Friday, February 27, 2009

Website Optimization & Analytics


Your Web site, some ways people access it, and a couple of .......... tools you can use to optimize its performance.

For a long time, the only solution to make websites appealing and "sticky" was to rely on gurus (web designers who were just supposed to know the "right" answers). But what if the guru made a mistake or did not take into account all the variables and created less-than-optimal pages? The potential loss of not optimizing a landing page may be staggering.

You want to deploy Web pages that fulfill a business purpose. Your goal might be selling your product (at a profit!), distributing information (such as newly legislated prerequisites for obtaining a driver license), gathering information (such as the demographics of potential customers) from an on-line form that doesn't turn people away because it's too complicated or intrusive, etc.

The question is what do you put on your page(s) to achieve your goal(s)? You could decide on your own or together with a team of in-house experts and hope for the best. Or you could throw the process of Website design open to the world of users beyond your firewall. In doing so, you would be democratizing the process by letting the public tell you, through their actual behavior, which of a number of possible designs gets them to use your Web page(s) in the way that you had hoped they would. As pointed out in a fairly recent New York Times article, the latter approach has now become main stream.

I've chosen Google Website Optimizer (GWO) - in part because it's free - to try different layouts, alternate content, new buttons, and even new colors through multivariate testing and split A/B testing without making permanent changes to my site. Better yet, my visitors themselves ultimately determine which combination of site elements cause them to perform the actions I desire such as filling out a form, adding an item to the shopping cart, or taking the big plunge to enter their credit card.

The Combination Report of Website Optimizer

A combination report will show the performance results for all of the page combinations made from the page section variations you created for your experiment. By seeing how well a particular combination performs in comparison with the original and the other combinations, you can choose the most successful one to improve your business.

GWO's intuitive reports (like the combination report shown above) allow even the mathematically-challenged to quickly and easily identify and implement the best combination. My article Statistical and Financial Considerations in Website Optimization is aimed at those who want to go beyond the, albeit powerful, analyses that are possible using GWO alone. In this article, I export raw data from the Combination Report and discuss using an offline statistical analysis on it, as outlined in the block diagram at the top of this post.

Click on the images above to see larger views.

Hover your cursor over a video to gain play-pause and forward-back