Marketing Strategy

A Canon landing page: the user experience

Landing pages are of vital importance to any campaign with a web-based call to action. They’re the part of the process that answers the potential customers when they express interest in what you’re selling. You want to get them right.

I recently saw a commercial for a Canon PowerShot camera, advertising its new low-light photos feature. I was interested. I went to the URL shown at the end of the commercial.

It did not go well.

Finding the page

In online campaigns, this isn’t a problem. If you’re coming from an email or an online ad, all you need to do is click on a link in order to get there. Remembering the URL isn’t a problem. But with a TV spot, your URL is only shown for a couple of seconds. It’s easy for someone to forget what it is, or not remember it completely.

The URL for this landing page is canon.ca/itstime.

When I was at my computer, I couldn’t remember whether I saw the spot on a Canadian channel or one of the national American ones, so when I first entered the URL, I went to canon.com/itstime. That page doesn’t exist. Of course, I figured then it was probably canon.ca, but some people may have given up there. If it were me, I’d have taken the 30 seconds it takes to ask someone over at the Canon U.S. site to redirect the URL, or put something there. I’d also have redirected URLs like canon.ca/itistime to this one, just in case. The idea here is simple: people will make typos or remember the URL wrong, and not realize it. In cases where it’s easy to catch the error, catch it and keep the visitor.

Flashy, flashy… loading… Flash

Upon arrival, I was immediately disappointed. The landing page was Flash. OK, so I’m a web marketer and developer myself. I have reasons to dislike Flash, and the average person may not notice or care. But what the average person would and does notice is the consequence of having such a site. When I got there, after several seconds of nothing but a blank white page, I was greeted with this:

Well, more loading time. But hey, at least they’re nice enough to give me some rough idea of how long I’m waiting by giving me the percentage of how much has loaded. A few seconds go by, and I get this:

So, more loading, then? I guess that “100%” I saw a few minutes ago meant they had loaded a new loading symbol to show me. Neat. I can’t wait to see what happens next. The moral of the story: either use fast-loading Flash, or better, use text and images.

What was I here for again?

After about thirty seconds or so of combined loading, I got this:

Now, I came to this site because I saw the PowerShot commercial, so at least this little wheel thing started on the PowerShot. But my question is this: if I came here from a commercial for a camera, why am I looking at a printer and other things? Obviously this page is being used for multiple ads, but why? The landing page should be targeted to whatever it is that got me here. I should be kept interested… give me a path to follow.

While admiring the nice Flash-y features of this little page, my mouse wandered. As it did, these products began to spin, and getting back to the camera was more challenging than it should have been. Sometimes, point-and-click is better. Back on the camera, I pointed. I clicked.

Awesome. … Let’s wait a few more.

Who are these people? Do they look like cameras to you? Are they even holding cameras? Maybe they’re posing for a photo. Am I supposed to have a camera? This site isn’t helping me get a camera. I guess I’m supposed to click on one? I go to hover over one, and here’s what happens:

Oh, I get it. The people are features!

Look, I’ve been working in web development for years, and there’s something important I’ve learned about designing an interface. The user isn’t inside your head. They may not immediately clue into what you want them to do, or how they’re supposed to find their way around. Your job is to make that as simple and painless as possible. If I, a web developer, am not completely clear on how to get where I want to be on your site, then there’s a problem.

Ok, so which one of you is the low-light photos feature? I already feel like I’m in trouble, because I saw the Fisheye Effect commercial, and that’s not the same guy from the commercial. After searching, it turns out to be the kid in the cape from the back. This may be the same kid from the commercial. He has similar hair, but different clothes. Ok, what do you have for me, kid?

Hey, look, I made it. There’s a little description of what the feature does, but it doesn’t really tell me anything new. But whatever, now I can see what cameras I have to buy to get it. Or I can watch the commercial again, which is like the “you lose, go back to start” of this whole thing. Let’s click on a camera.

I got impatient waiting for all the pieces of this thing to load, but that spinning loading wheel eventually turns into more colours, and then another wheel appears, which eventually turns into accessories.

This screen has a nice little buy-a-camera feature that I like. That’s something that should have been on the first screen.

Well, that’s embarassing

I went to go visit this in Firefox, which cached my results. So, when I wanted to take screens of all of the happy loading pages, I opened IE. Here, I learned something interesting. This landing page doesn’t even work in IE! In IE7 and IE8, on two seperate machines, I got the percentage loading screen and then a blank grey-shadow background with nothing else. Nothing.

Also, and this may be partly just my ADD, but I twice forgot I was using a Flash site and clicked my browser’s back button when I ended up in the wrong place. When that happens, you have to start over. Just to rack up another point against Flash sites.

What have we all learned?

What can we, and Canon, learn from this landing page? To sum it up:

  • If your link has to be remembered, catch potential URL errors andĀ misspellings with redirects.
  • Flash can be costly in terms of resources. Loading times are no fun, and visitors lose interest.
  • Flash also messes with the normal browsing paradigm. Better not to use it for entire pages.
  • Closely target your landing page to its campaign. If I came because of a specific product or feature in a commercial, take me right there. If it were my ad, the low-light photos commercial would have ended with canon.ca/lowlight, and taken me right to that feature and the cameras that supported it.
  • Don’t make me guess anything. I don’t know which person the camera I want is hiding at. I’m not here to play games with you, give me a straightforward path to my goal, which just happens to be your goal, too. We both want the same thing: for me to buy a camera. Why is it so hard for us to get there? Put the option for me to buy a camera on page one, and every subsequent page. You can narrow down the choices as we go, but there should be a clear path.
  • Test your site. Seriously, if your site doesn’t work in IE, you have problems.
  • Remember what landing pages are for, and build shorter paths to that end

This experience did not result in me buying a Canon PowerShot camera, and I was unusually persistent in finding, or rather fighting, my way through the site. Even if this campaign turns out to be relatively successful and people go buy these things in stores, or even online, it could be doing much better.

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