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Stop Wrestling Elephants and Start Testing Your Site

It’s taken a few more days than expected, but I’m just about dug out from the Internet Retailer Web Design ‘08 show.

As the last of 34 speakers to present at this three day event, I fully expected to be talking site search with 9 people during my (ouch) Friday 3.30 PM slot. But wow, was I wrong. I was pleasantly blown away to find myself speaking to several hundred folks.

The majority of IR attendees wanted to eke every ounce of value out of this show, a nice testimony to the IR conference team, who put tons of smarts and love into this event.

What was the most interesting takeaway from this trip?

Bryan Eisenberg captured it quite nicely in his recap: Amazingly, retailers aren’t testing their websites yet!

I’ll say “Amen” to that– my experience at the show left me with similar impressions.

Bryan cites a mind-boggling stat from the survey Internet Retailer conducted before the show:

In a survey of the top 500 online retailers, 76.7% of retailers surveyed don’t test.

No multivariate testing, no A/B. This is particularly surprising given the availability of Google’s free testing platform.

And these are IR 500 folks, people who are all passionately dedicated to their sites.

One of the most popular events at the show were the free design consultations offered to attendees.

The demand for these consultations was so strong that it produced a waiting list. Bryan and I each ended up happily donating an extra day of our services — I’ve already seen downtown Miami, when in Rome, keep talking websites.

I had meetings with 19 different firms over 2 days.

All 19 were smart folks keen on making their sites sell more, but only 2 of the 19 had done some website testing.

That is, 90% of these sites had done zero testing.

Why is the number so low?

elephant1.jpg

Look for a long list of “Why websites don’t test” hypotheses later; here’s one thought for now:

When it comes to redesign, people are still trying to wrestle elephants.

Revamping your site for greater effectiveness and more sales isn’t about venturing into the design jungle for 6-12 months to wrestle a fat unwieldy beast.

The Grand Site Redesign elephant is… irrelevant. Also, it will step on you and it will hurt you.

The advent of low-cost testing is one more reason successful redesign is an ongoing process. It’s about moving quickly the cycle of measuring, testing, and making changes that help your site sell more (and make your visitors happier).

Bloated, ponderous, risky and costly — elephantine redesigns are out.

Nimble, tested, and provable site changes are in.

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