Friday, June 05, 2009

Market2Lead User Interface: Attention to Detail Pays Off

Summary: Market2Lead's revised user interface has plenty of refined details. But what's most important is it offers different ways to build simple and complex campaigns. This beats even the best "one size fits all" approach.

Time flies. I saw a demonstration of Market2Lead’s new user interface last December, and they released it in February. But I’m only now getting around to writing about it.

It’s a good thing that Market2Lead moved more quickly than I did, because the new interface is a huge improvement. Their previous offering was a good example of what happens when technicians design a user interface: you get the thinnest possible skin stretched over the underlying components. It’s all perfectly logical and functional, but makes no accommodation for how users actually work.

For the redesign, Market2Lead had the good sense to bring in a usability consultant who focused them rigorously on intuitive navigation, fewer mouse clicks, presenting options only as they are needed, and accommodating both novice and expert users. The results included:

- tabs structured around user activities rather than system tables
- wizards to lead users through creating campaigns, programs and Web forms
- floating menus that show options related to the user’s current activity
- pleasant and consistent color schemes that highlight the commonly-chosen menu options
- searches entered directly into form fields and allowing advanced syntax such as lists and value ranges
- different interfaces for creating simple and complex campaign flows

These are not especially novel concepts, so what really matters is how rigorously they are executed. One objective metric is mouse clicks: Market2Lead reports these were reduced by 300%. The others are largely verifiable by sight – yep, the wizards and floating menus really exist.

But listing these items doesn’t convey their combined effect. The resulting system simply feels less stressful than the original version. Even though you may not know in advance how it works, the next step is usually clear.

The campaign interface is the acid test. Market2Lead offers three versions, each tailored to a different level of complexity.

- The simplest are static campaigns, which use predefined flows and typically present a single marketing program. The program itself represents a single offer, but may contain a sequence of contacts such as an outbound email, landing page, and confirmation email. These elements are predefined for different program types, and users simply fill out forms to specify the details. There is no visual flow chart for the program.

Static campaigns wrap some additional rules around a program, such as which campaign the prospects should enter next. These rules can have some conditional logic, creating the equivalent of a branching workflow. But the structure of the flow is predefined for each campaign type and users cannot change it. As with programs, they use forms to fill in the details.

- A second type of campaign does allow users to build their own workflow. For these, called "workflow campaigns", Market2Lead has provided a Visio-style flow builder but kept it simple. Decisions can only have two results (true or false), branches cannot merge within the flow, and prospects always enter a new campaign at the beginning. This eliminates some options but avoids the complicated paths that can make conventional flow charts so confusing.

In fact, the drag-and-drop interface offers just five icons: send a program, make a decision, wait a specified number of days, send to another campaign, and exit. As in other systems, users can click on each icon to define its parameters. Market2Lead has posted an online demonstration.

- For really complicated projects, Market2Lead provides “adaptive” campaigns. These are designed with standard work flows, but replace the specific programs with rules that select the most appropriate program for each prospect. This allows one simple campaign to deliver different messages to different prospects simultaneously, and to deliver a sequence of messages to the same prospect over time.

Of course, the user must still define the rules used to make the program selections. But Market2Lead argues, and I agree, that this is easier than trying to build the rules within the flow chart itself. It also opens the way for increasingly sophisticated selection capabilities, such as the automated statistical approaches that I described last month.

Choosing from three different campaign types may sound confusing. It certainly will take some time for new users to learn when to select each one. But the Market2Lead interface makes the options readily apparent, which will help to some degree.

More important, each choice makes building its particular type of campaign about as easy as possible. This is a much more effective approach than trying to build a single interface that is good for everything. For marketers who execute a broad variety of campaigns, ranging from simple to complex, this will ultimately make their jobs easier.

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