Our Interview on AMA St. Louis – Marketing Mavericks

Check out our founder Erik Lutenegger’s interview with AMA St. Louis – Marketing Mavericks that we recorded a few months ago.

Prefer a transcript? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t worry we cleaned up the uh’s and um’s.

Nick Niehaus: Are you losing business because of how slowly your website loads? It’s a more common problem than you might realize. I’m your host Nick Niehaus. And that’s what we’re going to be talking all about with our guest today on this episode of Marketing Mavericks. I’m really excited to be talking to one of my good friends, Erik Lutenegger, who is the founder of Tenacity.

Nick Niehaus: So, Erik, thank you so much for agreeing to join us. 

Erik Lutenegger: Yeah, Nick, thanks for having me.

Nick Niehaus: Well, I’ve been looking forward to this. I know we talked just a few weeks ago for the hundredth episode of the Bourbon Friday show, which is where we got to know each other. Over the past few years, it was a lot of fun.

Nick Niehaus: So looking forward to, to sharing more of what you do with, with our audience here in, so when we started, right, right, right. Exactly. You get a little peaking out in the back there like that. Well, so to start off, tell us a little about Tenacity. What do you guys do? How does the business work? Let’s just start there. 

Erik Lutenegger: Sure. So Tenacity is a web development company that really sort of, focuses on performance optimization and open-source software. What we really want to do is make powerful, performance-driven websites for basically almost any budget. And we’ve been doing that for about six years now, and we’ve serviced everybody from a Solo entrepreneur up to G1000 companies.

Nick Niehaus: Wow. That’s awesome. Let me ask you this, and I want to follow up on something there. You mentioned sort of for any size company, any size project. I know that. It is not the case for a lot of web development firms where they sort of want to focus on, you know, $20,000 plus projects and work with really big companies.

Nick Niehaus: Is that, you know, is that sort of, part of your, your business philosophy that it’s important to work with some of these smaller companies? Or why do you still feel that you want to work with companies of all sizes? 

Erik Lutenegger: I think it is really important to be able to work with smaller companies because a lot of these people, coming out, they’re not really sure what they should be doing on the web and they’re making a lot of easy mistakes and maybe working with an agency, somebody that has, you know, 20 years experience or more, could give them an advantage, like when first starting out or help them sort of taking it to the next level where they just never were able to do that by themselves. So I think that’s really important and, you know, we’re sort of building some products around that sort of feature. We were building out the sort of maintenance plans, which would just give you access to us. You know, even starting at $300 a quarter, that would give you only an hour, but still, you’d get that sort of hour of time with somebody that has so much experience and has, you know, somewhat of a creative eye, I would say.

And, and being able to like bring down the sort of expertise level. I’ve learned that working with Fortune 500 companies, down to just a solo entrepreneur or just a small company or startup. 

Nick Niehaus: Wow. Yeah, that’s awesome. I think that’s, you know, it’s funny cause we, we work with a lot of small businesses as well and you know, and I’ve been a small business owner for years.

And so I’ve been this person as, as I say this, which is. It’s funny how easy it is to get lost spending hours and hours and hours of time, trying to figure something out on your own, thinking that you’re saving yourself money. Right? 

Erik Lutenegger: Of course. 

Nick Niehaus: So sort of under completely undervaluing your own time, you know, so you are spending 10, 20, 30 hours on YouTube trying to figure out how to build your own work or not even build your own site.

But really usually, it’s like fixing one really specific problem. And you get lost in these rabbit holes. So that’s awesome. And the bill, the ability to kind of tap into a, you know, especially a really experienced, expert when it comes to this stuff. 

Erik Lutenegger: And one of the things that I do talk about there is sort of this idea that, well, what do you have, do you have more time or do you have more money?

Nick Niehaus: Right.

Erik Lutenegger: Maybe, you know, if you’ve got a lot more time, maybe one of these website builders is the right move. You, if you, but if you have the money, you know, paying a professional is just a great way to level-up 

Nick Niehaus: Well, right, right. And a lot of these same companies, I mean, they’d probably make the same argument to their customers.

Right. So something as simple as take our own advice, you’re going to save yourself a lot of hassle here. Well, so let’s, let’s dive into the, to those, those specifics a little more. Cause I love this idea of being able to help people, obviously on a range of basis. What are you seeing are some of the main problems that people are having when they’re getting into site design?

Let, let’s start with the small businesses. Obviously, I think there are probably some significant differences between them and the big ones. But so when we’re talking to small businesses, what are some of the things you’re seeing that they are there? What are the mistakes that they might currently be making that you see most often?

Erik Lutenegger: Sure. So a lot of times in small businesses, they’re not really thinking about any of the technical aspects of performance, for sure. They aren’t thinking about that because a lot of the builders and what people have access to will just allow you to put any image up there and do whatever you want, basically, whatever you want.

And so that is going to sort of like increase these download speeds. And if you look at any of the research, any delay, In the way your page loads, you’re seeing, either a drop-off of users or a decrease in revenue. They were even, I want to say it was Amazon for every 0.1-second delay, in load time, they were seeing a 1% drop in sales.

So yeah, you’re seeing, and you’re seeing this across the board. The other thing that I think that we help people with is sort of this idea of credibility. And, and there’s a lot of surveys out there. And I think the number is somewhere around, 40% of people, that come to a website are sort of judging the credibility, your credibility as a business, just based upon the design of your website.

Now, my guess is that it is just a survey result that it’s actually everyone. Right. Everyone, when you’re coming to a website, when you’re seeing what that thing looks like, if it doesn’t meet a certain standard of quality, you probably aren’t going to do business with that. 

Nick Niehaus: Wow. Yeah. That’s I mean, that sounds like a significant issue.

And I think, you know, both of those, it’s funny how I think as a small business owner, it’s easy to overlook, especially the load time, right? Because that’s one where you’re always going to have the patience to let your own website load. So if it takes, you know, a couple of extra seconds, you’re probably not thinking about how frustrating that is versus anybody that comes to visit you, you know, is, and, and that, that number from Amazon is crazy.

I mean, it might not be the exact same for small businesses, but yeah. Distinct, right. I mean, just a few seconds, right? Somebody clicks a button, they click from your Facebook page to go check out your site and it takes, you know, five or six seconds to load and you just lost, you know, 30% or so of those people.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. So what do you need? I mean, you mentioned the whole idea of like people putting, you know, pictures or videos that are just simply like maybe way too big. What are some of the fixes? And I’m not expecting you to tell us the bad. What do you see as things that people are really screwing up that are kind of the easiest problems to solve?

Erik Lutenegger: So the easiest problem, especially around images and this one gets brought up maybe a little bit more than I think it should. But it is the one that everybody kind of at least tells you, Hey, pay attention to this. Because it’s the easiest one for sort of the novice user to manage. You’re just … All you’re doing is making sure to optimize your images.

And what that means is sort of just learning enough to put that image in the optimal format for your website. So if you don’t need a, you know, a 20-megapixel image on your website, don’t put a 20-megapixel image on your website. Additionally, there are different sorts of like compressions, that rates that you can use.

And some of them, some of these builders, are doing that. WordPress doesn’t necessarily do that. Which is primarily the area we work in. But there are plugins that allow this just to sort of do this kind of thing automatically. So just knowing that that thing exists will help you, and make you actually cognizant of that if you’re putting a five-megabyte image on your website. Like that just is going to make it take longer.

And the thing that doesn’t get mentioned, I mean, as you said, we don’t, as business owners, we don’t necessarily think about how long the website loads. And I think it might even get worse than that as business owners because I mean, it’s, especially now, we’re here in the pandemic, and we’re all working from home.

We’ve all upgraded our internet to basically be nearly as fast as it can be. And so we’re seeing something at a very high rate of speed. And this is definitely true, for sort of like the Fortune 500 crowd where they are working out of office buildings that have fiber and have always had fiber.

And I’ve had fiber for, you know, 10 years. They’re not necessarily thinking about, well, somebody might be connecting to this on their phone and if it doesn’t load fast and work well on a phone, I mean that traffic keeps getting more and more and more every single year, and it’s going to continue.

Everything is moving to mobile, obviously. Right, and now voice and, and that kind of thing. But, so it’s just sort of like thinking about how is my user actually going to interact with the site. What can I do to improve that experience as much as I possibly can and to make it make sense, you know, you sort of talk one of the other things we sort of look at.

Yeah. When we look to evaluate a website, is, does, do I even understand what this company does when I come to the page? Recently we were looking at a prospect’s website, and I’m like it, I just told them flat out in the initial meeting, I was like, I don’t even know what you guys do. And sometimes people work with marketing speak and that kind of thing.

And don’t actually say, Oh, we’re an accounting company. We do audits, you know, it’s, it’s crazy. 

Nick Niehaus: Well, so that’s a great point. Cause I was going to ask you about the credibility aspect of all this a little bit more. I mean, you know, that’s an obvious example, right? It may be just not making it clear, especially at the beginning.

Like, you know, we talked about in marketing, above the fold, so like what loads. Automatically on their screen before they actually have to scroll. And that, but it’s funny, cause sometimes, you can keep scrolling, and you still can’t figure out what the company does. So when it comes to credibility and obviously being more direct about what your company offers, that sounds like it has a large impact.

What are some of the other things that you’re seeing that undercut that credibility once somebody arrives on the site? 

Erik Lutenegger: Well, I think a lot of this comes down to, Consistency. And just your overall design, why everything starts to look the same on the web is sort of like everybody is worried about, well, everything looks the same, right?

Well, web design has matured to a point where. There is a language of the web, you know, whether that’s the hamburger system … you know, hamburgers for menus, the three lines, if you didn’t know, that’s what I’m referring to for menus and that kind of thing. So the language of the web has matured, and the farther you get away from that.

That’s where you’re going to start seeing problems. The other thing that I see people make a mistake on, especially when you’re trying to use your website … less as a sort of like the, what we would normally call something like a brochure where one of the things, like I said, the language is important, but also just having a call to action, making sure that people can.

And figure out how to reach out to you in the easiest way possible and the least steps possible. Now, additionally, on the reverse side of that, you might want to create sort of, maybe psychological barriers in, in, in those sort of contact things. Things like w you know, we’re currently working on a website and evaluating our, you know, our own, you know, we will probably put on there, you know, what is your company revenue.

Right. And you do that because you want to at least make it clear that their business is important to you as well. But it also provides a barrier like, well, I, I’m not going …, it may drive away. Some companies, but that’s why we’re also creating these other things that are more direct services to a client.

You know, it’s sort of like big projects. We want to make sure that we’re a good fit for the big project, or like full-size projects, but these smaller, different service-based things that are like easy decisions need to be easy decisions for people. 

Nick Niehaus: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And I like it, it reminds me of a campaign we ran a few months ago.

Where we were advertising for people that wanted to have their YouTube videos edited. And we had no barriers to sign up. Right. I mean, we, we know the marketing approach. We had the landing page, and everything lined up and all that. And then we probably should have had a barrier because we had lots of 12 year-olds reaching out to us. Since then, I need my YouTube videos edited, and we’re getting on the phone with these kids.

And we’re like, this seems inappropriate. You know, like, I don’t know what’s going on. And obviously. Yeah. It’s not the clientele that we were trying to attract. But in hindsight, you know, it was an interesting experience because we realized, you know, yeah, there’s a bunch of young people that really want to get into YouTube and, and they’re actually a significant portion of the population that’s searching for these things.

And if you aren’t clear when they arrive on the site that, you know, Like, for instance, a lot of them thought we were going to do it for free. That, that part, I don’t understand. We had prices listed, but you know, you can call and ask, I guess. But that’s a great point. It is sort of thinking through, you know, on the front end, do you want to make it as easy to, to click that button and take that next step as possible, but then you may also want to consider adding some qualifiers or asking for a little bit extra information, and you can really dial in sort of the number of leads you get, but also the quality of the leads.

As a result, so that’s really cool. Let me ask you this, this sort of follow-up on that. When you say you want to make it easy for people to contact you, does that mean that you want to give them a list of different ways to contact you? Or is there sort of a flow or process here where you’re trying to get them to take a really specific action?

Which of those seems to work best in your extreme? 

Erik Lutenegger: Sure. So I think it’s a little bit of both. So first it’s sort of all of these things, these call to actions, those kinds of things. You want to make that clear and easy to reach out, especially for specific things like landing pages and that kind of thing. Make that as easy as possible, but within your qualifiers, the other thing that I would say is easy things like a contact button, an email address, all of these things you might, might yeah, you want to use, but the thing is somebody needs to be on the other side.

Or at the very least somebody, there needs to be a voicemail for the phone, that phone that, you know, that is properly set up and branded for your company. So that again, credibility factor, right? It’s just sort of this balance, which is where chat comes in. Right. 

I’m still considering whether to add that to the next version of the Tenacity site. Because you know, we’re a small staff, is somebody actually going to be there to do that. And you can deal with some of that with bots and sort of like this sort of AI conversational thing, that’s available. But you just have to make sure that anything that you are providing to your user, that you will be responding to it and can respond to it and have the resources to respond to it. 

Because like landing pages, people are probably like, oh, well, they’ll contact me in a few days. And that’s fine. Phone, that person wants an answer now. Right. Texts, you know, if you wanted to do that. And certainly, that has become sort of in vogue with Gary Vee and a lot of sort of influencers having their own text platform. Right? So they’re expecting sort of this immediate response. And if you can’t provide that, that hurts your credibility.

Nick Niehaus: It’s so easy I think especially for small businesses to think of these things as sort of set it and forget it, right.

It’s like I put my site up, you know, I got to design correctly, and now it’s just going to drive business to me. And there’s always the next step. Right. I mean, you know, even, even when something, you know, once somebody’s a client and now, they’re you trying to retain them, right. Or you’re trying to get them to come back and purchase or send you referrals, you know?

In many cases, a sort of lifelong experience, a relationship you’re building. So I love the idea of really making sure that you know, whatever it is you’re asking people to do, you’re ready to handle it. Right. You’ve got the systems. Yeah, because even, I mean, you mentioned the landing page opt-ins, we work with a lot of real estate agents, and people still are. They expect immediate responses, right?

Cause they can always go to the next website or the next company and submit their information, and whoever contacts them first will probably have a good chance of getting that business. So it sounds like, you know, some of these other components kind of having those in place is important.

Let me ask you this, Erik, is that something that you can help businesses set up, or do you have partners? You can kind of refer them to. Past the website, and it gets more into like the email marketing side of the follow-up side of things. 

Erik Lutenegger: Yeah, definitely. So typically, we are working with, whether it’s directly with sort of founders and startups and that kind of thing, or their teams.

Typically, we’re working with somebody that is really in charge of marketing for that organization. And that’s who we primarily are dealing with at the company. And all of these will have. Systems that maybe they’ve already set up. Whether it, you know, it’s a MailChimp, ExactTarget, or whatever these things are, these mail systems.

But then what we look at is how do we integrate everything on the website with those systems, whatever systems you already have, especially in the case of a redesign, where somebody is sort of spend enough time to build their first website. And they’re sort of building out the different pieces of their marketing mix, and they just need to figure out, well, how can all of this connect?

And we definitely do work on that. 

Nick Niehaus: Very cool. Yeah. I would assume that that’s obviously, especially when working with bigger teams, probably a lot of moving parts kind of coordinate and get all integrated. Correct. Well, I want to, I want to shift gears just a little bit here. Yeah. Erik, and talk a little bit bigger picture kind of conceptually about the internet in general.

So I’m curious to hear your opinion on this. The idea of walled gardens on the internet. Right? Cause I think, you know, there’s, the internet has a history at this point it’s been around long enough. There’s been kind of different phases. And obviously when it, when it first emerged, you know, everything was individual websites, right.

And we spent all of our time kind of, you know, the fun of like hunting around and discovering different sites. And now you have these major players that tend to be really incentivized to keep people on their platform. Right. Facebook, you know, they don’t want you to leave. And if you include a link outside of Facebook, that post won’t even go anywhere because of how strict they are.

Same thing with YouTube, same thing, Twitter, et cetera. So one of the debates that I’ve seen over the past few years is sort of this idea of, you know, our websites losing significance, or should we be focused more on our social accounts versus the sites and all that kind of stuff. So I just want to kind of get your, your, your thoughts on that is where, where do you see things going?

I mean, is this a, is this a problem? Are we seeing less traffic to websites, or do you think that you know websites for these businesses will continue to have the same sort of functionality moving? 

Erik Lutenegger: Hmm. It’s an interesting question. I think that websites will continue to be a way for a company to put all of their information out there in one location.

Right. I do see sort of some of these things where it’s like, well, no, it’s just Facebook or YouTube, really. Whether you’re talking about direct monetization or referral monetization. You see that for sure, where there’s no focus on a website at all now. Is it a good idea for that YouTuber or to have a website?

You know, maybe, they don’t need it. And if their business is good, the way it is great, but maybe they need e-commerce. Yeah. You’re also seeing in these platforms, they’re starting to add that little component where you can sell directly …, on there. So I do think that it is important, especially when you get into, medium-sized companies.

And certainly, when you’re talking even small businesses in brick and mortar, that might be your first contact. Like that might be. Somebody is on Google search. They, they go to Google to search. Now they might find you on Facebook because of advertising or your various marketing campaigns.

But Google is almost like virtually everybody. It’s the first stop when they’re looking for something specific, with the exception of now, Reddit. Which is actually sort of like it’s like Google, Amazon, and Reddit for buying decisions. 

Nick Niehaus: Hmm. Interesting. Yeah. I didn’t even know. Reddit it was such a, I mean, I obviously, I know they’re a massive website, and there are reasons to use it all over the board.

It sounds like… 

Erik Lutenegger: Well, I, much to my failure, or maybe it’s just the time commitment that it requires. It is something that’s on our list of things to get to, but I just haven’t gotten to it. But yeah, I was very surprised that Reddit was this buying decision thing. And I think the premise is because of sort of it being anonymous that people.

Sort of taking those opinions, to be better and more authentic. 

Nick Niehaus: Interesting. Yeah, you would. I would have thought it’d be the other way around. Right. But that’s the internet. It’s all about anonymity, and in a lot of ways, it seems. 

Erik Lutenegger: right. But I mean, you look at Amazon and, you know, you can get one of these, you can go on Amazon and find a five-star reviewed product, but are those reviews real?

Sure. You know, no one knows, but if you’re on Reddit and somebody is actually communicating with you, you know, that’s real, right? 

Nick Niehaus: No, and I definitely get that. Cool. Well, let’s see some of the think about obviously is considering putting a little more thought or, I mean, I know Reddit even has an advertising platform that we’ve toyed with a few times and definitely driven some productive traffic.

So definitely something that…

Erik Lutenegger: I don’t have the statistic, but basically the majority of Reddit users. Totally. Okay. With interacting with brands, not just people.

Nick Niehaus: That’s cool. That’s awesome. Well, good side note to look into obviously the opportunity on Reddit, and I mean, sort of back to the original question here at the time about this idea of walled gardens.

And I think that one part of it that I think a lot about is the idea of an owned versus a rented audience. Get your thoughts on that too? Cause I think that’s a major reason to continue to think of like a website independently, but yeah. W How do you kind of interpret that side of things?

Erik Lutenegger: Yeah. I mean, it certainly, it is the who owns your data. Right? Do you own it? Who owns your website? Do you own it? I mean, it’s still … that’s a question with some of these builders. I mean, that’s one of the reasons we use WordPress. It’s like, no, you own it. You own all of it… Yeah, you might have little services here and there that you might need to transfer out of if you’re not happy with it, but you own the thing, you own all your data, versus, well, you know, what’s, what’s the saying is like, if it’s free, you’re the product, which is, you know, Facebook for certain.

So I think that I’m starting to lose my train of thought. Sorry. Yeah, I do think that. I apologize… I’ve lost my train of thought right now. 

Nick Niehaus: That’s okay. Yeah. We’re just talking about the, you know, the difference between the rented versus the owned audience and, I think, moving forward.

Erik Lutenegger: Yeah. Yeah. And there is also, yeah. Sorry. Now, I’m back on track. So there is sort of this push to first-party data, right? And especially with companies that work internationally with GDPR, where their privacy is, much privacy is much more strict than here in the United States. In the United States, our privacy is as far as tracking and all of those other things.

Really bad compared to other countries, and we’ve only dealt … we have a few clients that do work internationally. And we’ve had to deal with a little bit of that, but if you’re keeping all your data or you’re using a platform that is key, you still own all the data, and they’re not sharing it out there.

Sort of what I think of here is Google Analytics. Everybody uses Google Analytics, but Google also uses Google Analytics. To do all of these different things and evaluating your website, or how they’re adjusting for their own services. So I think it is important to really own that data. And sometimes, you also have to balance that cost-benefit, like, well, I can’t build that thing and it exists for free.

So I guess I have to. 

Nick Niehaus: Yeah. And, and I think we’ve, you know, we’ve seen a lot of, well, we’ve put a big focus in the past couple of years on collecting emails. Right? Cause the advantage there is that you can communicate with those people and there are no restrictions and nobody can ever, I mean, they can unsubscribe.

Right. Which is how our data protection should work. If we don’t want to be targeted anymore, we should be able to say no, at least in my opinion. But that’s a big difference there. Right? When you have the contact information, and you mentioned texting earlier too. And I think those are those two to me are becoming the sort of the other side of the coin, right?

Because you’ve got, you got your social followings, those are all great. But how many times have we heard examples of people getting their accounts shut down? Even shadowbanned, you know, because whatever one random thing they said, maybe it wasn’t even offensive but got flagged by an algorithm. Right.

And so there’s that versus, you know, when you have that contact information, even if you’re, you know, yes, you’re sending it through a particular tool or platform, but as long as you’ve got that, that list saved somewhere, you could shift to any other platform and still communicate with your audience. So I think to me that that obviously is one.

A major aspect of websites that I think will continue to be super important. Another question I have for you is as we move forward here, Erik, I mean, what do you see? What do you see as the trends on websites in the next few years? I mean, is there anything you’re sort of seeing the early examples of that we might want to keep an eye on as, as an option to have an advantage when it comes to using our website?

Erik Lutenegger: Sure, and you’re already starting to see it quite a bit for some of these larger platforms; obviously dark mode, is a thing. People are, especially now, we’re online more than ever. And you know, and I’m very concerned about the blue light and, and whatever it, whatever it is or eyestrain, and certainly dark mode, adding that to sites is starting to happen, just not just on these giant platforms, but on your own website.

The other things, right now, sort of the hot button issue, is this sort of Google has updated, their algorithm to include performance optimization or to include site speed. Now they say it’s to improve the user experience. In my mind, it’s probably to speed up the processing of their indexing, but either way, the benefit still is for everybody.

And so they’ve, they’ve added these different metrics too to their page speed index, and they’re called core vitals, the Core Web Vitals. So if you, you can go and look, look for these things, but it’s sort of how your page loads specifically, like how long does the biggest item take?

How long does it take to react? How long can does it take before somebody can actually work on it? And the big concern is, and I just saw the statistic, today that, and I haven’t read the article yet, but the headline was 4%. We analyzed 2 million URLs, and only 4% passed. So that can be even a differentiator, right?

If, if you’re up from. Obviously, relevancy in search is the most important thing, but that could be a differentiator. If you have two different companies competing with each other and one is fast, and the other is not, Google might give you the bump. And then finally, the other thing that I think is interesting, which I don’t know a ton about, but I did load them all up probably to the lack of my security, is voice.

Right. We naturally communicate via voice. You know, its voice has been around longer than text. So it is, it is the preferred form of communication and all of these voice devices, whether it’s Siri, I’m not going to say Alexa without the one triggering that’s sitting right next to me right now.

That’s going to be really important moving forward. 

Nick Niehaus: Interesting. Okay. Well, can you give us an example of that? Cause that’s an interesting point about voice, how do we integrate voice features into a website? 

Erik Lutenegger: Well, it really sorts of in its infancy. Certainly, though you can start looking at. Well, and I, this is probably another thing to even start considering for your own business is accessibility.

And maybe there is a voice version of your website because those lawsuits have already started to happen, right? Those lawsuits have already started to happen where people are suing organizations that are not providing an accessible experience for users. One of the ways you could do that is to create a voice-based experience, for your website.

Now I have we delved, dived into that sort of thing. We have not. So, I can’t fully answer that question right now. 

Nick Niehaus: No. That’s okay. Yeah. I was just curious if there are any cool apps or whatnot coming down the pipeline, but yeah, that’s an interesting point about the accessibility. Cause I mean … for small businesses, it’s probably, not as urgent as for the bigger companies. But, you know, as new tools emerge and as things become possible that weren’t before, you know, you, you will gradually become in sort of violation of these things.

If you’re not continuing to, you know, if you’re not updating on a somewhat frequent basis, I would imagine. 

Erik Lutenegger: And the other thing that they, I mean, if you start thinking about accessibility, A., you could be moving out your business to a much broader set of potential customers, but you’re, you’re also. Feeding Google more information about your site that could be, you know, with alt tags on images, text as actual text on a website, rather than putting your texts and images, … these kinds of different methods that you would use normally just for SEO, also benefit accessibility and vice versa.

Nick Niehaus: Right. No, that’s a great point. Very cool. Yeah. And I mean, that’s one thing, and I’ve learned more about accessibility through some of the friendships I’ve built over the years. And I mean, that, that is always true, right? Is that you’re doing the right thing, but you’re also probably growing your business significantly as a result for multiple reasons, which is, which is a good thing.

So. Very cool. Well, Erik, we are running out of time at this point. This has been fascinating stuff. So thank you so much for sharing all this with us. If somebody wants some help, right? So we probably got a lot of people that are watching this thinking, oh man, maybe there’s a few things I need to tweak or update on my side at this point.

You mentioned a couple of the different kinds of services you offer. Can you sort of recap for us, like, let’s start with maybe do two? So for small businesses, what are a few things you might be able to help them with and how they should get in touch with. 

Erik Lutenegger: Sure. So I think if you’re a small business and maybe you’ve already built out your website in WordPress, we can help you maintain that thing.

We can also do some hosting that maybe you’re not happy with your current host or maybe you’ve been working with a freelancer or whomever, and you want to take it to the next level. We have these different maintenance packages that give you, you know, a specific number of hours. And then also lets you buy in at a rate after that.

And not just that, it gives you an immediate response than just getting into the long hopper of our timeline. And then the other thing, because we talked about so much about performance audits, the optimization, we have a performance optimization package that is just $500. And from there, we can go and vastly improve by almost any, WordPress-based website.

And you know, we also do custom work. Of course. If you have a new web redesign project coming up or just this small project, we do that as well. And you can just find us at tenacity.io. 

Nick Niehaus: All right, easy enough. I will give you a testimonial for the performance optimization. Cause you did that for us.

And I think it went from, I think it was about a quarter of the time to load our site when it was. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. So thank you so much for doing that. We really appreciate it. And if you’re considering. You know, it’s a no-brainer, it’s obviously gonna, if you’re getting any kind of traffic at all, I think that’s a no-brainer at that point.

So, well, that’s a little bit of info on the small business side that let’s talk more to the Fortune 500, so to speak. We do work with a few bigger businesses. Is it similar types of things you can do there? Are there, is there any other alternative, is it? Is it different in how you approach it at all?

Erik Lutenegger: No, it is actually quite similar. Obviously, it’s at a greater scale and a greater cost, but it is very similar. We just have packages starting at, like I said, $300 per quarter, but then they go up to about $2,500 a month, which has, you know, a specific set of, I believe it is, 20 hours or something like that.

But that also gives you reduced cost hours, if you want to add projects on top of that. So that maintenance definitely works the same exact way. And then everything else that we’re doing, project-based, is all just sort of estimates and proposals and that kind of thing for larger companies.

Nick Niehaus: Yep. All right. Very cool. And is it still best just to go to tenacity.io for that as well? 

Erik Lutenegger: Yeah.

Nick Niehaus: Okay. Sounds good. Well, to wrap things up here, Erik, I do want to ask you for one more plug, before we go, which is for the Bourbon Friday show/event. Obviously, that’s something that, that we’ve been working on together for quite a while.

So my first question there is, do we have any plans yet for starting to get back together in person anytime in the coming months or, 

Erik Lutenegger: You know, I’ve been considering it, that one’s going to be a hard decision, moving forward. I did talk to Christopher Holt from TechArtista just a little bit today.

I haven’t really discussed restarting that with him. But yeah, I like at this point right now, we’d have to, for sure be outside … to be frank for me, I’ve got to be able to work there all the way up. I mean, as you know, Bourbon Friday is a workday for me too. So I have to be able to work at that location for the entire time until we’re ready to start.

So there’s some complexity to that. I mean, I had, somebody asked me this week. He was like, oh, well, you could just do Bourbon Friday there. You know, you just meet us here at four. I’m like, oh no, I can’t do that. So yeah, no.

I do hope soon. But I think the important thing is everybody go out, get vaccinated, and maybe we can get back to that a lot faster.

I will be attending an event here, this week actually in-person, which is my first one in over a year. So we’re starting to get there, I think. I also talked to the Startup Week group this morning, and that’s in November, and I would hope by November we’re back events in person. 

And, and, you know, and I want to, I know as we have had discussions before, I want to integrate the show into that event. So it really becomes a real thing, a real thing. 

Nick Niehaus: Well, cool. 

Erik Lutenegger: Hopefully, we’ll get there sooner than later, But in the meantime, people can join us on Zoom every week.

I was going to ask that about that. So what’s the best way to get that information if they want to sign up for it, and you can go to any of our social media? Well, we’ll be out. We’ll eat well, you could search on Eventbrite bright for Bourbon Friday, and you should be able to find it. You could probably search Bourbon Friday on Google, and you’ll be able to find it, or you can follow us.

Erik Lutenegger: Any platform at bourbonfriday.show.

Nick Niehaus: Very cool, all right. 

Erik Lutenegger: Wait, that’s wrong. Oops, take it back. That’s the web address. It’s @bourbonfridays, and is for all of the accounts. 

Nick Niehaus: Gotcha… Know, and also make sure to check out the YouTube channel because that’s where all the old episodes are stored as well.

And go watch, go watch my interview. Go watch it. All right. Cool. Well, Erik, we are out of time at this point. I do want to thank you so much for joining, joining us today. Great conversation, and thanks for sharing all this information. All right. 

Erik Lutenegger: Thank you. 

Nick Niehaus: And for those of you tuning in, just to wrap things up, this was our episode of Marketing Mavericks brought to you by the American Marketing Association Chapter here in St. Louis, if you are located or based in the St Louis area, we would love to invite you to join us and become a member. We are getting close, hopefully to getting our events back on track as we come out of the pandemic here in the coming months. But either way, we do also try, as much online as possible, and we would love to invite you to sign up, to become a member of the overall organization.

So if, if you do decide to do so, just go to our website to get yourself signed up, and we’d love to get to know you better through that connection. All right. Thank you so much for watching this week’s episode with Erik. And I hope to see you again on a future episode of Marketing Mavericks. Talk to you then.

We want to thank AMA St. Louis and Nick for allowing us to be part of Marketing Mavericks.

The book Don't Make Me Think

“Don’t Make Me Think” During COVID-19 – Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed what Steve Krug calls ‘The Three Law of Usability’, how people use the web, and website navigation. In Part 2, we’ll be discussing how to clear website clutter, do user testing, and the importance of accessibility.

Cutting the Homepage Clutter

Usually hailed as the most crucial and most difficult page to create on a website is the homepage. 

One of the main reasons this page is so challenging to design is that it needs to include many essential site elements while not being overwhelming. Those elements typically are, but aren’t necessarily limited to, site ID/mission, site hierarchy, search functions, highlights of key content/features/deals, shortcuts to frequently/most used content and site features, and a login/registration form.

To cut through the confusion of designing the homepage, Krug advises that the homepage answer these four basic questions:

  1. What is this site? [Site ID and mission]
  2. What can I find here? [Content]
  3. What can I do here? [Features]
  4. Why should I be here? [Value proposition]

To illustrate the key message of a site, a few universal elements can be incorporated. 

The first of these is a tagline. It’s the no more than 6-8 words found near the site logo that sums up your value proposition and illustrates your differentiating factor. Next is the welcome blurb. Usually located at the top left of the content space, the welcome blurb is a succinct description of the business—don’t mistake this as a space for the mission statement; those are more lengthy. Lastly, there should be a search button or link where users can directly search what they are looking for.

Once you’ve addressed the four questions above, you must show the user where to start (i.e., browse, search, get a free sample, or another CTA).

With the homepage, it is important to test every element. Don’t rely on common assumptions or assume all users (or the ‘average user’) will think like you or your design team. 

The How and Who of Testing

Unlike the more common practice of focus groups, usability testing is about watching how people use something, like your website, whereas focus groups are small groups of people discussing something. 

Usability testing can be done professionally, but usually at a cost that many teams can’t afford. This is why Krug outlines a few ways even small teams can implement usability testing to make their site better. 

Keep the testing plan simple.

Spend one morning a month doing usability testing—having three testers is ideal. Then debrief over the lunch break and decide what you and your team should fix before the next monthly test.

The reason Krug only recommends three testers per session is that the problems faced by a few users will most likely apply to many. And since the goal is to keep steadily improving, you don’t need to uncover all the problems in one testing session. The goal is simply to get actionable insights to improve your site every month.

Usually, you can recruit participants (from social media, Craigslist, etc.) for an incentive of about $50-100 for 1 hour.

During the testing, have as many observers of the tester as possible. It would be best to put them in a separate observation room where they can see the participant’s screen and hear what’s happening in the testing room. 

After each session, take a short break and get each observer to write down the top 3 usability problems they observed.

During the lunchtime debrief, have everyone share the top 3 problems they observed over the three testing sessions. Then, agree on the ten most serious issues and then rate each one on a scale of 1-10.

Often, the solution is to remove or simplify an existing item, not to add more stuff.

When it’s all said and done, it’s important to remember that even a little bit of testing is better than none, and the earlier on, the more time you and your team can save in the long run.

Why It Matters—Mobile and Accessibility

Another thing to consider when designing or redesigning a website is how it performs on mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.). Though this is of greater importance now in 2020 than when the book was updated in 2013, Krug gives a few pieces of advice regarding mobile and accessible design.  

To start, it’s important to note that the principles for usability are generally similar for mobile and web. However, for mobile, you need to design for a much smaller screen, which will require tradeoffs or eliminating some elements.

One way, which is becoming increasingly common, is to start the entire design process for mobile users first, so you’re forced to choose only the most vital content and features, before adding more elements for the desktop version.

For mobile, you can immediately implement a few of these things to increase the usability of your mobile site: 

  • Allow zooming on your website (so users can view elements that are too small)
  • Ensure external links (emails, social media, etc.) bring users directly to relevant parts of the site
  • Give the option to view the full website instead of the mobile version
  • Make each element extremely clear (make things obviously clickable)
  • Make sure pages load quickly

On the topic of accessibility, Krug states that, ideally, desktop websites and mobile sites should be accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities. Even if you can’t afford to develop specifically for disability, you can start with these things. First, fix usability issues that affect everyone; second, try to include disabled users in your usability-tests; next, read up on web accessibility. 

Additionally, there are easier things to fix, such as adding alt text for every image, using appropriate headings, using forms that work with screen readers, and choosing a web template designed to be accessible.

No Better Time than the Present

At the end of the day, I highly recommend reading this book. There are countless insights and infographics that are helpful for beginners and professionals alike. 

Concerning website UX in the time of Covid-19, I would urge anyone looking to make their first site or looking to redesign their website not to wait. There is no telling if or when in-person, brick-and-mortar shopping will ever go back to ‘normal,’ having an attractive, usable, and revenue-generating website now is even more imperative.

Grab a copy of Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

The book Don't Make Me Think Revisited

“Don’t Make Me Think” During COVID-19 — Part 1

Since the onset of Covid-19, there are two things I’ve noticed due to both my lived experience and profession. From a personal angle, my phone tells me my time spent online (just on my mobile device, mind you) has increased by nearly 60 percent. From the professional angle of working at a web development agency, there has been an uptick in clients wanting to update or create new websites. 

At first glance, it may seem obvious why businesses want websites now: for much of the past 18 months, quarantine has restricted people’s access to brick and mortar stores. Digging a bit deeper, though, more clients looking to improve their site are also an effect from the global pandemic: everyone (who can) is spending much more time online than ever. 

So if a customer were to happen upon a poorly designed or maintained website, you are most likely going to lose them, and with that, many businesses’ only source of sales right now.

This prompted me to go back and read a book that I feel would be helpful for web designers in a time where the ‘COVID Website Redesign’ era is in full swing hold. The book “Don’t Make Me Think Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability” is full of useful pointers and methods for improving a website’s usability.

Whether you work in an agency that builds websites, or you are a solo-entrepreneur with a DIY website; hopefully, you can get a few helpful tips from this summary, or even better, be persuaded to grab a copy of this book for yourself. 

The Three Laws of Usability 

I’ve divided the main points of this book into several sections to illustrate the key ideas best. 

Written by Steve Krug, originally in 2000, but more recently revised in 2013, “Don’t Make Me Think” starts with the ‘Three Laws of Usability,’ which will serve as a reference for all other points made in this book.  

The ‘Three Laws of Usability’ are:

  • Don’t make the user think.
  • Make every click an obvious choice with no need to think.
  • Half the words on each page, then half them again.

Essentially, a website makes the grade if who we consider the ‘average user’ (more on that later) can figure out how to use it without it being too much trouble.

How People Use the Web

One of the first ways to go about that is to make the content easy to scan. Krug points out that web users rarely, if ever, read a page top to bottom, relishing every word. We look for specific information at first glance, and if we don’t see it on the first page, we try again on another page.

To make this process less mentally-taxing for the user, Krug recommends a couple of things. Since very few people are going to spend time reading paragraphs upon paragraphs on your site, half all of the words on the page… and then do that again. 

The other recommendation is to lay out pages as clearly defined sections and subsections. Additionally, it is crucial to make more important information stand out, i.e., make the text larger or bolder to draw a user’s eye there first. 

It also helps connect similar things (content, images, etc.) by making them the same size, color, or just physically closer. But that being said, it’s imperative that you do your best to keep pages clutter-free, so all the effort of making things stand out isn’t overwhelmed by unnecessary elements.

Getting Where You Need to Go

Now that the basic page organization is taken care of, it’s time to focus on how users find those pages: the navigation.

In the book, Krug likened the navigation of a website’s navigation to looking for something in a big department store, but with one big caveat. On a website, users don’t get to navigate a website in a physical space where they can see everything, making it all the more important to make it as straightforward as possible.

The navigation of a website serves two purposes. One, to help users find what they are looking for. And two, to help them where they are on your website. And like shoppers in a department store, people navigate through in their own way. Some people like to browse on their own; some like to ask for help first, and almost always, people will leave if they can’t find what they are looking for. 

And though people like to go about browsing in different ways, several things should always be on every page: 

  • Site logo, usually in the top left corner
  • Primary navigation, i.e., the links or tabs to the different pages in the site
  • A search bar, typically on the top-right side of the page

It’s also helpful to note that it’s important to the user to know how they got to a page (via links or tabs they clicked), so leaving a trail of breadcrumbs at the top of the page is imperative for straightforward navigation of a site.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we discuss:

  • Cutting Through the Clutter
  • Usability Testing
  • Mobile & Accessibility
Webs Of Influence Book Photo

#QuarantineReads — Book Review for “Webs of Influence”

Introduction to “Webs of Influence”

In the spirit of continuing our #QuarantineReads series, we’d like to share our insights and summary of another book we’ve read recently: “Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion” by Nathalie Nahai.

This book consists of three main parts. The first is titled Know Who You Are Targeting, followed by how to Communicate Persuasively, and finally, Nahai wraps up with Sell with Integrity. Going forward, I’ll primarily focus on sharing the key concepts in those three sections and then give a brief summary of each.

Know Who You Are Targeting

The primary focuses for this section are how the human brain breaks down information and makes decisions, and how differences in culture, gender, and power affect what people prefer to see during the purchase process. 

When it comes to purchasing decisions, Nahai explains that while there is one brain, there are two systems:

  1. Automatic (emotional): is intuitive and operates below the level of ‘conscious’ thought, also known as ‘thinking fast.’
  2. Controlled (cognitive): is more analytical, deliberate, and rational, also known as ‘thinking slow.’

To successfully convey why someone should be purchasing what you are offering, you need to address both systems.

Additionally, different cultural inclinations and preferences could make a user more or less likely to purchase. So, if you are trying to target other countries, this section would be especially salient.

These factors are based on the Hofstede model. A few examples are:

  • Individualism vs. Collectivism: group preferences vs. individual preferences
  • Power Distance: the difference in inequality levels between people
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity: how closely gender roles are adhered to
  • Uncertainty Avoidance: how comfortable/uncomfortable people are with ambiguity
  • Long-Term Orientation: how people view values and gratification (instant gratification or long term goals)
  • Indulgent vs. Restraint: how much people feel that they have control over their life and happiness

That said, these factors should be used more as general advice and not a strict guide—culture is not static. It is more important to be familiar with and genuinely understand the preferences of the specific audience you are trying to target.

Communicate Persuasively

The second section covers how to communicate your brand message and promotions in the most compelling way. 

This can be done with the content you put on your site and social platforms (CTAs, articles, videos) as well as the design of your site (the colors, typography, and images used).

Starting out, Nahai introduces the two main ways to go about the general concept of persuasion. First is systematic persuasion, when you appeal to a person’s logic or reason. The second is heuristic persuasion when you leverage cognitive rules of thumb. This is usually the more common option due to human’s limited cognitive capacities and how much information we process daily. 

This leads us to the concept of fluency, which means that, typically, people prefer messages that are fast and easy to process. 

To implement these persuasion concepts online, your website, or however else people access your brand or content (mobile, app, or social media), needs to be optimized.

These persuasive tactics can be done in many ways:

  • By using images that are high quality and accurately depict your product or service
  • By grouping important information together (proximity) or by using the same color or boldness for important information, so it stands out (similarity)
  • By making content concise (clear out the clutter)
  • By using certain colors and hues to evoke different emotions

The list above is not exhaustive, but they are the most common ways to relay your site’s information credibly and quickly.

One of my personal favorites is the use of color to elicit specific emotions or feelings. And while these color guides can vary from culture to culture, there has been a sizable amount of research regarding how different colors can influence buyers’ emotions or portray particular messages about your brand. 

For example, one study cites that using pale, unsaturated colors, such as light blue, cream, and grey, are perceived as more trustworthy, benevolent, competent, and predictable than more colorful websites.

Sell With Integrity

We’ll start with the easy part: what you can expect from us.

Speaking of being trustworthy, the final part of this book is aimed at gaining the trust of your visitors and using familiar selling techniques to which that visitors can easily relate.

After a brief explanation of what persuasion is and how it’s paramount not only to understand it, but to implement it credibly, Nahai discusses the six principles of influence by Professor Robert Cialdini. By using reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity, you can appeal to several common heuristics (mental shortcuts) that humans often rely on to influence their online behavior.

Chapters that follow mainly focus on pricing and some of the quirky ways human brains interpret prices and a common psychological model called the behavior chain.

The behavior chain sums up the process of how persuasion is structured over time and what a business can do to keep the persuasive process going. 

  • First, you have to understand how users find out about your product or service and how they access the information you provide. 
  • Next, once customers know about your brand and products, how do you encourage them to interact or take action (sign up for a newsletter or buy a product). 
  • Finally, by creating content with value, optimizing your outreach on all your channels, and following up with customers regularly, you can keep the cycle of trust and persuasion going.


I found this book especially helpful and appealing in the sense that while it confirmed many things I already knew, it also introduced me to adjacent concepts with ease. Additionally, Nahai makes it easy for people with even the slightest background in UX, persuasion techniques, or interest in psychology to understand these topics by including countless graphics and examples.

This book is a must-read for sure! Also, let us know in the comments if you have read this book and what you think about it or if you have any similar book recommendations.

Baby Sea Turtle on a Beach

What is Tenacity?

tenacity – noun

te·na·ci·ty – tə-ˈna-sə-tē

: the quality of being tenacious, or of holding fast; persistence

…but we doubt that you are reading this because you want a vocabulary refresher.


Maybe you’re expecting a ‘welcome to our blog’ post, and in a way, it is. Although, we’d like to think of this more as a first impression. An opportunity to share who we are, what we do, and hopefully, make The Web a better place.

Who we are

While we’re excited to share how good we are at what we do, we’ll refrain from bogging you down with technical jargon, and we won’t give you some lofty metaphor about tenaciousness and web development.

Instead, our aim is this:

We want to show that being tenacious sets us apart and why that should matter for web development.

Honestly, it may feel like the only connection between steadfastness, persistence, and web development is that I just put them all together in this sentence. But once you dive into the trenches of the Web, you’ll see that it’s a living, breathing creature that often raises more questions than it answers.

Socializing, marketing, informing, entertaining, connecting, eCommerce—the possibilities are endless. Do you know what else is endless? The need to improve, appeal, attract, and to be the best. To do that, though, you have to answer questions that haven’t been asked and anticipate problems that haven’t arisen. It’s just the nature of the beast we call The Web.

And that’s what we do.

We believe that every problem has a solution, and that our clients deserve its relentless pursuit.

So, why start now?

Many people who know us, or have happened to visit our site, know that Tenacity has been around for several years now. So you may ask: “Why start a blog now?”

As a company, we are always looking to improve The Web—our site plus the services we offer are no exception. Our hope is that with The Better Web Blog, we’ll be able to engage more easily with individuals and businesses in the web development community, or anyone who is simply looking for answers to, or assistance with, web development challenges.


We’ll start with the easy part: what you can expect from us.

The Better Web blog is run by me: Megan. You can expect to hear from me frequently since I manage all digital marketing and communication for Tenacity. You will also hear from our founder, Erik, from time to time (or any time I need an expert opinion on web development). And we know we wouldn’t be who we are today without our startup roots, so you’ll also may see guest posts by members of the St. Louis startup community.

We hope to provide you with engaging and relevant content surrounding developments and events happening in web design and the startup community in St. Louis.

Additionally, we’ll offer solutions to commonly asked questions about user experience, web design, and digital marketing; and of course, we’ll post updates regarding Tenacity’s goings-on.

All of this being said, we do have some ground rules for how we’ll allow our readers to interact.

We encourage insightful comments and helpful conversations, but Tenacity staff will remove any offensive or explicit remarks. Also, feel free to ask questions and give us advice in the comments, and we’ll respond within a day or two— after all, we are here not only to help but also to learn.

And as always, if you wish to contact us with an idea you have for a project or have a question about our services, send an email directly to our inbox!

Thank you

So here’s to first impressions. We hope you liked what you learned about us, who we are, and what we stand for, and we genuinely hope you’ll stick around to see what we will do.

Welcome to Tenacity, home of The Better Web blog.