Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is no new idea, but it can be a complicated one to understand and implement. CRO involves a wide variety of techniques, including credibility-based web design, psychological profiling, persuasive content writing, and many other disciplines designed to persuade people to “buy” what you are selling (literally or figuratively speaking). However complicated the methods seem, CRO is what it sounds like, re-labeled perhaps – website persuasion.
Many developers make one critical mistake in building their website, platform, service, or even software – they think about CRO at the end of the dev cycle. Understandably, there are “seemingly” far more critical components to be prioritized at the beginning of the developmental process, but this is rather archaic thinking. A metaphor for this mindset might be “crafting a precision firearm without a trigger.” So, the tried and true practices listed below should obviously be factored into your developmental equation early on.
- Design Credibility – Your site, software or widget has precisely a blink of an eye to win or lose the opportunity to convert a passerby into a client. The old saying is “first impressions are lasting,” so you had better optimize this blink time. A site or service has to be fast, error free, and compelling – beautiful from a design and programming perspective.
- Perfect Navigation – I use the term “perfect” rather than easy or simple because extraordinary development is the only way to differentiate now. Minimizing clicks and allowing for fluid navigation go without saying, but such things as “link text” and understandability are crucial.
- Logo Credibility – From a branding perspective, your logo is probably worth as much as any other facet of your design. It is, in effect, the first impression anyone gets about your site. Simply put, the idea of your development that promotes you off site even before anyone arrives in many cases. This is more crucial than many come close to understanding.
- Memorable Slogan – Aside the logo (or along with it) a slogan modifies the idea of what your website or company ‘s value is. This is another part of brand identity. Again, something largely underestimated at the beginning of developments. Sure, developers recognize the general value of this and their logo, but not the “real” value over the course of their development’s life cycle. Put it this way, the best logo in the world “modified” improperly, could end up being worthless.
- Headlines – Again, a modifier (as if you have not already guessed, everything is a descending tier of modification). Headlines not only modify – or carry your ideas – to the next tier, they are the first “directional” aspects any visitor or user will act upon cognitively. Crucial.
- Content Placement – As a natural mental or psychological navigation element, your best content has to be placed correctly within the median user’s mental map of your site. Flow is what this idea is about. In case you don’t know already, the “F” pattern (top left – to right – to center) is how people read a page or site in general. So, obviously the center of the space is where the “eyeballs” end up. This depends to an extent on the type of site we are talking about, so this will be discussed in greater detail in another article.
- Calls To Action – Well, virtually everything listed above is a call to action, but all those “psychological” user drivers are intended to put them here, at your first tangible “call to action.” The semantics of these “calls” are all too critical as you might imagine. BUY THIS! Being inferior obviously to DOWNLOAD FREE SOFTWARE and etc. Again, this is a much deeper topic which we will discuss in more detail later.
- Content That Benefits – Developers naturally tend to assume the script used to power their technology is all that matters. Code is the engine that drives technology, but content is what puts people in the driver’s seat. Effective and beneficial content is the next tier of user engagement. Some technical list of specifications means nothing, when the user wants to know the “bottom line”, and so forth. Again, a topic for much deeper evaluation, but think about this.
- Images – My pet peeve if there ever was one. Human beings are primarily visually oriented creatures. Never has anything been more true than the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Correct selection and placement of images, along with a dozen other key variables, can make or break your credibility.
- Interaction – Well, you have already engaged your users in a sort of “subliminal interactive” visitation, now it is time to really become friends. Interactive elements obviously come in many forms (to be discussed later on), but some key values for your development are: increased focus on your value proposition, decrease bounce rate, and a host of other user engagement variables. Put simply, you got them here, so now what are you going to do for them?
The Long And Short Of Optimization
Most of what you just read is no secret. The exact list of key elements I mentioned can be found in the best possible place at O’Reilly Media (PDF), you know the place where Web 2.0 originated. This document, authored by Andrew B. King, perhaps one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject, is as good a primer as any on CRO. The problem? Developers either do not know about it, or have ignored components of it.
Transparency is what information publishing should be all about. For one, I am writing about these issues in order to help you and other developers. Secondly, entering into a deeper discussion here will help us all. King’s ideas and methods are for lack of a better term “fool proof” if utilized and refined. The problem is, developers either do not know they exist in pure form (no wonder given all the quisi-experts out there), or their application of these methods are convoluted or incomplete.
2000 Reasons to Optimize Fully
As a tech blogger, and then PR and consultant these last 5 years, I have been involved directly or indirectly with something over 1,500 Web developments. No brag just fact. The reason I mention this now is; of all those developments, not one, (let me say that again – NOT ONE) adhered to these optimization principles completely – and they suffered for it. Most of those developments (which I will reveal as much as I can later) are now in what TechCrunch labeled “The Dead Pool”, the exact place you do not want to end up. Therefore, for now, I suggest you read King’s piece, and I will prepared incremental segments of this conversation (and perhaps some interviews) to help make your optimization task less painful. Never before has opportunity for development been more available, and never before has competition been so steep. Deciding to perfect our innovation is no longer an option, but a must.