About Meghann Porter

Digital Marketing Director

Improve UX with Customer Experience Mapping

Marketers are great at gathering data on customers: it’s an integral part of the job. But as Smashing Magazine says, “Data often fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools in business is the customer journey map.” When you’re looking for a deeper level of insight into what makes your customer tick – especially from a user experience (UX) perspective – the customer experience map is the perfect tool.

Putting the customer front and center

A customer experience map outlines the customer journey from the initial contact through the process of learning and engaging – and into long-term trusted relationship with a company. It identifies key touchpoints and the customer’s perceptions and questions during those touchpoints, which helps marketers convert data into a story to share and use throughout the organization to improve UX.

There is no set template for what a customer experience map looks like. The most important thing is to remember to include both analytical and anecdotal research for a robust representation of what the customer goes through.

The anatomy of a customer experience map

Choosing a layout for your customer experience map

A customer experience map is basically a visual representation of a customer’s flow, their needs, wants, expectations, and overall experience as they navigate toward a particular goal. The right layout will depend mainly on the amount of content that results from your research, how simple or complex that information is, and where you want to place the most emphasis.

For more information on how to make sure your customers are having an exceptional experience with your website, check out our in-depth guide, UX Demystified!.  

North Carolina Doctors’ Day


The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) is the largest physician organization in North Carolina, devoted to representing the interests of physicians and protecting the quality of patient care. Established in 1849, the NCMS has more than 13,000 members.

The NCMS reached out to Signal to design a campaign to tie in with the observance of National Doctors’ Day on March 30. The NCMS wished to take the opportunity to make North Carolina doctors feel appreciated and remind them of their invaluable contribution to their state. The objectives of the campaign were to create excitement and give patients, health care staff and members of the public an opportunity to express gratitude to NC physicians and “show them some love.”


Creative Concepting

The Signal team brainstormed a number of campaign concepts and decided on a new, homegrown tradition: North Carolina Doctors’ Day. To mark the event, the team recommended that the NCMS sponsor a 2015 North Carolina Doctor of the Year Award, allowing patients and the public to honor great physicians. The NCMS would also donate a $5,000 grand prize, to be used to further the winner’s professional mission.

The Signal creative team developed a NC Doctors’ Day logo and the tagline: “Great doctors. Grateful patients.” The messaging captured the open, appreciative and social nature of the event – and created alignment across multiple channels.


Signal created a dedicated website, www.ncdoctorsday.org, for the event. The website educated visitors about the event and the NC Doctor of the Year Award. It also allowed members of the public, patients and colleagues to nominate doctors for the award using a quick form. It also featured profiles of the top ten finalists that visitors could vote on – and announced the winner on March 30.

The site was done in the same fresh, fun color palette and look as the logo. It also featured a social “Wall of Gratitude,” showcasing the latest posts, tweets and news about NC Doctors’ Day – all in real time.

NC Doctors Day Microsite

Social strategy / promoted social ads

The Signal team created Facebook and Twitter pages to promote the day, gather nominations for the award and votes for the finalists. They also put together a detailed social strategy for the NCMS team to deploy, which included a weekly editorial calendar of posts, tweets and ads.


The NCMS partnered with a number of co-sponsors – organizations in the medical and healthcare industries – to increase awareness about the event and create buzz. To support the partner component of the campaign, Signal created a customizable partner toolkit, containing information on the event, key messages – and sample posts, tweets and press releases. The toolkit was featured as password-protected content on the microsite and it also included downloadable graphics for partners to use.

  • Doctors' Day Partner Marketing

  • Doctors' Day Posters


  • Media coverage from 23 sources across the state, including both General and Specialty media
  • Nearly 71,000 website sessions over an eight-week period
  • More than 19,000 participating voters
  • 17 sponsors signed up to help NCMS support the event
  • Social media exposure, including more than 35,000 referrals from Facebook
  • Searches for “NC Medical Society” doubled compared to last year

Using Video and Animation to Make Your Emails Dance

creating movement in emailDid you know that 72% of U.S. consumers say that email is the top way they like to receive marketing promotions? The email is a known quantity that customers trust. Marketers have helped cement that trust by giving customers the control, allowing them to manage email preferences and unsubscribes. Marketers respect customers’ permission – and customers get offers and information they actually want. Email is also a win for marketers because it’s so measurable and email’s ROI is highest of all marketing channels. Email is still a critical tool in any marketer’s kit.

So, how can you deliver a fresh element to your users’ inbox? Add motion to your email content to make it more dynamic and engaging. Although email marketing still relies on external links that direct users to a “learn more” or “act now” destination, advanced HTML capabilities allow more engagement with content directly within a message. Lively movement can help connect and captivate the user in the scant few seconds they spend with an email before moving on.

3 ways to incorporate movement into emails

Nothing helps with emotional engagement like a little movement. Even simple animations can drive increased engagement and conversion rates. Try one or all of these methods to add some movement to your email marketing.

  1. Go video. In the past, the best option was a still image with a play button overlay that linked to an actual video. Now, it’s possible to embed real videos in email with HTML5. HTML5 is an open standard, supported by many email clients. A simple HTML5 <video> tag will incorporate video in email without the need for a pesky 3rd party plug-in that can spell deliverability issues. Some forward thinkers are even incorporating video backgrounds in email. If you’re going to try a video background, be sure to include a fallback image so it degrades gracefully.
  2. Pick animated GIFs. The animated GIF can be used to tell a story, demonstrate a point, draw attention to the key message or show products. Just remember to make sure it’s intentionally placed and well designed. Keep in mind that not every email client supports animated GIFs. Many won’t show animation, so be sure to include vital information in the first frame of the GIF just in case. This great example shows how an animated GIF can be an attention-getter and demonstrate product features at the same time.
  3. Experiment with CSS. CSS animations in HTML emails, a fairly new innovation, open up a world of possibilities and can really bring your message to life. The downside is, they’re not yet widely supported. The Signal team is seeing that Macs using Mac Mail and iPhones are the devices that are at the forefront of the trend. Some webmail clients do support it but you need to be on a Mac and using Chrome or Firefox. This grid from Campaign Monitor goes into detail for each CSS selector and what browser/email client supports it. If you know you’ve got an audience of loyal Mac users, it’s something to consider trying. This great example from Litmus showcases the power of the CSS animation.

You only have a few seconds to capture users’ attention before they move on to the next email. So think about email as an experience and add some movement. The excitement will lead to increased engagement and get your customers excited about your brand.

Google Is Focusing on Mobile Usability. So Should You.

Google: Fix mobile usability issuesHave you ever tapped on a search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself scrolling sideways to see all the content – or pinching in to see tiny text and links? It’s a frustrating experience – and Google has been experimenting with ways to improve it. So if you’ve been putting off mobile updates, you’ll want to listen up! Here’s what you need to know now.

Are your websites mobile-friendly?

As far back as June 2013, the search giant introduced a penalty for sites offering a bad experience to mobile users. Today, the signs are clear that a new mobile ranking algorithm is about to launch, one that could give a boost to sites that have earned Google’s mobile-friendly seal of approval.

For Google, a mobile-friendly site is one that avoids software that is not supported on mobile devices, like Flash. In addition, any text should be easy to read – in other words, you shouldn’t need to zoom in to make it legible or scroll across the screen to read a sentence. Google also says buttons or navigational links should have an appropriate amount of space between them so that the correct one can be easily tapped. Sites that meet Google’s criteria receive a “mobile-friendly” label in the mobile search results in an effort to guide users toward a better experience.

google mobile-friendly label

If you want to see if your pages meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, check them with the Mobile Friendly Test. Even better, you can find mobile usability issues across your entire site with the recently launched mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools.

Optimize for mobile now – or lose rankings

In recent weeks, Google has been sending mass notifications to webmasters whose websites are not mobile-friendly. These emails, sent via Google Webmaster Tools, warn “These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.” Webmasters are then advised to fix these 6 key mobile usability issues to remain visible and relevant to users. Here’s a copy of the email sent to webmasters:

Google: Fix mobile usability issues

Time to take action!

  • If your sites aren’t mobile-friendly, you risk turning a majority of users away.
  • A bad mobile experience will soon impact your rankings in mobile search.

If that’s not enough to get you moving on mobile usability, consider this. Mobile usage has now eclipsed desktop usage worldwide. It’s not a question of whether mobile search is important – it is, and search engines are the most common starting point for mobile research on purchases.

A deeper look at users’ expectations found that 61% of people said they would quickly move on to another site if they didn’t find what they were looking for on a mobile site. And 67% of people indicated that they’d be more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site. This isn’t surprising news to anyone with a smartphone. Making your site mobile-friendly turns users into customers, and that’s really the bottom line here. 

Your Emails Need Responsive Design

Responsive EmailThere’s a big shift in how people are consuming digital content. Everywhere you look, people are scanning their mobile devices – while they wait in line, at the coffee shop or on public transportation. Software company Litmus reports that 51% of emails are currently opened or previewed on a mobile device, and the trend is only increasing. Responsive emails – designed to provide the optimal experience on different platforms – are now a marketing must-do!

Why it’s time to incorporate responsive design 

How to make your emails responsive

Remember MailChimp’s mantra “one eyeball, one thumb, arm’s length” when designing mobile emails. This means that your email should be easily readable with one eye; links and calls-to action usable with one thumb; and any text and visuals large enough to be taken in at arm’s length.

These additional tips from our team can help make your emails are attractive – and effective.

  • From names – Limit “from” names to 25 characters.
  • Subject lines – Limit to fewer than 50 characters and make sure they are useful and specific. Incorporate timely topics and a sense of urgency for more oomph.
  • Preview text – Keep in mind that the first few lines of your email are critical! The preview, around 100 characters, will show along with the subject line in the mobile inbox. Make sure it grabs readers’ attention and interest.
  • Font size – Avoid minuscule text. Make sure that your font size is legible for mobile reading.
  • Images – Only use essential images and make sure they are crisp, small and don’t take too much time to load.
  • Colors – Strong-contrast colors will be easier to read in bright light. Avoid white text because some email clients don’t support it – and you could be left with white text on a white background.
  • Sections – Think beyond the column. Use good header text, dividing lines and numbered paragraphs to help with scanning and navigation.

Some examples we love

  • Ten for Today features super-clean design, great use of dividing lines – and it even tells you how long it will take to read each article.
  • Pinterest’s welcome email is much like Pinterest itself: bright, colorful and friendly. This example features actionable chunks and great call-to-action placement.
  • When you’re letting people know about an event, take a page from the Kikk Festival, whose email has great use of color and image.
  • This Behance newsletter features a masterful combination of copy and design. And it does a killer job of transforming the magazine-style webpage into mobile.

Don’t forget great content!

Now, pair your awesome design with awesome content for maximum impact. When creating content for mobile, remember to lead with what’s most important, in case someone is just scanning. You want a clear and concise message that someone can grasp in a glance. Remember to put your call-to-action near the top of the email, so it cannot be missed.  

3 Quick Fixes to Boost Conversions

Your website is your organization’s face to the world. It’s where you interact with your audience – and where potential customers find and learn about you. A full website redesign is the best way to keep things fresh and functional…but what if you don’t have the budget? The good news: small tweaks can have a big impact on your bottom line. Here are three “conversion tune-ups” to increase your website’s effectiveness at less cost than a full overhaul.

1. Rethink your conversion funnel

Your website is critical to directing the conversion of potential customers into paying customers. There are a few things you can do to help make sure the flow through your funnel is healthy.

  • Build a landing page now. An effective landing page creates a focal point for products or strategies you’d like to emphasize, allowing you to capture your prospects’ attention and compelling them to take some action – in one trackable location. The landing page focuses visitors’ attention on one key goal: clicking your call to action.
  • Use good lead generation mojo. Think you know lead generation? Incorporating the following can help get customers to provide their info: putting lead gen forms “above the fold” so customers notice them; adding a short video to speak to the user; and making good use of white space, so that people aren’t too distracted from the call to action.

2. Be smart about UX

How good is the experience your website creates? UX (short for user experience) refers to the totality of what the user encounters:

  • Visual design – how it looks and feels
  • Interaction design – how it works
  • Information architecture – how it’s organized
  • Content – what it says and how it sounds
  • Functionality – what it does.

So, how do you get smart about UX? Good UX means your website delivers an experience that aligns with your brand, fulfills a need, is easy to use and is appealing. The quickest way to improve the UX of your website is to perform usability tests with real users. Have a facilitator test a handful of users, one at a time, on tasks like these:

  • Use our website to find information about our new product offering.
  • Ask other members of our community some questions about the offering.
  • Sign up for a webinar about a specific topic.

Say your users have a hard time navigating your site. Or find some of the graphics distracting. Or don’t connect with the product content as it is written. With just a little time and effort, you’d have a list of concrete changes to make that would better serve your audience.

3. Do A/B testing

A/B testing is splitting website traffic between two versions of an element (A and B) to see which performs better. And it can help you raise $60 million. No, really! During President Obama’s 2008 campaign, his Director of Analytics tested combinations of media (a photo or video of Obama) and copy on a button (“Join Us Now,” “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” or “Sign Up Now”). He measured which combination resulted in the most sign-ups and found that a photo of the whole Obama family and a button reading “Learn More” meant 40.6% more sign-ups with an average of $21 in donations per sign-up. Result? Serious donation totals. Even through the Obama story is a few years old, the concept still holds true today: test to see what works best and reap ROI benefits.

Elements you can A/B test include:

  • Call to action color, copy or placement
  • Headlines
  • Website layout
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Keywords

There you have it. By implementing a few of the tune-ups above, you can take your website performance from OK… to out of this world.


Top Trends in Web Design

A great website is an experience. It strongly influences how you feel about a company or product and can move you to make contact – or make a purchase. At Signal, we’re always keeping an eye on the latest in web design that helps our clients stand out online. These are the cool new trends we’d like you to know about now.

  1. Video backgrounds: similar to large imagery, using video backgrounds on a website brings your message to life in a big way. Nothing else has the sheer impact of a video background, which provides inspiration and captures the essence of your brand – without words. Two examples we love: Spotify and this Eastpak microsite.

    video backgroun in web desig - spotify

  2. Interactive infographics: Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. Interactive infographics have features that allow a visitor to explore the data, offering more detail on mouseover, panning or zooming or different views. This technique is well-suited for timelines, evolving data or multiple categories. It also is a great way to tell a story, like Google’s How Search Works.

    interactive graphics - google

  3. Parallax scrolling: with this design technique, background and foreground layers move at different speeds, taking the visitor on a 3D journey – in a two-dimensional browser window. Why it’s effective: Technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3 make it possible to create impressive, memorable stories. This awesome website traces the making of the movie Life of Pi.

    parallax scrolling - life of pi

  4. Large images: large photos or graphics are fast replacing sliders in the “hero” area at the top of a website, like Facebook’s new Paper page. And large imagery is so effective at capturing attention that some companies aren’t just jazzing up the hero area – they’re filling the entire browser window, like the Roux at Parliament Square restaurant or the Harrison Grierson construction company. The images are the message.

    large images web design - facebook

  5. The print magazine look: Magazine-style web designs take a page from the print world, taking a trend from content marketing to turn your product or brand into a full experience – complete with bylined articles, sections and stunning photos. This design style is a natural for the web versions of print magazines such as The New Yorker. But it also translates well in other instances, such as this magazine-style page for AIGA, the professional association for design. Creating a magazine-style website is no small design and programming task but it gives your online presence some serious weight in the cool category.

    print magazine trend - aiga

  6. Iconography: using icons to communicate key information quickly. Recognizable icons help visitors navigate, process information and locate calls-to-action. Icons are great for providing visual interest and reducing the words on the page for a simple, attractive look. And people are very familiar with icons from widespread use. Iconography is also great for drawing attention to products, services, menus or features – and for use in graphics, diagrams or supporting calls to action.

    iconography in navigation - phytech

  7. Fixed navigation: the main benefit of the fixed (or “sticky”) navigation bar is ease of access to core content. No more scrolling to the top required – the fixed navigation bar lets the visitor move about the website, regardless of where they are on a page. It’s fast and it’s popular. The non-profit Acumen has a nice fixed navigation bar (and cool, interactive parallax scrolling effects, too).

    fixed navigation - acumen


Thinking Beyond PowerPoint
A Marketer’s Guide

A well-crafted business presentation can persuade your employees to support a new strategy – or your customers to buy your product. It pays to spend time looking at how you’ll showcase your messages and stories. At Signal, we help our clients create high-end presentations. And we often get asked about the differences between the three major presentation platforms – PowerPoint, Prezi, and custom browser-based solutions. Here are three easy steps to help you decide which solution is right for you.

Step 1: Know your advanced alternatives.

PowerPoint is the classic presentation package that has become the corporate standard. Even though it has a reputation for being a bit humdrum, it’s entirely possible for PowerPoint presentations to be creative and compelling. They just need a professional design touch to avoid those “bad PowerPoint” pitfalls. But when you need to take your presentation to the next level, today there are new options.

Prezi is an online (cloud-based) presentation and storytelling tool that uses a single canvas instead of slides. Prezi’s zooming user interface, or ZUI, lets users pan and zoom through the virtual canvas, offering a new way to emphasize ideas and show relationships. This great example transcends bullet points to create an effect that’s similar to kinetic typography, or animated moving text.

Browser-based presentations tell a story within your browser window, using tools such as HTML5, Javascript, CSS, and video to create customized, interactive user experiences. HTML5, in particular, is a step up from the limited functionality of basic HTML. It offers consistency across devices, fast navigation, and a more seamless, modern look. This Citi microsite is an awesome example. And this John Deere site, designed by Signal, showcases how a custom presentation can wow visitors.

Step 2: Consider the pros and cons.

What are the usability and logistical implications involved in choosing these advanced alternatives to PowerPoint? Take a look at the pros and cons of Prezi and browser-based presentations.




  • Some users already familiar with it
  • User training is part of the software
  • More cost-effective than HTML5, due to lack of coding
  • Faster creation time than HTML5
  • Can be downloaded to a device like an iPad, and run on a Prezi app


  • Limited design and functionality based on built-in Prezi controls/features
  • Users must save new versions when they make revisions – the lack of built-in version control can cause confusion


Custom browser-based presentations


  • More robust design, functionality and content options than Prezi
  • Better user experience on web-based platforms
  • CMS-based tool means no version control issues



  • Training / agency assistance required to create presentations in this format
  • Requires hosting on a web-based server
  • Can be used without an internet connection, but not as “clean” as Prezi (files must be installed and not just run on an app)
  • CMS coding/development means it takes longer to create a presentation
  • Less cost-effective than Prezi

Step 3: Present yourself with the right questions.

All three platforms allow you to incorporate text, graphs, images, sound, and video – but there are differences in basic functionality. What works best for your needs? Ask yourself these questions:

Thinking Beyond PowerPoint

We hope that you found our guide to be helpful. Remember, sticking to PowerPoint doesn’t mean you can’t breathe new life into your presentation! There are also a lot of new directions you can take beyond PowerPoint to deliver your message in creative and compelling ways. If you’d like to discuss your options in more detail, please feel free to get in touch.

New Research on Memorable Infographics

You only have a few short moments to capture a potential customer’s attention. And an infographic – a visual representation of data or information – is a great way to swiftly convey your message. Infographics can showcase thought leadership, highlight differentiators, influence employees, and even help you “own” a particular space or therapeutic area. These popular, shareable visuals are clearly an important communication tool. But with them popping up everywhere, what makes an infographic stand out?

New research shows that our minds unconsciously receive a surprising amount of visual detail in just an instant. So an infographic’s memorability can enhance its effectiveness. The recent article “The Secrets of a Memorable Infographic” looks at this connection, based on the more than 2,000 images that made up the largest scale visualization study to date. Below is a summary of the article’s key points.

What makes an infographic memorable – or not?

  • Recognize it and remember it. Many infographics contain “human recognizable objects” that we see in everyday life – photos, body parts, icons, animals, or foods. With good reason, because these images make for the most memorable visualizations.
  • Colorful is better. Researchers found that infographics using more than six colors were more memorable than those with few colors or those in black and white.
  • We like to see a lot going on. Visual density or “clutter” is often frowned upon, but done right it can actually boost memorability. Complex infographics showed an advantage over more minimalist visuals. And rounded shapes were an added bonus, increasing memorability.
  • Bar charts are a no-go. Surprisingly, basic bar charts and graphs suffer from overexposure. We have a hard time distinguishing one bar chart from another.

Are there other infographics keys to success?

Memorability can be a powerful edge, but still an infographic is only as good as the data and strategy behind it. As with any other marketing communication, Signal recommends that it should be based on:

  • Good planning
  • Thoughtful strategy
  • A solid understanding of your audience
  • Strong, aligned, approved messaging
  • And accurate, meaningful data and information.

With these things covered, we find that an infographic serves as a great piece of snackable content: bite-sized and designed for easy consumption!

Creating memorable infographics that are aligned with your strategy may mean the difference between your communication moving customers to action – or getting lost in the fray. Content marketing expert Joe Chernov tells how he was so impressed with an infographic on which fish are safe to eat that he carried it in his wallet, consulting it at restaurants. Now that’s an effective infographic!

Please ask questions and share stories in the comments section. And if you’d like to learn even more about content marketing, see our Life Sciences Marketing portal page for case studies and other content specifically written for marketing professionals in your industry.