Business Performance Conversion Testing

What a 3 year old can teach you about conversion rate optimisation

We do like to make things complicated.

We see something simple and feel like its missing something. It’s been a while since we launched this, we should probably do an upgrade; customers expect new features; some bells and whistles would be nice.

Tell me, what couldn’t be improved with some extra bells and whistles??

Turns out an awful lot. If you’re in the business of driving action online, of increasing revenue or sign ups or downloads, then you should care a lot about providing a simple path to conversion.

Done well, changes to overly complicated pages and processes will help your conversions improve. Mess them up and you’ll find the arrow pointing in the wrong direction.

So how do you ‘de-bell’ and ‘anti-whistle’ your cluttered webpages?

It’s simple. Watch a small child playing with a jigsaw puzzle.

Er, say what?

Yep, close your laptop, leave your desk and watch how a child plays.

I can’t claim to know how they think. I was one once, but sadly can’t recall anything of the thought process of my 3 year old self. What I can see, however, is that their actions are not encumbered by complex thought, scenario planning, or indecision, yet their play is incredibly efficient.

Sounds like a recipe for conversion rate optimization to me.

Let’s take a look at four jigsaw puzzle takeaways:

Appearance counts

Children can be fickle creatures. With plenty of exciting toys to choose from, it’s pretty hard for the humble jigsaw puzzle to stand out from the crowd. The child will scan the room and make instant decisions on objects. So what makes the child pick a puzzle? What makes it stand out?

The picture on the box.

The child is drawn to the image – the bright colors, the composition and of course, the appealing familiar characters. A dull, featureless image just won’t cut it.

Takeaway: Know your audience and make sure your website design appeals to that group. Making your site credible is important, whatever your industry. That doesn’t have to mean formal or corporate, just appropriately designed for your audience.

When someone lands on your site, they’ll make a split second judgement based on appearance. Get it right and they’ll pick your site from amongst all the other sites in the Internet toy room.

Think about your use of colour, headline, imagery, layout and trust marks, but overall make it clear that it delivers on their need.

Speed & simplicity

Kids have a short attention span, so toys need to peak their interest immediately. If they’re too complex or confusing they’ll quickly lose interest. A child will do several simple puzzles, excited by the achievement of completing each of them, but will balk at a larger, more complex puzzle that requires greater concentration and effort.

Takeaway: Steve Krug wrote a great usability book called ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, the title of which should be a mantra for anyone tasked with building processes. If your webpage makes me stop and ask “What do I do next?” or “How do I buy this?” then something has gone horribly wrong.

Cut out the unnecessary stuff and just focus on letting the user complete the process as quickly as possible. Filling your customer database with a wealth of ‘enriching’ data is unlikely to be worth the trade-off of losing potential customers through poor process design.

Visual Clues

How does a three year old start a puzzle?

Scatter puzzle pieces on the floor and watch which piece they reach for first. Invariably it will be a face – Mickey Mouse’s big eyes or Bob the Builder’s bright yellow hat. They’ll latch on to these visual clues to give them a bearing. They’ll repeat this process until they can join pieces together.

Where they struggle is when they try to match pieces with indistinct imagery – green grass or blue sky – it just becomes a process of trial and error to see which pieces fit.

Takeaway: You can’t always afford to be subtle in your design. If you want your visitor to click a button to move into your purchase funnel, then make sure that button stands out from the rest of the page elements.

It’s all very well having a colour palette to adhere to in your Brand Guidelines, but if your button blends in it won’t do much for your conversion rate. Repeat after me: It’s okay to be different.

Don’t stop at colour, experiment with size, shape and location too.

Remove obstacles

A quick way to lose a child’s attention is to present them with an obstacle, such as a piece of the puzzle missing from the box. They won’t go looking for it. They’ll give up and go play with something else.

Takeaway: The same applies to your website. If your landing page or process has unnecessary obstacles – such as poor process flow, clumsy navigation, broken functionality or unnecessary actions then your users will give up early and go find your competitors. Remove the obstacles and your conversions will increase.

Two things to watch out for on your site:

  1. If you’re running an ecommerce site then trust is essential. If any part of your process breaks or behaves in an unconventional way then it will introduce doubt into your visitor’s mind. This could result in an abandoned shopping cart.
  2. Fix your form errors. As a user, it’s so frustrating to complete a form and then be presented with angry red error messages saying you’ve made a mistake. If you want my password to be 8 characters, containing at least 1 numerical character, then tell me upfront. If my telephone number has to have a space after the area code then tell me (actually, just figure it out in your code, you’re smart enough). And don’t you dare remove the info I’ve already typed in other fields when you’re busy presenting me with error messages. Test your form over and over again and try and break it. Don’t rely on your users having infinite patience.

The conversion payoff

Have you ever seen the look on a child’s face when they click that last piece of puzzle into place? They’re so proud of what they’ve done, they’ll probably want to do it again.

The same goes for your customers. If you make it easy for them to get the product or service they need, to make it a pleasurable experience not a painful one, then they’ll come back time and time again.

What other conversion lessons could you take from how a child views the world? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Social Media Uncategorized

11 simple steps to scupper your social media strategy

This far in you’d think brands would’ve started to figure out this social media malarky. There’s plenty of best practice advice available, and dare I say it, common sense should help. But still, there are plenty of examples of how brands shoot themselves in the foot with their social media strategy.

There’s no cookie cutter approach that fits all brands (and that includes your personal brand), but there are certain things you should try to avoid. Lets look at a few here:

1. Randomness as a social media strategy

Some accounts don’t seem to have any purpose. Social media is part of your comms strategy, whether you’re using it for customer service, promotion, or education. Therefore, like your PR, customer emails, or advertising, there should be a plan as to what you’re trying to achieve and the messaging you’re trying to convey. Sharing random articles, posting sporadic updates or only sharing your latest blog updates is not a social media strategy and nor, is it an effective way of building an engaged community.

2. Hashtag hijacking

A surefire way of generating some negative attention is to jump on the popularity of a hashtag when there is absolutely no connection with your brand. This has been done to disastrous effect with tragic news stories, but the trend du jour seems to be hashtags around popular TV programmes. Most often it comes across as lame, desperate and accentuates the lack of conversation around your own brand.

3. Me, me, me

Like dating, it’s a turn-off if you just talk about yourself all the time. When you’re trying to grow your business its understandable that you use your social channels to share your blog content. But people have trouble connecting with brands at the best of times, so solely sharing your own content comes across as just self-promotional. Sharing informative, useful content written by you AND others, however, will make you a helpful, valuable resource.

4. Bitching with other brands

Tesco Mobile made a bit of a name for themselves by having an edgy approach to social media. They went against the grain and took on naysayers in a humorous way. Others brands started getting drawn into conversations and some fun conversations were had. Unfortunately, this appears to have emboldened some brands into being bitchy about competing brands. Sadly, it just makes the brand look petty. Know the line not to cross and play nicely with the other boys and girls.

5. Retweeting every nice comment made about your brand

Yes, it’s great when someone says something nice about your brand. And fair enough, sharing a little of those nice comments can be useful in reinforcing to others that your product / service / advice works. Just don’t over do it. Filling your audience’s social channels up with comment after comment quickly becomes annoying. And don’t even think about retweeting the retweets of your tweet!

6. Not replying to questions from people

With bigger brands, volume can be an issue – but not an excuse – when it comes to replying to comments. It may just be me, but when someone asks you a question, it’s rude to ignore them. You wouldn’t do it in a physical store, so why online? So if you’re going to be active in social then make sure that someone is there to answer the questions, as well as posting your content. Remember, it’s supposed to be a conversation and conversations need to be two-way.


Endlessly sharing famous or inspirational quotes is not a social media strategy. It just shouts “I’ve nothing interesting to say so I’m just going to pad it out with something ‘inspirational’ that someone else once said that has probably already been endlessly tweeted by other brands who don’t know what else to say”. Or something to that effect. If you want to inspire others, do it with your own original thoughts.

8. Flogging your wares

Imagine talking to a friend in the pub and someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying “I couldn’t help but overhear you mention the word ‘car’ and wondered if you’d like to buy some motor insurance?” You’d tell them where to go, right? So, why do some brands act the same way in social media. Monitoring software is a great tool, but be considerate when joining conversations uninvited. If you want to jump in, be helpful not sales-y. Be useful, foster goodwill and you’ll have a better chance of turning the prospect into a customer when they reach the appropriate point in their buying decision-making process.

9. Buying your friends

Trust me, if anyone promises to get you 5000 followers for $100 dollars, then just hit ‘report spam’. Spending money to buy popularity is a precarious social media strategy. Quality will be low and engagement non-existent. Far better to grow organically by being really interesting and really helpful. This is all beginning to sound like a guide to making friends in real life, isn’t it? Funny that.

10. Outsourcing your voice

This is a contentious one and plenty of big brands do this. There are agencies who provide a full social service, creating assets, sharing content and responding on your behalf. What they lack, however, is authenticity. Their voice is not your voice, it can be a close facsimile, but they’ll never have the passion that you’ll have for your own brand. They also will be detached from what is happening inside your business. A maintenance page going up quickly whilst a problem is fixed may not reach the agency in time, who are busy running sponsored campaigns driving traffic to your website. That disconnect can be costly.

11. Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Hopefully you’re monitoring the impact of your social activity. Preferably in a meaningful way. It’d would be great if you can show how it’s impacting your core business (i.e. generating leads / sales), but at the very least how it’s increasing engagement with your prospective customer base. Please, though, don’t just count followers or fans – if that is the only thing that’s important you might as well go buy those 5000 followers for $100. If they’re not interacting with you, does it matter how many have clicked the follow button?

Once you’re looking at engagement metrics consider the sentiment of those interactions. 4000 mentions from a tweet isn’t a good thing if 95% of them are negative. You need to balance volume with what is being said. Is your social media activity generating positive conversations? Are people sharing your content (because they like it, not because you made a mistake or did something shocking)? If not, then you need to review your approach.

As mentioned up top, there is no cookie cutter approach to social media. You can do whatever you like – and maybe some of these tactics will work for you – but just be considerate of your audience. The social part of ‘social media’ is a big clue. People are on there to mix and share with others. As brands we need to tread carefully on their turf. Timing, relevancy and value should be the watch words of your social media strategy. Better that than bull in a china shop.