Think –Test –Track : The Improvement Framework

by Ruud Hein January 7th, 2011 

implement

You need to keep on implementing and improving in order to keep your site and your business alive and resilient. If it doesn't have forward motion, it's dead or stale.

The best way to make doing a habit instead of an incident is by setting up your own implementation framework.

An improvement implementation framework is a set of processes and tools that help you maintain a steady, ongoing stream of incremental improvements. With it, each change is a proven enhancement; every set of enhancements a data-evidenced improvement; and everything you take away, enrichment.

Continuous improvement through ongoing testing is as much a mindset as it is a process.

Here are the essential parts of of the framework; use them as placeholders for your own tools.


THINK IT

The crucial first step: think about changes you want to make.

We're not talking about waiting for inspiration or having The Next Big Idea: we're talking about having any idea. About causing ideas. About sitting in front of your web site saying, I have to change something today no matter what … so what will it be.

Browse through your site and think about what you can change. Keep an open mind: nothing is set in stone. The simpler the idea the easier to test. The smaller the change the faster and cheaper to make it.

Take notes. When customers talk about your site: take notes. When you use your site, take notes. Keep a notepad ready at all times and write down ideas you have. Look around in physical stores and see what works. Jot down quotes from books you like, turn of phrases that seem to work for you; where and how could you use them on your web site?

When you browse another site and catch yourself responding to a call to action — even when you're quite sure you were deciding all by yourself — take notes. What did it? What do you like? If you had to pick one thing from this site, from this page, that you have to implement on your site …. what would it be? Or, if there would be one thing that has to go — what would it be?

Force out ideas through brainstorming sessions. Nothing works better for pumping water than cranking the pump. Use the tools you have or get new ones:

  • Microsoft Word
    microsoft word
  • Microsoft OneNote
    microsoft onenote
  • Evernote
    evernote
  • MindManager
    mindmanager

Anything you can quickly make a list in will work. The faster the better. The more comfortable you are with the tool, the better. Less friction = more ideas.

Go get inspired. Visit sites that publish A/B test results:

Which of these tests would make sense for your site? Maybe none of the tests will today but having put your brain on a testing track, you're bound to come up with a bunch of ideas.


TEST IT

Once you know what you're going to test, answer this question:  what do I need to know?

Do you need to know about conversions? Visitors? Ranking? Targeted traffic? Number of social bookmarks? Retweets?

What metrics will the test work on; what do you need to measure to know if the test is a success or not?

Knowing that will help you answer the next question: how can I test this?

Almost anything on-page can best be tested using an A/B framework. Try:

Ranking is influenced by many factors so you will want to limit and control as many as possible. Options include;

  • buy a new domain
  • use a subdomain
  • create an unlisted page

For traffic you can use analytics, server log analysis, URL query parameters. These work for measuring direct traffic but can also help in figuring out where specific retweets or social bookmarks came from.


TRACK IT

data entry

Tracking is the essence.

Get your baseline stats in place. How many followers do you have now on Twitter? What is your current CTR? How many… How much…. Where…? When…?

A/B testing frameworks come with built-in tracking so most of the time you'll have enough with that. If you're A/B testing something outside of the scope of your chosen A/B test suite, check if your web analytics contain that very data.

As before, go with tools you already have and are familiar with. Microsoft Excel is an excellent data tracker and data cruncher most anyone can use.

Journal your changes. Don't keep it in your head; that's no place to keep your data. You'll want to have a simple log overview of what was tested when with a simple outcome indicator (pass/no result/fail). Grab a huge calendar, OneNote, or open a plain txt file.

DO IT

Spend a few minutes on test-driven improvements every day.

Keep your eyes open for test ideas all the time.

Doing is the core of the framework.

You have full control over your web site; none over Google. Improving conversions, engagement, time on site; all these pay off with audience that is already there. And the beauty is that with a test-driven framework you can't go wrong.

How do you ensure you keep improving?

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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4 Responses to “Think –Test –Track : The Improvement Framework”

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  2. [...] Start testing content and reduce those bounce rates. It could be as easy as breaking up the content into more digestible chunks. It could be swapping some graphics out or moving a form or ad to a different part of the page. [...]

  3. [...] rocket science and the first basics of the craft are freely shared across the web. Read it, do it. think, test, track. Repeat. By the time you want it to be more cost/time efficient or start to notice the job might be [...]