SMX East Increasing Conversions Through Better Usability

By Paige Payne | Oct 6, 2009
More Articles by Paige


The last session I attended for Monday Oct 5th was, “Increasing Conversions Through Better Usability.” This session examined how improving your site visitors’ experiences can increase conversions. The moderator for the session was Gordon Hotchkiss, President and CEO, Enquiro. Speakers were Scott Brinker, President & CTO, ion interactive, inc.; James Fenelon, Interactive Product Director, nFusion; Kimberly Krause Berg, Usability and SEO Consultant, UsabilityEffect.com/Cre8pc.com; Alissa Ruehl, Manager of Website Effectiveness Consulting, Apogee Search

James Fenelon began the presentation by discussing the basics of usability testing starting with his definition:

how long a subject (user) takes to find what they are looking for, accuracy, recall, and emotional response.

Being that for users, site impression is made in 1/20th second and that users only spend an average of 27 seconds on a page, James emphasized the importance of usability testing.

The aim behind designing a site or landing page is to help site visitors accomplish their goals and navigate the site in a way that also helps the site owner accomplish his or her goals.  A starting point is to define those business goals.  Define what you expect to accomplish compared to user goals.

James gave some basics examples on how you can go about doing this through heuristic reviews, card sorting, and prototype testing.

Card sorting consists of writing the name of each main item or goal you wish to accomplish on an index card and then asking the user to explain what it means to them.

Prototype testing is the process of putting together images or prototypes of the site features you want to test, presenting them to users, and testing their reactions.

He pointed out that it is important to start usability testing as early in project as possible.  If that’s not possible, just be sure not to skip it entirely because any testing is better than none for saving time and money in the long run.

The next presenter was Alissa Ruehl on how usability testing can help improve conversion rate. Alissa suggested the following process for pinpointing what needs to be addressed on the page:

  • Goals. What is the purpose of your website? What do you want users to do? Once you answer this for yourself, you want to work to optimize to all of your goals. For ecommerce sites, start with the purchase process; look at abandonment rates. How people are navigating from home page to sale?
  • Focus on the biggest goals first, and use a tactic that fits the issue.
  • Perform lead generation diagnosis, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Do users fill out lead forms quickly or do they browse around to other pages?
  2. Where do they stop?
  3. Do they leave immediately?
  • Look at level of difficulty compared to level of impact when deciding which action step to take first.
  • And before you start doing anything, perform an analytics audit to make sure your analytics are set up properly and the data you have is correct.

The third speaker was Kimberly Krause Berg. She pointed out that it is difficult to convert traffic to sales when you haven’t figured what your web site is expected to do and who will use it.

Her suggested method of diagnosing and solving the problem of designing a new site or redesigning an old site is to use a requirements site document in order to address and prioritize all of your business needs.

  1. Ask the question of what the business requirements (goals) are.
  2. Decide on presentation format and which pages you would like to see these functions appear on the site.
  3. In relation to actual functionality, does the design meet the needs of what the end user is looking for?

The last presenter was Scott Brinker who mainly talked about how implementing a faster process for implementing landing pages can benefit you greatly. He approached this topic by posing an alternative way to view usability. He proposed thinking about usability as the concept of usefulness. Throughout the design of your landing page, target to what the consumer is looking for based on what you can glean of user intent from search queries.

(searcher’s intent) -> keyword /search query -> ad copy -> landing page

This reiterates the importance maintaining consistency between landing pages, keywords, and ad copy.

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