I had an interesting conversation with John Ekman at eMetrics summit in Stockholm last year. John was a new face to me and I admit to being particularly curious as to what his title entailed - Chief Conversionista. Thirty engaging minutes later and I was much the wiser!

John has an interesting take on the different types of people involved in website performance optimisation so I asked him to share his views as a guest post here…

Conversionistas are from Venus and Metrics people from Mars

By John Ekman

While working with the same objective – the improvement of conversion rates and the client’s online businesses – Conversion and Metrics professionals sometimes seem to view the online world from very different viewpoints. This article will explore why this is so, and how the two perspectives can be joined to create a synergistic and comprehensive approach to online business effectiveness.


Numbers are the egg and user experience the chicken – or?

Chicken and eggI’ve attended both ConversionConference and E-metrics summit. Sometimes they’re run side-by-side so they should have a lot in common, right?! They do focus on the same goal – Improving the outcome of online business. Nevertheless, what I’ve heard speaks of two quite different perspectives.

So what are these perspectives?

I think the main difference is deciding “where to start”. If your job is within Metrics then you start with the numbers. Web analytics data will tell you what is wrong, what to fix and how to fix it. Once a particular problem has been pinpointed, metrics data will give you enough material to come up with test versions of problem pages and functions, and testing can commence.

Now, if you listen to the Conversion crowd they will tell you that Web analytics is great for the “what” but will tell you close to nothing about the “why”. You have a high bounce rate, you have checkout drop-offs and so on. But the metrics data will not give you any answer to the why. So the starting point for testing then goes back to user testing, expert reviews and best practices, basically tapping into the experience built up during previous conversion optimization challenges. Conversionistas will use a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods when they decide where to start the testing.

Photo: Ivonne Wierink – Fotolia.com

Local optimums suck. Best practices too.

LocalOptimum

If you take sides with the Conversion people, they will tell you that over-reliance on metrics data will not yield optimal results in the long run. This is because any future solution will be a modification of the existing one. In computing science this would be called a “restriction in the solution landscape”. You are only venturing out into this landscape in the vicinity of where you are currently placed. The risk is that you will not see the “higher peaks” which are beyond your gaze. You have ended up in a so called “Local optimum” and will not be able to see the “Global optimum”.

Another way of putting it is:  – “You will know if A did beat B and C, but you will never know what D, E and F could have been.”

When you meet a Conversionista in the bar later on, he will even go as far as calling this approach “Putting lipstick on a pig”.

So what do the Metrics Evangelists say about the “best practices” and “expert reviews” of the Conversionistas? They say – “Don’t trust them”.

There are plenty of examples where what worked for one company (best practice) will not work for another one. There’s also tons of evidence that the suggestions of the pros (expert reviews) failed miserably against the original version and that “no-one could believe their eyes”, when they saw the outcome. So trusting opinions vs. thrusting the numbers is just plain stupid and unprofessional.

When they bump into the Conversionistas in the bar later on they will say – “Use your gut for that beer you’re drinking, and user your head for conversion projects.”

Original graph: Igvita.com

Hey guys – let’s get along, shall we?

The title of the classic “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” puts a focus on the differences between the sexes. They are from different places, hence they cannot co-operate.

But men and women do great things together. Me and my wife have two wonderful kids, for example. So by focusing on how we can complement each other, rather than being frustrated over the differences we can create great things. Together.

The same goes for Conversion and Metrics professionals. Their views of “the right way” and criticisms of each other are 100% correct. That’s why they are both needed in great conversion optimization projects. A project that fails to bring out the best from each part and stumbles on the shortcomings of each approach will not be an optimal optimization project.

So Conversionistas and Metrics Evangelists unite – for the sake of excellent conversion rates. Invite the conversion experts to metrics-driven projects in order to widen the solution horizon and build fresh testing hypothesis. And, get metrics experts into projects for ruthless number-crunching and constant questioning and examination of all those great ideas we so easily fall in love with.

In the end the one which will benefit is the only one that matters – The client.

About the author

John Ekman is a Conversionista! The founder of his own consulting company, he helps clients improve online conversion with a structured approach to setting, implementing and following up conversion targets for their online audiences. Follow Johns Conversion blog (or Konverteringsblogg - Svensk version) or Connect directly with John at: @twitterLinkedIn