Category Archives: Website Design

Should You Optimise Your Site For Your Best Customers?

What if most revenues are generated by a few customers?

Some websites get most of their revenues from a relatively small proportion of high value (VIP) customers. This begs the question  should you optimise your site design around your most profitable segment of customers?

How do we optimise the conversion rate?

One of the most scientific methods we use to improve site design and increase the conversion rate is through online experiments (i.e. A/B and multivariate tests). However, when we run the analysis for such tests the standard practice is to remove 5% of outliers to avoid the results from being overly skewed by extreme behaviour, such as from high value players. Is this practice consistent with a website where a small minority of customers generate the vast majority of revenues?

I was recently asked this question on behalf of an online gambling site as  5% of their users generate over 50% of revenues. Here is what they asked:

“How can you reliably test revenue uplifts in an industry which is driven by outliers? We are removing the top 5% of outliers from tests but that 5% of users is generating ~50% of the revenue. So variants could be winning which aren’t suitable for VIPs, and if they don’t like the changes we could lose a lot of revenue!”

Pareto Principle:

As the Pareto Principle tells us most sectors have a similar issue – around 80% of the profit often comes from 20% of customers in many sectors. Online gambling may or may not be more concentrated than this, but it is not an uncommon problem. However, trying to predict who are the high value customers when they first land on your site is more problematic.

Image of the Pareto Principle

Moving Target:

Indeed, a key characteristic of high value customers is that most begin their journey looking and behaving the same as the majority of new visitors.  However, survivorship bias means that we have a tendency to ignore this fact and so we concentrate on the characteristics of those who remain rather considering the nature of those who have been eliminated by the process.

For example, a majority of first time deposits from customers who become VIPs are relatively low. The most frequent amount is often on or near the minimum deposit level. Sure, you get a tiny minority who come in with large first deposits, but they are probably already VIPs on other sites or have a windfall. They do not represent the majority of VIPs.

Think about it, if a large supermarket noticed that high value customers  shop more regularly and have more items in their basket, would they re-design the store and remove lines only purchased by lower value customers? Nope, that would be stupid as lower value customers might one day become a high value customer. It would also potentially annoy low value customers and and they might shop elsewhere.  Higher value customers have the same basic needs, they just happen to have a higher disposable income or a windfall.

High value (VIPs) visitors do not represent a fixed pool of customers. It is in a constant state of flux as user circumstances and behaviour change over time. Very few people, if any, will remain true VIP users throughout their customer life cycle. Their income, luck, assets, lifestyle, attitudes and other factors change as people progress through different life stages.

User Intent:

 

Image of Starburst slot game

Do drug addicts worry about the user experience? Nope, their intent is so strong they will do almost anything to get a fix. Most VIP customers on gambling sites (or other kinds of  sites for that matter) are demonstrating similar addictive behaviour.

Like any addict they will jump through hoops to achieve their goal. I doubt very much that many VIPs will be put off by a long form or poorly designed check-out. If they are then god help your other customers.

Conclusion:

VIP or high-value customers certainly need your attention. But that should be through CRM and personalisation to improve their customer experience and retention. However, as such customers are not a fixed group of people you should definitely remove outliers from A/B and multivariate tests.

It would also be counter-productive to optimise a site just for your highe value customers. You would potentially turn-off non VIP customers and you would not have the opportunity to nurture customers as they progress through different value segments. Certainly in gambling the pool of VIP customers is often too small to conduct robust experiments and so you would also be in danger of drawing false conclusions due to the law of small numbers.

Thank you for reading this post. If you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored!

Why is CRO failing to get traction in the boardroom?

Why is it that Amazon Prime converts 74% of the time on Amazon.com and yet the average Ecommerce retailer only converts 3.1% of the time according to research by Millward Brown Digital? Even non-Prime customers convert 13% of the time. Bryan Eisenberg, CRO expert and thought leader suggests that Amazon’s secret is to do with developing a culture of customer centricity and experimentation that is deeply embedded in the culture of the organisation from the C-suite level down.

Given the success of Amazon with applying the principles of CRO to drive business growth, why is it that in many organisations there is little, if any, engagement with CRO at the top level of management?  This is the conundrum that the book ‘The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored’ seeks to answer.

Why should you read it?

Although this is a short read, Paul Rouke, from CRO agency PRWD has managed to gather contributions from 17 global CRO thought leaders, including Chris Goward , Roger Dooley, Brian Massey, Peep Laja, Bart Schutz, Oli Gardner, Talia Wolf and Tim Ash. These are people with a huge amount of experience of successfully applying CRO strategies in large ecommerce organisations.

The book focuses on the key reasons for the frequent failure of organisations to fully benefit from CRO and why optimiser often find themselves stuck in the “trough of disillusionment”. I’ve previously written about the Dunning-Kruger effect and how initial success with CRO often creates overconfidence in the optimiser’s skills and abilities to create successful tests. But, what is the cause of the despair that many CRO teams experience?

Image of Dunning-Kruger Effect for conversion rate optimisation
Image source:

A number of reasons are given for the lack of  adoption of a CRO philosophy at the executive level, including the name and a lack of change management skills in the team. But the most frequent cause mentioned is the perception of CRO as a short-term tactic rather than a strategy for long-term growth. As a result CRO thinking is often not embedded into the culture of the organisation from the C-suite downwards. This automatically relegates CRO to a tactical solution to short-term problems that can be handled by a silo in marketing or some other department in the organisation.

“The majority of marketers run meaningless tests without any strategy or hypothesis and the results are hard to analyse and scale.” – Talia Wolf, Founder & CEO of Conversioner

What you won’t get from this book is any insight into the detailed process of CRO or tips for experiments to increase your conversion rate. This book is solely about why CRO has failed to be successfully embedded into the culture and processes of many digital organisations.

“The ego of the optimisers makes 90% of tests results a lie.” – Andre Morys, Co-founder & CEO at Web Arts

I have to agree that this is a problem. Being an optimiser in an organisation where there isn’t a culture of experimentation and senior management support is limited can be soul destroying. It feels like there is a constant battle to get resources and co-operation from product, MarComs and marketing. As a number of contributors mentioned you need to employ change management skills and engage internal stakeholders first before trying to communicate your strategy.

Who should read this book?

The problem outlined in the book is clearly with communicating the benefits and implementation of CRO to executive level management. As such this is an ideal read for C-suite management and CRO managers seeking to establish a culture of CRO within their organisation.

What next?

The book should be a wake-up call for many CRO specialists and executives who are allowing their sites to fall further behind the leaders in customer centricity and experimentation. According to RedEye companies spend on average $92 on driving traffic to their website and only $1 to convert those visitors. This is not a sustainable approach because sites will increasingly be squeezed out of the market by the likes of Amazon, AO.com and other companies that recognise the benefits of a strategic approach to CRO.

I firmly believe that with the development of artificial intelligence based optimisation tools, such as Sentient Ascend, this time is rapidly approaching. Such technology is speeding up the optimisation process by allowing massively complex multivariate testing. Companies that embed CRO into their culture as a strategy for growth will exploit these tools much more effectively than organisations using CRO as a tactical tool. So maybe the book should be re-named “The Growth Strategy That You Can’t Afford To Ignore”?

Value for money:

As I have already mentioned the book is on the short side and with such a star-studied list of contributors you might have expected more detail on how to implement a strategic approach to CRO. However, the contributors do make some very valid points and there are plenty of other books to read if you want advice on the optimisation process. Given the potential audience of CEOs and CMOs brevity is also a bonus. They won’t want to read anything too detailed or long about  what they perceive to be a specialist subject.  So my advice is buy the kindle version for your smartphone or e-book reader as it’s only £2.99.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored

For more details you can go to a dedicated landing page about the book.

 

Related posts:

CRO Strategy – 9 mistakes companies make with website optimisation

CRO Implementation – How smart is your approach to conversion rate optimisation

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

9 Mistakes Companies Make With Website Optimization

 

There is plenty of advice on Twitter and other social media about how to improve website conversion. ConversionXL, Widerfunnel, and Hubspot to name but a few. Despite this many organisations continue to make some basic errors that seriously limit their ability to improve sales and revenues from website optimization. Below are some of the most fundamental mistakes that organisations tend to make:

 

1. Don’t fully integrate web analytics tracking and reporting.

 

Image of Google Analytics behaviour flow report

The saying that if you don’t measure something you can’t identify if you are improving or not rings true with website optimization. Unless you have reliable web analytics monitoring and reporting of your KPIs from the beginning to the end of the user journey you will never really know how your site is performing and what impact tactical changes have on your revenues or other primary objectives of your site. You will also struggle to prioritise effectively as you need web analytics to identify the value of each step in the user journey.

They are also important to validate test results and check the robustness of uplifts. A/B testing solutions only support certain browsers and devices and need to be configured to ensure they cover all important use cases. What if your test doesn’t include an alternative user journey? Your web analytics can help identify these kinds of problems so that you can fix them.

 

2. Use Before & After Measures.

Image of water flow
Source: Freeimages.com

 

This kind of measurement is meaningless as conversion rates continuously fluctuate due to many factors. Competitor activity, website bugs, traffic source, advertising spend and the weather are just a few of the factors that can cause your conversion rate to change.  Because of this you can only be confident that a change to your website is the reason for a significant uplift or decline in conversion by running an A/B or multivariate test.

These kinds of experiments allow you to isolate the impact of the difference in the customer experience by having a control. This is achieved by randomly splitting traffic to both experiences and so all other drivers of your conversion rate should influence both variants equally.

3. Don’t A/B Test.

Source: Freeimages.com
Source: Freeimages.com

There are many reasons why organisations don’t conduct A/B testing, but the lack of such online experiments will hinder your ability to reduce acquisition and retention costs because you will struggle to learn from your mistakes or clearly identify what improves conversion.

A/B testing allows you to remove subjective opinions from decisions about which design or journey is better at meeting the organisation’s objectives. They also help to develop an evidence based decision making culture which is key for the success of digital optimization. 

4. Focus on a single measure of conversion.

 

Image of tape measure
Source: Freeimages.com

Website optimization should never be about a single metric. There is no point optimising to improve sales if as a result of a change revenues decline due to a reduction in average basket value. For conversion rate optimization to benefit the bottom line it is necessary to look at the whole user journey, for both new and existing customers.

For ecommerce this means monitoring metrics such as average order value, number of items per basket, sales from returning customers and returns. You will then get a better understanding of how the new customer experience influences user behaviour and your bottom line.

With content marketing a high bounce rate is often seen as an indication of low engagement. But because of the way most web analytics calculate bounce rates and time on page this may not be the case. Google Analytics defines a bounce as a single engagement hit and counts the session time for such a visitor  as zero. What if some of those visitors are spending a number of minutes engrossed in a post and then exit your site?  Are they not engaged?

To understand true levels of engagement you need to also track how long bounced visitors spend on a page.  This can be done by adding some extra script to your GA tag and setting up events in your web analytics. The point here is that no single metric will ever give you the whole story and it is essential to delve deeper into customer behaviour to truly understand the impact of changes you make to your site.

 

5. Don’t have a dedicated team for CRO.

 

Image of skills required for website optimization

Without a dedicated conversion rate optimization ( CRO) specialist (or a team in larger enterprises), you will not achieve the full potential from optimization because generalists will struggle to develop the necessary skills or allocate sufficient time to the task. CRO requires specialist skills (e.g. web analytics and heuristic analysis) that take time to acquire and benefit from regular updating.

Developing strong hypothesis for testing is also a time consuming process. As your A/B testing programme matures you may notice that between 50 to 80% of tests will fail to generate a significant uplift in conversion. As a consequence you will need to run more tests to generate a reasonable return on investment (ROI).

Marketing generalists should be able to deliver landing page and other tactical tests, but they are unlikely to have the time or expertise to develop a more strategic optimization roadmap that is required to achieve the full benefits of CRO.  Generalists also often fail to develop strong hypothesis or have the time to build more complex tests as their time horizons may be too short.

It is essential to have a continuous supply of strong test ideas in your pipeline to achieve the necessary scale of testing required for a good ROI. A centralised CRO team can easily allocate the necessary resource for the development of test ideas and ensure priority is given to websites or pages with the most potential for generating a high ROI.  This minimises duplication of effort and facilitates the sharing of test results with all CRO specialists in the organisation.

A fragmented approach to CRO is prone to failure because of its  inefficient use of resources, often resulting in duplication of effort, and a focus on tactical rather than strategic optimization. A lack of co-ordination and control of CRO also tends to prevent the implementation of a structured approach to optimization as each area of the business develops its own ad-hoc processes and KPIs. This is generally a recipe for disaster and a reason why CRO will fail to deliver a good ROI.

6. Put junior people in charge of optimization.

 

Image of boy dressed in business clothes
Source: Freeimages.com

A/B testing is a form of experimental research and as such should be seen as part of your innovation strategy. It needs to be headed up by a senior person to deal with all the obstacles that prevent change in an organisation. A junior person is unlikely to have the clout to deal with office politics, and almost certainly won’t have the authority to optimise product, sales channels, Customer Services or prioritise development projects.

This is something that few companies get, for website optimization to achieve its true potential you need to look at the whole customer journey, and optimise all the inputs, not just the new customer sign up to buy process. Look at the companies that excel at optimization, the likes of AmazonSpotifySkyscanner and Netflix, they all have senior managers in charge of their testing strategy and don’t limit themselves to new customer journeys.

7. Don’t formulate hypothesis.

Image of a question mark
Source: Freeimages.com

When generating ideas for A/B tests it is important to base the experiment on a hypothesis about how and why the change will influence user behaviour. A hypothesis explains the rationale and also predicts the outcome of the test so that you know which success metrics to set for the test.  The hypothesis needs to be based upon evidence gathered from an agreed optimization process rather than pure gut feeling as otherwise you may struggle to learn from successful tests. Without strong hypothesis A/B testing becomes a random and undirected process that will fail to generate the full benefits of CRO.

8. Don’t have a clear strategy for testing.

6 types of tests to optimise a website page

 

There is no point relying on low hanging fruit and best practice to direct your A/B testing as these sources will soon run dry and you will lack direction in your testing programme. It’s important that you follow a recognised and structured optimization process that draws insights from a range of sources, especially from customers.

And yet companies are often more concerned about competitors and copying their ideas than listening to customers. This is a serious mistake and will lead to a sub-optimal testing programme. Customer insight and usability research is vital because to develop strong testing ideas you need to have a good understanding of customer personas, goals, tasks that lead towards goals and how users interact with your website or app.

Otherwise how can you expect to develop hypothesis to predict user behaviour? You could be making assumptions about customers which might not have any basis in reality. The more insights you can get from your customers the greater the chance you have of identifying a significant problem or improvement you can make to improve conversions.

9. Think it’s all about design.

 

Image of craigslist.co.uk homepage
Source: craigslist.co.uk

I’ve heard this so many times, but do your visitors really come to your site to look at its design? I don’t think so. People come to your site to complete a task and are rarely interested in your “cool” design. In fact most conversion rate experts agree that all too often ugly wins over beautiful designs.

Just look at Amazon.comCraigslist and ebay.com, none of them are what anyone would call aesthetically great designs. They are functional, they offer a great deal maybe and most importantly of all they let users do what they want to do without having to think too much.

Designers may be good at composing a new webpage or app screen, but that doesn’t mean they understand your main customer segments or know what improves conversion and revenues. Optimization needs to be a collaborative process and so designers must work closely with CRO experts to deliver new experiences based upon evidence rather than subjective opinions. Otherwise you will end up with new experiences that are based upon design principles rather than CRO insights and there will be limited, if any, learning from the process.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Do Single Page Websites Suck?

 What are the pros and cons of single page websites?

 

Are single page websites a passing fad that participants
will in time see as a ghastly mistake or do they have a place as a practical alternative to the traditional large website? Now I’m not questioning the role of single page websites as landing pages for promotions or product announcements, special project, showcasing a portfolio or a website with minimal content.

What I’m talking about here is the site with more than a few
pages, where there is more than one layer of navigation and where there is a need for an archive of content and a desire for social sharing.  The idea of a single page website is to reduce clutter by only serving essential content, but does this desire for simplification actually lead to greater user frustration because too much content has been removed and it makes sharing of content difficult?

What is a single page website?

Initially one-page websites used a single web page to dynamically load all pages at once and this allowed the user to scroll endlessly
to view different sections of the site. However, increasingly such sites use CSS3 and AJAX to display navigation menus that take users directly to the section they are interested in.

What are the benefits?

 Simplicity:

Less is more is undoubtedly true sometimes, there is a danger that we present too much information to a user at any one time which can create cognitive overload. One-page sites reduce the amount of decisions users have to make and remove the need for complex navigation to direct visitors to specific pages.

Easier browsing & no dead-ends:

As all content is on a single page there is no need for multi-layer navigation and there is no risk of the user getting lost or finding a page with little or no content. This should speed up the browsing process and reduce the number of decisions users have to make.

Easier to keep content up-to-date:

Having substantially less content to maintain and all of it on a single page significantly reduces the resources required to maintain a website. This should make the site less costly to run and allow what content is shown to be kept more up-to-date.

Mobile friendly:

It is much easier to ensure your website is mobile friendly when you only have a single page to optimise. Since Google decided to give preference to mobile friendly websites this has probably given a big boost to the appeal of one-page web sites. However, if all your content is not accessible by mobile devices (e.g. you use flash for some elements), then this is only a sticking plaster to hide a much bigger problem that needs addressing.

Image Cameo one page website
Image Source:

Focus on key content and messages:

The limitation of only having a single page to communicate your proposition and get a user to take action means that you have to keep to only essential messages and content.  This may be a good discipline and is why single page sites are often used for landing pages to improve conversion rates. The risk for a multi-product website though is that some visitors require more detailed information about a product or service before they are willing to make a decision. For these types of visitors they are likely to become frustrated as they won’t be able to find the content they are looking for.

Take visitors on a journey:

Single page websites are often designed to be more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing by encouraging visitors to scroll through the website. They encourage visitors to go on a journey rather than the traditional static experience of just looking at content on separate pages. Designers may create movement by triggering images or copy to appear as the visitor scrolls down the page.

image

Source: Cameron’s World:

 Google SEO page rank applies to the whole site:

If your whole website is designed for a single product in mind then you might get a small improvement in SEO ranking as Google will apply your page rank to the whole website. If you have more than one product or service this will not be the case and it could be detrimental to your search rankings.

 

The disadvantages:

So there are a number of potential benefits of creating a one-page website, but what about the potential drawbacks?

 

Longer load speed:

Trying to serve all your content on a single page means that your site could take longer to load and this may result in a higher bounce rate and lower conversion as a direct consequence of this change in the performance of your site. It could also affect your Google rankings as the search engine penalises slow loading sites. This should be a major concern for any marketer as people are impatient and don’t like to wait more than two or three seconds for a website to load.

Image of TameemSafri.com
Image Source:

 

Growing content:

A one-page website gives you little flexibility to add new content and so if you want to add new products or services you are going to be severely limited. It also doesn’t allow you to build up an archive of content, such as a blog. You will have to send visitors to another site to give them access to such an archive, which is not a great user experience and your main site doesn’t benefit from the SEO value of such content.

Reduced engagement:

When a visitor first comes to your site it is important that you have sufficient content to draw them into your proposition before you can expect them to take action. Indeed, many first time visitors are not ready to sign up and this is why returning visitor conversion is often higher than new visitor conversion.

People need to be engaged and persuaded by relevant and interesting content. However, if you only have a one-page site, you can only have a limited amount of content in each section and there are no other pages to navigate to. This could mean you will experienced a fall in engagement and time spent on your site as there is substantially less content to encourage visitors to browse the site. This may or may not be good for conversion, it will very much depend

 

SEO Keywords and Content Relevancy:

Google and other search engines look for relevancy of content to match with the search query.  With a single page website you
may be ok with your primary keywords, but it is likely that you will struggle to achieve relevancy on sub-topics and terms that would rank better on their own pages.

Indeed, Google’s Hummingbird update aims to match the meaning of a query to relevant content, not just simply keywords on a page. By restricting yourself to a single page to cover all your products, features, benefits, technical details, testimonials, partners, market segments and more –  you are  severely limiting your opportunities to optimize content for SEO relevancy.

Image of http://88and90lex.com/home homepage
Image Source:

 

Sharing Specific Content Is Difficult:

We live in the age of social media sharing, whether it is photos, video, quotes, Tweets, stories and more. However, one-page websites make it difficult to share specific content or snippets of a post because they are not designed with this in mind. You always land on the same page and if you have a blog you will have to take them away from your main site to where your blog is hosted.

Understanding Engagement Points:

As the whole site has a single URL it makes it difficult to use web analytics to identify what content your users are interested in and how they browse your site.  You will also see an increase in your bounce rate as there is nowhere else for your visitors to navigate to on your site.  However, this does not really help you understand how well visitors are engaging with your content.

 

image

Source: Braking Badly:

Conclusion:

There is undoubtedly a role for single page websites as landing pages and for promotions, special projects, web toys, stand-alone games etc. However, given the number of potential disadvantages they exhibit they may not to be a sustainable alternative for many multi-page websites.  We should though look to validate these risks with data as many innovations are at first dismissed because they don’t conform to existing best practice, rather than because we have data to support the status quo.

May be in time the major limitations can be resolved or mitigated, but at present they create significant challenges for multi-page websites. Users are not going to thank you if they can’t find the content they are looking for and are most likely to disappear off to a competitor website. 

At the same time designers of multi-page websites could look to incorporate some of the innovate ideas and discipline of single page websites. Learning to keep content to an absolute minimum for example might reduce some of the distractions and information overload that multi-page websites often suffer from.  Single page websites definitely have their place and are pushing the boundaries for website design.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share using the social media logos below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

6 Myths About Website Optimization That Must Die

 Misconceptions About Website Optimization:

 

Website optimization is a test and learn process. If we restrict our ability to learn by listening to commonly held misconceptions about website design and performance we risk undermining the whole optimization process. These myths must die!

1. It’s about improving the customer experience.

Why are people so obsessed with improving the customer experience?

It is certainly desirable for the user experience to meet certain standards (e.g. relevance, clarity, loadspeed, accessibility etc), as otherwise this could harm conversion. But it should not be an isolated goal though, there has to be a return on investment as there is always an opportunity cost for any expenditure.

We could all create a fantastic user experience by giving free access to everything on our site or reducing prices below the market rate. But unless this provides a net-gain to the organisation we could quickly go out of business.

 

Disney understand this and invest in creating a compelling customer experience because they know it allows them to charge more than your average theme park and people will return for more of the same. On a website we have the advantage that we can precisely measure the ROI though A/B and multivariate testing. Use these tools to ensure that money spent on improving your website has a positive and sustainable impact on important business goals.  Otherwise use the money for something else that generates a positive return.

 

2. Conversion is about good design.

What defines a ‘good’ webpage design is all too often based upon the subjective opinions of people within an organisation rather than the behaviour of visitors. People visit a website because they perceive that it can assist them in achieving a current goal, whether it is your content or the products/services sold. If your design doesn’t assist with this process then it won’t matter whether it is a flat or simple/minimal style because customers won’t return.

Design is definitely important as it helps to create a good first impression, and it ensures content and navigation are presented in a way that is clear and engaging to visitors. But design is an enabler to facilitate the user journey, and ultimately if a beautifully designed page does not help and encourage visitors to complete a key task of some kind it has failed.

Data should determine if a design is up to standard and not the subjective opinions of managers and designers. As Brian Massey points out often “ugly wins” when it comes to A/B tests:

“The specifics of design change from audience to audience. Probably the only general rule, and it’s a bit of a heartbreaker, is that too often we find ugly wins when we do our split tests.” Source: Brian Massey Shares insights on landing pages designed to convert

 

3. Consistency of design is crucial. 

How many times a day do you hear “consistency” given as the reason for why an element on your website looks like it does or why it even exists on a webpage? This is not an answer, it’s an automatic response that hides a lack of thought and is often due to lazy thinking or design.

Sure, if it is to align with a web convention this helps to meet
customer expectations and assists navigation or understanding it may be relevant. But, do you really think your visitors are bothered if your call to action button on one page is a different size or colour to what it is on another page? Do you think they even notice if your website is engaging and has compelling content? I think not.

Your visitor is trying to complete a task and that should be
your priority, not that everything is consistent.  If consistency is relevant and helps the customer meet their goal then great, but not if it is solely for your gratification and doesn’t assist the customer achieve their goal. Consistency for its own sake should not be a goal and should be challenged unless you have evidence that it is beneficial to both your customer and your organisation.

4. Brand guidelines must be adhered to.

This is like saying that you won’t use oxygen to breathe underwater if you think the colour of your tank clashes with your swimming gear. If we follow this rule we are basically saying that brand guidelines are more important than the organisation’s goals (e.g. revenue generation). This is not a healthy place to be in and it could contribute to the failure of the business.

Brand guidelines should be ‘guidelines’ and not set in stone. They are often based upon subjective opinions and may have little evidence to support them. Like any aspect of a business they need to have a return on investment (ROI) and if that ROI is not proven it needs to be challenged and if necessary changed. Otherwise the business and the brand will not evolve in response to changing customer needs.

5. Use tips and best practice. 

If it was this simple we would all just follow Amazon. Websites are unique ecosystems that attract their own set visitors who do not behave in a generic and predictable way.

Where you don’t have the traffic to test on a website you may have to implement changes that you have tested on another site. However, don’t assume it will necessarily work. Make sure you have appropriate KPI monitoring in place just in case it doesn’t go according to plan.

Similarly, tips about conversion rate optimization may give you ideas for making improvements, but again test them before you implement to ensure they work on your website.  The key to any successful website optimisation strategy is that you follow a systematic and proven process to identity and develop tests that have a high chance of making a significant impact on your business KPIs.

Following tips and best practice alone will just lead to a random testing programme that lacks focus and will probably fail to deliver consistent and sustainable results.

 

6. It’s all about the conversion rate:

Your key conversion metric is just one indicator of many that shows how your site is performing. It should not be viewed in isolation
from other KPIs, such as average order value, returning customer orders, or overall revenues. Any improvement in your conversion rate needs to be sustainable and provide an overall net gain to your business as otherwise it is meaningless. You should never rely on a single metric to measure success as websites are complex systems with many dependencies.

If Website optimization was all about the conversion rate we would all use dark user design patterns to trick visitors into making decisions that may not be in their best interest. Having worked in Gibraltar for a year I frequently had to book flights though Ryanair’s website. Their website employs such practices but it didn’t make me want to use them again if I had any choice.  Such practices are
counter productive in the long-run and can damage your brand’s reputation.

The Ryanair website’s travel insurance section is probably the worst culprit of this approach. This states that “If you wish to purchase travel insurance please select your country of residence”. Ok, so why is travel insurance in the country of residence drop-down menu? Below the list of passengers there is a further instruction; “If
you do not wish to purchase travel insurance, please select ‘Don’t insure me’ in the drop-down box.”

image

 

Ok, but the “Don’t insure me” is not at the top of the list of options because that would be too easy.  Nope, it’s between “Denmark”
and “Finland”. You also have to select this separately for each passenger because it is under country of residence. This is not an enjoyable experience and ironically it probably makes you more alert for any other money-making tactics that Ryanair might
use.

So don’t get obsessed with your conversion rate. See it as one of many important indicators of your site’s health. Ensure you don’t trade off short-term gains for damaging the long-term sustainability of your site.

 

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it of interest please share this post by clicking on the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

Recommended reading: You Should Test That! by Chris Goward.

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Why Is Your Mobile Only User Journey Leaking Cash?

image of NASA Globe in Florida

 

The Rise of The Mobile Only User & My Experience with the NASA Tour Mobile Ticketing Journey

 

Since 2014 mobile devices have been the most used device to
browse the internet. But this is only a transient stage in the shift towards the dominance of mobile devices. The real change is mobile only, where users rely solely on their mobile devices and never return to a laptop or PC. According to research by Google more searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. Facebook reported that over half a billion users only visited their site or App via a mobile device.

Image of a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and headphones

Source: Samsung.com

What does this mean for website optimisation and conversion?
From a user’s perspective there will certainly be even more potential for distractions and interruptions as people begin, re-start and end conversations whilst online.  However, the most important change is that they may never see your desktop site again, particularly if they use your App. So, if it’s not on your App or mobile optimised site it won’t exist from their perspective.

This was highlighted to me recently when I visited Florida. Between theme parks I browsed on my mobile phone and decided it would be great to go on a tour of the NASA facilities at Cape Kennedy.  I had noticed that a SpaceX rocket launch was due during my stay and went to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) site to ensure I wouldn’t disappoint my family (i.e. me).

After initially being confronted with a mobile responsive desktop site, I was taken to the KSC Complex “Mobile Ticketing!” page. What caught my eye here was the “Scan phone at entrance” message. Brilliant, just what I needed as I did not have easy access to a printer at the hotel.

 

image of Kennedy Space Center mobile ticketing site

 

I clicked on “Start Shopping” and selected the Daily Admission and Up-Close Explore Tour. Before I continued to the basket I browsed the information on the Up-Close Explore Tour. It promised to take us behind the scenes of the complex with commentary from a space expert.  Happy with this I then completed checkout and received a confirmation email with links to my mobile tickets.

 

image of Kennedy Space Center admission ticket

 

I took screen shots of each of my tickets and carried on with my holiday. When the day arrived I scanned my tickets at the turnstile and noticed lots of other people doing the same.

However, when I went to the information desk to register for the tour I was surprised to see people handing over their passports.  Sure enough, when it was my turn to be served I discovered that NASA requires all non-US residents to present their passports
to qualify for the Up-Close Explore Tour.

Unfortunately for me this was only displayed on printed tickets, not the mobile friendly tickets that I had used. Neither was it mentioned in the tour details or anywhere else on the mobile only user journey.

Although we still had a very enjoyable day it did spoil our experience and confirmed the importance of mapping out and testing the whole mobile only user journey from beginning to end. It also resulted in a refund of just over $100.

I had four people in my party, but we could make a conservative estimate that around 10 people a day are caught out by the lack of
messaging on the mobile only user journey.  That’s $250 a day or $1,750 a week in refunds. Over a year this would be a loss in
revenues of around $91,000
. This is certain to rise as mobile only journeys become the norm.

It is only a matter of time before mobile only experience becomes the most common user journey for many online businesses.  For this reason now is the time to ensure integration of mobile-friendly versions of all mission-critical assets, including promotional material, customer service and other key elements of the user journey.

Mobile only users expect to be able to access the same content as other visitors, but not on a site that was clearly designed for desktop users.  Asking them to pinch and zoom as they navigate around a site designed for a much larger screen is going to irritate and frustrate them. If you want to retain mobile only users you need to start
delivering a great customer experience for whatever device they decide to use. All relevant content needs to be easily and quickly accessible from a mobile device or else your competitors will probably take these customers away from you.

User habits and preferences are rapidly changing. Unless you act now to comprehensively integrate and test to meet the demands of the mobile only user there is a high risk that your customer journey will leak cash.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Free Digital Marketing Toolbox

Over 300 Marketing Solutions To Boost Conversion Rates.

Updated 11th February 2017

  • Original posts explaining how to improve the performance of your digital marketing activity.
  • Regularly updated and designed for the professional marketeer, usability expert, website designer, developer or conversion specialist.

Please bookmark this page to ensure you can find it when you next need it.

1. A/B testing tools:

View my post here on choosing an A/B and MVT testing tool, including user ratings and over 20 suppliers to select from. This now includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) testing and optimisation solutions.

In addition to help you decide what to test: How should you prioritise your A/B test ideas?

2. Abandonment recovery emails and onsite re-marketing:

 

image of laptop and shopping cart
Source: Freeimages.com

Read my post here on how to engage visitors who abandon your website and  details of 8 suppliers to consider.

 

3. Address verification and auto-complete tools:

 

Read my post: 10 Free & Paid For Address Lookup Solutions To Boost Conversions.

4. Books:

 

There are some great books to help you optimize your website. Here is my post on 12 Awesome Books To Help You Optimize Your Website.

You can also read a review of The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored from Paul Rouke at PRWD.

 

5. Browsers and resolutions:

Images of browser logos

View my post – 12 Cross-Browser Testing Tools To Improve Your User Experience And Conversion.

 

6. Card Sorting (Remote):

 

My post explains how to use online card sorting to improve your website navigation – 6 Online Usability Card Sorting Tools To Improve Website Navigation.

 

7. Competitor Analysis:

 Evaluate competitors’ sites that have more traffic or a higher proportion of returning  visitors than your website.

 

Read: 10 free and paid website audience comparison tools for competitor benchmarking.

 8. Cultural Dimensions By Country:

 

For a full summary of key cultural factors in website design see my post: What you need to know about cross-cultural website optimization. 

9. Design Feedback (Also see Usability Tools) :

 

Get expert of customer feedback on your designs – 9 tools for getting design feedback for websites and apps.

10. Email Marketing:

 Images of promotional emails

Read my posts: 13 email verification solutions to boost conversions and 4 strategies to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing.

11. Fold height:

See Above the fold in my conversion glossary for details of how the fold influences visitor behaviour.

 

1. Google Chrome Screen Resolution Tester:  Resizes the browser window to view websites in different resolutions.

2. Scree Resolution Simulator: Test website usability with different screen resolutions.

3. Screenfly: Responsive screen testing on monitors, tablets, smart phones and more.  http://quirktools.com/screenfly/

 

12. Headings & imagery:

 

Ensure your landing page headings and imagery align with customer expectations by using word association to identify what people automatically think about when they explore your sector or product.

1. Human Brain Cloud: A simple multi-player word association game which will display results for words that you enter at the end of the URL (after #view/)

2. Word Associations Network: Project Word Associations Network allows you to lookup associations with a given word.

3. wordassociation.org:  Started off as a project and now claims to be the world’s largest database of word associations.

 

13. Image optimisation:

image of faces of two women from jpegmini.com

Reduce load speed and improve conversion by choosing from 14 image optimization tools.

 

14. Internal site search:

 

Evaluate your built-in search functionality by analysing key words  used by visitors or use a third-party search tool provider.

1. Google site search:  Uses the same technology that powers Google search to allow your visitors to find content on your website.

2. Freefind: Established in 1998, Freefind is a Free site search engine used by over 200,000 websites.

3. Fusion Bot: A site search engine which offers search, site map and reporting. Being fully hosted it does not require software to be installed. Also offers e-Commerce search engine with search and navigation of your site.

4. Adobe Target: Search driven merchandising includes options such as  auto-complete, a did you mean function, dynamic image options, multi-media use and decision-making refinements (filters).  Allows for automated merchandising rules and enables customised result display (e.g. sorting options).

 

15. Live chat:

 

Image of Carphonewarehouse.com live chat
Source: Carphonewarehouse.com

Improve engagement and reduce bounce rates by offering live interaction with customers whilst they are on your website.

Read my post – 6 top live chat solutions to increase sales.

16. Load speed for web pages:

 

 

Free resources are outlined in my post – How to improve site load speed to increase conversions.

17. Navigation Guidance &  App Tours:

 

Image of tool tips on Virginatlantic.com

Read my post: 9 Website onboarding solutions to improve conversions.

 

18. Personas:

Here is my post  7 free buyer persona online tools to build your personas.

To understand how to create buyer personas and benefit your bottom line please read my post: How to use personas to improve conversion. 

 

 

19: Product Ratings & reviews:

View my post about the value of product ratings and reviews, including the top suppliers here.

 

20. SEO Keywords:

Image of the letters SEO and a computer mouse
Source: Freeimages.com

 

Here is my post on How to do keyword research and 17 awesome tools to use.

You may also find this post useful; How to use Google’s Search Console to Boost Conversions.

21. SEO Link Building & Site Audit Tools:

 

View my post – 20 Powerful Link Building Tools To Drive Traffic To Your Website.

 

22. Social media tools:

 

View my post – Over 50 awesome tools to optimize your social media activity.

 

 

23. Stock Images (Free):

 

The use of stock images is often criticised by conversion experts because the same images are sometimes used by competing websites. They are also sometimes used inappropriately (e.g. to show a member of your customer services team when they are clearly a model).

However, when you have a limited budget, and provided you take care with selection, stock photos can be a great resource to convey relevant imagery on your website. Pictures are engaging and can instantly communicate emotions.

Here are 6 resources that provide free stock images and illustrations.

1. Flickr: The world’s largest online photo imaging and sharing application. A great website used by some of the world’s top photographers. Not all images can be used commercially so check first before you use a photo.

2. Morguefile: Contains freely contributed photographs for creative projects. Morguefile do ask you to reference the photographer where possible.

3. StocksPhotos.io: This is a community for high resolution images (over 27,000 to choose from).

4. rgbstock: Is a free resource of high quality photographs and  graphics for illustrations, wallpaper and backgrounds.

5. Openphoto: An extensive library of stock photos which was established in 1998 and now has a huge selection of free images to choose from. Categories organised in thumb nails and also has a keyword search facility.

6. Freeimages: Most of the 6,000 images on file were either taken exclusively for the site or were sourced from contributing photographers and illustrators.

 

24. Surveys and user polls:

Typeform.com mobile survey
Source: Typeform.com

Click here for How to use online Voice of Customer tools to boost conversions – and 22 tools to reviewed.

 

25. Text Analysis – Word clouds:

 

A word cloud is an image composed of words used in a particular text or subject, in which the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance.

You can use word clouds as a way to visualise verbatim responses of users to surveys. complaints, problems or other feedback from visitors.

1. ABCya!: A word cloud for kids that may be relevant if your website is out interest to children. Type or paste text into the box below and press the arrow button to view the word cloud generated.

2. Jason Davies: A great tool if you want to generate a word cloud from a blog or website.

3. Tagcrowd: Allows you to set  specific criteria  for your cloud such as language, maximum number of words and minimum frequency.  Allows you to create a word cloud from a URL or upload text from a document.

4. Tagxedo: Create word clouds from a URL, Twitter ID, Del.icio.us ID, news, search,  RSS feed, uploading text or enter it yourself.

5. Tagul: A word cloud generator with advanced features including words inside words, rich font choices, roll-over effects, custom shapes, colours and fonts and export in vector formats.

6. WorditOut: Advanced filters allows you to filter the text to display or remove words and change their importance. Select your own layout by choosing your own colours, fonts, and sizes or let WorditOut find a random look for you.  http://worditout.com/

7. Wordle:  A simple word cloud generator which allows you to set the weights of words.

26. Tree Testing:

 

Tree testing or reverse card sorting is a usability technique used to evaluate how easy it is to find topics on  a website using the navigation structure. Checkout my post: How to improve website navigation using tree testing. 

27. Trust Assessment:

 

 

1. TrustRadius: Business software reviews from users, software comparisons and insights.

2. Web Of Trust:  The WOT user community has rated over 36,000,000 websites. Check out how they rate your website. I have seen mixed reviews about how accurate the ratings are on this site, so proceed with caution.

 

28. Usability:

 

Read my post – How to do usability testing to improve conversions – including 12 top solutions to use. 

 

29. Video – Explainer Videos:

Here is my post  –  How to create an awesome explainer video which includes a list of 111 studios and video production companies to choose from. 

 

30. Video – Explainer Videos (DIY):

 

1. GoAnimate: Software to produce professional animated videos. Free trial available.

2. PowToon: Free software version available to produce your own animated videos.

3. VideoScribe: Make your own whiteboard videos fast. 7 day Free trial available.

 

31.Video Players (Including Hosting):

 

 

1.SPROUTVIDEO: A video hosting that allows you customise, publish and track videos online. Includes security, marketing and analytical tools. Sprout allows you to monitor the number of plays and impressions, including geographic location and the domains they are played on.

2. Vimeo Pro: A fully customisable and embeddable HTML5
player with advanced statistics, private review pages and 20GB of HD storage
each week, with no additional bandwidth limitations.

3. Vzaar:  A customisable video players with multi-language sub-titles. Features include HTML5 support, JavaScript API, dual encoding, privacy and domain control, RTMPe and HTTPS embed code for a secure login portal. A 30 day Free trial is available.

4. Wistia: Offers a Free version with Wistia branding that allows you to produce up to 25 videos a month and basic analytics. The paid for versions include HTML5 support, real-time analytics, playlists, custom skins, email embeds, popovers, video SEO, and more. Wistia’s video heatmaps show when users stop, start, skip, and re-watch your video.

32. Video Spokesperson:

 

Read my post: How did Virgin Holidays achieve a 30% uplift in seat upgrades?

33. Visual analytics (heatmaps & session recordings):

Read my post: 15 Free & Paid For Visual Analytics Solutions to Boost Revenues.

 34. Visual  Eye Tracking  Heatmaps :

 

Eye tracking and facial coding solutions to optimise your digital content.

35. Web Analytics:

 

Google Analytics homepage
Source: Google Analytics

Read my post on the importance of the importance of web analytics and  a review of 18 top free and paid for solutions.

 

36. Other Conversion Toolboxes:

 

1. Conversion Ninja Toolbox: Tim Ash, Sitetuners, – author of Landing Page Optimization.

2. Conversion Optimization Toolbox: From Marketizator.

3. My Free Conversion Rate Optimization Toolbox: Rich Page – author of Website Optimization – An hour a day.

Wow, congratulations on getting to the end of this post. Please share using the social media icons below to prove you got this far.

Please contact me with any feedback or details of other tools that assist in improving conversion that you think should be included in the toolbox.

You can access all my posts on conversion, digital marketing and more here on my archive page.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.