What product managers can learn about Design Systems

What makes a good product? What makes a well designed product? A few years ago, I learned about design principles and how principles such as “not getting in the way (of the user)” and “content first” can drive product design. Imagine my initial confusion and intrigue, as a non-designer, when I first heard about a “design system”. Chris Messina – former designer at Uber – has come up with a useful definition of what a design system is:

 

“Design systems provide a convenient, centralized, and evolving map of a brand’s known product territories with directional pointers to help you explore new regions.”

 

Later, Messina went on to add that “Design never was just how it looks, but now it’s also how it sounds, how it speaks, and where it can go.” Apart from capturing how brand and product communicate, look and feel, a design system is also a critical component when it comes to scale. Just take this statement by Vikram Babu – product designer at Gigster – for example:

 

“The problem facing design today isn’t a shortage of skills or talent but that design doesn’t scale when you move from a few screens of designed components to a platform of developed patterns where adding people only complicates the problem… hence design systems.” 

 

The key thing I learned about the value of design systems is that they intend to go beyond just a collection of design elements. Typically, companies will have a style guide. However, more often than not these style guides contain a bunch of design elements or patterns, but not create a fully comprehensive design language or tone of voice, as Nathan Curtis – owner of the EightShapes design firm – explains:

 

“A style guide is an artefact of the design process. A design system is a living, funded product with a roadmap & backlog, serving an ecosystem.” 

 

This raises the question how one goes about creating a design system. Some things that I’ve learned in this respect:

Before you get started

  1. What’s your company vision look like? And is mission?
  2. Which problem is your company looking to solve and why? For whom?
  3. What are the company values which underpin your company culture, product and service?
  4. What problem(s) are we trying to solve through the design system? Why?
  5. What’s the desired impact we expect the design system to have on the way we work?

Getting started

  1. What does the current design and design look like? What works and what doesn’t? Identify the gaps.
  2. Define some underlying design principles, which underpin a fluid and developing ‘design ecosystem’ (see Airbnb as a good example; Fig. 1 below).
  3. Create a visual design language, which comprises a number of distinct but ever evolving components (I loved Adobe’s Nate Baldwin breakdown of some of these components; see Fig. 2 below). Common components of a visual design language are: colour, typography, iconography, imagery, illustrations, sizing and spacing.
  4. Create a User Interface and pattern library.
  5. Document what each component is and how to use it.

 

Fig. 1 – Airbnb design principles – Taken from: https://airbnb.design/building-a-visual-language/

  • Unified: Each piece is part of a greater whole and should contribute positively to the system at scale. There should be no isolated features or outliers.
  • Universal: Airbnb is used around the world by a wide global community. Our products and visual language should be welcoming and accessible.
  • Iconic: We’re focused when it comes to both design and functionality. Our work should speak boldly and clearly to this focus.
  • Conversational: Our use of motion breathes life into our products, and allows us to communicate with users in easily understood ways.

 

Fig. 2 – The foundation of creating a Visual Design Language by Nate Baldwin – Taken from: https://medium.com/thinking-design/what-is-a-design-language-really-cd1ef87be793

  • Clearly defined semantics (and no, “error”, “warning”, “success”, and “info” aren’t nearly enough)
  • Thorough and mature mapping of core elements of design with clear purposes and meanings
  • A solid family of UI components and patterns that effectively support the semantics, and use design elements (based on theirmeanings) to support the meaning of the components
  • Thorough, comprehensive documentation about the visual communication system

 

To make this a bit more concrete, I’ll look at three good examples of design systems, by Google, Bulb and Salesforce.

 

Google Material Design

 

 

Bulb

 

 

Salesforce Lightning Design System

 

 

 

Main learning point: It’s important for product managers to understand what a Design System is and the purposes it serves. Even if you’re not directly involved in creating or applying a Design System, it’s key to understand your company’s design language and how it applies to your product.

 

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://bulb.co.uk/blog/introducing-bulbs-design-system
  2. http://design.bulb.co.uk/#/patterns/styles/colors/README.md
  3. https://www.fastcompany.com/90160960/the-design-theory-behind-amazons-5-6-billion-success
  4. https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/guide-to-design-systems/
  5. https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/scale-design-systems/
  6. https://medium.muz.li/how-to-create-a-style-guide-from-scratch-tips-and-tricks-e00f25b423bf
  7. https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/secrets-design-leadership/
  8. https://www.lightningdesignsystem.com/
  9. https://www.uxpin.com/create-design-system-guide
  10. https://medium.freecodecamp.org/how-to-build-a-design-system-with-a-small-team-53a3276d44ac
  11. https://www.uxpin.com/studio/ebooks/create-design-system-guide-checklist/
  12. https://blog.prototypr.io/design-system-ac88c6740f53
  13. https://medium.com/thinking-design/what-is-a-design-language-really-cd1ef87be793
  14. https://airbnb.design/building-a-visual-language/
  15. https://material.io/design/

Site review: Carspring

I like cars. I like marketplaces. I worked at carwow. It’s fair to say that cars and marketplaces is a good combination for me. I was therefore very excited when I came across Carspring, a UK based marketplace for used cars. My initial thought was “why do we need another platform for selling and buying new cars, we’ve already got loads of those!.” However, I then looked into Carspring and this is what I learned:

My quick summary of the site (before using it): Another site where I can buy or sell used cars. Given that lots of people in the UK own a car, there are currently about 40 million cars on the UK roads, I’m not surprised to see another player enter the market for used cars.

How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – “A car for every journey” is what it says at the top of Carspring’s homepage. The strapline below that intrigues me though: “Hand-inspected, personally delivered.” This suggest to me that Carspring does more than just being an intermediary which connects buyers and sellers. It gets really interesting when I scroll down the homepage and see a section titled “How it works”:

  1. Choose a Carspring certified and inspected car – Carspring guarantees that all the cars on their site will have gone through a 128 point inspection by the AA and an additional inspection by Carspring’s in-house team before they arrive at the customer.
  2. Select a payment method (finance or buy) – Interesting to see that customers can apply for financing through Carspring, given that this service is heavily regulated.
  3. We deliver the car straight to your doorstep – This reminds me of Shift, a US based online platform for used cars which also does delivers cars to your doorstep. I listened to a talk by Minnie Ingersoll, coo-founder and COO at Shift talking about door to door delivery of cars to their customers.
  4. Relax with our 14-day money back guarantee –  Especially when it comes to buying a used car, I can imagine that customers will feel reassured by Carspring’s 14-day money back guarantee.

 

Carspring 1

 

Carspring 2

Getting started, what’s the process like (1)? – After I’ve clicked the “Show all cars” button on the homepage, I land on a page which features a list of cars, with the top of the page saying “162 results.” I can see a “Sell a car” call to action in the top right hand of the page, which in my view could be more prominent in order to encourage more people to sell their cars through Carspring. There seem to be a number of cars that are “Coming soon” but I’m unsure as to when these cars will actually become available for sale. I believe Carspring could do a better job explaining what ‘soon’ means for each individual car and alerting the interested buyer as soon as the car has become available.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.22.43

 

Getting started, what’s the process like (2)? – I look at the product page for a 2012 Fiat 500, I’m presented with a rather large image of this car and a sticky footer encouraging the user to click on ‘buy’ or ‘finance’. There’s something to say for keeping the product page simple for the user to navigate, but the large picture and the footer feel quite overwhelming. As a result of the large image and the sticky footer, it’s not immediately apparent to me that this is a carousel which lets me see one more picture, that of the car’s dashboard. Having thumbnail images of the car e.g. its interior and exterior below the hero image would be more intuitive.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.32.14

I like how Roadster does its product pages, providing all relevant information at a fingertip. To be fair, the product page contains the same info that Roadster offers, but purely because of the way this detail has been laid out I feel I have to work harder to get to this information before deciding to buy the car.

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Getting started, what’s the process like (3)? – The filtering function on Carspring works well; the filtering options are clear and I can see at a glance the number of available cars per filter. However, because the supply of certain makes and models is still relatively small, filtering and sorting doesn’t feel as helpful as it could have been if there had been a larger number of cars on offer. For example, when looking at BMWs I started with 7 models and finished with 2 cars after I’d done all my filtering.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.47.50

 

Getting started, what’s the process like (4)? – Given that Carspring is a two sided marketplace it’s just as important that the seller of a car has a good experience. For me, Carspring’s biggest differentiator is that it inspects and grades your car. As a buyer, this gives me confidence about the quality of the car that I’m buying. As a seller, the process needs to be transparent and this will come from Carspring inspecting and grading your car upfront, providing sellers with a guaranteed sale price.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 08.55.56

How does Carspring compare to similar services? – Carspring does feel very similar to its US counterparts in the aforementioned Shift, Carvana, Beepi and Vroom. The points of differentiation between the various used car marketplaces seem minimal. For example, Vroom offers a 7-day money back guarantee and Beepi does the same within 10 days. What I liked about Beepi is the ability for the consumer to get in touch with person who’s certified the car in question.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 14.10.43

Did the site deliver on my expectations? – Yes. I can see Carspring’s model scaling rapidly, and I expect to see their car offering expand very quickly. The site lets users down in some places with usability issues that could be fixed fairly easily. I believe that the ultimate success of using Carspring won’t necessarily lie in the site’s experience, but will depend on the quality of the car delivered to a user’s doorstep. This ‘offline’ experience will determine whether people will come back to Carspring to buy their next used car and spread the word to their friends.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/edmundingham/2015/09/10/can-tech-start-up-carspring-disrupt-the-42bn-used-car-market-in-the-uk/#7f2e331712f0
  2. http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/12/carspring/
  3. http://blog.carspring.co.uk/what-were-about/
  4. http://www.engadget.com/2015/12/02/what-are-the-chances-you-ll-buy-your-next-car-online/
  5. https://www.carspring.co.uk/content-disruption
  6. https://www.carspring.co.uk/england
  7. https://www.vroom.com/how

 

 

Learning more about EdTech (1)

I’m currently doing an online course, learning more about UX design, and I’ve already provided my course provider some feedback on how they can improve their online course experience … I guess I can’t help myself. This experience prompted me to look into the education tech or the “EdTech” space a bit more, starting by checking out both popular educational apps and technology trends within this space. In this post, I’ll have a closer look at three popular educational apps in Udemy, Lynda.com and Khan Academy.

Udemy

Udemy’s motto is “Online Course Anytime, Anywhere.” It’s a purely online service, offering over 32,000 courses on any device to over 8 million students. For example, I’m currently learning about creating prototypes using Axure, and Udemy offers an online course on how to best use this tool (see Fig. 1 and 2 below). Compared to some of the online courses which I’ve done previously – on design thinking and gamification for example – the Udemy approach feels quite interactive, offering more opportunities for students to interact with their instructor (see example in Fig. 3 below).

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of “Mastering Axure RP 7: UX Design Prototyping” by Udemy on iOS

 

IMG_2966

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of “Mastering Axure RP 7: UX Design Prototyping” by Udemy on desktop

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 08.00.22

 

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of Discussion about “Mastering Axure RP 7: UX Design Prototyping” by Udemy on iOS

 

IMG_2967

Lynda.com

Earlier this year Lynda.com got acquired by LinkedIn and it felt like a significant acquisition. Similar to Udemy, Lynda.com enables “On-the-go learning”, making it easy for students to switch between devices and operating systems. The two features I like on Lynda.com is that one can preview a specific course (see Fig. 4 below) and the way in which related or suggested courses are displayed, both on desktop and on mobile (see Fig. 5 below).

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of  “Google Analytics Essential Training” by Lynda.com on desktop

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 12.46.52

 

Fig. 5 – Screenshot of suggested courses to look as part of the “Web” Category on Lynda.com on iOS

 

IMG_2969

Khan Academy

Whereas Udemy and Lynda.com are aimed at slightly older audiences, the mission of Khan Academy is to offer “A personalised learning resources for all ages.” The story of Salman Khan who started out by posted his math video tutorials on YouTube in 2004 is well published. This eventually turned into a well established platform which teaches maths and other topics to kids from a kindergarten age and beyond. For example, when I watched a video about the basics of adding and subtracting, it felt very intuitive and I could see how I could use this video to teach my two young boys (see Fig. 6 below).

Fig.6 – Screenshot of “Addition and subtraction” video on Khan Academy iOS app 

IMG_2970

 

Main learning point: Even by just looking at these three apps, Udemy, Lynda.com and Khan Academy, I feel that there’s so much opportunity for educational providers to create new digital products and services, offering students personalised learning experiences.

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/schoolboard/2015/05/11/the-only-metric-that-measures-the-success-of-education-technology/
  2. http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/trends/2053-trends-in-educational-technology
  3. http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2015/06/iste-2015-6-tech-trends-educations-horizon-2015-2020
  4. http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/03/teachers-will-embrace-students-smartphone-addiction-in-2015/
  5. http://blog.capterra.com/best-elearning-apps-businesses/
  6. http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/
  7. https://press.linkedin.com/site-resources/news-releases/2015/linkedin-to-acquire-lyndacom
  8. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2015/04/28/what-linkedins-acquisition-of-lynda-means-for-talent-management/

How to create copy that works well for search engines?

Previously I’ve been learning about writing effective copy. I now want to learn more about how to best write for search engine optimisation. I used a great ebook titled “How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines” by Copyblogger to help me with this.

One of the first aspects raised in “How to Create Compelling Content” is a basic understanding of the three major components that power search engines:

  • Crawling – This is all about search engine “spiders” that crawl the web for content. These are actually bits of computer code that find information on a web page, “read” it, and then tirelessly continue along their journey by following links from your page to other pages. The spider will return from time to time to look for changes to the original page. This means that there will be opportunities to change the way a search engine sees and assesses your content.
  • Indexing –  The spider is not just casually browsing content, it’s storing the content it finds in a giant database. This is called indexing. The spider’s goal is to save every bit of content it crawls for the future benefit of searchers. It’s also gauging how relevant that content is to the words that searchers use when they want to find an answer to something.
  • Ranking –  Ultimately it’s about how the engine decides to deliver the most relevant results to searchers. The search engine algorithm which decides on the results follows a very complex set of rules. Copyblogger explains these rules as “the ground rules for a duel between your content and other content that might satisfy a searcher’s keyword query.”

Copyblogger then goes on to explain the importance of doing some keyword research upfront. What are the words and phrases that people use to find the information that they were looking for? These are the five key things to bear in mind in relation to keyword research:

  • Research tools – Google has a good, free keyword tool and there are similar tools out there such as Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest.
  • Get specific – Even though we often talk about keywords, in most cases it will be specific (short) phrases that are relevant. For example, “new car deals” or “best car discounts”.
  • Strength in numbers – It’s important to look at the relative popularity of a specific keyword among search terms. You want to make sure that enough people use your phrase or keyword when thinking about a specific topic. If you’re trying to rank in a very competitive sector, a keyword combination that can rank for an easier phrase might be preferable.
  • Highly relevant – This feels like the main point when doing keyword research: “Make sure that the search terms you are considering are highly relevant to your ultimate goal.”
  • Content resource – The key question here is whether a particular keyword phrase can support the development of content that readers perceive as value-adding. Copyblogger breaks this down into the following aspects: (1) satisfies the preliminary needs of the site visitor (2) acts as the first step in your sales or action cycle and (3) prompts people to link to it.

The book then goes into the more of the nitty gritty by highlighting “Five SEO copywriting elements that matter”:

  1. Title – With the title of your content, the critical thing is to make sure that the keywords you’re targeting are included in your title. Also, the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. I’ve included some more points on how to best optimise your title in Fig. 1 and 2 below.
  2. Meta-Description – Copyblogger makes a good point by stressing that SEO copywriting isn’t just about ranking. It’s also about what your content looks like on a search engine results page (“SERP”). The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether a person decides to read your content (and whether she clicks). Like with the title, the best would be to lead the meta-description with your keyword phrase. Also, you want to try and keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result. See Fig. 3 below for some examples of effective meta-descriptions.
  3. Content – For search optimisation purposes, your content should be on topic and strongly focus on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases. It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words.
  4. Keyword frequency – There’s a clear difference between “keyword frequency” and “keyword density”. Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keyword phrase appears on the page. In contrast, keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page. Copyblogger explains how keyword frequency affects ranking and that keyword density might not. I guess it’s a case of using common sense when writing content, checking the frequency of your keywords against the rest of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of what’s called “keyword stuffing”, which tends to make Google think you’re trying to game their system.
  5. Linking out – Search engines are keen that your content is well connected with other content and pages, hence why linking out is important from an SEO perspective. Copyblogger provides some good tips with respect to linking out (see Fig. 4 below).

Main learning point: I’ve learned that getting your copy right is extremely important from an SEO perspective. This starts with being clear about the ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve through your content, making sure this is reflected in your keyword phrase and, subsequently, in the title and body of the actual content.

Fig. 1 – Optimising the title of your content for SEO – Adapted from: http://www.copyblogger.com/seo-copywriting/

  • Have an alternative title in the title tag – It’s important that your CMS or blogging software allow you to serve an alternate title in the title tag (which is the snippet of code Google pulls to display a title in search results) than the headline that appears on the page.
  • Try to keep title length under 72 characters – Keeping your title length under 72 characters will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.

Fig. 2 – Sample titles, optimised for SEO:

For example, let’s say the keywords or phrases that I’m looking to target are “Ford Focus discounts”, then sample titles could look something like this:

“Three ways to get the best discount on your Ford Focus”

“Why getting an incredible discount on a new Ford Focus is easy”

Both titles contain my keyword phrase, but the keywords might not be in the best location for ranking or even for quick-scanning searchers compared with regular readers. By using an alternate title tag, I can enter a more search-optimized title for Google and searchers only, such as:

“Ford Focus: 3 ways to get the best discount”

“Getting discounts on a Ford Focus is easy”

Fig. 3 – Examples of effective meta-descriptions – Taken from: https://econsultancy.com/blog/62553-33-examples-of-great-meta-descriptions-for-search/ 

meta_descriptions_1

 Fig. 4 – Best practices with respect to linking out – Taken from: http://www.copyblogger.com/seo-copywriting/
  • Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy
  • Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
  • Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
  • Link with naturally relevant anchor text

App review: “Uncover”

A while ago I reviewed the OpenTable app, learning how OpenTable helps people to manage their restaurant bookings. I then came across Uncover, an iOS app which lets users “Discover and book London’s most desirable restaurants. Tonight.” The phrase “most desirable restaurants” sparked my interest. It will be good to see how Uncover’s focus on London’s top restaurants is reflected in their app:

  1. How did this app come to my attention? – I read an article in City AM which talked about Uncover and the business behind it.
  2. My quick summary of the app (before using it) –  This is a restaurant booking site, concentrating on top – usually hard to get in to – London restaurants. I expect to be able to book restaurants where I’d normally struggle to get a table.
  3. How does the app explain itself in the first minute? – The messaging on Uncover’s opening screen is pretty clear: “Everyday we hand-pick a shortlist of London’s most desirable restaurants just for you.” There’s a call to action for the user to sign up to Uncover. I skip that step for now, as I’m not a big fan of signing up for services where I’m not yet sure about the benefits.
  4. Getting started, what’s the process like? – The interface is easy and looks nice. I like the simplicity of showing me appealing images of nearby restaurants to have lunch or dinner. The restaurants displayed seems to be based on my location. The information provided per restaurant on this view is basic but sufficient: cuisine, area, indication of how expensive, available time slots and number of people (see Fig. 2 below). Although Uncover’s imagery is nice and appealing, I feel that the app could work harder in convincing users that a specific restaurant is high end or ‘must go’. For example, an excerpt from a restaurant review in The Observer stating “The Spanish staff are giggly and charming. It’s done with conviction, and it doesn’t take much to buy into the conceit” doesn’t really make me want to book at this restaurant right now (see Fig. 3 below).
  5. How easy to use was the app? – Very easy. I particularly liked the discovery feature where users can search for restaurants based on factors such as “neighbourhoods”, “romantic”, “hidden gems” and “hustle & bustle” (see Fig.4 below). I also like that I can save restaurants to my wish list.
  6. How does the app compare to similar apps? – I see Reserve as a very similar app to Uncover, albeit that Reserve concentrates on the US. There are two features on Reserve that I particularly like. Firstly, the ability for users to rate their dining experiences. Getting sense of how people felt about a restaurant helps me to make a decision. Secondly, I like the fact that when Reserve takes your card details, you don’t have to pay at the end of the meal. No faffing with the bill or trying to get the waiter’s attention, you could in principle just get and leave as Reserve takes care of payment for you.
  7. Did the app deliver on my expectations?  Yes and no. I expected an app with great imagery of nice restaurants, making you want to book immediately. Uncover definitely delivers on that expectation. However, I expect upcoming iterations of this app to focus more on discovery and personalisation.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of the opening screen of the Uncover app 

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Fig. 2 – Screenshot of the main view on the Uncover app 

Uncover 1

 

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of a restaurant description on Uncover

Uncover 2

 

Fig. 4 – Screenshot of Uncover’s discovery feature

Uncover 3

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://uncover.london/
  2. http://www.cityam.com/214308/london-s-best-eats-now-within-reach
  3. http://londonist.com/2014/11/gobble-up-londons-hot-tables-with-uncover-app.php
  4. http://uk.businessinsider.com/uncover-app-does-last-minute-booking-at-london-restaurants-2015-2

Learning to write copy for the Web

Copy. Words. We all need them. On a piece of paper. On your phone. On the Web. I recently decided to learn more about writing copy, particularly aimed at writing for the Web. The first question that I asked myself was “what makes effective copy?”

From The 5P Approach to Copy that Crushes It by Copyblogger I learned that:

“The most important aspect of copy that works is how well your message matches up with the way your prospective customer views things.” 

UK based copywriting expert Andy Maslen explains that before you do anything else, it’s important to think about your answers to these three questions:

  1. What keeps your prospect awake at three in the morning?
  2. What can you promise them to ease that pain?
  3. Why might they not believe you?

Andy then goes on to explain how answers to these three questions will help you create effective copy:

  • Answer question one and you have psychological insights into your prospect’s needs, desires and motivations.
  • Answer question two and you translate the features of your product into its deep underlying benefits.
  • Answer question three and you identify their objections, which you can then start to overcome.

I then delved deeper into Copyblogger’s 5P approach:

  1. Premise – The emotional concept that not only attracts attention, but maintains engagement throughout every element of your landing page copy and imagery. The ultimate outcome of the premise is the desired action that you would like the reader of your copy to take (see Fig. 1 below). Copyblogger explains this as follows: “The premise connects you to the emotional centre of your prospect’s brain, stimulates desire, maintains credibility, and results in the opening of the wallet. It’s the unification of the prospect’s worldview + the market + the benefits + the proof + a call to action into one simple, compelling message.”
  2. Promise – Using the so-called “Pyramid of Benefits”, you can come up with numerous befits of your product or service (see Fig. 2 below). However, it’s the ultimate benefit you discover by working through the benefits pyramid that equates to your premise.
  3. Picture – The picture phase is all about using images, storytelling, and tangible language as a way to hold the reader’s emotional interest while you nudge them down the path to acceptance. I’m learning that the way to best retain the reader’s attention is to get her to imagine herself enjoying the ultimate benefit or desired outcome. Then you get very specific about how your proposed solution or idea makes that benefit happen. A great example is “The Man in a Hathaway Shirt” by advertising guru David Ogilvy (see Fig. 3 below). The key aspect of the “picture” element is that the reader has to tell herself their own story based on the picture you create in their head with the elements of your landing page or imagery.
  4. Proof – Statistics, studies, graphs, charts, third-party facts, testimonials, a demonstration that the features of your product deliver the benefits you’ve promised—these are all part of the “proof” section of your piece. The main thing to remember here is to ensure that your premise (see Point 1. above) shines through every bit of your copy and is also reflected in the proof that you provide.
  5. Push – The “push” phase is more than just a call to action. It’s about communicating an outstanding offer in a clear, credible, and compelling way, and then asking for action. Persuasive writing begins with the desired outcome in mind, so during the push you’re tying the beneficial premise and the vivid picture to solid acceptance and concrete action.

Main learning point: I found it really helpful to learn about the “5P” approach to writing copy on the web. It may sound obvious to some, but thinking about the reader of your copy, their needs and objectives, is an easy thing to lose sight of. Considering the 5Ps before, during and after writing your copy will no doubt help to get your content read or applied more widely!

Fig. 1 – Elements of a Premise – Taken from: http://my.copyblogger.com/basic/5p-copy/

  1. Be unpredictable – The first thing you absolutely must have is attention. Without initial attention for your content, nothing else you’ve done matters. And nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going. Beyond curiosity, a great premise delivers an unpredictable and unexpected element that makes it irresistible. It all comes back to knowing at an intimate level who you’re talking to and what they’re used to seeing in the market. What messages are they getting from your competition? This is what you must use as the benchmark to create your own unique and unexpected angle that forms the foundation of your premise.
  2. Be simple – Because a premise by definition is an unprecedented and grand idea, sometimes boiling it down to its essence is difficult, or worse, neglected. However, it’s important to always to try and keep your premise as short and powerful as possible.
  3. Be real – ‘Keeping it real’ in the copywriting sense means a couple of things. Firstly, by making sure that your premise is highly relevant to your intended audience. For example, when I write copy as part of my day job at carwow, I’ll need to make sure that my copy is perceived as relevant in the eyes of my target audience, i.e. buyers of new cars. The aim here is to inspire a desirable reaction from your target audience before triggering a desirable action. Secondly, your message must communicate meaningful benefits that are also tangible. In order to create a sense of “instant understanding” with your audience, you need to tell the story in a way that conveys information in a way that’s likely to resonate with your prospect.
  4. Be credible – If you’re writing to persuade, you have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain. The part that decides “I want that” is emotional and often subconscious. If your premise doesn’t work emotionally, logic will never get a chance to weigh in. Credibility or “proof” needs to be baked into the premise as much as possible.

Fig. 2 – The Benefits Pyramid – Taken from: http://www.somethinggreat.com/promotion-events/

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Fig. 3 – “The Man in The Hathaway Shirt” ad by David Ogilvy – Taken from: http://www.directmarketinginstitute.com/HathawayShirtAd.htm

hathaway shirt ad

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.makepeacetotalpackage.com/archives/make-your-products-benefits-sparkle/

CarStory and its ways to enhance your car inventory

The other day I came across CarStory. Since I’ve started with car comparison site carwow I’ll always keep an eye out for similar sites, changing the way in which consumer buy new or used cars. Given that I’m not a US based car dealer, my testing of the CarStory site and app is limited. I did, however, learn quite a lot about CarStory’s service by reading reviews and watching videos.

These are the main things that I learned about CarStory:

  1. Mission statement – “Turn car shoppers into customers” is CarStory’s main tagline. On its homepage, there’s a succinct description of CarStory’s value proposition. The service is aimed at car dealers, providing them with a “CarStory” to their inventories. A CarStory is a market report which “tells a story”, highlighting your cars’ unique features and value in the local market (see an example in Fig. 1 below). CarStory’s goals are to (1) build consumer confidence and (2) accelerate purchase decisions.
  2. Use cases – I guess the main benefit for dealers using CarStory is that they will have a good bit of car specific info at hand, not having to check multiple sources to answer customer questions about e.g. fuel consumption, features or alternative models (see Fig. 2 below). From a customer’s perspective, dealers are likely to be set up well for specific questions e.g. about price comparison or the most popular features on a specific car.
  3. Infographics – Apart from vehicle specific ‘story cards’, dealers can also use CarStory’s infographics to provide their customers with more data and insight about a specific model. For example, I can look at high level supply and demand data for a specific model (see Fig. 3 below).

Main learning point: CarStory offers an interesting way of creating market reports and integrating these reports into a dealer’s daily workflow. It currently only seems to apply to used cars and it would be good to find out from a customer’s perspective how the CarStory data and insights help in making purchasing decisions, whether it’s for a new or a used car.

Fig.1 – Screenshots of a sample CarStory – Taken from: https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf

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Fig. 2 – CarStory use cases – Adapted from: http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/

  • Identify other cars in your inventory to match customer needs – A dealer is on the phone with a customer and can use CarStory to check his inventory to see if there are any cars in the other to meet a customer’s requirements.
  • Provide car specific info on the phone, email or on text – With the data included in a CarStory for a specific vehicle, dealers will be able to answer specific customer questions on the phone, email or on text. The idea is that customers don’t necessarily need to come into the dealership to find out certain details about a car.

Fig. 3 – Example of a CarStory infographic – Taken from: http://blog.carstory.com/market-reports-dodge-caravan-infographic/

dodge-caravan

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.dealerrefresh.com/carstory-app-interview-with-vast/
  2. http://www.autoremarketing.com/trends/features-info-used-car-buyers-want-most
  3. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-3-vehicle-condition-is-key/
  4. http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/
  5. https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf
  6. http://blog.carstory.com/getting-to-know-carstory-part-1-can-you-trust-the-data/
  7. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-2-good-deal-great-deal/
  8. http://blog.carstory.com/top-10-carstory-market-report-tips-and-tricks/