Getting It Right Is a Moving Target

  |  April 28, 2011   |  Comments

Learning how to find the optimal way to design a website for your target audience.

I used to believe that there was a right way to build a website experience. Everything else was conjecture by committee or design by HiPPO (Highest paid person's opinion) and was dead on arrival. The look-and-feel/navigation/menu systems/color choices were all binary; you did it the way I knew was right or you were wrong.

I quickly came to realize that people have different ways of seeing, thinking, and experiencing their online encounters. Interactive experiences should be built for the way your target audience likes to receive information. Interfaces for selling to teenagers should be very different than those for selling to their mothers.

OK, then - fine. Live, learn, adapt. My new mantra became: find the optimal way to design a website for your target audience.

Makes perfect sense. Not only that, but you can find the optimal ways of delivering the right messages to the proper audience segment through rigorous testing. Indeed, if we tested enough, we'd come up with a lexicon of design learnings for situations with specific audiences and the Book of Rules could be written.

When a teenager is looking at the pricing page, pop up a bright red button at a slight angle to the page that says "Buy now - none of your Facebook friends have one yet."

"Buy now - most of your Facebook friends have one already."

That should work every time. Eventually, we marketing optimization people would be able to sway buying habits, control the world, and sell sales courses to Joe Girard. Like Thomas Edison and his light bulb, we'd just need to keep testing until we had the all the answers.

We Will Never Know

In the middle of April, I was master of ceremonies at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Sydney. Paul Robinson, marketing and communications manager, ABC Commercial gave one of the presentations. In this case, ABC is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Think of it as the Aussie version of the U.K.'s BBC.

Paul covered a lot of ground and I won't try to summarize, but there was one little tidbit that solidified one of those truths you simply can't walk away from no matter how much work it means you face in the future.

Simply put, the optimal color of a "Buy Now" button is seasonal.

Aside from some findings that Paul felt were timeless:

  • "Tell a friend" works better as a text link
  • Buttons work better with double right-facing chevrons
  • Dynamic content is great for not showing the "Register now" button to people who were already registered

But the best color for a "Buy Now" button changes with the seasons. After enough testing, they determined that their customers respond better to "Buy Now" buttons differently from season to season.

This clearly echoed something Craig Sullivan (group e-business customer experience manager, Belron) likes to harp about. So much so that I was compelled to write about it in an article called "What if the Analysts Ran the Show?":

We will never know the right way to build a website, a landing page,
a mobile app, a shopping cart, etc. We can only continually test.

So how do you start to always do something? Read the book. Although it may be three years old, we should all rebuy and reread the Bryan Eisenberg and John Quarto-vonTivadar's "Always Be Testing."

Because we will never know, we can only continually find out.


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Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant focused on measuring the value of the online marketing for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, produces the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and is co-founder and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association.

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