Agencies can be the worst offenders when it comes to applying the principles and best practices that we preach about and provide services around for clients every day.
Having a beautiful, functional and conversion-focused site was a company-wide goal for M&T at the beginning of 2020 but getting there was harder than we thought.
After several strategy sessions, the decision was finally made to do what we often recommend for companies planning a new site or landing page launch - go live with the new site 80% and then work on optimizing towards the expected result over time. It can be a hard decision when something has as much pressure as a new site launch, but we believe that momentum and iteration get better results than assuming all possible outcomes up front.
With all that pressure, the key is to be sure that you don’t lose your rhythm and get in the trap of “set it and forget it”. In order to take the approach you have to have an action plan and so we thought we would share ours with you all so that you can do what it takes to launch a site with dreams of what is next.
Create a user journey
To be honest, this was not what we naturally did first. First we looked at results and started planning site fixes based on perceived issues. It is really easy to fall into these kinds of habits… but after another series of internal discussions, we had a collective “‘doh” and realized that we couldn’t fix anything until we knew what was broken… in came the user journey.
Allow us to take a moment and let you see behind the curtain a bit and see one of ours as a sample:
We ended up creating 3 initial user journeys, but this was our first and most obvious… what you can see here is basically the answer to the question “if someone lands on our site directly, what do we want them to do?”. This user journey very simply lays out what we want people to do and the red stars bring us from user journey creation to the next step by identifying where our newly launched site wasn’t stacking up.
Set goals and work streams
Now comes the fun part - or at least for the performance side of our business that loves to set goals and think through how to solve for those goals through digital solutions… In the user journey, we began to see that there were places that we were not setup to move people from our home page deeper into the site experience.
The first goal that fell out sounded pretty simple - get people from the homepage to our services page… the only problem was that at launch we didn’t have a services page. We had a capabilities page that was focused on tactics and not the services that we provide that add value. This was a problem, but what we were able to do within a week’s time is create a work stream to create these pages and they were prioritized in our agency queue since we had a direct reason “why”.
Measure your success
Once you create the solve for the gaps or issues that come up through your user journey, the next step is to be sure that what you did actually changed your visitors’ behavior as expected. Depending on your tool set, this view can be more or less complicated, but just be sure that you have goals set or an ability to track journey stages and movement directly from one page to the next.
If you have that visibility setup and you are not seeing the movement expected through something like Google events, you may need to dig into some bigger tool sets or screen capture tools to start to answer the whys instead of just the whats.
Realize that this is a project you'll never finish
We managed to do some great things for our web site over the last few months. Our user and session traffic is up over 400%. Our average page views has increased by over 350% and our average time on page has increased by 27% while bounce rate has dropped by 28%. Overall, we've made big improvements. Still, there is much work to do.
One of the most important realizations in getting to a high-performance web experience is realizing that the work never ends. The fact that we're improving numbers just means our comparisons get harder during the next period. As such, we are continuing to meet weekly to continue to make improvements.
Leveraging tools like Google Analytics, Full Story and other optimization and testing tools has really improved our knowledge and insight into how users are getting to content and perhaps most importantly, where they are not. Plus, having our own team of knowledgeable and experienced web analysts, digital strategists and designers doesn't hurt things either.
The work never ends but the payoff (when done right) is very satisfying. Here's to your own digital projects and their future improvement! If we can help in any way, let us know.