If you have something to SELL, Usability testing is NOT enough…

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Following good usability “best practices” can go a long way towards improving conversion rates on your website.

However, as actively involved as I am in usability testing and the usability community, I often find myself at odds with many of the usability “Gurus” recommendations.

Particularly when these recommendations are aimed at encouraging ecommerce merchants to follow usability best practices simply for usability’s sake.

When selling online the objective is not just maximizing usability, the objective is maximizing sales and profits.

And higher sales and profits are achieved by focusing on maximizing conversion rates and visitor value.

A prime example is the popular “rule” thrown about by many usability gurus that “navigation should be consistent on every page of a website”.

This may be true for many types of sites, such as purely educational or informational sites. However, my extensive split and multivariate testing data has shown that for most multi-product ecommerce sites, navigational choices should be REDUCED the deeper a visitor proceeds into the conversion process.

Category pages should have fewer navigational options than the home page. Product pages should have fewer options than category pages. And checkout pages should have practically NO OPTIONS at all. (Except of course “checkout”.)

The “usability vs. conversion” divide is further widened due to the fact that the vast majority of usability purists don’t conduct any split or multivariate testing of the theories they develop from their observational and qualitative studies. In fact some of them actually discount the value of split and multivariate testing entirely.

Sure… Usability testing can help you identify and discover possible variables to test. But usability testing alone is NEVER a replacement for statically valid split and multivariate testing.

Usability is simply one part of the equation. In fact in my own testing and consulting I’ve sound that usability improvement only represents about 25% to 33% of the overall potential for improving conversion rates.

So… While usability testing is an important part of the conversion rate optimization process, it’s only one weapon in your arsenal.

The best approach is found by combining the insights into visitor behavior found during usability testing with rigorous and statistically valid split and multivariate testing of the variables developed based on those insights.

About the Author

Eric Graham is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, copywriter and consultant. Enter your name and email address below to get notified when new response boosting tips, tested conversion strategies, updates, articles and videos are posted.

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