Archive for the ‘services’ Category

Screwing up conversion rates

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

By far the best way to screw up your conversion rates is to go mainstream.

Traffic - conversion graph

The traffic graph is the number of visitors per day while the conversion rate is the percentage of the visitors converted. When you go mainstream your traffic will spike and plateau at a lower level a few days later. This will screw up your conversion rate. Don’t worry though – figure out who the visitors are and fix your landing pages to target them as good as you can.

This graph obviously focuses on start-ups that have a huge conversion rate at the beginning as most of the conversion happens on tech-news sites and only already “converted” people get to your page – conversion rates of 80% are common in such cases. It should also be valid for later stage companies, but you need to adjust the conversion rate numbers. Another fact of conversion rates is that as your number of visitors grows your conversion rate will drop due to the fact that more users will be “just browsing” (think about a store in a mall).

If you don’t belive me think about the what the Twitter homepage looked like in time. The first one I saw had the public stream on it – geeky as hell. They changed that into a still somewhat geeky homepage that explained what Twitter is and helped you register. The latest one is almost non-geeky and focuses on real-time search and has a prominent sign up button.

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Firefox 3 Release Event 2008

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

So I’ll be talking at Firefox 3 Release Event at Kiberpipa today. Feel free to come listen to the talks or just come to the party. If you can’t come you can watch the whole thing online (the link is likely to be available somewhere on the event page).

Review: Adria Airways and NLB

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Recently two more big and very frequented Slovenian sites relaunched and I think they too deserve a mention.

Adria Airways

The first page I want to put to the test is the new page of the first and the biggest Slovenian airline. It was recently launched by my ex colleagues at Parsek as the second version to be made there. The first edition was designed and prepared in another agency and Parsek only did the backend while the new version is all Parsek. To be fair the biggest and the most important part — the reservation module — is still made by the french company Amadeus.

The new design tries to incorporate a leaner navigation with less elements even though it became wider, almost reaching the 1000px mark. The front page is much more sales oriented, displaying a lot of useful information. I can’t get past the color scheme that is really too dull. There are quite a few validation errors, the ones in HTML mostly due to non–escaped ampersands, while those in CSS are just sloppy coding without checking the validator.

I was surprised to see that some stuff doesn’t work well with Firefox 3 and Safari 3 even though the first one isn’t released yet (will be tomorrow) and the second one doesn’t have a lot of users in Slovenia. I’d still stick to what Yahoo! has to say in their Graded Browser support table for browser support.

I was positively surprised at how well some inside pages are designed down to the last dot and icon and negatively how bad the pages that “only” present CMS content look. I don’t know whose fault this is and I don’t even care, it doesn’t matter for the end user. I’m sure the guys at Parsek will check these pages out and try to make changes that will make them better. When I first saw the design while I was still at Parsek I wasn’t sure if the title on the right would work but now that I’m surfing the page I actually think it does. There is one problem there though – if you visit this page (screenshot) you’ll see that you can see its title “About us” four times in a very small area. It’s nice to know where you are but isn’t this a little bit too much?


The next big redesign is the biggest Slovenian bank which redesigned their site after quite a while. I don’t really know what to say about the redesign – the last one was horrendous so this one is easy on the eye. It too got wider and restructured so people can find relevant information easier. The home page lists all the products for residents and businesses so you can access them directly.

If the design got overhauled the backend didn’t — if it did it got it fashion tips from the 90s. Validation returns a lot of errors and — prepare for a shock — the encoding is iso-8859-2. The number of non semantic elements is significant and inline scripts are there too (<SCRIPT language=JavaScript>).

The most interesting thing about the new page is the fact that it now uses “friendly URLs”. And how utterly broken they are. You could also say this page is a textbook case for how wrong things can go when you don’t think about them. So you’ll have two pages, one at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje and the other at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje1. I have no idea how that tells you anything about how the content behind these links is different. It would tell you more if the first was prefixed with /residential and the second one with /businesses.

Another funny thing I noticed is how banners are designed to look as if they weren’t images but rather just HTML parts of the page. The reason I noticed is that I was on the Mac while checking the page and since font rendering is different it looks really weird. I think I might have seen the same difference on Vista with ClearType on.

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Start–up night #2

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

(translates into

A start–up that started as a service for booking tables in restaurants and figured out that Slovenian market isn’t ready for this yet. The problem aren’t the users but the suppliers — the dining industry seems to be governed by older owners and internet and computers are a rarity. This means they need to “relocate” to bookings in other areas.

What fascinated me the most was that they think that ideas are cheap and you need to share them as much as you can — you’ll be getting valuable comments from everybody you share the idea with. I completely agree with this but I don’t entirely agree with another point they made — that you need to have a business plan done to start. I agree that it’s important to think about all this but would put the passion in front of making a well styled document.

All in all an interesting talk about how to start a web service with some really refreshing comments.

The passion for investing in stock, funds and other financial instruments in the Balkan is the basis for this start–up. The team consists of two people that are passionate about this topic and also passionate about web 2.0 services. They spent approximately 16 person–months working until now and expect to invest 8 more until launch in a few months — they’re looking for developers!

The reasons to start a new financial portal seems pretty straight forward — there is no good alternative and all the competition is from web 1.0 or older. It’s a great thing when you find out that you’re passionate about something that is not really present on the market.

(translates to

When asked whether they ever had problems with gift buying almost everybody in the room said yes. A much smaller number bought a gift coupon. This start–up thinks the number is big enough and they started a web service that sells gift coupons for different stores. When looking back they now know that they spent way too much time on stuff that isn’t really all that important — business cards, legal issues, marketing materials,… I’m not saying these aren’t important and neither are they — but they need to be done as quickly as possible so they don’t come between you and the goal. And the goal is building and growing a successful business.

Another problem they mentioned is the huge number of ideas that lead to scope creep. This is usually also my problem but I think I rooted it out successfully — what I do is talk about ideas and write them all down. This means I don’t need to think about them anymore. I heard something similar in an Indiana Jones movie the other day.

(translates to

The most famous start–up today with press coverage on the main Slovenian TV and radio stations. The team consists of two people — one responsible for the technical side and the other for PR. The final design was set on the 8th March 2007 and the page was launched a week later. A lesson they learned the hard way was that you need to buy the domains early on — as Murphy goes you’ll lose it the day you want to buy it.

Communication is key — you can actually get free stuff if you ask. You’ve got nothing to loose anyway. Because they went for a charitable cause they got a lot of free PR. And now people are passing the link on to those that want to give something away which is probably the ultimate goal of every web service. Having a fan club can be very good for your business…

You also need to think about how to handle the peaks that will come when you succeed. If you don’t your service will die when you have the link on the front page of TechCrunch. Or in the case of local service on the local TV station.

No mouse for you mister!

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

It finally arrived, but they left. Before closing time. Not going back there.

My new mouse – not yet

Friday, August 31st, 2007

When I first read about the new mice Logitech was releasing this month I immediately decided to by the new laptop mouse – the VX Nano. It’s going to look perfect plugged into my X60t‘s slightly indented right side USB slot.

I’m currently using a NX20, a corded optical mouse I bought a while back. The main reason was that all my USB plugs on my previous laptop were at the back, which meant I could easily forget that I have a wireless receiver plugged in and break it. Hey it happened before, fortunately the USB key (sort of) survived. You can also wind the cable around the NX20 so it doesn’t get mangled while traveling. It’s a great little laptop mouse and it’s serving me well.

So when I got back home (I read about it in a local gaming magazine Joker at my parents’ home) I immediately checked online to see when the Nano will be available. I said end of August – good enough. Next step was obvious – trying to find it on the page of the local reseller. Nothing. Weird. No launch date, no expected price, no nothing. Not a big surprise though so I went to visit them. It was probably around the 20th – so strictly speaking it was almost the end of August. They said that it’s coming and that the latest news they have is that it’s going to be in the stores on the 24th. As I later found out it was probably a misunderstanding – it probably meant that it’ll be released on the 24th which actually means leaving a warehouse somewhere in Europe.

Since I work near the place I visited the store a few more times. On Thursday, the 23th, they figured that it’s not going to be there on Friday but maybe Monday, but probably Tuesday, the 28th. When I came by on Tuesday they told me it’s not there yet and that I can leave my phone number so they’ll call me when it arrives. I decided I’ll rather call them myself. Did that on Wednesday – not there yet. Since I couldn’t get through yesterday, the 30th (was that I private call I was listening to for 5 minutes while standing in the store?) I stopped by – not there yet.

All this wasn’t really a surprise. The real surprise was that they have no idea when it will actually be available. Citing their words: “We don’t know which driver is bringing it so we cannot check where the shipment currently is and when it will arrive.” Now I’d immediately think that’s BS if I didn’t know the (low) level of service in my beloved country. And this was even more shocking than having a sales person lying to my face. How is it possible that a logistics company exists that cannot tell you where your shipment is and when it’ll arrive when it’s supposedly already a few days late?

I’m still waiting for the mouse, getting grumpier by the day. Why didn’t they just say it’s coming in the beginning of September?