Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A or B?

I read the recent Wired Magazine article on A/B testing websites and like many of you, I wondered to myself if it was actually possible to embrace this sort of design philosophy.

After talking with my team, we've redoubled our efforts to design core Key Performance Indicators ("KPIs") in an attempt to actually start using A/B testing as a regular process for updating our site navigation, design choices and whatever else we want to change.

It's a disorienting thing, removing subjectivity from the design process. My background as a designer makes me one of those people who can look at a screen and make grand proclamations about where things should be and what they should say. It's something I'm determined to stop doing. I will be honest, it is hard to stop.

Either way, we've devised a series of "top level" KPIs designed to measure overall site effectiveness - and we've limited it to 5 measurements. Yes, of course we'll design secondary KPIs, but at this point, we plan to benchmark and establish baselines for just the most important things on a website. Here's a sample of the working list of questions we hope to answer:

  1. 1. Do people come back (return visits)
  2. 2. Do they make donations? (page views / total on site donations)
  3. 3. Do they stay once they visit? (time on site)
  4. 4. Do they take key actions designed to engage them in a deeper relationship? (page views / key actions)

We feel like we've got a good handle on how we will do this and I'm excited to get started. Some changes will be major, others we hope to test, like the font on the main navigation, are nominal. Either way, we'll learn a lot about what makes the site really tick and put ourselves in a position to improve it over time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

1-2-3 TEAM

My older daughter is playing on a high school sports team and frankly, I'm surprised at how little focus there has been on the "team"  as opposed to what seems to be a singular focus on individuals.

I know some of it is normal; lots of in-fighting, jealousy and misunderstandings between kids who are all eager to do well. However, the overall feeling I get so far from observing things is that the school and coaches have simply forgotten that they should be teaching "team first" concepts.

Most of these kids will end their sports careers in the next 2/3 years, especially the girls. I've been talking to more and more parents and am hearing that girls in particular drop off teams and for spring sports, rarely play out their senior season. I'm unsure if  this is a generalization or a trend but it seems to be more true than false.

The chances of playing college level team sports is slim - which is of course why some players continually focus on their individual accomplishments; trying to make an impression, racking up individual accomplishments and focusing more on themselves than the team itself.

When my kids  were little, we wanted them to play team sports to get important lessons, not because we thought they would earn a scholarship. They tried everything from soccer, to tennis, dance, and softball to find something they loved to play or do. We hoped the experience would teach them about themselves and give them the lessons from being on a team that will serve them for their entire lives.

When these kids get out into the workforce, how will they know how to be a team player? Do they even know the concept of sacrificing for the greater good or are they simply learning to be entitled, spoiled individual contributors?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Experts, Expertise and Execution

I used to be an expert. I knew HTML. I was a Photoshop Master of the Universe. I learned how to configure an ISDN router (and it worked). I had time to think about SEO, about how the web worked, about file optimization and video CODECs. Remember when the best web designers and coders built pages that were less than 25k... less than 10k... I remember.

Stuff has gotten really complicated lately.

And even worse, I feel the Glaze. (the "Glaze" as Mark Bowden refers to it in his incredible book "Worm," is THAT LOOK you get when trying to explain something technical to someone non-technical). The Glaze I get is that non-committal, yea dude, keep talking sort of look when I get really excited about some new technology, idea or concept.

The problem is that we're in the land of "we don't actually know what will work and what will not work" when it comes to Internet marketing "stuff" and non-profit fundraising. Yes, we're still here some 10+ years later. No, we haven't figured it all out yet.

No, direct mail isn't dead, but it isn't the answer.

No, one more tweet from a celebrity isn't going to make a difference.

No, a TV campaign isn't the answer, it never really was. And you can't afford it anyways.

No, no, no.

The problem then, with experts, expertise and execution in the e-realm is that all of this stuff is still a black art. Why exactly does Instagram work better than Flickr? How come your Google ad helped you clear record revenue and mine did nothing? How come your site converts 20x better than mine? What, you mean Google Analytics is free? What is HTML? How do you say GIF? But I digress...

The answer lies in leveraging AND TRUSTING experts, and then letting them execute, fail, learn and finally #win.

I am sure of it.