If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to "finish and forget" when it comes to web development. Once a website is live and the boss or client is happy, we close the project, kick off our shoes and crack a beer.
Part of the problem with this approach is the ever changing landscape online. Something that converts visitors today, might not be working two months from now (in some cases, it may not be working in the first place, but no one took the time to test it).
Redesigning a website, or even a single page, can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Re-opening a project that you so happily completed can take major mental willpower. However, improving a website doesn’t need to take weeks, or even days. I’m a believer in baby steps: making incremental progress, small victories, minor adjustments with big results.
That’s where my 45-minute plan comes into play. In less time than you spend watching The Bachelor each week, you can have a dramatic (and measurable) effect on your website.
Keep in mind, all times are approximate (and people work at different paces).
0 to 5 Minutes
Select a page where you can have the greatest impact
Surprisingly, this may not always be your homepage. Instead of trusting your gut, a little digging in Google Analytics (or your favorite analytics tool) can show you exactly where to start.
Here are some ideas on finding pages that you can work on:
Navigate to your "top landing pages" or "top entrance pages" report (in Google Analytics, this is found under "Content" on the left sidebar).
Use a filter to remove pages with minimal traffic (see the "Advanced Filter" link at the bottom of the table).
Sort your pages by bounce rate.
Select the biggest loser: the page with the most potential for improvement (a combination of high visits and bounce rate).
5 to 15 Minutes
Use free (or cheap) tools to determine which areas on the page need the most attention
If you really want to stick to 45 minutes, you won’t have time to use a lot of tools, but even using one will give you the insight you need to make an improvement.
Here are some tips and tools that you can help up your conversion rates:
Get free advice from the design and development professionals on Concept Feedback. You can find more tools like Concept Feedback in my previous post "10 Excellent Feedback Tools for Web Designers".
See how people interact with your site using Userfly or ClickTale (extra credit: set up an informal user test with your neighbor, or use a remote testing service like UserTesting or Feedback Army).
Use heat maps to quickly see what’s popular and what’s overlooked. CrazyEgg and clickdensity both provide heat map tools.
Setup a quick survey with Survey Monkey, or a poll with PollDaddy to see what your users want.
Still need help? Here is a quick list of high impact items you could be testing:
- Headline copy
- Buttons (size, color and location)
- Calls to action
- Advertisement density
- Value proposition
- Text size
- Color scheme (There are many tools for picking colors)
Find more tools that you can use through these articles:
- 7 Tools You Should Be Using For Better Web Designs
- 7 Incredibly Useful Tools for Evaluating a Web Design
- 10 Promising Free Web Analytics Tools
15 to 40 Minutes
Define the top 3 items from your research and implement the changes
Chances are that you’ll discover a hundred different things you could change, but remember, the key is incremental improvement and not a complete overhaul. So choose the items that you believe will have the most impact, and start there.
Keep in mind that the changes you make don’t need to be perfect—this is going to be a work in progress.
As soon as you’ve narrowed down your list to three, develop the content and code a test page right away. Limiting your list to three items keeps the project manageable. Don’t try to overdo it: you’ll be surprised how much impact just three seemingly minor adjustments can make.
If you get done with three and still want to try new changes—great!—this needs to be an ongoing process. However, don’t let an overwhelming list of ideas prevent you from action.
40 to 45 Minutes
Split test your new page, rinse and repeat
Once your new page is ready, set up an A/B split test in Google Website Optimizer to track the results. Make sure to select a conversion page that accurately reflects your primary goal for that page.
Depending on the amount of traffic your page receives, you should be able to determine relatively quickly (anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks) what effect your changes made. If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll most likely be rewarded for your effort with an increase in conversion rates, and sometimes your tweaks can result in substantial improvements.
However, you may find that your new page performs about the same, or in some cases, worse. But that’s the beauty of testing! Every test, whether successful or not, provides you with new knowledge about your site: what works and what doesn’t.
So—now that you’ve spent 10 minutes reading this—take the next 45 to improve your website. And please, come back here and let me know how it goes!