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Our Presentation at Harvard on Conversion-Optimized Design

Ross Beyeler

This past Wednesday we gave a presentation on Conversion-Optimized Design at Harvard University. The presentation was made possible thanks to the Harvard Web Working Group, a loose association of designers and developers working within the various organizations and facilities of Harvard.

The focus of the talk was addressing how businesses and organizations can use tools and techniques to understand their online audience and their motives. The talk also covered broad considerations necessary for organizations intending to implement a conversion-optimizing system into their workflow.

We began with an overview of conversion, defining it as an action. While it's true that, for many of our clients here at Growth Spark, a conversion is best represented by a sale or the acquisition of a lead, a conversion online can be defined as any action taken by a visitor on a website. We offered the following examples: clicking a link, subscribing to a newsletter, engaging with social media, watching a video, exploring a website's navigation, etc.

Following this, we talked a bit about discovery and the value in understanding your website visitors. Who is it that currently visits your site, and what are they looking for, and how technically savvy are they? What successful methods have similar organizations used to engage their visitors? By thinking through these questions, organizations can plan their conversion strategy around what they know about their audience, and their audience's preferences or limitations.

We stressed the importance of setting conversion goals, and referenced our own SEEK Conversion Methodology as a way to help explain the process. As part of a conversion strategy, it's best to determine the intended action to be taken by website visitors. Usually this is done prior to building out the design for a website, but in the case of a pre-existing website, this can be done by prioritizing the conversion goal(s) over other opportunities for conversion on the site.

We then stressed the importance of sticking to these conversion goals, and performing optimization techniques to determine which method of presenting these goals is most effective. These techniques included A/B split testing, usability testing, visitor analytics and behavioral analytics, among others.

By continually repositioning conversion elements on a website, or asking users for their feedback about how effective these approaches are, a business or organization can optimize the effectiveness of their conversion goals according to this newfound knowledge.

The remainder of the talk was spent discussing considerations an organization would have to take with choosing to implement a conversion optimization strategy. Clearly, with such an undertaking, many factors need to be evaluated, such as technical resources, allotment of staff, time allocation, data management and budget. An organization also has to determine how large of an operation they want this to be: Do they have one conversion goal, and do they only want preliminary data to inform their next-steps, or do they want to perform a full website audit and potentially restructure their approach altogether?

The talk went well, and our audience was receptive with questions. It was a good opportunity for us to present on this subject, especially as we continue to build these processes into our own workflow as part of the value clients get with our services.

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