In Parts 0-2, you set goals, decided what parts of the site matter, and got a sense of your visitors – who they are, how they use your site.
It’s finally time to look at the site itself. Wrinkle our noses at things. Nitpick and critique. Dream up dramatic improvements.
From Part 2, you should have a prioritized list of devices, segments, missions and mindsets of your visitors. So are you starting on mobile, coming in from a paid advertisement, or on desktop from a referral site?
From Part 1, you should have a list of prioritized landing pages. Which one seems likely for the visitor experience you’re recreating? What subsequent pages make sense to visit?
The output of this exercise will be a list of elements or interactions that deserve a closer look.
For each, you’ll note the URL, device type (desktop or mobile), location of the element itself, and a few notes or questions.
So for now, a sheet of paper, Google Doc, or spreadsheet is all you need. We’ll organize our observations later.
Plan a couple of routes through the site. You’re going to do your best to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and experience the site as they do.
If you were them, you’d have several questions. Here are 4 that are almost universal:
- Relevance: Does this company solve the kind of problem I have?
- Trust: Do I actually believe they’ll solve it?
- Price: How much is it going to cost?
- Uniqueness: Can someone else do it better, or cheaper?
On top of these general concerns, your visitors will have specific questions about your offering. To the extent that you know them, note the most important of these along with the 4 questions above. Collect them all in a “Visitor Questions” list.
You already have answers for these questions, but your quest is to empathize with someone who doesn’t, and is trying to derive them from your website.
Pre-landing and landing
If relevant, start by looking at the ad, search results, or referring page that brings visitors to the site via the route you’ve chosen.
- What expectations does it set?
- Does it invoke excitement, or fear, or curiosity? Or some other feel?
Now, click through and 💥 we’re actually doing CRO on our website.
As soon as the landing page loads, ask yourself
- What can I do here?
- Who is this website for?
The answer should be immediately obvious. If it’s not, you’re failing the Relevance test and visitors are probably bouncing by the boatload.
Start taking note of elements that rudely attract your attention without helping you orient yourself. Top offenders are often
- Overly busy hero images
- Image carousels
- Dense, overly long copy
- Vapid “business-speak” copy
Just sketch a few thoughts like “Hero image cluttered” or “Popup widget distracting” or “How It Works section doesn’t really say anything.”
As you focus on the page content, you might find yourself coming up with more Visitor Questions. Add these to the list.
You’ll start getting ideas for how to improve things, so note those, too. But be sure to consider just getting rid of elements before you worry about rewriting copy or doing a photo shoot.
Be ruthless in evaluating every element in sight. Does it help visitors answer one or more of the questions on your list? If not, can you scrap it? If so, can it be more concise, more informative, or more empathetic?
You’re allowed to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, but spend less time focusing on elements further down the page. (That’s what your visitors do.)
Browsing the site
Now that you’ve torn your landing page to shreds, where to next?
Go wherever most visitors go. Get there how they tend to get there – by clicking a button, or using the navigation, or via some annoying pop-up.
What kind of questions do visitors still have at this point, and what questions does this page seem like it should address?
A Pricing page that fails to address “How much is it going to cost?” has got to be revamped. (Or removed entirely?)
If your Pricing page does address that question, that’s great! Now, is there an opportunity to subtly reinforce Trust, Relevance, or Uniqueness while you’re at it?
Do it X more times
By now you should have a healthy list of pages, elements, and observations.
Your Visitor Questions list has grown, and you’ve got a sense of which questions are answered where on the site. (And which ones are not answered 😔)
Go back to the beginning, pick another device / channel / mindset / landing page combo, and repeat the exercise.
And repeat again, to the point of diminishing returns.
If you’ve got a list of 5-10 areas of opportunity, you may proceed to the next step – enriching your research with the help of real humans.