As a kid did you ever try to paint by the numbers? The kit promised that ANYONE could be an artist. Inside the box with the beautiful painting on the cover there was a picture mapped out with little outline areas and numbers in them that corresponded to pots of paint.
You followed the instructions, filled in each area with your brush and paint, and “presto!” you had a finished painting (which looked like it was drawn by an artist and painted by an amateur).
Creative web page design by the numbers is nothing like paint by the numbers because you are the expert artist: designing, learning and improving — constantly!
What do I mean by the phrase “Design By the Numbers”? It means tracking web analytics data to determine which of your page designs are the most effective, not just creating based upon personal preference or gut intuition.
The Economist devoted an entire issue to reporting on the value of data:
Across the internet economy, companies are compiling masses of data on people, their activities, their likes and dislikes, their relationships with others and even where they are at any particular moment…
Where traditional businesses generally collect information about customers from their purchases or from surveys, internet companies have the luxury of being able to gather data from everything that happens on their sites. The biggest websites have long recognised that information itself is their biggest treasure. And it can immediately be put to use in a way that traditional firms cannot match.
…Before deploying a new feature, big sites run controlled experiments to see what works best.
Running ”experiments” is like designing by the numbers.
Detailed web analytics reports that come from applications like Google Analytics tell you everything you need to know, including how visitors find your site, which search engines they used, where they go once on your site, and from which pages each visitor exits your site. This website traffic data provides valuable clues as to your visitors’ needs and wants.
Using Google Analytics, you can design web pages, add their standard tracking code, post them and immediately start tracking activity on each page.
Now you can let your creative side take over. Design 2 or 3 different layouts of the same page. These are commonly referred to as A/B tests.These are usually performed to determine the better of two content variations. This is also referred to as multivariate testing.
Testing variables can include copy, images, page layout, emphasis, color, functionality and offer.
To create multivariate test pages requires adding the Google Website Optimizer control script above your web pages' existing Google Analytics tracking code — which creates a built-in website optimizer function. To see the experiment results, you must use the Experiment Report page.
If this seems to complicated, you might need to work with an experienced partner (The Digital Creative Team at SIGMA) to come up with a test plan that will yield the best possible page conversions.
In case you are doing it on your own, here are some basic design principles to follow with web pages:
1. Keep your copy short and to the point.
2. Create straightforward navigation (ask others to test your page and see if it's easy for them).
3. Make sure any images are appropriate and help to sell or better illustrate the big idea.
4. Keep the most important information visible in the FIRST screen display. Your main offer and your call to action should all be visible on-screen as you first land on the page, without having to scroll down.
5. Point links inward. Let seekers find more depth as they drill deeper.
Hope you wind up with many masterpieces!