Jakob Nielsen contradicting IM principles?

by DavidO 9 replies
Many of you are probably familiar with Jakob Nielsen, the web usability guru. He's done eye-tracking and other studies of web users for years and his site useit.com: Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design has tons of useful info for us marketers.

Something I find quite interesting is that some of his conclusions and recommendations contradict some of the most basic IM principles often cited by many here in the WF and elsewhere.

His "inverted pyramid" is a prime example. Writing in the inverted pyramid style means that you start with the conclusion, the most important content you have, and then work down to the least important.

This completely contradicts the conventional sales letter so many of us use and claim as the best method of selling a product. You can't really claim that the headline fulfills this purpose as a headline is rarely your conclusion or most important content (its most important role being to attract attention).

And in a sales letter the most important content, the call to action, always comes at the end. Surely no inverted pyramid!

Now I'm not arguing against sales letters. I still use one myself and get my best results with it.

But Nielsen's argument is very compelling. I like the idea of firing my biggest guns first... get the important stuff, including price and call to action, above the fold.

Any thoughts on this?
#main internet marketing discussion forum #contradicting #jakob #nielsen #principles
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  • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
    They're both right.

    They're just coming at it from different angles.

    You could argue that your headline IS your most important content because it's the designed to get the attention of your prospect - How does it do that? By showing them the most important thing in their mind about that subject/object - or identifying with them about that thing.

    Remember - a lot of things go in to this mix.

    Where is your traffic coming from? How/when/where is your message reaching them?

    If you're selling headache pills and your advertisement is on a train station billboard - you might decide that the thing which will catch their attention is to related to the noise of commuting. If the ad is on TV - maybe it's the noise of the kids at home.

    None of these sweeping generalisations will ever apply to every situation.

    Sure - marketers like to sound like they're saying something new/contradictory/different to what others are saying but they're just looking at the same thing from a different angle.

    This is not a new subject so usually the only thing to highlight new approaches is when new techonology/behaviour opens up new channels of accessing your target audience.

    The psychology behind it isn't changing - just the delivery mechanisms.

    Andy
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  • Profile picture of the author Mohammad Afaq
    Here is what I think you might do:

    The XYZ product is worth a $1000 but only for today you can get lifetime access to the XYZ product for a measly price of $497

    ________________________________
    CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW
    ________________________________
    To be honest, I don't like this approach at all.

    You need to let the person know What's in it for him before you can sell to him.
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  • Profile picture of the author DavidO
    Good points, Andy. But I can only agree up to a point. The headline is important, sure. But aside from this partial exception, the sales letter is a pyramid in all ways.

    If I change my sales page to an inverted pyramid we're talking radical changes.

    So I think we are indeed talking about two different models, not just looking at the same one from different angles.
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    • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
      Originally Posted by DavidO View Post

      Good points, Andy. But I can only agree up to a point. The headline is important, sure. But aside from this partial exception, the sales letter is a pyramid in all ways.

      If I change my sales page to an inverted pyramid we're talking radical changes.

      So I think we are indeed talking about two different models, not just looking at the same one from different angles.
      I say tomatoes - you say tomatoes

      The guy has positioned his perspective as 'opposite' to 'conventional thinking' to make it sound interesting.

      That only applies when you blindly follow the version of conventional thinking he's contrasting with.

      Sure - it's easy to use AIDA as a reference for copy and I'm sure some people blindly follow one method, but I can't speak for them.

      I never blindly copy anyone's processes - so to me this is all just details of the same system. I would follow his or anyone else's - I make my own.

      So, this is only the 'opposite' with respect to one model.

      Therefore - I'm probably not the right person to argue the toss with you about this because I'm not following these processes. Sure I'll probably be doing some of the same things - but I have my own way of doing things that combines both of these principles - different strategies in different places.

      Louis said it - if you care about what the guy says and it's different to what you're already doing - test it for yourself, it'll be different in different niches and channels anyway.

      This all reminds me of the traditional IM marketing funnel where you have to start off by giving things away.

      I rarely do that - in some niches all I do is go straight to the high-ticket customers and get them to buy - no free anything, no funnel, no list building, no PPC - nothing like the 'IM' way. But some people will tell you all day that the 'funnel' is what IM is all about.

      It's all just personal choice based on experience and testing.

      If you want to do something different - you're probably going to do better right away because most people are following the herd.

      Andy
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  • Profile picture of the author Louise Green
    If we all listened to Nielsen the web would be a completely different place.. flat and boring.

    He gets it right some of the time, but only some. The rest of the time he's being controversial to make a name for himself.

    Split test the theory.. only way to find out for sure.
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    • Profile picture of the author edmltw
      Lousie's Right.

      Whatever theory he comes up with, if there's no split-testing done, no cold & hard evidence that it's better, then whatever he said remains an idea, no more, no less.

      Why don't you test the theory out?

      Regards,
      Ed
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    • Profile picture of the author DavidO
      Of course a good sales letter is still the most effective method I know of. But it has to be good to compell the reader through to the end and to take action.

      I'm thinking an inverted pyramid style of sales page could probably be more effective than a mediocre sales letter. Of course nobody wants a poor sales letter but that's what many of us end up with.

      An inverted pyramid is surely worth testing.

      Yes, Ed, I'll gladly test it out. But my results will not necessarily apply to other situations. There's too many factors involved.
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    David,

    Originally Posted by DavidO View Post

    Something I find quite interesting is that some of his conclusions and recommendations contradict some of the most basic IM principles often cited by many here in the WF and elsewhere.

    His "inverted pyramid" is a prime example. Writing in the inverted pyramid style means that you start with the conclusion, the most important content you have, and then work down to the least important.


    And in a sales letter the most important content, the call to action, always comes at the end. Surely no inverted pyramid!
    I see no contradiction in this theory. I think you might be confusing what's important to the marketer with what's important to your prospect.

    To you, the price/call to action is the most crucial element. But to a prospect, the major benefits of the product - what you should be getting across in the headline - is the whole point.

    If you've done your selling well, the price is the least your prospect is going to be concerned about (unless the price is the selling point - in which case, you'll have that in your headline ).


    Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
    Nielsen's been around since the way super early days of the web, and he's always been thumping the same thing. But be aware that when he's talking about usability design, he's talking about a content consumption model.

    He's not talking about salesletters or squeeze pages because that's outside of the customer base he wants to talk to.

    The inverted pyramid model comes from journalism, where you want to provide the heavy info up front, so the reader can quit at any time and still get the bulk of the info. A sales flow is different, simply because you DON'T want them to stop reading AT ALL (unless it's to click the buy button).

    That being said, Nielsen and his crew do have some very solid stuff that CAN and DOES apply to marketing. Just be aware that he comes from a more corporate, big business landscape where making sales is about branding and having people want your stuff and coming to find you specifically.

    Our world is very different as far as how customers find our marketing materials and interact. We're often the step BETWEEN the user and the kinds of companies that Jakob's advice is meant for.
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