Failing to regularly analyse and refine your digital experience from day one, you can bet your bottom dollar you're either losing out on money and / or user engagement.
Let’s be honest for a moment. Many business give little thought or consideration to a website's performance, it’s content and the needs of users beyond the initial launch. All that money, blood, sweat and tears spent on the research, design and development to create a lovely new website, only for it to all be quickly forgotten about. The problem with this is that usability issues go unnoticed, content quickly becomes stale and stagnant and the website rapidly becomes ineffective and irrelevant.
Often the issue is budget related. An expensive website has gone live and there’s simply no additional money to conduct ongoing testing and refinement. But there’s also often a pervasive mindset which suggests that when a website is new and costs a lot, there’s no need to do more research and testing. It’s assumed all the features work perfectly, all the content is easy to find/use and is what people need. However, this isn’t necessarily true.
Failing to regularly analyse and refine your website experience from day one, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re either losing out on money and/or user engagement.
Think of a website as a garden. Without regular pruning and planting it’s going to quickly become overgrown and a total mess. If left long enough, everything will need to be ripped out in order to start again. But with just a little regular care and attention, it’ll blossom and bloom for years to come. The key here is regular care and attention.
“We may learn a lot about user behaviour when a site goes live, but usually there are neither budget nor people to make the improvements.” Paul Boag, Digital Adaptation
Optimising your website experiences
Optimisation is how we ensure our digital experiences receive this regular care and attention. Simply put, optimisation is a process of reviewing your website experience, identifying issues, rapidly designing, testing and releasing small incremental improvements on a regular basis. It’s more cost effective than rebuilding a website every couple of years. It’s also quick and easy to conduct and it demonstrates proven metrics and results almost immediately.
“These kinds of small incremental improvements are a low risk investment. They are much quicker to develop, and can be tested and iterated to ensure they work before being made live. That way, the risk of failure is low.” Paul Boag
Optimisation doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or time-consuming to do - make it as simple or complex as you need it to be. The types of activities and time spent on them completely depend on the size of the website, project, organisation, budget, time or even scope. But whatever you choose to do, the rewards can be great indeed.
An example programme of website optimisation using A/B, Multivariate or User Testing looks like:
- Analyse website data / traffic
- Hypothesise what issues might exist and ideas for improvements
- Design your improvements
- Write your test plan
- Run your A/B, multivariate or user test
- Stop, test and analyse results
- Implement improvements or go back to point 1 and start again
Optimisation as a strategy
So the good news is, optimisation itself is relatively straightforward. Really it’s stuff UX Consultants, designers and developers do everyday on most projects but greatly simplified. However it does often require a shift in cultural thinking and practices to make it work.
Doing a little isolated testing here and there, once in a blue moon just isn’t going to cut it. It’s essential to draw together everyone who commissions, creates, publishes and maintains digital content under a programme of ongoing analysis, testing and refinement if the rewards are to be reaped. This means not solely focusing on the website but looking at every part of the business that informs, shapes or influences your entire digital experience.
At Edo, we believe optimisation must be placed at the heart of the business’s broader digital strategy and should consist of the following core elements:
- Analysing, testing and improving your website performance (e.g. analytics, usability &/or multivariate testing)
- Regular content auditing, testing and refinement
- Ensuring brand and social media strategies are up to date and still relevant
- Ensuring content governance and workflow procedures are correctly followed
Two good examples of large well respected organisations who have embraced this approach wholeheartedly include GOV.UK and the Guardian newspaper.
Still not convinced? Read this blog post by Jared Spool, a very well known and respected UX designer. With some simple analysis, testing and development time, he helped a major online retailer increase their annual revenue by $300 million! A great achievement. But the real story here isn’t the improvements Jared helped make, it’s the fact that the company in question didn’t have an optimisation strategy in place. Without continuously testing and refining their experiences, they simply had no idea they were actually losing $300 million per year due to a poor website experience.
Through a series of installments, we’ll explore each element of the optimisation strategy in more detail.
Until then, if you’d like to discuss your website optimisation strategy or need help creating and running one, please don’t hesitate to get in touch - we’d only be too happy to help.