Realex Irish Web Awards 2009

The 2009 Irish Web Awards are fast approaching, and a big mea-culpa on my part – I didn’t do much to help out this year, and sadly I’m not back in Ireland until Monday so I’ll miss all the fun. Damien just blogged about the awards a second or three ago (don’t you love real-time indexing?), and it reminded me that I need to say good luck to all those short-listed in the Best New Web Application/Service category (Red Cardinal is the sponsor of this category):

So best of luck guys, and enjoy the night. Well done Damien on this – another great night I’m sure it will be (sobs that wont be about to enjoy).


Interesting Departure for BMW

I saw this ad last night on telly, and I have to say it grabbed my attention. Probably did so because it’s a fairly radical departure for BMW who had previously focused on the product. This ad is all about emotion:


Irish Web Awards – Nominate Now

The Irish Web Awards are coming up in October, and nominations are only open until this Friday.

Nominate Here

Red Cardinal is sponsoring the Best New Web Application/Service category, and hopefully we’ll get some great apps nominated.

2009 Realex Web Awards
Yes – I just hotlinked the awards logo 🙂


Airport Digital Advertising – Does The Media Match the Medium?

I travel a lot, and that means moving through a lot of airports. The new T3 in Abu Dhabi has an advertising system that really caught my eye:

Abu Dhabi Advertising System
Abu Dhabi Advertising System

Here it is from another part of the airport:

Abu Dhabi Advertising System
Abu Dhabi Advertising System

I have to say it was really eye-catching. Nothing new with carrying the same advert on all spaces, but in a very long corridor such as an airport terminal it looked really well.

Did I remember a single ad?

Nope, not one. Classic case of the medium being more interesting than the media I suppose.

Gratuitous BSOD

You have to throw one of these in. Saw this in BKK:

Bangkok Airport Blue-Screen-Of-Death
Bangkok Airport Blue-Screen-Of-Death

And here it is in all it’s gory-glory:

BKK Blue-Screen-Of-Death
BKK Blue-Screen-Of-Death

It had never dawned on me that there would be a PC behind each of those screens you see in airports, and the fact that this BSOD was isolated to this screen group got me thinking about just how many PCs there were here. BKK Is a BIG airport. Here’s the screen 2-to-the-left sporting it’s Virtual Memory error:

BKK Screen Out Of Virtual Memory
BKK Screen Out Of Virtual Memory

Do Hong Kong Use Apple?

When I saw this the very first thing that came into my mind was Apple:

Hong Kong Announcement Clock
Hong Kong Announcement Clock

Looks very Appley to me anyway. Of course when it comes to electronic billboards those Hong Kong folk have it down to a fine art:

Hong Kong at night from Kowloon side
Hong Kong at night from Kowloon side

Each of those small light blurs is actually a massive electronic billboard atop a skyscraper. Really cool, and if you get a chance to visit this part of the globe it’s a journey well worth making.

All of the above images were taken on a Nokia E71 phone, and if you’re using that model you should definitely grab the V3 firmware. It improves the camera image quality greatly, and fixes a lot of the graininess you can see in my images (which were taken while still using V2 Firmware).


Honest-To-God Product Names

I thought this was funny and interesting at the same time. I’m really in two minds though whether this honest-to-God product name will be a sales success:

The Shitbox Homepage
The Brown Corporation Homepage – The Home of the Amazing Shit Box

It’s a risky marketing strategy for sure. It does look like an interesting product, and certainly a very honest marketing approach. I wonder what Paul Dervan would think of this?

Conversion Rate Optimization Marketing

People Buy Benefits

Over the past few days I’ve been involved in some very deep discussions around how to make web visitors buy. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter if it’s the web or the real world – People Buy Benefits.

Reading the SBP yesterday I saw this ad:

Spread Betting Ad
Spread Betting Ad

The ad didn’t rotate or animate. The above image was all there was. Would you rush over to their site?

CSS Marketing Usability – 5 Simple Steps to Improve UX 100%

I’m fascinated by human psychology, and in particular online human psychology. What makes a user complete one action while ignoring another. How changing some text can double the number of desired actions, or changing the layout of your page can increase your profits exponentially. And so I’m also fascinated by User Experience (“UX”) and trying to apply online behavioural study from the user perspective.

So this post will (almost) totally ignore SEO, and focus purely on some small changes I would make to the website of the Vhi, Ireland’s dominant private health insurance company, in order to improve UX by 100%.

Vhi – Voluntary Health Insurance (

As a long-time Vhi customer I’m always delighted with the friendly customer-centric approach of their staff. Whenever I call their landlines the vibe and response of their call centre staff is quite inspirational. Seriously – I’ve never had a bad experience calling these guys.

But does that translate to a great online experience?

Replicating the Offline Experience to your Online Channel

Unfortunately for me the simple answer is no – I always find the UX on their website far less compelling. So I’ve put together 5 simple actions I would take to improve the online experience. My top tip is so simple, but incredibly the issue it fixes is quite likely losing Vhi sales. I’ll go in reverse order, keeping the best till last:

If it’s a button don’t tell me to ‘click here’…

I did say ‘if’. This is a pet hate of mine, but I think many people would agree. If you have to tell me to ‘click here’ so I know an element is a button then the element isn’t doing its job:

Vhi Mutlitrip Insurance Homepage
Click here.. oh it’s a button?

4. I’d love to talk…

These days there is real global push on business efficiency. And many companies are directing support and customer service to more effective communication channels. Judging by the Vhi site they must feel that email is more efficient than the phone line. How can I tell this? The phone number is buried 2 clicks from the homepage. Here’s what you see when you click the ‘Contact’ utility link in the header:

Vhi Contact Page
VHI Contact Page

Firstly – no phone number. Instead a form. Something that’s been borne out again and again through testing – users are put off by longer forms. I have a question about my policy and I’d like an answer now. Filling a (long) form doesn’t give me confidence that I’ll receive a timely and accurate answer. In fact, in my particular case I came to the site to find their phone number (as I’m sure many others do also). But I cant easily see any phone contacts. I’m certainly not being pushed into a phone session am I? (One thing I do like about this form is the ability to find my policy number – maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but my policy number is something I never have to hand.)

Without wanting to give away my next tip, there are in fact some further links to phone contacts. There not exactly screaming out however. Let me suggest a small change:

Using conventional styling on links.
Using underline style helps links stand out

And again with some further styling changes:

Blue underlined links on
Using conventional blue underlined links

And that leads me nicely to my next gripetip 😀

3. Stick with convention – let the links be themselves

Over the past few years I’ve grown more and more convinced that convention is a good thing. When I land on a web page it’s great to easily and quickly identify either what I’m looking for, or how to get there. In the case of the latter using conventionally styled hyperlinks can be a real plus.

Here’s a page from Vhi’s Mutlitrip Insurance section:

Vhi Mutlitrip Insurance Homepage
Vhi Multitrip Insurance Homepage

And here’s another page one click deeper, the ‘How to Contact/Claim’ page:

Vhi Mutlitrip Insurance Contact and Claim Page
Vhi Mutlitrip Insurance Contact and Claim Page

So can you tell where the hyperlinks are? OK – I did shrink the page to fit my blog, but even at that size you’d easily be able to see a blue underlined link. Here’s the last page, but this time using conventional styling on the links:

Conventional Hyperlink Style
Example using conventional hyperlink styling

Did you notice that both original images used bulleted lists? But did you realise that one of those lists was actually live links while the other was not? That, in my opinion, confuses users. And confusion, or to be more correct, avoiding confusion, is one of the primary reasons I’m a convert when it comes to convention styling on links.

I know that occasionally blue links wont fit with the theme of your site, but I don’t think you should ever use purple non-underlined text hyperlinks. This is doubly confusing because, by convention, purple is the colour conventionally used to signify a visited link. It appears however that the styling used on is purple non-underlined for links the user has already visited (did you notice that on the ‘Phone’ link in Point 4. above?). Not ideal in my view, and trivial to fix even for a large site like (the joys of CSS!).

So there’s Tip #3 – within body content use conventional blue underlined text for hyperlinks, purple for visited links.

2. Show me where I am

Here’s the Vhi’s Multitrip Insurance page:

Multitrip Insurance page on
Multitrip Insurance Page – where I am within the site?

But if you landed on that page would you have any idea where you were on the site? Can you see any indication of your location within the hierarchy? There are some relatively simple ways to do this:

  1. Use a current class on primary and secondary navigation – active class styling on the Products link in the main navigation, and similarly, on the ‘Multi Trip’ link in the secondary navigation.
  2. Use a Breadcrumb to indicate current location – simple but effective tool that helps ‘ground’ users, and assist with internal navigation (and search engine optimisation)

Here’s what a breadcrumb device might look like on that page:

Breadcumbs identify users current location in your website
Use a breadcrumb to indicate current location

So my pen-ultimate tip – give adequate indication of current location. It helps ground the user, and facilitates vertical navigation.

1. Where are you

Here’s the biggest flaw, and also the easiest to fix. It still stuns me when I find this flaw, even more so for a large corporate site which is a profit-center in its own right. I’ve written about this issue previously for, and here it is again. (And just in case you don’t think this is widespread – for months showed the same behaviour. This has since been fixed though.)

Image of homepage for non-www request
Requesting (non-www) resolves to a blank page

Here’s the link – try it for yourself

Now generally I would advise serving content on either www or non-www, but not both. If you do serve on both then you should ensure that each is the same.

This case however is the worst possible schenario – consider the number of Internet users who do not know the technical difference between www and non-www. Many less-savvy web users will not know to re-try when they see that blank page, and it should be a simple configuration change to ensure that both URLs resolve properly.

Given that is a transactional site fixing this issue will increase sales for Absolutely no doubt in my mind.

So there’s my #1 tip – don’t serve a blank page on

So there you have it – how in 5 quite simple steps I think could improve their UX (and perhaps their SEO also) by 100%.

[Postscript: I first started writing this post in December 2007. It has sat in my drafts since then collecting dust. Luckily (for me anyhow) the VHI have not changed any of the behaviour I discuss above. I hope that might change shortly however.]

Marketing Mobile Internet New Media Online Marketing Social Media Statistics

European Internet Marketing Statistics

I doubt anyone who works in the Internet industry needs any evidence of the huge surge in activity over the past year. Virtually everyone I speak to these days is reaping rewards.

European Online Marketing Spend 2008

We all need figures to back up our assumptions and budget proposals. Here’s a handy prediction from IAB Europe which shows that Europe is fast catching up with our North American counterparts when it comes to advertising spend online:

[O]nline advertising spend within the IAB network in Europe during 2007 will reach 11.5 billion euro, up from 8 billion euro in 2006. This is a like for like increase of 38% on last year’s market value. The spend includes values for display advertising, search marketing, classifieds and directories and email marketing.

The release goes on to mention that in emerging markets the increase is likely closer to 70% YoY, and predicts 30-40% increases in the UK, Denmark, France and Germany.

I like the hypothesised drivers of this growth:

The growth is driven by higher levels broadband penetration across the regions and increased advertiser confidence in the medium.

Of course here in Ireland we don’t actually have demand for broadband… Oh, actually, that was the old eircom…

2008 predictions

Every market identified the same trends to watch in 2008: web TV, mobile internet, behavioural targeting and social media.

I would imagine they were most of the trends we were all watching carefully in 2007. Although, in line with my recent post about Multivariate and A/B Testing, I reckon that BT will take off more and more.

I wonder if their are equivalent Irish figures available? If anyone knows if these stats exist I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Golden Spiders Awards 2007

Can someone please tell me when Cybercom became a FMCG website? If ONE Guinness website is up for an award then why isn’t it linked to directly? Or can anyone enter three sites for a single nomination?

And while I’m here… Why if a video for is nominated for best use of film, does the Golden Spiders Awards site link to a page on Ican’s website? A page which doesn’t contain the media in question, and seems like a promotion of the agency rather than the clip?

If my site/video was nominated I’d be just a tad pissed that is linking to the agency behind it. Or maybe they meant to put those two over under “Best Web Design & Development Agency”? They could join the nice zero timeout META refresh from Clearscape’s special Golden Spiders landing page (yes, like a few others, Clearscape have a GS landing page) to their root page. No idea why they are redirecting.

True sign of a farce Awards when the nominee sites (or the agencies behind them) are more about the ‘awards’ than vice-versa.

I had made a decision to remain blissfully unaware of the entire farce, but I stupidly checked the list. Now the deviant in me cant wait to take a look at some of the sites using the newly released judging criteria :mrgreen:


WonderBra Catches Scrolling Ad Display

So Clever:

Via Marketing Alterntif, then Adverblog.