CRO & Insights from Conversion Conference Chicago 2014

CRO & Insights from Conversion Conference Chicago 2014

Posted on December 13, 2016 Mary Merritt

Last month Dan and I took off to Chicago for a few days to attend Conversion Conference Chicago, 2014. We had a lot of fun, met a ton of new people, and most importantly learned a lot from a group of experts in the CRO (conversion rate optimization) world. The conference was two days of intense sessions all surrounding CRO and how it relates to web marketing and web development. Because the conference had two learning tracks, Dan and I split up the sessions so we could absorb as much information as possible. In case you don't already know, CRO is all about creating better experiences for website users through research, planning, and iterative testing. By using a CRO approach, you will never assume that you know what works best; instead you will start from an informed and strategic baseline, and continually improve your website through testing.

As with most educational conferences with a narrow focus, we brought a lot of exciting information back to share with the NerdyMind team! Now that we've had a few weeks to absorb and process the information we've learned, we've started to improve, refine, and iterate on some of our own processes. In addition to sharing with everyone here at NerdyMind, we wanted to share with you! Here are some of the big themes, and our most impactful big picture takeaways from the conference:

Home page "sliders" are (usually) a waste of space

Through testing, most CRO experts have found that sliders at the top of a homepage (an ever-growing trend) are really, truly ineffective. Through user testing, we often see that most users scroll right past them, and rarely does someone have the patience to sit and read each slide as it transitions. A good strategic question would be, how can that space instead be used to speak clearly, concisely, and directly to your most important users?

A "user scenario" exercise helps everyone understand the needs of users

Oftentimes it can seem obvious or commonsense so it's not explored, but actually discussing and documenting each user role and user goal for your website is a great exercise. This allows everyone involved in the project to realize the full scope of users, including those users that aren't customers (is your own team a user of your website?). Are you not sure what to put on your homepage instead of a big fancy slider? A user scenario brainstorming exercise will help you answer that question. How can your homepage (...and information architecture, content, etc.) help each of your users accomplish their goals?

Mobile users often have completely different goals

There's been a lot of discussion about mobile-first design in the past few years, but not as much discussion about mobile strategy, and how mobile-first thinking can impact a website's conversion effectiveness. If the only reason your users visit your website on their phone is to find your store hours, then does it make sense to try and fit the entire full experience into their visit, or do you prioritize the information they are looking for in the mobile context? You should ask, by thinking strictly mobile first, are you simplifying and hindering the effectiveness of the full website experience? In addition to exploring user scenarios for the full website, it is sometimes important to think about user goals in a mobile context.

Designers shouldn't have to think about content, functionality, and strategy

When there isn't enough time and thought put into strategy and research up front, designers often find themselves tasked with cobbling together the missing pieces required to complete a design. If a designer ever has to ask (or answer) what content is found on each page, how it's organized, or what the information architecture for the site is, something has been missed. A designer should have the freedom to think creatively about look and feel, spacial relationships, and branding integration without being distracted by unanswered strategy questions. Pre-planning helps everyone stay on the same page, and the website remains effective at converting users into customers when designing from a plan.

Content marketing and CRO should have a symbiotic relationship

Great content marketing and great CRO are both trying to answer the same question, what does my user want? Content marketing is perfect for catering to those users who are still researching and exploring, found at the top of your sales funnel. Utilizing that knowledge, we can easily optimize blogs and content pages for conversions. How can you engage the researching user so that they don't forget about you once they are closer to a buying decision? Content marketing is more effective and easier when it's done with conversions and the sales funnel in mind.

Go beyond tactical testing with strategy testing

Most people simplify the idea of CRO and testing down to one concept: tactical A/B testing; e.g. does button color, call to action, or placement change the conversion rate? While this kind of tactical testing is important and can yield awesome results, it's also important to remember to think of the big picture and test competing strategies along side tactical testing. Strategic CRO tests are often a more complex task, but can be so much more effective than chipping away at the tactical elements of a website that never changes it's initial strategy. For example, if you have a fancy parallax, long-form, modern sales page, you may want to test how it performs compared to a more traditional multi-page website.

What are your thoughts about these takeaways? How would you have approached your website project differently if you had strategic planning and conversion rate optimization strategy as your first steps? Have you ever been to Conversion Conference - if so, what did you learn?