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May 18, 2009

Sweating The Small Stuff

May 18, 2009

Lately I have been shown time and again how important small, seemingly meaningless changes can have a dramatic impact on a website.

I was on a panel recently discussing e-commerce with several local experts on the topic- Brandon Corbin from Sigma Micro, Jon Arnold from Tuitive Group, Kyle Lacy from Brandswag and Jeremy Dearringer from Slingshot SEO. To be honest I was probably the least knowledgeable of the group on this particular subject so it was a learning experience for me as much as the audience.

One of the most striking take-aways for me was how important small changes to a website can have such dramatic ROI. For instance, increasing the size of the search bar, having multiple value propositions throughout the site (Free Shipping! etc), modest design changes to a product page, using "cart" not "basket", etc. All these items have been proven by multiple studies to result in a serious impact on sales. Sometimes the difference was millions of dollars per month depending on the site!

I just came across this blog via Twitter, thanks to @donschindler, and it reinforced my growing awareness. It's also a book that you can buy on Amazon, etc.

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Let me boil down what I'm taking away from all this:

  • Don't assume. That's the starting point. Stop working from assumptions that have no basis in facts. Stop thinking about how much work you put into your website to get where you are now. Be willing and open to completely re-thinking your project or website. Chances are you won't have to scrap everything but come into the review process with an open mind.
  • User tests. Find out what people are really doing, what walls they are hitting and why they aren't filling out the form, making the purchase, etc. Determine where the issues are before you start trying to fix them. This requires user surveys/tests, watching analytics closely, reviewing what the competition is doing, etc.
  • Herd mentality. We, meaning humans, are still very much interested in being part of the herd. For instance use "Other users also liked these items" instead of "We recommend these other items". The first sounds like the cool thing to do the second sounds like a sales pitch.
  • Fewer choices, more answers. People think they want choices but they don't. They want answers. Focus on answering questions that you know your users have based on testing and analytics. Anticipate what the user wants and they will be more likely to convert.
  • Tweak and repeat. Once you find something that works, tweak it, improve on it and then repeat that methodology to other weak areas.

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