Technology, Visitors, or Conversions?
When running a website, it sometimes seems like you are dealing with three competing factors: what is good for your visitors, what is good for your business, and what will work technically. Sometimes all three are in perfect harmony but more often than not one of these factors is out of whack. Such as:
- That email capture pop up you want to add to your top landing pages will definitely help your business and it is pretty easy to do technically, but it will annoy your visitors.
- There is a great new feature you want to add to your site that will generate more sales and be of interest to customers, but it is near impossible to build technically.
- You need to add a new security plugin to your site, but doing so will massively slow down the speed of your website which will annoy visitors and hurt sales.
And on the list goes showing all the various ways these factors compete with each other. When facing these situations, how do you decide the right course of action? Do you choose your visitors, your business, or your technology?
When clients approach me with these types of questions they are hoping for a clear cut and easy answer: why yes, you should always favor X instead of Y.
In any complex system (and websites are most certainly a complex system), there are rarely simple answers. Sure, my bias is toward visitors because, in most cases, if you do right by your visitors then that will often pay off for your company in the long run.
But, my bias isn’t always right. Sometimes favoring visitors means over-investing in technology that will end up bankrupting the company long term. Or, favoring what is right for the business will cause a riot among your developers given the technical requirements.
The reality is that deciding on whether to favor visitors, your company, of tech really depends on the specifics of your situation.
How To Decide: Digging Into The Data
The first step in deciding which factor matters most is a more intense investigation of the problem at hand. This is where data, analytics, and research really become important to helping you more fully understand the problem you are facing and the options you have to solve this problem.
In the example statements above, we might want to know: Just how annoying will visitors find that popup? Just how impossible is it to build that new technical feature and do other options exist? Just how egregious is that security hole and what impact is it having on visitors or our company?
Once you’ve collected the data around each factor, you can more easily decide whether the negatives of the one factor are outweighed by the pros of the other factors. Sometimes though that still doesn’t help because they all seem about equal. What do you do then?
The other tool I use for clients who can’t quite decide based on the data is to review the funnel. Broadly speaking, there are three levels of a business funnel: people get to know you, they get interested in what you are doing, and then they make a purchase (you can get far more sophisticated than these three steps).
So, given the level of the funnel you are currently working at, what matters more: visitors, your company, or technology?
- At the very top of the funnel, where people are just getting to know you, you probably don’t want an annoying popup or heavy-handed security requirements as those are likely to not get a lot of people to really like you.
- However, if the part of your website you are working on serves more the middle of the funnel (where people are getting interested), it might make sense to think about the technical factors here as technical issues (like a security hole) can start to cause worry and drive people away instead of getting those people more interested in what you are doing.
- At the very end of the funnel (where people will be buying from you), you probably do want to err on the side of promoting your company and pushing for that sale, even if the annoying pop up will frustrate some visitors.
I tend to find it is best to use both methods for clients. You have to collect the data to more clearly understand your problem but you also have to think about the funnel or stage of the purchase process you are working at so you can make a better decision about whether to favor technology, visitors, or your company. There isn’t a universal right answer, but within each situation the data and nature of that situation tend to lead you toward a clear idea of which to favor.