect Us

    As a human, you can see about 10 million different colors. That’s more than just the blue, red, orange, purple or yellow.


    The main thing you need to know is that colors create emotional reactions. Some colors can be pleasant, while others are not so pleasant. There has been research on how specific colors influence emotions. Ideally, you would be using colors that are pleasing to the eye in order to increase conversions. In general, women prefer soft colors, while men prefer bright colors. Color preferences can also vary among age groups.

    A study by Rajesh Bagchi from Virginia Tech shows how red and blue background colors on websites and stores influence a consumers willingness to buy. He summarizes his findings in this video:

    How Colors Influence Website Conversions

    We know that colors influence on purchasing decisions isn’t limited to brick and mortar stores. Many websites have had conversion success changing elements on their website. Much of what you’ll find is anecdotal (“we changed our sign up button color to green and doubled our conversions”) because there is such little empirical evidence to positively correlate any website color change to increased conversions. In general, contrast is key when deciding button color.

    If you’re looking for a breakdown on color psychology and how they could increase conversions, you can watch the webinar Neil Patel has recently done:


    7 Deadly Web Design Sins You Might Be Making

    Web design is a tricky subject.

    People have different opinions about what constitutes good web design and what doesn’t.

    Some people think your site needs to be super sleek with an up-to-date, modern design in order to get attention. Others believe that web design doesn’t really matter all that much and you just need a site that works and lets people do what they want, like Craigslist.

    Both answers are right depending on which industry or business you’re talking about. But, how do you figure out what’s right for you? And, how can you make sure you’re web designer knows what they’re talking about and won’t make mistakes?

    This post presents seven deadly web design sins you don’t want to make on your site. The good news is that they’re all simple principles every website should follow. So, whether you get a slick design or not, you still need to know about these design principles and how they apply to your site.

    Also, you can use these principles to make sure your web designer knows what they’re doing. Just because someone is a good designer doesn’t mean they know how to design for the web. And, just because someone designs websites doesn’t mean they know how to design a site that will convert. Pay close attention to the principles presented in this post, and use them if necessary to make sure your designer designs a site that’s optimized to get the results you need.

    Mistake #1: Fonts That Are Too Small

    The first mistake people make is creating a site with fonts that are too small.

    The reason for this is that, back in the day, most websites had small fonts. The standard was somewhere around 12 px, and nearly everyone followed that standard.

    But, over time, people started to realize that 12 px fonts are hard to read online. When a screen is 24 inches from someone’s face, small fonts make it difficult to read.

    People also started to realize that you have only a limited amount of time to get visitors’ attention and let them know they’re in the right place. One study even states that the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds, one second less than the average attention span of a goldfish. The same study also states that people read only 28% of the words on an average web page.


    A 2013 study found the average attention span of people is 8 seconds, one second less than that of a goldfish. Is that even possible? Flickr: photographer23, Creative Commons license

    In order to get people’s attention right away, you need to do the following:

    1. Compose great headlines that grab readers’ attention.
    2. Write interesting content that will get them to read more than 28% of what you’ve written
    3. Use headline fonts that are big enough to demand attention
    4. Make sure body fonts are large enough to read so readers don’t give up because they’re tired of squinting.

    For all the reasons mentioned above, font sizes have increased over the last few years to the point that many view 14 px as the very minimum font size, and many sites go even bigger with 18 px as a minimum, especially when a lot of reading is involved.

    Here are some examples of exceptional web design with great font sizes:


    • Headline: 35 px
    • Footer: 15 px



    • Headline: 41 px
    • Body: 18 px


    Help Scout Blog

      Intro text: 26 px

      Body: 19 px


    The point to keep in mind is that the purpose of writing copy is to get it read. When you pay a writer good money or painstakingly write website copy yourself, you want to make sure it gets read and doesn’t get hidden by a small font that makes the copy difficult to read.

    You also need to remember that not all fonts are the same size. A 16 px Arial font can be smaller than a 16 px version of another font. This is something you need to be aware of when choosing a font size, so you don’t arbitrarily pick 19 px because another site did, only to find out your 19 px version isn’t as big.

    Keep in mind that footer fonts can be on the smaller side and so can subtext, but if you’ve written something you want people to read, consider using a 16 px font at a minimum. And, in case you don’t want to take my word for it, Smashing Magazine preaches the same thing in this article: 16 Pixels for Body Copy. Anything Less Is a Costly Mistake.

    Pro Tip: In order to get a feel for the size font you’d like to use, based on websites you like, download the WhatFont extension for Google Chrome. It’s a Chrome plugin that makes it really easy to click on fonts in order to find out what font type and size a website is using.


    Mistake #2: Moving Sliders

    I still don’t understand why so many websites use moving sliders.

    Are they effective? Do they convert? Are they the best way to present your information to customers?

    In most cases, they are not.

    Peep Laja wrote an article for ConversionXL titled Don’t Use Automatic Image Carousels or Sliders, Ignore the Fad. In the article he quotes Chris Goward of WiderFunnel and Tim Ash of SiteTuners as saying the following:

    We have tested rotating offers many times and have found it to be a poor way of presenting home page content.

    -Chris Goward


    Rotating banners are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately.

    -Tim Ash

    Laja also mentions two studies where rotating sliders were proven to be ineffective:

    The first was by usability guru Jakob Nielsen. He asked a visitor if Siemens had any special offers for washing machines on their site. In fact, they did have an offer in 98-point font that said customers could get cash back on a new appliance. Unfortunately, the user didn’t see the offer because it was cloaked in a moving slider and ended up being completely missed.


    This points to a theory among conversion experts that sliders cause banner blindness similar to ads in a sidebar. People are used to lame ads in a sidebar, so they have a tendency to ignore them. This principle seems to apply to rotating sliders as well.

    The second study was from the University of Notre Dame. They found that only around 1% of visitors clicked on the slider, with 84% of the clicks on the item in the first position.


    What’s the point of having a website slider if only 1% of people click on the item that is taking up your most valuable homepage real estate, especially when 84% of those clicks are on the first item anyway? Why annoy people with something moving that’s difficult to keep track of? Why not give them a single option to choose from since the majority click the first item anyway?

    So, why do so many people use sliders since they appear to be so ineffective?

    The best theory I can come up with is that it seems like a cool and high-tech feature, and it’s easy for web developers to implement. Based on those two factors, business owners say, “Hey, I want one of those fancy moving slider things,” and web designers comply because they look “cool” and aren’t that hard to do.

    But website owners need to consider whether they’ll be effective and whether they’re the best way to convey information on their site, something Peep Laja, Chris Goward, Tim Ash, and many other smart internet marketing folks no longer believe is the case.

    To solve this problem, start by asking yourself what is the best way to present your information instead of picking a site you like and copying their design, including the cool-looking slider they use on the homepage.

    I used this approach with a friend of mine a few years ago for a website he was building for his tutoring company – Genesis Tutoring.

    He and his business partner approached me and said, “Hey we want to build a website…and we want to have a slider on the homepage that has this information,” and then he showed me a flyer they hand out at schools to advertise their service. The flyer was beautiful, presented the information incredibly well, and, surprise, surprise, didn’t include a slider (those pesky sliders just don’t seem to translate well into the world of printed flyers).

    So, I suggested, “Why don’t you just duplicate your brochure that’s already working on your homepage and then put a contact button along with your phone number and email underneath.” We tried that, and here’s how it turned out…


    The site ended up looking great, avoided the dreaded default slider, and converts well. What’s not to like?

    When it comes to building your own site, follow these instructions to get the same results:

    1. Remember not to blindly add a slider just because everyone else is doing it (even if your designer recommends one).
    2. Consider what is the best way to present your information on your homepage instead of just blindly copying what your competitors are doing.
    3. Choose a single important offer to list in the A-Space on your homepage and go with that. There will always be other things you want to promote, but you can do that farther down on the page or with a button at the top of the page. Pick one offer, make it prominent, and then get out of the way and let your website go to work.
    4. And to really hammer down the last point: think about the #1 goal you want your website to do. Focus on that and can all the other calls-to-actions.

    Again, in case you don’t want to take my word on this, here are some articles you can read that support this point:

    Mistake #3: Low Contrast Fonts

    Another huge mistake people make is using low contrast fonts.

    Low contrast means a lighter font on a light background or a darker font on a dark background. I’m not sure if this is something that looks ok in print design, but it’s never a good idea on the web.

    You always want to make sure your website content is as easy to read as possible. The Smashing Magazine article referenced above told us that the amount of light that gets through our eyes at age 40 is only half the amount of light that gets through our eyes at age 20. This drops to 20% by age 60. On top of that, nearly 9% of Americans are visually impaired.

    With these stats in mind, do you really want to make it harder for visitors to read your content, especially after you’ve paid so much and worked so hard to get them to your site in the first place?


    Low contrast for fonts is always a bad idea.

    You can solve this by always using high contrast fonts. If the background is dark, the font should be light, and if the background is light, the font should be dark.

    Actually, I’ll take this even one step further. Rarely are there times when you need to use any font colors besides black or white. Sometimes designers choose a lighter gray font on a white background or a light blue font on a dark blue background.

    Why? Is that really easier to read, or are you just trying to add “visual appeal”? Books use black fonts on a white background for a reason – it’s easy to read. Websites would do well to follow this example.

    Here are some samples of great font contrast:

    Help Scout Blog




    This is an example of good contrast on an image, which is not easy to do.



    The lesson to remember is that fonts should always have a high contrast with the background behind them. If you find the text difficult to read and feel like there should be more contrast, don’t hesitate to call your designer and let them know. Your website isn’t a design showcase. It’s a place to make sales and increase conversions.

    Bonus Tip: Not only is high contrast important, but you also want to use reverse type sparingly. (Reverse type is white text on a black (or color) background instead of black text on a white background.)

    In fact, David Ogilvy, one of the greatest ad men of all time, said ads should never be set in reverse type. Colin Wheildon, editor of the largest Australian motoring publication, set out to test this theory. His findings were astounding.

    According to the study, below is a list of the comprehension level for different colors and backgrounds:

    • Black text on white: 70% good, 19% fair, 11% poor
    • White text on black: 0% good, 12% fair, 88% poor
    • White text on purple: 2% good, 16% fair, 82% poor
    • White text on royal blue: 0% good, 4% fair, 96% poor

    Isn’t that incredible? The results from black text on a white background compared with white text on a color background are nearly the exact opposite!

    The takeaways are:

    • Always remember to use high contrast fonts, but also…
    • Use reverse type sparingly.

    Sometimes reverse type looks good, but it can have a drastic impact on readability and retention. As such, you should use it only for parts of your site that don’t require as much reading and aren’t as important. Overall, you’d be smart to think twice before using reverse type.


    This reverse type looks “cool” on HubSpot’s homepage, but it may not be the best for readability and comprehension, especially in the most important space on the entire site.

    Mistake #4: Poor Line Height for Text

    Line height for text is something that often gets overlooked. A lot of web designers and developers choose a font, pick a size, arbitrarily select a line height, and then call it a day.

    But line height has a surprisingly significant impact on a site’s overall design and appeal. Choosing the wrong line height can leave fonts looking crowded. It can ruin your entire design.

    The good news is that talented web designers have a good eye for this and will automatically select a good height for you. The bad news is that the average web developer doesn’t have an eye for this design and will often pick the wrong line height.

    Chris Pearson of DIYThemes felt so strongly about this that he built a line height calculator configured to something known as the golden ratio. Here’s Google’s definition of the golden ratio:


    A more simple definition is that the golden ratio is a proportion that’s believed to be aesthetically pleasing. Without boring you with more detail, Chris Pearson used this ratio to build a calculator that combines font size and content width to come up with the ideal line height. The good news is that the calculator makes this super easy to do. You simply plug in your font size and content width, and the calculator will tell you what your line height should be.


    You may not have realized it, but there’s a reason some designs and font combinations are more pleasing than others. Great designers know how to achieve the golden ratio on their own, but Chris Pearson’s calculator makes it easy for everyone else to do the same.

    Mistake #5: Line Length That’s Too Long

    Another mistake you can make is creating lines of text that are too long.

    So, what’s the optimum line length?

    The Baymard Institute published an article that says 50 to 60 characters per line is best, with up to 75 characters being acceptable.

    The reason line length is so important is because long lines of text are intimidating to read online. If the line length is too long, some people will not begin reading because it doesn’t look like a very good reading experience.

    On the other hand, if line length is too short, readers have to start and stop lines frequently, which becomes annoying.

    This problem is compounded by the popularity of responsive design. If you don’t set a maximum width for content section, you have no way of knowing how long the line length will be for your blog or any other piece of text since screen sizes vary so much.

    At the time the referenced article was written, The Baymard Institute dealt with this problem by setting a maximum width for their text of 516 pixels which leaves an average of 65 characters per line at a font size of 18 px. This creates a great reading experience, as you can see in the image below.


    Once again, this is a design detail that not all designers are going to pay attention to, but now that you know long lines of text are intimidating to read, you can direct your designer and developer to make sure you deliver an optimal experience for readers.

    Mistake #6: No Accent Color for Calls to Action

    The next web design sin is not using an accent color. Here’s what I mean:

    Smart internet marketers know that you need a good accent color to draw attention to key calls to action. If you’re asking someone to “Buy Now” or “Start a Free Trial,” you want to make sure you use a button color that will draw people’s attention so they’ll click and take the action you want them to take.

    This seems simple enough, but I’ve seen multiple occasions where designers didn’t reserve an accent color for the most important calls to action. Instead, they chose a color that’s already used on the site for something else. That’s not a good idea.

    Here are some rules of thumb to follow for accent colors:

    1. It needs to be bright enough to draw attention to whatever you’re attempting to draw attention to.
    2. It needs to be complementary with the other colors on your website so that it doesn’t clash.
    3. It needs to stand out from whatever background it’s on. This means that a blue button on a blue background probably isn’t a good idea.
    4. It needs to be reserved for key calls to action so it doesn’t blend in by getting overused on the site.

    In the example below, you’ll notice that the CTA button is bright orange. This helps it stand out from the white background. Also, orange is not used anywhere else in the design (except for a splash in the logo which is small enough that it doesn’t compete for attention). You can check out the full page here if you’d like.


    Mistake #7: Common Design Principle Violations

    The final deadly mistake is not following common design principles, which is something that Steve Krug talks about in his book Don’t Make Me Think.

    The point he makes is that website visitors are used to being able to find certain features in certain places. For example, they’re used to finding logos and taglines in the top left of a page, and menus in the top right. They’re also used to being able to find an About page and a Contact page if they want to learn more about the organization or get in touch.

    This means it’s a good idea to include those features on your site and that you should think twice before breaking common design principles. This may be something you think is obvious, but it’s not always.

    Some website owners, for example, decide to be super creative and come up with a different way to display the menu. Instead of being at the top where it’s normally found, it’s included in the branches of a tree that’s built into the background design (or some other creative way to include a menu other than the standard way).

    Sometimes these crazy new approaches work, but often they don’t. In most cases, it is much better to follow common design principles (so you don’t confuse visitors) than it is to come up with a crazy new layout that may be creative but not intuitive.


    Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot by reading about these seven deadly web design sins. Most of them seem to be common sense, but they all get broken more frequently than you would think.

    Remember, if you’re going to do any design changes at all, make sure you test your changes to see how they affect your bottom line! (hint: use KISSmetrics for this.)

    Now that you’re aware of these principles, pay attention to the websites you come across and see how many follow these rules. I’m confident you’ll start to realize how important these rules are, which will reinforce why they are important to follow.

    Over to you: Did I miss any deadly web design sins you frequently see committed online? Leave a comment to add to this list.

    About the Author: Joe Putnam (@josephputnam) is a Growth Manager for iSpionage, a PPC competitive intelligence tool that makes it easier for smart advertisers (and agencies) to set up profitable campaigns faster. Sign up today for a free iSpy competitor alert to get automatic updates about new PPC keywords, ad copy, and SEO terms for the website of your choice.

    Essential Habits and Motivation for Entrepreneurs (an Interview with Leo Babauta)

    Click play on the video above. Staying motivated and changing ineffective habits are both essential skills for anyone working to become self-employed.

    When you don’t have a boss or team to keep you on track, being able to change your behavior yourself can literally equal the difference between success and failure.

    Leo Babauta of the massively popular Zen Habits blog knows a thing or two about motivation and habits, especially as they apply to entrepreneurs. Leo just finished a new book about habits and launched it via Kickstarter. He has also interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs and successful people about habits and created a special series just on Habits of Entrepreneurs.

    I sat down with Leo to ask him what he’s learned about habits and motivation for entrepreneurs. He shared tons of simple strategies and stories about how to change yourself in this information-packed interview. Click play on the video above to watch the full interview.

    If you’d like to support Leo’s book launch, he has several options on Kickstarter, including digital and physical copies of the book, plus lots of other goodies. Check out the Zen Habits book and Kickstarter campaign here »

    And if you like videos like this, let us know! Subscribe to our YouTube channel and leave a comment below about this interview, and tell us what other kinds of videos you’d like to see.

    Candy Stores Are the Wrong Analogy For Your Emails

    The candy store is designed to be a wonderland.

    It’s an experience constructed for the senses — vibrant colors, rainbow flavors, syrupy smells that transcend wrappers, and the indulgent promise of sugar. How could children and sweet tooths not feel glee when encountering wall-to-wall delights?

    Creating that “happy place” for customers seems like a golden ticket for businesses, but an unexpected problem can arise. In aiming for that joyful kid-in-a-candy-store feeling of shininess and abundance, you can create an overwhelming experience.

    One of the hardest lessons to learn about crafting email is to fight the candy store mentality to avoid shooting yourself in the foot. When you overwhelm readers' attention, you’re actually making it too easy for them to ignore your message and move on without doing anything.

    How Choice Overload Creates a Do-Nothing Trap

    The path of least resistance is to do nothing. What’s surprising though, as psychologist Sheena Iyengar found, is that this is true even when you’re presented with many tempting paths.

    To test how choice affects motivation, Iyengar set up a jam tasting booth near the entrance of a gourmet grocery store, pretending to represent Wilkins & Sons, suppliers of jams to the Queen of England (literally, the Queen’s jam). Shoppers either saw a table with 6 or 24 sample jams. When faced with 24 decision points, people sampled, hemmed, and hawed, but mostly left jam-less.

    But when presented with 6 flavors, people were much more likely to buy a jar. In fact, 30% of people who saw the smaller selection actually bought jam — while only 3% of people in the “candy store” condition, who saw 24 flavors, ended up making a purchase.

    What the remaining 97% of people experienced is something called choice overload. When your mind has to grapple with too much information, motivation flags, leading it to shut down rather than go through a tiring process of making a proactive decision.

    Choose Something First.

    How you present choices impacts behavior. Deliberate design goes into crafting experiences, from a supermarket floor plan that gets people to spend more time browsing to posting calorie counts next to menu items to encourage healthy choices.

    This calculated framing is also called “choice architecture,” a term that economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein coined and wrote about in their book Nudge. Thaler explains:

    Choice architects must choose something. You have to meddle. For example, you can’t design a neutral building. There is no such thing. A building must have doors, elevators, restrooms. All of these details influence choices people make.

    In other words, as the marketer, designer, and author, you must choose first.

    Marketers are just as susceptible to defaulting to the path of least of resistance as consumers and email readers. Sometimes your biggest challenge is to choose what to include in a marketing email or newsletter. You want to tell or ask people about ALL THE THINGS.

    Take this email update from American Airlines, for example. There’s an overwhelming amount of information and nothing to help me choose a concrete action, so I’ll gladly delete it at a glance.

    American Airlines - Overwhelming email!

    Contrast that with this email from Virgin America. Since the creator already made a clear choice about what to show and why, it’s much easier to process the information and make a decision.

    Virgin Airlines - Simple email

    When an email gets everything and the kitchen sink, you’ve pushed the cognitive decisions off to the reader, who cares much less about your goals. Take control of who gets to make the choice up front.

    How to Steer People Towards Your Goals with Choice Architecture

    Here are 3 things to keep in mind when architecting choice in your emails:

    Don’t cram the candy store into a single email.

    Some email newsletters are crammed with columns of information. For instance, this email newsletter clocks in at well over 3700 words, which translates into roughly 18 minutes of reading time.

    Newsletter with too much info!

    This smorgasbord approach is a remnant of an old-school print model that governed content such as physical newsletters or newspapers — which are easier to scan and exist in isolation, outside of crowded inboxes.

    Focus is vital, especially these days, when nearly half of email is opened on mobile devices and 80% of people will hit delete because an email doesn’t look good. For example, the video hosting company Wistia doubled its open rate by moving from a multi-column, multi-item newsletter to single-serving emails.

    Email allows you to build relationships — and relationships happen over time. Don’t stuff all your hope and dreams into one email.

    Ask Why?

    Simplifying your emails will focus your message. One exercise I use when I coach writing is to ask people to stop after every paragraph — and sometimes every sentence — and ask themselves “why is this here?” It’s tedious but ensures that your words and structure have a function.

    HelpScout’s Greg Ciotti has a great takeaway from Iyengar’s jam study: his “one email, one goal” rule that “each email should only have one desired outcome (view a blog post, see a new feature, hear about an update, etc.)” because:

    If you are asking for multiple things, you are really asking for ZERO things, because multiple choices often cause people to take no action.

    When he applied this rule to HelpScout’s newsletter, he saw click-through rates increase by double digits.

    Old Helpscout email with multiple actions Helpscout - Old email with multiple actions

    New Helpscout email with a single action Helpscout - Old email with a single action

    When you’re putting together an email, first decide on the desired outcome. What do you actually want people to do with the email? Do you want people to click through? Read the content of the email? Interact by sending a reply? Then make it easy for your readers to make that choice.

    Note that one goal isn’t the same as one link. As the folks at Campaign Monitor were surprised to find, click rates improve with more links. Focus doesn’t rule out offering more than one opportunity to act.

    Strike a balance between relevance and simplicity

    Choice architecture isn’t always a matter of minimizing options. As researchers explain, the key is to strike a delicate balance between relevance and simplicity. You have to weigh how:

    first that more options increase the chances of offering a preference match to the consumer, and second that more options places a greater cognitive burden on consumers because of the additional need to evaluate options.

    Similarly, the lesson of Iyengar’s jam experiment isn’t simply to default to less choice. Choice is still enticing. While fewer people made purchases in the candy-store condition, more people actually stopped by the booth to check out jams — that’s 60% versus the 30% of shoppers that the smaller jam selection attracted.

    Savored, a restaurant reservation site, found an imbalance in their tactic of featuring only one restaurant in their weekly email. Adding more restaurant choices resulted in an increase of overall reservations per email. Sure, featuring only one restaurant makes it easier to click through to make a reservation, but it also paves the way for people who don’t identify with the single option, don’t like the restaurant, or don’t enjoy that type of cuisine to say no or even unsubscribe.

    After experimenting with the number of choices, Savored discovered that 12 was the sweet spot, offering the optimal amount of relevant options while escaping cognitive overload.

    Too much choice can backfire when you want people to carry out a particular action or decision — but not enough choice might fail to attract attention in the first place. Consider the context and kind of decision you want people to make, and balance accordingly.

    When it comes to email, delight and joy tends not to come from candy-store-style abundance but personalization and simplicity.

    Understanding the cognitive costs and benefits to your audience should be priority when crafting your emails — because they translate into costs and benefits for your results. Nowadays, attention is the new currency.

    What have you discovered about balancing relevance and simplicity? Share your thoughts on how best to architect choices in emails!

    How to Make Your Confirmation Emails Not Suck (and Make Money)

    Confirmation emails may be the least developed customer touchpoint. These standard, expected emails are often as delightful as your typical in-store receipt (read: not at all delightful). Because confirmation emails are triggered by the user’s actions, your customers are expecting something – which means they open, notice and engage with them.


    Experian found that confirmation emails had average click-through rates from 12 to 20 percent, approximately five times the rate of bulk mailings. The same trend held across any email metric including open rates, revenue-per-email and transaction rate.

    Uninspired confirmation emails are a missed opportunity to upsell, provide great customer service and generally do something memorable while your customer is already paying attention.

    That’s the principle that drove Isabella, a health and wellness retail company, to change their text-only receipts to an HTML-rich email leveraging their recommendation feature. The new emails saw a 111 percent higher conversion rate than existing sales or alerts emails.


    Image from MarketingSherpa.

    Isabella did quite a bit to get these results – they launched the recommendations feature, moved to an HTML rich format and aligned their web and email experiences.

    Essentially, Isabella leveraged the online-version of the moment when you’re asked “Would you like fries with that?” They paired what they knew about their customers intent and their own goals as a company to deliver relevant offers.

    More simply, they simply looked at an under-developed touchpoint and thought about how to better serve their customer. At their core, confirmation emails are one-on-one communications triggered by the customer at critical stages in their lifecycle and we can all learn from Isabella.

    Users Trigger Confirmation Emails at Critical Stages in the Customer Lifecycle

    Users essentially ask for confirmation emails by submitting fresh data when they subscribe, sign up for an event, download an information product or purchase – all of which are potentially key steps in their lifecycle.

     1. Confirmation Emails Provide the Opportunity to and Challenge of Having a One-on-one Conversation

    Unlike any other digital medium (except maybe text or direct messages), email is a one-on-one conversation, which means it has unique potential to drive sales through relevant, personal offers.

    In their 2014 Email Marketing Census, Econsultancy found that just over half (55 percent) of respondents achieved more than 10 percent of their sales from email. But when asked what they’d like to improve, 64 percent of email marketers said personalization.

    That’s likely because effective one-on-one conversations require tailoring your communications to a specific individual, which requires data, which can be a challenge.

    To some degree, confirmation emails solve the data challenge because they come at these critical moments and are triggered by users.

    2. Confirmation Emails Happen at Critical Moments in the Lifecycle 


    By triggering a confirmation email, the user is sharing some important information:

    • They’re telling you where in the lifecycle they are
    • They’re telling you what they want

    When you know what your customer is thinking, you can more easily meet and exceed it. What’s more: because you know exactly where they are, you also know how you want them to advance in their lifecycle. Based on that, you can send more relevant offers.

    3. Confirmation Emails Come with Valuable Data

    With confirmation emails, you have a wealth of recent data from your customer because they triggered the email. Depending on the form, the user could have updated data fields, inputted new data or passively given you data through what they purchased or signed up for.

    As an added bonus, experimenting with confirmation emails can give you valuable data about the gap between what your customer is thinking and where you want them to go. As you test changes, you can find mistaken assumptions and get a clearer picture of your customer.

    Step 1: Use Sign-up Confirmations to Clarify the Terms of Your Customer Relationship

    Depending on your sales process, a newsletter or other email sign-up confirmation can be the first one-on-one message you send, so it sets the tone and expectations for your relationship. At the same time, it’s early, so you might not know much about your customer.

    What user just did What user expects to see Questions to ask yourself How you might add value while moving down sales funnel
    Signed up for on-going communication through a webform Details about their subscription
    Button to confirm their subscription
    Ability to edit email preferences
    Do we have enough information to qualify this lead?
    Is this prospect ready to make a purchase? What kind of offer could we make?
    Provide links to a few pieces of content – depending what they click, you’ll know more about their interests
    Special offers for new customers

    Tip #1: Consider YOUR Sales Funnel

    As you’re crafting this critical touchpoint, consider your overall sales funnel and whether you and your customer have enough information to move to the next step. Depending on the length of your funnel, the email could look very different:


    Tip #2: Set Clear Expectations

    Beyond having the right message at the right time, this first one-on-one touchpoint can shape your customers expectations for how they’ll be treated overall – including expectations about the type of content they’ll receive and how frequently they’ll receive it.

    Forrester found 77 percent of consumers say they should be able to decide how, when, and where marketers communicate with them, yet according to Experian, 60 percent of marketers do not give customers the option to communicate their preferences.

    The sign-up confirmation email is an opportunity to close this gap. Here’s an example from American Eagle of a customer re-engagement program:


    Image from Experian.

    This re-engagement email gives the user the opportunity to confirm their subscription and preferences, but that request doesn’t have to wait until a customer has lost interest.

    Research shows 54% of users unsubscribe because of emails received too frequently. By asking and then respecting how a user would like to be communicated with early on, you can continue a positive relationship with them through purchase and beyond.

    Why It Matters: Clarity Reduces Friction

    AWeber conducted a study to determine what kinds of email subject lines performed best. They tested 20 subject lines, sent to a list of over 45,000 subscribers and found that clear subject lines out performed catchy ones by 366 percent.

    Overall, maintaining clarity is a good policy for any experience, and the principle holds true for confirmation emails from the subject line, to the CTAs and everything in between.

    Be clear with your new subscribers (potential customers) about how you’ll communicate with them, what they’ve subscribed to and what value you hope to add with your email communications.

    Step 2: Show Micro-conversion Actions (Trial Sign-up, Event or Info Product)  as Progress Towards a Goal

    Micro-conversions are the tricky steps between the introduction and the final sale where users could be interested in a lot of different offers.

    What user just did What user expects to see Questions to ask yourself How you might add value while moving down sales funnel
    Signed up for a trial Login information and trial data What else do they need to know to convert?
    What are the big things they need to accomplish in the trial? How can we make that easier?
    Make yourself available
    Provide an info product that walks them through the process
    Provide rewards for the steps already taken
    Registered for an event Event details, including time & location
    “Add to calendar option”
    What’s the next step for this customer?
    What information are they looking for?
    Provide an info product that builds on their inquiry
    Requested an information product Link to the information product How do we help this customer further his/her goals? Serve them the next logical info product based on their initial request

    Tip: Customers May be Taking a Step Into New terrain – Show Them How Far They’ve Come

    While the specific actions differ by industry, these middle-of-the-funnel steps are all attempts by the user to educate themselves more on your product or a relevant topic area. Showing their progress towards the goal can motivate them to move forward.

    Take for example this email from Vero, an email marketing software, that users receive once they’ve sent an initial email through the tool:


    Image from Vero.

    Vero explicitly shows users how far they’ve come in the process (they’ve already sent one email_ and then seamlessly leads users to the next step (running an A/B test or sending a newsletter). This email averages a 72 percent open rate.

    Vero is tapping into an important insight: confirmation emails sent for micro-conversions act like part of an onboarding process. In the same way that user onboarding flows make the process of becoming a user easier, your confirmation email is a step in the customer onboarding flow where you make the process of becoming a customer easier.


    Here, Vero borrows the user onboarding convention of the showing the steps of using the product in a linear graphic to make users feel like becoming a customer is manageable. They also show how far down the path you’ve already come, giving you momentum to finish..

    Depending on your product and sales funnel, you can show how close a prospect is to receiving a loyalty program deal or play with showing progress to a certain level of expertise by downloading particular information products.

    For more: Intercom has a useful description of user onboarding considerations to use as inspiration for your micro-conversion confirmation emails.

    Why It Works: Artificial Advancement Drives Effort

    Researchers at the USC Marshall School of Business describe the ‘endowed progress effect,’ whereby individuals put greater effort into completing a task they think they have already begun, even if that process is constructed artificially.

    Through a series of studies, Nunes and Dreze found that the illusion of progress was a powerful motivator – as users felt they’d already started a task, they gained momentum towards completing it.

    They give examples of customers who are loyal to an airline brand because they’ve already gained mileage points towards a reward, even though that happens ambiently whenever a passenger books a flight.

    Step 3: Reward Customers in Purchase Confirmations to Create a Reciprocal Relationship

    When existing customers repurchase, they save retailers the cost of acquiring a new customer, yet online retailers focus their marketing dollars on acquiring new customers rather than delighting existing ones.

    The purchase confirmation email is a key opportunity to drive repeat purchases because its the first impression for a customer of how they’ll be treated in the new post-purchase relationship.

    What user just did What user expects to see Questions to ask yourself How you might add value while moving down sales funnel
    Purchased a product Receipt with order information
    Shipping information
    What could they buy next?
    What did similar customers do next?
    Suggest similar useful product
    Reward customers for loyalty
    Set up a subscription Receipt with order information
    Login information
    What makes customers cancel their subscription? How do I avoid that?
    What add-on or higher level would come next?
    Provide an info product with benefits of an add-on product
    Reward customers for loyalty

    Tip #1: Confirmation Emails Aren’t Built to Drive Traffic

    Typical e-commerce receipts are ‘dead ends’ – emails that provide information but don’t offer a next step for users to drive them back to your site. They simply aren’t built to create repeat engagement.

    Which is why it’s not surprising that receipts with cross-sell opportunities show a higher click through rate, on average, than those without:

    Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 5.30.20 PM

    Image from Experian.

    These types of emails are exactly what Isabella tapped into when they leveraged their website recommendations engine in their receipts. By offering related products, companies can provide value to their customer by doing the recommendation research for them.

    Cross-selling is just one form of personalization, which is 68% of those surveyed by Edgell Knowledge Network said was a strategy for driving loyalty:


    Image from eMarketer.

    Research also backs up the idea that personalization drives traffic from email – one MarketingSherpa case study found a 17.36 percent higher click-through rate on emails where the subject line included the customer’s name.

    Tip #2: Existing Customers are the Best Brand Advocates – Incentivize Them with Rewards

    Another factor that many respondents in the previously mentioned Edgell Knowledge Network study felt drove customer loyalty was rewards and another survey by ClickFox found that the action customers were most willing to take for brands they loved was spreading the word.

    Of course, customers also said that first impressions are key to gaining the loyalty needed to get this kind of positive buzz:

    Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.38.21 PM

    Image from ClickFox.

    Uber taps into both of these insights by incentivizing users to refer others in this receipt:


    Image from Vero.

    For Uber, word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing strategy and for every seven rides, they get a new rider from WOM. This strategy taps into their existing success with brand advocates.

    By thinking of the purchase as another step in the customer lifecycle, you can craft the appropriate offer to drive loyalty and repeat purchases.

    Why It Works: Rewards Create Mutually Beneficial Behavior

    Studies suggest that customer satisfaction just isn’t enough to drive repeat purchases or loyalty. As surprising as it sounds, it simply might not occur to customers that their loyalty is valuable to you unless you reward it.

    Reward programs are persuasive because they can increase the motivation, one of the three elements of behavior outlined in the Fogg Behavior Method. It’s a two-for-one – customers feel rewarded for their actions and you can get more leads.

    A Word of Caution: Filtering is Still an Issue

    In their research into mobile email behaviors, MailChimp found that users exhibit a behavior called filtering where they review an email quickly and mark it as unread to go back to later, save it somewhere to read later or delete it.

    Because they contain standard information, some types of confirmation emails are at risk of getting deleted without reading. Looking specifically at these, MailChimp found that the type of email often determined its fate:

    • Acted on right away – sign-up or registration emails
    • Saved for later – order confirmations, event tickets

    This essentially presents an extra challenge for marketers to grab users in the short period before they delete it. Even if they open the email, there’s still a small window between when your customer gets the info they are looking for and before they move away.

    As MailChimp also noted, users rarely read every word of an email and instead tend to skim for the relevant information. This means that overall good email design and information hierarchy is particularly critical in confirmation emails.


    Confirmation emails are a unique opportunity for marketers because they are a one-on-one conversation, triggered by the user when they submit fresh data at critical stages in the lifecycle.

    These often under-developed touchpoints can be an opportunity to do something remarkable while your user is paying attention, and to take advantage of them, marketers must consider their user’s mindset:

    • With sign-up confirmation, users are just starting their relationship with you – clarify expectations and set the tone for the relationship (clarify reduces friction)
    • With micro-conversion confirmations, users are educating themselves about your or  your industry – show users progress towards their goal (perceived progress increases likelihood of completion)
    • With receipts, users have completed their purchase – reward their efforts with relevant offers or rewards for referrals (rewards motivate future behavior)

    The post How to Make Your Confirmation Emails Not Suck (and Make Money) appeared first on ConversionXL.