About Ceonex, Inc.
Established in the USA in 1998, Ceonex is a global web development and consulting agency helping clients to create and implement online business solutions.
Ceonex's approach stems from the three most important business growth aspects: helping companies reach prospects, assist in converting prospects to customers, and assist in retaining those customers. This is accomplished through different interactive solutions and expertise in providing a memorable and positive user experience.
Ceonex has Offices in the US , Pacific Rim and Europe.
Recent Ceonex projects include Berkshire Life, Fideli ty National Financial, Hitachi , NetworkWorld USA , Procter & Gamble and Miller.
For more information visit: www.ceonex.com
WDL: How did the business start and manage to turn into one of the leading web design companies?
Theodore: I've been in the business of helping companies grow through online solutions since 1998, and spent a lot of time shaping approaches and methodologies that maximized the success of a development project.
Since then, we've been in a constant state of change, to keep up with the global marketplace, to keep up with emerging technologies, to keep up with best practices – and establish our own, of course. I think this has been a key factor in our success. We're not afraid to question what we already “know” or tear down what we already built, if that leads to a better understanding of our clients' needs or a new way to approach them. Staying flexible has also kept us on our toes, and enabled us to not just stay alive but actually grow during the dot-com downturn a few years back.
By focusing on our clients' success, we ensure our own.
WDL: What were the driving factors of success? What helped set you apart from the rest?
Theodore: Besides making sure we're always evolving and flexible, I think a major factor in our success has been our focus on adding value for our clients wherever we can. We love taking our projects to the next level and seeing where we can help our clients the most. Sometimes that even means turning down added business, such as recommending an out-of-the-box solution rather than a custom one, when going custom doesn't make the most sense for the client.
By focusing on our clients' success, we ensure our own, naturally. We've seen so many businesses, and I don't refer to just the web industry, that shoot themselves in the foot by playing games with their customers and losing their trust. Long-term relationships with happy clients is the best way to gain success.
WDL: What other solutions besides web design do you offer? How important are those solutions?
Theodore: Web design is actually a small part of our solutions. Ceonex is part marketing agency and part think tank. We spend the majority of our efforts in planning, things like coming up with a brand concept and mapping out a site architecture, to advising businesses on structuring their product pricing or even their networks. All these solutions are integral to the core goal of helping businesses get to the next level.
With that said, our solutions include branding and corporate positioning, market analysis, usability analysis and business consulting. We also of course offer services like copywriting, animation, video production, sound production, and application development. Whether animation or sound production are important to a specific project depends on many factors, including the goals, market trends, and the industry involved. But the analysis and branding are critical to all projects; without them, any web development project will fall far short of its goals.
WDL: You name three factors - reaching prospects, converting prospects and retaining customers - as the most important in web design and development. How did you come up with this simple theory?
Theodore: In shaping Ceonex, I spent a lot of time pinpointing exactly where I want to drive our focus. Since I wanted Ceonex to help other businesses grow, I realized that our development principles needed to be centered on that process. And the apex of that process is, of course, getting and keeping customers. Sure, the model is simple, but everything that goes into getting that model to work makes things much more complex.
The process requires shaping the user experience at every point. To do that, you have to have a detailed understand of who the user is, what motivates them, what they are looking for, and why. You need to be sensitive to the emotions that are persuasive and avoid touching negative or manipulative chords. You also need to understand – and this is a tough one for many companies – that the user doesn't care about the company, they don't care about the site, they don't even care about the product or service they are looking for. They just care about meeting their needs, whether that involves making life easier, or earning more money or attracting dates – or whatever - and they want to do that as painlessly as possible.
So, a lot of thought goes into the prospect/convert/retain model, and I've only just touched upon a small portion of it.
WDL: Of the projects listed on your site, which one was the most challenging and why?
Theodore: We've had plenty of challenges, and are currently working on much bigger ones, but the Berkshire Life project comes to mind. It was an interesting challenge to position a sensitive product like disability insurance in a way that is positive and comforting for prospects. How do you sell insurance, particularly disability insurance? Well, the obvious method is to point out what would happen without it, get people thinking about how they could suddenly, without warning, suffer a disability that would impair their ability to make mortgage payments, send kids to college, or even pay the grocery bills. But now you've worked your way in a corner – scaring people is not the way to build long-term, trusting relationships with your customers.
While you can't really get away from the fear factor altogether, we came up with a comforting branding message that emphasizes relationships (for families and business partners) and uses a nature-based background. No imagery of worried families or mortgage bills anywhere; we show Berkshire Life to be about protecting the good things in life, and not about disaster. That was a very successful project where we were able to help them triple their online inquiries (doubled within a month of launching the site). We are working with them on an ongoing basis and have a long-term relationship with the company.
WDL: Your clients include many world-famous brands like Hewlett Packard, Phillips, Procter and Gamble, Xerox and others. Who do you consider Ceonex's best client?
Theodore: We have built so many wonderful relationships over the years with companies just starting out as well as large, well-known brands. The clients we enjoy the most are the ones that we have long-term relationships with, and we find their successes so exciting and inspiring.
Besides Berkshire Life, which I mentioned previously, we have done significant and varied work for NetworkWorld and other IDG companies, and we have been working with many other clients for quite some time and have a lot of interesting work going on with a lot of them right now.
WDL: How important was your emotional response evaluation solution Quantemo for the development of your business?
Theodore: It was no less than a critical turning point to our development. Usability analyses and studies were a major component of our projects, but we knew the standard methods of videotape and interview were missing big pieces of the user experience.
One problem with a standard usability study is that subjects are not always aware of their frustrations in navigating a web site, and even if they are, they often have trouble pinpointing them or expressing them. Furthermore, the subjects often tell the study moderators what they think they want to hear - it's human nature.
Another major problem with standard usability studies is that it often ignores another critical component of the web site experience: the emotional side. It's true that a site with poor usability can stop a sale by confounding the user, but once you have a perfectly usable site the question then becomes: does the site motivate the target audience to buy?
Quantemo allowed us to punch through those issues and find out how the site really looks through the user's eyes. Using a variety of scientific methods, such as where a user looked at and stress measures, we are able to pinpoint even the most minor causes of stress and see what cues caused a positive user experience, what caused frustration and so on.
We have not only been able to apply our findings to the sites that we do the studies on, but we have also been able to create new best practices that we apply to all Ceonex projects. This has been a major turning point in the way we approach projects, and the level of success we can help generate for our clients.
WDL: What is more crucial in design - professional look or usability?
Theodore: This is a well-debated question, and we fall in the camp that chooses usability, as most do. The Internet is all about giving the user control over their experience; it's about interactivity. Usability is the most critical component because a site that lacks good usability will obstruct visitors from doing what they want to do. If a visitor can't figure out how to order a book, or finds it too frustrating to request more information, everyone loses. If a site isn't that great-looking, on the other hand, not all is lost.
But this question actually ignores the other crucial component that stands with usability – and that is emotional connection. In the example I just gave, bad usability stands in the way of a sale. But if a site doesn't connect with a user emotionally, then the sale is either also lost, or it becomes about the cheapest price and nothing else. A disability insurance site, for example, needs the emotional connection every bit as much as it needs good usability; having a great navigation structure and easy order form won't help if visitors aren't made to feel comfortable with the company and understand on a personal level why they need insurance to protect their families.
Improving the user experience is all about understanding the needs and desires of the user.
WDL: What methods do you use to improve the user experience?
Theodore: Improving the user experience is all about understanding the needs and desires of the user, and getting rid of anything that stands in the way of those. To understand those, you need methods that actually center on those needs and desires.
Of course, Quantemo is a terrific method to understand the user better and find out what will be easier to use and understand for them. We've been able to draw upon the results of our Quantemo studies and use them for all our clients, though of course having a study significantly increases the results for a project.
Building personas is another method we like to use – we analyze the target audience and create personas based on that, defining certain traits and experiences, and from that we can get a good understanding of their motivations. Then, when we build the site, we check back with the personas to make sure that their needs are addressed.
We also like to analyze user paths to find out where dropoff points are and figure out why, and also to pinpoint where the most conversions are happening, and build upon that in other ways.
Those are just some of the methods we use in a project to improve the user experience. What it all comes down to is a mindset that focuses on the user, and not what's easiest or what makes most sense to the company, but what's best and makes most sense to the site visitor.
WDL: Is there something your company still need to master? Where do you see the development of your business?
Theodore: The day will never come when we've mastered everything; as I've mentioned previously, we have to stay on our toes and adapt to an ever-changing environment in order to stay ahead. Building Quantemo is a great example of that – we wanted to keep forging new paths and learning new things rather than relying on the work of others and becoming complacent in our knowledge.
The projects we are working on are ever-increasingly complex, and offer more and more opportunity for us to help our clients in bigger and better ways. This is the current direction we are forging in, but we're always on the lookout for different ways of approaching things, and even a totally different business model may be on the horizon. Yet, with so many possible changes, our focus will always be on the same place it was back when I started in the business in 1998: helping businesses to succeed using digital solutions.