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Guesstimation is Not the Way to Optimization

There are a number of common misconceptions and missteps digital marketers make when it comes to designing and optimizing a website. While Google Analytics is a great, free tool, the tool alone does not give a web designer, or digital marketer, the ability to truly judge the effect their website is having on their customers and how they are responding to the content. Google Analytics’ tools will tell you a lot about where users come from and how long they stick around, but Google Analytics will tell you nothing about what their actual interaction with your site was like.  

What parts of your page are engaging? Which parts are not? Where exactly do users tend to convert? Does any particular part of your website design confuse users or cause friction in their experience? 

Large retail chains spend millions every year on monitoring how users interact with their floor layouts, and often revamp the layout to better match user behavior and present the right products, in the right places. This is costly, time consuming and labor intensive – but they do it to get a payoff. So why is it that digital marketers don’t do the same with their websites? After all, websites are easier to modify, easier to test changes on, and you have the ability to dynamically serve different versions of the page to different visitors – unlike retail where all your visitors see the same layout. 

That brings me to the first of several mistakes that marketers make – assuming their website design converts well because it looks good to them. The worst thing you can do is assume that everyone else shares your personal preferences – they don’t. Your baby is not as cute as you think it is.

This mistake stems from a larger one that designers often make – ignoring the user. Instead, they are focusing on what competitors are doing and what they believe customers will respond to, rather than actually using the data available. Customer-driven data is the only holistic way to design and optimize a modern webpage and having tools that work on modern webpages is just as important.

Focusing on UX and how your users are reacting to your content will provide long-term benefits for your site. Study user sessions and interactions. Use the technology available to record their mouse movements, clicks, scrolls and other page interactions so you can make educated estimations about what’s working, and what is not, instead of blind ones. Utilize A/B testing to localize content and find the best fit. Don’t put all your eggs into one design, not right away at least. Test different variations – colors and messages. Test everything – let the data decide what will convert best. Make adjustments based on how the user reacts to the site after you have collected data and performed tests to make sure those adjustments make sense. 

Make sure to utilize all available tools. Heat maps and other user interaction maps, like hovers, clicks and scrolls, reveal how the user engaged with the page. Track deeper interactions using text selection, zooms and menu interaction, as well as keystroke actions. Track goals on user flow, not just conversion, to identify what pages engage users to continue their discovery journey of your website 

Copying what competitors are doing is never the answer either. Your competitors probably do even less testing than you do. Lead, don’t follow. Don’t assume they have figured it out – they’re probably struggling with conversions too. What looks “good” or “right” to you, or any other designer, isn’t even close to what users will respond to. Frankly, what users think looks good to them isn’t what they normally respond to, either. 

Creativity and data no longer have to be mutually exclusive. Marketing and advertising agencies in various sectors have already started to embrace big data as a way to enhance their creativity. You can be creative and still rely on data to make sure that your customers are responding positively to your webpage’s content. Guesstimations and hubris are not the way to design and optimize a modern website. Be informed regarding how those in your industry are presenting themselves and structuring their web presence. However, do the research and look at the data available to make the most informed decision possible. Remember, the customer is always right. Always. 

About the Author: Dan Ushman is the Founder & CEO of Concurra.

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