Designers are often frustrated with the subjective nature of their work. But with the tools available for testing web designs, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. With a combination of optimization, testing, and analysis, you can ensure you’re making changes with measurable results. No matter what your goals are—more visitors, sign-ups, purchases—you’ll be well on your way to achieving them once you understand the basic principles and relationship between increasing site speed and efficiency, Google Analytics, and split testing.
As a whole, ecommerce sites take an average of 10 seconds to load, although major webstores like Amazon or Nike take far less time. There’s a reason why, even though they have thousands more products and far more complicated functions, their sites are so much faster than a normal webstore. It’s because 32% of consumers will abandon a site within 5 seconds of loading time. It sounds crazy, but site speed is not just expected; it’s actively required by web customers. Having a slow site makes users suspicious of the quality of your company and your products, as well as your web development practices.
To learn more about your site speed, do a quick site speed test; you can even compare your site with a competitor to get a sense of how competitive your site is. Then start working on improvements. There are a lot of fairly simple changes you can make that could have a big effect on your speed, including:
- Create CSS Sprites for groups of images with similar dimensions, instead of wasting space making individual images.
- Specify the height and width of your HTML tags for images. The rest of the page can then load independently of the image.
- Use a Plugin Profiler if your webstore is on WordPress, to see which plugins are slowing your site down the most, then disabling any that are unnecessary.
Split or A/B testing is an essential component of any well-planned web project. By narrowing in on the elements of your design that need improvement, you can make huge leaps and bounds in your site’s success. It’s a simple process; you merely create two versions of a web page, with a few key differences between them. Then live traffic on both pages is monitored for the actions that you’re hoping for, such as more clicks or sign-ups. The results are tallied, and if there’s a significant difference in the success of the two pages, then you know that one design is better than the other (or at least one key elements performs better than another).
Small design components might not seem like they’d make much of a difference. But testing conclusively proves that tiny changes can have a huge impact on user responses. For example, take such relatively minor changes such as these:
- Replacing the blue color of your submit button with a red hue
- Rephrasing a headline to make it sound more upbeat
- Moving an entry field up higher on the page
They seem inconsequential, but each one could vastly improve the page’s effectiveness. A/B testing the best way to get solid numbers on the impact a change will make on your conversion rates. But be careful, you don’t need to test every design component; selectively choose which elements to test.
The most essential tool for tracking site success, Google Analytics is a complex but very powerful tool. You’ll need to use an analytics guide to really understand all the ways in which it can help improve performance. But for now, all you need to know is that it should be an essential component to your decision-making process, and you should use it to track the results of both site speed optimization and split testing.
Unless you’re fully harnessing the strength of amazing tools like Google Analytics, you’re doing your website and your business a huge disservice. But once you incorporate the discoveries you make with your design and content implementations, guesswork will be a thing of the past. You’ll finally be making objective and crucial improvements that will help make your website a lasting success.