There’s no such thing as wasted space

Image of pull tab: "Pull tab for fresh baked taste"

There’s no such thing as wasted space unless you waste it!

You’ve seen these tabs a million times. “Pull here.” “Pull here to open,” maybe. Not much of a sales pitch (or an after-sales pitch), just stating the obvious. Why not use the space to put one more smile on your customer’s face?

I think this one, from DiGiorno frozen pizza, is a great starter for a brainstorming session—what could you do with space (in your graphics or otherwise) that other, less thoughtful competitors are wasting?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Don’t Be Clever, Be Clear, redux

Wherein we discuss:

  • Website Design.
  • Structure/ Site Navigation.
  • Copywriting.

in a very few words.


Busy website visitors (your customers) are becoming more used to being annoyed by newness for the sake of newness, snazzy details that slow down the user Experience, and interruptions to their train of thought so you can get your point across.


They’re not happier about it, and it’s part of why small business websites are for the most part COLOSSAL FLOPS AT SELLING.

*ahem* Sorry about the caps. Sorta.

Who cares if your cleverness gets you friends, followers, or good old fashioned pats on the back from the ignorati if it costs you sales?

Maybe, don’t go all the way to boring. But if you can only see it as a choice between boring and jim-crackin’ wowza, then yeah. Boring is best.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. By later today, I’ll be #1 (and only, I hope) in the search rankings for “jim-crackin’ wowza.” Mark my words. 😉

The next time it absolutely, positively, has to be read by the right people


Here is a few
ideas for you to
take a look at

Best, Thom

Gerald handed me a FedEx envelope.

“I thought you might be interested in this,” he said over lunch a couple of weeks ago.

Inside was an inexpensive, velo-bound capabilities booklet for a medium-sized firm that does business with companies like Jerry’s independent consultancy—or hopes to.

The booklet was at best, quick-copied at the local office store, and bound with a clear vinyl cover sheet. Might even have used their own office printer. Didn’t cost more than a dollar and a half in all.

But the FedEx envelope got opened in Jerry’s small, tight-knit office, known for tossing out anything from a vendor they don’t have a relationship with already. (They’re not big on change.)

The receptionist took one look inside at the note, hand-written on half-sized stationery, and placed the envelope at the top of Jerry’s mail.

Jerry’s meeting with Thom next week, although—did you guess it?—he’s never heard of him before.


Affordable direct-mail secrets your small biz can use today

1. Express mail packages will be opened, even in the most “closed” office. No gatekeeper wants to throw out essential information accidentally, and even if he or she doesn’t recognize the sender, everyone knows essential information comes in an overnight package.

2. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to impress. (Because the booklet wasn’t what did the impressing.) It won’t be winning any awards for its design. The booklet was cheaply made, and contrary to what you hear about taking tons of time and effort to customize for every prospective client, this one was aimed at the type of firm, but could have been sent to hundreds of firms without a change (and no doubt was).

3. There was no business card in the envelope. Sounds like a minor detail, and maybe Thom just forgot? No way. This was another brilliant part of the strategy. Every gatekeeper knows a business card in a mailer is a sign you don’t know the recipient. Not sending one is one more sign that it’s a solicited package from someone the boss knows. (On closer inspection, Thom’s contact info was printed in a discreet block inside the second sheet of the booklet.)

4. The note. Slipped under that clear vinyl cover sheet. Written on the type of stationery you might use to send a note within the office—nothing flashy. Twelve words in the body, quickly dashed off. Heck, the grammar’s not even perfect. Thom can write a hundred or more before lunch without getting a sore hand. But that’s not the biggest secret…

5. Thom, who knew no one in the office, found out that Gerald goes by Jerry. Correct spelling and all. Jerry can’t figure out how he did that. The entire package would still have gone into the trash were it not for that critical detail—it’s one of the ways the gatekeepers weed out (your) very most convincing mailers.

Simple, and nothing left to chance.

Simple genius.

I had to ask Jerry if I could write about it.

Hey! This strategy’s fatally flawed!

Well, now, I can hear you shouting: “Kelly, express mail isn’t cheap!”

True, true. We’re talking affordable, not cheap.

Darned affordable.

How many mailers do you need to send if every one will be opened and be seen by the exact person you needed to get your name in front of?

Would you rather send 200 postcards that end up in the trash or ten FedEx envelopes that make it to the corner office?

If I were Thom I’d be doing this monthly.

Of course, whether you have something great to say in that inexpensively-printed booklet, that’s between you and your marketing or copywriting team.

You’ve got the ear you wanted. So bend it with something terrific, and then pull up your calendar.

You just might need to set a few meetings.

Would it work on you?

Got any other fresh ideas guaranteed to get your attention? Let’s hear about them in the comments!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

It’s Not News to Natives—Robbins Rocks


Robbins Diamonds billboard, Philadelphia, PA - She's tired of waiting

Robbins Diamonds billboard, Philadelphia, PA—She’s tired of waiting.

Best. Billboard. Ever. Follows all the rules, and yeah, made you look—that’s not her middle finger, gents.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Even Before You’ve Read What He Has to Say!

Folks, run-don’t-walk to When Growth Stalls, the site by ad man and author Steve McKee. He’s doing all right, as the president and founding partner of marketing firm McKee Wallwork Cleveland, so you’ll be tempted to say “of course his site’s great,” but you can steal these ideas right now, without needing to be a Big Successful Marketing Dude.

If you’ve been reading along, these 3 ideas are straight out of the Maximum Customer Experience playbook:

1. Brilliant use of minimalist typography. (Don’t yawn. Go have a look! It’s stunning.)

2. Dead-on, “I-gotta-have-what-he’s-selling” tagline.

3. Completely clear navigation. Simplicity itself. So use it, and go read his blog.

And yes, yes, you’re going to love the When Growth Stalls blog. We all need a dose of straight-up writing like Steve’s, daily.

Then c’mon back—what did you think of When Growth Stalls, before you even read a word of his great blog? Have you got a favorite site you love to steal borrow ideas from?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

A Monday Series

Last Monday you walked the grounds. You’ve kept busy this summer with projects that have made a difference to your business in so many ways. This week, walk with me, deep inside one online Experience, then get ready to examine your own in the bright summer sun.

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Review Your Online Experience

So there’s this website that I’m a “member” of.

1. I hate when they say that. It sounds so bloody pretentious. It’s not a country club, for goodness’ sake, and if it were, I wouldn’t be a member anyway. It’s an email harvesting campaign. Just call it that.

I sometimes like the articles they write. So I “registered” (agreed to be harvested). Now and then they send me an email alert. I trundle off to read something ultra-fascinating once a month or less. The email says, “click here to read the full article.” When I click here, they pretend they don’t know I just came from the email they sent me, which means I am a doggone member.

2. Your emails will be smarter than this. When you harvest me, you’ll know you did, and not send me to some idiot landing page, pretending I just wandered in off the street. It’s so cold, man. I thought we were buddies. Just cold.

There I am, on the “landing page.” This is 2.0-speak for “time waster we hope won’t annoy you so much you click away, because we’re counting your clicks right now.”

It’s an endurance test to determine if I am a “true fan.”

I’m not. I’m a sap who likes their writing enough to jump through the hoops.

“Members sign in here: Member Name _______ Password _______.”

I’m kinda old, and I’m kinda busy. I know some of you may have a zillion login names because you have online stalkers dying to pilfer your massive bank accounts, and a sheet to decipher your codes so you can remember who you are where, but I’m a simple lady. I couldn’t remember all that, and I don’t want to. I’ve got only a couple of possibilities, all obscure, and none written down anywhere. In fact I only have more than one because a stalker did indeed attempt to cause me grievous electronic harm, and I had to diversify. So I type in my preferred membership name, and my password.

Here comes the punchline.

“Error: You did not enter your email address properly. Email Address _______ Password _______.”

Every. Effing. Time.

3. If my email address is my Member Name, and you CAN tell me that on the error page, why DIDN’T you tell me that on the sign-in page? Do you really think I stand, back against the wall, for you to ask me to dance each month, and that I will know what you mean by “Member Name” because it’s all been a breathless wait for you? That nothing might have pushed the memory of how to navigate your login out of my head in the meantime?

Wasting (potential) customers’ time: Bad. Making customers feel stupid: Worse. Ignoring the easiest fix in the world (what’s easier than phrasing it so I know what you want from me?): Absolutely incredible.

In case you were wondering: After the steam finished coming out of my ears (that would be, after I wrote this far in the blog post), I went back and gave them what they wanted. I logged in successfully.

Guess where it took me?

To a landing page with the title of the article, and the words, “click here to read the full article.”

I am not making this up.

Website or blog, logins or forms—What’s your online experience like? How many hoops do you want me to jump through?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

(If You’re Using Them, That Is)

These Signs Aren’t Doing Their Job!

Whether you’re a bricks-and-mortar store or simply have a little sign on your business card (yes, that’s a sign of sorts, all you work-from-home folks), there’s something here for you to think about.

What’s the job of your signage? To be readable, clear, interesting, and memorable. To begin the Customer Experience. If I can’t read and understand it, don’t care, or can’t remember it when I’ve driven three blocks, it ain’t working. That, folks, is your money flying out the window. From large scale to small, we’ve got it all today:



Pig billboard:


Taku billboard

They’ve been up for a while, and I drive by them every day. I’ve tried, but I just don’t care.

Lesson: Make it relevant, and not too darned clever. Give me a hint! There isn’t enough information on either of these to make me want to know more.


LED Signs

Crabcakes: led signage


Patience: led signage

It’s not the message, it’s pure design here. You may think these are close to unreadable, but unfortunately my camera has made them appear far better than they look in reality. The insane color clashing of the first and the outlined type of the second both vibrate when you see them on the street. Until I stopped to take the photo I didn’t know what the second one said. It’s that bad.

Lesson: If you must have an LED sign, please, make the type very, very simple. Calling to ask my advice? Don’t get an LED sign.


User-Unfriendly “Signs”

Close door, then lock: bathroom sign

Sign in all the bathrooms at my local library. (There’s a sign on the outside of each door instructing us to knock, as if this weren’t enough.)


Don't put cash in here: car wash sign

At a nearby car wash, you’d better pay first.

Two things are going on here, and only one has to do with possibly stupid users. The other has to do with the businesses who must make these “for dummies” signs: I don’t know why the manufacturer made a lock that’s so hard to understand, but why did you buy it? If you didn’t realize all the trouble it would cause, but you do now, why on Earth don’t you replace the locks today?

For the coin-op car wash, it’s even simpler: fix it!

Lesson: People of all ages, abilities, and languages will use your facilities as you grow your business. You do want plenty of customers, don’t you? Keep things in good repair, and be accessible to all so you won’t need “Hey dummy” signage. Aggravating your customers is not best business practice.

Hat tip to Steve for another great example of restroom signage, and to Amy for a lively discussion of professional life and the potty. How could I say no to putting up my signage post, when the signs were written in the ether?

Seen any good ones in your town? Wallet-sized or wall-sized, what does a sign have to do to blow you away?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. I’m usually mum about my schedule, but let’s not kid ourselves: tomorrow I’ll be in the birthplace of this nation as I always am (if I’m within driving distance) on the 4th, soaking up the history I love so well. Harry, I wish you were here to give me a tour in style.

I’ll be around today of course, but if I’m kinda quiet tomorrow, my apologies; you’ll just have to meet me on the Parkway.

I Love ‘Em But Their Website Makes My Skin Crawl!

After Today, You Can Have a Better Site Than a $250 Million Company

Disclaimer: Go Daddy is VisionPoints’ web hosting company. I think they’re superb. Their customer service is top-notch. That is a big part of Experience Design, especially in the beginning of a relationship with a company whose doors I will never set foot inside. If you’re just a little tech-y, but don’t have a resident tech guru, you’d never want to go anywhere else.

This is about their user interface (the website you and I see and try to use), a huge part of their Experience Design after the relationship is established, and about making sure you will never, ever put up a website like it for your business.

Breaking All the Rules

The site is a classic example of what not to do. It’s crowded, it’s crazy, it’s unfocused, and it’s discouragingly difficult to use, even when you’ve been a customer for quite some time.

Go Daddy home page

“Hello? I’d like to buy the racecar driver on special for $1.99. Thanks.”

When you try to use a feature it gets even uglier, as randomly-sized menus seem to pop up from almost anything you roll over on the homepage. This does not get better on interior pages.

Go Daddy with menu

Wildly confusing menus pop up and are difficult to get rid of. They can get in the way of the action you were trying to take (Log Out, for instance, is below a menu you must carefully avoid on some screens). And now I can’t even see the nice lady who has nothing to do with web hosting.

On my 17″ laptop, an arguably standard size screen to design for, this disheartening mess continues way “below the fold” (below where you have to scroll), where only information I don’t necessarily need should be placed.

Go Daddy below the fold

See the racecar drivers’ faces? Next to them (under the menu) it reads: “New to Go Daddy? Not sure where to begin? Our Product Advisor is your personal guide.” With a big arrow leading from their faces. Is Dale Jr. going to teach me about Go Daddy? No matter. With the dark color, pop-up menus, and thousand other things grabbing your attention on this page, you’ll never notice the bar anyway.

On every page, some menu items are repeated in various locations, leaving the viewer always wondering if they are choosing the “right” version of the task they want to accomplish.

What Rules?

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Three rules in three areas. Follow these and you’ll have a site that puts Go Daddy’s to shame:

From a graphic design standpoint: What do your customers need to see?

Visual focus: clear Purpose jumping out at the viewer

No clutter

Aesthetically pleasing (yes, good looks count)

From a usability standpoint: What do we need to function?

Ease of reading

Logical progression through navigation

One location for each action

From a sales (marketing) standpoint: What do we need to read?

A hierarchy from headline to details, leading to the action I take next

Benefits to me (the Ideal Customer)

Straight talk, no jargon or confusion

Oh, boy, a debate!

I think they’d be making sales a lot easier, and post-sale satisfaction a lot higher, if this part of their Customer Experience were a lot better. Heck, I don’t think there’s any way to go but up on this.

Let’s debate this for a minute. Not whether they’re functioning in spite of themselves (they’re making plenty of money, no doubt)—whether there are benefits to what they’re doing.

For instance, are they actually being told that this terrible user Experience is somehow the right thing for them to do? Go Daddy has the money to hire me and any other Experience Designers they choose. So why is their site so horrid?

Is there any reason why they need to be so awful, from a business standpoint? What do you think?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


If you haven’t read yesterday’s article, no one has found the post where I make a reference to my age yet. There’s a prize involved for you, but there’s only six days left to find it! Why not click here to read the rules, and take a Whack at it?

Wait, Is This Another Meme?

Brian Yerkes, Owner/Creative Director of Brian Joseph Studios and graphic design blog author, is writing (curating, really) a post about the Business Cards of Bloggers. I’ve recently talked about what I do for a living here at MCE, and I thought this rare Sunday post might tie in pretty well with that.

VisionPoints, The Experience Designers, Wilmington, Delaware: Business Card

Kelly’s card. You can write, email, or call me.


There’s something in it for me (and for you, too): Write a post, showing your own business card, and Brian will put the image and a link to your post up on his blog. I think you, dear reader, might enjoy getting your business card shown among the zillion others he’ll soon have up, so if you write a blog and have a business card, click here to read about his technical requirements and put your own post up!

If you don’t have a card, what are you waiting for? To get out more, you’re going to need one—so figure out what you’re all about, then have one designed and printed right away so you can get into Brian’s gallery and so you can hand it out as you wear out your own shoe leather!

Whaddya mean you don’t know what you’re all about? Haven’t you been reading along? Catch up this afternoon, and subscribe to the Maximum Customer Experience Blog (top left!) so you don’t miss another moment.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


P.S. If you’re inspired by this to do a post of your own for Brian, do put a link in the comments here. I’d love to see what your card looks like!

Hot Trends in Customer Experience

Colors, Themes, and Bandwagons to Jump On and Get Inspired By

Having railed recently against the don’ts of dated design concepts, I couldn’t leave you all hanging. Herewith, the ideas that are shaping business right now. With a pencil and your Moleskine, take this list and brainstorm: How does Project Runway relate to what you do? Can the unbelievable viral phenomenon of Free Rice or Webkinz take your business to the next level? What are hot librarians doing to revitalize a staid non-profit model—is it a Meatball Sundae or a real reinvention?

How can you make these trends timeless, and make them your own?

In no particular order:

Trust (Short-termism at Trust Matters, How to Make Your Tuesday Super at Chaos Scenario, Bad Customer Service at Men With Pens)

Customer Engagement (hint: work on the human aspects of Customer Experience first!)

Project Runway (you get it or you don’t)

Turner Classic Movies (esp. TCM Underground Fridays, their web design, and graphics)


Free Rice

Dennis Hopper for Ameriprise

Dunkin’ Donuts



Keith Ferrazzi

the 1940s



peacock (this just in: very slick use of peacock at the redesigned Chris Brogan)


Hot Colors for SMBs





paper bags

Human Sigma

table tennis (Olympic trials in Philadelphia)

librarians (check out Library Crunch and David Lee King

space travel

active retirees

dark chocolate

Webkinz (much to my chagrin)

Tata Motors’ Nano car

Canadian bloggers (Buzz Canuck, [one of the] Men With Pens, and IttyBiz, for starters)

giving back (pros from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, more pros from Fast Company, and cons from Thomas Sowell.)

tech backlash

sharing your PowerPoints with the world

List of Banished Words

Make My Logo Bigger Cream

Moleskine notebooks (Paul at Idea Sandbox has them systematized)

We Feel Fine

Hugh McLeod


and finally, for everything I missed, The Essentialist

Let’s hear from you: What fresh breezes are helping you build your business right now?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson