I can clearly remember the day I stopped taking my product too seriously. My Chrome browser crashed, for the fifth time that day, before noon. The following appeared on my screen :

Chrome crash Jim dead

for all you non-geek readers out there – please see Star Wars – “The Empire strikes back”

Google got me to like them, once again, exactly at the point when I would normally go back to my Firefox. They were being funny and obviously didn’t take themselves too seriously and this gave me the feeling of ‘it’s OK, it can happen to anyone’, rather than what most users (including myself) usually feel when any software crashes.

This post is about how my company, and other companies, increased traffic and engagement using a most enjoyable method – making users laugh and smile.
Following are five ways we did it:

#1 Fight losing users at critical points

So, the right user has reached your website and guess what? They even like it.  There’s still a long way to go before they actually register, sign up for your newsletter, hit the “Like” button or, god forbid, download something. Most users will turn back when asked for their email address, to connect their Facebook or for their credit card number,. Following some research and lots of A/B testing, I discovered (as did many other companies) that if you make your users smile – there’s a good chance you’ll get them to click.
Here are some great examples of companies that use humor where users are most likely to quit: Appsumo made me subscribe (even though I came to their website without any intention of doing so) by adding a funny label to their subscription dialog –  “Don’t worry! spam is for jerks, and jerks we are not”.

appsumo register

This “Kudos” button which appears in the SVBTLE network blogs (such as this blog) is a great example of taking a fun approach to how most of us feel when trying to figure out whether or not to click a ‘Like’ button – as if it was a life changing decision. The ‘Kudos’ button takes that ‘major’ decision more lightly – it’s caption changes to a ‘Don’t move’ label once you hover over it. And I’m not the only one who stayed, according to ‘Kudos’ numbers.  The fact that hitting the Kudos button doesn’t appear on your Facebook feed later, does make it easier to click,  but it makes the entire feedback experience fun, light and easy to repeat on future posts.

kudos button
In our website, we added a new icon , unknown to standard social media links. It looks like this –

dog Social buttons
The dog button opens a dialog with nothing but a picture of my two dogs. More than 8%(!) of the visitors click it. Adding the ‘dog’ button also raised the number of visitors who click the other social network icons from 2% to 6%.
Registration process – nothing is more frustrating than losing users after they’ve made it to the ‘create an account’ page. Here’s a small but great touch used by WPengine –

wpengine signup

This is an interesting case study of Balluff and the way they increased their conversion rate from 14.7% to 30.7% by using humor.

#2 Increase the time users spend on your website and users engagement

Our current website contains only three pages and hardly any information (hey, we’re still in stealth). The average pages/visit is 2.8 (based on over 5000 visits during the last couple of months) and the average visit duration is 2:20 minutes. This means that most visitors have visited all pages, some more than once. Why? We use jokes and illustrations which cause the visitors to check out additional pages. Having visitors stay longer at your website equals a better conversion rate. At some of the previous websites I designed I was initially worried that using too much humor will keep visitors in the site but not register or download the app. I was proven wrong – there was about 30% increase in the conversion rate. One thing I find particularly interesting is that even ‘serious’ companies with dead serious web sites don’t hesitate to have a funny 404 page. Why? Because they feel they have nothing to lose there and most users will end up closing their website anyway. Most users are likely to close your website after visiting the homepage anyway, and what works for 404 pages also works for all other pages. Here are two of my favorite 404 pages, would love to see more of these.

404Mintmint 404 page

404GitHubGitHub 404 page (and the last StarWars joke for this post, promise)

#3 Make people remember your product

Once you’ve driven traffic to your web site, here comes the next challenge – converting these visitors. It’s a well known fact that most visitors will not register to your service on their first visit, as the number of former visits grows the more likely you are to convert them . In order to achieve that, you want to make sure these visitors remember they’ve been there before. Slick and clean design is great but unless you have super interesting user content, your website won’t cause people to register or stay there.
At Takipi, we extend the JVM to the cloud. We think that’s really exciting and memorable. Apparently, not many share that feeling. During the very first days after establishing the company, we realized that in order to reach users and drive some emotions about the product we’ll have to be less techy. After trying out different options we chose to illustrate bugs and other server related problems as…well.. you know the answer – monsters. Null Pointer is a green astronaut lost in space, Stack Overflow enjoys  listening to her iPad in the bathtub while the water is running… So far, it’s been working like magic. The product isn’t even out yet, but when I introduce myself I get the “Oh, you’re from the company with the monsters!” reaction. Making someone laugh is a great way to stay in one’s mind.

bugs Takipi Humor

Takipi’s bugs

thread Pool Takipi

Takipi’s thread pool

#4 Going mainstream (and getting to bloggers on the way)

One of the main problems most young startups face is reaching large blogs and mainstream media. If you have a vertical product, large blogs will assume most of their readers are not interested. If your solution is for the “whole world”, most large blogs have already written about something similar (yes, you’re special, but they don’t know it yet). Once you create content that is worth watching on it’s own merit (that is – funny, beautiful or inspirational) you’re on the right track.
‘One Dollar Shave Club’ has made it to every blog out there, by producing a hilarious video. Apparently, having a former standup comedian as a CEO boosts marketing .  “Use a bear, if possible” advises Michael Dubin, ‘One Dollar Shave Club’ CEO, in this article about making videos more viral.

#5 Get viral  

This might be the most important reason of all to use humor. Not all products were born equal  and not all products have the same virality potential. Users will share content which is worth viewing in their social networks. Most Kickstarter project videos are funny because they understand that that is the best way to go viral.
Here are some great examples :

dropBox FacebookDropBox blog 

mailChimp Facebook MailChimp Facebook cover picture

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