Here’s an opinionated guide to the tools you should use and stuff you should read if you wanna CRO.
- A/B testing
- Analytics and tag management
- Heat maps, session recordings, and polls
- Multi-step forms
- Project management
- Regex targeting
- Talking to customers
- Test development
- Test duration, sample size & MDE calculation
- User testing
- UX best practices
Recommended: Google Optimize
It’s free, it’s well documented, and it has a huge user base.
At the time of writing, free accounts are limited to 5 live campaigns at a time. That’s not a problem if you focus on optimization over idea validation, and promptly put winning experiences into production.
Here are my favorites on the general topic of optimization.
- The Discipline Based Testing Methodology – This article by Andrew Anderson is dense and will require multiple readings. Stay with it.
- Don’t Make Me Think – Classic, must-read book on usability.
- Growth Marketing Guide – Thorough and well organized. Settle in for a long read
- “Emotion Sells” workshop – Trade your email for this webinar and step up your empathy & ideation game.
- How Obama Raised $60 Million by Running a Simple Experiment – A classic. Worth your attention for using real numbers and driving home the point that if you’re doing it right, results will often surprise you.
- Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves – A short, free-to-read-online book that tells a story and schools you on ecomm optimization.
Analytics and tag management
Recommended: Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager
Free, good docs, huge community. Measure just about anything you want.
If your team can escape that trap, and you see one of these platforms helping you make better decisions, that sounds great to me.
- Avinash Kaushik’s newsletter – Go sign up! Also check out the “Unmissable Articles” section in the bottom navigation.
- Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity – Gives you things to do (run this report, look at these numbers), but also goes deep into why we bother with this stuff in the first place 👏
Heat maps, session recordings, and polls
Free to start and it Just Works. They’ve got great strategy guides (see below).
Honestly I’m not even clear on the differentiators among all these platforms. I think they’re all fine 🤷♂️
- The beginner’s guide to website feedback with 10 practical use cases – Sift through real examples to figure out what kind of poll to launch on your site. (“How can we make this page better?” is a personal favorite)
Beautiful form UI and building forms is easy. Turns asking for information into an exercise in thoughtfulness.
I also use it for Surveys (see below).
- Better Form Design: One Thing Per Page (Case Study)
- Why Multi-Step Lead Forms Get up to 300% More Conversions – I take the numbers with a grain of salt, but agree with the method and reasoning 👍
Recommended: Whatever you’re already using 😉
The tool doesn’t matter (I use Trello), but go all in. Integrate every CRO-related activity into your current workflows. Create, and lovingly curate, checklists for complex processes.
- The mighty checklist – Some guy wrote a whole post about A/B test checklists
A must for cross-browser QA.
Recommended: Google Tag Assistant
A Chrome extension to quickly find out whether Google Analytics, Google Optimize, and Google Tag Manager are installed (correctly) on a page.
Recommended: GA Debugger
Free online tool for validating your regular expressions for experiment targeting.
You can paste in a long list of target and non-target URLs and check them. Then you’ll know that your test will run where you want it to, and most crucially that it won’t run where you don’t want it to 😅
- Regular-Expressions.info – Exhaustive and dense reference information
- Learn Regex – Fun interactive lessons
Recommended: TypeForm (if you’ve got it)
Since I already use TypeForm to implement multi-step forms (see above), I also prefer it for surveys.
If you don’t have it, though, there are plenty of other options.
- The ultimate guide to using surveys for content marketing – Super thorough! Even if content marketing isn’t your immediate aim, this guide will school you on common traps and give you a sane, start-to-finish process for survey design, execution and analysis 🤯
Talking to customers
“Click here to book a 10 minute followup call” is an easier ask than “Let me know some times when you’re available so we can email back and forth five times.”
Zoom lets you record calls, and export the audio. So you can have it transcribed. So, during the call, you can focus on listening.
Recommended: Chrome DevTools
Already built into your browser if you use Brave or Chrome. This is all you need for simple tests.
For more complicated stuff …
Recommended: Tampermonkey and TagCLI
I don’t know of any. If you’re interested in this topic, let me know and I’ll put something together.
Test duration, sample size & MDE calculation
Recommended: AB+ Test Calculator by CXL
I like how the Pre-Test Analysis tool will only calculate MDE for up to 6 weeks.
The CXL calculator is for when your question is “Here’s my traffic & conversion data; how much of an impact can I detect in a week? How about 4 weeks?”
Optimizely’s calculator is for when your question is “Here’s my conversion rate and the effect I want to detect; how many visitors will it take?”
The latter might make more sense if you’re considering running a test for, like, 3 months (not recommended) … or if you’re planning to buy extra visitors for your test (okay, but be sure your test is worth it).
- Truly Understanding Minimum Detectable Effect – This article by the folks at Brooks Bell should help you wrap your mind around a confusing topic
- Analysis of 115 A/B Tests: Average Lift is 4%, Most Lack Statistical Power – One data point toward answering “How much lift can I get 🤔 ?”
- How To Do Conversion Optimization With Very Little Traffic? – A comforting read if you get discouraging results from the calculator 😁
Recommended: Amazon Mechanical Turk and Loom
mTurk for recruiting and vetting participants, and Loom so they can record their sessions.
This is a new app brought to you by the CROntrepreneurs at Zeda Labs. They’ve currently got a done-for-you service that’s great if you’re new to this, or just busy. The pricing is transparent and fair.
- Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users – A short read from the Nielsen Norma Group that will encourage you to start, and help reinforce what it is you’re hoping to get out of user testing in the first place
- Usability Testing 101 – Thorough with plenty of links
- Don’t Make Me Think – This book’s second appearance on this page. Plz read
UX best practices
Theory and foundations
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. A must-read. (The link takes you to Better World Books, where you can probably get a still-relevant 15 year old used edition for $5.)
- The 3 Pillars of Value-Based Design by Nick Disabato. Great intro to CRO-ey thinking for designers.
- Luke Wroblewski’s guide (PDF)
- The Baymard Institute. You can browse their blog posts to pick up pointers, or pay for better-organized guidelines.
- Search the Nielsen Norman Group‘s site
Wow, you made it to the very end. Got questions or strong dissenting opinions on any of this? Let’s chat.