There are many reasons to test your business name, but this might be the most compelling: names can influence destiny. Studies have linked a person’s first name with chosen career, company rank, even juvenile delinquency. For instance, one study claimed that if you are a woman with a gender-neutral name like Cameron, you may be more likely to succeed in a legal career. There’s even a fancy term for it: nominative determinism.

In business, shorter names are usually more memorable and distinctive than long ones. And, as one blogger observed, IPOs may be more likely with a name under 13 characters. A name that begins towards the start of the alphabet might place you towards the top in local or online lists.

Your business name can be evocative of the kinds of client you serve, your company mission, or what makes your business unique. No matter what imagery your company name is associated with, however, one thing is certain: your name is your calling card.

It’s no wonder Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on studies and consultants when it comes time to name a business. But you don’t need millions to run a successful test. Follow these four tips and you’ll be well on your way to a winning business name.Continue reading

One of the most popular uses for PickFu is to run preference tests on logo designs. If you’re in the process of creating a logo, learn from these past polls and make your tests the best they can be.

1. Decide how much you want to reveal.

Your question is the heart of your PickFu poll, the basic information to which respondents react. When testing a logo, you should consider what, if anything, to tell them about your business or service. Continue reading

PickFu polls are popular among mobile app companies, self-publishing authors, and e-commerce businesses. But these pollsters may be missing out on a helpful strategy: testing creative in context.

What does it mean to test something in context?

In a previous life, I worked in an ad agency. Whenever we pitched an idea for a billboard, we would Photoshop the creative onto a billboard. If we were creating a website layout, we would show the layout in a web browser. Sometimes when we pitched a TV commercial, we would even take a frame from the storyboard and Photoshop it onto a screen.

The same principle applies when you take a creative option, such an app icon, a book cover, or a featured photo, and test it using PickFu. You show that option in the context it will appear to the user, such as on a mobile device, on Amazon, or in a browser.

Why contextual testing works

The respondents to your PickFu poll are real-live human beings. Helping them visualize what you are testing means they can more effectively judge how your options will look when completed.

Think about it: When you look at a recipe, you don’t generally see the finished dish floating in white space. You see it in a table setting. When you shop for a product, you often see a lifestyle image of that product in use — for example, a lamp sitting on a desk, a t-shirt worn on a body, or a car being driven on a road. These images help you visualize eating the food or using the products, and make you more likely to give it careful consideration.

Testing in Context: Mobile Apps

When testing possible mobile app icons, consider contextualizing your icon against on a home screen, or against competitors in your category. Doing so helps users picture the icons on their own phones.

Fypio, a real estate app, used PickFu to test its icons. It placed the icon ideas on the iPhone lock screen and in a folder among similar apps. You can click the images below to see full poll results, including respondent comments and demographic breakdown.

Testing in Context on a Lock Screen

Testing in Context in a Folder

A gaming company also used PickFu to test its mobile app icon in context and included a larger shot of the icon itself alongside the home screen.

Testing in Context on the Home Screen, with Detail

Mobile apps aren’t limited to testing icons, however. This game wanted to see how users felt about two UI options, so it contextualized those options on a phone.

Testing in Context on a Phone

These two mobile companies wanted to test a button design, so they placed them in the context of their other buttons so that users could judge the icons and buttons as a set.

Testing in Context in a Set of Buttons

Testing in Context in a Set of Buttons, Example 2

In all these examples, poll respondents are better able to visualize how mobile app designs will look on a device. This may help yield even better insights on how to iterate and proceed.

Testing in Context: Books

Authors often use PickFu to test book covers. Displaying the cover designs in multiple formats, as the author below did, may help readers think about your designs where they’ll live – on an e-reader or in an Amazon store.

Testing in Context for eBooks

Since authors want to know what images seem most clickable, another idea is to test cover options among competitors in their Kindle categories.

You could also mock up your cover designs to display how they might look in an Amazon listing.

Testing in Context: Websites and E-commerce Stores

Websites and e-commerce stores can also benefit from testing in context. Show interface designs in a web browser to help respondents visualize. Want proof that it’s a good idea? I googled “blank web browser” and came up with tons of image results from stock photo companies. Grab one for yourself the next time you test a layout.

You can also test social media profiles in context, as this PickFu user did for an Instagram bio. By placing the bios in the context of its Instagram images, respondents can better judge what they like. Just remember that you should always only test one thing at a time, as this user did. By keeping the imagery the same, the only variable is the text of the bio.

Testing in Context: Instagram bio

Summary

Testing in context helps users visualize your creative options as they will truly be seen, whether it’s online, on a mobile device, or among other images.

Just like a recipe uses a table setting or a lifestyle image show a product in use, testing images in their context creates a more holistic experience for a poll respondent than an isolated image might.

Mobile apps have a variety of ways to test images in context. It might mean showing a UI on a phone or displaying an icon on a home screen. You could also test icons or buttons in a set, such as in a file folder or among your already existing buttons.

Self-publishing authors can test in context as well. Think about settings such as your Kindle listing or in related results to ensure your book cover truly stands out.

Websites, e-commerce stores, and social media profiles can also be tested in context. Doing so gives the respondents helpful cues to understand your designs as they will ultimately be seen.

One last thing

I used PickFu because I couldn’t decide how to title this blog post. In less than 15 minutes, I knew what to do. Find out what respondents had to say about why the title “Why Testing Your Creative in Context Is a Smart Move” was the best of the bunch!

When conducting a PickFu poll, one of the biggest benefits is accessing an audience of people who have no familiarity with your product, logo, book, or whatever it is you’re testing. They approach the question without bias… but as the poll creator, do you?

Avoid these common mistakes and poll respondents will answer openly and honestly.

Mistake 1. Leading words

Your question may include a positive or negative bias — words that consciously or unconsciously lead the respondents toward a certain kind of answer.

Examples:

• How much did you enjoy this YouTube video? (positive bias – implies that the viewer enjoyed it, and leads respondents to answer more favorably)
• Should responsible parents vaccinate their children? (puts respondents on the defensive by insinuating that parents who do not vaccinate are irresponsible)
• A recent poll found 80% of Americans disagreed with this government policy. How unhappy are you about this policy? (negative bias – not only is the question phrased negatively, it also includes a statistic that shows many unfavorable views, leading the respondent to feel as though he or she should feel that way, too.)

How to fix it

Remove leading words and phrases and structure the questions as objectively as you can:

On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, please rate this YouTube video.
• Do you think children’s vaccinations should be required?
• Please rate your level of agreement with this government policy.

Remember, biased questions lead to biased results. And if you’re using polling to make important business decisions, you want your feedback to be as objective as it can be.

Mistake 2. Making assumptions

Sometimes questions include an opinion. For example, “Do you agree that dog owners should be able to walk their dogs off-leash in the park?” This assumes that dog owners want to walk their dogs without leashes, which may or may not be true. But by including this assumption, you are leading more people to respond in agreement.

Further examples:

• Is your favorite color blue? (assumes the respondent’s favorite color is blue)
• As long as nobody minds, is it okay to smoke indoors? (assumes that nobody minds)
Where do you like to party? (assumes respondents like to party)

How to fix it

Structure your questions around facts, not opinions. Make sure you’re not painting respondents into a corner so that they can only answer one way. In the first example, it would be better to ask, “Do you think dog owners should be allowed to walk their dogs off-leash in the park?” Similarly, these questions eliminate assumptions:

• What color do you like the best?
• How do you feel about smoking indoors?
• What do you like to do in the evenings?

Mistake 3. The double-barreled question

Sometimes questions ask about two disparate things. These double-barreled questions do not make good survey questions because respondents will often only concentrate on the one topic that means the most to them.

Examples:

• How do you feel about our two new flavors, French Vanilla and Hazelnut Cream?
• How have teachers and students responded to the new dress code?
• Which title and subtitle do you prefer?

How to fix it

Double-barreled questions should be separated into two distinct questions and polled separately from one another. When questions are worded similarly in a multi-question poll, it’s also good to distinguish them with underlined words or italics, as below:

• How do you feel about our new flavor French Vanilla?
• How do you feel about our new flavor Hazelnut Cream?
• How have teachers responded to the new dress code?
• How have students responded to the new dress code?
• Which title do you prefer?
• Which subtitle do you prefer?

Creating better PickFu surveys

PickFu focuses on preference testing. This means that in general, you’re testing options against one another, not necessarily open-ended or yes/no questions. Therefore, a question like “how do you feel about smoking indoors?” or “How have teachers responded to the new dress code?” likely wouldn’t get asked through a PickFu poll.

That being said, the same rules apply to preference testing as in general surveying: avoid leading words, don’t make assumptions, and only ask about one thing at a time.

For example, if you’re testing mobile app icons, the simplest unbiased question would be, “Which app icon do you prefer?” To embellish the question with anything else may introduce bias. Sometimes pollsters want to know whether their icons read a certain way, so they’ll ask something like, “Which icon seems more kid-friendly?” While not biased, per se, this question asks respondents to judge your icons differently than they might otherwise.

Because PickFu respondents include comments, one approach to avoid any hint of bias is to ask the simple question, “Which app icon do you prefer?” and then read the comments to see if kid-friendliness is something the respondents took away by themselves, rather than being led to see kid-friendliness or not.

Another approach is to include factual statements (unbiased, of course!) to explain what you’re testing, and then ask the respondent’s preference. For example, “Our app is a game aimed at children under 10. Which icon do you prefer?” These approaches may all yield various results, so some experimentation might be necessary to see what’s most applicable in your case.

Keep it consistent

Consistency is key in testing creative options. If you’re testing book covers, make sure that each design option includes the same information. If you tested two cover designs and each cover had a different title, for example, you wouldn’t know whether respondents preferred the design layout or the title on that design layout. Remember, only test one thing at a time.

Below is an example of an author who tested two covers. However, the two titles are different, only one option included a subtitle, and only one option included the superfitdads logo. Any of these variances may have skewed the results.

This poll would be less biased if each cover included the same title, subtitle, and author attribution. Then, the only test parameter would have been the cover design.

Here’s a better example. This author is testing two cover designs. The title, subtitle, author attribution, and even graphic layout is the same. The only difference is the “Action Plan” stamp. By only testing one thing at one time, this author knows the stamp helps his cover.

Summary

In both general polling and preference testing, it is important to keep these main ideas in mind as you design your survey:

1. Avoid leading words that may sway the responses positively or negatively. Phrase your question objectively.

2. Ensure your questions are fact-based, not opinion-based. Do not make assumptions about your audience.

3. Test only one thing at a time. Do not use double-barreled questions. When creating comparisons between two creative options, include only one test parameter per question, such as layout, title, or color palette.

4. You may need to experiment with the level of specificity in your question. Generally, the simplest form of the question will be the least biased. However, there are instances where you will need to direct the question a certain way rather than leave it open-ended. Just be sure to do it according to the three tips above.

PickFu relies on a number of quality controls to ensure that the people who participate in your polls answer them honestly and seriously. And guess what? YOU are one of those quality controls.

When your poll is complete, you should take the time to read through each comment. If an answer is particularly insightful, use the up arrow to the right of that response to “upvote” it. You can tell us what you liked about the answer, and your comment will be shared with the PickFu team (not with the person who wrote it).

upvotes

Similarly, if there is any response that was inappropriate or displeasing in some way, you can vote it down. Once again, you can share a comment with the team about why you downvoted it, and we won’t invite that respondent back for future polls.

You can submit up to five upvotes and five downvotes on each poll.

downvote

Even more, the conversation doesn’t have to end when your PickFu poll is complete.

Let’s say a respondent wrote something that you need to be elaborated. Maybe you aren’t sure what she meant but would love to know.

PickFu offers the ability to ask a follow-up question. Reach out to a respondent directly and get back in touch regarding her comments. Simply click on the speech bubble to the right of the response.

follow-up-question

If you don’t see the upvote and downvote arrows or speech bubbles, make sure you are logged in with your PickFu account. Only then can this power be unlocked!

Has this feature been helpful to you in your polls? Let us know in the comments!

When Steve Jobs talked to Fortune in 2000 about the Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, he delivered a classic line:

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

Today, an app’s icon needs to meet that standard if it’s going to gain traction with users. We reached out to app creators and UX designers to understand how to think about your app’s icon. Here’s what they shared:

Keep it simple, stupid

Like all good design, simplicity is key. “Your icon occupies invaluable real estate on your customer’s phone screen and as a developer, you need to treat every pixel like gold,” said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.

“The best app icons out there are easily recognizable, consist of few design elements and use a limited color palette that is consistent with the brand,” adds Victoria Gerchinhoren, Head of Design & UX at Thingthing, an iOS keyboard app.

Simplicity Part II: Remember you’ll use it elsewhere

Thingthing's app icon

Thingthing’s app icon

“Simplicity is also important for scalability,” Gerchinhoren says. “Your app icon will be shown in several places across different platforms and in various sizes. It must be clear and recognizable in all cases, large and small.”

Simplicity Part III: Familiarity = Freedom

Infiltr's app icon

infiltr’s app icon

When your app is new, it needs to convey more. It must clearly communicate how it meets a user’s needs. Philippe LeVieux, co-founder of infltr, said, “We currently use a camera icon with an infinity sign inside because we offer an infinite number of filters in our photo editor and camera app. With time, we want to evolve and drop the camera, and simply use the infinity sign. When you launch a new app, you want users to understand as much as possible from the icon. When you are established, you can start to simplify!”

Use color wisely

“In my experience, the most effective approach is to use the brand’s iconic mark or logo as the app icon, with the background color of the icon being the brand’s primary color,” said Nick Saporito, a freelance graphic designer. “Users tend to identify apps by color while scanning through their catalog of apps, and the background color is what’s most visible, so it makes sense to use your brand’s prominent shade.”

Tell a story

Petter's App Icon

Petter’s app icon

A clean, minimalist logo should still be able to say something about your brand and evoke emotion. “I went through multiple designs for the app icon, and finally settled on one that tells a story,” said Jeanie Galbreath, creator of The Petter App. “The turquoise in the icon is actually a hand that pets the animal.”

Continue to iterate

Adam Davis, Thingthing’s CMO, said that “although [our icon is] professional, easily recognizable and connects to what the app is about, we’re in the process of taking it further to more effectively communicate what makes [our] keyboard unique and better connect it to people’s productivity needs.”

A new icon helps convey a major update to users, like the addition of new levels in a game, or the introduction of more features.

When iterating icons, many developers turn to app icon testing on PickFu. For just a few dollars and in only minutes, companies can test versions of app icons to gauge audience reaction. Best of all, testing takes place before a live update in the App Store, saving approval time should multiple design revisions be needed. Simon Newstead, CEO of Frenzoo said, “When we created our unique 3D Fashion Game for iOS and Android, we used PickFu extensively to poll different icons, section names, and even the name of our game itself! It’s a cost-effective, fast, and very helpful service.”

app-icon-testing

See more examples of App Icon tests, and then give it a try yourself!

It started with an idea. Then it turned into a manuscript. Maybe you used one of the eight tools we highlighted to write and edit that manuscript. Now it’s time to publish. How can you transform and format your text into an attractive, sellable e-book? Whether you’re a design pro or a design no, these five tools will help you create a stunning, professional layout for ePub and Kindle formats.

Pages

pages-epub-template

If you’re an iWork user, you’ve already got Pages on your Mac. The good folks at Apple provided a digital book template that exports to ePub. Simply open the template, adjust the typefaces for titles, subtitles, headers, subheads, and copy in paragraph styles, and export.

Jutoh

jutoh

Jutoh is more robust than a word processor such as Word or Pages, with a cover designer feature and a table of contents wizard. It also offers more formats to export your book, and you can add viewer applications to preview what your book will look like on various devices. There is a one-time fee for purchase, but Jutoh offers a demo version to try before you buy.

CreateSpace

createspace

CreateSpace is Amazon’s foray into publishing software. It offers free tools like Cover Creator, with access to 2,000 stock images, and Preview, where your friends and family can download an excerpt of your book in order to provide feedback. CreateSpace works for both printed and digital book formats. Amazon also offers file conversion, editing, and layout for a fee.

Blurb

blurb-plug-in

If you want to create your layout in Adobe InDesign, then Blurb is a plug-in to help you create both print and digital books and magazines. Templates are created automatically based on your book size and page count, including appropriate bleed, trim, and safety areas. Blurb offers a print-on-demand service and enables authors to sell books on the Blurb website.

Wordzworth

wordzworth

Not interested in designing or formatting your book yourself? Outsource it to Wordzworth, a team of designers who will create a cover (not from a template), typeset your text, and format your images to produce in print or on screen correctly. Each book receives a quote, which is payable in two installments — one at the beginning of the project, and the other at the end.

At its most basic, writing only requires a pen and paper. But these eight tools will help you take your writing further – from composition to grammar checking, from workshop groups to professional editing.

Google Docs

google-docs

Google Docs just might replace Microsoft Word, especially if you’re collaborating with co-authors or an editor. Everyone can access and edit a document in real-time, and there are chat features and comments to hammer out any sticking points. The real-time nature of Google Docs spares you the confusing process of emailing different versions back and forth, keeping everything centralized. Your work is stored in the cloud, meaning you can work on your book from any device when you’re on the go. Best of all, it’s free.

Scrivener

scrivintrolarge

For a more robust composition software, try Scrivener. It’s made specifically for writers, with features that break your manuscript into chapters or scenes and enables you to navigate between them easily. You can also import research, notes, and images. Once you’re finished, Scrivener can export your work into an e-book. Scrivener is $45, and offers a free 30-day trial.

Grammarly

grammarly

Grammarly is a browser extension that goes beyond simple spell-check. Whatever you’re writing (be it your book, a Facebook promotional post, an email), Grammarly examines it for grammar, punctuation, proper sentence structure, and word choice. It even checks for plagiarism. Grammarly is free with a paid option.

Inked Voices

inked-voices

Looking for critiques on your book? Inked Voices is a membership site where small writing groups gather to workshop and improve one another’s work. Founder Brooke McIntyre explains, “Writers can also get critiques from professional editors and writing teachers via the site. Once a writer launches his or her book, we support them by announcing their latest books in our newsletter and on social media.” Membership is $10 a month or $75 a year.

Hiring an Editor

If you’re looking for a freelance book editor or ghostwriter, you might look at sites including Upwork, Fiverr, iFreelance, and FreelanceWritingGigs.com. Your experience will vary based on the person or people you hire, but these boards are a good way to connect you to lots of available talent. They’re also a good place to shop for graphic designers for your book cover.

Next up: Tools to help you format your book! Stay tuned…

Self-publishing is a learn-as-you-go process. Authors must constantly adapt and try new tactics in order to get their books in front of the right audience. We asked experienced authors if there was a single thing they did that helped boost sales. Here’s their helpful advice.

Advertise to the right list, even if that list doesn’t look like it accepts advertising

When Naresh Vissa released his book Podcastnomics, he was disappointed with initial sales. “I did a couple of Reddit AMAs, was interviewed by some small print and broadcast media, and used social media to spread the word,” he said, but “my book still couldn’t crack 100 books sold. Fortunately, I found a targeted blog geared towards podcasters, contacted the administrator, and asked him if I could advertise to his mailing list for nearly $300. He said very few people contacted him to advertise and that he never even thought of accepting advertising.”

The blogger agreed to Naresh’s request and sent an e-mail to his list, teasing the book and recommending it as required reading for all podcasters. “Within 24 hours,” Naresh said, “I sold more than 90 copies of the book, and later that week, it climbed all the way to #1 in its primary category on Amazon’s bestseller list. I recouped my advertising expense with that one quick and simple send. And because it rose the charts, Amazon then started pushing my book out because they thought it would sell well moving forward… and it has. I’ve sold more than 4,000 copies of the book to date.”

Get smart with email drip marketing

David Brown, author of The PFB Diet book, managed to triple his sales by setting up a drip marketing sequence. “Instead of directing my readers directly to the book sales page,” he said, “I started directing them to my subscribe page, where they can instantly download a free sample chapter from my book. After downloading the sample chapter, they receive five follow-up emails over the next 5 days, and these emails offer further insight into how my diet works.” David remarked that even though “I have done a ton of things to optimize my sales figures,… this one change really stands out in terms of how little work it took to gain such a major boost.”

Repackage what has sold successfully before

Carey Heywood is a best-selling romance author, and has had success by bundling her already-published material into a boxset. “The investment is low since the material already exists,” she says. “The cost to create a bundle is mainly formatting, cover design, and advertising.” Simple as that!

Redesign the cover

Carey also recommends redesigning a book’s cover, a strategy she calls “a cost-effective way to bring new attention to an older book.” She is currently designing a new cover for her book Better. “Once I have my new cover,” she says, “I plan to promote it with a paid cover re-reveal blitz and a sale,” a strategy that worked well for her in the past.

cover-design-poll

Many authors also use PickFu to test cover designs and find the one that audiences find most appealing. Author Dennis J. Coughlin said, “I loved my PickFu experience. I used it for my book [Rain Down‘s] cover design and I found the results were extremely helpful. I was impressed by the speed of the voting and the fact that everyone left a detailed comment in addition to their vote.”

Have you found a simple trick that boosted your book’s sales? Let us know!