Thursday 10 September 2009 | 09:38
EMC Conchango has recently become part of the Google Conversion Professionals programme. In this final post in our current series of Companies & Conversions, David Ellis, Head of Performance Measurement at EMC Conchango considers how website optimisation services will impact user centered design (UCD), but also what attitudes need to shift before this revolution in website design really takes off.
Earlier this week, I announced the result of our most recent website optimisation test. I was very excited - the results were outstanding - but what was most interesting was colleagues’ reactions to the results.
The initial reaction from a colleague was “Will the business believe the results?” And this, I believe, is the curious position that website optimisation services find themselves in at the moment. Because the results are often so impressive that businesses sometimes find them literally unbelievable – they can’t understand how they can be so good. This is particularly the case as the investment is so reasonable – after all, many thousands (or, indeed, hundreds of thousands) of pounds can be spent getting sites or applications up and running and they never seem to get such results.
And yet, there is no catch; these are real increases and improvements. This most recent test will add millions of revenue to the bottom line of the business and so the real benefits of the programme are indisputable.
I think there are two reasons for people finding website optimisation unbelievable, one of which in particular reflects a fundamental change in how we approach user centered design.
The return of the entrepreneur
Firstly, I think many businesses expect that only major levels of investment can deliver significant uplift and that these changes require significant back end work. In other words, they understand the limitation of their existing infrastructure – that is, the site design and structure, the back-end systems and the content management system and processes. They accept that, whilst they may be able to improve some things, these are essentially tweaks until they can completely rebuild their web site and ecommerce operations. But the point about website optimisation techniques is they focus on how the individual site visitor behaves, so any back-end infrastructure issues do not need to be a limiting factor, if the business is willing to work around them.
Those businesses who “get” optimisation have a more entrepreneurial attitude and are prepared to take risks. They tend to look beyond immediate limitations and want to learn and improve. They understand that in order to deliver big improvements, they need to take risks and are confident enough to accept these. Indeed, one of the great advantages of website optimisation techniques is that they manage risk by testing out all the options and demonstrating the most effective, thereby actually reducing the ongoing risk.
The changing face of User Centered Design
The second big point is that many businesses, and agencies, think they know best when it comes to designing interfaces. Agencies, in particular, focus their skills and their services on designing beautiful interfaces in the first place, and as a result very often they regard any alterations to or deviations from these interfaces as a threat. Businesses and agencies don’t always have the combination of analytical and business skills to reassess and then optimise their site’s performance.
However, the very best designers realise that the ultimate measure of how good an interface is, is the sales performance; how many conversions (sales, leads, or whatever) it generated for the business. They are fascinated by how they can learn and improve their understanding of how users really behave and respond to their designs. Our designers and user experience architects at EMC Conchango have really taken to our website optimisation services, because they realise that the best designs “live” once they are launched, and then evolve to respond to customer behaviour; they also realise that a site is never truly “finished” and set in stone, and they also get very excited when we outline just what an impact their work has had on the client’s business.
And this is the most interesting part, because this changes the nature of how we design web sites. No site is complete as it goes live and no matter how talented the design team, optimal rework adds real value. And this means that website optimisation services in general are currently changing the way that user centred design works. UCD no longer ends with a complete and final answer when the site goes live, but it enters a new phase with a site that is “born” and that will grow and evolve to be even better as we learn how it best can work in its particular ecosystem. UCD used to deliver sites that performed well, but from now on, with website optimisation services, the two complement each other to deliver best performing sites.
Tips for website optimisation
- Embrace your limitations - Look to optimise what you can, rather than look at all the things that you can’t change because they require significant investment; you may be surprised with how much you can alter – and improve
- Rediscover your inner entrepreneur – Website optimisation services offer genuine returns for those that back themselves, but you have to be confident enough to manage some risks, even if they are comparatively small
- Test your designs - Consider how multivariate techniques could improve your design processes. For example, use the 80/20 rule to get most of the site ready, but then look to use optimisation techniques to establish the answers for the final 20%.
By David Ellis, Head of Performance Measurement, EMC Conchango
EMC Conchango are part of the Google Conversion Professionals Network, learn more about this programme and find an expert to help you to improve your online profitability here.