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.

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