San Francisco has always been a town for outcasts and innovators, and is famous as the home of beatniks, hippies and gold prospectors. On March 5th & 6th, the plush basement of the Marriott Marquis was home to Conversion Conference West, the main global forum for what many believe will be the next internet marketing goldrush: the site-side discipline of Conversion Optimisation. In its third year here in San Francisco, organisers Rising Media and main curator Tim Ash (author of Landing Page Optimization) once again put together a compelling panel of experts and some fascinating keynote speakers.
BJ Fogg directs the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, where his team take theories of human motivation and apply it to real business scenarios. Dr. Fogg’s keynote was on the art of persuasion, and he offered his model of the main 15 types of behaviour. Dr Fogg contends that there are 5 main types of behaviour, which he has colour coded for ease of understanding. Green behaviours are new behaviours, blue behaviours are familiar behaviours, purple behaviours can be increased in intensity or duration, grey behaviours can be decreased, and black behaviours can be stopped altogether. There is also an axis of temporal factors: dot behaviours are done only once, span behaviours are done for a set period of time, while path behaviours are done from that moment on. So, for example, doing more exercise for a fortnight is a purple span behaviour whilst giving up smoking is a black path behaviour.
Dr Fogg’s argument is that you can use this model to map who behaviour changes; and if you can build a successful strategy for one kind of behaviour changes (e.g. green path to purple path) this can be re-used for other behaviours. Jared Spool is the chief executive of User Interface Engineering and has over 15 years experience in evaluating user design on new technology products. His paper on mobile usability “Inside the Perfect Storm” highlighted the main challenge of mobile usability. Spool points out that although brand marketers are falling over themselves to talk about the opportunity presented by mobile, the reality is that designing for mobile requires a new optimisation approach, and many brands aren’t embracing it. Too many brands, contends Spool, assume that user behaviour on the “real internet” on one’s smartphone will be the same as on large screen devices, defying the logic of smaller call to action buttons, exponential growth in page scroll depth and invisible log-in areas. The Boston Globe emerged with credit as a brand optimising its content for user activity on all devices, whilst many brands including Coke were highlighted as having poor mobile optimisation.
Steve Krug, author of “Don’t Make Me Think” and “Rocket Science Made Easy” delivered a thought provoking session based on a “little and often” approach to DIY user testing, advocating regularly getting application designers and small groups of testers together. Roger Dooley delved into the world of Neuromarketing: the science of understanding the cognitive processes that make up absorbing brand communication and making brand choices. Monday’s live usability audit featured Tim Ash, Widerfunnel CEO Chris Goward and Sandra Niehaus (VP of User Experience at Closed Loop marketing, all pictured below). This was an off-beat but well intended session involving a critique of real landing pages for any webmaster brave enough to stick their head above the parapet. Delegates were invited to offer their landing page design up for analysis and criticism from the three experts- after the initial savaging, each brave designer did receive wise words from the panel: logos and mastheads should always be top left, photographs of people should signpost the call to action by facing in that direction.
Off the main stage, Chris Goward was asked to deliver a talk on “The Multivariate Advantage” but manipulated this into the “Multivariate Disadvantage”, making some interesting points on test planning and the advantages of running many small scale AB tests instead of MVT. Prashant Puri from AdLift.com delivered a paper on the correlation between SEO and MVT, and your humble reporter spoke about the power of culture differences and how this is important in understanding what, when and how to test.
At the end of Tuesday’s closing speech, Tim Ash asked delegates to raise their hand if they had the word “conversion” in their job title, and about half the room of 300 delegates did so. “Congratulations: you guys are here at the birth of a new industry” stated Tim, and who can argue that this opportunity to share understanding around behaviour, usability and conversion is a logical progression in a wider internet marketing industry that spends only $1 on converting visitors for every $100 spent on getting visitors there in the first place (source: Forrester). The whole conference did in fact have something evangelical about it. On to Chicago next for the big Conversion road show (June 2012) before heading off to Florida and then Europe in the autumn. One thing is for sure though: Conversion Conference is here to stay and should be a regular fixture in the calendar of all Corers and MVTers.