website redesign

How do you bring a data-driven approach to your website redesign? BigCommerce hired Chris Nolan to do just that. Here’s how he used data to drive a Market-first redesign.

When we lose an employee to another company, I feel a mix of pride and saltiness. I’m proud that working here turns otherwise ordinary men and women into highly valuable data-driven performance marketers.

But I hate getting my employees poached.

In 2018, it was time for one of our employees to step into a bigger role. After working with us for years, Chris Nolan (not the Batman director) stepped into a big role in a company with Big in its name.

Chris was tapped to be the cornerstone hire for the growth team at BigCommerce. We miss him, but have enjoyed seeing how a Conversion Scientist takes on a big organization like BigCommerce.

His challenge is the same challenge that “woke” marketers are facing in every industry. How do I get an entrenched culture to adopt data and testing.

“Market-First” Strategies with Chris Nolan

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You might say that Chris jumped out of his lab coat and into the fire with BigCommerce, as they recently redesigned their entire site. There is no bigger challenge to a growth marketer than an “all in” redesign.

BigCommerce homepage before the website redesign

BigCommerce homepage before the website redesign.

BigCommerce homepage after the website redesign

BigCommerce homepage after the website redesign

I invited Chris to come onto the podcast to share the challenges and triumphs of a new hire nudging a culture from the bottom during a website relaunch.

Buckle up.

Chris is the Senior Growth Strategy Manager at BigCommerce. Businesses build their e-commerce websites on BigCommerce technology. They recently completed a website redesign.

Chris started his marketing journey because he had a passion for human behavior. This episode is jam-packed as he walks us through agency relationships, differentiating mobile from desktop sites and how to think ‘market-first’ to get the right site experience for your next redesign.

Self Care Tip

Championing change in an organization is a long journey, but the victories come all along the way. So, when you get back to the office, do something to take care of yourself. Book a massage. Put a meditation session on your calendar. Invite a close friend to your favorite restaurant. Get a jog or workout in.

These are scientifically proven ways we make ourselves better marketers, too.

Resources and links discussed

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How is conversion optimization ensuring that website redesigns always deliver an improvement in performance? Brian Massey and Joel Harvey can tell you. And they do.

Poker is one of those games that, like digital marketing, requires a left-brain/right-brain approach. To begin with, good poker players know the percentages. They know that the two four’s in their hand gives them a 12% chance of winning in a typical game. That’s their left-brain, data-driven knowledge.

Then you add in all of the right-brain stuff. Emotion. Reading the other players’ faces. Controlling your own face. Tells. And past behaviors.

Yep, that’s digital marketing. But there’s one move that throws all of that out the window.

Taking the Risk out of Website Redesigns with Joel Harvey

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You may have seen it in the World Series of Poker on TV, or in a James Bond movie. One player pushes his entire stack of chips into the center of the table and says, “All in”. What he’s saying is, if he loses this hand, he loses everything. All of the other players have to ask themselves, “WIll I match his entire stack?” or should I get out now.

Going all in smashes everything. It may mean that you’re ignoring the data in one big high-stakes bluff. Or it may mean that you’re trying to ratchet up the emotion, scaring the rest of the table into making a bad decision.

There is an equivalent to “going all in” in digital marketing as well. It’s called a website redesign.

This is one of the biggest budgeted projects a company will do. When someone throws a lot of money at the marketing department, it can be hard to resist.

Sure, it could have a huge impact on the financial prospects of the firm. It can also cause you to lose everything.

Poker players have one advantage over digital marketers when going all in: They can see their cards. They know their percentage. Digital marketers? Well, they have past performance from the current site..

But do they use it?

Joel Harvey and Brian Massey Intended Consequences The new way to redesign

Joel Harvey and Brian Massey Intended Consequences The new way to redesign

On today’s show, I’m pulling in Joel Harvey – Chief Operating Officer at Conversion Sciences. Joel’s role is to make sure we live up to our company motto: “Always deliver remarkable results.”

Check out our conversion-centered website redesign method that guarantees results in weeks, not months.

Joel and I are talking website redesigns today. And we’re going to tell you something that may blow your mind. Website redesigns don’t have to be an all or nothing hand. You don’t have to push all of your budget in and wait 3, or 6 or even 12 months later.

Listen to find out how we stack the odds in our favor, guaranteeing a winning hand.

  • The website redesign needs to be profitable – not pretty.
  • Users tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • Slow and steady wins the [website redesign] race.
  • Demand data.

When an agency comes to you and asks you to pick something, that’s an opportunity for you to say, “Wait a minute! You guys go off and collect some data and tell me which one of these is going to be victorious.” You shouldn’t be guessing. They shouldn’t be guessing.

Website Redesign Tip

The all-in approach isn’t just limited to website redesigns. Individual campaigns are usually all-in affairs as well.

When you get back to the office, open a spreadsheet and start writing out the assumptions that you’re making when designing that email, social media ad, or landing page.

You should quickly have a few dozen.

  • “We need to be clever in our headline”
  • “We need to have a picture on the page”
  • “We need icons on our website.”
  • “Video is required.”

Many of these may be well supported by past experience or best practices.

For each, you should ask, “Do I have a way of finding out if this assumption is a good one.”

You may be able to look at the performance of past pages. You may be able to see which email subject lines worked best in the past. You may create different versions of ads and see which delivers the best result.

Now you’re looking at your cards, and you’ll rarely win a hand if you don’t.

Resources and links discussed

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 All you ever wanted to know about performing website due diligence and how to not doo due diligence when buying sites.

I’m at the Ungagged Conference and enjoyed sitting in on a presentation by Bryan O’Neil of Flippa.com.

Are you looking for a Website, or a Web Business?

— Bryan O’neil, Flippa.com

Website Due Diligence Issues to Consider

When considering investing in a web business, consider the following.

  • Traffic source: Is it dependent on free search?
  • Proft
  • On-going development: Does it require additional investment?
  • Dependence on Third-party API’s: Facebook, Twitter and others can change access to data at any time.

There are other considerations for website due diligence as well.

Calculate Revenue per Visit

The Revenue per Visit (RPV) is the revenue generated by a site divided by the number of visitors. If this number is small, you may have trouble building traffic, because the cost of the traffic is higher than the revenue.

For a better analysis, consider measuring Profit per Visit.

Avoid Traffic Arbitrage

If the site is not something you would use, you might have a business built on traffic arbitrage. Arbitrage is acquiring traffic, and then sending it advertisers or affiliates for more than you paid.

This is not a web business.

Does the Website have a Future?

Sites with a limited future are not a good long-term investment. When performing website due diligence, be careful of sites that are at the mercy of time or other businesses.

Websites that focus on a single event have a built in expiration date.

Sites that fix something in someone else’s product can be eliminated by upgrades to that product.

Sites tat provide a product that is simply “better” than the competition can be marketed out of existence

Websites that depend on loopholes should be avoided, as loopholes can be closed.

Avoid trying to figure things out after you buy.

— Bryan O’neil, Flippa.com

Website Due Diligence: 7 Business Buying Myths

O’Neil offer seven myths about buying a business that you should avoid.

Myth #1: The site’s backlink profile is important

Dependence on organic traffic is dangerous.

Myth #2: Financial verification is most important

Businesses with good financial verification can fail if they don’t have a future.

Myth #3: Escrow can save you from a bad decision.

Escrow is where you give money to a third party during a period of inspection and verification.

Do your due diligence before you enter escrow. Don’t make yourself a target for scammers.

Entering escrow also tie up your capital, limiting your options.

Myth #4: Website due diligence is just too expensive.

Due diligence is expensive, especially if done by a third party.

But, when you compare it to the purchase price, it can be quite affordable.

Calculate your Website Due Diligence Percent:

DDP = Cost of Due Diligence / Purchase Price of Website.

Myth #5: Screen shots are viable proof of financial performance.

Business owners can forge screen shots showing success. This is a sign of a scammer.

Make the seller jump through hoops.

— Bryan O’neil, Flippa.com

Myth #6: Your broker can do due diligence.

Avoid any broker that claims they have done due diligence for you.

Brokers work for the SELLER.

Myth #7: You can rely on apps to do your website due diligence.

Nope. You need the human element in the process.

Due Diligence when Buying Websites by Bryan O’neil of Flippa.com

Here is my instagraph infographic of his presentation on due diligence mistakes when buying Websites.

Avoid Doo Due Diligence When Buying Websites - All About Website Due Diligence: Advice from Flippa.com

Due Diligence when Buying Websites by Bryan O’Niel


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 

Running a business website is no different from a Monopoly game. You have scarce resources to spend building the site and attracting traffic. Find out how to optimize for scarcity and win the game!

Monopoly is the quintessential game of American capitalism. For better or worse, it focuses the player on one goal: maximizing the number of dollars in your pile. Everyone has their own strategy and their preferred properties to own and build. Your little sister may only buy properties if she likes the color.

Excellent monopoly players learn their opponents’ strategy and then adapt to respond to the environment they are in.

If you look beyond the “greed is good” focus on money, you will realize that playing the game teaches the principles of scarcity and optimization.

The number dollars you start with is scarce. You must make the most of your limited resources.

You want to be ready when lady luck glances your way. When a dog, a car, or a hat finally lands your property, you better be ready.

Running a business website is no different. You inevitably have scarce resources to spend building the site and attracting traffic.

And when those visitors finally land on your site, you better be ready. This is the job of optimization.

If you viewed your web page as a Monopoly board, would it change your priorities and behavior?

Like houses and hotels, would the right elements be on your page be there?

Too often, we don’t think about our web pages as scarce resources that have to be optimized. Too often, we use our little sister’s “pretty property” strategy. Trust me. She still hates to lose.

Monopoly game board. Discover how to optimize for scarcity and grow your business.

Discover how to optimize for scarcity and grow your business.

What is Scarcity

Scarcity means having less resources than needed to achieve a goal. In Monopoly, we can’t own all the properties and have hotels on all properties. We have to deal with scarcity. Our money supply is limited, as is our opportunity to buy properties. The desire to compete brings out our analytical nature and we scheme to make the most of the resources we have as opposed to the resources we want. We do this because we know we have an opponent that is actively working to undo us. Again, do we think about our web page the same way?

Examples of Scarcity on our Web Pages

In reality, we do have opponents in our web strategy. Not just one, but many. In fact, we usually have more opponents than competitors. Some of these opponents include:

  • Limited attention span
  • Lack of common reference and knowledge base
  • Low-resolution computer monitors
  • Negative emotional association with specific words or images
  • Slow connection speeds

As you think about the opponents listed above, you will recognize scarcity working against your ultimate goal. Vigorously compete against these opponents on your site with the same vigor you compete in Monopoly, and you’ll be more likely to “pass GO and collect $200.”

How to Optimize for Scarcity

Something amazing happens on the Monopoly board that doesn’t naturally happen on our web page.

In Monopoly, we quit caring about how glamorous a property is and instead focus on how much money it will make for us.

In contrast, it is the very rare individual who walks into a web planning meeting without being focused on making the most beautiful page possible. If we played Monopoly the same way, we would focus on acquiring and building hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place and be done. If you try this approach, either in Monopoly or on your website, you lose.

If you don’t pull your weight, you’re gone!

Without emotion, we require properties to pay their way. They have a job to do and we expect them to do it well. The properties’ job is generating revenue.

Is there an element on your web page that isn’t pulling its weight? As optimizers, our job is to identify the converting elements on a page and remove the non-converting elements.

How to Optimize for Scarcity: Testing to see which properties are performing

Such was the case for one client’s site, when we set out to improve the home page. We followed this process to find out which elements led to conversions:

  1. We set up Google to score on bounce rate while watching conversions.
  2. We used click-tracking software heat mapping to identify content that was not getting clicked. This website has 4 clickable icons that take the user to additional content. We found that the 2 outer icons had low activity and decided to test them against alternate icons.
  3. The experiment executed quickly with the following results:
    • 10% improvement in bounce rate
    • 56% improvement in conversions
Small changes have a big impact on conversions.

Fig 1. Small changes have a big impact on conversions.

That felt good – let’s do it again

After experiencing success, it seemed like a good idea to try again. This time we identified one icon that was under-performing, so we replaced it with another one that led to a converting page. The result here is interesting. Looking at the heat map alone indicates the replaced icon is more desirable. But looking at the numbers reveals it was not the right choice.

More clicks do not necessarily mean more conversions.

Fig 2. More clicks do not necessarily mean more conversions.

As shown on the heat map above, replacing the 3rd icon attracted many more clicks on the “B” version of the page. However, both the bounce rate and the conversion rate took a hit.

  • Bounce rate degraded 4%
  • Conversion rate decreased 56%

This experiment shows why it is essential to test and scrutinize the results. Two nearly identical hypotheses with two nearly identical changes led to opposite results. My initial inclination was to ignore the results and push the change through. But I put on my Monopoly head and determined the measurable results of the change should trump how I felt about the change.

No Experiment is a Failure

It would be easy to walk away from the second experiment and view it as a total loss. In the same way that losses are our teachers in Monopoly, losses should be our teachers in web optimization experiments. Just as every Monopoly opponent is unique, our clients and website visitors are unique.

To better understand the behavior we observed, we sought to learn more by asking some basic questions:

  • Why did higher clicks on the replaced icon also correspond to a higher bounce rate? (Hint:  something else didn’t get clicked as much!)
  • What was appealing about the new icon?
  • Why did the site conversion rate drop?
  • What was the net gain/loss of each individual conversion metric?
  • Did the new copy corresponding to the new icon have a negative impact?
  • Would alternate copy change the site performance?
  • Did the new icon and copy add clarity and relevance?
  • Did the new icon and copy add anxiety or distraction?

It is important to learn from each experiment regardless of the results. Applying this discipline is critical in understanding the unique functionality of your website and what increases or decreases conversions.

Failing to learn from a “failed” experiment is like failing to learn the tactics of your Monopoly opponent. You will face them again, and you want to be prepared when you do.

So What Should You Do?

Like many 12-step programs, the first step is to acknowledge you have a problem. Say out loud, “I care more about how pretty my web page is than how much money it makes.” Let that sink in and prepare to change. Make a personal commitment to website profitability based on hard data. Then approach your web pages with the kind of profit-focused attention to scarcity and optimization that wins Monopoly games.

  • Make a list of the individual components on your web page – especially above the fold.
  • Write the purpose of each component next to it.
  • Ask yourself if each component contributes to profit – and eliminate those that don’t.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything that could replace the existing components that would drive more profit.
  • Test, test, test.

Nobody is immune to personal biases and individual favorites. If you want to maximize the functionality of your website, you need to put a structure in place that always tests and always trusts data over opinion. When you earn how to optimize for scarcity, you win. When you make a habit of doing that, you will be the same formidable opponent that you are in Monopoly.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation or argument and it suddenly hits you that the two of you aren’t talking about the same thing? Then you have that brilliant “aha” moment where you can actually start making some progress.

One workplace conversation that can be particularly tricky is whether your company should redesign its website. It’s important to make sure everyone is talking about the same thing when you talk about redesign because it’s costly, risky, and emotionally charged.

There are a few common reasons companies choose to redesign their websites:

  • The site performs poorly
  • The desire to be “mobile-friendly”
  • The site is “dated”
  • The desire to be “unique”

These reasons have a common denominator: you’re not happy with a very particular aspect of your site. There are many ways you can approach finding a solution to the problem, and we – the universal We – attach the word “redesign” to those solutions even though it means one of many methods are used to get the result we want.

Synonyms for redesign from dictionary.com

Synonyms for redesign from dictionary.com

According to Dictionary.com, the above are some of the more common synonyms for “redesign”. The way Conversion Sciences uses this term is very industry-specific, so it has a certain jargon-y quality. Someone working in marketing at a tech or ecommerce company probably understands our jargon more than their colleagues in other departments.

If you’re that marketing person and you’re trying to convince your boss and other departments that you need conversion optimization, it’s really important that you’re all speaking the same language. You might be experiencing some miscommunication and not even realize it.

What are the different ways each of you might be using the word “redesign”?

Before you dismiss it as juvenile to keep returning to basic, dictionary definitions of “redesign”, make a mental tally of important people who don’t work in marketing, conversion optimization, or graphic design.

  • Your CEO and CFO, maybe your boss
  • Your customer service representatives answering chat, phone calls, and emails
  • Your customers

All of us feel great satisfaction in knowing the real definition, but ultimately being right isn’t helpful if no one understands each other.

A Full Redesign: Starting Over From Scratch

When we say “redesign” in its purest sense, we mean a brand spanking new website. You hired a designer, you have a new color palette and CSS, you completely threw out the old. Every page is new, the entire structure is different.

Redesign can be used to mean a brand spanking new experience

“Redesign” can be used to mean a brand spanking new experience

When Conversion Sciences cautions against redesigns, this is the definition we’re using. We say there are only two good reasons to undertake a website redesign:

  1. You are re-branding or
  2. Your CMS (content management system) is too limiting

When I worked at Westbank Library our website used a proprietary CMS built by the company that built our ILS (integrated library system). An ILS is used to search for books or connect to an online resource or check to see when books are due back. In other words, an ILS isn’t meant to be the platform for a very specific kind of online application.

Westbank's homepage in 2008, built with a CMS that was only intended to be used for online library catalogs

Westbank’s homepage in 2008, built with a CMS that was only intended to be used for online library catalogs (screenshot via the Way Back Machine)

The ILS wouldn’t support some very important non-book-related features:

  • We couldn’t optimize the site for the search engines
  • We couldn’t embed a calendar
  • We couldn’t choose which photos appeared where on the page
  • We couldn’t create customized landing pages for special events
  • We couldn’t make the site ADA compliant
  • We couldn’t add widgets other libraries were using

We needed a new site built on a new CMS, one that met our present-day needs. The only way to do that was to dump the old one. The new website was built using Drupal, and it meant everything was new. The change was necessary and long overdue.

Westbank's new homepage after the from-scratch redesign

Westbank’s new homepage after the from-scratch redesign (screenshot via the Way Back Machine, which is why the images aren’t loading)

We were excited that on smartphones, the phone number was tel-linked and that the site was now searchable without going back to Google. Best of all, we had an actual, legitimate calendar. Before the redesign, the best we could do was make a list of what was going on.

Calendar of events on old site

Calendar of events on old site

After the redesign, people could see an actual calendar with clickable events where they could go find more information.

Calendar of events on new site

Calendar of events on new site

Without a doubt, the new site was an immense improvement. The lack of functionality on the old site was crippling us.
In this case, a full redesign was justified, but the results weren’t what we had hoped.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Conversion Optimization as Redesign: Making Incremental Changes

When the new site launched, our traffic went through the roof – hundreds of times more people were visiting our website. But since the change was long overdue, people who used the old site for a decade were totally lost.

Dozens of people called us saying “I can’t find anything on this new website, you need to redesign it!” and dozens more sent us angry emails saying the same. With the amount of time we spent working on the new website, it was disheartening to hear. Small public libraries don’t have the resources to do projects like this often – and in some cases, they can’t do projects like it at all. We knew we’d been fortunate, and we were suddenly terrified we had blown our only chance to fix our site. There were very serious discussions of applying for grants, then hiring a new design team to start over.

But after spending time talking to our patrons, we’d find out what they actually meant by “redesign”.

In one case, a gentlemen received an email reminding him to renew his books and included a link for him to do it online. Before our redesign, that link took him to his library account where he was automatically logged in on his home computer. All he had to do was click “renew”. After the redesign, this link took him to our homepage, so he had no idea where to go. When we say that your landing pages need to fulfill the promises you’ve made in your ad, this is a great example of what we’re talking about. Instead of changing the design of anything, we needed to fix that link.

Another way we knew people were lost is by analyzing how they used the site.

One problem in particular was how people used our site’s search box. All of the searches were for titles of popular books and movies, but the search box wasn’t connected to the online catalog. Our old site had one search box, and its only use was to look for books and movies. Everyone assumed the new search box had the same function, but it didn’t.

Our search bar at the launch of our new site.

Search options on the new website

We used the data from our search box the same way you can use heat maps. You can accommodate how your visitors are already using your site with the data you gather. Instead of forcing them to use our search box the way we wanted, we changed it to do what they wanted.

But that change meant our visitors, once again, didn’t have a site search option.

We changed the site search bar to be a catalog search, but it still wasn't perfect

We changed the site search bar to be a catalog search, but it still wasn’t perfect

From this point, we found a widget that gave us a more dynamic search bar. Then we replaced images at the bottom of the page that linked to adult, teen, and children’s programs with widgets featuring new books and the library’s Instagram account. And we featured upcoming events more prominently, moved the contact information into the footer, added navigational links along the top of the page, and worked to make the site ADA compliant. The current homepage design is very different compared to what it was when we first rolled out the new website.

The homepage as it is now

The homepage as it is now

These changes were slow-going, careful, and made one at a time. The redesign 1.0 and current iteration look similar because of branding and tabbed browsing, but for library patrons, these are two very disparate experiences. It is safe to say the new homepage underwent another redesign, but you might hesitate to use that word because the changes didn’t happen all at once.

 

Looking back at synonyms of “redesign”…

Redesign can be used to describe incremental changes

“Redesign” can be used to describe incremental changes

The website wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to work with. We couldn’t start over every time we realized the site could be doing better.

Big Swings as Redesign: Changing Several Variables at Once

We use the term “big swing” to talk about sweeping changes we make on a page. Often these changes are on a page that’s particularly important or special, like a homepage or landing page.

It means we’ve changed several features all at once instead of testing one thing at a time. The downside of this strategy is that no matter how the page performs after the test goes live, we don’t really know why. If the page continues to perform with the exact same conversion rate, we don’t really know why: our changes may have offset each other.

Big, sweeping changes are exciting when they are successful, and people love to share these kinds of successes. They make great headlines and engaging stories. They give us hope that our big change will work out the way we want, or perhaps even better than we imagine. The problem is that there are usually third variables at play in these stories.

Think about the diet book industry. Every book boasts of its followers’ drastic life improvements due entirely to the diet. But when someone starts to pay attention to what she eats, she may also make other changes like exercising more, quitting smoking, and getting more frequent checkups with her doctor. Was her success really due to the diet book? Or was it purely chance since she made so many other changes? There’s no way to know.

Michael Scott’s Big Swing

Humans have the potential to be rational, logical creatures, but we often fall prey to our emotions when we make decisions, dole out praise, or attach blame. In an episode of The Office, Office Manager Michael Scott has the brilliant, big idea to send out paper shipments with five golden tickets tucked into the boxes at random. Each ticket awarded a 10% discount to its recipient.

The promotion quickly goes south when Dunder Mifflin’s largest client receives all five tickets, and there are no disclaimers or expiration dates. Michael arranges for a fall guy who will be fired for the idea, but then finds out this client has decided to send Dunder Mifflin even more business because of the discount. Naturally Michael wants the credit but doesn’t want to be reprimanded for almost bankrupting the company.

Michael Scott dressed as Willy Wonka, presenting his Golden Ticket idea

Michael Scott dressed as Willy Wonka, presenting his Golden Ticket idea

The Golden Ticket promotion was a big swing because Dunder Mifflin didn’t isolate the variable Michael was hoping to test: will current clients be more loyal to Dunder Mifflin because of a special, one-time-only, 10% discount?

The consequences of the Golden Ticket run the gamut of possible results of big swings:

  • Positive Result: When it seemed like the promotion would put Dunder Mifflin out of business, the responsible party was fired
  • Negative Result: When it became apparent the promotion would solidify a relationship with an important client, the responsible party was publicly commended
  • Neutral Result: Dunder Mifflin lost a huge amount of revenue due to the promotion, then gained more revenue, also due to the promotion

Big Swings at Conversion Sciences

In a staff meeting last week, Conversion Scientist Megan Hoover told us, “We completely redesigned this landing page for our client, and it was a big improvement”. In a different staff meeting, fellow Conversion Scientist Chris Nolan told us, “Our first test was to redesign our client’s homepage, and it was a huge success”.

Conversion Sciences doesn’t do website redesigns, we do conversion optimization. So what did Megan and Chris mean?

  • We switched from two columns to three
  • We wrote a new headline
  • We changed the copy
  • We changed the wording on the call to action

These changes mean they were speaking accurately when they described their big swings as “redesigns”.

Redesign describes what we do when we do big swings

“Redesign” describes what we do when we make big swings

We didn’t change the functionality of the page, the page’s purpose, or the CMS. We definitely made some big changes, but we certainly didn’t start from scratch, and all of the changes were very localized to a landing page and a homepage.

It’s worth noting that even though it’s tough to measure results when you make a big swing type of redesign, we still take the risk sometimes because Conversion Sciences has run so many successful tests. We are very good at making educated hypotheses about what kinds of changes will work well together, but we don’t attempt these big changes often. There is a lot of room for error in the big swing.

What is Your Desired End Result?

We covered three approaches to redesign in this post:

  1. Throw-out the old, start from scratch
  2. Incremental changes
  3. Big swings

Let’s return to the most common reasons a company chooses to redesign:

  • The site performs poorly
  • The desire to be “mobile-friendly”
  • The site is “dated”
  • The desire to be “unique”

When you have the conversation at work about redesigning your site, try starting with the end goal.

If you work backwards, the conversation has a good chance of staying on track because it’s likely that everyone wants the same thing, even if it comes out of their mouths sounding very different. I’m willing to bet that everyone wants a home page with lower bounce rates. Everyone wants to reduce cart abandonment rates. Everyone wants more downloads of your industry reports. Everyone wants to sell more merchandise.

Redesigns are seductive. They come with big budgets and a chance to make a visible impact. The question at the heart of my arguments is this: do you need a website redesign, or do you need a website optimization program?

An optimization program can begin delivering results within weeks. Full redesigns take months and months to develop. An optimization program tells you which of your assumptions are good ones. Full redesigns are big gambles.

With a short Conversion Strategy Session, you will be able to make the case for a full redesign or optimization program for your growing online business. Request your free session.
Brian Massey

On Monday, Conversion Sciences launched a revamped website. As you will learn in our Lab Coat Lessons Webinar, a website redesign can be a very dangerous undertaking.

Sixty percent of our business comes through our website (the remainder being referrals). Any significant drop in traffic or conversion rate will hit our bottom line hard.

It’s still early for us, but we will share five client redesigns we’ve been involved with and why they were or were not successful. Watch the webinar replay.

Conversion-Scientist-Podcast-Logo-1400x1400


What Not to Do in a Website Redesign

There is a lot that can change in a redesign. The sentiment seems to be that, since everything is changing anyway, what can it hurt to add a few more modifications, updates and rewrites? It can hurt a lot, as it turns out.

A redesign is a collection of changes, all based on assumptions about what visitors want. Some of those assumptions will be right on. Some will be sadly misdirected. The more you add, the more likely you are to introduce some random poison pill feature into the mix.

Any website redesign is a mix of good and bad assumptions.

Any website redesign is a mix of good and bad assumptions.

With our redesign, we did the opposite. Our primary goal was to improve the search engine performance of our amazing content (like this). We were tempted to rewrite dated pages, redesign elements we’ve grown tired of and photoshop our pictures to make us look more fit.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We will do these things, but not until we’ve baselined the structural changes we launched on Monday.

The heartbreak comes when more of your changes decrease conversions than increase them.

Things can get ugly when more of your redesign ideas hurt than they help.

Things can get ugly when more of your redesign ideas hurt than they help.

If you didn’t roll out changes step-by-step, you just don’t know which changes hurt you and which helped.

An even more insidious result is when more of your changes increased performance. In this situation, the marketing department pats itself on the back and goes on about its business.

When the good decisions outweigh the bad, the bad decisions are hidden.

When the good decisions outweigh the bad, the bad decisions are hidden.

But how much better could business be if the bad decisions were tested away? Usually, much better. The positive decisions overshadow the mistakes that still linger on the site sucking the revenue out of the business.

JJ Abrams has shown that he can revitalize a beloved film franchise, turning it into a blockbuster. Isn’t this what you want for your website? Find out how he did it in our webinar, The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign.

We’ll show you five different approaches to data-driven redesign. One should fit your situation.

Meanwhile, check out how to take the risk out of your website redesign. I’ll write more about what we’re learning from our redesign soon.

So you just read an article on how your website needs to be mobile responsive. That makes sense. More people are using their phones these days than ever before. It would be wise to have a site that adjusts to a mobile user’s needs.

But then you stumble across a new headline, this one talking about the need for a separate “mobile optimized” website. Is that the same thing as responsive?
Now there’s a new article talking about “adaptive” sites, and another one demanding you use “dynamic” web design to reach mobile users.

SO. MANY. TERMS.

Why web-design people? Why?

Each of these terms describes a method for delivering your website content to mobile users. Today, we are going to break down the differences between each one, so you can finally understand what’s going on the next time you talk with your website designer.

Before we begin, if you aren’t convinced that mobile design matters, check out this article on Why You Can’t Ignore Mobile Traffic.

The Different Types Of Mobile Website Development

While mobile web development is an ever-expanding field, there are three common classifications you are likely to come across.

  1. Responsive Design
  2. Adaptive Design (aka Dynamic Serving)
  3. Separate, Mobile-Optimized Design

Each of these are different, but it’s likely you will hear them being used interchangeably at times, which can add to the confusion.
To simplify things and provide a visual baseline, I’ve created the following spectrum:

This spectrum helps us understand the method we’re using to deliver website content to users

This spectrum helps us understand the method we’re using to deliver website content to users.

Each end of the spectrum represents an extreme. On the far left, we have the exact same site delivered to users on every device. In other words, there is no mobile site developed at all.

On the far right, we have a completely different site being delivered to mobile users with no crossover.

Each of the web development methods we’ll discuss fall within this spectrum.

1. Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design delivers a comparatively similar experience to a desktop experience.

Responsive web design delivers a comparatively similar experience to a desktop experience.

Responsive web design delivers the exact same website across every device, with the ONLY difference being layout.

Responsive design uses “fluid grids” to adjust site content to any possible screen size, allowing for an optimal viewing experience regardless of the device been used. This is particularly useful in a world where new devices with new screen sizes are created every other day.

Whether the site is being viewed on a tablet, smartphone, or desktop, all the elements are the same with responsive web design.

Whether the site is being viewed on a tablet, smartphone, or desktop, all the elements are the same with responsive web design.


Responsive web design keeps all the elements of your site the same on every device.

  • Same headlines
  • Same copywriting
  • Same CTAs
  • Same everything

The only difference is that the layout adjusts for easier mobile consumption, typically arranging everything for quick, up-and-down scroll navigation. So instead of users having to scroll from left to right to see an image or repeatedly zoom in and out, the site images and elements automatically resize and rearrange to intuitively fit the screen being used.

Responsive design rearranges the exact same website for optimal viewing on any device.

On the plus side, responsive sites are cheap to build, easy to maintain and work for any screen size. You make one website and it works for every device. They are also great for SEO as there is no content overlap.
On the downside, responsive sites do not offer a fully mobile-optimized experience, as you are still offering essentially the same content to mobile users. When over half of your web traffic is probably coming via mobile device, this can mean you are leaving tons of mobile conversions on the table.

2. Adaptive Web Design (aka Dynamic Serving)

Adaptive web design does not necessarily deliver the exact same experience to desktop and mobile users

Adaptive web design does not necessarily deliver the exact same content to desktop and mobile users

While responsive web design delivers essentially the same website to all users, adaptive design, also know as “Dynamic serving”, delivers separate content to users based on their device.

For example, an adaptive designer might create three different designs, each with customized HTML & CSS, for desktop, tablet, and smartphone users. If a desktop user, smartphone user and tablet user were to browse the website, they would all see something fundamentally different while being on the same URL.

These separate designs can be 100% different or simply 10% different. The point is that separate HTML & CSS are being “served” to each device, allowing you to deliver a customized experience.

As you can see in the above image, the desktop, tablet, and smartphone displays all have fundamentally different content. Since they all have the same URL, we say this is an adaptive design.
Unlike responsive design, adaptive doesn’t use fluid grids to deliver flexible content across any device. Instead, it manually creates separate layouts for predefined screen sizes and displays the appropriate selection.

If the three categories of devices had standard sizes, this would be great, but as you can see…

Designing for every device is very difficult

Designing for every device is very difficult.

There are more devices out there than you could ever design for, and this can put adaptive designers at a disadvantage. For devices you don’t design for, the experience won’t be optimal.

Here’s a fantastic gif from CSS-Tricks that illustrates the difference between experiencing a responsive vs adaptive design as you change screen sizes. Responsive is on top and adaptive on the bottom.

Responsive design is demonstrated first, adaptive web design second

Responsive design is demonstrated first, adaptive web design second.

Adaptive design delivers a separate experience to predefined devices via the same URL.

On the plus side, adaptive design keeps everyone on the same URL while allowing you to provide a targeted, optimized experience to mobile users.
On the downside, dynamic design is technically complex and can be more expensive, as you are essentially designing a separate site for each device.

3. Designing a Separate, Mobile-Optimized Site

Mobile optimized sites deliver a very different experience than desktop

Mobile optimized sites deliver a very different experience than desktop.


While the term “mobile optimized” can mean a variety of things, when it’s time to design your mobile website, creating a mobile optimized site implies creating a separate, distinct website for your mobile users.
Unlike dynamic serving, this won’t take place via the same URL. Instead, it is most frequently accomplished via a subdomain, such as m.rootdomain.com or something similar.
By rerouting mobile users to a separate website, you can completely control their mobile experience. And as we’ve learned from past discussions on mobile CRO, if you aren’t creating a mobile-centric experience, you won’t reach mobile viewers effectively.
 
Mobile users, and particularly smartphone users, behave very differently than desktop users.

Mobile users, and particularly smartphone users, behave very differently than desktop users.


Having a separate, mobile-optimized site can allow you to better reach a mobile audience.

Mobile optimized design delivers a separate experience to mobile users via a different URL.

As an additional upside, Google recognizes mobile-specific subdomains as being mobile-friendly and factors that favorably into its search results. In other words, it can have a positive impact on your SEO results.
You’ll want to be careful. If you forget to add the appropriate “canonical” tags, you can actually hurt your SEO results, as the search engines will penalize the mobile site as duplicate content. Many designers don’t think about marketing or SEO in their designs (this is exactly why I began offering design to my copywriting clients), so be sure to inquire about this while vetting a potential designer.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you gain a better understanding of web design and better equipped you to work with designers in the future.

Before we finish, it’s important to understand that many people use the terms we’ve mentioned here incorrectly.

Google treats “adaptive” and “responsive” interchangeably in its search results and many non-designers or sudo-designers with a cursory understanding will often use “adaptive” when they are discussing a responsive design. I myself mixed these terms up regularly until I got fed up with the poor-converting designs my copywriting clients were dealing with, and invested in creating a design solution for them.

“Mobile optimized” is not a term limited to the design world, so be sure to clarify that you are meaning a separate, URL-distinct mobile website when working with a designer.

About the Author

Jacob McMillen HeadshotJacob McMillen combines professional copywriting with clean web design, giving small-to-midsize businesses the high-converting websites they need to make meaningful online profits.

Photo Credits

A website redesign is like a Hollywood movie reboot. It really is.

There have been two attempts to reboot the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars. George Lucas gave us three prequels that, while generating some $2.5 billion in box office worldwide, were largely reviled for their lack of magic and stunted acting. Now JJ Abrams is rebooting with a sequel to the series called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Redesigning your website should be seen as a reboot of your online properties as well. Watch The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign, and learn how to avoid creating a Phantom Menace when the Force Awakens for your website.

This is not the first reboot that JJ Abrams has helmed as visionary and director. We’ve got his incredibly successful treatments of the Star Trek franchise to consider as well.

Don’t Just Blow Things Up

The problem we have with the popular Responsive Web Design strategies is that you must change everything in order to create a “mobile-friendly” website. Responsive designs are programmed to make decisions about page content when smaller screens are encountered.

Many of these decisions are wrong, and we’ll cover them in our webinar.

Your responsive design may be creating the equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks, a figure hated perhaps more than Darth Vader himself. In the webinar, we’ll show you how what happens when redesigns go bad.

Bring Back Beloved Characters

Your website redesign isn’t about changing things. It’s about building on what currently works, adding to the experience.

George Lucas managed to work merchandisable characters R2-D2 and C-3PO into the prequels, as well as beloved Obi-Wan Kenobi. But these characters didn’t create the esprit décor that the original ensemble did. In Star Trek, Abrams brought back young versions of the entire ensemble: Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and even two Spocks. Chekov, Sulu and Uhura were thrown in for good measure.

Your website is an ensemble cast of pages and experiences. Your landing pages need to prime buyers to get through the subscription process. Your category pages have to drive visits to product pages that entice visitors to add to cart.

Huge amounts of data is available very cheaply. Use it to know what to keep or suffer the consequences.

Don’t Create Any Jar-Jars

You don't want to create any Jar-Jar Binks features during your redesign.

You don’t want to create any Jar-Jar Binks features during your redesign.

I’m sure George Lucas was certain that the Jar-Jar Binks character introduced in the Phantom Menace would be a beloved, merchandisable character. He was wrong. Abrams introduced Keenser, a (thankfully) silent alien who was Scotty’s sidekick in the first Star Trek reboot. However, he didn’t rely on this character for comedic relief nearly as much as Lucas did with Jar-Jar.

The cost to create the all-CGI Jar-Jar was huge, and probably took resources that could have been used elsewhere in the movie.

Unless you’re testing your way into your redesign, you are going to create some Jar-Jars in your redesign. These are features that you believe in, but that are rejected by your visitors. Don’t over-invest in these new experiences without testing them first.

Have A Reason for Radical Changes

Every website has return visitors. Your website, no matter how ugly you believe it to be, has visitors who feel at home there, enjoying a comfortable familiarity. They’ve invested the time to understand your site, to make it theirs. When you change it, they’ll be pissed.

These visitors need some rationale for your removal of familiar features and the addition of new ones. Avoid the pro-innovation bias, which is a tendency to change things because they are cool. Your returning visitors won’t think they are cool.

Is this little header animation really necessary? It's a technical error waiting for the wrong browser.

Even simple parallax animations are dangerous. It’s a technical error waiting for the wrong browser.

Don’t let your design firm add any “alien” features to your site. For example, parallax design causes animates to occur as your visitors scroll through the site. It’s the web equivalent of Jar-Jar.

Parallax design elements are like the blinking text of 1990s era websites.

Parallax design elements are like the blinking text of 1990s era websites. Or the Jar-Jar Binks of the Web.

In the Webinar, we’ll show you how to find out what is and isn’t necessary in your particular redesign.

Add Segments

This ain't your father's Star Trek.

This ain’t your father’s Star Trek.

JJ Abrams brought whole new segments into the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. For Star Trek, he cast young heartthrobs Zak Quinto, Chris Pine,  and Zoe Saldana in key roles. This brought a younger, hipper audience to the Star Trek universe. Star Wars: The Force Awakens features females in key hero and villain roles.

Your website redesign should be about two things:

1. Keeping your existing visitor segments happy.

2. Engaging new segments that need what you offer.

There is no such thing as an “average visitor” to your site. Design should specifically target key segments. These segments should not just be demographic as much as needs based. Segment by device type, by geography, by whether they are at work or play, or by the kinds of search terms they are using. Target segments at different stages of your funnel.

The death of a redesign is guaranteed if you design for the “average” visitor or design for yourself. See below.

Avoid Executive Influence

Don't let your execs usurp your redesign.

Don’t let your execs usurp your redesign.

After several significant successes, J.J. Abrams has considerable freedom to do what he wants. He ignored all of George Lucas’s ideas for the new Star Wars movie and took it in his own direction.

The executives that you report to will want to have a say in the redesign. Statements like, “I would never respond to that!” are poisonous to the process, unless you site is targeted at them.

Abrams didn’t get such freedom until he had a win under his belt. Your ace in the whole is research and data. If your redesign is questioned, you better have the studies, heatmaps, split test, and analytics you need to make your case.

If you don’t have this information, you’re not likely to have a success anyway. You may want your executives to attend our webinar.

Lens Flair Comes Last

Only after you’ve considered all of these key issues can you put your own unique stamp on the site design. Abrams has a thing for lens flair in his movies.

But none of this means anything unless you have beloved features in your new site, avoid adding Jar-Jar Binks experiences and address your visitors segment by segment.

Attend our free Webinar The JJ Abrams School of Website Redesign and make sure your next redesign isn’t a Star Wars prequel.

Marketers have always relied on testing.

But let’s be honest. It’s probably only in the last few years that they’ve begun discussing conversion rates rather than golf scores over a beer.

The Austin #CRO community is a dedicated bunch: @peeplaja @jtrondeau @mercertweets @bmassey

The Austin #CRO community is a dedicated bunch:
@peeplaja @jtrondeau @mercertweets @bmassey

The level of measurement and testing that we now have wasn’t even possible in the “old” days. Now that it is, CRO (conversion rate optimization) is clearly a “thing”.

And yes, I’ve got the data to back that up!

According to Econsultancy, in the last five years, the number of companies using A/B testing has more than doubled. Two-thirds (67%) of the companies surveyed use A/B testing, making it the top optimization method used today. Compare that to five years ago, when only a third of businesses were testing.

You might say it’s the golden age of conversion optimization.

Cool thought, I know. And it sounds like it should benefit businesses across the board. But that’s not what we’re seeing.

Whenever any tactic becomes a “thing,” it gets adopted by newbies and wanna-bes as well as the pros. So beware! You could be paying good money for “website optimization” services from an agency who just learned last month how to run a test.

The Truth About Testing and Website Optimization

The truth is, CRO is hard. You can’t learn it in a month, and you won’t be an expert until you’ve done it for years.

Let me say that again: It takes YEARS to become a pro.

What does that mean? It means lots of agencies are making mistakes without even knowing it because they’re so new to the game. Here are some of the mistakes we see most often.

1. “Best practices” landing pages

Best practice is NOT the same thing as conversion rate optimization. PPC agencies, SEO agencies, UX and UI people—they’re all claiming to do CRO.

But calling it CRO doesn’t make it so. Here’s what Brian Massey told me the other day:

“Here at Conversion Sciences, we’ve stopped doing best practices consulting because it’s so unreliable. Even if someone asks for it, we won’t sell it to them.

As brilliant as we are, when we implement best practices, we’ll be wrong on half of them.

Every audience is different. You have to test to know what’s working. Period. End of story.”

As an example, best practice says videos are good and sliders, or carousels, are bad. It says that sliders distract visitors, are hard to read, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Not so, according to a DeviceMagic case study, published by VWO.

This test pitted a slider against a video to see which would work better on the home page.

DeviceMagic was pretty sure the sliders were a better fit for their purposes, but they knew better than to make the change without testing

DeviceMagic was pretty sure the sliders were a better fit for their purposes, but they knew better than to make the change without testing. Interestingly, the video seemed to be an early winner. But after reaching statistical significance, the slider was the clear winner.

  • Conversions from homepage to signup page increased 35%.
  • Subsequent signups increased 31%.

Another example comes from one of my own projects. I had been commissioned to rewrite a collection of landing pages and, sadly, discovered that we were using best practice as our guide. The results? We nailed SEO, but conversions dropped to half of what they were before the rewrite.

Agencies fall into the same trap. They hear that something is working on another website, and they adopt it, no questions asked.

A landing page built on best practices rather than a solid testing strategy isn’t going to get you the results you’re looking for.

If it does, it was just dumb luck!

2. Testing the Wrong Things

When you rely on hearsay rather than data, it’s easy to make another mistake as well—testing the wrong things.

Experienced Conversion Scientists™ know which data gives them the insights they need. And they know which tools will give it to them.

Some agencies try to shave expenses by cutting out the data-collection tools—things like click testing, heatmaps and user-session recording tools. As a result, they don’t have the data to make smart decisions about what to test. These agencies pick something out of the blue to test instead of using analytics to figure it out.

In other words, they’re testing for the sake of testing.

Science should be based on hypotheses, not guesses or busy work. So you gotta ask, if your tests aren’t based on data, what’s the point?

Honestly, that’s the case for a lot of tests. Alex Turnbull, Groove’s founder, gives a great example of this. He lists some tests that are often considered “easy wins.” But for Groove, he says, they were pointless.

Pointless easy win email sign up

Pointless easy win email borrowed trust

Pointless easy win prices

Typically, these tests are the first tests newbies try to run, not because they’re relevant to the website or the audience, but because they seem like easy wins. Remember: trust the data, not someone else’s results.

3. Reliance on Self-Reported Data

Data is important. But you can’t depend on just any data.

Self-reported data—such as responses from focus groups, user testing, surveys, and forum feedback—is gathered from people’s stories, not their behavior.

The problem is people lie.

They may not mean to, but they do. If you ask them how they spend their money, they give a best-case scenario or what they wish to be true. Not the absolute truth.

Compare their answers to your analytics and you get another story. The real story.

That’s why Conversion Scientists don’t put much stock into self-reported data. Qualitative data (self-reported) is great for generating hypotheses, but it needs to be validated with testing.

Here’s where you need to be careful: A lot of agencies (especially UX and UI) redesign a site using only self-reported data. A true Conversion Scientist uses analytics and split testing to verify assumptions before deciding they’re true.

The Marks & Spencer 2014 redesign proves the point: Costing £150 million (about $230 million), this redesign took two years and led to an 8% decrease in online sales.

Based on the fact that this project took two years, I’m guessing that most decisions were made from self-reported data plus the design team’s own opinions.

It’s unlikely A/B testing was involved because testing delivers incremental changes rather than one massive change. And it allows you to mitigate technical errors, because you know for certain whether the changes you’re making are helping.

DigitalTonic says it well in their analysis of the redesign:

“Drastic changes can never be monitored meaningfully and you won’t be able to separate the variables that are causing the positive or negative impact on conversions. With testing on your current site prior to redesign, you will hit a local maxima meaning that you have optimised the site as best as you can in its current incarnation. It’s at this stage that you would take the learnings and move towards the global maxima with the redesign process.”

The issue here is really about behavioral versus attitudinal data. Look at this chart, which illustrates the landscape of 20 popular research methods, and you can see why this is such a common mistake. Self-reported data looks like a scientific approach.

20 Popular Research Methods

Behavioral versus attitudinal testing

Surveys and focus groups give useful information, but since the data is both attitudinal and qualitative, it should never be the foundation for testing.

Use it to help you develop smart hypotheses. Use it to understand your users better. But alone, it’s not valid. Behavioral (or quantitative) data is your most reliable source of information.

As Christian Rohrer states, “While many user-experience research methods have their roots in scientific practice, their aims are not purely scientific and still need to be adjusted to meet stakeholder needs.”

4. Not Understanding the Scientific Process

Agencies are time and materials companies. They bill by the hour. Understandably, they want every hour of their employees’ time to be accounted for and assigned to a winning project.

The problem is, this focus on the bottom line can actually dampen results.

Scientists need time to be curious, follow their hunches and understand the reason things are happening. A successful A/B testing agency needs to give them that time, even if some of those hunches turn out to be pointless.

In the long run, it’s cheaper to eliminate hypotheses early, before testing. If experienced Conversion Scientists are given time to “play,” they can usually do that with analysis alone, saving time and money.

In other words, a few hours of analysis beats 2 weeks of testing every time.

If you're not into making mistakes, then you're not doing anything

True inspiration requires time. Time to follow dead ends. Time to dive into the data. Time to think and ask questions. If your agency doesn’t allow that, be aware, you’re probably not getting the best results.

5. Offering a Completely Done-For-You Model

This one sounds more like a premium service than a mistake. But when it comes to CRO, it reads more like a mistake.

Some agencies believe they have more “job security” if they make the client completely dependent on them. So they do it all: collect the data, make the hypotheses and, supposedly, deliver results.

Alone.

There’s no collaboration with clients. Which means they’re only using half the information they should be using to create hypotheses.

Here’s the thing: The best results come when the agency and client work together. The agency has the expertise to collect the data, but the client has the intimate knowledge of the customer. It takes both.

Seriously. If your agency is doing everything for you, they may be creating issues rather than solving them.

Does your agency see you as a money tree? Collaboration, rather than DFY services get the best results.

Does your agency see you as a money tree? Collaboration, rather than DFY services get the best results.

6. Not Bothering to Influence the Client Culture

Similarly, some agencies appear to collaborate with the client, but they draw the line before influencing client culture.

In reality, there’s a huge advantage to having an agency work so closely with you that they actually change the way you do things.

True collaboration involves getting together on a frequent basis and discussing ideas. Over time, you begin to see the thought process that goes into each website optimization effort. You begin to understand how to make decisions based on data and to value the insight numbers can give you.

When that happens, whether you consider yourself a numbers person or not, you’re hooked.

That’s the point at which you stop making random marketing decisions. Instead, you call your agency and ask what data needs collecting and when you can start testing. (Congratulations! You’re a conversion geek!)

As we talked about before, a done-for-you or non-collaborative service may not be giving you the best results—and they may be charging premium rates to do so.

Always remember, you’re the resource for testing. Not many agencies actually try to influence your company’s culture. Make sure yours does.

7. Not Staffing for CRO

This is a biggie. An agency that doesn’t staff for CRO shouldn’t offer CRO. You see, the best Conversion Scientists are skilled in two areas. They’re good with numbers and they’re excellent communicators.

Good with numbers. Getting high marks in high-school math isn’t enough. Conversion Scientists are masters of data and statistics.

They know when numbers are reliable and when they’re not. So they know how long to run a test and when the results are statistically valid. They know when the math is bad, which means you can be sure you’re getting positive results.

But being good with numbers isn’t everything. Great Conversion Scientists are also…

Excellent communicators. All too often, Web developers are recruited to do analytics, and sure they understand the numbers—but not much else.

It takes a conversion optimizer to turn data into stories. Frankly, that’s where the magic happens.

At Conversion Sciences, the team spends much of their time going through the numbers to tease out the stories. If there’s a hole in the plot, they design a test to figure out what’s missing. The goal is to find the story in the data—and tell that story well.

Conversion optimizers are fortune tellers

Conversion optimizers are fortune tellers

If you think about it, conversion optimizers are really fortune tellers. They predict the future based on the data your site gives them. Is your agency converting analytics to customer stories? If not, you may be dealing with Web developers rather than conversion optimizers.

8. Failing to Test Before Going Live

Pros test and validate everything before going live. That avoids costly mistakes like Finish Line’s 2012 Web redesign, which cost the chain around $3.5 million in sales and a huge hit to its reputation.

Four days before Black Friday, Finish Line launched a freshly redesigned website, supposedly planning to “reinvent the shopping experience.” Instead, customers complained about lost orders and other technology glitches, and Finish Line had to revert back to the old design just prior to the Christmas shopping season.

Granted, that level of mistake isn’t likely for smaller brands, but bad usability can still impact reputation and profitability.

My guess is a brand agency was responsible for that redesign. It would have been smarter to work with conversion optimizers, who understand how to use data to decide on incremental changes, validating each one before moving on to the next.

9. Making Rookie Mistakes

Since CRO is now a “thing,” everyone and their office cat now offer website optimization services. Most don’t know the difference between conversions and sales, which means they’re making a lot of mistakes.

Now don’t get me wrong. We all make our fair share of junior mistakes when we’re starting out—things like delivering results without statistical validity, not analyzing traffic enough, and the like.

But this is the “golden age” of conversion optimization. Don’t you want pro results?

Again, not everyone who claims to be a conversion optimizer is. Unless your team is experienced and has a structured approach for improving conversions, they’re likely making some mistakes that could be easily avoided—if they were more experienced.

Pro CROs use a structured approach to improving conversions.

Pro CROs use a structured approach to improving conversions.

Download a free copy of our eBook Four Rookie CRO Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs.

Website Optimization Mistakes Bottom Line

As you can see, mistakes are more common than not. That’s because website optimization is hard work.

If you want to get the big results CRO promises, you need an agency that has the experience and know-how to do it right. Period. (BTW, I recommend talking with Conversion Sciences about whether they can help.)

What CRO fails have you seen? And what are you doing to keep from making bonehead testing mistakes? Share in the comments below.

The knockout punch came near the end of the webinar. Who won, UX or CRO?

Watch the Webinar Replay

Listen to the Podcast

We shot this webinar because I had two things happen in the past year that made me wonder if we shouldn’t be doing more UX as a part of our CRO efforts.

First, we helped redesign a client site using conversion optimization. During the redesign, the client experienced significant increases in demos and sales of its software. To date we’ve almost tripled their demo requests.

Then, I happened across a landing page that I felt was very well done. When I asked the designer of that page how they had arrived at that design, Adam Treister told me they had done a UX process on it. And he had documented the process in a Udemy course. The page increased enrollment clicks by 246%.

Two different approaches. Two great results. I invited my UX friend Sarah Jabeen of DiscoverSTEAM to debate this with me. How are these two process different? How are they the same?

There is only one way for you to find out.

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21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The Power of Three
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